It is Tuesday morning.

I am just taking a quick minute to make an update before I race out the door.

Met with daughters RW, in from Arizona, and SW, down from Ojai, and Grandson DH, also in from Arizona.

We discussed a lot of business pre-planning and mapped out a number of property locating and buying stratgies as the members of my "dream team" are officially in action, out in the field searching for properties which fit within very closely defined parameters.

And so, "let the festivities begin", officially.

I am getting ready to leave on Monday, a week from yesterday for Zurich.

Am getting really "antsy".

Actually, I have been for months.

At least my skin hasn't been crawling for a little while, although I am still extremely tightly wound, coming down just a little bit more each week, it seems.

One may notice that I have not posted any new compositions for awhile.

There is a very disturbing (to me) story as to why this is so, but I will leave that alone, for the time being.

Sorry, it's just not going to be happening for awhile.

In the meantime, I am working on building up the section of "Classical" pieces, which is really long overdue.

I really hate to use this term "classical music", because I was taught, while attending a class at our local college, while I was still in high school, weirdly enough, that "Classical" is a period.  "Classic" is the type of music.  But, look around you and you will see that very few moderns have any idea whatsoever that this is the case.  Look in any record store.  Look on, etc. etc.  It is all around you on every side.

Mozart is "Classical", Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky are "Romantic", while Bach is "Baroque" and John Downland Never Stops Crying, during the "Renaissance" period.

Notice I do not even talk about "Modern", because I have heard very little from this period worth talking about, although Stravinsky does come to mind, although I suspect he is really a left-over "Romantic".

And did I forget the "Medieval" period of music?  This is the one in which I am doing much work during the past several years as a number of us are trying to figure out how to properly interpret manuscripts which only recenlty have been found profitable enough to be set and printed. 

So, where is the "Classical" music, anyway?

It ended with Mozart in 1700's.

So why do we call it "Classical Music" anyway?

I don't know, and I hate like crazy to be forced to do so, but, there you have it, I am guilty as sin for committing the heinous crime of which I was warned as a youth and am now forced by convention to turn against everything which I have held dear throughout my adult life.

Oh the sting of it!

If you think that is ridiculous, try this.

I go crazy every time I hear of "indexes" instead of "indices".

Or food that is "healthy" instead of "healthful".

This is certainly no place to be a longstanding and hardcore linguist, like yours truly.

So, I have been forced to capituate only on this one issue, and will never give another inch of ground unless I am forced to by the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Now that I have that out of my system, I may continue.

It has been really weird the past several days as my (ex) sister-in-law, in her early fifties, just suddenly keeled over in mid-sentence and was apparently dead before hitting the floor.

Initiially believed to be cardiac related.

It was like someone just through a switch from "on" to "off".

Her husband, for whom she has been having to be a caretaker, due his medical problems, watched this happen right in front of him and was unable to do anything about it.

RW who was with me yesterday was telling some very interesting stories or her past several months with her aunt, as they live about 1/2 hour from one another in Arizona, and were visiting together regularly.

I don't want to tell too much personal stuff here, but, one thing really struck me, which I will share here.

It seems that, after years of being alienated from much of her natural family (replaced by extended family) she had suddenly realized her loss and had spent the past several months doing almost continuous bridge-building with parents and siblings and nieces.

She was the youngest of three children, and still young enough that no one would expect this to happen.

She was a nurse practitioner and longtime midwife, who was very highly respected in her circles of pregnant mothers and worried about-to-be dads.

She appeared to be very healthy and was very conscious about what she ate and drank etc.

That is to say, you couldn't find a much less likely candidate (this is exactly how it was with my oldest brother when he was diagnosed at 45 years old with pancreatic cancer and dead 90 days later - the strongest, most energetic and busy person I have ever seen, to this day - I still feel the loss every single day and it has been over 15 years since then.. - NO, you do not ever get over it, period.)

She wanted no funeral and no memorial service, as per the terms of her will and here husband is acting as enforcer of these rather unusual requests.

So, the family members are all reeling about while discussing the very weird feelings of UNREALITY as the go to the phone to call her to see whether she is o.k. yet or getting better, only to realize that she is suddenly not here any more.

It is sad to watch.

There is no closure and can be no closure for all persons who were so shortsighted as not to make such their highest priority in life.

Of course, knowing that such things as these only happen to other people, not to me and mine.

So, this is the strange context in which I currently sit, wondering just what all of this could even possibly be about.

Because this is a music blog I am always forced to ask myself, what has this to do with music?

Well, as in the case of some of the other things which we have discussed in prior weeks and months, this is what music is all about.

It is an expression of these very feelings and experiences.

The pathos of Beethoven or the tragic overtones which are ever-present in the Romantics Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff are great cases in point, as is the fact that John Dowland was always crying in the 1600's, showing that this is nothing new.

In music history there is an interesting subject that often gets discussed regarding just when drama and intense emotionalism entered into the repertoire.

One must remember that our music has it's roots leading from here all the way back to ancient Babylon (and maybe even Sumer) through the various chants and church modes (scales).

Most court music was small scale and intended as background music.

A huge orchestra would be a twenty piecer.

By the time of J.S. Bach (1684-1750) the orchestra was just beginning to come of age.

The piano had not even been invented and the organ had only had it's pedals on it for about 150 years.

By the time of Beethoven, during the 1800's the harpsichord had turned into the fortepiano (by putting little leather covered hammers in place of the plectrums of the harpsichord), and who would ever have guessed that this was about to turn into the Steinway 12' conert grand piano of today.

Please take note of the fact that when I said "drama", the next subjects were "orchestra" and "grand piano".

For that is where it came from in the form which we take for granted today any time we sit in a movie theater and listen to the music in the movie.

The old argument regarding such matters concerns whether it was the choir from which multi-part writing originated, or from the organ.

Did the organist write for the choir?  or did the choral composer write for the organist?

The problem is that, you guessed it, the organist and the choir composer are one and the same person.

So the threads begin even more tangled than one would hope for, such that it appears irresolvable, right from the very start, which I think has been amply demonstrated by the very fact that the argument continues to this day.

Over time the so-called "church music" grew from roots extending through the (pre-"Christian") Roman religion into what is today know as Gregorian Chant, which can be traced, in a full form, to the 800's.

From there the music travels through the "Medieval" period, from that time up to about 1400 when we can begin to speak of enough of a change that the "Renaissance" period could be said to have begun.

During this entire time music sort of split off into two main factions.

The Motet and the Madrigal being the song forms which can act as such superb examples of this process.

The Motet is sacred choral music.

It is typically very quiet, and meditative in nature.

What does not sing and dance and carry on while listening to it, most of the time.

On the other hand the Madrigal could be downright ribald.  They were basically drinking songs and partying songs.

So music found itself at a sort of crossroads as each gengre became highly developed by it's practitioners.

To my ears its was the Madrigal which won out at the time of the Renaissance period of music.

The lively style stands out in clear contrast to sacred choral music, indeed.

Then as we enter the Baroque period, we come more and more under the influence of my old favorites, the Dutch and North German organists.

While the French and English continued to play what some of us disparingly call "'tinkle box music" (silly little parlor songs on harpsichords, and maybe flutes and violins), and the Spanish continued with their not passion, not matter what instrument they wrote for, it was in the northlands that something really different began to take place.

It was as if a counter-Renaissance had begun to set in as these composers were most definitely not into partying and singing drinking songs.

All of a sudden,. during the late 1500's and early 1600's these guys are figuring out just what those organ pedals really are there for, as the music has now taken a quantum leap forward, in terms of musical drama.

It is a revolution which was of such profound significance and importance that nothing  can be compared with it except for the finalizing of the form of the modern violin at about the same time, and later of with the perfection of the concert grand piano.

Now, the composer who thinks outside the box, and thinks about bigger things than the latest tinkle box crowd, can finally have a say in matters.

And then there was Sweelinck, in the Netherlands.

This marks the great turning point.

From this point forward there is simply not turning back because all composers and wanna be composers and would-be composers cannot help but stop and think about the ramification of just what they are hearing as Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck begins to tear up that keyboard and those pedals like no one ever seen before or since.

And the Dutch organ schoo is now on the map, to be followed by Buxtehude in North Germany.

The same Buxtehude who J.S. Bach walked several hundred miles to meet and to get to hear him play.

The three B's - Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.

That is how we are taught music modernly.

Most act as it there was nothing prior to that.

Well, you can see from our previous discussion that much was going on before 1700.

It did not begin with Bach, but it most certainly came to a fuller development with Beethoven and Brahms.

But, why?

In a word, the parlor grand piano (typically about 7-8 feet long).

Just as everyone after Sweelinck was being strongly affected by the organ music, whether they knew it or not, so, as the fortepiano with it's little leather hammers evolved into the parlor grand, the instrument itself was giving birth to the music to be written on it by the composers who would be born to do so.

Because of the ability to go from soft to loud and loud to soft, in an instant, thus providing contrast, along with the abilith to create thick textures and loud noise, drama was now beginning to creep inside the music in a way not seen since Sweelinck with his monster pipe organ in the Dutch Netherlands.

So, as Beethoven, or Chopin sits down at the larger piano with it's nice sustain pedal, and sostenuto pedal, and damper pedal, with those big deeply vibrating bass strings which I can carress or slam, at will by applying pressure on the keyboard, and entirely new style of music and composition was being formed, every bit as much by the instrument as by the composer (sounds a lot like where we are today with the synsthesizers).

Look out when a Chopin or Beethoven gets near one of these things.

Because both of them are very rowdy.

And that will most certainly come through in the music with no uncertainty whatsoever.

And now that drama is finally coming of age, what of pathos?

The strings and organ had already been the kings of pathos for many centuries, but what about this knew kid on the block?

And what could he do for the orchestra, anyway, people began to wonder as they first used it as if it were a harpsichord, but more clunky, and then finally figured out that it could really be an instrument in it's own right and could stand on an equal footing alongside and entire choir and orchestra just as the pipe organ had been doing for centuries prior to that.

It will not take long to get from Beethoven, who is losing his hearing as he comes to the height of his creative abilities, to Tchaichovsky, who keeps trying to jump into the river at St. Petersburg, as he wants to do nothing more than to kill himself.

In the meatime, of course, he teaches composition, and writes his own.


Need I say more.

Anyone who knows me knows that I most definitely have much more to say on such matters, but, I have already written far longer than I had initially intended and really must go now.

To the dentist for teeth cleaning.  Auuuggghhhhh!!

He tells me that if I came more often it would be less painful.

Something about that just doesn't sound right to me.

I am thinking of testing this proposition, recognizing it's possible validity, but am hesitant in the extreme, due to far too many really bad experiences during childhood dental visits.

Oh, what a joy.

Hope this finds well with all of my loved ones and with all of your loved ones.

Gotta go, for now.


9:58 a.m. pst
Tuesday, 3-27-12
Ventura, California, USA