Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Of iTunes, Streaming, and Thrift Shop Finds

A gramophone. The binary text in the caption says "gramophone".

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Apple has announced that it will be discontinuing iTunes on Apple devices.  For the moment, iTunes will remain untouched in the Windows environment.  You can read about the change in this Apple press release about the new Catalina OS.  You might also find this CNET article of interest.  Apple users will still have access to all of their music, but will reach it through the Apple Music app.  You do not have to subscribe to the Apple Music streaming service to access your existing collection, and the iTunes Store will still exist to purchase music.  The decommissioning of iTunes follows the trend of more people using streaming services to access music.  Also, iTunes has been criticized as it has evolved from its earlier sleeker form.

If any of you find this upcoming change uncomfortable, you might want to check out my survey of music management software for Apple and Windows devices.  There are a variety of solutions available (many free) for managing your music library.  Also, here is a previous post on streaming services.

In the meantime, you still have all of your digital music on your computer.  As with any digital data, I would advise readers to keep their music media in several locations.  I learned this the hard way after a hard drive failure, followed shortly thereafter by an external drive failure.  My mistake was to have data in only one operational device—which then failed.  Fortunately, only a small amount of data was lost; unfortunately, this included a couple years of photographs.  Yeah, you don’t want that to happen.

So how do you avoid that?  External drives have been dropping in price and are very portable, so if you can afford one, having one wouldn’t hurt.  Also, microSD cards, the size of your fingernail, now have capacities that can handle even large music libraries.  You might also decide to back up your music to the cloud, for example, with Amazon Music, Google Play Music, or iCloud.

Do be aware, however, that if you “upload” your music library to iCloud, Amazon Music, or Google Play Music and play it from there, you may not actually be hearing your copy of your music.  To save space, these services match your track to an existing track in their system, and use that one instead.  Otherwise, they might be storing millions of copies of, say, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  To hear your copy, you would need to back your music up to a service like Dropbox or OneDrive, or the like, that doesn’t have its own music database (but you will probably have to pay a fee for storage if you have more than a small music collection).

One of the reasons streaming services are appealing is that this pesky maintenance issue goes away.  For a small monthly fee, you don’t have to worry about losing your music, or getting scratches on your CDs (or vinyl) and you have access to a vast library (as long as you keep paying).  You will always have a pristine copy anywhere you go (as long as you have an internet connection).

You also don’t have to physically store music in “pre-digital” form.  More than one article I’ve read recently has declared the CD dead.  Many computers no longer have drives that can play CDs; some tablets no longer have USB ports to hook up an external DVD drive or hard drive (digitally, you can still usually accommodate a microSD card, especially in phones).  The inexorable force that moved us from VHS to DVD, from LP to 8-track to cassette to CD is now nudging us toward the cloud.

The other day, I was wandering through a local thrift shop and stopped to look at the CDs and LPs.  For those of you for whom these are not extinct formats (and who have room for them) there are wonderful bargains to be found, as people digitize and divest themselves of physical media.  And in fact, I found LP box sets of Wanda Landowska playing Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Vol. 1 and 2.  Each box set contained three LPs—all were in perfect condition.  I paid 99 cents for each box set (about the cost of buying one digital track).

LP box sets of Wanda Landowska playing Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, priced 99 cents

I lowered the needle on the record, and clear analog sound streamed forth.  Twenty-some minutes later, I had to get up and flip the record.

Or I could have listened on YouTube.

The choice is yours.

 

 

 

 

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Haiku Wednesday:  Hands

Six foot six Sergei
Rachmaninoff’s hands were huge,
With enormous span.

Do not ask “Can you
Reach a tenth?” Ask “Can you reach
The listener’s heart?”

I was doing some research on Rachmaninoff because there’s going to be a free online concert this weekend (June 9, 2019).  Anytime you start looking, you’re going to come across at least one article on Rachmaninoff’s hands.

Basically, the guy had huge mitts.

And I was going to write about comparative hand sizes of famous musicians, and flexibility, and speed, and blah, blah, blah.  It’s all been written before.

And I didn’t want even one of you to say, “well, I have small hands, that’s never going to work, so why bother.”  Or stiff hands, or slow hands, or whatever.

Nonsense.  Whatever you love to do, go for it!  You don’t have to be Rachmaninoff, or Rembrandt, or Robert Frost.  Or whoever.  Enjoy what you can do.  And you might surprise yourself if you keep at it.

If you don’t play an instrument and love music, you don’t have to be a specialist to share the music and help someone to hear what you hear and enjoy.

Here is a video of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12, performed by Wael Farouk.  Dr. Farouk, director of piano studies at Carthage College and a faculty member of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, was told that he would never be able to be a concert pianist because of shortened ligaments in his hands.  He has performed all of Rachmaninoff’s solo piano works.

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Image attribution:  Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1936 or earlier, photographer unknown, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARachmaninoff_plyaing_Steinway_grand_piano.jpg.


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Mourning for Notre Dame de Paris

The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame de Paris

It is heartbreaking to see the flames soaring above Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.  Such beauty destroyed, centuries of work by countless architects, artists, and craftsmen, consumed.  It is the cradle of Western polyphony.  It is where Perotin, Leonin, and other anonymous medieval composers heard their music sound against the stone walls, changing Western music forever.

Here is Perotin’s Beata Viscera performed by The Hilliard Ensemble.

You may also wish to see my post Christmas 1198.

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Image attribution: The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame, Paris.  Photograph by Oliver J. Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_north_transept_rose_at_Notre-Dame_de_Paris.jpg


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One of Those Weeks, Illustrated

Stick figure on a unicycle on a tightrope juggles a sword, flaming stick, and chainsaw while crossing water filled with sharks, alligators, and snakes while beavers, woodpeckers, and a fire-lighting camper try to destroy the supports for the tightrope. Oh, and a rainstorm is coming--with lightning.

Did you ever have one of those weeks?  One for which the word “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it?  Yeah, one of those.

Words failing me, I attempted to depict one of those weeks in the illustration above.  And to go along with it, I’ve selected some music:  Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1.

If you’re having one of those weeks, I wish you calmer days ahead.  And to accompany them, Grieg’s Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt Suite.


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Street Piano

Red Steinway piano in Munich airport with sign "Just Play a Steinway"

Surfing the net on this overcast day, I found a video of an infectiously cheerful, driving boogie-woogie piano performance.

The sun came out.

Ok, it’s not classical music, but this is a big tent, so come on in and listen to Henri Herbert making some folks’ day at St. Pancras Station in London, and now, thanks to YouTube, everywhere.  You can find the video here.

And that video led me to another.  if you have some time, you might enjoy Street Piano: Instrument of Change, a documentary on a program that restores pianos that might otherwise end up in landfills and installs them in public places for people to play and enjoy.  It highlights the experiences of some people whose lives have been changed by public pianos.

Do you play piano? Yes? If you see a piano in a public place, sit down, commandeer it.  Play until they make you stop.  Don’t worry about making mistakes, just go for it!  It will certainly make your day, and probably other people’s too.

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Image attribution:  Photograph by Eric Fischer [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Just_Play_a_Steinway_-_Red_public_Steinway_piano_in_Munich_Airport_terminal_(2015-05-23_17.29.42_by_Eric_Fischer).jpg


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Haiku Wednesday: GOOD MORNING!

music note with laughter emoji inside

It’s early morning.
It’s still dark, I’m on the road.
I need some music.

Without looking, I
Slip a disc into the slot.
DA DA DA DUM! No!

Beethoven attack!
Off. Fumbling, I find a disc.
Well, let’s try again.

Chopin is lovely,
But too lively this morning–
It’s a rude etude.

Who picked this music?!
I’ll put 4’33” on,
Looping, for a while.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

 

Chopin:  Etude in A Minor, Op 10, No 2

Cage: 4’33”


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Beauty and Creativity Are Everywhere

Here is the link to Yo-Yo Ma’s new video, in which he performs the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.  This would be beauty enough; but the music forms the background to clips of people around the world expressing their creativity and showing how culture connects us all.  It is exuberant and full of hope, something we can all aspire to as this new year begins.  The video was created as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach Project, in which he will be playing Bach’s six cello suites in 36 cities around the world.