Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Really Wanna Go Outside

They've been forecasting snow for today all week, but since it was in the upper 50s on Thursday, I paid little attention to the dire warnings. But when I woke this morning, our bedroom was lighter than usual and pulling back the curtains confirmed my fears - it snowed in the night and big, wet flakes were still making their way to the ground.

Sam was ecstatic and eagerly showed the snow to Noah as pajama-clad, they peered out the front window together. He praised the virtues of making snow angels and eating snow and throwing it into the air to a barely-comprehending Noah, straining to get out and play. But we had a spiritual enrichment retreat all day at church, so Sam had to wait until this afternoon to venture outside.

When he was finally let loose in the front yard, the sun had come out and was busy falling, casting long shadows across the snow. True to his word, he set out to roll and eat as much snow as possible:
He played outside while I shoveled our driveway until his cheeks and nose were bright red and his nostrils were running and still he didn't want to come in. Noah, on the other hand, was forced to stay inside. He stood at the front window, eagerly watching Sam and wishing that he too could crawl around in the snow:Noah's clearly had big brother worship for quite some time - it's why he's already crawling and why he already pounces on Sam at every opportunity. He wants Sam's attention, even when that attention pains him physically. But this afternoon gave us a glimmer of our future, when both boys are running and playing and dancing outside together. Like Noah, I can hardly wait.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Timeline of Music in the Silent Film Era

Wonder what I've been up to this semester since my posting has been way down? I've been prepping a new class on film music. I cobbled together the following list for my students this morning as I realized I was jumping back and forth in time over the course of three class periods and I thought this timeline might help them. I thought you might find it interesting too.

1879 Eadweard Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope allows the projection of a series of photographic slides giving the impression of movement.

1888-1892 Edison develops a motion picture camera which he calls the Kinetoscope

1892 Edison sets up the Black Maria motion picture studio in West Orange, NJ (closed in 1901)

1894 “Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze” (aka “Fred Ott’s Sneeze”) is the earliest surviving copyright Edison film.

1894 The Holland Brothers open New York City’s first Kinetoscope parlor.

1895 Edison’s Kinetophone is introduced. It allowed single viewers to watch a film while simultaneously hearing a soundtrack recording. The synchronization was imperfect, and the machine did not find a market. A short Edison film from 1894 or 1895 shows two men dancing while another plays the violin into a phonograph horn (this is known as the Dickson Experimental Sound Film and you can see it and learn more about Edison’s early sound experiments by clicking on the hyperlink). The soundtrack, featuring music from the light opera The Chimes of Normandy by Jean Robert Planquette, was discovered on a broken wax cylinder in the 1990s and restored.

1895 In December, the Lumière brothers give their first public presentation, in Paris, of their Cinematographe. About 10 short films were shown, including Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat. It is believed that the films were provided with live musical accompaniment on the piano. This event is often considered to be the beginnings of the modern cinema.

1895-96 Several companies work on the development of their own versions of the motion picture projection camera. Edison premiered the Vitascope (which his lab produced for another company) in 1896; they switched to his own version called the Projectoscope or Projecting Kinetoscope.

1896 By this time, motion picture shows (usually a series of very short films) were regularly shown at Vaudeville theatres.

1890s-1920s There are numerous experiments synchronizing motion pictures and phonographs, in Europe and the United States, in this period. These systems are not commercially viable until the premiere of the Vitaphone system in the mid-1920s. There are also a variety of techniques using live actors, musicians, singers, and sound effects specialists to accompany film showings at some theatres. Most film showings probably featured some continuous musical accompaniment, by a pianist, organist, or a small band or orchestra.

1903 Edwin Porter, working for Edison’s production company, finishes what is considered the first American narrative film, The Great Train Robbery, initiating a sea change of American film production toward narrative film.

1905 The first nickelodeon theater opens in Pittsburgh, offering five or six short films, each one-reel long, for the admission price of a nickel.

1907 Lee De Forest patents the audion tube, a “thermenionic triode valve” that was a gas-filled tube with three filaments. It allowed a small electric signal to be amplified and played over loudspeakers.

1907 Eugene Augustin Lauste exhibits his Photocinematophone which was the first projector to use sound-on-film technology.

1908 Camille Saint-Saëns composes what is widely considered to be the first original movie score for the French Film d’Art production, L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise.

1909 Edison company sends out its “Kinetogram” newsletter featuring musical suggestions for 7 of its films, essentially the first cue sheets ever produced.

1909 Gregg A. Frelinger publishes his Motion Picture Piano Music: Descriptive Music to Fit the Action, Character, or Scene of Moving Pictures, a collection of 51 relatively easy pieces for piano.

1913 The first of the Sam Fox Moving Picture Music volumes is published, with musical cues for various moods and national-ethnic settings composed by J. S. Zamecnik.

1913 The 2,460-seat Regent Theater opened in New York, billed as the “first de luxe theatre built expressly for showing movies.” It started a movie palaces: the 3,500-seat Strand in 1914; the 1,900-seat Rialto in 1916; the 2,100-seat Rivoli in 1917; and the 5,300-seat Capitol in 1919 (and those are just the palaces in New York City).

1915 Joseph Carl Breil writes his massive original score for D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.

1915 Universal Film Company begins publishing pre-release cue sheets for its films prepared by Max Winkler.

1915-1922 Scientists in Europe and the US develop optical recording (sound-on-film) systems, and work on improving phonographic recording.

1919 The Kinobibltiothek (generally called the Kinothek) is published in Berlin. Compiled by Giuseppe Becce, Kinothek became the most widely used anthology in the US.

1924 The first showing, at Yale University, of a film with a synchronized, electrically recorded sound-on-disc soundtrack, on a system developed by Western Electric.

1925 Erno Rapee publishes his Encylopedia of Music for Motion Pictures, a compendium of musical cues organized by object (aeroplane, musicbox) mood (agitated, passion), setting (pastoral), and ethnic-national types (from Argentine Republic to Wales). The musical cues are excerpts from 18th and 19th century European composers and contemporary American ones.

1925 The small film studio Warner Brothers is the only studio that decides to invest in Western Electric’s sound-on-disc system.

1926 The film Don Juan, the first Warner Brothers feature film to use the Western Electric system, premieres in New York City. The film has no dialogue, but its continuous musical score is presented via Western Electric’s Vitaphone sound-on-disc system.

1927 The success of Warner Brothers second Vitaphone effort, The Jazz Singer - a mixture of silent film and musical that featurs two scenes with spoken dialogue synched with the onscreen characters - spells the end of the silent era.

1928 Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie introduced Mickey Mouse and was also the first film with a fully-synchronized soundtrack including music, dialogue, and sound effects (it used a sound-on-film recording system).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Star Trek - The Opera

I've been completely swamped by Romantic opera these past weeks. Last Wednesday it was Rossini, Bellini, and Weber; Monday it was Wagner and Bizet; today it's Verdi and Musorgsky. I've been watching and listening to so much opera, that I'm beginning to see everything around me as a potential opera.

Thankfully, I'm not alone.

For your midweek enjoyment, I present, The Wrath of Khan as a Romantic Italian opera:

And really, is there an actor alive who needs to be hamming it up on the operatic stage more than William Shatner? You'll never look at Star Trek the same again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Watching the Oscars with a Toddler

Last night, Noah had gone to bed and Sam and I were playing when I suggested we take an early bath and watch a bit of the Oscars. I though he'd enjoy the song and dance numbers at the beginning and was curious to hear his reactions.

I wasn't disappointed.

On seeing Marisa Tomei's Oscar dress: "She looks like a polar bear. Grrrrowllll! (his polar bear imitation)."

On seeing Alicia Keys's Oscar dress: "I like that one. It's pretty." Me: "Why do you like it?" Sam: "It's super cool!"

On seeing Robert Downey Jr. in the Oscar Audience: "Look! E-X-I-T! There's an exit sign behind his head!"

On watching Hugh Jackman's opening song: "Is that a bus (referring to the batcycle)? The wheels on the bus go round and round! *singing*"

On seeing the award for Best Original Screenplay (20 minutes into the show): "I'm tired of this. Let's watch Thomas!"

As you can tell, the color commentary from my house was more entertaining than the show itself.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Return of Kindermusik

Saturday mornings are Kindermusik mornings at our house, and Sam never lets us forget it. Joy recently bought a chart that we have hanging in the hallway to let Sam see his day. It features pictures of him getting the paper and eating and brushing his teeth and playing and all the fun things he does in a typical day. It also features the green cards, notes that say "Today we will" or "Today we will go."

Those cards are Sam's favorites.

Saturday morning, we slide in the "Today we will go" card and follow it with the "to Kindermusik" card and when Sam sees it, he goes crazy. He loves going to Kindermusik to play his instruments:He loves going to Kindermusik to play with the other boys and girls.

He loves going to Kindermusik to learn new songs he can sing at the top of his lungs at home.

He loves going to Kindermusik to have new movement activities to try at home on Noah.

and he especially loves going to Kindermusik this spring because his unit opened with getting to pretend to drive around like cars to a song called "traffic jammers:"After class one week, he leaned over to Joy and said: "I like Wyatt because he's the fastest race car in the class."

Yep, we love Kindermusik around here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Sam generally likes one of three cereals for his breakfast: cheerios, chex, or shredded wheat. Since he's only three, we have always gotten the mini-wheats for him, and he'll eat them two out of three mornings right now.

A few weeks ago, a new kind was on sale, which you see at the right. Mini-wheats big bite. When you open up the package, you find regular size shredded wheat, the kind that you have to tear and that used to be called "shredded wheat."

I gave him some this morning and, as is his want, he began puzzling out the words, with my helpful prompting when needed. Surprised when I told him that "mini" just meant small, he asked "so this is small big shredded wheat?"

Welcome to the wonderful world of marketing, Sam.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

He's the One to Take Over the World

For a long time, I've assumed that Sam would be the son who took over the world. After all, he spends most of his days now working out ways to bend me and Joy to his will. ("not really" is his new favorite phase, uttered as he thinks of another option to the one or two we've given him) We knew he needed to go to the doctor for his sickness last week when he was compliant.

Noah, on the other hand, is a mellow child. He'll sit contentedly in your lap for hours, smiles at everyone he meets, and rarely gets frustrated. I figured he'd be Sam's backup to taking over the world, but not the instigator.

Turns out I was wrong.

Noah has finally picked up signing and, like most kids, his first sign to get wide use was "more." "More" is made by putting the tips of all the fingers together on each hand and then tapping that cluster together. (You can see a signing video here, if you aren't familiar with the sign.) When Noah signs "more," however, he rolls his fingers together nods vigorously. It seems to remind me of someone...

Oh yes, that's right, he's Mr. Burns. Before long, Noah will be saying "excellent" as he quietly plots to take over the world, bending Sam to his will in a role-reversal we're all expecting now.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A New Note!

I've long been fascinated by a performance currently going on in the St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany. In 2001, a performance of John Cage's work "Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow aS Possible)" was begun. For the work, Cage did not specific how slow the performer should go, so the four page work often gets played for around an hour. The organizers of this new concert decided that since the organ in the church was built in 1361, or 639 years before the original start date of 200, that the performance should last 639 years. That's right, a musical performance that will late 20 generations.

Thousands of people have flocked to the small church since the first note on September 5, 2001, and I'd love to go for an afternoon. But since I can't go anytime soon (and if I did, Sam would get restless and probably go change the notes on the organ), I'll content myself with giving you this update that last week, on February 5, the seventh change occurred. If you'd like to see it happen, here's a short video from the BBC which covered the event with typical wit.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cycle of Sickness

When we started sending Sam to school, I jokingly cursed his school as an incubator for sickness. He came home with all sorts of colds, so much so that I looked forward to vacation so he wouldn't be sick for a while.

Now, with two children at home, our house has become an incubator of sick much more powerful than school because Sam insists on eskimo kisses for everyone in his life.

Noah developed a small cold last week, but by Saturday was over it enough that we went to our church potluck at a friend's house. We thought everything was getting better until Tuesday, when a great cloud of sick came to rest on our house. We discovered that Noah had been exposed to RSV at the potluck and when he started wheezing a bit, Joy decided to take him to the doctor. We heard Sam screaming in his sleep at night with a high fever, so Joy decided to take him to the doctor.

The prognosis delivered this morning? Not only does Noah have RSV, he also has an ear infection. Sam's high fever? Could be any number of things: his strep, the one ear that is so impacted with wax the doctor couldn't see the ear drum, or the other ear that has an ear infection in which the ear drum has ruptured. That's right, one ear is stopped up, the other is draining.

All this means that our house is under quarantine for the next week. We'll be airlifting in our food and taking daily baths in Lysol. Care packages are welcome.

Heroes in Arkansas

I like me some Heroes. Sure you could knit a sweater with the dangling plot threads by this point, and it is disappointing that female characters die much more regularly than male ones, but where else can you get a weekly dose of over-the-top comic book action? Still, when Monday night's episode "Blood and Trust" revealed that the heroes had crash landed in Arkansas, the lack of research into the setting was so obvious that Joy leaned over to me at one point and remarked, "It's like they threw a dart at the map and said 'give us a random out of the way location for this action to take place.'"

What prompted Joy's snarky response? For starters, the plane crashes in a valley between two hills in the middle of stunted, sparse tree growth that is obviously California. Supposedly they are outside Russellville, Arkansas, but they didn't bother to do any dressing for the area to make it look like the Ozark outskirts. Instead, they relied on three things to let us know that we were in Arkansas:

1. When Hiro decides to ditch his orange, government-issue jumpsuit, he borrows clothes from a trailer home that has the day's wash hanging outside. And what shirt does he pass over when picking clothes? This one:2. When the heroes are planning their next move, they gather behind a one-room, white clapboard Baptist church.

3. Ando can't get a direct plane to Russellville because no one knows where it is, causing him to blurt out in frustration, "don't you know Clinton?"

There you go: redneck trailer homes, small Baptist churches, and Bill Clinton. All you need to tell us we're in Arkansas. But what most made me laugh is that the producers didn't bother to learn that right outside Russellville is a nuclear power plant. So when the plane crashes and then an airstrike is ordered to cover-up the evidence, they are bringing in heavy firepower next door to a nuclear reactor.

But perhaps I'm being too hard on them. Maybe they're wanting to go in a new mutant powers direction. What's one more thing in an already-overcrowded plot?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Classical Listening Journals

In case you're interested in seeing what my students are up to these days, the first round of listening journals for my writing intensive music history class are up now. This semester the students are posting a journal and then responding to someone else's post after reading and listening to the same piece. There are some remarkable debates, so head on over and check them out.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bargaining Out of Bed

A few weeks ago, Sam discovered that even though we put him in bed, he doesn't have to stay.

While that seems a small realization, the result was an hour of us silently putting Sam back into his bed and losing all time to ourselves every night. So Joy remembered something her Mom does with her students and told Sam that every night he had two passes to get out of bed and after that, he had to stay put.

We knew we were in trouble when he started planning his passes before bed each night.

Last week, he got out of bed so many times, that I told him on Wednesday that he had used all of his passes for the week. He wanted to know when he got new passes. I told him Sunday. He asked when Sunday was. I told him it was the day we went to church.

Fast forward to tonight. Joy's putting Sam to bed, and Sam announces that since it was Sunday he has new passes and follows the statement with his first demand: "I need a drink of water for my first pass." Dutifully, Joy goes and gets him a drink. Then he proclaims, "I will come and get you for my second pass. Go away, Mama." Joy goes and does some of her getting ready for bed routine and then hears Sam padding down the hall to get her. When she goes back into his room she reminds him, "Sam, you're out of passes now."

Sam pauses, thinks a moment, then shouts, "Look! I found some passes hiding here under the covers!" Joy gently tells him that passes don't work that way, you can't just find them. Undeterred, Sam continues, "and I found some popcorn and a marshmallow. I'll feed you Mama." Joy, trying to keep from laughing, mumbles "Thanks" and something about how she was hungry. Sam follows up by saying, "and I found some money! Here you go!"

At this point Joy has to leave to keep from cracking up at all the things Sam is "finding." She comes downstairs to tell me the tale, and Sam is hot on her heels, offering more pretend money to her. Only three and a half, and he's already figured out you can buy your way out of most any situation. And since he's using pretend money to do it, he obviously has a future on Wall Street.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Review - David Arnold's Quantum of Solace

In my film music class last night, we were discussing how music can work to tell us new or deeper things about the characters we see on screen. One of my examples was John Barry's score for Goldfinger, a score often dismissed as "suited to the slick, hard-edge, dehumanized nature of those films."

I find the score a fascinating one because Barry conflates Bond's theme with that of Goldfinger's, in essence showing that both of them are cold, calculating, and deal in death. In other words, the music makes a more complicated figure out of Bond than we usual think.

This notion of using the Bond theme to dig at untold dimensions in the character began with Barry, but I find David Arnold keeping the tradition alive in his scores for the new Bond movies. I just reviewed Quantum of Solace and found new ways in which the Bond character is developed through the music. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Today the Stairs, Tomorrow the World

Noah is now fully conversant in the tactics of crawling. So much so that he now strains to be down whenever he's awake. (unless Sam is around because Sam views a Noah on the ground as a Noah who wants to tussle) I thought, then, you deserved a gratuitous Noah crawling picture:
The problem with his great crawling ability is that he's discovered and is determined to conquer the barrier known as the stairs. Last Sunday morning when we were getting ready for church, he scooted out of the bathroom and instead of following his usual heat-seeking missile practice to Sam's room, he went straight towards and straight down the stairs. We gasped, time slowed, and Noah bounced. Our pediatrician friend at church pronounced him fine, and since then he's elected to go at the stairs from the bottom. So far, he can get up on the bottom stair just fine but then slides back down. It won't be long until he's all the way up.

I'm voting for a cage about right now.