Welcome to


"Music requires a man to give himself up entirely to it, but the world does not wholly agree with this.  It demands that one learn and attempt other things (as if the head of a note could hold many topics!).  Therefore it will be necessary to yield to the world. What the crowd wants finally becomes law.  But it is also pleasant to know something of many things, and even if it doesn't bring in anything, at least it doesn't eat one's bread, either."

--Georg Phillip Telemann

   Home    About     Listen     Site Index     Godmusic     Blog    058 < >



Not to be confused with a helpful glossary of musical terms, these footnotes make it appear that I run an unusually scholarly website! But beware. They may contain useful bits of information or simply render the experience of wandering up an out-of-the-way hallway of the webmaestro's labyrinthine imagination. Anytime you see an asterisk, your curiosity will steer you here.


*Turkish music was quite in fashion throughout Europe in the late 18th century. Mozart indulged in a little in one of his piano sonatas (the famous "Rondo all Turca") and an opera, "The Abduction from the Seraglio" (or brothel). By this time the Ottoman empire was crumbling and it was good politics for potentates to cast the Turks as barbarous, particularly if they were planning to make war on them (as the Emperor Joseph II did in the 1780s while Mozart was active in Vienna), for, although Turkish music was rhythmically infectious, it was also represented by crude percussive effects and a simpler style, hence, the not-so-subtle message that the Turks were actually culturally inferior. Mozart's operatic Turk is both the bad guy, and a comic role.


*who, incidentally, was considering a ragtime project toward the end of his life, Robert Schauffler says  in a book called "The Unknown Brahms" (Brahms died in 1897, and was quite aware of the latest trends in music, lest we think of him only as a conservative preserver of old forms and Renaissance counterpoint!) Brahms also spent a large portion of his life wanting to write an opera, hunting for libretti (the words that he would set to music, as well as the storyline), and making plans around the enterprise, but it never happened...

see Robert Haven Schauffler, The Unknown Brahms (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co 1933)


Encore -- Italian for "again". When first used by an enthusiastic audience after a piece they particularly enjoyed (think late 17-1800s), the performer would literally play the same piece again. These days, under the assumption that concertgoers already have recordings of the piece at home, performers will usually play something else. Although you do not often hear cries of "Encore!" among the joyful outbursts at the end of concerts, an artist who has left the stage on one or two occasions and had to come back and bow again because the audience is giving him a prolonged ovation will generally play a short piece for an encore. The process can, of course, be repeated, to the point where there may be several encores at the end of the concert.

Sometimes, as when I'm giving a concert of works written in the 19th century, I make a contract with my audience to restore the original meaning of the word "encore" and if I hear such requests, will play a piece again.


Nineveh--  the capital of the Babylonian(?) empire in ancient times. For a full understanding of my use of this metaphor, consult the book of Jonah (from the Bible), in which a provincial prophet is commanded by God to go and preach to the people of the great metropolis Nineveh. Jonah is, of course, horrified, not merely by his dislike for the larger and more successful Babylonians and their capital, but by the thought that their citizens, given the chance, may actually repent of their sins, and Jonah will be denied the satisfaction of watching their city be destroyed by God's wrath. Which is, of course, what ultimately happens, whereupon Jonah pouts, God tells him to mind his own business, and Nineveh continues its dominance of the middle-eastern division in the American league.


*Szell then told his audience that he would give them a minute or two to clear their throats, get cough drops in mouths, and when he could be assured of something resembling quiet, they would begin again.


*OK, seriously, they don't need any. They were going to do it anyway. I'm basically giving Jean-Claude a hard time, there. But hear me out.


During a visit to the Parthenon I learned that the great edifice suffered grave damage during the 1700s when a French general spent five days lobbing shells at it in order to get the Turks who were there. For their part, the Turks apparently thought (if they were thinking anything) it was a great idea to store ammunition inside the Parthenon so the French shells could make more of an explosion. What a lot of idiocy!


Diogenese, as it happens, is known for wandering the streets of Athens with a lantern, looking for an honest man. Apparently, he never found one.


For those of you not up on their Greek mythology, the Minotaur patrolled the labyrinth, which was one great maze, looking for hotdogs. He was eventually put out of his misery by a guy named Theseus, who went around killing things that didn't regularly bathe.


Avant-garde--French for the "advance guard", the guys out in front. In music this refers to the most innovative, cutting-edge types whose music is, shall we say, least generally appreciated by the average concertgoer because it is very, ah, sonically adventurous. William Albright's Sonata for Saxophone and Piano is a pretty crazy piece, but I had a great time playing it. The audience on this occasion also enjoyed it greatly which just shows that in some situations you don't need a plethora of nice C major chords to have a good time.

The avant-garde movement is not so avant anymore--it is at least as old as the middle of the twentieth century, and a number of composers who were experimental at that time have since made a headlong rush to more "accessible", traditional, and non-threatening styles.


Boethius (480-525/26 A.D.)  His most famous work today is "The Consolations of Philosophy". He wanted to translate all of Plato and Aristotle for his Roman countrymen, in his spare time, but this he ran out of when he was executed by king Theodoric, who suspected him of really being in league with the emperor Justin. It's all a bit confusing, and controversial. But you can do your own Googling if you want to know more.


W.T.C.-- Bach's "the Well-Tempered Clavier" is one of the monumental works of the keyboard literature. The "Well-Tempered" part does not refer to the instrument's sunny disposition, but rather the fact that, in Bach's time, several different methods of tuning keyboard instruments were competing, some of which, by actually compromising the mathematical accuracy of the relationships between certain notes, allowed the player to perform a piece in any key without it sounding horribly out of tune. This revolution in the method of tuning (which was one among several) was called "well-tempered." since a temperament refers to the system of tuning in use, e.g.. "just temperament" which is pretty nearly the opposite of what Bach was referring to (the intervals themselves are mathematically perfect, but some chords sound horrible as a result--how's that for a paradox?). Bach, who lived in an era when encyclopedic (thorough and comprehensive) works were popular, wrote a prelude and fugue in every major and minor key it is possible to have, for a grand total of 24. It also gave him a chance to show how many different ways he could write a fugue.

Clavier is German for  "keyboard instrument." It is a generic term, and could have meant harpsichord, clavichord, or organ, although probably not piano, since Bach didn't own one, and didn't come across one until fairly late in life (he didn't like it all that much, but in fairness to the piano, there were still some bugs to be worked out in this at-the-time three-decades-old invention).

Bach published the first set of 24 in 1722 and composed a sequel roughly 20 years later (volume II).


This month's quotation, drawn perhaps from something I read lately, may or may not represent the views of Pianonoise, its staff or its sponsers, but was at least deemed sufficiently interesting to grace the banner headline of the homepage. Next month your webmaestro will try to post something equally riveting. 'Yall come back now, ya hear?


An interval is the distance between notes. The first note counts as one. Therefore, the distance between an A and a B is a 2nd. The distance between A and C is a third, and so on. We can also talk about an interval's quality--that is, whether it is major or minor, diminished or augmented. An A to a B-flat would be a minor second, A to B natural a major second. In this case, G to C# is a kind of fourth--an augmented fourth (2nds, 3rds, 6ths, and 7ths are major or minor, 4ths, 5ths, and octaves are either perfect, diminished, or augmented, not major or minor. That's just the way it is.) An augmented fourth , or a diminished fifth (which is actually the same group of notes, but is spelled differently, e.g. G to Db (Db being the same note as C#)) is often called a tri-tone, and it sounds like this. Not your favorite either?

Anyhow, if that seemed like a lot to digest, rest assured that I pretty much told you everything a college student needs to know about intervals. See how easy that is? A musician, of course, wants to get fluent in this.


 You want to know the actual term? It is generally known as the "Tonic." It functions as a kind of gravitational pull, or home base in most tonal systems. A piece of music will usually end on the tonic note or the tonic chord. Keys in music are systems of harmonic relationships which cluster around this important note--so important that the name of the key is the name of the tonic. In A major, for instance, the tonic is the note A. In E Major, the tonic is the note E. Hence tonic is the first note of the scale.


Building to a Crescendo--this is one of those frequently-met-with phrases that don't make any sense. Crescendo means  "get louder"--it is, in fact, the process of getting louder. It does not tell us how loud to be, just to increase volume for the duration of the sign (usually accompanied by a dashed line lasting for a few measures of music) It is not a goal, but may be seen as the act of growing toward one. The phrase is redundant, or impossible. You can build to a climax, not to a rise toward a climax. I'm just having a little fun with the way musical terms are used in media generally, which is to say, not correctly.


This and several of the following quotations may make a bit more sense if you are familiar with a work entitled "Don Quixote" by Miguel Cervantes. If you are not up to speed, you may wish to read the book, and then return to the review. I'll wait. It is only about 1200 pages long. The story concerns a delusional man named Don Quixote, who believes that he is a knight-errant, and travels all over Spain having adventures of one sort or another: rescuing damsels, freeing prisoners, challenging other knights, and so forth. His trusty squire is named Sancho Panza. In this instance, I am Don Quixote, and my wife Kristen is playing the role of Sancho Panza.

Oh, and it would help you to know that Sancho does have a tendency to quote proverbs to distraction. That bit of information will be helpful for later. Ok, as you were.     Return to the hotdog review


Happy 4th of July!  This flag flies over fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, the place where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to our national anthem.


New and improved!     A new feature of Pianonoise recordings is that they will now open in a new window, allowing you to continue reading articles or looking around instead of having to stare at a mostly blank screen. I could have done this a lot sooner but didn't think of it. It involves a lot of simple, repetitive reprogramming. I'll try to convert every link on the site a piece at a time during the Spring of '07.


Weimar version.   J. S. Bach's 18 major organ chorale preludes were first written when he lived and worked in Weimar, Germany. In 1723, a few jobs later, he went to Leipzig. He took his organ chorales with him and made some changes. Thus, in scholarly editions of Bach's organ chorale-preludes two versions are given: Weimar and Leipzig.

The chorale-prelude Komm Heiliger Geist was made longer. Bach chose for this piece to put the chorale in slow-moving notes in the pedals while his own agile counterpoint danced above. In the Weimar Version he only set a few phrases of the chorale tune, but for Leipzig he decided to set the whole thing which makes the piece about twice as long and features a lot of similar material stitched together by newly composed transitions.

The particular chorale-prelude (Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend) on the other hand only underwent minor surgery. Unlike some of the chorales its length was not augmented. It is mainly the same piece except that Bach has changed the tail end of the subject (from this to this). This minor note surgery (affecting only 5 notes) continues throughout the piece. I haven't made a careful study of the Leipzig version, but there appear to be a few other minor note changes, and nothing more. The change makes the subject a bit more expressive, but I can't help liking the early version anyway.

If you would like to hear a little bit of the later version, the first minute can be heard at a place called Jr.com. They are trying to sell you a CD of organist David Briggs at a cathedral in England, so they won't play you the whole thing for free. The registration is a bit huskier than mine, and the tempo may be just a tiny bit slower. It's a neat organ. I often find it interesting to compare two performances of the same piece. Scroll down to track seven.


May 2008

warning (for those of you not familiar with my hotdog reviews): the following entry contains a high amount of sarcasm.

Biedermeier refers to a type of mass-produced German furniture from the 19th century. It also connotes one who is well-behaved, by conforming easily to the normative dictates of society. When used by a critic of my stunning erudition, it is obviously a put-down of the highest order. If you are one of the masses, however, you should try very hard not to get the term biedermeier confused with Oscar Meyer, which makes hotdogs, and not furniture. Oscar Meyer is a brand name; biedermeier is a blanket condemnation. Although, qualitatively, they are about the same.

back to the text

June 2008
my television viewing habits: one night my wife caught me flipping between speed-pool and trick shot bowling. Speed pool is a competition in which individuals break and then try to sink all the balls as fast as they can, dancing around the table to set up their next shot while the balls are still rolling from the last. It takes about a minute to sink all 8 or 10 or whatever they are using if the competitor is having a good outing. Trick shot bowling involves setting up shots that go through the legs of chairs, or involves launching the ball over them, or picking up tricky splits by banking the ball off of something, or bowling two balls at once, etc. This kind of fun can usually be found on ESPN2, one of those stations people assume I never watch since I am a classical pianist. I make up for it, though, with high doses of C-SPAN.

back to the text

Copyright symbol: whenever you see one of these next to the title of a musical composition (probably on the Godmusic page(s), wherein I regularly post sound recordings of what I'm playing on Sunday at my church) it means that the music is still under copyright and I can't legally post it without getting permission from the copyright holder, which I haven't done or else I would post the music! Sorry you can't hear a performance. In the future I may start contacting copyright holders to see if I can post their music (and how expensive that might be), but for now I'm busy with other things, so you can only listen to music which is in the public domain on my site.