FEATURED ARTIST: Sung Choi FEATURED ARTIST: Sung Choi FEATURED ARTIST: Sung Choi FEATURED ARTIST: Sung Choi FEATURED ARTIST: Sing Choi

July 24, 2016

Music-brain

Music and the Brain: Exploring Musical Preferences

If you ever find yourself listening to your favorite song or radio station and wondering why it’s your favorite, or what it is about a certain band that makes you adore it, or why you are turned off by certain styles of music – you are not alone! Music is undoubtedly an integral part in almost every person’s life, and the reality of musical preferences is very clear. If we recognize that preferences for certain types of music exist, the next logical question is probably going to be: but what drives these preferences? How do they come about? And can you really define their causes?

These are interesting questions with some very interesting answers, but here is a word of warning: most (if not all) studies on this subject are not definitive answers to these questions. They merely give insight into the exploration, aim to provide a basis for theories, and usually lead to even more questions! Over the past few months, I have read a host of scientific studies related to this topic, and I would like to share some of the most interesting findings with you.

 

Functions of music

It might be helpful think of this exploration at its most basic level: a linear line leading from “certain factors” to musical preference. In this “certain factors” category, we can name a veritable laundry list of things such as social influence, affective experiences, innate auditory preferences, age, characteristics of music, and on and on. My guess is that many people who regularly listen to music could come up with at least 4 or 5 different reasons for why they prefer the music they do.

For two researchers from the Chenmitz University of Technology in Germany, the “certain factor” is the function of preferred music. In one of their studies, they found that the different functions associated with people’s favorite music influences their degree of preference. Simply put, the better the needs of a listener are served by a certain type of music, the higher their degree of preference will be. When 507 German people were studied, the expression of personal identity and values was found to be the function most closely related to music preference. Social functions, such as meeting people and feeling close to others were also important. So were supplying people with information and helping them to identify with the artists.

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You might be surprised or confused by these results – I know I was – since you may have expected the most important benefits to be things like enhanced mood, excitement, or relaxation. In fact, these are the functions that are satisfied by people’s preferred music. When asked to rate how much they agreed with different statements about their favorite music, participants tended to answer in this vein. But explaining how your favorite music helps you does not explain why you prefer it over other genres, or even really why you like it. Yes, James’ favorite music, jazz, puts him in a good mood more than it makes him want to dance. But it is his favorite music to listen to because it is a way to express his identity and it brings him together with others. These findings are illustrated in the following figure from the study. The gray bars represent the most important functions of people’s favorite music (like James and his jazz) and the black bars show the relationship between the functions of music and the degree of preference.

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It is important to note that almost every study I read dedicated a significant amount of effort into how they might categorize the different genres of music and simplify them. In this case, musical styles were narrowed down to 25 by testing for the “best-known” musical styles. They further categorized these styles by grouping them into 6 genres or “dimensions” 1) sophisticated 2) electronic 3) rock 4) rap 5) pop 6) beat, folk, & and country. A different study that I will discuss below divided genres of music into four “Music-preference dimensions” based off of noticeable factors from a survey. These were 1) Reflective & Complex 2) Intense & Rebellious 3) Upbeat & Conventional 4) Energetic & Rhythmic.

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Technology and time

People nowadays have so many different ways to listen to music. You can listen in your car, on your phone, on your computer, literally anywhere you want, at any time. This means that you can listen to that one song that you just have to hear while doing certain activities. Having particular music playing while I run or bike is important, and having a mobile device that can play radio or my personal collection allows me to access that specific music at all times. Even now, I’m using an online streaming service to listen to a playlist of some of my favorite classical pieces to help me concentrate as I write.

A study done on a small group of people by faculty from the School of Psychology at Keele University in the UK found that internet and downloading programs have significantly altered music preference behaviors. We can access any style of music imaginable, allowing us to sample different kinds. We can also acquire music quickly and easily, meaning if I want to hear every single song an artist has ever recorded, I can easily do so (though I probably wouldn’t). People can now listen to music on the internet to affirm the extent of how much they like a song, and can even find any version of a particular song that they prefer.

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This study also showed that people tend to report their musical tastes changing over time. I’m sure I am not the only one to have certain tastes when I was younger that I would not proudly flaunt now that I am older. People will go through periods of listening to particular styles and some may even invoke the much-parodied phrase: “I’m really into ____ right now”. In yet another study done by a student at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, it was discovered that music “omnivorousness” (liking a wide variety of music) increases with age up to a certain point, and then begins to level off and eventually decline. So not only are people’s tastes changing as they age, but the amount of different types of music they enjoy changes as well.

According to the Keele University researchers, preference increases with familiarity and decreases with repetition. Participants in their study were found to have developed a means to self-regulate their listening in order to avoid getting sick of something: ceasing to listen to an artist or song for a period of time, or randomizing their listening like “shuffling” a playlist.

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Personality

The final topic I will cover here is perhaps one of the more popular factors used to try and explain musical preference: personality traits. In a study of undergraduate college students at the University of Texas at Austin, researchers found strong links between music preferences and personality, self-views, and cognitive ability. These factors seem to play an important role in both the formation and maintenance of music preferences. People commonly believe that apart from hobbies and activities, music preferences reveal the most information about their personality, as well as the personalities of others. Using a variety of measures, the researchers collected information about the students to assess their personalities. They identified things like levels of extroversion, agreeableness, social dominance and self-esteem. They studied how certain preference dimensions (aka genres) were positively related to different personality traits. For example, a preference for reflexive and complex music was linked to openness, and emotional stability, while those preferring upbeat and conventional music were more likely to be extroverted and agreeable.

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Because people may select music to reinforce their self-views and can use music to make other-directed claims, the researchers included measures of self-views in their study. Basically, someone may choose certain music to alter or maintain how others view them. In order to measure this and connect it with music preferences, students were asked to indicate the extent to which they saw themselves as being politically liberal, wealthy, attractive, etc. By administering an IQ test, the researchers were also able to connect preferences with cognitive ability.  This facet of the research was based on the logic that people tend to prefer music that provides optimal levels of stimulation i.e. complex music can help intelligent people reach their optimal level of stimulation.

The data is presented below in a table taken from the study. It is easy to identify criteria that have strong correlations with certain music-preference dimensions. For further illustration, I pulled the data from the personality criteria measures and created a graph.

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There is certainly a lot missing from this investigation – what about explanations having to do with culture, social status, etc. This is a limited scope but I hope it has nonetheless been interesting to discuss several different factors attributable to why we prefer the types of music that we do. One thing that became apparent to me in this process is that attempting to categorize music preferences into neat boxes is a lofty goal, and it is likely a major challenge to study this phenomenon when people are known to prefer numerous types of music. As I mentioned before, our relationship with music is changing with new technology – but one thing will always be true: we like what we like.

250px-Weltereproduktionsklavier

Player Piano Rolls: Listening to History

When we tune in to All Classical, we barely pause to consider that, with the exception of live-streaming concerts, most of the music we hear has been recorded. Thanks to the innovations of recording technology from the twentieth- and twenty-first century, we can hear musical moments captured and preserved in time. Performance before wax cylinders, tapes, or CDs is frustratingly forever out of our hearing range, but early recordings from the 1900s can tell us a lot about what and how musicians played. What did performance sound like 100 years ago? And what can we learn from it?

On Friday, June 19, 2016 Stanford researcher Kumaran Arul addressed a unique perspective to these questions in a lecture titled “Player Piano Rolls.” This event was part of the larger Portland Piano International Summer Festival, an annual week-long event at Lewis & Clark College. During the course of the festival, musicians—including scholars, performing artists, composers, and teachers—attended a variety of lectures, workshops, and concerts. The festival’s focus this year is “The Golden Age of Piano,” which “[pays] tribute to… the period between 1870 and 1930.”

Arul’s lecture discussed the importance of player piano rolls during the Golden Age and emphasized how we can learn about piano performance practice of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century. But first, what were these rolls, and what did they do? Player piano rolls are the sheet music equivalent for the player piano, an instrument that in its most basic form functions like a music box in the size and shape of a piano, producing music mechanically. A person places a roll inside the instrument and sits on a bench to operate pedals, which pump air to power the interior pneumatics. As the roll unfurls, air passes through tiny, carefully placed holes in the paper to activate individual notes on the piano. The person does not need to touch the keys; instead, the player piano “reads” the roll and plays the notes on its own.

The player piano rolls that most fascinate Arul are those that have actually recorded pianists’ performances. The reproducing piano is a more technically advanced version of the basic player piano and recorded the notes (and in some cases, the dynamics and shadings) of a piano performance by marking the activated keys on a blank roll inside the piano. The Welte Company, located in southern Germany, manufactured instruments to record pianists as early as 1905: for example, distinguished musician Carl Reinecke playing Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E-flat.

reproducingjpgs_zeisler

Women also recorded for the reproducing piano, though not as frequently. Here, pianist Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler records for Welte in August 1906, Freiburg.

What is so important about piano rolls today? Rolls, according to Arul, are a “goldmine” for historic discovery and explanation regarding piano performance practice. They have recorded high-quality and nuanced piano performances when the gramophone, still in its early years, could only capture fuzzy, vague acoustic sounds. Many famous composers from around the world played their own works for the reproducing piano: Edvard Grieg, 1906 in Leipzig; Alexander Scriabin, 1910 in Moscow; Gabriel Fauré, c. 1913 in Paris; Nikolai Medtner, c. 1925 in New York.

In these recordings, rolls reveal historic trends in performance style and technique. Arul points out that we can hear improvisational liberties in contrast to today’s strict fidelity to a musical text: in a “wonderfully creative moment,” Rachmaninoff takes an inventive spin on Chopin’s jaunty Minute Waltz. We can also hear how composers played (and arranged) their own compositions: consider George Gershwin’s arrangement of his Rhapsody in Blue, originally scored for solo piano and jazz band. We can even get insight into musicians who lived before the player piano’s time by listening to recordings of their students; consider Stavenhagen playing Hungarian Rhapsody, composed by his teacher Franz Liszt.

Beyond the music itself, the roll production process can also teach us about evolving recording practices. Much like audio recordings today, player piano rolls were editable, meaning that notes could be added or subtracted at the performer’s or editor’s will. On the earliest recordings, like the Reinecke mentioned earlier, the roll was left untouched, mistakes and all. However, as the technology improved, editors were able to go back and change the notes recorded on the paper, erasing a note here, adding a note there. Accomplished player Paderewski famously requested of roll editors, “I do not play these passages evenly, can you even them out for me?” Performers increasingly desired perfection and precision over improvisational whims, perhaps because recordings could transform ephemeral moments into permanent and physical objects.

These insights extend beyond the realm of player piano rolls. Whenever we listen to a tape, record, CD, radio or internet stream, we hear music from the past that is encoded with a unique historical context. The next time you listen to recorded music, whether from 1906 or 2016, imagine the performance and recording process… and how will it compare to recordings in 2116, 100 years from now?

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Interested in the player piano’s history and development? Read more about Player Pianos and Reproducing Pianos.

The Portland Piano International Summer Festival is an annual event in Portland, OR.

Kumaran Arul is currently at Stanford University, where he and other researchers are working on the Player Piano Project to study the player piano and its connection to performance history.

Marquam Building

The Rise and Fall of the Marquam Grand: a tragedy

This is my second week in Portland, and already I am intrigued by the city’s vibrant music culture and its history. While searching to learn more about the city’s central musical sites, I discovered the story of the Marquam Building…

Like many great operas, this story opens with a glorious and stunning entrance and closes with only the most spectacular of tragedies. Set the scene in Portland, Oregon in January 1890. As the glow and sparkle of New Year’s celebrations fade, Portland shifts its attention and anticipation to a new beginning. A crowd gathers on the corner of Morrison Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in the early morning of January 28, “an unusual thing,” reports the Morning Oregonian, “to see a line of staid and sober citizens waiting for a business house to open as early as 6 o’clock in the morning.” Dollars in hand, they steal glances up through the grey fog at the newly-constructed towering brick building. We cue the overture, and the curtain rises.

The Marquam Building, an early Portland skyscraper, is the title character of this operatic story. Fitting, that it also housed Portland’s first opera house, the Marquam Grand Opera (renamed the Orpheum Theater in 1908) from 1890 until 1912. The wealthy judge and lifelong Portland resident Philip A. Marquam oversaw its construction. It stood an impressive eight stories tall at 335 Morrison Street, currently 621 SW Morrison. Considered the finest theater on the West coast, it attracted many musical celebrities, including nationally recognized Emma Juch and her English Opera Company, over the course of its brief 22 years.

The eagerly anticipated opening was delayed due to the late arrival of 1000 chairs, but the throngs that formed outside the Marquam in the early mornings to purchase their $1 or $2 tickets had to wait only a week. The opera finally hosted its premiere show on February 10, 1890: Gounod’s Faust. The show itself could not have upstaged the long-awaited unveiling of the interior of the theater. “The electric lights, 800 in number, will be in full blast,” promised the Morning Oregonian, and “[the audience] will be fully compensated for their first disappointment by the dazzling display of beauty and elegance which will greet their eyes.” Blue and amber drapes adorned the walls, an impressive 1,442 seats filled the floor, and for a hefty $15 or $20, audience members could have the luxury of watching from domed boxes. House rules were strict: visible signage inside the theater prohibited catcalls, whistling, and stomping of feet, and a bouncer enforced these policies. The opera, with its ornate splendor, large audience capacity, professional music, and frequent shows, was to become the core of the new commercial downtown center of the growing city.

Marquam Grand Opera House interior

The Marquam Grand Opera was certainly the star of this turn-of-the-century show: “It is a handsome nine-story structure, built of modern brick and steel, fireproof throughout and tastefully ornamented with stone.” Handsome, indeed, but this testimony written in 1911 could not predict the catastrophe that was about to (quite literally) fall the following year.

It was an early dawn in November 1912, reminiscent of our opening scene but without the quiet anticipation of an attentive crowd; in fact, no one was expecting the impending disaster. At 4 AM, three lower (and thankfully, empty) floors of the Marquam Building collapsed without warning. The few people in the building quickly evacuated before the second crash at 11 AM, when the remaining floors succumbed to an identical fate. Luckily, there were no injuries, but the imposingly grand Marquam Building now lay across Morrison Street in scattered, irreparable pieces.

There were rumors and contemplations over rebuilding the Marquam Building, but city officials left the plans unfinished and never commenced the reconstruction. The Orpheum company eventually moved the opera to the nearby Bungalow Theater (currently the site of the downtown Nordstrom) to continue their shows in a new building, but the Marquam Grand had delivered its final closing lines. The orchestra sustains, and the curtain falls.

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For more information about the Marquam Building, check out the following links:
“Opening Night” and “Wreck of the Marquam Grand” – blog entries by Portland historian Dan Haneckow
“Throngs Gaze As Brick Walls Fall” – article in the Morning Oregonian, November 22, 1912

Interested in some of the operas that were heard at the Marquam Grand? During the opening week, Emma Juch starred in these shows:
Faust (Gounod)
Carmen (Bizet)
Der Freischütz (Wagner)

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Bibliography – Marquam Grand

JP photo for blog

Q & A with the Intern: Interviewing the Hosts

Prologue

It is common knowledge that a good performer makes their work appear seamless. There are no cracks through which information about their influences, skills, and technique pours out. Although some audiences consider it a privilege to crack open a performer and examine the rivers which course through their art, it is usually the case that performers contain these sources within their work, rendering them invisible to the audience’s eye. It is also the case that performers are uninterested in their artistic sources. This perspective is at play when JK Rowling wonders why adults always ask where her ideas come from, effectively criticizing their inability to fathom the imaginative leaps she makes to create the HP world. Basquiat shares this sentiment in Schnabel’s film Basquiat when he frames a question about his artistic choices as dubious: “Was Miles asked where he got his notes from?” I believe that these questions should continue to be posed despite its censure. This is even possible without seeming inane or intrusive. At All Classical Portland, it is necessary to expose the backstage for audiences and involve them in the space and its processes because All Classical Portland aims to create music which its listeners believe in and love.

Thus, with peace of mind, I have asked three staff members at All Classical Portland what shapes their performances at the station. I am specifically curious to know about the keys which unlock their work, such as beliefs/skills/processes, so that listeners can become better acquainted with the parts and players which keep All Classical Portland running. The interviews which follow as well as my experiences as an intern at All Classical Portland have demonstrated that performers don’t always have to be distant.

Opening Conversations at the Booth
with Robert McBride

Z.A: Are there any conceptualizations you have made in your time as an on-air host which underlies your job and the way you work?

R.M: I think of presenting classical music on the radio more as the means than the end. What we’re really doing is trying to enhance the lives of those who listen to us, with music, information, and companionship. The shared, real-time listening experience, by thousands of people around the world, is particularly intriguing to me: most of those people will never have any kind of contact with each other, by they are, nevertheless, a community created by shared interests. The hosts are members of that community and facilitators of that experience.

Z.A: Do listeners know they’re experiencing music in a community and should they? Do you envision a listener on their own or in community, and which do you work for?

RM: It would vary. Extroverts might be more likely to think of themselves as sharing the listening experience with others, but introverts might prefer to feel like they’re having a more intimate, or even private, experience. I/we need to serve both kinds of listeners and be aware of their needs, preferences, and experiences. There are different kinds of listening experiences every day: someone alone in their car, someone else with a group at a dinner party, etc. Certainly the more we refer to different situations or different time zones, the more the listeners will be aware of them and perhaps feel some kind of connection or virtual community.

Z.A: What do you prioritize in your presentation of music? Is companionship more important than historically contextualizing music?

R.M: I think companionship is more important, though I didn’t use to see it that way, when I started way back in the previous century.

Z.A: As the voice which introduces music and the first voice to be heard at the close of music, you may be embedded in listeners’ impressions of music. Do you feel that your position as a facilitator of musical experiences changes? If so, what do you do to offset your omnipresence?

RM: I don’t want to be thought of as omnipresent! I try to avoid that by not talking too much and by varying that constantly: some of my voice breaks will be longer than others, and the occasional really short one helps to keep things moving and keep the emphasis on the music.

This desire he expresses above, to open Western classical music to listeners in different geographical, social, and psychological situations, is evident in his weekly, live broadcast. It has been my pleasure to help set up Thursdays @ Three as I could see his beliefs in action. He made sure all parties were informed about how the broadcast would proceed–performers were given a chance to OK interviews before the broadcast and audience members learned what his gestures for applause and holding for applause looked like–thereby putting everyone at ease and creating an environment where joy and spontaneity were possible.

The Playlist
with John Pitman

Z.A: How do you understand your work as a music programmer at All Classical Portland?

JP:  I’m part of what we call our Programming Team.  It comprises myself, as music director, as well as John Burk, VP of Programming, and Suzanne Nance, Program Director.  Each has different roles and tasks to perform, but we all have the same objective:  to create fresh, vibrant, compelling and relevant programming with classical music.  The latest CDs are sent to me to audition, and either add directly to the playlist, or share with John and Suzanne to give me their perspectives before adding to our mix.  My main work, though, is crafting each day’s music log for the hosts to share with listeners.  This occupies a large portion of my week:  carefully listening to, and crafting, the sequence of music that is heard from 12am to 11:59pm each day of the year.

Z.A: Are there any conceptualizations you have made in your time as a programmer which underlie your job and the way you work?

JP:  Mr. Burk and I, primarily, laid the foundation of the music programming some time ago, which comprises all of the standard repertoire, along with neglected gems, and pieces written by today’s composers which enhance our “sound”.  I start each day’s programming with the music that is currently available to use:  there is library software that helps me – and all of the hosts when they search for pieces – that prevents us from duplicating our own, previous days’ programs.  This ensures the freshest selection of pieces, and avoids overplaying of any piece in our playlist.  We also program music according to its energy level (think Barber’s Adagio versus a Sousa march), and keep certain pieces from appearing at select times of day or night.  This helps to create the appropriate sound to accompany listeners’ activities.  There’s more, of course, but we don’t want to give away too many of our secrets!  It might spoil the magic.

Z.A: Do you have to establish the station’s sound every day?

JP:  I don’t have to establish the station’s sound, so much as sustain it.  A longstanding familiarity with the program department’s vision and mission ensures consistent quality.  The software I mentioned helps me make sure that our overall vision for how the station should sound, remains consistent from day to day.

Z.A: Is there a hierarchy among the music that comprises the station’s sound? For example, do you prioritize standard rep over new music and play it more?

JP:  We make sure that we meet our listeners’ expectations, by maintaining a good balance between the standard repertoire, and newer works or less-familiar pieces from past eras.  Some pieces that we’ve incorporated into our programming have turned up on orchestral concerts over the years, so we seem to be making a good impression!  If either type of music (favorites/unfamiliar) are played too often, listeners notice.  They might say that we’re not digging too deeply, while other listeners might perceive that we’re neglecting the masters.  It takes great care and attention to what’s being played to make sure it all stays fresh.

 Z.A: In order to program relevant content, do you solicit listener’s feedback and program in light of it? Is listener satisfaction and enjoyment, which you call your end goal, possible without addressing listeners’ requests?

JP:  We find that we don’t need to solicit listener feedback, as the passionate classical music fans discover pieces on their own, and then simply get in touch with us.  They might do that via our Saturday request program, our annual Classical Countdown (in December), or simply sending us an e-mail.  I’ve been introduced to some wonderful pieces that we’ve subsequently added to our playlist.

Z.A: What skills/traits/processes are necessary for music programming?

J.P: First of all, a deep knowledge of, and appreciation for, the art form (classical music).  Knowing the music (pieces, or compositions) well, and on an intimate level, ensures the highest level of quality for the listening experience.  It takes a long time, of course, and objectivity can be a challenge.  We strive to present the music according to long-agreed decisions about what constitutes great music; along with that, our subjective sides inform us how to make critical decisions of what pieces should be added to the standard repertoire.  Another trait is identifying when is the right time to play a piece.  Not just time of day, but time of week, or year.  Finally, I would say, passion for this music determines the end result that we’re working toward.  Consistent listener satisfaction and enjoyment.

Negotiating Conversations at the Mixing Board
with Andrea Murray

Z.A: How do you understand your work as a producer?

A.M: My work involves weaving sound and text and music to say something that, ideally, is worth hearing – whether it’s an artist interview, a reported feature or even a promotional message. I try to set a high technical and aesthetic standard for everything I do here. Still, I’ll be the first to admit slick production can never compensate for poor writing or dull ideas.

Z.A: What skill or trait do you feel is necessary for production?

A.M: Anyone can learn the basics of audio software in a couple of hours. But it takes years of being attentive to sound, of really listening, to know what to do with it. Having a background in music really helps.

Z.A: Are there any conceptualizations you have made in your time as a producer which underlies your job and the way you work?

A.M: Here are some ideas that have been passed on to me over the years: Pay attention; Give people space to tell their own stories; Show up with your record running; It’s not about you, but you have to be fully present; Having a microphone grants you a kind of access not everyone has, so use it for the benefit of others whenever possible; There’s nothing wrong with a little ear candy once in a while. You’re an invited guest in people’s homes/headphones – try to be good company.

Off-script: I have learned from Andrea Murray that production is also like stage management.  As such, duties include controlling the spotlights on speakers (“actors) and segments (“scenes”) so that (1) the conversation between the speakers is clear without their tendencies as a pairing (to be amicable, adversarial) or as individuals (to respond loudly, to trail off) to get in the way, (2) the progression between segments is smooth and seems to constitute a natural progression in the show, and (3) a back, mid, and fore-ground is established without the listener having to prioritize what to listen to.

Another way I have envisioned the role of a producer is that it is like emceeing. Just as an MC understands that there is a lot of activity during the event they guide and therefore speaks efficiently and interestingly, a producer also realizes that listeners tune in during other activities. Therefore, producers unearth from audio a script which has a through line. That way, every listener, from the attentive to the distracted, can follow along at every point in the show. Andrea did suggest stick shift driving as a comparison, but I don’t know how to drive. Perhaps there are learned and skilled readers out there who can benefit from this comparison.

Epilogue

Although the interviewees may not agree with me that they are performers, I believe that their commitment to their work, demonstrated in their answers and on a daily basis, should prove them wrong. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them in action and wish the station continue success. Break a leg!

earth

Earth Day 2016 – Recycled Music

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton.

In celebration of Earth Day 2016, All Classical Portland is highlighting the most green composers and some of the most famously recycled pieces of classical music. Perhaps John Williams comes to mind? How about Copland, Bach or even Elvis Presley?  Some say that Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 500 times!

Each All Classical Portland host has put together an example of recycled music in these specially produced segments below which will air throughout the day on Friday, April 22 – Earth Day 2016. Be sure to tune-in!

Do you know of a recycled piece of classical music or do you have a favorite green composer? We want to hear from you!

Join the conversation at the All Classical Portland Facebook page!

 

Brandi Parisi – Rachmaninoff rocks Paganini

 

John Burk – Borodin goes to Broadway

 

Christa Wessel – We got a jazzy Pathétique

 

Ed Goldberg – Chopin is always chasing rainbows

 

Edmund Stone – Star Wars in Holst’s Space

 

John Pitman – Bach to Bach

 

Robert McBride – A lot of la folia

 

Suzanne Nance – Elvis Can’t Help Falling in Amour

 

Suzanne Nance – Carmen rips-off Rachmaninoff

 

Andrea Murray – A Simple Gift for Copland

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Getting Into the Swing Of It: 2016 Spring Drive

Although I participated in the Spring Drive in various capacities, as a go-fer and brief “gatekeeper”, I was initially daunted when tasked with answering phones; I didn’t want to misrepresent All Classical Portland by providing the wrong information and tone to my calls. Yet, after one or two stuttering calls (apologies to those on the receiving end), once the script had settled in my muscle memory, I was able to meander off that path to engage in an improvisational dance I saw countless volunteers, arts partners, and staff members perform on the phones.

It was not only natural to become more relaxed and nimble as I acclimated to the task, but it was necessary to ease up as All Classical Portland listeners are eager, knowledgeable, and very capable of throwing tricky conversation balls. Whenever its spin slipped through my fingers, I found that callers are also patient as I directed their question to the room.

Taking calls was also an enjoyable dance. Callers were just as interested in hearing about my relationship to music as I was in hearing theirs; I reminisced about my summers at Boston University’s camp at Tanglewood and they talked about the moments they weren’t sure they could continue driving with such arresting music on the radio. Three hours is a long time to answer phones. Four is even longer. I didn’t think I could answer phones for 5 ½ hours either, but I was carried away by such generous and invested listeners as those in the All Classical Portland community.

Bell leads Academy

Meet the Musicians: Academy of St Martin in the Fields

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is one of the world’s most acclaimed and actively recording chamber orchestras. It is also one of the most played ensembles heard on All Classical Portland.

Based in London, England, the ensemble was formed in 1958 by Sir Neville Marriner who was recently named to the Order of the Companions of Honour list by Queen Elizabeth II this past June.

The Order recognizes those who have made substantial achievements in the arts, music, science, politics, literature and religion.

Marriner, a violinist and past member of the London Symphony Orchestra, began conducting in 1969 – the same year he became the Music Director of the renowned Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. According to the Academy’s website, no other orchestra and conductor has recorded more together than Marriner and the Academy.

Marriner conducts Academy

The Academy also has a touring chamber ensemble composed of principal players from each instrument in the orchestra. The ensemble has released more than 30 CDs.

Since 2011, virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell has been the Academy’s Music Director – the only person to hold that position since the orchestra’s inception.

Bell began playing the violin at age 4 and is considered one the era’s most celebrated and talented violinists. He has recorded more than 40 CDs since his first recording on the Decca label when he was 18, according to the Academy’s website.

Bell is also a senior lecturer at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. A fervent supporter of music education, Bell works with Education Through Music to help provide children and teens in inner city areas of America with access to instruments.

Bell, Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields can often be heard on the airwaves of All Classical Portland with their impressively vibrant and varied list of recordings.

Bell will play with the Oregon Symphony February 20-22, 2016, with a program including music by Wagner, Sibelius’s Symphony No. 6 and Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

The Academy’s most recent recording with Bell is an all Bach CD from 2014 on the Sony Classical label featuring Bach’s first and second violin concertos, chaconne, air, gavotte en rondeau.

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Oregon Music Festivals Bring Diverse and Rich Sounds to the Community

As the summer begins to heat up, so does the music festival scene in Oregon. The Oregon Bach Festival and Chamber Music Northwest are each in the midst of their summer concert series with fresh sounds, artists, and performances.

The Oregon Bach Festival, founded in 1970, is one of Oregon’s and the United States best and most critically acclaimed festivals of Bach’s music. The festival’s mission is to “Inspire the human spirit through the art of music by providing the highest level of performances and educational opportunities.”

On July 8, the festival will present a lecture and concert of Bach’s “St. John Passion” led by Maestro Helmuth Rilling at the Hult Center in Eugene, Oregon. The University of Oregon Chamber Choir, Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, and Oregon Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra will perform the piece.

The OBF Orchestra will perform the piece again on July 9 at the Hult Center with the Berwick Chorus, soprano Joanne Lunn, mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu, tenor Nicholas Phan, baritone Tyler Duncan, and bass Nathan Berg.

The world-renowned Canadian Brass ensemble will also perform at the festival on July 10. The festival concludes with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, a true tour de force, conducted by Matthew Halls and played by the OBF orchestra, Berwick Chorus, soprano Nicole Cabell, and mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu. According to the festival’s program notes, Mahler himself said, “A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.” Mahler’s second symphony does just that and the festival raves on its website that the symphony also “Relays the story of life: the essential quest for understanding, and coming to terms with life’s challenges.”

To learn more about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.oregonbachfestival.com.

Chamber Music Northwest, now in its 45th season, is one of the largest festivals of its kind. Its mission is to “Inspire listeners through concerts celebrating the richness and diversity of chamber music, performed by artists of the highest caliber.”

The festival is committed to performing diverse chamber works as well as newer 21st century contemporary classical music by premiering a variety of new compositions this summer, many of which are world premieres by Peter Schickele, John Steinmetz, and David Schiff.

Concertgoers are able to attend open rehearsals of festival performances that conclude with a question and answer session, allowing for an intimate setting with the performers and the rich, vibrant music.

The festival is taking on the huge task of performing all of Beethoven’s violin sonatas. The sonatas are being performed in a series of three parts; two remain this summer, including Part II, which includes sonatas 2, 5, 3, and 10, performed by violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner on Thursday, July 9, at Reed College. The final installment in the series concludes with sonatas 1,4, and 9, performed by one of the worlds’ leading solo violinists—Augustin Hadelich—on July 16, at Reed College.

Other notable concerts during the festival include a celebration of the viola’s diversity with Schubert, Schumann and Massenet, Messiaen’s emotionally-charged Quartet for the End of Time, and the festival’s finale celebrating concertos by Bach and Mozart.

To learn more about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.cmnw.org.

Whether you are a devotee to baroque music, contemporary classical, or a combination of the two, there is plenty of music left to be heard this summer. Tune in to Played In Oregon hosted by Brandi Parisi on All Classical Portland on Sunday’s at 1 p.m. for a chance to hear some of Oregon’s most diverse and vibrant classical music performed by local ensembles.

 

 

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James Horner Leaves Listeners a Lifetime of Music

The American composer James Horner, who composed more than 100 film scores, including “Titanic,” “Apollo 13,” “Braveheart” and “Avatar” passed away June 22 at the age of 61.

Horner was a classically trained musician and scholar, who began playing the piano at age 5. He attended the Royal College of Music in London as a youth and later went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Southern California and his master’s and doctorate at the University of California Los Angeles, where he taught music theory.

Alex Harwood, an American composer, is quoted in an article from The Guardian, stating that “James was one of the last of that old school of composers, like John Williams, with proper classical training and unbelievable music knowledge.”

Horner told the New York Times in an interview in 2000 that, “I [write] it at a desk with pen and paper … I don’t use a computer in writing at all. I’m sort of old-fashioned about it.”

Horner notes that many of his scores were influenced by classical composers including Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev and Thomas Tallis, many of which are often heard on All Classical Portland.

Horner won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes and received 10 Oscar nominations during his lifetime. His first full length score was for the 1979 film “The Lady in Red” and his first major breakout score came from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” in 1982.

The success of Horner’s score for “Titanic” as well as his original song “My Heart Will Go On” performed by Celine Dion, for both of which he won an Academy Award, has not been forgotten in the 20 years since he composed it. Many orchestras and vocalists have done recordings of Horner’s work because of its richness and popularity.

His music for “Titanic” focused on Celtic instrumentation in order to reflect the ship’s origins, which was built in Belfast and carried hundreds of Irish natives.

Horner’s music is known and critiqued as music on an “epic scale” with “bolder and more contemporary sounds” and a “subtle and contemplative flare” as critiqued by the New York Times.

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The Atlantic also noted that Horner’s scores “tended to be more delicate things; rummaging through musical history and diverse cultures.”

James Cameron said jointly with producer Jon Landau from “Avatar” in a BBC News article that, “James’s music affected the heart because his heart was so big.”

Cameron is also quoted in an article from the Hollywood Reporter saying that Horner totally committed himself to “Titanic.” “He blocked out his schedule and sat down and watched maybe 30 hours of raw dailies to absorb the feeling of the film.”

Cameron also mentioned that the orchestra loved Horner and that he worked with a lot of the same musicians and also conducted his own music, which not all composers do.

Horner’s score for Cameron’s 2009 film “Avatar” showcased his experimentation and dedication to providing listeners with exotic sounds that resonated deeply.

Horner said that Avatar was one of the most difficult films he has worked on and the biggest job he has undertaken.

Spencer Kornhaber writes in his article about Horner in The Atlantic that the best film music does two things: “It emphasizes the story on screen and it creates its own parallel story.” Horner’s scores did just that as he was ambitiously driven to produce the highest quality of sounds for film.

Though the world may never again see a composer as gifted, dedicated and thoughtful as Horner, it is left with more than 100 scores for listeners to track down and authors to curate, as many of the great artists who leave us leave with them an astonishing lifetime of work.

Tune in Saturday, July 11, at 2 p.m. for a tribute program to James Horner on The Score with Edmund Stone.

 

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A Parade of Music and Support Mark My First Week at All Classical

During my first week at All Classical Portland, I was able to experience multiple aspects of how the station functions, especially during one of its major fundraisers. Putting faces to the voices I heard during many late nights of studying was a great way to start off my summer at the station.

Sitting in while Jack Allen and Christa Wessel were on air during the fundraiser was especially engaging in seeing how they both coordinated and contributed to one another’s energy, which was audible for listeners. The stunning panoramic view from the second floor of the Hampton Opera Building greatly connects hosts to the city and all that is going on each day. Jack and Christa’s charisma with one other gave volunteers in the adjacent conference room a boost of energy as the phones continued to ring throughout the day. Sharing stories and getting to know those who volunteered during the fundraiser was a great way for me to see how deeply passionate and committed to classical music the community is, as many of the volunteers spent hours answering calls from donors.

Hearing classical music and the voices of on air radio hosts played throughout the office made apparent the connectivity between what listeners are hearing and the staff that creates it.

Meeting Andrea Murray and discussing her show (Northwest Previews), interviewing, audio editing and production were all good starts to my summer of what is sure to be full of great experiences and discussions.

Replying to listener questions during my first day at the station was gratifying since many of them replied back and found the provided information helpful to them. I was also able to learn a lot about The Score, its Facebook page and website as well as Club Mod, which will be invaluable for me throughout the rest of the summer.

Getting my picture taken at the Rose Festival Parade with Governor Kate Brown along with other members of the station was a major highlight of my first week at All Classical Portland.

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It was exciting to see how many people knew about the station and recognized their favorite radio hosts. Hearing shouts of “Edmund Stone I love your show!” and “I love All Classical!” were many of the comments heard from a diverse range of excited spectators.

The classic cars and throng of energetic supporters heightened All Classical Portland’s presence in the parade and was noticed by many in attendance, especially many of the parade’s announcers who knew the station and its hosts.

The station’s participation in the parade also represented a post-modern example that there doesn’t have to be a distinction between “high art” and pop culture: people can enjoy and experience both.

Marching to the familiar cinematic tunes of “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars,” and other popular, well known classical pieces reinforced the notion that classical music is fun and should be enjoyed by all.

Overall, my first week at All Classical Portland was a great one and I look forward to many more this summer.