The Longest Agogic Accent (clarinet?) maybe

June 14, 2013

Having watched and listened to them all of our lives, we are children of the movies, . Along with  the beauty of Ingid Bergman and Gary Cooper in For Whom The Bell Tolls, an intense adventure of beauty,sacrifice and death, (for a 14 year old impressionable kid), the movies have been the most vivid reflection of human emotions, especially, as expressed by their music. In conservatory and music schools, we learn of the incredibly sensitive and delicate art of word painting, expressing emotion through an interval, a suspension, a sequence of chords. appogiaturas and accents placed at crucial emotional points. While in the service, my friend asked me “what is an agogic accent? The answer was ,” an accent by delay”. He then asked me what is the longest agogic accent to be found in music? I didn’t know. He replied,”the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue”, the clarinet trill and cadenza a the very beginning of the work” Afte a moment of thought, the realization of the truth of his comment, and the power of accent, by stress or by delay, has simply never left my mind. All, every single one of this musical word painting has been present in music since the time of Gregorian Chant. The sudden drop within a a phrase of repeated notes, a drop of a minor third at the word “Pain” oe “sorrow” or “death” when studied and repeated brings to us the meaning of the words and how they underline and describe the emotions being expressed. An inexperienced musician will say that this Plain Song or gregorian Chant is nothing but boring and highly repetitive. And, at their level, they are correct. This is but the surface of the musc, no matter how simple, but further study allows us to witness the extraordinary creative process of word painting in music.
And so, listening to music and watching movies has become an almost lifelong quest of discovery. And it is almost all based on the music of Ravel, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Strauss and Debussy, to name ut a few. I can remember Dimitri Tionkin, a Bulgarian Jew, who was a composer of Hollywood film music. He won the Academy Award years ago, for the film “The High and the Mighty”. His acceptance speech went somethng like this, “I’m no Prokofiev, I’m no Stravinsky”and he went on with a few others), but what I do, I do pretty well. From Frank Skinner on and on to and through many film composers, nusic for the movies becomes almost a study in itself, its  content rich and expressive over and above  the film being shown on the screen.

So, last weekend, we saw a couple of films, one current horror movie called “the Purge”, a new release, and another movie made more than 60 years past called “Breakfast for Caesar” with Ronald Coleman and Celeste Holm and Vincent Price, made in 1950.
The first film, “The Purge”s perhaps the most disgusting presentation I have ever seen, concerning a world in which one day is set aside for crimes of all kinds, including murder, for which there are no penalities. While the premise may sound interesting, it was presented in the most disgusting way and was a film of gun death and repeated violence, done without an ounce of finesse opr understanding. Did I mention that it was disgusting? Curiously, it began with a badly canned version of Clair de Lune” by Debussy. That should have been the clue, as it was a terrible arrangement. No more need be said.
That morning, quite early, perhaps at 4AM, I happened to turn on the television, saw immediatey , part of a black and whie movie called Beakfast for Caeser, with the cast as noted above.
It was fluffy and fiftyish, a comedy from those years. Suddeny, I heard the most beautiful clarinet playing I have ever experienced. Gorgeous phrasing, perfect legato, sound, you name it, it was perfect. I wracked my mind ,trying to think of all of the clarinetists who were playing in the studios during that time, but could up with no name, and was left only with the players sound, his articulation and the beautfy of the sound. That is what I carried away . It is still there. The other movie “The Purge” was truly despicably insulting, expensive to see and containing nothing but gratuitous violence. Who would go to see such a horrible prsentation. Beats me. But, I will always remember that clarinetist, whomever it may have been.

stay well.


Alban Berg , Vier Stucke, and Anton Weberns works including clarinet

June 6, 2013

Alban Berg’s Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 5 (1913) are the composer’s only true miniatures. Many musicologists and others date these pieces from the spring of 1913, but according to Berg’s wife, they were completed in June –an important distinction, since the latter was the month of Berg’s fateful meeting with his former teacher, Arnold Schoenberg. Berg’s trip to Berlin in 1913, included a traumatic encounter with Schoenberg. It is presumed that Schoenberg roundly criticized his former student and true desciple, attempting to discourage him from composing songs and small-scale works, and encouraging him toward extended instrumental composition.One musicologist has remarked that Schoenberg likely delivered some “strong criticism of Berg’s recent work, and even criticized his personality.”
Schoenberg’s harsh rebuke of Berg may indeed have been triggered by Berg’s Op. 5  ,clarinet  miniatures. The reader notes the irony in Schoenberg’s attack on Berg in light of the fact that Berg’s Four Pieces were strongly influenced by Schoenberg’s own set of miniatures, the Six Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19 (1911). Berg’s fellowSchoenberg pupil, Anton Webern, also wrote a number of miniatures, and indeed his music became best-known for its concise expressivity, its cool character, angular melodies, and pointillistic texture.For the clarinet, Anton Webern,(1883-1945) another student of Schoenberg composed three works of important chamber music ,Five Canons for Soprano, Clarinet and Bass Clarinet ,  The Quartet for Clarinet Tenor Saxophone Violin, and piano, and Three Songs for Eb Clarinet , Soprano, and Guitar. 

On 15 September 1945, during the Allied occupation of Austria, hAnton Webern was shot and killed by an American Army soldier following the arrest of his son-in-law for  black market activities. This incident occurred when, three-quarters of an hour before a curfew was to have gone into effect, he stepped outside the house so as not to disturb his sleeping grandchildren, in order to enjoy a few draws on a cigar given him that evening by his son-in-law. The soldier responsible for his death was a US Army cook Pfc. Raymond Norwood Bell of North Carolina, who was overcome by remorse and died of alcoholism in 1955.. In contrast to Anton Webern, Berg’s miniatures — and indeed, his music in general — are decidedly more Romantic in gesture, texture, and timbre. The Four Pieces are very brief and complex; Berg abandons motivic connections in favor of deep structural relationships beneath a perpetually moving surface. As with most of Berg’s early works, there is a preponderance of quartal and whole-tone harmonies; like the String Quartet, Op. 3 (1910), the Four Pieces undergo constant changes in tempi, dynamics, and articulation according to Berg’s intricate instructions (which sometimes change from beat to beat). The first and last of the Four Pieces are the longest, flanking a slow second piece and a scherzo.The Four Pieces also specify that enough time be taken between each little piece.In my mind, these directions point toward music theater.
The Four Pieces were not performed until 1919, when they received their premier, despite Schoenberg’s earlier admonishments, at a meeting of Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna, the Verein. Was there perhaps , a tiny bit of rivalry between the two , teacher and student? During a lengthy career of performing in all types of ensembles and venues, one of the strongest and perhaps strangest is the almost insane jealousy that exists within the profession and perhaps much more with composers than (even) performers.  . Just consider the competition within this area. There was a terrible relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, not performers, not composers, but even worse, the psychiatric profession. Read on:

In April of 1906, Freud began a correspondence with a young psychiatrist named Carl Gustav Jung They first met in person when Jung traveled to Vienna on February 27, 1907, and the two were fast friends. Jung later described his initial impressions of Freud as “…extremely intelligent, shrewd, and altogether remarkable.” They corresponded extensively over the next seven years, with Freud viewing Jung as protégé and heir to psychoanalysis.

 This relationship and collaboration began to deteriorate as the years went on. While Freud had viewed Jung as the most innovative and original of his followers, he was unhappy with Jung’s disagreement with some of the basic tenets of Freudian theory. For example, Jung believed that Freud was too focused on sexuality as a motivating force. He also felt that Freud’s concept of the unconscious was limited and overly negative. Instead of simply being a reservoir of repressed thoughts and motivations, as Freud believed, Jung argued that the unconscious could also be a source of creativity.

While the official break from Freud came when Jung resigned from the International Psychoanalytic Congress, the hostility growing between the two was readily apparent in the letters they exchanged. At one point, Jung scathingly wrote, “…your technique of treating your pupils like patients is a blunder. In that way you produce either slavish sons or impudent puppies… I am objective enough to see through your little trick”

While the theoretical differences between the two men marked the end of their friendship, their collaboration had a lasting influence on the further development of their respective theories. Jung went on to form his own influential school of thought known as analytical psychology. Freud’s reaction to the defection of Jung, and later that of Alfred Adler, was to close ranks and further guard his theories. Eventually, an inner-circle of only the most devoted followers was formed. Often referred to as “the Committee,” the group included Freud,  and Otto Rank. These differences between various schools of though in psychoanalyses are still in existence today. Instead of Freud and Jung we have talk therapy versus medication. I have seen this vehemence. It is much better to practice, and never stop playing.

  I have been told that when Freud and Jung met following their disagreement, Jung would become faint.
 Or , maybe it was Freud. The internal chaos those two caused since their visions of  therapy came into fruition, seems a thousand times worse than the ego of any composer.

stay well,


Triskaidekaphobe, one who fears the number 13

June 3, 2013

Triskaiadekaphobe is one who is frightened of the number 13. There are or were several worthy of note.Franklin Roosevelt, Napolean, Richard Wagner, Mark Tawin, Herbert Hoover and Arnold Schoenberg. Could that be a “raison” for the 12 tone system. Schoenberg even died on the 13th day of the month. July 13, 1951.


stay well,


Deja entendu, again, the synthetic and the difference

June 1, 2013

Factually, a synthetic reed is a copy of a cane reed. In order for a copy to be made to sound like a cane reed, it should play the same. There are two companies manufacturing reasonably acceptable synthetics” Forestone “and “Legere.”

The Forestone process is a complete process, the reed is finished , ready for playing, it being a molded process, but Forestone is able to make the tip flexibly thin as an end process.

Legere is also a molded process, howeer the concluding step is the cutting of the tip of the reed with an excellent diamond quality tool. Two Legere reeds will each play slightly differenly. Two Forsetone reeds will be much more similarly, one to the other ,because of the complete process of the manufacture.

I was given many of each, free . Big deal. The Legeres have so many (seemngly mind boggling) cuts. That is like cane. We are attempting to limit the variables, why make multiple slightly different copies?

Forestone are much more consistent because the process is complete.

After that, it is all a matter of sales pitch, price and opinion.

stay well.