Happy Birthday, Mr. Mozart

Jayson Dobney, Associate Curator and Administrator, Department of Musical Instruments
Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014

On January 27, 1756, the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. One of the many musical instrument treasures in the collection at the Museum is a pedal piano attributed to the workshop of Johann Schmidt of Salzburg, Mozart’s hometown. [ . . . ] Michael Tsalka plays an excerpt from W. A. Mozart’s Variations in F Major, K. 613 on this piano.

Michael Tsalka plays

Hip to the Wind by The Hydrogen Jukebox—live in a club, 2002



I never spoke of this publicly before because it could sound self-serving, but here in the year after the year of the selfie, what the heck. Some friends of mine in the now-defunct band The Hydrogen Jukebox wrote a song about me in late summer 2000. It’s based on a visit I paid them in their dorm suite at Temple University in the spring of 2000. I had been visiting friends in New York and had a giant box of CDs with me plus various accoutrements in a shopping bag. They had one fellow who would do bizarre, impressionistic monologues, and I insisted on taking them to Tower Records where they were required to purchase a Lord Buckley CD. It came to be their most popular live song through several band incarnations and arrangements, and much dancing would take place whenever they started to play it.

My friends moved into touring around the world full-time with their sideshow troupe as the Squidling Brothers.

Education channel creativeLIVE goes 24-7

Education channel creativeLIVE goes 24-7

ON DECEMBER 12, 2013

CreativeLIVE announced it’s ramping up service to 24 hours a day, letting users tune in anytime to watch instructors teach on topics ranging from “Pregnancy and Newborn Photography” to “Launch a Successful Podcast.” There will be five available channels: Photo & Video, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Maker & Craft and Business & Money. Experts in their respective fields have signed up to run classes, including Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, who will be teaching “The Startup of You.”

Steven Brill Extended Interview

Steven Brill Extended Interview

Exclusive — Steven Brill Extended Interview Parts 1 & 2

In this exclusive, unedited interview, Steven Brill examines the monopolistic pricing structure of American health care. [6:24]

One of the best, detailed discussions of how monopolistic healthcare pricing works in the U.S. I ever heard. Click here after watching for part 2. Must see. Part 1 first seen on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 15 Jan 2014.
(Click here to read Brill’s 20-page 2013 article in Time, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us. Subscription needed for more than a preview.)

“Potato Head Blues” with foundational Louis Armstrong solo

Uploaded on Mar 10, 2010

Potato Head Blues — Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven

“Potato Head Blues” is a Louis Armstrong composition regarded as one of his finest recordings. It was made by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven for Okeh Records in Chicago, Illinois on May 10, 1927. It was recorded during a remarkably productive week in which Armstrong’s usual Hot Five was temporarily expanded to seven players by the addition of tuba and drums; over five sessions the group recorded twelve sides.

Not strictly speaking a “blues,” the chord structure is a 32-bar form in the same neighborhood as “(Back Home Again in) Indiana.” The recording features notable clarinet work by Johnny Dodds, and the stop-time solo chorus in the last half of the recording is one of Armstrong’s most famous solos. The last, hot “ride out” chorus is an example of this New Orleans jazz custom brought to the level of genius through Armstrong’s inspired melodic playing.

Tallulah Bankhead said that she played it in her dressing room every day during intermission while she appeared on Broadway for the invigorating effect it gave her.

In Woody Allen’s 1979 film, Manhattan, the character Isaac Davis (played by Allen) lists Armstrong’s recording of “Potato Head Blues” as one of the reasons that life is worth living.

The earliest recording of a structured solo that leads harmonically within the regular chord changes of a song, and which uses a melodic method of anticipating them. And so I say the modern jazz solo is invented. It may seem odd to call something from so long ago contemporary, but the manner of extemporized instrumental solos owe greatly to Armstrong’s example demonstrating how it’s done to this today.

The eventual sense of new-found freedom when the changes finally reach their goal instill great joy and release in the listener. And is mighty.

further reading: 85 Years of the Hot Seven: Potato Head Blues


In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona

In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona

By Evan Mitchell, 07 January 2014, photo © Philip Glaser
via Bachtrack, the largest classical event finder online

Every age has its own tastes, its own aesthetic lines drawn in the sand. Since the 19th century, with its seminal guardians of musical decorum (Clara Schumann chief among them), pianists and their critics have debated the role of stage persona. Most outspoken are those who believe that a quiet, undemonstrative approach to the instrument – à la Arthur Rubinstein – best reflects a serious commitment to earnest musicianship. The corollary is presumed true as well: that excessive body movement or facial expressions can cheapen an interpretation or betray a lack of real understanding. Pianist Lang Lang, often insensitively derided as “Bang Bang”, is held in this case to be Public Enemy Number One. Our current notion of good taste is less extreme, and concedes that a bit of visual display can be acceptable and even beneficial, so long as it is a natural byproduct of a performer’s interpretation. [ . . . ]

All this is surprising to some? The entire ecology of a concert affects the experience of it for everyone in the audience. It begins with anticipation building up to buying tickets when one hears a concert has been scheduled. People speaking near one or waving their lighted phones around during the concert certainly affect it. Some would argue a musical performer’s demeanor and physical embodiment of the music which emanates through them is of no consequence? Between robotic artifice and rock concert flash bombs lie endless forms of visible expression.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence

Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott wants to test welfare recipients for illegal drug use.

Gov. Rick Scott’s illegal drug-testing law may have roots in corruption

Tallahassee : FL : USA | Jan 02, 2014 at 7:18 AM PST BY 

The welfare drug-testing law was an expensive one that Scott wanted taxpayers to pick up the tab for. As The New York Times notes, since the majority of drug tests came back negative, the state had to reimburse applicants the $30 fee. That cost Florida taxpayers $118,140, which is $45,780 more than the benefits that would have been paid without the drug testing.

However, there may be another reason why Gov. Scott appears determined to pursue policies that funnel taxpayer money through the health care industry. Solantic, the chain of health care clinics performing much of Florida’s drug testing, was co-founded by Rick Scott.

In 2011, Scott transferred his shares in Solantic to his wife, so while not directly linked to the company, the Scott household still stands to personally benefit financially from the drug-testing law, raising serious questions of a conflict of interest.

Rick Scott was also the CEO of Hospital Corporation of America, now called Columbia/HCA, during the 1990s, when the FBI found extensive fraudulent billing of Medicare and Medicaid. According to the Sun Sentinel, “Four mid-level executives of the company were criminally charged and tried in Tampa. Two were convicted, but both won on appeal. Scott was never charged and left Columbia/HCA with $10 million in severance and stock valued at $300 million.”

The HCA Medicare fraud case was the largest in the country, which resulted in $1.7 billion in fines.

It’s interesting how the Florida governor’s distrust of poor welfare recipients happens to dovetail with his personal financial interests.