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Posts Tagged ‘violin

“The difference between a violin and a viola is that a viola burns longer”*…

 

Dutch piano restorer Frank Bernouw has painstakingly restored a stunning Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, a self-playing, multi-violin orchestrion that plays a variety of concertos quite beautifully, if not a bit mechanically. This unusual instrument was invented in 1907 by Ludwig Hupfeld AG and “dubbed the “8th wonder of the world”…

Three violins (each with only one active string) mounted vertically were played by a round rotating bow made of 1300 threads of horse hair, according to the program on the roll of perforated paper. The small bellows replaced the violin player’s fingers, pressing on the strings to obtain the necessary notes. The piano can be driven either unaccompanied or together with the violins. It controls 38 accompaniment keys with 12 high notes (one octave) in extension. The whole pneumatic systems are controlled by an electric engine of uninterrupted current.

More at “A Beautifully Restored Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, A Self-Playing Mechanical Violin Orchestrion Player.”

* Victor Borge

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As we reach for the rosin, we might send intricately-melodic birthday greetings to Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist Georg Philipp Telemann; he was born on this date in 1681. Telemann was and still is one of the most prolific composers in history (at least in terms of surviving oeuvre) and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time—he was compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally.  He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

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Written by LW

March 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to violin-land, where all is sweetness and delicacy and harmony”*…

 

Before electronic amplification, instrument makers and musicians had to find newer and better ways to make themselves heard among ensembles and orchestras and above the din of crowds. Many of the acoustic instruments we’re familiar with today—guitars, cellos, violas, etc.—are the result of hundreds of years of experimentation into solving just that problem. These hollow wooden resonance chambers amplify the sound of the strings, but that sound must escape, hence the circular sound hole under the strings of an acoustic guitar and the f-holes on either side of a violin…

While it’s true f-holes date from the Renaissance, they are much more than ornamental; their design—whether arrived at by accident or by conscious intent—has had remarkable staying power for very good reason.

As acoustician Nicholas Makris and his colleagues at MIT recently announced in a study published by the Royal Society, a violin’s f-holes serve as the perfect means of delivering its powerful acoustic sound. F-holes have “twice the sonic power,” The Economist reports, “of the circular holes of the fithele” (the violin’s 10th century ancestor and origin of the word “fiddle”). The evolutionary path of this elegant innovation—Clive Thompson at Boing Boing demonstrates with a color-coded chart—takes us from those original round holes, to a half-moon, then to variously-elaborated c-shapes, and finally to the f-hole…

More musical history at “Why Violins Have F-Holes: The Science & History of a Remarkable Renaissance Design.”

* Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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As we draw our bows boldly, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to Ernst Theodor Amadeus (“E.T.A.”) Hoffmann; he was born on this date in 1776.  A key figure in the German Romantic period, Hoffmann was an author of fantasy and horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. While some of his compositions survive in the canon, he is probably better remembered for his stories: they form the basis of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based.  The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann’s Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann’s character Johannes Kreisler.

Hoffmann also influenced 19th century musical opinion through his music criticism. His reviews of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (1808) and other important works set new literary standards for writing about music, and encouraged later writers to consider music as “the most Romantic of all the arts.”

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Written by LW

January 24, 2016 at 1:01 am

The man who made the clothes that make the man…

 Nudie Cohn, perched on one of his 18 custom cars (source)

Nuta Kotlyarenko immigrated to America from Kiev at age 11, and bought into the American Dream big time.  After kicking around the country as a shoeshine boy and a boxer (and indeed, he claimed, as a companion of Pretty Boy Floyd), Kotlyarenko– by then, “Cohn”– and his wife opened a New York lingerie store, Nudies for the Ladies, specializing in custom-made undergarments for showgirls.

In 1947, after relocating to Los Angeles– and taking “Nudie” as his given name– Cohn persuaded a young, struggling country singer named Tex Williams to buy him a sewing machine with the proceeds of an auctioned horse; in exchange, Cohn made clothing for Williams.  The creations were so popular that Nudie opened a North Hollywood store to feature his chain-stitched and rhinestone-studded creations.

Over the years, Nudie gave dozens of performers their signature looks, from Elvis’ $10,000 gold lame suit to the costumes of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  But his specialty was country (and country rock) singers: e.g., Porter Wagoner (a peach-colored suit featuring rhinestones, a covered wagon on the back, and wagon wheels on the legs), Hank Williams (a white cowboy suit with musical notations on the sleeves), and Gram Parsons (the suit he wears on the cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers album The Gilded Palace of Sin, featuring pills, poppies, marijuana leaves, naked women, and a huge cross).  John Lennon was a customer, as were John Wayne, Gene Autry, George Jones, Cher, Ronald Reagan, Elton John, Robert Mitchum, Pat Buttram, Tony Curtis, Michael Landon, Glenn Campbell, Hank Snow, and numerous musical groups including “that little band from Texas,” ZZ Top.

Nudie with The King in “the Suit” (source)

Nudie died in 1984; the store (which remained open under the management of his daughter) closed in 1994.  But his work remained prized–  Porter Waggoner reckoned, just before he died in 2007, that he had 52 Nudie Suits, costing between $11,000 and $18,000 each (and worth by then much, much more).

And Nudie’s legacy remains strong.  His glittering garments were a bright stab at the conformity of their times… and set the precedent (if they didn’t in fact lay the foundation) for the Culture of Bling that has erupted out of Rap and Hip Hop into life-at-large.

For more wonderful photos of Nudie, his creations, and his cars visit Nudie (“the official site”) and check out the wonderful pictorial essay at The Selvedge Yard.

As we smile at the irony of a clothier named “Nudie,” we might wish a tuneful Happy Birthday to James Henry Neel Reed, better known simply as Henry Reed; he was born on this date 1884, in the Appalachian Mountains of Monroe County, West Virginia.  Reed was a master fiddler, banjoist, and harmonica player whose repertoire consisted of hundreds of tunes, performed in several different styles.  But beyond his importance as a performer, he became, in effect, the Ur Source for academic research into the history of U.S. fiddle music.  (Learn more about Reed, and hear him play, at the Library of Congress’ Henry Reed Collection.)

Henry Reed (in street clothes), 1967 (source)

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