Category Archives: Music

Dave Brown: Tony knows how to Save the Children

For British Prime Minister Tony Blair dove into the limelight to scoop of Save the Children’s Global Legacy Award, which we can only presume was given because the endless wars he enabled have killed a lot of parents, thereby leaving so many children to save.

The irony of the award was noted by 200 or so of the NGO’s staff who have signed a petition calling on the award to be withdrawn because not only was the bestowal “morally reprehensible, but [it] also endangers our credibility globally.”

Editorial cartoonist Dave Brown of the Independent took up the tools of his trade and came up with this:

Blog Blair

An implicit reference in the cartoon is the remark of esnl‘s favorite musical satirist, Tom Lehrer, who famously declared that “political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize.”

And having mentioned our favorite songster, how can we not append a telling example of his craft, written at the height of the Cold War’s nuclear terror, via The Tom Lehrer Wisdom Channel:

Tom Lehrer: We Will  All Go Together When We Go

And now for something completely different. . .

And that would be the Theremin, the instrument you play by keeping your goshdarn hands off it!

Invented in 1928 by Lev Sergeyevich Termen [Westernized to Léon Theremin], a largely self-taught Russian electrical engineer and inventor, the theremin is played by moving your hands closer and farther away from two antennae, one regulating frequency and the other amplitude or volume.

Here, from a Soviet film, is a performance the inventor himself via vlogger slonikyouth:

Leon Theremin playing his own instrument

We first because aware of the instrument though its presence in the sound tracks of the science fiction films and space operas we loved as a kid. In those pre-digital synthesizer days, only the theremin could produce those otherworldly sounds so appropriate to otherworldly films.

Here’s a thermin-scored clip from a 1951 film we loved, The Day the Earth Stood Still:

And here’s the composer of that score in a 1956 appearance on the Johnny Carson Show [not the Tonight Show, but an earlier talk show Carson hosted], via theremin artist Peter Pringle:

Johnny Carson Plays THEREMIN

Program notes:

This is an appearance that thereminist Dr. Samuel Hoffman made on the JOHNNY CARSON SHOW in 1956. The 1929 RCA theremin you see in this clip is currently in my collection.

And here’s Pringle himself, playing a theremin featuring a truly magnificent [speaker that we’d just love so have for ourselves]:

Mozart Theremin Concerto

Program notes:

This is the main theme from the “andante” movement of Mozart’s piano concerto #21 in C major (K. 467). The theme was used in the soundtrack of the 1967 Swedish film, ELVIRA MADIGAN, and since then it has been called “The Elvira Madigan Concerto”.

This is a theremin transcription of the theme played on the Moog Ethervox.

Here’s another latter-day theremin artist, Randy George, in a dimly lit performance of a work by Claude Debussy:

Clair de Lune – Randy George, theremin

Program notes:

Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy. Randy George, theremin.

For a higher quality viewing and listening of this video, I made a download available. I remastered the audio and video in March 2013 and compressed a higher resolution mp4. download it here (106MB):

My Facebook Page:

If you are new to the theremin, please discover it in more depth. It is the most fascinating musical instrument in the world (when played as it was originally intended).

The theremin entered my life seven years ago. It has been a tremendously challenging journey, but it is immensely rewarding. The theremin is absolutely deceptively difficult to play with musical precision and finesse.

Clara Rockmore introduced the theremin to the world as a serious musical instrument. Over the course of recent music history, this expressive voice was forgotten.

I feel it’s definitely time to reconnect with the roots of the instrument. With these classical theremin videos, I hope to light the way back home.

Finally, to take things to an absurd extreme, from Japanese vloogger mandarinelectron, a mass performance by nearly 300 folks who play theremin bulk to look like those nesting Russian matryoshka dolls:

“Symphony No.9, Boogie” by Matryomin ensemble “Da”

Program notes:

Recorded at auditorium of Jiyugakuen Myonichikan in Tokyo on 22 Jan. 2011.

Behold the Yaybahar, the analog synthesizer

From Metafilter, a performance on a most remarkable utterly non-digital [well, digital in the sense that fingers (digits) are involved] instrument that is plucked, pounded, and bowed to produce an astounding array of sounds that reminds us of those early digital synthesizers so prominent in the soundtracks of sci fi flicks and psychedelic light shows way back when.

Turkish musician Görkem Şen is the creator of the Yaybahar, and almost as remarkable as tje instrument is room in which he performs.

From video editor Olgu Demir:

Yaybahar by Görkem Şen

Program notes:

This is an acoustic instrument with no electricity or anything… Natural source coded materials which are membrane, coiled spring and string working together. Maybe we can say that this is a new bridge system between string and resonant body. But generally this is a new design and emit obviously natural vibrations and gives new playing abilities.

Very important that it has totally a unique live listening experience!!


Instrument: Yaybahar
Performence: Görkem Şen
Video: Levent Bozkurt
Video editting: Olgu Demir
Sound mix: Mert Aksuna
Place: Alişler Yurdu

A second video, feature a duet with cellist Gyda Valtysdottir in Istanbul affords a closer look at the instrument, albeit in an earlier incarnation.

From Emre Akay:

Gyda Valtysdottir & Görkem Şen – Raw in Istanbul

H/T to Metafilter!

And now for something completely different

Call ‘em the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Danish style.

You’ve probably heard Jalousie ‘Tango Tzigane’ [“Gypsy Tango”] by Danish composer Jacob Thune Hansen Gade, but you’ve never heard it done like this.

First, a conventional performance by the Danmarks Radio SymfoniOrkestret conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos via vlogger mugge62:

But Claus Pilgaard [AKA “Chili Klaus”], a Danish entrepreneur who has made a name for himself selling concoctions made from the hottest peppers on earth, decided he’d like to conduct Gade’s composition himself, with members of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra executing the notes.

We presume a charitable contribution was involved, but he got his way, adding a twist of his own: The musicians would pause midway through and each chomp down on a Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, or a Ghost pepper — all rated at more than a million Scoville units, and with the former pair topping two million. Jalapenos average about 4,000 units by way of comparison.

From Chili Klaus:

Classical orchestra eating the worlds hottest chili peppers …

Program notes:

Members of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra playing Tango Jalousie while eating the worlds hottest chili peppers. The orchestra is conducted by Chili Klaus – a Danish Chili Pepper enthusiast.

Unfortunately The Danish National Chamber Orchestra closes by the end of 2014.

Ah, yes, austerity strikes again.

A terrifying public service announcement

Yes, it’s that time of the year. . .

And just in case you forgot, from Nacho Punch via Metafilter:

Daylight Saving – Movie Trailer

Program note:

This November, they call it Daylight Saving but the thing that needs saving…is us! WHAT TIME IS IT?! #DaylightSavingMovie

And now for something completely different. . .

How about some Haydn?

From  University of California Television and the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014, performances of some of the multitudinous works of Franz Joseph Haydn, the prolific 18th Century Austrian composer whose works set the template for the classical style of orchestral music.

First up, a performance of a work drawn from Greek mythology:

Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos – La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014

Program notes:

The fate of Ariadne, who helped Theseus to overcome the Minotaur and was abandoned by him on the island of Naxos, was an inspiration for numerous works of both visual and performing arts. Haydn took the myth as the subject of his cantata, composed in 1791. Recorded on 8/19/2014.

Next, two of the composer’s 125 trios composed for a little-known instrument, the baryton:

Haydn – Two Baryton Trios – La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014

Program notes:

The baryton is an obsolete stringed instrument of the viol family, played during the 17th and 18th centuries. Haydn composed 126 trios for the instrument, to be played by his patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. Recorded on 8/19/2014

Finally, a pair of trios for a much more familiar instrument:

Haydn – Two Clarinet Trios – La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2014

Program notes:

Haydn’s clarinet trios were probably intended to be performed by friends at home for their own pleasure, rather than as concert works for professional musicians. They are music meant to be enjoyed by both musicians and audience in a relaxed setting. Recorded on 8/19/2014.

David Horsey: Way down yonder. . .

From the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times [click on it to embiggen]:

BLOG Okies

And if you’re wondering about our headline, it comes from this song by Woodie Guthrie, a performed by his younger brother Jack Guthrie and the Oklahomans: