Monday, March 31, 2014

Soňa Červená – Future Visions Through the Lens of Experience

The post that you are about to read discusses a prolific performer who in spite of her high age still actively performs. Mrs. Soňa Červená is one of those artists who never cease to surprise by something new and unexpected. I had the privilege to attend one of her performances at the last year's Prague Spring festival. Besides being amazed by the energy and precision that her performance radiated to the audience I was reminded of the fact that the future of classical music is not being formed only by people in the earlier stages of their life. Active performing artists of Mrs. Červená's age are rarely seen on concert stages. Their performances, however, should be still taken seriously. Especially when they display such a high level or artistry, taste for new ways of interpretation, and visions of future projects. Please enjoy reading Mrs. Červená's profile.

Soňa Červená – Future Visions Through the Lens of Experience

by Lukáš Olejník

Concert melodrama, a form that brings together spoken word and music, is not frequently seen on concert stages. However, the 88-year-old Czech operatic mezzo-soprano Soňa Červená is one of the few musicians who are able to bring the form to life, and she demonstrated this ability May 18 2013 at Divadlo Na zábradlí as part of the 2013 Prague Spring festival.

The indomitable Prague-born Červená, whose career spans nearly six decades, was accompanied by pianist Karel Košárek in a program that included two pieces written for narrated voice and piano, Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke, by Viktor Ullman, and Eric Satie's Sports et divertissements.

Her performances did bookend three pieces for solo piano, performed by Košárek: Dmitri Shostakovich's Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major and Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in A minor, and Basso ostinato by Rodion Shchedrin.

In addition to her chamber performance at the last year’s Prague Spring festival, Červená also appeared at the State Opera May 23 2013 in Stravinsky's orchestral melodrama Persephone. But it is the concert melodrama that holds a special place in her heart, she told The Prague Post.

"My father, Jiří Červený, founder of the first literary cabaret, Červená sedma, taught me that music and spoken word are equal partners, and neither of them should be favored over the other," she says. "This is also why, in performing opera, I never allowed myself to form large musical phrases without a clear projection of the text I was singing. Thanks to my conscious effort during 30 years in exile, my Czech has stayed intact, and when I returned to Prague after the Velvet Revolution I finally became fully reunited with my father's legacy, spoken word and music."

Born Sept. 9, 1925, Červená studied voice in Prague with Robert Rozner and Lydia Wegner-Salmowá and began her professional career after Word War II in the short-lived revival of the avant-garde Osvobozené divadlo, or Liberated Theater, with the legendary theatrical duo Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich. But after the theater ceased operating, she moved to opera and classical music.

Červená's first major success was her portrayal of Octavian in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at Prague's National Theater in 1957. In 1959, she accepted an offer from the Berlin State Opera, in East Berlin, where she debuted in the same role. On January 4, 1962, she escaped to West Germany via the last open checkpoint in the Berlin Wall.

She then became a principal artist at the Opern- und Schauspielhaus Frankfurt, to which she remained loyal until the early 1990s, while also appearing at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg State Opera, Semperoper, and the Vienna State Opera. Červená made her American debut in 1962 at the San Francisco Opera House, playing the title role in Bizet's Carmen. She returned often to San Francisco to appear in a wide variety of productions, including Berlioz's grand opera Les Troyens, Verdi's Il trovatore, The Barber of Seville by Rossini, Wagner's Die Walküre, and the U.S. premiere of Gunther Schuller's The Visitation.
The scope of her repertoire is comprehensive and includes baroque, classic, romantic, modern and contemporary titles. Her heart, however, belongs to more recent music, she says. In an interview with the online music portal, she explained why.
"With the music of Richard Wagner, I finally discovered what my musical senses were really striving for. I started to study Mahler, Berg, Debussy, Stravinsky. Living composers started composing for me. Henze revised and extended his television opera La Cubana. Menotti chose me for his opera Medium. For Luigi Nono, I premiered his opera Al gran sole. On top of all that, my absolutely favorite composer was Janáček. "
As further proof of her modernism, Červená has been starring at the National Theater as the enigmatic femme fatale Emilia Marty in Robert Wilson's acclaimed production of Karel Čapek's The Makropulos Case since the production's debut in November 2010.
Her many distinctions include the 2004 Thalia Kolegium Award (one year after it was bestowed on the late Václav Havel) and, more recently, the 2012 Gold Medal for Fine Arts of the Washington-based John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Prague, which she was formally awarded in June 2013.
More than two decades after her return from exile, the tireless Červená - now nearing her 90th birthday - is still actively performing and plans to continue well into the future. She has been preparing another Robert Wilson project, 1914, partly based on the classic Jaroslav Hašek novel, The Good Soldier Švejk, which is scheduled to have its premiere in Prague in this coming April.

NUBERG Has Its Winners

Lukáš Olejnik

New music – a little different cup of coffee

A breath of fresh air associated with the efforts of the Prague based chamber Orchestra Berg to promote works of young Czech contemporary composers has been heavily discussed in my previous posts. I thus decided to return to the subject of the NUBERG  compositional contest for the last time with an addition concerning its results. The seventh season of the competition selected new works of young Czech composers associated with the orchestra by means of their previous commissions and presented them to the public not only in the traditional concert setting but also online on Internet and in selected public space locations with help of a custom made audio device sluchomat. Special attention was devoted to high school audiences this year. By the decision of an international expert jury, the main prize and the title of laureate went to Jakub Rataj (b.1984) for his composition titled Proraketon. Both remaining awards, prizes of the public and the young, mainly because of the number of votes submitted by high-school students, went to Martin Klusák (b.1987) for his piece titled In paradisum. Winning compositions will all receive their additional performances March 18 at the National Memorial Place of Vítkov, Prague

Postmodern Jukebox

Postmodern Jukebox is a collection of musicians led by Scott Bradlee. Their performances mostly consist of videos that they post on their YouTube channel, but they have recently released an album (entitled Postmodern Jukebox, available on both iTunes and Google Play). The kind of music that they play can generally be called jazz but with a slight modification. The songs that they perform are all arrangements of well-known pop tracks. When on their YouTube channel, ScottBradleeLovesYa, one can find that they have a New Orleans style "Sweeth Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses, a 1940s swing arrangement of Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat," and even a 1930s arrangement of "Careless Whisper" by George Michael. In addition to their various jazz arrangements, they have also made Motown, doo wop, klezmer, R&B, ragtime, mariachi, and "sad clown" versions of other songs. The band consists of a core set of musicians along with some rotating members. The core performers are Scott Bradlee on piano, Adam Kubota on bass, Allan Mednard on drums, and most commonly Robyn Adele Anderson as the vocalist. The other members consist of a varying horn section (which can consist of any combination of clarinet, trumpet, and trombone), other guest vocalists (such as Puddles the clown) and guest musicians that perform based on whatever genre Postmodern Jukebox is attempting to emulate. This group all started when Scott Bradlee created a selection of songs with the same group of musicians called Motown Nickelback, in which the group performed Motown versions of famous Nickelback songs such as "How You Remind Me" and "Rockstar." The album was made in response to an internet petition to prevent Nickelback performing at the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving Halftime Show in 2011. The album satisfied both Niceklback fans and opponents alike and has since been made an official album released the following year. Since then, the group has been featured on The Huffington Post, The Village Voice, The Vancouver Sun, and

Their music is, if anything, entertaining to both watch and listen to. Their videos commonly have some sort of visual gag in them like a constant disappearing and reappearing saxophonist, a seven foot clown, or an over-enthusiastic tambourine player. Their "alternate history of pop music" shows what might have been if these songs were produced in a different time. There arrangements give new light to songs that would have otherwise been simply labeled as "boring pop songs." This is most evident with their Motown versions of Nickelback. People who would refuse to listen to anything related to the infamous rock band now saw themselves enjoying the songs with only a slight change of genre. It really does show the stigma that some people have of certain songs based solely on who performed it or what genre they associate themselves with. Their most recent video on their YouTube account is a Klezmer version of Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" which features the core group along with David Wang on violin, Chip Thomas on drums, Jay Rattman on clarinet, and Kate Dunphy on accordion. In addition, the rap verse in the song (originally performed by 2 Chainz in English) is done completely in Yiddish to go along with their Klezmer theme. They also announce an upcoming tour at the end of the video.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Beijing International Composition Workshop

The Beijing International Composition Workshop is a 10 day annual summer workshop.  This workshop gathers excellent faculty and promising composers from all over the world.  During the workshop the composers will take private lessons, hear faculty lectures, participate in composition seminars, conducting courses and rehearsals, as well as in two culminating concerts to present their works, exchange ideas, and explore creative notions and means.  In addition, as a special component, Chinese cultural and musical heritage will be presented in lectures and panel discussions.  Topics will include Chinese traditional instruments, Chinese folk music, and Chinese contemporary musical tendencies.

Since 2009, the workshop has invited some outstanding composers and performers to take part in this study and forum, such as the German composer Dieter Mack, Swedish Italian composer Luca Francesconi, Japanese composer Akira Nishimura, American Chinese composers Chen Yi and Zhou Long, Chinese composer Guo Wenjing, Ye Xiaogang, etc. In 2010, I took part in this workshop.  I was able to meet outstanding composers, performers, and enjoy working with them.  The workshop let traditional Chinese musicians give lectures to introduce the history, culture, sounds, and performance techniques of their instruments.  This gave me a chance to learn how to combine western and eastern music practices. 

Music is a type of abstract art without borders. As a young composer, it would be beneficial if we could experience different cultures in person. The experience leads to multiple ways of thinking and expressing ideas. With fresh ideas rushing into our minds, more creative inspirations will appear. This process in widening our horizons also helps us to find our own voice in composition.

This summer, the workshop will be held as usual. I think it would be a good summer program, especially for someone who is interested in Eastern music, language, and culture. 

Classical Music for Smartphones: Composition, Part I

In this concluding article of the series, I explore apps related to composition. Touch screen devices are well known for being excellent consumers of content, but poor producers of it. Music creation app designers have had to devise new interfaces for their software, for touch-based interfaces are very intuitive but offer a limited number of gestures compared to a full keyboard and mouse combination. Filling a screen full of buttons and menus is impractical on the smaller screens. Using a smart phone for creating music is further troublesome because the relatively small screen size makes attempting anything resembling traditional notation impossibly tedious. For this reason, most serious music creation software is available solely for tablets, which feature a larger screen slightly smaller than a piece of paper.

While proponents of free and open software praise Android’s open platform and great customizability, Apple’s standardized software and hardware configurations make it much easier for developers to write good music creation software for iOS. Further, iOS was released earlier than Android, giving its developers a good head start. Combine this with the benefits of a tablet’s screen size, and the platform of choice for music creation apps is the iPad (for more information, see professor David Brian Williams’ page on tablet music). Still, developers have found clever ways of using smaller devices’ hardware to create music, such as in the 4’ 33” - John Cage app (see the first post in this series), which allows users to “compose” using ambient sounds captured with their phone’s microphone.

There are many apps that seek to emulate real-world instruments. When combined with recording capabilities, these can become very useful tools for classical composers. An excellent example is Pianist Pro by MooCowMusic ( Similar to other virtual piano apps, Pianist Pro allows users to customize the look of the on-screen keyboard and select from multiple “instruments”. Where it really shines is its ability to record what the user plays as both audio and MIDI files. A MIDI file can then be uploaded to the user’s computer and imported into their notation software. Even better, Pianist Pro acts a MIDI controller via WIFI or a special hardware adapter, enabling the users to record directly into compatible notation software. I prefer the feel of an actual keyboard to a piece of glass, but I could see using Pianist Pro or something similar to enter notes into notation software as a faster means than using a mouse.

(Stay tuned for the conclusion in Part II)

Check out all the articles in the Classical Music for Smartphones Series:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Digital Concert Hall

The Digital Concert hall of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is a user-friendly active web site which stores and offers the concerts of the Berlin philharmonic orchestra to users, for passive participation with the concert quasi-online on the orchestra's stage. Almost all of the typically 40 concerts per year of the Berlin Philharmonic in their famous Hans Scharoun concert building are stored by this digital concert hall. Then, after some post processing as with a Hollywood product, they are offered to (or transmitted to) the web audience. ( )

I would like to highly recommend this Digital Concert hall. We could hear many wonderful concert everywhere and every time. Several of them are free. For other concerts we just need to pay quite moderate costs. It is very convenient for people who have tight time schedules and limited budgets.

Possible wikipedia topics

1) Several of influential Chinese contemporary composers.
2) Several of outstanding Chinese contemporary music works.
3) new instruments which are developed from the Chinese traditional instruments, such as the bitonal zither.

The MetroWest Opera!

The way I became aware of the MetroWest opera was through a former colleague of mine from The Hartt School of Music.  I was also shocked that I had not known about this company, because the rehears in the same town I live in, Newton.

This company was founded by Soprano, Dana Schnitzer in 2007.  Dana has received degrees from Boston University, New England Conservatory as well as Umass Amherst.  I think its great that a younger student created a company with such high creative goals.  The Metro West opera was created to "provide quality performance opportunities for emerging opera singers, while enriching the arts community in the MetroWest area."  Basically it seems as though Dana created something that she herself wished she had in the time of her emergence into the opera scene.

They also state that they are "committed to producing a professional operatic experience for the rising star who sings with us (the company).    This is a wonderful objective that gives opera singers whose voices are just about to be at the peak level, get the experience and knowledge from a well oiled opera stepping stone.  The MetroWest opera is a great stepping stone, or middle step for an opera singer to gain a lot skills before moving on to more serious higher paid gigs.

One last aspect of this company is that it also has a community aspect, in which it works with children with a love for opera by using outreach performance in schools throughout the Boston area.

Another great aspect, which only adds to the emerging star qualities of the Metro West opera is that it has an annual vocal competition.  This competition has a high school division, ages 13-18, as well has a young artist division, ages 21-35.  I think it's wonderful that they have a competition linked to the compnay, becuase it allows these young people to learn how to submit an application, get head shots prepared and take a professional style audition.  These aspects are also very important to emerging professional opera singers, because lets be honest, we will be taking audition after auditon and we must know how the process works.

The 2014 season looks great as well.


Possible Wikipedia Article Topics

Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (Copland) - create - This work represents the composers first major orchestral work and a significant organ concerto.

Boston Philharmonic Orchestra - expand - This professional orchestra plays on both sides of the Charles river and presents significant works and upcoming soloists.

El Sistema - expand - I would add information about Longy's Sistema Side-by-Side orchestra to the section titled "El Sistema in the US".

Boston Modern Orchestra Project - expand - This orchestra is amongst the greatest proponents of new symphonic works in the Unisted States.

Wikipedia Ideas

1) Nikolai Medtner - Expanding the "Music" Section of the existing page of Nikolai Medtner (with either Forgotten Melodies (Op. 38-40) or Skazki (Fairy Tales)

2) William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience (either making a new page or expanding the "Works" section of his existing page

3) Pluralism (music)

4) Christopher Harding - Creating a page for Professor Christopher Harding, Associate Professor of Piano Performance and Chamber Music and Chair of the Piano Department at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at the University of Michigan

5) Leslie Amper - Creating a page for Professor Leslie Amper, Professor of Piano Performance at the Longy School of Music of Bard College

Wikipedia Entries: Considered Topics

Lukáš Olejník

1) Ensemble Contemporaneous

Contemporaneous is a New York-based ensemble of nineteen musicians dedicated to performing and promoting the most exciting music of now. Through concerts, collaborations, recordings, and outreach programs, the ensemble has created a thriving community of artists and audience members united by a shared love for the best music being written in our time. The ensemble was founded in 2010 at Bard College. (promotional text of Contemporaneous)

2) Ostrava Days 

Ostrava Days is a three-week long institute, which culminates into a 9-day festival. It is a working environment with a focus on compositions for orchestra. With two resident orchestras - the 95-piece Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and Ostravská banda (circa 35 musicians) - as well as a score of chamber ensembles, conductors, soloists and 35-piece choir Canticum Ostrava, it is one of the largest events of its kind in the world. It is organized biennially and since its inception in 2001, it has made a significant contribution to the music of today. The institute and festival both take place in the city of Ostrava, The Czech Republic. (promotional text of Ostrava Days)

3) Oxingale Music

Oxingale Music publishes the works of award-winning contemporary composers such as Lewis Spratlan, David Sanford, or Luna Pearl Woolf. Oxingale Music publishes scores as well as recordings of the music by their composers. It was funded in 2010 by an American composer Luna Pearl Woolf and a Canadian cellist Matt Heimowitz.

4) Georges Longy

It is very surprising that Georges Longy, the founder of Longy School of Music, does not have his own entry article at Wikipedia yet. Founder of a recognized music school that is about to celebrate its centennial next year would indeed deserve one.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just a little video

Just randomly saw this on YouTube. Figured it was appropriate.

Possible Wikipedia Additions

Additions to the "Classical to pop and vice-versa" section under the "Classical crossover" heading on the "Crossover (music)" page
---Considering all of my previous blogposts were in some way related to this topic, it just seems like a prime candidate for the final project.

Additions to the "Notable mash-up artists" section on the "Mashup (music)" page
---I did my senior thesis on mashup artists and their various styles back at the University of Michigan for a musicology class on popular music. I have studied (and enjoyed) mashups of all kinds for over 5 years and I have a wealth of information I could add to this particular page.

Creation of the page Kickass Classical
---This website is known for its "Top 100" list mentioned in one of my earlier posts. I believe they deserve an entry on Wikipedia that could have a list detailing their various "classical charts."

Tempus Quadragesimae in Liturgical Music

by Lukáš Olejník

Part 1

Tempus Quadragesimae, in other words Lent or Fortieth, is " the approximately forty day period celebrated by the Church each year to prepare for the Loard’s resurrection at Easter" (Lefevbre). Many denominations of the Christian family, including Catholics, Orthodox, or Anglicans, if strictly practitioning, are instructed by the word of Scripture to maintain an abstention from meat on various days and occasions of Lent. The precision with which this direction is being observed varies among different denominations. While Western church mostly requires to fast from meat "on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday" (Lefevbre), the Eastern church, on the other hand, recommends the restraint from meat for the full duration of Lent, forty days.
Fasting and abstinence themselves, as  physical demonstrations of true and sincere Christian faith, more than at any different point of the liturgical year, shall be motivated by deep prayer and an active participation in daily Mass. With regard to the magnified significance of Lent as a period of the liturgical year directly resulting in the most important Christian feast, the formal participation of congregation in a number of celebratory rituals is required across the spectrum of all denominations. Music, as one of the traditional tools of Christian Church, plays a crucial role in the fulfillment of this condition. Regulations of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the form and aesthetics of the liturgy’s musical component are very strict and currently feature an interesting combination of tradition and innovation. Both these aspects will be further discussed in my future posts.


Lefevbre, Gaspar Dom. St. Andrew Daily Missal. Saint Paul: E. M. Lohman Company, 1958.


Classical Music for Smartphones: Education

The invention of tablet computers has given developers access to a whole new way of delivering educational content. Proponents see interactive, dynamic, touch-based interfaces as a vast improvement over textbooks, especially for teaching about music, itself an art form that is experienced in time (as opposed to “static” visual arts such as painting, photography, and sculpture). Music education apps cover a wide range of subjects, including musicology, instrumental method, music theory, music appreciation, and ear training.

The Orchestra, by Touch Press (, allows users to explore the makeup of a symphony orchestra through extended video excerpts of eight works that span three centuries, from Haydn’s Symphony no. 6 to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto, a 21st century work. The user can zoom in on specific instruments, follow along with an on-screen score, or even watch an overhead view that highlights the individual instruments as they play to demonstrate the orchestration. The Orchestra is available on both iOS and Android platforms.

Australian developer Rising Software offers a pair of ear training apps, Auralia Interval Singing and Auralia Interval Recognition for iOS ( These apps offer snippets of the company’s flagship Auralia ear training computer software. Interval Singing displays a notated music interval and listens via the device’s microphone to the user singing the interval, providing appropriate feedback. Interval Recognition does the reverse, playing an interval via the devices speaker and asking the user to identify it. Wizdom Music’s EarWizard ( takes the process a step further, playing a progressively longer sequence of chords in a progression and asking the user to name them.

These are only sampling of the many apps music education apps available to users. These can offer educators a 21st century addition to their toolbox, but require them to find apps that suit the curriculum well. Currently, there is very limited adoption of tablet-based software in collegiate music programs, but the technology’s adoption is sure to spread with time.

Check out all the articles in the Classical Music for Smartphones Series:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stephen Hough: A Polymath in the World of Specialization

I first saw Stephen Hough live in 2013 when I was auditioning in San Francisco. I arrived two days early, but no practice space was available, and the conservatory wouldn't let any prospective students in until the day of the audition. So I decided to walk around and enjoy the sights when I set my eyes on Davies Symphony Hall. A concert was happening in an hour, and Stephen Hough was playing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado. I decided to go in.

The concert was a rather eclectic showcase of three centuries of classical music. The 21st century started off the concert with "Expo" by Magnus Lindberg (who composes in a style of tonal spectralism, a good example of which may be his Clarinet Concerto), the 19th century began with Stephen Hough playing Piano Concerto No. 2 by Franz Liszt, and the 20th century was represented by Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5.

During the intermission after the performance of Liszt, I went to the lobby where I saw a sizable line of people with Mr. Hough at the end of it. By the time it was my turn to speak with him, I was the only person next to him; this was fortunate, for I was able to talk at length with the maestro. I told him about my auditions, and I described my repertoire list for the auditions; when I mentioned that one of the pieces was a sonata by Nikolai Medtner, his eyes lit up.

"Oh, I played that sonata last year! It's a wonderful piece..."

I was delightfully surprised:  the sonata is rarely performed because of its difficulty in both technique and musicality, and, until then, I did not view Mr. Hough as a musician who championed neglected composers. My view of him was based on the radio broadcasts of his recordings of music of Saint-Saëns for piano and orchestra (the only performances of Hough that the station played was of Saint-Saëns), and I assumed that Saint-Saëns was a composer whose music was performed quite often.

A recent article in the New York Times, however, told me otherwise. Apparently, piano music of Saint-Saëns was not a mainstream of concert repertoire until Mr. Hough championed his music. The article further states that Mr. Hough has traditionally championed music of neglected composers and "of the exotic fringes of the repertory," another apparently well-established fact that eluded me because of my bias that was formed by years of listening to him play nothing but music of one French composer.

The main story of the article deals with a then-upcoming solo recital of Mr. Hough in Carnegie Hall, where he was to play a mixture of standard repertoire and his own music. The act of a performer playing one's own music seems rare in classical concert halls:  composers usually stay among the audience, and performers usually don't compose or don't play their own music. This distinction may have less to do with the talent of each type of musician than with the time constraints that both types feel in an era that values specialization. Professional performers usually want to showcase their musicality and technicality to the audience, and, to achieve that aim, they practice for numerous hours; as a result, they do not have time to actively pursue other aspects of music or of anything else. Professional composers, in turn, may feel obligated to cater to the technical demands that the performers ask for when writing their music in order to earn money from commissions. Since composers are usually trained in schools to actively write more than actively perform (and since they usually need to compose for instruments that they do not have enough experience playing with), their experiential aspect of performance may not be enough for them to play their own works.

Mr. Hough is one of few exceptional performers who, like Marc-André Hamelin, break this barrier between the two seemingly different fields by performing and composing with incredible skill and confidence. His brilliance in all aspects of performing may be the main reason why he is able to succeed, but could others be able to do this? Does a composition have to be a masterpiece in order for a performer to successfully be recognized as a composer? Does a composer have to be a brilliant technician in order for the audience to recognize him or her as a capable musician?

Mr. Hough mentioned in the NY Times article that his activities in the fields of composing, painting, and theologizing compliment each other and make him a better pianist. Perhaps this belief may ring true for many others to come.

Classical music and lingual barrier

There are many impressive moments in the film The King's Speech.As a music student,I especially appreciate the excellent connection between the film's music and the action.As the film demonstrates,a good score not only sounds nice,but resonates in the heart of the viewer.

This Oscar winning film has a vivid soundtrack that incorporates music from several eras.The composer has shown originality and ingenuity by arranging classical compoers,including Mozart,Beethoven,Brahms.The excerpts are not all pomp and circumstance,moreover,as grand nationalistic themes could weaken the storyline, eclipsing the characters whose stories weave through the film against the backdrop of social events leading up to World War II.

In the movie,Great Britains'King George VI delivers his first wartime speech after a series of climatic scenes,set to a musical background of the second movements of Beethoven's 7th Symphony and Piano Concerto No.5,Op. 73–Emperor.The music fit the gripping the scene almost perfectly.The theme of a composer who overcame the challenge of deafness mirrors that of a public speech-making king struggling with a speech impediment.

Overall,The King's Speech impressed and enlightened me,especially after I chose the Future ofClassical Music class at Longy School of Music of Bard College this semester.I was completely immersed by how the king rose to the challenge posed by his weakness with the help of his unorthodox and controversial speech impediment specialist.Reflecting on my own experiences,I also hope I can write the passage like a native Anglophone when commenting on Mozart's Overture to La Nozze di Figaro;however,like the king says in the end of the film,“I had to throw in a few words so they knew it was me.This sums up the film perfectly.By summoning up his own courage instead of masquerading as a“true broadcaster”,the king acts as a true leader to a quarter of the world's population during their hardest times.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Questions for Dean Chin, 11 March 2014

Please comment with your questions for Dean Chin.

Alice Herz-Sommer, "The Woman Who Remembers Mahler"

Alice Herz-Sommer, pianist/teacher and considered the oldest living Holocaust survivor, died February 24, 2014 at the age of one hundred ten. She was interned for two years, 1943-5, at the Theresienstadt camp, during which she she lost her husband (deported to Auschwitz and later Dachau) to typhus.

Herz-Sommer was born in Prague to a German-Jewish family affiliated with "giants of fin-de-siecle culture" (Ross). She met Mahler as a child, and Franz Kafka frequented her home. She taught at the Jerusalem Academy of Music from beginning in 1949 and in 1986 moved to London. Alex Ross recounts his visit with Herz-Sommer at her apartment in London in November 2013 here: http://"

Why is this meaningful? Ross left his visit "happy to have touched a hand that reaches into vanished worlds." Additionally, from the Holocaust we learn to not tolerate hatred of any kind: that based on race, religion, sexual orientation or what many consider to be the current civil rights movement, mental illness and brain-based behavioral challenges.

Accessed March 4, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Observance of Pluralism, a Progeny of Postmodernism (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University deals with promoting a healthy congregation of a variety of religions, but its definition of pluralism is general enough to fit the parameters of music: pluralism is a thought or a practice of actively understanding and utilizing seemingly different aspects shown in this world in a coexisting manner.1 In terms of music, the difference between postmodernism and pluralism could be as follows: postmodernism shows the usage of different styles or genres in a piece of music; pluralism shows the usage of different elements of different styles or genres in a piece of music, which means a single section of a piece could contain numerous musical and technical aspects that are different in style.

The following is the second example of the "Pluralism" posts:

Music in Pluralism (2010) is a very direct and descriptive title of this piece by William Zuckerman, and it may be one of the first musical works that actively promote the term and the meaning of musical pluralism. The piece is written for a 13-member "orchestra," which also comprises of an electric guitar, bass guitar, a drum set, and an upright piano (the upright was first used because the venue of the premiere did not have a grand piano, but I am not sure at this time whether the composer decided to keep the upright as his instrumentation of choice after the premiere). It is a 50-minute piece of light, moving images, music, and dance that has a root in minimalism; then again, it has roots in basically everything that the composer was thinking of when writing the music. Each voice complements the other, but the musical elements used in each voice are sometimes quite different from each other. For example, the melody could have a minimalist style while the harmony could have a style of tonal, more classical structure, and the chord progression could be written in the style of rock & roll. Sometimes, one voice may contain multiple genres and styles of music at the same time.

The pluralistic method used in Songs may be recognized as a "pale" comparison to that used in Music in Pluralism, although Songs is not exactly a pluralist piece (if it can be placed in any -ism at all). However, the fact that the music contains seemingly disparate elements in a harmonious manner may help the listeners either place Bolcom's music in the same genre or--better yet--not place it in any genre at all.

1 Eck, Diana L. "The Pluralism Project at Harvard University." What Is Pluralism? Harvard University, 2 June 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <>.

Classical Music for Smartphones: Delivery

Last week I began an exploration of smartphone apps related to classical music. I discussed how the 4' 33" - John Cage app brings users a novel approach to composing by treating ambient sounds as music as John Cage did in his landmark piece, and how the InstantEncore solution allows orchestras to reach a tech-savvy audience with promotions, media, and instant ticketing.  This week I will explore a set of apps that do not just connect users to the realm of social music experimentation or to a specific performing arts organization but to the music itself. I speak specifically of apps that deliver music to the users’ devices.

Numerous apps have sprung up allowing users to create customized stations that stream music from an online provider. These apps are not strictly for smartphones, but provide access to services available on the web. Many people are familiar with Pandora (, the first music of these music services. Pandora stations start with a seed song or artist, and bring in related songs using an algorithm called the Music Genome Project. Allegedly the “most sophisticated taxonomy of musical information ever collected” (, the algorithm catalogues upwards of 450 musical characteristics to identity songs it thinks users will like in their stations. It has nearly 70 million users, and boasts 900,000 tracks in its library.

Pandora may be the oldest music service, but it is certainly not the only one. Spotify ( is another popular provider which boasts fewer users but an impressive 20,000,000 song library. Unlike Pandora, users can create playlists with songs of their choosing. Users cans opt to use the radio feature that creates stations using a related song finding algorithm similar to Pandora. Apple’s iTunes Radio ( and Google’s Play Music All Access ( allow users to create streaming stations or download music from their online stores. In Google’s case, users can create custom playlists; however, there is no free version of All Access, unlike the other providers I mentioned.

Streaming music apps allow users to listen to any genre of music, but they can be especially beneficial for listening to classical music. This works in two ways. By having a large library of music from which to draw selections, a user can find many less well known pieces in the repertoire (although contemporary music may be hard to unearth). Creating customized stations where the service selects the tracks may introduce users to new works with which they are unfamiliar. I have found the Pandora’s algorithm does the best job of selecting pieces that fit with my stations, while introducing variety and opening my ears to new possibilities. But, Spotify’s library is much larger, making it easier to find obscure or new pieces, and its playlist function is extremely useful. It’s probably just best to try different apps and find what works best for oneself.

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Check out all the articles in the Classical Music for Smartphones Series:

Music for Oscar

Happening at the same time of this post's creation, the 86th Academy Awards took place in Hollywood, CA. Given that this post is being made while the awards are still going on there are still some awards to be given out, but the award I am concerning myself with is the academy award for Best Original Score. For those who did not see the awards, the nominees were The Book Thief by John Williams, Her by William Butler and Owen Pallett, Philomena by Alexandre Desplat, Saving Mr. Banks by Thomas Newman, and the winner of the award, Steven Price for his music in Gravity. It is very interesting to note that of the six composers who were nominated, half of them were under the age of 40 (Price, Pallett, and Butler). Given they may be under the title of "film composer" this still speaks volumes for the younger generation of composers. It is good to see that in even just one aspect of the composing industry, the young composers can be just as respected as their older and more experienced counterparts. As film composers. it must have been amazing to be seen on the same level as well-known composers such as Williams, Desplat, and  Newman. This shows that (at least in the film industry) age does not automatically mean that you will be overshadowed by the veterans. It is good to also note the award winner for Best Original Song before the end of the post. The nominees were "Happy" by Pharrell Williams from Depsicable Me 2, "The Moon Song" by Karen Orzolek and Spike Jonze from Her, "Ordinary Love" by U2 from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and the winner, "Let It Go" by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez from Disney's Frozen. With the amount of people singing "Let It Go" since the movie's premier, the result should surprise no one.