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The search below will show you some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen of England’s countryside, the region that has inspired generations of English composers. It’s Stratford, Bath and Oxford, where you’ll find thatched roofs and true Tudor architectural homes along winding country roads rolling through undulating hills. These images make the countryside in Lord of the Rings look like old abandoned factories in former eastern-block Soviet nations.

England’s countryside

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Joe Short is the longtime stage manager of the Cleveland Orchestra and a good friend to many of the musicians, but he’s apparently having more fun making sure the stage looks right and all the instruments are safe on the COYO tour than on the many tours he’s made with the parent orchestra. He says “It’s really nice to see how excited the kids are to be over here.”

Many of the larger instruments were rented in Vienna, but they all have to get to the right place at the right time and the orchestra apparently wanted to make sure a pro was in charge when they sent Joe Short over with the young players.

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Americans have stopped growing.  For nearly 100 years, data put together by experts has shown that children and adolescents grew about an inch and a half taller every 20 years.  But the Centers for Disease Control has stated that Americans’ average height has hit its peak (although my two sons must have not been told this). 

I bring this up because there were so many great composers who were considered short in stature, even in their day.   Weber, Mozart, Schubert, and many others including Beethoven were 5’4” or shorter. 

But Beethoven’s hands were disproportionately large.  A famous artist of his day, Josef Danhauser, painted the Beethoven’s hands the day after he died.

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Below are two links, each complimenting the other.

The first one is for you to hear.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-FUEidQc-E

It’s a recording of Giacomo Puccini and his wife from 1907. They stopped by a studio while on a visit to New York City. Both were quite happy with the hospitality the dignitaries and fans had shown them. Their address is mostly in Italian, but even if you don’t understand the language, you’ll hear him say “New York.” Just before his entourage starts to applaud, he says, “America, forever!”.

The next click will get you to a film of the streets of New York City, made about the same time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=954L9MpfCEo

It’s just traffic, but use your imagination a little bit. Look at the windows of the buildings. Behind one of them might be the very studio where the above recording was made.

In those days, a recording studio was nothing like today’s. Electricity was used mainly for lighting. The first “electrical” recordings (made with microphones, amplifiers, and electric cutters) were still almost 2 decades in the future.

The recordings of 1907 were acoustical – that is, they were made with nothing more than the faint energy of the sound waves themselves. The sound was directed from a small room into a huge cone (often several feet in diameter). The cone went through the wall into the next room. Where it came to a point was a vibrating diaphragm with a needle attached. The needle inscribed a groove onto a wax cylinder (Edison system) or a flat gramophone disc (Berliner system).

Modern studios are soundproof, but that was hardly necessary in those days. The acoustical recording equipment was so insensitive that any noise beyond a few feet from the cone was not picked up.

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Antonin Dvorák was son of the village butcher in a small town in Bohemia. He was supposed to take over the family business but when he was sent off to school at age 11, he showed a lot more promise as a violist.

I think he looks more like the guy behind the counter in a butcher shop than a violist – or composer. This is in no way a negative comment on his appearance, it’s just that he was a tough-lookin’ guy who made a livin’ the hard way.

Antonin Dvořák

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