Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Where Have All The Singers Gone? - Long Time Passing

Learned with sadness of Pete Seeger's passing. I miss the gentle passion of the folk singers like Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez and others who used song to remind Americans of our better angels. Good article in today's New York Times.

I was pleased recently to learn of the new Woody Guthrie museum in my home town, Tulsa, Oklahoma. As I read the lyrics of Guthrie's songs, I hear the voice of the ordinary people of rural Oklahoma from my childhood.

We need to recapture such voices and bring them forward to our own times.

Pete Seeger's was a giant voice in that tradition. We are fortunate to have lived in his time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Nikolai Leskov: New Collection

One of nineteenth century Russia's most interesting and idiosyncratic writers, Nikolai Leskov, is newly available in an English language translation of seventeen or so of his stories. A review of the book is in today's Sunday Book Review Section of the New York Times.

I was pleased to learn that the collection includes a translation of Leskov's most famous story, "Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District."

The story, a somewhat lurid love story that turns out badly, is best known from its adaptation to opera form by the composer Dmitri Shostakovitch and first performed in Leningrad in 1934. It played to rave critical reviews until Stalin attended in early 1936, whereupon the opera became loudly condemned by the Communist Party and denounced in the party's newspaper Pravda.

Not only was the opera withdrawn, not to be performed again for some three decades, Shostakovitch's Fourth Symphony, then in final rehearsals, was also withdrawn. This controversy nearly destroyed Shostakovitch's career.

I have a copy of Leskov's collected works in Russian, and once attempted a translation of Lady Macbeth.

I put it in the "too hard" file.

I look forward to reading it in someone else's translation.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Valentina Lisitsa - Concert Star

Marvelous concert this evening at Oriental's Old Theater. World class pianist Valentina Lisitsa played Rachmaninov, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Shubert, Liszt. Absolutely virtuoso playing. Marvelous acoustics in the old movie theater. Attendees treated to Champagne afterward and a DVD viewing of Valentina's recording session with the London Symphony Orchestra.

 A cause to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dave Brubeck: December 6, 1920 - December 5, 20012

Americans asked to name great Swiss-Americans might (if they hail from North Carolina) remember Cristophe de Graffenreid, founder of New Bern.

They would probably not think of Dave Brubeck, whose father was of Swiss heritage.

What a giant of the world of jazz! Dave Brubeck enriched the lives of all jazz lovers.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Marvelous Music

The Old Theater resounded this evening with music provided by the Borromeo String Quartet.

The founder of the quartet and native of Durham, Nicholas Kitchen, introduced each piece with an explanation of how it fit in the composer's life and work.

As appropriate for the Old Theater, the concert consisted of old music: by Bach (1685-1750), Beethoven (1770-1827), and Schubert (1797-1828). But the oldest item on the program was cellist Yeesun Kim's Peregrino Zanetto cello, made about 1576.

Nicholas Kitchen emphasized that the quartet's violins, viola and cello had no electrical or electronic components. The sound they made was totally acoustic, using ancient technology.

But there was modern technology on the stage. On the music stand in front of each player was an Apple Macintosh laptop, which displayed the entire score. Pages of the score were turned by a foot pedal fabricated by Mr. Kitchen who paged forward as necessary, allowing each player to be on the same page.

The 435-year old cello filled the air with rich, mellow sound. I would love to hear the same instrument perform a cello concerto.

Apparently the Macintosh computers (circa 2010) performed impeccably as well.

The concert might have served as a paean to the late Steve Jobs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Didn't Know The Gun Was Loaded

Listening to congressional Republicans downplay the danger to the nation of failing to increase the debt limit reminded me of a popular tune from the 1940's. If things go bad, they can always sing it:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Don't Fence Me In

Sometimes memory plays tricks.

In my memory, I never cared much for cowboy movie star Roy Rogers. He sang too much and paid entirely too much attention to Dale Evans. Even Gabby Hayes was more interesting.

Didn't care much for Gene Autry, either.

This evening on Turner Classic Movies I watched a 1945 Roy Rogers movie that I first watched 65 years ago at the Will Rogers Movie Theater in Tulsa Oklahoma. The movie didn't get any better in the intervening decades. Still, I found I could sing along with Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers when they sang "Don't Fence Me In" and "Tumbling Tumbleweed." I was surprised that I remembered the words after all these years.

I still preferred Hopalong Cassidy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Singing from the Wrong Sheet of Music

Last Saturday, we attended a baccalaureate ceremony for our graduating grandson.

There was lovely music, sung by the college choir. Early in the ceremony, the choir sang a spirited rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Unlike the unsingable drinking song with Francis Scott Key's lyrics that we chose as our national anthem in 1931 under President Hoover, "America the Beautiful" isn't bombastic.

I wonder how much of our national readiness to go off firing rockets comes from "bombs bursting in air" and prideful assertions that we are "the land of the free" and the "home of the brave."

Maybe if we had a less bombastic anthem, we could pay more attention to the arts of agriculture and industry, the challenges of diplomacy and the creation and celebration of beauty and a bounteous plenty. Who knows what heights such an anthem might inspire us to achieve.

"America the Beautiful" is just such an anthem.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Valentina Lisitsa

What an afternoon of music!

We are certainly fortunate in Oriental to have a venue like the Old Theater and a Music Society able to recruit top notch musicians like Valentina Lisitsa. It probably helps that she has made her home in North Carolina.

This afternoon she announced each piece, giving a short lecture tinged with humor and insight. Then she sat at the piano, wearing high heeled pumps and played away, her long fingers moving so fast they seemed a blur, but extracting every last ounce of passion from the music.

The highlight: a magic performance of Rachmaninoff's Concerto Number 3 for Piano and Orchestra, without the orchestra. She explained that it would sound fine without the orchestra, since the orchestra "just hums along," anyhow. She invited the audience to hum along, too, if they felt the need. No one did.

When she comes back to Oriental, don't miss the chance to hear her perform.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Noise Ordinance

One of the most controversial issues of the past two years was the noise ordinance. I fought for a change to our existing ordinance, to establish a reasonable, objective, measurable standard. Before the board made the changes, any noise that "annoys, disturbs..." or affects the peace of persons within the limits of the town was a violation. The ordinance also provided that any violation would be a misdemeanor (criminal violation) with a fine of up to $500 per occurrence. I introduced the amendment finally adopted, which set a measurable standard attempting to balance the interests of residents to enjoy the use of their homes with that of performance venues. It also changed the penalty to a civil fine except in egregious cases of willful violation. I strongly believe that any ordinance should establish a clear, objective standard so that a person or business can know whether it is in violation and take steps to avoid breaking the rule without the heavy hand of the law. I am pleased we were able to do that. Below is a letter I sent to Pamlico News during the controversy.


by David Cox

(Published in Pamlico News, December 31, 2008, p. 4)

The surprising thing about letters printed in Pamlico News concerning Oriental’s noise ordinance, as well as e-mails received at Town Hall from as far away as Raleigh, is that most writers believe we want to abolish outdoor amplified music. That isn’t true.

Many of the letters describe the problem as a private dispute between the Tiki Bar and two local residents. This also isn’t true. More than a dozen residents have complained to either the Chief of Police or to one or more town commissioners that the enjoyment of their homes has been disturbed by loud musical performances at five different venues. Some of the complainants live nearly half a mile from the performance sites. No complaining resident ever requested prohibiting outdoor music. They do want to know why the music has to be so loud, why it has to be so frequent and why it has to last so late. None of the music supporters has provided answers to these questions.

How loud is the music? Last August 2 one of our commissioners measured the dB level on Hodges in front of The Bean, 150 feet from a band at the Tiki Bar. The level was 83 dB. From that, one can calculate the sound level at the bandstand as 120 to 130 dB. That’s between the sound level of a jackhammer and that of a machine gun. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends limiting exposure to noise of 120 dB to nine seconds, and to 130 dB to less than one second. So not only does such a sound level annoy the neighbors, it may be dangerous to the hearing of patrons.

Using a simple physical rule for sound (the inverse square rule), one can calculate that a sound level of 83 dB on Hodges street in front of The Bean would diminish to about 71 – 73 dB at the back deck of South Water Street residences. For comparison, that’s louder than a vacuum cleaner, clacking typewriter or piano playing in your house. But you can’t turn it off. Many people would find that annoying if they are trying to sleep in the next room, read a book, converse with a dinner guest or listen to their own choice of music – in other words, to enjoy the use of their home.

A problem with our current noise ordinance is that we set no measurable, objective standard. It is a violation of our ordinance to make any noise which, “because of its volume level, duration and character annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, health, peace, or safety of reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities within the limits of the Town.” This makes it hard for business owners, musical performers, nearby residents or the Chief of Police to know when enforcement action is necessary.

Another problem is that the ordinance provides no standards for issuing noise permits. It establishes no limits on times, sound level, number or frequency of events. It provides no criteria for approval or disapproval of a requested permit.

Recognizing our ordinance may require improvement, since January 2008, the Town Board has examined possible options. We have researched and reviewed ordinances in other communities, including Chapel Hill, Carolina Beach, Myrtle Beach, Charlotte, and elsewhere. None of these ordinances is a perfect fit, because none has zoning patterns quite like ours. But they provide a good starting point. A typical standard in other communities is a sound level of 65 dB measured at least 100 feet from the point of origin, and beyond the edge of the emitting property. For a measurement on Hodges Street for a performance at the Tiki Bar, that corresponds to about 105 dB on the bandstand. That is about the same sound level as a low jet flyover or a snowmobile; louder than a helicopter, but not as loud as a chain saw.

A thought for Oriental residents to bear in mind is that our Growth Management Ordinance allows night clubs and bars anywhere in our two mixed use districts. Imagine a Tiki Bar or similar venue at Sea Harbor, both sides of Whittaker Creek, Neuse River Suites, the harbor district, any lot along Broad Street or lower Midyette Street. We make rules not only for what exists at present, but also for what might exist in the future.

A hopeful sign for resolving the issue is that, of twenty-nine letter writers supporting outdoor music, fifteen offered positive, helpful suggestions. Thirteen suggested various time limits and eight suggested regulating the sound level. Both approaches enjoy some support within the Town Board. As we review this controversy, the Town Board welcomes public inputs on issues of sound level, time, number and frequency of performances, exceptions and so forth. We may wish to hold special meetings of the Board to collect information, both verbally and in writing, from everyone having an interest in the outcome.

As often in policy conflicts, this is not a case of good against evil. Bringing tourist dollars to town is good. Enjoying one's home is good. We have a conflict between good things, not between good and evil. Demonizing opponents doesn’t help. We have an excellent Town Board. With helpful, positive input from our citizens, we will be able to resolve these issues to everyone’s benefit.