April 6, 2009
I had a wonderful conversation with a woman with whom I will be working later this summer. She was telling me about some unusual string instruments that she has seen.
In searching for some of the instruments that she mentioned, I came upon the Viola D’Amore.
This is an instrument that goes back at least as far as the 17th Century, but was most popular in the 18th. It has had many incarnations in its life, but in its most recent iteration it boasts 14 strings. You only play 7 of them. The other 7 are sympathetic strings below the fingerboard, that ring out when you play.
The result is beautiful and haunting. Treat yourself to the video below of Thomas Georgi playing a one-minute snip from Vivaldi’s D major Concerto. Good choice, since the instrument is most commonly tuned to a D chord.
Want one? Of course you do. Lark in the Morning has one for $3,500.
March 30, 2009
A few weeks ago I had to put a chunk of cash into my car. One of those little sensors that cost a bundle, but if it breaks the car doesn’t go vroom vroom. The car has been very good to me, so all in all not a big deal.
It did make me remember something I found on oddmusic.com a while ago and thought it might be timely for this Music Monday. The Car Music Project.
The Car Music Project was conceived in late 1991 by composer Bill Milbrodt (mil-brōt), when his personal car, a battered and road-weary 1982 Honda Accord, was nearing the end of its useful life.
Milbrodt explains, “It had endured close to 200,000 miles of road life with little mechanical maintenance and even less cosmetic attention. It would cost more to repair than it was worth and the poor thing had virtually no value as a trade-in…It was time to turn the car into music.”
What an amazing use for an old car. There’s something very “Mike Mulligan And His Steamshovel” about it. I’ve always been fascinated with found art, and this is one of the best and rustiest examples I’ve ever heard.
March 9, 2009
Music Monday takes us to Canada, ay?
At the tip of Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island, a certain style of fiddling has emerged from this little island known as…surprise…the Cape Breton style.
It is of Scottish origin, and some say the Cape Breton style is a better preservation of traditional Scottish fiddling than you will find in Scotland right now.
Not surprisingly, the music is rooted very firmly with traditional step dancing, and it seems that the fiddlers feet drive the beat, with different steps for different styles of tunes. Its musical ornaments are most likely derived from the bagpipe.
This video is a lengthy sampler of the style from the 2002 TED conference and features Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
[As always, thanks to Steve for pointing me to this.]
February 23, 2009
Great news everyone! The Zeusaphone is now available for purchase. With the Zeusaphone, you can play music through a Tesla Coil. Definitely, this is cool. Somehow, this is legal.
Want one? Of course you do. It’s $1,900 for a 16-inch arc, but why not go all the way? $5000 will get you a 60-inch arc.
And a singed roof.
[Thanks to Steve for the original tip!]
February 16, 2009
Today’s Music Monday is something I stumbled on a few months ago.
Microsoft has developed a program that automatically generates accompaniment to music that you sing (or play) into your computer. They call it Songsmith.
Naturally, it wasn’t long before people tried inserting classic hits into Songsmith to see what the program would do to them.
The results are delicious.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
More here. And an old meme bonus that I really dig. The Swinger’s Rick Roll!
January 26, 2009
When Steve Przybylski was looking for songs for the new show at Wayside, I suggested an old fiddle tune called Liberty. I’m happy to say that it will be in the show.
Every now and again as a musician, I find a song that is a perfect fit. Liberty is one of those songs.
The first time I heard the tune it just tripped something in my brain. The sound of it felt good. It made perfect sense to me and I was able to play it shortly after hearing it. It fell under my fingers as though it had been there before.
There are countless other fiddle tunes that are very similar to Liberty, but this one makes a connection. Playing it feels like home.
What makes that happen?
January 19, 2009
If anyone is going to be in New York this Friday, January 23 you may want to catch a new play at Ensemble Studio Theatre called “Beautiful Night” by Tommy Smith.
It is a play about Leon Theremin, the inventor of the instrument that bears his name. He was an enigmatic figure to say the least, and the play promises to touch upon some of the controversies of his life, from his Soviet citizenship to his marriage to a ballerina who happened to be black.
Theremin’s life is a fascinating story to me; I wish I could be there. Especially since David Strathairn (Good Night And Good Luck) is playing the title role.
The play is part of Ensemble Studio Theatre’s First Light Festival featuring plays about science and technology.