“Virtuoso” the Classical Music Geeks Board Game

There is something about the wooden texture, shining metal and the styling of traditional musical instruments that is very appealing. Although most of their designs are centuries old, there is a lot of grace and beauty in the way classical instruments are constructed.

Virtuoso is a board game that successfully captures that unique classic design. The playing board is wooden and shaped as a classical orchestra’s stage. All of the game design  down to the dice is inspired by classical music and instruments.

It’s designer, Caleb Heisey describes it on his website: “Virtuoso is a music theory board game. Players compete against each other by successfully answering trivia questions about music history, composition, listening comprehension, and theory. Not for the faint of heart, Virtuoso is a competitive, yet educational game geared for high school and college musicians to expand their knowledge and show off their mad skills.” When not used for playing, it will serve nicely as a collector’s item thanks to its beautiful design.

Heisey is a Philadelphia based print designer and illustrator. He studies for his MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree in Graphic Design at the Tyler School of Art.

Although Virtuoso gets a lot of interest, the game is not for sale yet and does not even has a price tag. Heisey is looking for a publisher to produce the game and to distribute it. If you are interested he will be glad to hear from you via his website. After talking to him drop me a line, I’ll be glad to own one!

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Filed under Classical Music, Musical Instruments

Benjamin Britten at 100 – time for a new appraisal?

Benjamin Britten (Wikipedia)

Benjamin Britten in the mid-1950s (Wikipedia)

The music of Benjamin Britten has a spell on me and it never stop to surprise me. You always find enchanting combinations of musical instruments and human voices. Wonderful melodies as well as not so easy to listen to pieces.

That’s why I was happy to find this article from the Guardian – “Benjamin Britten at 100 – time for a new appraisal? A more relaxed attitude may be emerging towards the colossal musical legacy of Britain’s modern titan of the opera”

Britten’s 100th anniversary is an excellent time to look back at his legacy. Read the comments left on the article they give some perspective as well.

One of my favorite Britten pieces is Exultate – Ceremony of Carols. Listen to the unique combination of the choir and harp as well as the live tempos:

 

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The best and funniest combination of Yodle, Falcet and Whistles with Rock music ever!

I like groups who have the ability to take themselves lightly but still produce wonderful music. Focus is certainly one of them. Their most successful hit was “Hocus Pocus“. With all the crazy elements they put into the piece, their music and their playing is superb. They were formed by Thijs van Leer the organist and flute player. Watch them on a live TV show from the 70’s playing, van Leer is on the “special effects“:

It made me laugh to tears at the time. The full version is a bit slower and stretches over more time:

Another Focus famous piece is Sylvia. Both Hocus Pocus and Sylvia were incorporated into commercials and movies:

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The Ultimate Wiki Resource for Classical Music – IMSLP

Frontispiece to Petrucci's Odhecaton

Frontispiece to Petrucci’s Odhecaton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, I admit it I have a passion for musical scores notes. It comes second only to my Piano keyboard obsession. That’s why I was very happy to browse through IMSLP, the International Music Score Library Project. The IMSLP is a Wiki project  and was launched on February 2006. IMSLP consists mainly of scans of out of copyright musical scores. There are also some MP3 tracks to listen to and always an Amazon link to the relevant piece.

IMSLP is also known as the Petrucci Music Library. Ottaviano Petrucci was an Italian publisher who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries. Petrucci was one of the first music sheet publishers.

The wealth of material is amazing. You can find the complete Bach public domain works as well as all of the public domain works of Beethoven, BrahmsChopin, Corelli, DebussyFauréHandel,Palestrina, RavelSchubert, SchumannSibelius and many others. Some like Mozart and Liszt, have most of their works downloaded. According to the site as of Aug 2011, IMSLP has 63,243 works, 225,387 scores, 21,976 recordings, 7,769 composers, and 194 performers. I don’t play any instrument myself but this wealth of scores is really inspiring. It “tickles” me to start those piano lessons I’m postponing for so long…

Copyrights are a very central issue when running a project like IMSLP. In fact the site was shut down for almost a year (Oct 2007 to June 2008) because of copyright claims. Since its reopening IMSLP complies with the very strict copyright rules of Canada, US and the EU. The site makes sure that its users will not accidentally infringe any law. No wonder that Edward W. Guo, the creator and leader of IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library is a graduate of the New England Conservatory (B.M. in composition, 2008) and Harvard Law School (J.D., 2012)…

The project also allows contemporary composers to publish their works under the Creative Commons license. By this it helps them gain recognition and acceptance.

The main target audience of IMSLP is obviously musicians. Let me know how it affected you as musicians, armatures or listeners.

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The Secrets of the Cajon and what makes it so popular

Cajon flamenco Camaron

Cajon flamenco Camaron (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I first came to learn about Cajon when a friend of mine told me that he is going to build one. I hardly knew what  Cajon meant at the time and why would any musician like to become a carpenter. Gradually I’ve started to understand the magic.

A Cajon (box in Spanish) is a unique percussion instrument. In its simplest form it’s a wooden box on which the percussionist sits and play it with his hands. It originated from Peru where it is called simply – Cajon. Paco De Lucia the famous Spanish guitarist fell in love with the cajon in one of his visits to Peru and immediately decided to adopt it to the well known Flamenco style of dance and music. That was the breaking point of the Cajon Flamenco and this is what made Cajon’s popular in many music styles. The Cajon’s ability to produce both high and low percussion sounds make it ideal for drummers or small groups who want a full drum sound without having to set the full drums gear.

Today the Cajon is used in traditional Latin as well as Rock, Pop and other modern music styles. The Cajon Flamenco has snare string that distinct him from the “dry” sound of the traditional Peruvian Cajon. There are dozens of Cajon manufactures around the world and it’s popularity reached Japan and China.

The Cajon simple structure made it ideal for Do It Yourself projects and for customizations. There are secretes behind Cajon buildings but there are many examples and demonstrations over the Web showing how to do it right.

I did not yet hear my friend’s Cajon nor did I start building my own, what I did is to build my own website dedicated to Cajons and to Cajon’s players. It’s on http://www.eCajonFlamenco.com, check it out and let me know what you think!

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Music is more powerful if you make it yourself and now everybody can!

The original Guitar Hero logo features more po...

Credit: Wikipedia

A fascinating talk at TED presented by Tod Machover and Dan Ellsey. Tod is a composer and a researcher at the MIT Media lab. His mission is to perform innovative experiments on how modern technology can help us better express ourselves with music. The famous Guitar Hero came out of this lab.

Expression with music, Tod claims, is much more profound than words and can make us do amazing things beyond “just” creating music. With music the researchers were able to help physically and mentally ill people to better receive treatment. More than that, they believe that they should help everyone create music with custom shaped instruments. This is true for Yo Yo Ma and Prince as well as people strand to their wheel chairs like Dan Ellsy. Dan is giving an amazing and heroic performance with a beautiful piece of music that he wrote.

This is a truly inspirational talk about people who are transforming the world with music, and I’m not exaggerating.

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A nice tribute to Dave Brubeck from Persiflage

Persiflage

Perhaps my favourite non-classical album is Time Out by the Dave Brubeck quartet. The most well known piece from that album is “Take Five”, and not undeservedly so. Its distinctive time signature is instantly recognizable, and the saxaphone hook sounds good even on a 80386 running chessmaster 2000. To honour Brubeck (who died recently), here are five different recordings of Take Five.

First, here’s the original 1959 recording which appears on the album:

Second, here’s a recording from 1961:

Next, here’s another recording from ’61. As with the previous recording, the underling structure is very similar. However, note the funky chord on the piano at 0:44 (and a related chord at 0:35 in the second version) which isn’t in the original (where it would occur at 0:49). In the original, there’s a vanilla Eb minor chord (first inversion) paired together with an F in the base line (the piece is…

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