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Posts Tagged ‘opera

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians”*…

 

Physicist and saxophonist Stephon Alexander has argued in his many public lectures and his book The Jazz of Physics that Albert Einstein and John Coltrane had quite a lot in common. Alexander in particular draws our attention to the so-called “Coltrane circle,” which resembles what any musician will recognize as the “Circle of Fifths,” but incorporates Coltrane’s own innovations. Coltrane gave the drawing to saxophonist and professor Yusef Lateef in 1967, who included it in his seminal text, Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns. Where Lateef, as he writes in his autobiography, sees Coltrane’s music as a “spiritual journey” that “embraced the concerns of a rich tradition of autophysiopsychic music,” Alexander sees “the same geometric principle that motivated Einstein’s” quantum theory…

Explore the connection at “John Coltrane Draws a Picture Illustrating the Mathematics of Music.”

* Thelonious Monk

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As we square the circle, we might recall that it was on this date in 1786, at the Burgtheater in Vienna, that Mozart’s glorious Le nozze di Figaro The Marriage of Figaro— premiered.  Based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (“The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”), which was first performed two years early, Mozart’s comedic masterpiece has become a staple of opera repertoire, appearing consistently among the top ten in the Operabase list of most frequently performed operas.

Early 19th-century engraving depicting Count Almaviva and Susanna in act 3

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“I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves”*…

 

From Library planning, bookstacks and shelving, with contributions from the architects’ and librarians’ points of view, Snead & Co. Iron Works, c. 1915.

Before the early 20th century, public libraries typically used wooden bookcases with fixed shelves to house their volumes. In the 1910s, new public literacy initiatives like Andrew Carnegie’s library-building projects, as well as institutional expansions at the Library of Congress and many universities, drove the need for a different kind of library shelf. The new wave of libraries—bigger and more comprehensive than their predecessors—needed bookshelves that could accommodate their rapidly growing collections of books. The New York Public Library, for example, installed 75 miles of new bookshelves in 1910 in preparation of its grand opening the next year. And the shelves from earlier decades simply weren’t going to cut it.

So where were these new libraries going to get bookshelves that were up to the challenge?  Snead & Company, of Louisville, Kentucky, was a cast-iron works business that manufactured everything from window frames to tea kettles to girders to spittoons. In the 1890s, the company took its expertise in metal work and turned its attention to the design of bookshelves, when it became apparent that metal shelves offered a unique solution to the turn-of-the century’s bookshelf crisis. From 1890–1950, Snead & Company designed, patented, manufactured, and installed an unprecedented measure of shelves, generating hundreds of miles of new shelf space.

Snead shelves were multi-tiered, self-supporting bookstacks that, simply put, allowed more books to be packed onto more shelves. The bookshelves were architectural as well as aesthetic. Snead bookstacks were characterized by narrow aisles with very closely spaced shelves. The stacks rested on marble, glass, or slate slabs that were robust enough to support the massive weight of the shelves and the books they housed. The bookshelves had a “z” notch that would allow each shelf to be moved up and down to best deal with the height of the books being stored there. Early Snead bookstacks were built out of exposed steel or cast-iron columns that served as structural reinforcements for the building.

Snead & Company dominated the bookshelf industry for two generations. The company’s influence on the American bookscape diminished in the 1950s—due, in no small part, to the changing nature of library design, which de-emphasized large public institutions in favor of smaller library buildings. But Snead & Company’s behemoth bookshelves are still housing books at countless older libraries across the country, from the Library of Congress to University of Michigan…

* Anna Quindlen

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As we agree with Anthony Powell that “Books Do Furnish a Room,” we might send soaring birthday greetings to Mary Violet Leontyne Price; she was born on this date in 1927 (though yesterday’s date in given by some sources).  As a child in Laurel, Mississippi, Price played the piano and sang in her church’s choir through high school, then headed to Wilberforce College (in Ohio), where she began training to b a music teacher. Her singing talent got her an audition at Julliard; Paul Robeson performed a benefit to her her with the tuition.  She rose to international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s, one of the first African Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.  Among her many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), numerous honorary degrees, and 19 Grammy Awards (13 for operatic or song recitals, five for full operas, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989– more than any other classical singer).  In October 2008, she was one of the recipients of the first Opera Honors given by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Written by LW

February 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet”…

 

SmartyPans: frying an egg has never been more needlessly complicated!

email readers click here for video

From the wonderful Tumblr, We Put A Chip In It–“It was just a dumb thing. Then we put a chip in it. Now it’s a smart thing.”

* Douglas Adams

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As we call the electrician to add more outlets, we might send inventive birthday greetings to Oscar Hammerstein; he was born on this date in 1847.  In 1883, Oscar Hammerstein patented the cigar-rolling machine… and began to amass a fortune that he promptly reinvested in theaters and concert halls, becoming one of Americas first great impressarios…  a fact worth honoring, as history tends to overlook Oscar the First in favor of his grandson,  Oscar Hammerstein II, the librettist/lyricist and partner of Richard Rodgers.

Hammerstein (on left, with cigar) and conductor Cleofonte Campagnini

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Written by LW

May 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You are the music while the music lasts”*…

 

A beloved album can turn into a sonic home of sorts, and provide a measure of comfort that trumps an actual living space. Now we have a mash-up of both: In his new illustration series, “Archimusic,” Barcelona-based designer Federico Babina has designed homes that embody the sensibility and tone of 27 musicians and their biggest hits. Among these sonic fortresses–which range from sleekly designed small-scale homes to colorful and funkier buildings that could be apartments, institutional homes, or symphony halls–are Miles Davis’s So What, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and David Bowie’s Space Oddity

Babina appears to be no slacker when it comes to hard thinking about the ways in which design and music mesh. “Both music and architecture are generated by an underlying code, an order revealed by mathematics and geometry,” Babina says in his artist statement. He describes the series as an exercise in “listening to architecture,” interpreting its musicality and rhythm, and representing the structural, visual qualities of music. He explored whether “the music is horizontal, vertical or oblique,” whether “sound leans firmly on the ground or if it touches on tiptoe,” and whether “it’s made of contrasting colors or tones that change gradually.”…

See more of his work at his site and here (where one can also buy prints); read more at “27 Musicians And Their Hits Reimagined As Buildings.”

* T.S. Eliot

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As we’re grateful that music can Gimme Shelter, we might recall that it was on this date in 1868, at the Königliches Hof-und National-Theater in Munich, that Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg premiered.  At four and a half hours, it’s one of the longest operas performed in modern times; and it is unusual in Wagner’s oeuvre both because it is a comedy (the only one among his mature works) and because it isn’t driven by mythological or supernatural themes.  The premiere was sponsored by Ludwig II of Bavaria and conducted Hans von Bülow.  Franz Strauss, the father of composer Richard Strauss played the French horn at the premiere– despite his often-expressed dislike of Wagner, who was present at many of the rehearsals.

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Written by LW

June 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)”…

 

From illustrator Bruce Worden and writer Clare Cross, a children’s classic for the new millennium (albeit, about the last one), Goodnight Keith Moon.

[TotH to Tyler Hellard, aka Pop Loser]

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As we prepare to explore the teenage wasteland, we might spare a thought for Sophia Cecelia Kalos (who later became much better known by her stage name, Maria Callas); she died on this date in 1977.  The pre-eminent bel canto soprano of the Twentieth Century, Callas was known by her legion of fans as “La Divina,” (“The Goddess”), a superlatively-specific appropriation of the approbation reserved by opera aficionados for the very finest female singers.  The term “diva” (while it dates back to the late Nineteenth Century as a descriptor of a “fine lady”), emerged among Callas’ following as a shorthand for “divina”– making her the first singer who was a diva.

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Written by LW

September 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

First Takes…

The very first photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who aimed a camera obscura, which held a polished pewter plate coated with bitumen of Judea (an asphalt derivative of petroleum), out the window of the upper-story workroom at his Saint-Loup-de-Varennes country house, Le Gras. After a day-long exposure, the plate was removed and the latent image of the view from the window was rendered visible by washing it with a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum, which dissolved away the parts of the bitumen which had not been hardened by light. The result was this permanent direct positive picture– a one-of-a-kind photograph on pewter:

(For more on Niépce and the story of his pioneering accomplishment, visit the source of this photo, the site of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.)

But in many ways as interesting as the first photo of anything is the first photo of a specific thing.  OObject has curated a collection of a dozen of the most interesting “firsts,” from the first photo of a human face

Self portrait of Robert Cornelius, 1839

… to the first photo on the web

Les Horribles Cernettes (LHC... pun intended*), a band at CERN (where Tim Berners-Lee "created" the web), 1992

More– from the first photo of the whole earth and the first x-ray to the first color photo and the first picture of the surface of another planet– at OObject.

As we say “cheese,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1935 that George Gershwin signed his name to the completed orchestral score of the opera Porgy and Bess. The composer considered the 700-page work his masterpiece; many critics agree, considering this first American opera to be the finest American opera.

From the title page of the manuscript score (source: Library of Congress)

* LHC

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