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Posts Tagged ‘classical music’

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Photo: VAN

How’s your Latin? It might help in appreciating this post about 16th century classical music. Then again, you don’t need Latin to understand that a black classical composer from that long ago should not be forgotten. Garrett Schumann reports the story at an online magazine called VAN.

” ‘Only then can his creative genius begin redounding, as it should, to the glory of Black music history,’ writes the musicologist Robert Stevenson in his 1982 article, ‘The First Black Published Composer.’

“Stevenson’s subject was Vicente Lusitano (ca. 1520-ca. 1561), an African-Portuguese priest and musician who enjoyed an international career. Stevenson heralds works like the motet ‘Heu me domine”’ (1551), which exemplifies the composer’s unusual embrace of chromatic counterpoint. …

“Of Lusitano’s compositions, ‘Heu me domine’ has received the most attention from modern scholars and performers, but it is not the only example of his remarkable creativity. In a 1962 essay, Stevenson reproduces a passage from Lusitano’s motet ‘Regina coeli’ to highlight its adventurous chromatic writing, and notes that other works in Lusitano’s 1551 motet collection feature extremely uncommon combinations of accidentals. Musicologist Philippe Canguilheim, in a 2011 essay regarding Lusitano’s unpublished counterpoint treatise, writes that Lusitano is ‘particularly tolerant’ of dissonance, a practice he justifies in the text by citing Pythagoras and Boethius.

“The alluring counterpoint and voice leading of ‘Heu me domine’ connect to improvisation techniques which Lusitano outlines in his counterpoint studies. As Canguilheim notes, these works make pioneering arguments regarding canons and the productive interplay between composition, free improvisation, and structured improvisation.

“ ‘Heu me domine’ is one of just two pieces in Lusitano’s output that 20th-century scholars have transcribed into modern notation — until last month, it was the only piece of his to be recorded. The other work, a 1562 madrigal called ‘All’hor ch’ignuda,’ was recently arranged for woodwind trio and recorded by multi-instrumentalist Misty Theisen. …

“Ironically, Lusitano’s obscurity originates in the most famous episode of his career. In 1551, while in Rome, Lusitano was drawn into an aesthetic dispute by fellow composer Nicola Vicentino (1511-ca.1576), an argument which gained so much attention that a Vatican tribunal convened to issue a verdict. Lusitano won, and Vicentino paid a fine, but, for years afterward, Vicentino published egregiously disingenuous descriptions of the proceedings with the aim of damaging Lusitano’s reputation.

“A 17th-century source in Rome attests that Lusitano’s name was scratched off copies of the widely-published introduction to his counterpoint treatise, and it is plausible he faced other reprisals that went undocumented. These developments likely led to Lusitano’s relocation to Germany sometime after 1553,  where he converted to Protestantism, married, and continued his career until his death. …

“Lusitano’s obscurity also shows the influence of collective action on a composer’s legacy. Vicentino worked hard to distort and erase Lusitano’s achievements, but these efforts only retained their impact because other scholars and artists have — perhaps out of convenience or ignorance — uncritically reproduced Vicentino’s version of the facts.

“Whether any of these developments are related to racial bias is difficult to prove. Nevertheless, composers with historically excluded identities, like Lusitano, have been extraordinarily underserved by institutions of classical music performance and scholarship. Reports from Bachtrack.com analyzing programming from more than 160,000 classical performances around the world between 2014 and 2019 show a population of just 15 white men constitute the 10 most-programmed composers in each of those five performance seasons. Recent research by Philip Ewell exploring the intersection of music theory and critical race theory also compellingly asserts that institutionalized music scholarship is structured in a way that ignores the achievements of women and people of color.”

It’s a long article, but interesting. Read it here.

Hat Tip: Arts Journal.

Douglas Lawrence leads the Australian Chamber Choir at St Martin-in-the-Fields in “Heu me domine” (1551), by Vicente Lusitano, the first published Black classical composer.

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surgeons_perform_better_to_classical_music

The website Ludwig van Toronto (as in Ludwig van Beethoven) often has interesting posts about classical music, and if you’re on twitter, you can easily keep track of them via @LudwigVanTO. Recently, Anya Wassenberg reported on a study showing how classical music, as long as it’s not too loud, can help surgeons doing surgery,

“Going for surgery anytime soon? It’s probably a good idea to suggest that your surgeon listen to a little Mozart or Bach during the operation — but not too loud. They’ll be faster and more accurate — that’s the recommendation distilled from a recent scientific research study.

“The study was recently published in the International Journal of Surgery, and involved researchers from Scotland, Sweden, and Finland. The new paper reviews existing research data. After evaluating 18 international studies, nine articles with a total of 212 participants were included in the review.

“As the study noted, music is already played in operating theatres as a matter of course by most doctors and nurses — about two-thirds, as it turns out. Participants said that listening to music reduced stress and made them feel more relaxed. Patients also reported that music played before their surgeries reduced stress levels.

“Almost all the respondents preferred classical music of some kind, with a slight preference for Mozart piano sonatas. Classical music was used in six of the studies, and music of choice in the others.

“The results of the study also seem to favour classical music played at medium to low volume levels, with hip hop coming in second in some key areas of the study. However, researchers also noted that music can have a mixed effect. At times, it can be distracting, and affect communication between members of the surgical team. …

“The paper notes the so-called ‘Mozart effect’ — that classical music reduces stress and helps the surgeons to focus — but it’s a difficult premise to prove. Specifically, surgical procedures were completed up to 10 percent quicker, and the quality of work such as skin repairs was higher.

Patients also seem to benefit. They need less anaesthetic and fewer painkillers.

“Turn the music too loud, however, and it can have the opposite effect. Loud or what is called ‘high-beat’ music can actually cause an increase in post-operative infections. It can also lead to miscommunications between members of the surgical team, which, as the researchers note, is one of the leading causes of mistakes. …

“The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that music in operating theatres not exceed 30 decibels.

“Researchers cautioned that the settings used in the study were simulated rather than live surgery, and noted the relatively low number of participants. However, they were optimistic about the positive effects of music during surgery.

“The practice of listening to music during surgery is, according to the British Medical Journal, thousands of years old, dating as far back as 4000 BC to a time when priests and musicians played harp and other instruments during medical procedures.”

More at Ludwig van Toronto, here.

What music calms your nerves? I am surprised about hip hop mainly because I think words in music would be distracting for a surgeon, but everyone is different. One friend is actually peaceful in an MRI because she says she doesn’t have to worry about anything, just listen to her beloved Miles Davis.

 

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
A stage in the back of a U-Haul (paid for in part by Fresh Sound Foundation) allows the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet to perform anywhere.

Classical musicians who believe their music will bring a blessing to whoever hears it have been presenting in offbeat locales in the Greater Boston area. Tomorrow, too. Malcolm Gay has the story at the Boston Globe.

“The 17-foot U-Haul truck sat parked in an empty field, ringed by trees. With the touch of a button, a roof-mounted winch whirred into action, unspooling cable as a fan-shaped stage lowered like a drawbridge from the rear. The U-Haul’s modified rear doors acted as a band shell, flanking the stage to project sound, and a custom-made sail, supported by deep-sea fishing rods, projected as a visor from above.

“Fifteen minutes later and the vehicle, dubbed the Music Haul, was a fully functioning stage — a 21st-century gypsy caravan that will bring live performances to the streets and schools of Greater Boston, Sunday through Tuesday.

“ ‘It really is more boat than truck,’ said Catherine Stephan, executive director of the Yellow Barn music center. ‘We got to know RV dealerships really well.’ …

“ ‘It’s supposed to be as close to magic as possible,’ said architect John Rossi, one of the traveling venue’s principal designers. …

“Its creators say the Music Haul’s main mission is to bring world-class concert performances to the most unlikely of places: schools, underserved neighborhoods, hospitals, perhaps even prisons.

” ‘We exist in the world as musicians that is in a way so finely controlled and tuned,’ said Yellow Barn’s artistic director, Seth Knopp. ‘Music Haul removes some of the ceremony, which can be a barrier for people who are not often exposed to that world. There’s an element of taking something out of its accustomed place and allowing it to take people by surprise.’ ”

What a good thought! Reminds me how you can suddenly start seeing the pictures on your walls again if you move them to a new location in the house.

Read more about this enchanting initiative here.

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In case anyone thought that this blog wasn’t eclectic enough, I’m linking today to a story about garbage collection in Taiwan.

“For several years, Taiwan’s garbage trucks have played classical music as they travel through crowded residential areas, drawing forth residents with their garbage. Conceived by Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration as a way to decrease pests and odors in outdoor public trash disposal areas, the trucks musically notify residents that they are to bring their garbage directly to the trucks, ensuring that the garbage never sits on the curb attracting vermin and releasing odors.”

I wonder how two-career families who aren’t home to respond to the music deal with this. Read more on Taiwan’s approach at New York’s classical music station, WQXR.

Meanwhile, at Los Alamos, Americans show they can innovate in garbage collection, too. I think my grandson will like this truck.

 

 


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