NEUROLOGICALLY DIVERGENT – A Dramatic Recitiation

Earlier this month, the Pulitzer prizes were announced. As stated by the Pulizter organization, the music prize is awarded

For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year, Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000).

The music prize was first awarded in 1943 to William Schuman for Secular Cantata No. 2 A Free Song, which had been premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra the previous year. The later recipients were, for the most part, well-known composers of contemporary concert music, or what some people term contemporary classical music. The winners were all men until 1983, when Ellen Taffe Zwilich won for Symphony No. I (Three Movements for Orchestra). In 1999, Melinda Wagner won for Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion. Since 2000, women have won more frequently, including Jennifer Hidgon (2010), Caroline Shaw (2013), Julia Wolfe (2016), and Du Yun (2017). In terms of genre, the prize had always gone to contemporary concert music, with the exceptions of 1997 when Wynton Marsalis won, and 2007, when Ornette Coleman won.

On April 16, 2018, it was announced that Kendrick Lamar had won the prize for DAMN.,

a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.

This was the first time the prize had been awarded to a piece in the genre of Hip-Hop. Depending on whether your definition of popular music includes jazz or not, this was the first award to a piece of pop music. Several people, including straight up Internet trolls and probably some who should better, were upset enough by this award to take to social media to voice their displeasure. The Twitter account @NewMusicDrama collected the worst of these, conducted a poll, and announced the winner:

Seeing the invitation to conduct a dramatic reading, while enjoying a leisurely Saturday afternoon, I leapt at the opportunity. I now present the finished piece, NEUROLIGICALLY DIVERGENT

Early Beethoven

I’m only 21 pieces in so far, so I will need to pick up the pace to make it through all 194 pieces with opus number this year. Right now, I’m listening to the Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12 number 1, and just came across my first “favorite moment” in these early pieces. It’s a cadential figure that happens in the first movement, at the end of the second theme.

Beethoven Op. 12 No. 1, first movement

From what I can recall, I first heard this piece in a performance in Von Kuster Hall at UWO, around 1987 or 1988. This moment is striking, and you can hear why it would appeal to someone who has played rock guitar. Even better than a power chord!

Was Brahms Quoting Beethoven?

I was listening to the WQXR broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall last night. It was an all Brahms program: The Academic Festival Overture, The Haydn Variations, and the first symphony. I grabbed my trusty old Dover score and followed along for the performance of the symphony. I was not paying too close attention, but even so, something leaped out at me at the start of the second movement. The opening theme begins with a striking similarity to the first theme of Beethoven’s sixth symphony. I grabbed my Beethoven score, and sure enough, the first seven notes of both themes are the same. The Brahms is in E Major, the Beethoven is in F major, so the Brahms is naturally written a semitone lower. Both themes are given to the first violins. The rhythms and tempo are different.

Brahms quoting Beethoven

I’m wondering if this was a purposeful quote, or just a coincidence. Also makes me wonder if there are any other Easter eggs in “Beethoven’s 10th?”

Beethoven Listening Project

Nothing like a new year to start a new project! One of mine for 2018 is to listen to all of the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, from start to finish. How would you like to join me? We’re just getting started with the Piano Trio in Eb Major, Op. 1 No. 1.

Mondestrunken

Just watched Moonlight, and, happily, it’s great. Need to watch it again on short order. Don’t know if composer Nicholas Britell truly had Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis in his ear as he wrote the score, but I had to listen to that piece right away on finishing the film. It fit right in.

Drop-2 Chord Fun Facts

FF#1: Outer Limits

We’re going to talk a bit about seventh chord and four-part harmony here, so to keep things consistent, I’m going to refer to SATB for voicing, and keep pitch and string sets ordered from higher pitch to lower pitch.

Drop-2 seventh chords are formed by starting with a close position seventh chord and dropping the second note from the top (in SATB, the A) one octave. In the original close position chord, S and A are adjacent chord members. Now, however, S and B are adjacent chord members. So, we end up with SB pairs of {R,7}, {3,R}, {5,3}, {7,5}. In other words, between the outer voices of a drop-2 seventh chord, you always have some type of 10th or 9th.

Interesting. So, if that is going on between the outer voices, SB, what is going on between the inner voices, AT?

FF#2: Dyad Pairs

Now that we know what is always going on between the outer voices, what else can we say about how these chords are constructed? In the original close position voicing, adjacent voices, e.g., {T,B} are always adjacent chord memebers, e.g., {3,R}. But in drop-2, because of that octave displacement, adjacent voices are adjacent chord members + 1, e.g., {T,B} is now {5,R}. That means that {S,A} must be {3,7}. Well, with the knowledge of this FF and also FF#1 up above, these chords are now very easy to spell. In all four inversions, they are:
{R,5} {3,7}
{3,7} {5,R}
{5,R} {7,3}
{7,3} {R,5}

In drop-2 chords, root and fifth always go together, third and seventh always go together. This is worth memorizing.

FF#3: A Chain of Double Appogiaturas

Occasionally in jazz and popular music, we see harmonic motion by descending diatonic 5th, e.g., ii-V-I, or vi-ii-V-I, or I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I. In four-part harmony with seventh chords, between adjacent chords we can say the following: two notes are common, the other two notes will descend a diatonic second. In fact, you can think of each of these chord pairs as double 4-3, 2-1 appogiaturas on the resolving chord. Think of the ii-V progression in Satin Doll for a good example of this.

To see how this plays out with drop-2 chords, let’s do the following. We’re going to play I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I in F major, on the {2,3,4,5} string set, starting with the {3,7} {5,R} dyad pair. In the first progression, the common tones are between the outer voices SB, and the appogiatura happens on the inner voices AT. Next progression, the inner voices AT have the common tones and the outer voices SB have the appogiatura. From there, the cycle repeats.

FF#4: Those Dyads Again!

Let’s think about what just happened. We started with a I chord with the R member in the B voice. When we moved to the IV chord, the B voice became 5. The we moved to vii and B became R again. Wait, {R,5}, where have we seen this before?

What if we play the same sequence, I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I, this time in Db major, same string set, but this time starting with {5,R} {7,3}. So we start with the I chord with 3 in the B voice, and next chord, the B voice becomes 7 of the IV chord. Wow, really? so now the B notes will alternate on the {3,7} dyad.

So, it looks like in a progression between any drop-2 seventh chords descending by diatonic 5th on the same string set, we have the following transformation R->5, 5->R, 7->3, 3->7. If you want to keep in simple, just remember that in the bass, {R,5} will alternate and {3,7} will alternate, depending on where you start.

FF Bonus Round:

Take any drop-2 seventh chord on the string set {1,2,3,4}. Drop the S on 1 two octaves, so that it becomes the B on 6, on the resulting string set {2,3,4,6}. What have we here?

Claude Vivier’s Zipangu

I just put up an old paper on Claude Vivier’s piece Zipangu. I think I wrote it in Carl Morey’s Music in Canada seminar back at U of T. I’m posting it (it’s in the “Writing” section of the web site) for a couple of reasons. Vivier’s life and career were both cut short in 1983, and he’s not terribly well-know outside of Canada. Which is a shame, because he wrote some really amazing music. This piece in particular, really struck me, and stuck with me. If you don’t know his music, it’s a great place to start. The paper isn’t an exhaustive analysis, but it does shed light on how the piece is put together. When I dug into the piece, I was startled at formalist it actually was. Would love to hear your comments on both the piece and the paper.

cyberkrunk labs

Things are humming along, and the bf album release is getting nearer. Maybe this year.

The labs have had a major influx of new gear of the past year. The most recent addition is a pair of Dynaudio BM 6A mk II nearfield monitors. Now, back in the day, many happy hours were spent in the depths of UTEMS in front of a pair of Genelec 1030as, which have served as my high water mark for nearfields ever since.

Well, let’s just say that Denmark is not too far from Finland: the Dynaudios are a perfect match for my space, I absolutely love listening to them. They are small, but the bass is accurate and the imaging and detail are bang on.

“Pusherman” just came on iTunes, and the sound of Curtis in my head is what prompted the post.