A good friend of mine sent me this just the other day, and I liked it so much, I wanted to share it with you. It’ll help you get in the mood for the season.
On November 30th, Apollo’s Fire finished up a European tour that included Madrid, Spain; two locations in the Netherlands; and London. I had a chance to talk with Jeannette Sorrell in St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights to ask a few questions about the tour.
PS: As I headed into the church, I was walking across the parking lot. An old rusty Chrysler minivan with a slight exhaust leak pulled up and the person inside said Hello. It was Maestra Sorrell. I’ve always known that Jeannette Sorrell is devoted to her art. But as a "car guy," what she drives told me how devoted she is.
Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni was the son of a wealthy paper maker, and never really had to work.
As a result, he was maybe the only Baroque composer who never tried to obtain a job as a church or court director. That does not mean he did not work. He composed around about fifty operas, and a fair amount of orchestra pieces.
|Albinoni as a Bigwig|| As was often the case in portraits, especially from that time period, there were hints as to who the person was and what he or she did. You can see that he is holding music in his hands, but the immense wig on his head is supposed to tell us a lot more. Being a musician could be an iffy thing to anyone of nobility; not of the highest standards. So, Mr. Albinoni wore the wig to let you know his rank in society.
It is from those times and that hair piece that we learn that a ‘bigwig’ was a grand poobah.
The World Doctors’ Orchestra is an ensemble comprising about 100 full-time international medical professionals who are also part-time musical amateurs. It was founded in 2007 by Stefan Willich, who conducts the orchestra.
They recently performed their second public concert. It was a benefit for the Hugo Tempelman Foundation, which operates the only hospital serving 160,000 residents of Elandsdoorn Township in South Africa, and The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland.
If you missed the Severance Hall concert, the live audio on Digital WKSU 3, the streaming video at wksu.org, and the delayed broadcast concert on WKSU, you can still view archival video, subscribe to an audio podcast, or download audio recordings of portions of their concert, at this page on wksu.org.
Musical instruments that play themselves are far from new. The barrel organ dates back to the 9th century; a 16th century example is still in use today. Mozart and Haydn composed music especially for the Viennese flute-clock, a mechanized organ favored from about 1720. The music box is a relative latecomer; it dates from the very last years of the 18th century.
What is unusual, though, is machinery that plays an existing instrument. One of the rare examples is the Vorsetzer, developed in the early 20th century. It was a piano player, rather than a player piano. It recorded not the sound of the piano, but rather the movements of the keys and pedals when a virtuoso played the instrument. The reproducing apparatus (the Vorsetzer; literally, "sitter-before") was rolled up to a piano, and it reproduced the actions of the pianist. Assuming a playback piano more or less equivalent to the recording instrument, the result was a performance that (in theory at least) sounded as if the virtuoso were playing for you in your own living room.
While one could certainly argue whether any machine can adequately reproduce the touch of a human pianist, a wind or string instrument is yet another matter.
You might say that musician and instrument are closely coupled. The wind player’s body is literally part of the instrument, the mouth and windpipe acting as a resonating cavity. The shape of the mouth and lips interacts with a flute’s lip plate or embouchure hole, a trumpet’s mouthpiece, or the reed of a clarinet, oboe, or bassoon. In a way, playing a wind instrument has a lot in common with singing — it involves the entire performer, body and mind.
Here we have a machine that holds and plays a clarinet.
But it does not sing.
Understand, I’m not dismissing this accomplishment. Any student who has struggled with a clarinet embouchure will tell you that machinery able to coax a more or less stable tone from a clarinet, be it carbon-based or silicon-based, is a long way from trivial. Even with modern computer control, the device demonstrated below is no mean feat.
Remarkable as it may be, it has a long way to go before the results can be called musical. Over 100 years later, this gadget doesn’t approach the Vorsetzer’s ability to preserve the performer’s interpretive skill and musicanship — at least not yet. Although my left brain is impressed with the technology, my right brain thinks it would rather hear a beginning student play Go Tell Aunt Rhody.