Thursday, September 21, 2017

Daniel Jones Symphonies 2 & 11 - Complex yet simple


Lyrita Records embarked on their Daniel Jones symphonic cycle in the 1970s. It's good to have them available again in digital form.

Early in his career, this Welsh composer devised his own musical language that served him well. Jones' Complex Metres system used asymmetrical patterns. These patterns never quite align as they repeat. That gives Jones' music a restless fluidity that provides its forward motion.

The two symphonies on this re-release make a good pair. Jones completed his second symphony in 1950. He experimented with serial techniques, which are prominent in this work. His eleventh symphony is firmly rooted in tonality, albeit an expanded one.

Both works incorporate Jones' Complex Metres, and both use large orchestras. After the second symphony, Jones pared back his scope. Symphonies three through ten use more modest-sized orchestras. Symphony No. 11, written in memoriam for a colleague and friend. It marks Jones' return to an expanded orchestra.

Though three decades separate these works, they're remarkably similar in style and sound. Both feature some imaginative melodic writing. And to my ears, they have a cosmopolitan sound. They don't sound especially Welsh, or even British. They're simply the expression of an individual with a unique perspective.

Lyrita employed some of the best musicians for this project. For this release, it was the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and Bryden Thomson. I doubt we'll hear these works performed with deeper understanding and commitment.

Daniel Jones: Symphonies 2 & 11
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra; Bryden Thomson, conductor
Lyrita SRCD364

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Burney Sonatas for Piano Four Hands: Birth of a Genre

I learned three things from this release.
  1. Charles Burney was a composer
  2. Charles Burney was a pretty good composer
  3. Charles Burney pioneered and popularized a musical genre
Charles Burney is best remembered today as a music journalist and musicologist. He wrote in great detail of his European tours. Those volumes provide invaluable documentation about late 18th-Century performance practices.

Burney also seemed to visit just about every major and minor composer on the continent. His writing provides insightful impressions of their personalities and their music.

What's not remembered is that Burney was also a prolific composer himself. In fact, recordings of his music are practically non-existent.

In 1777 Burney self-financed the publication of four sonatas for piano four hands. He might not have been the first composer to write for this combination, but he made it popular.

Before Burney's publication, music for two keyboard players meant two instruments. After Burney, other composers, such as J.C. Bach, Clementi, and Mozart wrote for piano four hands.

The eight sonatas on this release are played on an English square piano. This early pianoforte is the instrument Burney had in mind, but it's a far cry from a modern piano. The action is noisy, and the attacks can be harsh-sounding.

And yet, as I listened, I eventually became used to the sound and could appreciate it for its own merits. Burney wrote with the capabilities of the square piano in mind. Thus, the instrument's well-suited for the music.

Anna Clemente and Susanna Piolanti perform with a lightness of touch I didn't think possible on a square piano. They bring out all the dynamics and expressive shading of the works. And they use the rough sound of the square piano to good advantage. Dissonances sound almost contemporary with their edginess and loud passage ring with authority.

If authentic instruments aren't for you, then you might want to give this a pass. But if you'd like to enjoy some fine music-making from the early Classical era, give this release a listen. I found it enlightening.

Charles Burney: Sonatas for piano four hands
Anna Clemente, Susanna Piolanti, piano four hands
Brilliant Classics


Monday, September 18, 2017

Diabelli Project 162 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Things are a little disjointed right now. This summer I fell behind on making the fair copies of my Diabelli Project sketches (the one below's dated 6/23/17). And as I write this in September 2017 I'm working on a legitimate full-size woodwind quintet composition.

This rash of woodwind quintet flash compositions represents the germ of my inspiration.  But I'm currently much further along in the process than these posts suggest. Really.

In today's offering, the French horn has the melody, punctuated by the ensemble in eighth notes. If I were to use this sketch, I'd probably make the second measure 4/4 and change the last two beats from eighth notes to 16th notes. It makes more sense with what follows.

And had I not run out of time, I would have had all five instruments playing a descending pattern in stacked thirds and landing on a new tonal center (to be determined later).





As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 066 - Crane Car

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

066. Crane Car

The fifth car in the train shown on the construction set's box art is labelled a crane car. It's not a bad model, but it promises more play value than it can deliver.

If you look at the illustration carefully, you'll see a knob sticking out of the cab. The implication is that it will turn the dowel, and thus raise or lower the hook at the end of the string.

Well, that knob is actually a wooden collar, and it doesn't grip the dowel very tightly. The "hook" appears to be four fiberboard washers around a small dowel. All of that is extremely light-weight. I think only a single strand of sewing thread would be thin enough to actually stay within the guides of the crane arm and move up and down.

If the crank worked. Which it doesn't. And how would you secure the thread to the dowel and washer assembly?

I'm using florist wire as a string/thread substitute for this project. I substituted a wooden collar for the washers, and secured it by bending the end of the wire after threading it through.

For a static shot, I think it worked just fine.


The Line Mar Train

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Graupner: Passion Cantatas Vol. 1 - Pure Baroque Goodness

This release launches a cycle of Passion Cantatas by Christoph Graupner. And it's pure German Baroque goodness.

Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) was a contemporary of Bach, Telemann, and Handel. And he was as highly regarded as his contemporaries. When Telemann turned down the Leipzig Cantorate position in 1723, Graupner was offered the job. When he was forced to decline, settled on their third choice -- Johann Sebastian Bach.

Originally, musical settings of the Passion (the suffering of Christ) were presented during Holy Week. They usually took the form of large-scale oratorios.

Lutheran musical tradition expanded settings of the Passion into Lent. These Passion cantatas were shorter, but more numerous. There were ten Sundays in Lent -- each requiring a different cantata. The three cantatas in this release all come from a cycle Graupner composed in 1741.

Graupner, like Bach, illustrated his texts subtly through music. The cantata Erzittre, toll und freche Welt, (Tremble, mad and impudent world,), opens with a hesitant and trembling ritornello. The aria Menschenfreund, ach welch Verlangen trägst du doch nach meinem Heil? (What yearning is this?) has a rising melody that always turns down just before reaching resolution.

These are just two of many examples. To fully appreciate Gaupner's artistry, I recommend following along with the printed text as the music plays.

Ex Tempore and the Barockorchester Mannheimer Hofkapelle perform admirably directed by Florian Heyerick. And no wonder -- Heyerick is one of the leading authorities on Graupner's music.

This is also one of the best-recorded early music releases I've heard in a while. The ensemble has a clean, transparent sound. The soloists sound natural with full, unforced tones.

Christoph Graupner: Das Leiden Jesu
Passion Cantatas I (1741)
Solistenensemble Ex Tempore
Barockorchester Mannheimer Hofkapelle
Florian Heyerick
CPO 555 071–2        

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4 - Study in Contrasts

This installment of Naxos' László Lajtha symphony reissues presents three sides of the composer. Wisely, the three works aren't programmed in order.

The disc leads off with Lajtha's Symphony No. 6, completed in 1955. The imaginative orchestration gives the ensemble an open sound, especially with the brass. The outer movements crackle with high-energy rambunctiousness, encasing the sparkling middle movements.

Lajtha wrote that his Symphony No. 5 was "very tragic, epic, like a ballad." Perhaps so, but to me, it also had an elegiac quality to it. It reminded me of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sinfonia Antarctica," which, like Lajtha's work, was written in 1952.

It was a bad time for Lajtha. He had spent a year in London, working on the film score to "Murder in the Cathedral" (which he would turn into his fourth symphony). The Communist authorities considered him "contaminated" and stripped him of all official positions. Symphony No. 5 reflects that unsettled dread, yet its lyrical passages seem cautiously hopeful.

The final work sweeps away the gloom. Lajtha's 1933 ballet score for Lysistrata bustles with good humor, continually winking at the audience.

Nicolás Pasquet and the Pécs Symphony Orchestra perform well for the most part. The first violins strings seemed to sound a little wobbly in the upper register. It was especially obvious in exposed passages that were meant to be played delicately and softly.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4
Symphony No. 6, Op. 61; Symphony No. 5, Op. 55; Lysistrata - Ballet Op. 19
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor 
Naxos 8.573645

Friday, September 08, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 065 - Dump Car

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

065. Dump Car

The dump car was the fourth in the train shown on the construction set's box art. The biggest problem I had was trying to figure out just what the illustration was supposed to represent.

It looked as if the far side of the car had a covering of some kind. I couldn't quite figure out if that was the case, and if so, how to attach it.  The illustration shows the cover (if that's what it is) just resting on the upright posts.

But then, this wasn't an accurate image. I t shows a long dowel rod spanning the car, with two fiberboard washers in the middle. The dowels that came with the set didn't extend far enough to secure with washers at the end as shown. I compromised by using two dowel rods joined with a wooden collar.

Yes, the wire work isn't very good in the photo. But after wrestling with this very fragile construction for almost an hour, I finally got it to stay long enough to take a picture.

I'm still wondering what the illustration was trying to show me, though.


The Line Mar Train

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Persichetti Harpsichord Sonatas - Appealingly Modern

If you only know the harpsichord as a 18th-century instrument, Persichetti's sonatas can be a little disorienting. The harmonies, the counterpoint, and the melodies are all mid-20th century. It sounds nothing like Bach.

And yet Persichetti managed to write music that's thoroughly idiomatic to the instrument. And Christopher D. Lewis, a specialist in modern harpsichord literature, gets the most out of that music.

The album includes five of Persichetti's nine sonatas written for the instrument (plus a serenade). The first sonata was composed in 1951. The others -- nos. 3, 5, 8, and 9 -- date from the 1980s.

These works from Persichetti's final decade are finely-crafted, indeed. Persichetti uses layered textures instead of volume to add emphasis. Chromatic melodies may have a tonal base, but not necessarily triadic.

Pan-diatonic chords and polytonality create textures at odds with the harpsichord's Baroque heritage. Nevertheless, it works. Lewis' phrasing and precise execution bring out the best in these works, clearly outline Persichetti's musical structures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of thoroughly modern harpsichord music.

Vincent Persichetti: Harpsichord Sonatas
Christopher D. Lewis, harpsichord
Naxos 8.559842

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Cosmography of Polyphony Surveys the Renaissance

Webster's defines cosmography as "a description of the world." In "Cosmography of Polyphony," the Royal Wind Music describe their world of renaissance music through their concert repertoire. This ensemble of twelve recorder players presents music from Johannes Ockeghem (early 1500s) through Johann Sebastian Bach (mid-1700s).

Playing polyphonic vocal works on instruments was standard practice in the renaissance (as was doubling vocal parts with instruments). So Maria Martinez Ayerz's arrangements are within the realm of early music performance practices.

The ensemble presents a nice variety of styles, too. There's a highly chromatic madrigal by Carlo Gesualdo, as well as cheerier fare by Anthony Holborne.

The Royal Wind Music performs with an astounding precision and unity of vision. At times the ensemble sounds like an organ or calliope played by a single individual. Ayerza's arrangements use many different types of recorders, and not every one gets played in every selection. It's that subtle variety that I most appreciated as I listened to this recording.

A worthy musical cosmography, indeed.

Cosmography of Polyphony: A Musical Journey through Renaissance Music with 12 recorders 
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antoine Brumel, Hernando de Cabezón, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Carlo Gesualdo, Nicolas Gombert, Anthony Holborne, Alonso Lobo, Johannes Ockeghem, Osbert Parsley, Pierre Phalèse, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Adrian Willaert 
The Royal Wind Music 
Petri Arvo, Hester Groenleer, María Martínez Ayerza: artistic directors 
Pan Classics PC 10377

Friday, September 01, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 064 - Lumber Car

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

064. Lumber Car

This is the third car in the train shown on the box art. It was a pretty simple build, and has an enormous cheat.

Line Mar's building kit only came with eight long dowel rods. In this model, two are used as axles. Four provide the stakes for the load. So only two remain to serve as the lumber load itself.

Yet the picture shows a whole pile of long dowel rods. Shortly after I received this set, I made some replacement dowel rods. Over the past 80 years the original dowels had swollen and warped, and I've been using the replacement dowels for a lot of the builds.

In this case, I used both the original dowels and the replacements to provide a decent load for the lumber car. 




The Line Mar Train


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spam Roundup August, 2017

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

Say What? 

 - Definitely imagine that which you stated. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to keep in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get irked whilst other people consider concerns that they plainly don't recognize about. [Yes, We must all consider concerns.]

 - When some one searches for his vital thing therefore he/she wishes to be available in that detail, thus that thing is maintained over here. p[The what over where?]

 - Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious.  [We should all share the delicious.]

Yet, it is actually Sex Chant quite charming. Most Quakers start to talk about at work? [I'm not sure I want to imagine Quaker sex chants...]


"Lumbering along" keeps on going

Without a doubt, The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along remains a prime post for spambots. Not sure what the attraction is in this vintage 1960s Japanese tin friction toy. Even after I read the comments.

 - Thanks for a marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author. [Wait -- *might be*?!]

 - I'm gone to inform my little brother, that he should also go to see this blog on regular basis to take updated from hottest gossip. [Oh yes, this post full of gossipy hotness.]

 - It's not my first time to pay a quick visit this web site. [And not your first rodeo either, I presume.]

This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! finally, I have something which helped me. [Your comment was... how do you say it? Irrelevant!!]

Thanks for sharing 

Once you find a winning formula, why mess with success? 

Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.

Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group? There's a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content.

That's all for this month. Share this post with your Twitter group, your Zynga group, or even your peer group! After all, I might be a great author.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

László Lajtha Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 - Darkness and Light

I somehow missed the original release of this László Lajtha series on Marco Polo. So I'm glad for another opportunity to discover this Hungarian composers' music through the Naxos reissues.

Volume 3 continues the traversal through Lajtha's symphonies with Nos. 3 and 4.

In 1947 Lajtha went to England to work on a British movie with Austro-Hungarian director Georg Hoellering. The production was T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. Lajtha reused much of the thematic material for his third symphony, completed in 1948.

The symphony retains much of the film's (and original story's) atmosphere. A solo clarinet opens the work with an elegiac theme. Gradually the orchestra enters with ominous foreboding, inexorably building towards the finale.

The fourth symphony, written three years later, has an entirely different character. Titled "Spring," this is a light-hearted work that's full of energy. Lajtha was an ethnomusicologist as well as a composer. Folk elements abound in this work, coming to the fore in the last movement.

Also included is Lajtha's music for a 1943 ballet. Lajtha reworked the music into his Suite No. 2 for orchestra. The ballet lampooned fascist dictators, and that sharp humor comes through in Lajtha's suite. The angular music reminds me somewhat of Janacek crossed with Prokofiev.

Nicolás Pasquet and the Pécs Symphony Orchestra have a lock on this material. The ensemble has an expansive sound that gives Lajtha's music real emotional weight. Glad I didn't miss these recordings the second time around.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3
Symphony No. 4, "Spring", Op. 52; Suite, No. 2, Op. 38; Symphony No. 3, Op. 45
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor 
Naxos 8.573646

Monday, August 28, 2017

Diabelli Project 161 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's sketch is another for woodwind quintet. The unifying elements in this are the sixteenth/dotted eighth rhythm, and the gapped runs up and down. I also really like the tutti chords that open this sketch. If I were to expand this, I'd develop that thought further.

This is the sixth woodwind quintet sketch I'm written for this series. I think it's time to see if some of these pieces will join together.




As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 063 - Tender

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

063. Tender

This is the second car in the train that Line Mar shows on their box. In the 1930s, when this set was sold, steam locomotives were the standard. Such locomotives carried their fuel supply behind them. The coal tender was often referred to as just the tender, as it is in this instruction sheet.

The tender was a really simple build. And it was also one where reality was at odds with the fantasy illustration. The dowels holding the bumpers are shown resting on the axels, nicely parallel to the bottom of the tender. They don't quite line up that way, causing the dowels to droop down a little. 


The Line Mar Train


Thursday, August 24, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 4

#USclassics

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I used the theme #USclassics, and presented an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Twitter's 140 character limit constrained my tweets to the composer's name, the title of the work, links, and hashtags. Below is an annotated list of the #USclassics composers I featured the last week in July, finishing the series. Links to the entire month's composers are at the bottom of this post.


Edmond Dédé (1827–1903)

- Edmond Dédé was a free-born Creole in New Orleans. Though a prodigy both as a composer and a violinist, Dédé had to leave the States in order to have a career. Dédé eventually settled in Paris in the 1850s and studied at the Paris Conservatoire. He conducted the Bordeaux Théâtre l'Alcazar for almost three decades and toured as a concert violinist. Dédé's compositions were frequently performed in Europe. His son Eugene Arcade Dédé was also a successful composer.



Arthur Foote (1853–1937)

- Arthur Foote was a composer and organist who remained in Massachusetts for most of his professional career. He was part of the Boston Six (along with Amy Beach, George Whitefield Chadwick, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, and Horatio Parker). Foote was also one of the founders of the American Guild of Organists. His style shows influences of Brahms and Wagner. Most of Foote's output was chamber music, and it was in this genre that he excelled. Foote's Piano Quintet and Piano Quartet are his most frequently performed works.

George Whitefield Chadwick (1854–1931)

- George Chadwick was another member of the Boston Six. He studied in Europe with Carl Reinecke and Joseph Rheinberger. Chadwick's music, though steeped in the language of European romanticism, retained an American flavor. Chadwick wrote symphonies, operas, and other large-scale works. His string quartets, especially his fourth, remain his best-known works.



George Templeton Strong (1856–1948)

- George Strong was born in New York City and studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. He taught briefly at the New England Conservatory of Music. Although Strong permanently moved to Switzerland in 1897 he's still considered an American -- rather than Swiss -- composer. Strong wrote in a late-romantic style. He was also a talented artist, with a 30-year career as a serious painter.

Arthur Farwell (1872–1952)

- Arthur Farwell graduated from MIT in 1893 as an engineer but soon turned to music. He studied with Engelbert Humperdinck in Berlin. Farwell returned to the States in 1899. He was a leader in the American Indianist movement. The Indianists were white composers using Native American melodies and culture in their own work. Farwell established Wa-Wan press to publish Indianist works. He did most of the lithography, music engraving and cover designs for his publications. Farwell's catalog includes an extensive amount of choral, chamber and orchestral music, of which Native American-inspired compositions is only a part. Roy Harris and Bernard Rogers are among his students.



Marion Bauer (1882–1955)

- Like many American composers, Marion Bauer studied with Nadia Boulanger. She was the first female faculty member of NYU's music department. She was a contemporary and colleague of Aaron Copland. Milton Babbitt was one of her many students. Bauer helped found the American Music Center and the American Composer's Alliance. Bauer wrote over 160 works, most using some form of extended tonality.

Jan Bach (born 1937)

- Jan Bach studied with Aaron Copland and Thea Musgrave. A professional horn player, Bach is best known for his works for horn (especially his Horn Concerto). Bach's music often has a wry humor to it. Bach has written two operas, several orchestral works, and a substantial amount of chamber music (a good portion featuring brass instruments).



Gregory Short (1938–1999)

- Gregory Short was born on the Yakima Indian Reservation. He spent most of his professional life in Washington State. Short was a pianist and composer and graduated from Julliard and the University of Oregon. Short's compositions often incorporated music and cultural themes of the Pacific Northwest Native Americans. Short wrote over 300 works. His catalog includes two piano concertos, and several orchestral tone poems, including the Northwest Tetralogy for Orchestra.

Margaret Brouwer (born 1940)

- A student of George Crumb and Donald Erb, Margaret Brouwer writes music that's both accessible and other-worldly. She's known for her engaging melodies, even in works that challenge the listener. Brouwer founded the Blue Streak Ensemble to perform music of living composers. She also organized the "Music by the Lake" contemporary music concert series. Brouwer's career took off in the 21st Century with several commissions for major works. Her Percussion Concerto, Viola Concerto and Violin Concerto all date from this period.



Kenneth Fuchs (born 1956)

- Kenneth Fuchs studied with Milton Babbitt, David Diamond, and Vincent Persichetti. Fuchs writes in a relaxed tonal style. Rhythmic and textural changes usually provide his music's forward motion as opposed to harmonic progression. Fuchs is best known for his orchestral works, which are frequently performed throughout the world.

Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare
Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Boureland
Annotated List for Week 3: William Billings through Adrienne Albert

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Piffarro Journeys Back Before Bach

Back Before Bach delivers on its promise. Piffaro surveys the music of 16th Century Germany, showing the foundation upon which Bach would build.

Piffaro explores seven different themes. The tracks for each theme moves in chronological order. This makes it easy to hear how each tune develops. In some cases, also making the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque.

The hymn tune "Christ is erstanden," for example, is first heard in a 1480 setting. Then it's in one by Heinrich Isaac, followed by 1550s settings by Johann Walther.

The set continues with the tune used in a Michael Praetorius chorale. It ends with an instrumental arrangement of Bach's four-part chorale setting.

As always, Piffaro plays with energy and imagination. These are first and foremost engaging musical performances. And they happen to have some pretty solid musicological research backing them up.

Highly recommended for listeners (like me) who like early music with historical context. Also highly recommended for listeners who enjoy a well-programmed and well-executed recording.


Back Before Bach
Musical Journeys
Includes music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Heinrich Isaac, Michael Pretorius, and Johann Walther 
Piffaro
Navona Records

Friday, August 18, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 062 - Locomotive

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

062. Locomotive


This build begins a mini-series. Models nos. 62-67 form a train. It features a locomotive, coal tender, and several railroad cars. The set is prominently featured in the instruction booklet.
That illustration greatly over promises.

First, there's no railroad track. The models use the same unflanged wooden discs as the other wheeled vehicles. Second, the models are nowhere near as big as the illustration suggests. And third -- you can't build the entire train with just one set.

Each car uses the biggest set piece for its chassis. And there's only one in the set.

And the problems don't stop with the entire train.

The locomotive can't be built quite as depicted -- either in the cover art or the instruction sheet versions. In the cover art, the boiler is made up of a three-hole piece followed by a one-hole piece. In the instruction sheet, those two pieces are reversed.

The dowel holding the cab to the frame is blocked by the dowel serving as the rear axle. It can't go down any further. And the shorter dowel doesn't reach down far enough to secure the cab to the frame.

The smoke stack and boiler domes look pretty tall in the illustrations. That's because they're shown using the thick wooden discs stacked on the dowels. But the set only comes with four such discs, and they're needed for the wheels.

As you can see, the thinner fiberboard discs don't quite have the same effect.

The locomotive, as depicted in the instruction sheet.


The locomotive, as shown in the cover art for the box.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 3

#USclassics 

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I used the theme #USclassics and presented an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Twitter only allows 140 characters, pretty much limiting my tweets to the composer's name, the title of the work, links, and hashtags. Below is an annotated list of those posts for the third week of July, providing a little more background for each composer.


William Billings (1746–1800)

- William Billings was one of the earliest choral composers in America. Center in New England, Billings wrote and published hundreds of hymns and anthems. The works were written for amateur choirs of limited ability, yet show great originality and diversity.Billings is also credited with writing some of America's earliest Christmas carols, such as "Judea" and "Shiloh."

Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781–1861)

- Anthony Heinrich is considered the first American full-time composer. Originally from Bohemia, Heinrich ran a successful international business. The Napoleonic Wars destroyed his business and his fortune. In 1810 he was stranded in the US virtually penniless. It was then that Heinrich turned to his avocation. Heinrich became a professional violinist, conductor, and composer.

His music is highly programmatic and owes more to American traditions than European. Nevertheless, he's credited with conducting the second American performance of a Beethoven symphony in 1817, and founding the New York Philharmonic Society in 1842 (which would become the New York Philharmonic).



George Frederick Bristow (1825–1898)

- The son of a renowned conductor and pianist, George Bristow received a first-rate musical education. He joined the New Your Philharmonic Society Orchestra as a violinist at 17 and became concertmaster at 25. Bristow thought that American classical music should be firmly rooted in American culture. Works such as the Rip van Winkle cantata, The Pioneer a Grand Cantata, The Great Republic, and the Niagra Symphony show Bristow's interest in American themes.

John Knowles Paine (1839–1906)

- John Paine was a talented organist and composer credited with a number of firsts. He was the first composer born in American to achieve international recognition. He was a founder of the American Guild of Organists, an organization still active today. Paine was Harvard's first organist and choirmaster, and shortly became America's first music professor. He's credited with developing the curriculum upon which Harvard's Department of Music was founded (and which would become the model for music departments in American higher education institutions).

Paine was also part of the highly influential Boston Six (along with Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, George Chadwick, and Horatio Parker). He wrote two symphonies, as well as many organ and choral works. Paine's Mass in D minor established his international reputation when it premiered in Berlin.



Arthur H. Bird (1856–1923)

- Arthur Bird was originally from Massachusetts, and spent several years studying and working in Europe as a correspondent for the Chicago "Musical Leader." During that time, he spent a year studying with Franz Liszt. Bird's work includes several orchestral works, including a symphony. He also wrote music for wind chamber ensembles (as opposed to concert or marching bands). Bird's music was popular in Germany, although seldom performed in the United States.

Edward Burlingame Hill (1872–1960)

- Edward Hill, when not composing, spent most of his professional career teaching at Harvard. He studied with John Knowles Paine, George Whitefield Chadwick, and Charles Marie Widor. Hill incorporated American elements into his music, including jazz. Although he wrote a sizable catalog of music, his legacy primarily rests in the students he taught and inspired: Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Virgil Thomson (among others).



John J. Becker (1886–1961)

- John Becker was an important figure in American music after the First World War. As a conductor, he premiered works by his friend Charles Ives, as well as Carl Ruggles and Wallingford Reger. He was an editor for Henry Cowell's New Music Quarterly and was an administrator of the Federal Music Project during the Depression. Becker's music was considered part of the "ultramodern school" (along with Ives, Ruggles, Cowell, and Riegger).

Louise Talma (1906–1996)

- Based in New York City, Louise Talma received degrees from Juilliard, NYU, and Columbia. She studied with Nadia Boulanger every summer for 13 years and originally wrote in a neoclassical style. In the 1950s she experimented with twelve tone technique, but eventually returned to tonal composition near the near the end of her life.

Talma's career is marked with several significant firsts. She was the first woman to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters; win a Sibelius medal for composition; have a full-scale opera performed in Germany; receive two Guggenheim Fellowships. And she was the first American to teach at Fontainebleau.



Easley Blackwood, Jr. (born 1933)

- Easley Blackwood studied with Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith, and Nadia Boulanger. He's known for his exploration of tonality in all aspects. Blackwood's written works with various non-traditional tuning systems. 12-tone rows, and microtonal tunings. Blackwood's also the author of a seminal work "The Structure of Recognizable Diatonic Tunings," still in use today.

Gloria Coates (born 1938)

- Gloria Coates is an American composer who's lived in Germany since 1969. Coates studied with Alexander Tcherepnin and Otto Luening and writes in a post-minimalist style. Her works often include canons, with atmospheric glissandi. Coates has written sixteen symphonies, as well as some important multi-media and theater works.

Adrienne Albert (born 1941)

- Adrienne Albert began her professional music career as an alto. She worked with composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass, and Leonard Bernstein, who wrote for the special qualities of her voice. In the 1980s she transitioned from singing to conducting, and in the 1990s, to composing full-time (she had been writing music all her life). Albert writes in a lyrical post-tonal style that often has a lightness and playfulness to it.

Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare
Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Bourland
Annotated List for Week 4: Edmond Dédé through Kevin Fuchs

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Arnold Rosner Chamber Music - Always a Pleasure

Another recording of Arnold Rosner's music is always welcome (in my opinion). Rosner was something of a musical outsider, much like Alan Hovhaness. Rosner wrote Hovhaness' entry in Groves and was an acknowledged authority on his music.

Like Hovhaness, Rosner wrote in a tonal language that was unconcerned with the conventions of traditional harmony. Hovhaness used Eastern modes, Rosner drew more from Western medieval and Renaissance traditions. Both lack the active forward motion implied in major and minor scales.

The chamber works collected here share many similarities. The modal melodies move in surprising and wonderful ways. Harmonies feature open fifths in parallel motion. There are false relations between voices. And yet these are works that could never have been written at any time before the 20th Century.

The works are all well-recorded and well-performed. I especially enjoyed Maxine Neuman's performance of the Danses a la Mode for Solo Cello. Her sensitive reading brings out subtle links between Rosner's motifs.

If you're a fan of Hovhaness, you should give Rosner a listen. If you're not a fan, Rosner's music deserves an audition. Each of his compositions is a world unto itself -- one that invites the listener in and tarry a while. It's an invitation I can't resist.

Arnold Rosner: Chamber Music
Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 18
Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, Op. 89
Danses a la Mode for Cello Solo, Op. 101
Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 121
Curtis Macomber, violin; Maxine Neuman, cello; David Richmond, bassoon; Margaret Kampmeir, Carson Cooman, piano
Toccata Classics TOCC0408



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Collecting - and Collecting Information Part 28

All of a sudden there seemed to be a lot of Shioji friction toy trucks appearing on the market. Over the last few weeks, I've shared what I've learned about the examples I own. But there's a lot that can be learned (and/or deduced) from just examining photos.

Recently two lots came up for sale on eBay. The one I passed on because of the cost; the second because it was outside of my field of interest. But only just.

Towing the line

I've found examples of Shioji using the same truck chassis for a variety of bodies: van, tanker, flatbed, and dumper.

Variations on a theme: five iterations of the Shioji truck.
This example is a tow truck, and it has some very interesting features. First, it's pretty easy to place in my Shioji timeline:
  • First generation: Rivet head hubcaps, flat chassis bottom, six securing tabs.
  • Second generation: Solid hubcaps (cheaper to make and install), rounded chassis bottom
  • Third generation: Four securing tabs instead of six
The tow truck is a first generation Shioji friction truck.
The six tabs securing the body to the chassis make this a first or second
generation vehicle.


The rivet head hubcaps make this a first generation vehicle. 
And note the crank's rubber cap. It's identical to the one used for the dump truck, which is also a first generation vehicle.


End of an era

The second eBay offering I passed on because, well, I don't buy broken toys. These trucks had plastic cabs, as well as metal parts from the earlier Shioji vehicles.

Around 1963 U.S. child safety regulations came into effect, addressing things like sharp edges on metal parts. That, plus the lower cost of injection-molded plastic spelled the end of the tinplate era. Plastic toys quickly became the norm. Which is what makes these examples so interesting -- they're a transition from metal to plastic.

In these models, Shioji replaced the stamped metal cab and frame with plastic one. Although the cab shape is different, it's made to fit the same metal parts of the old Shioji trucks.


The injection-mold cabs are new, but the metal bodies aren't.


The grille is identical, as are the tanker and covered flatbed bodies. I'm sure the next generation of these trucks (if there was one) were entirely made of plastic. The tanker was a third generation vehicle, probably the last before the transition. The covered flatbed was earlier.

Was Shioji trying to use up pieces of existing stock? It's possible.

And there's one more thing: note the opening in the chassis just behind the cab. That's where the crank's located on the metal dump truck.

The square notch behind the cab may have been necessary for
dump truck version.


The metal chassis is completely redesigned. It uses far less metal under the
cab than the original version. The tab only extends far enough to
go completely under the notch in the chassis.
The metal chassis holding the friction drive is much shorter than the original version. Yet it extends over that notch, probably to secure the crank mechanism.

I think this plastic chassis was designed to be all-purpose. And that suggests there might be a dump truck version of this plastic/metal hybrid. I wonder if the express and cattle truck bodies were also recycled?


Monday, August 14, 2017

Diabelli Project 160 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Did I mention I'm working on a woodwind quintet -- and not just for this series? This is the fifth quintet sketch that popped out of my head for the Diabelli Project. Clearly, my subconscious is telling me something. I'll share the composition process once it starts moving along.

This particular sketch came from one simple concept: everybody doesn't have to play all the time. So I have two duos, with the clarinet coming in with what would be (if time hadn't run out) a lyrical solo.




As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 061 - Cannon

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

061. Cannon

When I first saw the illustration, I thought it was a movie camera. But according to the instruction sheet, it's a cannon. 

This was another model that was impossible to build as depicted. 

The long dowel holding the cannon together sticks out because the short dowel (my only other choice) can't span the 3-hole piece and secure it to the second piece. The dowel that the assembly turns on blocks the longer dowel, which is why so much of it is exposed. 

The other dowel (perhaps representing the fuse?) has a different issue. The short-length dowel is too long for the box. If I were to make it almost flush with the top of the 3-hole piece, some of the dowel would be visible sticking out the bottom. 

The photo below shows how close I could get to the illustrated version without altering the supplied pieces. 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 2

#USclassics

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I used the theme #USclassics and presented an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Since Twitter only allows 140 characters, I couldn't include a lot of info about these composers. Part 1 covered the first week's tweets. The annotated list below is the American composers I featured the second week in July.

Benjamin Carr (1768–1831)

- Benjamin Carr came from a distinguished musical family. His father was a prominent music publisher in Boston, and both Benjamin and his brother Thomas were organists, music teachers, and composers. Carr published over 60 works, mostly art songs. He also composed works for the stage. His most popular work is the 1794 Federal Overture, which incorporates well-known American tunes.

George Frederick Bristow (1825–1898)

- The son of a renowned conductor and pianist, George Bristow received a first-rate musical education. He joined the New Your Philharmonic Society Orchestra as a violinist at 17 and became concertmaster at 25. Bristow thought that American classical music should be firmly rooted in American culture. Works such as the Rip van Winkle cantata, The Pioneer a Grand Cantata, The Great Republic, and the Niagara Symphony show Bristow's interest in American themes.


Dudley Buck (1839–1909)

Dudley Buck studied in Leipzig, Dresden, and Paris before returning to the States. He was a professional organist, as well as a conductor and composer. Buck wrote two operas (one only surviving in fragments), a symphony and many other works for orchestras, choruses, and organ. His Concert Variations on the Star-Spangled Banner, Op. 23 was his most popular organ work.

Edgar Stillman Kelley (1857–1944)

- Edgar Kelly was a Midwestern composer who was a colleague of Edward MacDowell (he later spent time at the MacDowell Colony). Kelly often used music from other cultures in his music (China, Arabia, Greek modes, American Indian melodies, etc.). His goal, both as a teacher and composer, was to have American classical music accepted as equal to the music of European countries -- both in those countries and with American audiences. Symphony No. 1 "Gulliver's Voyage to Lilliput", Op. 15.


Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869–1954)

- Harry Freeman was an opera composer, conductor, teacher -- and an African-American. He's credited with being the first such to have an opera produced (Epthalia, 1891). Freeman had to create his own companies to perform his works. At the time of his death, Freeman had composed over twenty operas, as well as other orchestral and choral works. Freeman was inspired to compose after hearing Tannhäuser at age 18. His inspiration did not go unnoticed. Freeman was known in his lifetime as "the black Wagner."

George Frederick McKay (1899–1970)

- George McKay was born in Washington state and remained in the Pacific Northwest throughout most of his career. He incorporated American folk elements into his work, including jazz, folk songs, and Native American melodies. McKay founded the Composition Department at the University of Washington. William Bolcom and John Cage were some of his more famous students. Evocation Symphony "Symphony for Seattle"


Elinor Remick Warren (1900–1991)

- Elinor Remick Warren studied piano with Leopold Godowsky, and composition with Nadia Boulanger. Warren wrote over 200 compositions, most in a neo-romantic style. Her works include several large-scale choral works and symphonic pieces. Towards the end of her life, Warren's music began to reach a larger audience through recordings.

Gail Kubik (1914–1984)

- Like many American composers of the mid-Twentieth Century, Gail Kubik studied with Nadia Boulanger. He also studied with Leo Sowerby and Walter Piston. Kubik was a staff composer for NBC Radio and served as music director for the Motion Picture Bureau at the Office of War Information. As a result, Kubik's style, while progressive and original, is always accessible. He wrote the score for Gerald McBoing-Boing and won the Pulitzer in 1952 for his Symphony Concertante.


Yehudi Wyner (born 1929)

- Yehudi Wyner spent most of his childhood and a good deal of his professional life in the greater New York City area. Wyner often celebrates his Jewish heritage in his music. His 1963 "Friday Evening Service" is among his best-known works. I'd personally describe his style as a post-serial romanticism. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Piano Concerto, "Chiavi in Mano," which includes some jazz influences.

Thomas Oboe Lee (born 1945)

- Lee's family left Communist China in 1949. They eventually made their way to the United States. Lee has won many awards for his music, including the Rome Prize. Lee writes in a modernist post-tonal style. While immediately accessible, his works also push beyond the limits of traditional classical forms.


Roger Bourland (born 1952)

- Roger Bourland was part of the Boston-based Composers in Red Sneakers, along with Thomas Oboe Lee. His music combines advanced compositional techniques with accessible melodies and usually strong tonal centers. Bourland's written operas and cantatas as well as works for orchestra and chamber groups. A student of Gunther Schuller, Bourland's comfortable with incorporating elements of popular music into his works. American Baroque

Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare
Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Bourland
Annotated List for Week 3: William Billings through Adrienne Albert

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Fabio Biondi Performs Leclair with Clarity

In a recent interview, Fabio Biondi said, "the music is first, the composer is first – and then we [the musicians] follow." That artistic stance makes this new release of Leclair concertos such a treasure.

Jean-Marie Leclair was a virtuoso violinist credited with founding the French violin school. Like many performers, he wrote music primarily for himself to play in public. These works give us an idea of his technical abilities.

Leclair also left extensive notes and instructional materials behind, so we also have a good idea of his preferences for phrasing and articulation.

Fabio Biondi is the soloist for this selection of Leclair concertos. And by placing the composer/performer first, Biondi gives us an idea of Leclair's extraordinary talent, and how it could generate an entire school of playing.

Biondi plays with a light touch, with his bow fairly dancing across the strings. At the same time, each note is articulated with precision. Leclair's music is expressive, but it's tempered by subtlety and refinement -- especially as played by Biondi.

Leclair's concertos are models of French Baroque balance and form. The Europa Galante performs them with a warm, measured sound. The ensemble plays elegantly without sounding restrained.

Of course, we can never know for certain what Leclair actually sounded like. But I can't help but think these clean, attractive performances come very close.

Jean-Marie Leclair: Violin Concertos
Op. 7, Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5
Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi, solo violin and director
Glossa GCD 923407

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Straco Express Layout, Part 58 - Shioji Shell

The Shioji Shell Tanker.
Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

I know I just posted something very similar last week (Part 57- Data Dump). But the frequency just reflects the reality of the marketplace. About a week after I found the dump truck, another vehicle using the same chassis became available -- and became my latest acquisition.

I've also learned that these vehicles were made by Shioji & Co., Ltd. Osaka, Japan. Although these smaller, "penny toys" are unmarked, they did brand their larger toys with "SSS."

This Shioji truck is the fourth one I own, and it seems to be the newest. The biggest clue is the chassis, which is made out of much cheaper and thinner metal than the previous versions. My guess is that this represents the final version of this truck before the switch was made from metal to plastic (ca. 1963).

From left to right, oldest to newest: the Express van, dump truck,
covered flatbed truck, cattle truck, Shell tanker.

And the tank truck's different enough for me to revise my chronology.
  • First generation: Rivet head hubcaps, flat chassis bottom, six securing tabs.
  • Second generation: Solid hubcaps (cheaper to make and install), rounded chassis bottom
  • Third generation: Four securing tabs instead of six
  • Fourth generation: Thinner chassis in gun metal rather than black finish

That sag behind the cab isn't from excessive use. The gun metal chassis'
just too thin. It was most likely bent during assembly. 
The Shell tanker, like the rest of these Shioji vehicles look great on the Straco Express display layout. But they put the smaller 3" tank trucks to shame. And with five of these Shioji trucks on the display, I find that I'm having to use the larger cars to have everything look proportionally right.

The 3" Nomura Mobilgas tanker does not compare well
to the Shioji Shell tanker.


I never thought scale would matter with this layout!


Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Shioji Express Truck $10.00
  • Shioji Covered Truck $12.50
  • Shioji Dump Truck $9.95
  • Shioji Shell Tanker $10.50
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $290.30

Monday, August 07, 2017

Diabelli Project 159 - Agnus Dei for SATB

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

I'm not sure why, but this week I sketched out the beginning of another mass movement. I have been listening to a lot of Renaissance choral music lately.

This sketch begins a setting of the Agnus Dei. I ran out of time at about the point where things got interesting. Perhaps I should do two flash composition sessions a week. The second could pick up where the first left off. I might actually get a complete work out such a system -- written in ten-minute chunks.

A common theme with me seems to be starting with a unison and having the voices gradually peel off in different directions. Had this sketch continued, the voices would have continued to branch out independently.

Although this sets a part of the mass, I'm not sure it ties in with the Kyrie Eleison I posted earlier. Will there be more? I don't know -- although I think it's unlikely I'll be setting a Credo anytime soon. That is a lot of text to go through. And I only have ten minutes.



As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.