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On the Bochsa Requiem

After Napoleon was first defeat­ed by a coali­tion of Euro­pean pow­ers in 1814, the coali­tion restored the throne of France to Louis XVIII on 6 April 1814. Louis XVIII returned to Paris on 24 April 1814 and the sub­se­quent cel­e­bra­tion of the Bour­bon Restora­tion was the occa­sion for a Motet, by Bochsa, “Com­posed for the cel­e­bra­tion of the Apothéose of Louis XVI and the Hap­py Return of the Bour­bons”.

After “The Hun­dred Days,” dur­ing which Napoleon attempt­ed to regain con­trol, anoth­er, much larg­er cel­e­bra­tion was held on 15 Jan­u­ary 1815 cen­tered on the rebur­ial of the remains of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It was for this cel­e­bra­tion that Bochsa and Cheru­bi­ni com­posed Requiems in hon­or of Louis XVI.

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On the Weber March in C

This orig­i­nal march for wind band, scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clar­inets, 2 horns, 2 bas­soons, 2 trum­pets and a trom­bone, may be the final com­po­si­tion of this famous Ger­man com­pos­er, who died on 5 June 1826 in Lon­don. Already seri­ous­ly ill, Weber went to Lon­don for the 12 April 1826 pre­miere of his opera, Oberon.1 The fol­low­ing month, on 13 May, there was an annu­al din­ner of the Roy­al Soci­ety of Musi­cians. The famous pianist, and teacher of Mendelssohn, Ignaz Moscheles (1794–1870), wrote of this din­ner,

Con­tin­ue read­ing On the Weber March in C

  1. Many musi­cians will be sur­prised to know that the orig­i­nal libret­to of this most famous opera by Weber was in Eng­lish. []
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On the Schumann Abschied zu singen

This won­der­ful work for cho­rus and winds was com­posed after Schu­mann and his fam­i­ly moved to Dres­den in Decem­ber 1844. It was soon after this move that the health of Schu­mann began to sink. His doc­tor, Dr. Hel­big, record­ed that Schu­mann suf­fered from exhaus­tion, insom­nia, audi­to­ry delu­sions, depres­sion, tremors and var­i­ous pho­bias. All this the doc­tor attrib­uted to Schumann’s con­cen­tra­tion on com­po­si­tion which the doc­tor urged Schu­mann to aban­don. For­tu­nate­ly Schu­mann did not fol­low this advice for this became a very pro­duc­tive peri­od of six years in which more than one third of his com­po­si­tions were cre­at­ed.

Con­tin­ue read­ing On the Schu­mann Abschied zu sin­gen

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On the Mendelssohn Marcia funebre

Recent­ly, through the gen­eros­i­ty of the staff at the Pruss­ian Nation­al Library in Berlin, I received a copy of the auto­graph score of this beau­ti­ful orig­i­nal band com­po­si­tion by Mendelssohn. The very first thing one notices is that the auto­graph score has a dif­fer­ent name, Mar­cia fune­bre, a title we asso­ciate with an Ital­ian tra­di­tion, of which Ponchiel­li is a notable exam­ple, in which the music offers a memo­r­i­al con­tem­pla­tion of some­one but was not, in such cas­es, ever intend­ed to be used as func­tion­al music in a funer­al pro­ces­sion. On the oth­er hand, the Ger­man title, Trauer­marsch, as for exam­ple found in the famil­iar com­po­si­tion by Wag­n­er, was in fact actu­al­ly per­formed in a funer­al cer­e­mo­ny. While this is per­haps a minor point, the fact remains that there is noth­ing about this Mendelssohn com­po­si­tion that sounds func­tion­al, much less for the street.

Con­tin­ue read­ing On the Mendelssohn Mar­cia fune­bre

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On the Brahms Begräbnisgesang, op. 13

In 1857 Brahms became the con­duc­tor of the choral soci­ety at Det­mold. The fine wind play­ers avail­able in this court are reflect­ed in a num­ber of Brahms’ com­po­si­tions at this time. Indeed, Flo­rence May, an impor­tant ear­ly biog­ra­ph­er of Brahms, indi­cat­ed that the Ser­e­nade Nr. 1 was orig­i­nal­ly com­posed for a wind octet.

It was at this time that Brahms com­posed his Begräb­nis­ge­sang for cho­rus and wind band, a work Brahms him­self con­duct­ed sev­er­al times, the first under his baton being a per­for­mance at the Gradener’s Acad­e­my in Ham­burg on 2 Decem­ber 2 1859.

Con­tin­ue read­ing On the Brahms Begräb­nis­ge­sang, op. 13

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On the Wagner Trauermusik [1844]

David Whitwell

This score, con­sist­ing of music tak­en from Carl Maria von Weber’s opera, Euryan­the, arranged for large wind band in 1844 by Wag­n­er, is one of the most impor­tant com­po­si­tions in the band’s reper­toire. It is not a funer­al march, in the mem­o­ry of Weber and has always been heard in con­cert per­for­mances as a par­tic­u­lar­ly mov­ing com­po­si­tion, an expe­ri­ence not com­mon in the band’s reper­toire. After a per­for­mance in 1927, for exam­ple, by the New York Phil­har­mon­ic, con­duct­ed by the famous Willem Men­gel­berg, the New York crit­ic, Her­bert Peyser, wrote this music,

was pro­found­ly mov­ing, so filled with spe­cious and majes­tic solem­ni­ty … mag­nif­i­cent and heart-shak­ing …

And that is how audi­ences all over the world have con­tin­ued to hear this mas­ter­piece to the present day.

Con­tin­ue read­ing On the Wag­n­er Trauer­musik [1844]

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The Conductor and his Audience

David Whitwell [2017]

Writ­ten in hon­or of the retire­ment of Dr. Ronald John­son from the Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa

On the final day of my 2017 con­duct­ing tour of Italy I took advan­tage of a rare non-pro­fes­sion­al day to vis­it the famous medieval cathe­dral in Milano. As I was sit­ting in the nave enjoy­ing a qui­et moment of con­tem­pla­tion fol­low­ing a very full five weeks of con­duct­ing and teach­ing sem­i­nars, not to men­tion the time con­sumed by trav­el itself, I began to con­sid­er my fel­low vis­i­tors to this great archi­tec­tur­al mar­vel.

The plaza before this cathe­dral is always filled with hun­dreds of vis­i­tors to Milano and a great many of them stand in very long lines wait­ing to obtain a tick­et to vis­it the cathe­dral and then in addi­tion­al long lines to actu­al­ly enter the church. Why, I began to won­der, are these hun­dreds of ordi­nary tourists, most of whom had prob­a­bly not been in any church dur­ing the past months, will­ing to stand an hour or more in lines to see the inside of this cathe­dral? To be sure, the build­ing is promi­nent­ly fea­tured in all tourist pub­li­ca­tions as one of the things to see in Milano, but is there any­thing else in Milano, save the famous paint­ing by Leonar­do, for which they would make this phys­i­cal sac­ri­fice?

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Essays — Contents

On right hemisphere conducting

Essays

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Right-Hemisphere Conducting, Nr. 6

How the Right-Hemisphere understands Harmony

Some­where in the dim dis­tant reach­es of my mem­o­ry I recall being told of the modes in music that minor was sad and major was hap­py. But what key is nos­tal­gia, which is often a mix­ture of the two emo­tions?

This old def­i­n­i­tion is, of course, a vast sim­pli­fi­ca­tion and with no real basis. If you stop to think about it, the key of A minor includes three major tri­ads and the key of A major has four minor tri­ads. The mate­ri­als being so sim­i­lar reminds me of the cen­turies old debate among philoso­phers on the fine line between plea­sure and pain.

Actu­al­ly, com­mon sense, sup­port­ed by clin­i­cal brain research, tells us that in fact it is melody, not har­mo­ny, which con­veys the emo­tions to the lis­ten­er.1 There appear to be spe­cif­ic melod­ic pat­terns which are sat­is­fy­ing and which come genet­i­cal­ly with birth. The great book on this sub­ject, for con­duc­tors, is the The Lan­guage of Music by Deryck Cooke (Oxford and New York: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1959). Cooke, after much study, presents a very strong case for spe­cif­ic melod­ic pat­terns which com­posers across sev­er­al cen­turies all seem to iden­ti­fy with spe­cif­ic emo­tions.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Right-Hemi­sphere Con­duct­ing, Nr. 6

  1. I acknowl­edge that all melodies have har­mon­ic rela­tion­ships. []
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Right-Hemisphere Conducting, Nr. 5

Time” is not of our World

Whoso­ev­er danceth not, knoweth not the way of life.
Jesus Christ1

Mus­cles were made for move­ment, and rhythm is move­ment.
It is impos­si­ble to con­ceive a rhythm with­out think­ing of a body in motion.
To move, a body requires a quan­tum of space and a quan­tum of time.
The begin­ning and end of the move­ments deter­mine the amount of time and space involved.
Emile Jacques-Dal­croze2

Time, as the word is used in ordi­nary con­ver­sa­tion today, does not exist in the nat­ur­al world. Time, as we used the word today, refers to an arti­fi­cial man-made reg­i­men­ta­tion of our lives and is so for­eign to our nature that we rebel against it every day, as, for exam­ple, is exem­pli­fied in our indi­vid­ual sleep require­ments.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Right-Hemi­sphere Con­duct­ing, Nr. 5

  1. Found in a Gnos­tic Hymn of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry, quot­ed in Curt Sachs, World His­to­ry of the Dance (New York: Nor­ton, 1937), 3. []
  2. Emile Jacques-Dal­croze, in Rhythm Music & Edu­ca­tion (Lon­don: Dal­croze Soci­ety, 1980), 39 []
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Right-Hemisphere Conducting, Nr. 4

When the hall is heard filled by the emotions created by the music,
whose emotions are they?”

First of all, some impor­tant facts about the emo­tions as per­tains to con­duct­ing:
1. The basic emo­tions and their expres­sion are the same for all peo­ple on earth. There is no such thing as a Chi­nese smile, a Ger­man smile, etc.

2. The basic emo­tions are genet­ic, thus they are in place before birth. The smile can be seen in the face of the fetus, but it is not a learned expres­sion for it has nev­er seen a smile.

3. Con­sid­er­ing the sev­er­al mil­lion years which span the devel­op­ment of the human species, the so-called mod­ern peri­od, our peri­od, includes the past 10,000 years. There­fore, since all the devel­op­men­tal process­es are in place, it has been spec­u­lat­ed that if one could go back to the age of the cave painters in Spain and France and adopt a new-born infant and bring him to a fam­i­ly liv­ing today, that child would grow up as a nor­mal child.

The sig­nif­i­cance of this is that Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are to be con­sid­ered iden­ti­cal to us in their emo­tion­al make­up and should not be thought of as men from some dis­tant peri­od. If the con­tem­pla­tive con­duc­tor in his study comes to iden­ti­fy a cer­tain emo­tion in some pas­sage in Mozart, it is very like­ly to be iden­ti­cal with what Mozart him­self felt. Beethoven’s Ron­do, Op. 129, “Rage over a lost pen­ny” express­es a frus­tra­tion every lis­ten­er today can iden­ti­fy with.

4. It is impor­tant to remem­ber that the com­pos­er had the feel­ing first, before he wrote notes on paper. Thus the chal­lenge for the con­duc­tor is to try and under­stand what the com­pos­er felt, not what he wrote.

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Right-Hemisphere Conducting, Nr. 3

Music is not an Art Object

A num­ber of ear­ly philoso­phers debat­ed what is meant by “Art.” Do we mean by Art what the artist has in his mind, or is it the actu­al man­u­al activ­i­ty of the artist or do we mean by Art the fin­ished art object? The ear­ly Church fathers reject­ed all three, say­ing, No, the cred­it must go to God for he made the artist.

The ques­tion is even more com­pli­cat­ed, yet more inter­est­ing, when the sub­ject is Music. The ancient Greeks sep­a­rat­ed Music from the oth­er arts, pri­mar­i­ly because Music alone among them can­not be seen. This caused them to clas­si­fy paint­ing as a craft, but Music as some­thing divine.

Cer­tain­ly Music is some­thing dif­fer­ent from a Paint­ing. A Paint­ing is a past tense com­plet­ed object hang­ing on a wall, where­as Music only exists in live per­for­mance in the present tense. For this rea­son, a Paint­ing is a noun, but Music is a verb. A Paint­ing can be owned by an indi­vid­ual, but no one owns Mozart. It is for these rea­sons alone that Music must be treat­ed sep­a­rate­ly from Paint­ing and Sculp­ture. Dance is even more prob­lem­at­ic but it depends fun­da­men­tal­ly on Music. In fact, some ancient Greeks referred to Dance as the 6th part of Music, the part you could see.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Right-Hemi­sphere Con­duct­ing, Nr. 3

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Right-Hemisphere Conducting, Nr. 2

How to Write a Love Letter

For rea­sons reviewed in the first lit­tle essay in this series, here you are—the real you, trapped in the right-hemi­sphere of the brain which is mute, with respect to lan­guage, and vic­tim of an edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem which pri­mar­i­ly failed to edu­cate the real you. Tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion addressed itself to edu­cat­ing the left-hemi­sphere, assem­bling a moun­tain of data you can con­sult if you need to and all of it out­side your own expe­ri­ence. Tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion ignored, or per­haps we should say was not allowed, any edu­ca­tion­al steps for you to dis­cov­er your own emo­tion­al tem­plate. Here, of course, is the per­fect role for music edu­ca­tion, but so far music edu­ca­tors are afraid to take on this vital role. And so soci­ety leaves it to you to dis­cov­er this for your­self, even though the feel­ings you pos­sess as an indi­vid­ual will deter­mine all impor­tant choic­es in your life.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Right-Hemi­sphere Con­duct­ing, Nr. 2

  1. The right-hemi­sphere con­tains vocab­u­lary known before the age of 6 or 7, but it can­not make a sen­tence with these words. In the case of left-hemi­sphere injury, how­ev­er, the right-hemi­sphere can sing these words. []
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Right-Hemisphere Conducting, Nr. 1

Why the Students don’t listen to you in Rehearsal

In a recent paper, “Why Music Edu­ca­tion is no longer about Music,” I reviewed for the read­er the basic char­ac­ter­is­tics of our bicam­er­al brain.1 With respect to the pur­pos­es of the con­duc­tor we have a right hemi­sphere of the brain which is a depos­i­to­ry of per­son­al expe­ri­ences, includ­ing the emo­tions. Here, then, is under­stood the expe­ri­ence of pain, but it is an indi­vid­ual under­stand­ing based on a par­tic­u­lar individual’s own per­son­al expe­ri­ence with pain. It is the expe­ri­en­tial essence of the right hemi­sphere which makes that side the real us. It is there that we dif­fer with every­one else on the plan­et.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Right-Hemi­sphere Con­duct­ing, Nr. 1

  1. Since the ini­tial research which won the Nobel Prize in Med­i­cine, there has been a flood of pub­li­ca­tions which con­tin­ue to attempt to map the cir­cuits among our 3 tril­lion brain cells. All this notwith­stand­ing, the basic divi­sion of a ratio­nal left hemi­sphere and an expe­ri­en­tial right hemi­sphere remain valid. []
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On the Significance of the Title

Reprint­ed from “On the Sig­nif­i­cance of the Title,” The NBA Jour­nal, Vol. LV, Nr. 2, Win­ter, 2015.

In April 2015, I will be con­duct­ing an all-city hon­or band in San Diego and have pro­grammed Wagner’s beau­ti­ful arrange­ment of the music of von Weber known today as Trauer­musik, a work I like to pro­gram to demon­strate to oth­er con­duc­tors and stu­dents the artis­tic free­dom they are allowed with respect to Time. But as I began to think about these young musi­cians I would be mak­ing music with, I began to won­der if the title itself, Trauer­musik, would play an undue influ­ence on their think­ing. The word trauer, which does not trans­late well into Eng­lish, in Ger­man means “mourn­ing” or “grief,” emo­tions which do not rep­re­sent well the actu­al music of von Weber which Wag­n­er select­ed to arrange for wind band. At this point in the opera, Euryan­the is alone in the for­est, med­i­tat­ing on life and death but any sense of grief has more to do with hav­ing lost her lover, Adolar.

Con­tin­ue read­ing On the Sig­nif­i­cance of the Title

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Tenuto and Fermata: Rebels Against the Tyranny of Notation

For a mil­lion years or more, singers and instru­men­tal­ists play­ing on nat­ur­al instru­ments made music freely with the sole goal of express­ing their feel­ings. But once nota­tion appeared the “rules” of music began to be addressed to the eye rather than the ear. The cre­ation of bar lines in the eleventh cen­tu­ry cre­at­ed units of time itself which lent to the eye the appar­ent rule that music must be con­tained with­in these units and the free­dom of the ancient musi­cians was now lost for good. The sub­se­quent his­to­ry of nota­tion was a con­stant effort to allow an escape from these pre­set units of time, includ­ing such things as col­ored nota­tion and Pro­por­tion­al nota­tion. By the time of the Baroque com­posers such as Prae­to­rius and Fres­cobal­di began to write “just ignore the nota­tion; play faster or slow­er as you desire.” And by the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry it is amaz­ing to see the lengths com­posers such as Haydn went to to write music that fell between those bar lines, but sound­ed as if it were in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent meter or tem­po. By the advent of music schools in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry a new rigid­i­ty became the rule and as a result today no stu­dent believes he is enti­tled to expand a mea­sure of music in per­for­mance sole­ly on the basis of his feel­ings.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Tenu­to and Fer­ma­ta: Rebels Against the Tyran­ny of Nota­tion

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Why Music Education is no longer about Music

On the Nature of Music

There are three impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics of music, which I think most peo­ple would agree with.

  1. Music is for the ear. We do not eat music, nor smell music, nor see music. In our mod­ern age we call what we see on paper, “music,” but it is not. What is on paper is in part a sym­bol of music, but it is a sym­bol of only the gram­mar of music. There are no sym­bols on the paper for feel­ing or emo­tions, which is the real role of music.
  2. Music exists only in live per­for­mance before a lis­ten­er. A record­ing is not music. The record­ing bears the same rela­tion­ship to music as does a pho­to­graph to a real per­son.
  3. The pur­pose of music is to under­stand and com­mu­ni­cate emo­tions. While every­one under­stood this for thou­sands of years, it became clear with the mod­ern clin­i­cal find­ings on our bicam­er­al brain. The right brain, where the exper­i­men­tal and per­son­al emo­tions lie, is mute.1 It can­not make a sen­tence. The left brain, a depos­i­to­ry of sec­ondary data, includes lan­guage, but when it comes to talk­ing about music or writ­ing about music, as is clear­ly also true with the emo­tions of love, the left brain is tasked with writ­ing about some­thing it knows noth­ing about. Thus the impor­tance of music—a lan­guage of feel­ing which can be heard and under­stood by all.

Con­tin­ue read­ing Why Music Edu­ca­tion is no longer about Music

  1. Con­tin­u­ing research since Dr. Sperry’s Nobel Prize win­ning research on split-brain patients may have caused some lack of con­fi­dence in some read­ers, for it demon­strates more and more the com­plex cross wiring in the three tril­lion cells of our brain. How­ev­er the basic fact of the bicam­er­al brain remains clear, the left side designed for data and the right side for per­son­al expe­ri­en­tial under­stand­ing. []
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The Maxime Principle: Thoughts on the origin of dynamic markings

In a com­mu­ni­ca­tion we recent­ly received from Pro­fes­sor Maxime in Paris, she encour­aged all instru­men­tal­ists to begin think­ing of the Ital­ian piano and forte sym­bols to mean rel­a­tive degrees of emo­tion­al inten­si­ty and not the stan­dard prac­tice of indi­cat­ing only “soft” and “loud” sound.

This rec­om­men­da­tion, that the piano and forte sym­bols should reflect “emo­tion­al inten­si­ty,” is per­haps a bit star­tling for those of us who have been taught that the pur­pose of these sym­bols was to reflect only the degrees of loud­ness or soft­ness of the actu­al vol­ume of sound itself. For those who believe that the sole pur­pose of music is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of feel­ing and emo­tions, Pro­fes­sor Maxime’s prin­ci­ple is a wel­come reminder that in ear­li­er times the piano and forte sym­bols were also asso­ci­at­ed with feel­ing and were often the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the per­former, not the com­pos­er. But the sym­bols are intro­duced to us today as being of an objec­tive char­ac­ter with no dis­cus­sion of how these sym­bols are relat­ed to feel­ing. While Pro­fes­sor Maxime speaks of “emo­tion­al inten­si­ty,” we rel­e­gate these sym­bols to the sta­tus of being only “dynam­ic mark­ings.”

Con­tin­ue read­ing The Maxime Prin­ci­ple: Thoughts on the ori­gin of dynam­ic mark­ings