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In an orchestra, it wouldn’t work if individual musicians played whatever notes they wanted. They need to play the notes the composer wrote. It also wouldn’t work for individual orchestra musicians to infuse their own musical interpretations into the music. The conductor is the ultimate arbiter of musical interpretation. It is the orchestra musicians’ job to perform the music accurately and to deliver the conductor’s interpretation. Orchestra musicians who don’t follow the conductor are likely…
Handel’s Water Music is one of the most famous pieces of classical music. The Water Music is actually about 21 orchestral pieces, which usually are published in three suites. But many people do not know that the music was composed for performance on water. The Water Music was composed for King George I. At its premiere on July 17, 1717, a 50-member orchestra, performed the music on a barge while floating up the Thames, with…
Sometimes, contract provisions result in unintended consequences. In Cobras, Mortgages, and Violas: What are Your Contracts and Policies Incentivizing?, I discussed how a contract provision might incentivize (or disincentivize) human behavior. In that article, a music teacher had disincentivized students from switching from violin to viola by giving them poor grades when they couldn’t immediately play the new instrument well. I discussed how modification of the incentives might have changed the result. Sometimes, policies also…
Sometimes a relationship doesn’t work anymore. When we talk about divorce, it typically involves ending a marriage. We’ve all heard of contentious divorces. But a divorce also can be civilized and consist of a dispassionate division of assets. Marriages aren’t the only legal relationships where parties may need to go their separate ways. The relationship between an orchestra and its conductor or music director can seem like a marriage of musical visions. With time, the…
When we go to a classical music concert, we usually know when the piece is over because the conductor will end with a flourish with several repeating chords, called a cadence. However, there is more than one way the ending to a composition. In the simplest form, the piece ends at a double bar (two vertical parallel lines across the staff). But sometimes, a double bar isn’t the end. There might be two short segments…
Recently, I obtained an app called Tunable for my iPhone. This amazing $3.99 app replaces three electronic devices musicians used to have to carry around with them: an electronic tuner, recorder, and metronome. And it does so better than the electronic devices. For the tuner, not only can a musician play a pitch to match to tune an instrument, but the musician also can set the tuner to match the instrument family, frequency of the…
Two famous composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert, died in Vienna while still in their thirties. Mozart died in 1765 at 35, and Schubert died in 1828 at 31.  Both Mozart and Schubert died leaving unfinished work. Mozart and Schubert undoubtedly are not the only composers to have left unfinished work at their deaths. But Mozart’s and Schubert’s unfinished works were not forgotten. Mozart’s Requiem (which another composer finished after Mozart’s death) and Schubert’s…
Most people know that string instruments make a sound when the bow hair is pulled across the string. The type, quality, length, and condition of the bow hair impact the sound produced. Yet, rarely does anyone other than a string player pay any attention to the bow hair itself.   Nearly all bows use horse hair. There are a few synthetic products, but they aren’t suitable for any but the youngest of beginners.   Bow hair comes in…
Anyone can see that violin strings are held up by the bridge, an unfinished, carved piece of wood that sits between the end of the fingerboard and the tailpiece. What is not obvious to the observer is how critical the bridge’s shape and placement is to the violin’s sound.   Violin bridges are removable; they are held in place only by the downward pressure of the strings. It is critical that the feet of the bridge properly fit the…
There are many famous books about how to play the violin. The titles of two have always intrigued me: The Art of Violin Playing by Carl Flesch and the Science of Violin Playing by Rafael Bronstein (who taught my teacher). These two books highlight the dichotomy whether playing the violin (and music generally) is an art or a science.  Nearly everyone would agree that music is an art. It involves creating beauty and moving people’s…