When he was 91, Pablo Casals was approached by a student who asked, “Maestro, why do you continue to practice?” Casals replied, “Because I am making progress.”
To make progress is like learning and then learning more. The events of these first few weeks of summer have been like that for me. Let me explain:
Summer is usually associated with vacations and travel. In 2004, after visiting Alaska, I said to anyone I knew “Every American should visit Alaska at least once in their life.” I’ve said the same thing about New Orleans, where I visited in 1999. Both these places impressed me with their ethnic vitality as well as their very interesting history. I recently returned from Nevada where I took a 4-hour tour of the Hoover Dam. My same thoughts, that every American should visit it and learn about its history, keep floating through my head. The Hoover Dam was built in four years instead of six and completed UNDER budget. Over 100 people died during its construction. The Dam itself is a National Historic Landmark, rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders and is a testament to the foresight of President Hoover and the work ethic of so many. As our tour drove through the desert to the Dam, we marveled at the ability of a work force in the 1930’s to build such a huge structure in the middle of the desert southwest. The volume of concrete used to build it consisted of 3.25 million cubic yards (2.6 million cubic meters). We saw the huge turbines that run the Dam, walked along its uppermost edge and looked down its height of over 700 feet, and walked through underground tunnels that were dug during its construction. The Dam meets the water needs of more than 20 million people in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. I learned so much about this amazing structure and highly recommend seeing it.
How does this relate to a blog on classical music you ask? Well, along with gorgeous views in Alaska, spontaneous jazz on the streets of New Orleans, and a huge structure like the Hoover Dam, I find the same feeling of wonder when I think of classical music. How could Beethoven have composed such incredible music after becoming deaf? How could J.S. Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Copland and all the other geniuses have composed so many different pieces during their relatively short lives (compared to our current longevity)? Just last week I had the honor to meet the daughter of the famous American composer, Morton Gould (1913-1996) and hear her speak. She lives in Plainview, NY and visited our rehearsal of the Northport Community Band. She shared such warm and interesting stories about her well-known and respected composer father and how to this day, each time she hears his music performed, it brings tears to her eyes. The Northport Community Band will be performing some of Morton Gould’s works for band at our concerts this summer. Expanding one’s knowledge in any way, rejuvenates, refreshes and brings on a feeling of such growth and happiness. The world is full of wonder. See it, marvel at it, listen to it and enjoy it! “Making progress” as Casals said….learning… is a terrific thing.
On July 13, 2014, we lost world-renowned conductor, Lorin Maazel at the age of 84. According to Newsday, Maazel had conducted most of the major American orchestras by the age of 15! He served as conductor or music director of the New York Philharmonic for seven years as well as with the Bayreuth Festival, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera, and the Pittsburgh Symphony to name a few. Your Library has a number of recordings with him at the helm:
Mahler’s Symphony no. 4 (CD) with Kathleen Battle and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Mozart’s Don Giovanni (DVD) with Kiri Te Kanawa and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Paris Opera, Verdi’s Aida (CD) with Luciano Pavarotti, and a DVD available through interlibrary loan from other Suffolk County libraries: Summer Night Concert 2013 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring the music of Verdi and Wagner in celebration of their bicentennial anniversaries. The concert was held on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna (I speak from experience that this Palace is just amazing, having toured it in 1981) and was recorded live.
When you come in to choose any of the above, pick up a copy of a new book the Library just acquired: “The Late Starters Orchestra” by Ari L. Goldman. David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic, said of this book: “A lovely, moving story of personal rediscovery disguised as a book about cello-playing.”
Our Did You Know for today’s post is a little different from the information about a composer I usually include. I came across a word recently that I’m sure not all of you are familiar with: theremin. According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, it may also be called Thereminvox and is an “electronic musical instrument invented in 1920 in the Soviet Union by Leon Theremin (also called Lev Termen). It consists of a box with radio tubes producing oscillations at two sound-wave frequencies above the range of hearing; together, they produce a lower audible frequency equal to the difference in their rates of vibration. Pitch is controlled by moving the hand or a baton toward or away from an antenna at the right rear of the box….Harmonics, or component tones, of the sound can be filtered out, allowing production of several tone colours over a range of six octaves. The American composer Henry Cowell and the French-American composer Edgard Varese have written for the theremin. The instrument was used in recordings by the American rock group the Beach Boys and in the soundtracks of several science fiction films.” For you Big Bang aficionados, it can also be heard in episodes of the show played by Sheldon!
Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!
E. Susman, July 16, 2014