Monday, December 29, 2008

Fun with Google Adsense

...and drive Toyota! Toyota is awesome! Toyota has been sponsoring blogs like mine fervently, keeping the google Adsense system in business!


you scream,


But G-M isn't sponsoring wonderful blogs like mine, like... TOYOTA is. TOYOTA supports American cars, and helps employ Americans, whose wages--non-union as they may be--nonetheless reflect UAW market conditions. TOYOTA doesn't want to see America fail.

Toyota: makers of the Paultan

and the Corolla

and many other cars. Like the Tundra, the Prius, the Camry, Solara, Highlander, Rav 4, and the Lexus line.

Other things that are cool are celebrity ring-tones to your phone by bands like the Jonas Brothers and acts like Miley Cyrus, thumbnails of Scarlett Johansson, and Saturday Night Live embeded videos of Rod Blagojevich, and news from your favorite sports teams, like the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks, and a host of other teams.

I also wish I could get supported by BCS bowl updates for bowls like the

EagleBank Bowl
Dec. 2011 a.m.
Washington, D.C.
Wake Forest 29, Navy 19
New Mexico
Dec. 202:30 p.m.
Albuquerque, NM
Colorado St. 40, Fresno St. 35
St. Petersburg
Dec. 204:30 p.m.
St. Petersburg, FL
South Florida 41, Memphis 14
Pioneer Las Vegas
Dec. 208 p.m.
Las Vegas, NV
Arizona 31, BYU 21
R+L Carriers New Orleans
Dec. 218:15 p.m.
New Orleans, LA
Southern Miss 30, Troy 27 (OT)
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia
Dec. 238 p.m.
San Diego, CA
TCU 17, Boise St. 16
Sheraton Hawaii
Dec. 248 p.m.
Honolulu, HI
Notre Dame 49, Hawaii 21
Motor City
Dec. 267:30 p.m.
Detroit, MI
Florida Atlantic 24, Central Michigan 21
Meineke Car Care
Dec. 271 p.m.
Charlotte, NC
West Va. 31, UNC 30
Champs Sports
Dec. 274:30 p.m.
Orlando, FL
Florida St. 42, Wisconsin 13
Dec. 278 p.m.
San Francisco, CA
California 24, Miami (Fla.) 17
Dec. 288:15 p.m.
Shreveport, LA
Louisiana Tech 17, N. Illinois 10
Dec. 293 p.m.
Birmingham, AL
Rutgers vs. N.C. State
Valero Alamo
Dec. 298 p.m.
San Antonio, TX
Northwestern vs. Missouri
Roady's Humanitarian
Dec. 304:30 p.m.
Boise, ID
Maryland vs. Nevada
Dec. 308 p.m.
Houston, TX
Rice vs. Western Michigan
Pacific Life Holiday
Dec. 308 p.m.
San Diego, CA
Oregon vs. Oklahoma State
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces
Dec. 3112 p.m.
Fort Worth, TX
Air Force vs. Houston
Brut Sun
Dec. 312 p.m.
El Paso, TX
Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh
Gaylord Hotels Music City
Dec. 313:30 p.m.
Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt vs. Boston College
Dec. 315:30 p.m.
Tempe, Ariz.
Kansas vs. Minnesota
Dec. 317:30 p.m.
Atlanta, GA
LSU vs. Georgia Tech
Jan. 111 a.m.
Tampa, FL
Iowa vs. South Carolina
Capital One
Jan. 11 p.m.
Orlando, FL
Georgia vs. Michigan State
Konica Minolta Gator
Jan. 11 p.m.
Jacksonville, FL
Nebraska vs. Clemson
Rose presented by Citi
Jan. 14:30 p.m.
Pasadena, CA
Penn State vs. USC
FedEx Orange
Jan. 18:30 p.m.
Miami, FL
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati
AT&T Cotton
Jan. 22 p.m.
Dallas, TX
Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss
AutoZone Liberty
Jan. 25 p.m.
Memphis, TN
East Carolina vs. Kentucky
Allstate Sugar
Jan. 28 p.m.
New Orleans, LA
Utah vs. Alabama
Jan. 312 p.m.
Toronto, Canada
Connecticut vs. Buffalo
Tostitos Fiesta
Jan. 58 p.m.
Glendale, AZ
Texas vs. Ohio State
Jan. 68 p.m.
Mobile, AL
Tulsa vs. Ball State
FedEx BCS National Championship
Jan. 88 p.m.
Miami, FL
Oklahoma vs. Florida


UPDATE: Thanks to my newest advertiser, Ford--I think somebody at the Ad Sense headquarters read this post and got embarassed and finally decided to advertise on an American blog.

And for the record, I drive a Ford Focus. Superior handling capability, and a roomy enough cabin for a small adult, his companion-dachshund, Maddy, and his entourage of junk.

Why, just last week I emptied out dozens of Vitamin Water bottles from my front seats. I have another dozen Vitamin Waters in my trunk (yet to be consumed), courtesy of my sister. I love the refreshing flavor of Revive (tm) and, to a lesser extent,

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Special Teams Unit?

Like money in politics, every change in a sports rule is rife with loopholes. Well, here's an idea.

Every week, like the Bears just did with the Houston Texans, a team snatches up a dubious-looking fumble, the defense celebrates, the Quarterback takes his time, enters into his snap count, and--after one or two minutes of watching replays up in the booth--the coach of the (now-)defense throws the red flag at the last second. The weaselly miscall gets overturned, predictably, and the television announcers have just mumbled awkwardly for 90 awful seconds.

What's more, refs now err on the side of the fumble because they know that there is the cushion of the challenge. More dubious-looking calls are being made on spots and fumbles. Perhaps teams ought to take a page from hockey line-changing and employ a little bit of agility to exploit these new strategic areas.

Why not have a quick-snap unit, all third-string, perhaps, always at the ready? They have a QB sneak in the I-formation ready to run in fifteen seconds. In the initial stages of having such a unit, of course, you would draw the other team off-sides, force them into burning time-outs, or rush them into foolish challenges.

There are other ways that a quick-snap (or, in this case, quick-punt) unit could be used. For instance, let's say it's 4th and 4 around midfield. Why employ "sportsmanship" and wait for the returner to get in position? (Unless there's a rule defining this.) Again, this could be a way to cause timeouts to be burned or force the returning team into a first-down-causing illegal formations, too-many-men-on-the-fields, etc.

Just a thought: what do you think?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Words. Words. Words. Words. Words.

Ha, why can't we have cable talkshow guests like this?

This is really funny.

Wonder where Hannity and Colmes came from?

Skip to 7:15 if you're in a hurry.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm defiantly blogging.

I'm a TA for the University of Iowa's massive "Great Musicians" class, and I've been doing a whole pile of grading of concert reports lately. (For those of you outside of UI, "Great Musicians" is our local, anachronistic euphemism for music appreciation.)

There's one malapropism that I've been seeing everywhere lately. I wonder where it comes from, or if this is always a frequent switcheroo:

Defiantly subbing in for definitely.

I remember trying to dabble in a typewriter a few summers back. I understood how my spelling had slipped a bit. With "defiantly," however, instead of "definitely," you can end up with some pretty hilarious sentences.

"The band defiantly worked hard on this music."

Yeah! Take that conductor!

I'm not by any means a grammar snob--I'm wondering if there's some way we pronounce things, and if that somehow leads to the mistakes? I wouldn't be making light of this if just one person did it. It's a bona fide grammatical crime spree!

Kidding. Okay, back to grading/medieval polyphony/listening to Radiohead and then realizing that it's making my medieval transcription very difficult. Then I turn off my Itunes, and realize... that my medieval transcription is still very difficult. Then I grade some more, set my media player to shuffle, feel guilty for not transcribing, and start the whole mess over again.

And now, in T-Spoons, I'm defiantly blogging about the whole cycle. Like, whoa.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On this day in music history...

Maybe this is madly narcissistic, but why don't we think of ourselves historically? Maybe there's cold comfort, economically, when I find I don't have any money, that we're in an economic crisis, and so I'm some sort of Representative Man or something. What I'm thinking about, though, is less personal and more collective and academic: the relationship (or not) of ourselves and our activities to what we consider important.

I spent a great deal of contemplation sifting through articles about the history of brass instruments this semester. That was really the one bright spot in an utterly overwhelming academic semester that found me dabbling in mathematical proportions at every turn--and ending up confused and feeling stupid for the first time in a while academically (since, hmm.... my last math class, Geology, and Latin).

But in the course of my ad-hoc investigations, I found that some of the best musical scholarship right now isn't about Bach or Haydn or Beethoven, etc., but about reg'lar folk. This is sort of what I want to do, something about music as an element of everyday culture. There are fancy terms for this, like "superstructure" or, in a very slightly less politically-toxic phrasing, "people's history".

I'm sometimes, as a historian who has grown up around and in the brass world, a bit embarassed, a bit apologetic, that Arnold is not Haydn; Plog is not Boulez. Whatever. Brass music's not about that, not about playing background music for cocktail parties for fat cats (although it can be, and that's awesome), not about winning Pulitzer Prizes, although that's cool too. It's about doing it! There's so much research about the place of brass bands in the 19th-century American social fabric. It's where your neighbors are, it's where you meet people and connect in a social way, like an Elk's Club or a church... except instead of scripture, you argue over articulations.

I think that's what keeps me involved in the brass band movement. First of all, it's a connection with my dad, I think. I remember going to concerts of all kinds when I was young, Navy bands, municipal bands, brass bands... Lots of Rossini overtures and Rodgers and Hammerstein medleys... Am I supposed to be unlearning that, unliking those, renouncing them? I've been thinking often about marriage in general lately, and it caused me to re-read the famous passage by the Apostle Paul on love. This familiar verse stands out:

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

That's much of what college education is; doing away with childish things, replacing Stephen King with Jonathan Franzen and "history" books with footnoted history books. Music is the same way. But I think bands in particular represent the re-democratization of music, town bands coming back into existence, trombones coming out from closets, messy, drunk big bands blaring in VFW halls when nobody's listening. The future of video is on youtube, and many people think that's where music is heading. I disagree. Music is a social art, a social phenomenon. What's more important: when Elliot Carter comes out with a new symphony, or when John Rutter publishes a new anthem? Hundreds of church choirs will sing the Rutter--most badly, but so what?--and thousands of parishoners will sit through it. And in 100 years, if I lived to be 125, I could make a splash as a historian rediscovering that fact.

I met an older lady yesterday at the bus stop with what looked like a suitcase. Freezing, we talked about ridership. I mentioned that I was taking the bus now that the music building at Iowa had gotten flooded out--what's the point in parking? She asked what I played, and if I was in the University/Concert Band concert she went to the night before. I felt a bit superior--those are the undergrad/non-major bands, but then she mentioned she was on her way with her flute to the New Horizons Band (a wonderful trend for "mature" adult music makers!). I asked if she knew my friend, who works with the New Horizon flutes, and she said she wasn't in the group with the very intense commitment and just liked to play for fun. I invited her to my friend's recital last night (he's an assistant director of the band) and I saw her there.

All the while, Elliot Carter turned 100. It was an historic day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

For the music nerds.

Can you tell I just learned how to screenshot?

So, I had something very simple that worked for Machaut, but then I'm like, "nah, let me start back at the drawing board. I think I see some syncopation."

So I tried something. This!






Maybe homorhythm was a good idea. But this just seemed so boring:

Sometimes I think I'm in the wrong line of work, or maybe the wrong century.

UPDATE: I'm not sure if I'm in the wrong line of work or the wrong century, but one thing's for certain, I think...? I'm in the wrong meter?

Ironic Screenshot of the Day

I'm positively drowning in work lately but I can't resist the urge to blog when I see this:

I took a screenshot of the video, at 0:17:

Here's a bold proposal to send out to the Conventional Wisdom: No Illinois governor should ever, ever include the subliminal image of a hand counting large amounts of cash in his or her advertising.


...And, seconds later, from the man who is actively trying to strongarm a Chicago children's hospital, Uncie Rod shows off his softer side by touting a children's health insurance program he allowed to bankrupt:

I think the outstretched hand is out of the frame.

This would be great fodder for a caption contest. I'll start:

"I'm sorry you have [BLEEPING] Leukemia, but you expect me to help you out and all I get is [BLEEPING] appreciation? [BLEEP] you, [SICK LITTLE GIRL 1]! Curing your Leukemia is a [BLEEPING] valuable thing. You don't just [BLEEPING] give it away."

And again, to paraphrase Patrick Fitzgerald, the "bleeps" are not really "bleeps."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

This is my Christmas list.

This is the only item on my 2008 Christmas list.I even chose the cheapest one, $12.99. There are long-sleeve versions and even maternity t-shirts.It's from my favorite political organization.

It will replace what is, up until now, my favorite out-of-date, novelty political t-shirt. (That's my cute little dog Maddy helping to model it!)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Looking Back to the Future

Yes, want to see the future, the new domestic energy sector being proposed as a job-creation measure? It will never work! I mean, that's Jetsons-type stuff, right? (Jack Nicholson, in that video, warning, makes a joke that some Iowans may find offensive or insensitive in light of recent tragedies, but this is still a video worth watching.)

Imagine if GM had pumped out a whole line of these babies in 1980 before Japanese subcompacts came in to steal the show. If we are to believe that unfettered capitalism favors growth of GDP and will find its way to break all binds--that's Marx's definition of it, and short of Milton Friedman there's no bigger free-trader than Marx--then wouldn't these cars, if they were built, have led to Hydrogen sector having developed on its own?

I read something recently that was an interesting idea, a fine capitalist idea, to prevent the elimination of so many American jobs:

ExxonMobil or BP ought to bailout the big three. One good turn deserves another. Do you think Toyota or Honda is going to be so sentimental and weepy when it comes to the internal combustion engine?

I distrust Oil conspiracies as a general rule, and enjoy reading them for fun. (Try Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East for uncomfortable giggles--if you live in Iowa City, sometimes folks pass this book out in the ped mall, and it's as ludicrous as it is prescient as it is paranoid.)

It is helpful, however, to think about the extent to which America is a capitalist nation anymore. It seems that the Asian tiger economies are the real drivers of the world market, responding to conditions and needs before and as they arise. I don't know if I like being one of those people who considers the past forty years "corporate socialism," but the fact remains, we're an out of date country!

Taking away UAW workers' pensions and retirement medical benefits (that they've already earned) isn't going to catch us up to the world economy. The same folks who rail about the importance of "property rights" are the Chicken Littles crying about how some assembly line retiree shouldn't really be allowed to keep what his contract said he was going to get. Toyota doesn't make its money by screwing its workers and setting up in sweatshops. It doesn't make its money by building crappy cars with exploding gas tanks and taking actuarial gambles ala the Pinto memo. Toyota builds quality cars, anticipates market conditions as they will be, and steps out on the forefront without struggling on a limb. Toyota creates American jobs and doesn't go crying for bailouts.

You know what would cut down on the Big Three's labor costs? Stop laying so many people off. Do you know how much money it costs to keep laying off, paying severance to, and then rehiring the same small pool of workers?

Mitt Romney had a couple of good points about the American auto industry being bloated, even if he couldn't resist pegging it on those greedy little bastards who used to work on the assembly lines and insist on collecting "pensions" that the companies "agreed to" in the "past". But as far as being bloated went, Henry Ford had the right idea with the simplicity of his branding, and Ford today does too--that's why it's not actually begging for a bailout, but asking for a line of credit if the need should arise (it is sufficiently liquid at this time). Ford right now has deemphasized its Mercury and Lincoln lines and has a clear set of cars marketed for specific purposes, from the Focus to the Fusion to the Escape to the Explorer to the F150, 250, and 350. Only the Econoline sucks. (Do they still make it?)

Same thing with Toyota. Yaris, Corolla, Camry, Prius, Tundra, etc. These all meet specific marketplace needs, and Lexus has its own brand identity that doesn't really compete against Toyota directly. But GM? It keeps adding new product lines, new badgings, and it's difficult to even tell which Chevy is aimed towards which demographics. Imagine if the Chevy Malibu and Saturn Aura didn't have to compete for marketing dollars--no wonder the Ford Fusion and Camry and Accord are whupping it. Tell me the different between an Oldsmobile and a Buick, without referring to the median age of its drivers.

American labor conditions aren't stuck in the past, American cars are. Whoever looks into the future and creates a carbon-neutral, sustainable energy business model is going to make a bundle of money. If T. Boone Pickens does it, that spells one direction for the economy. And if Barack Obama does it, that spells another--"good Socialism," the Swedish kind. Either way, though, what are we waiting for?

Friday, November 28, 2008

But they were all wrong. It was called the Great Depression, and the hoboes saw it coming.

If you'll gather 'round me, children,
A story I will tell

'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,

A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his w
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,

An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed

He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid the
ir mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries

Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw,
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

Oh, to live in an era with folk heroes! Who do we have now? Is Springsteen going to record a subversive tribute to Hank Paulson or Harry Reid or, gasp, John Boehner?

But there are signs of new times everywhere. I'm still trying to interpret Black Friday, the nasty thing I saw last night. Having slept a gluttonous amount on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and having drank four cans of coke Thanksgiving evening, I decided to drive back to Iowa for the quickest trip ever. Seeing as it was a holiday night, I made sure to stay on main roads that would have more open gas stations, so I took 94 to 88 to get back to Iowa City from Antioch, IL. (I normally take a country road, IL-173, to Rockford, 39 N to 88 E to 80, and it's faster and much prettier, albeit creepy at night!)

My main road drive, however, hit a hitch. It was 12:15 AM and, just west of Naperville, traffic stopped. Now, I'm going to be oh-so-bloggy and use a screenshot of my twitter feed to tell the story. You know, multimedia content! Keep in mind, safety hounds, I didn't tweet until I was sure that I was stuck in a completely unmoving mass of cars, so the backup actually began about ten minutes before my first tweet about it. My first tweet ("Back...") comes from the Lake Forest Oasis, and my last tweet comes from the Dekalb Oasis (I wasn't driving and tweeting!), so if you'd like, you can triangulate my position:

Dave Douglas's November was indeed a great track to hear, very calming and apropos. But anyway, the outlet mall had a backup--a BIG backup--for midnight sales! It appeared the parking lot may have been full! But what really struck me was the Best Buy parking lot, ten minutes west of the Outlet mall. It seemed to be a civic event, with a fire pit, coleman heaters galore, tents, torches--what does it all mean? That consumer confidence is back? Or that, now, we are afraid, and shopping is our way to combat that fear, ala 9-11? Who knows. It was just interesting to watch--not absurd, just interesting--a civic ritual like this. Add to that the increased political rally participation, inroads in church attendance, the like... Maybe the 1930s are the new 1980s, and we are finding ways of coming together because of and inspite of fears? That's right, I made inspite of one word. Can I do that?

Maybe it's time I revived my research about the influence of junk metal in the great depression on percussion music? More on that later, maybe I'll share some actual research soon--probably after my horrific semester is over! But in the course of researching that, I stared at hundreds of Library of Congress junkyard photos. This one was, without a doubt, my favorite:

The LOC caption reads:

Sheppard and his father, part-time agricultural workers in Bridgetown, New Jersey, rake a junk pile for old metal and bottles to sell. During the off-seasons these people must find all manner of strange occupations to round out an inadequate relief diet. 1938.

Make sure to read the signs on the tree.

Of course, my Great Depression research is hardly the greatest. And what is a collection of people vying for Best Buy deals but a refiguration of Joey Stinkeye Smiles and his whole nasty crew? Maybe they were accepting hobo nickels...

Yes, my friends, we shall gnaw on their bones.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


If you'll recall, from my last post, I was concerned about this asinine review I posted several years ago. Not really concerned, you know, but just hyperaware of how each statement one makes, however profound or silly or courageous or wrong, is now as if it were carved into concrete.

But anyway, check out this section from the 9-page questionairre that all potential Obama-administration appointees have to fill out in order to be vetted.
Try to apply the criteria to yourself--I'm pretty sure I'd withdraw at least.

My favorite line:

"If you have ever sent, text message, or instant message that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe."

Those would be fun applications to read.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Review Heard Round the World: A E-stalker's Guide to Peter Gillette

Now, in my slightly younger years I was one of several "trivia masters" for The Annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest. You'll notice on the wikipedia page, several sample questions are included, and one was actually written by me. (And I swear, I didn't add it to wikipedia. I have been banned from wikipedia via any IP address you can imagine, most recently for creating an elaborate cross-referencing network between a handful of entries that accused Winston Churchill of murdering Edward Elgar.)

"What was Holden Caulfield's middle name?"

The answer, of course, is Morrisey.

At the time that question was written, however--2001, I believe (a full two years before I became a "trivia master")--the answer would have been quite hard to come by. J.D. Salinger had a team of lawyers going about the internet slapping injunctions deep up the you-know-whats of any John Q. Geocities who would dare to post his uncollected, copywritten, early short stories on teh internets. You could, however, post a bibliographic list of where they could be found, and so, one fall day in 2001 I opened up the December 22, 1946 New Yorker to be greeted by the words "Holden Morrisey Caulfield." When the trivia contest hit, I was overjoyed by what I'm sure was happening in a few hundred dorm rooms and living rooms:

"Hey, I have Catcher in the Rye! Quick, flip through it!" But it's not there.

Of course, maybe Salnger's lawyers have...fallen...down on the job.

But I wonder: should I retain counsel to scour the internet and purge it of my uncollected early works?
I edited my student newspaper (and consequently wrote several hasty, ill-considered, impenetrably equivocal editorials for the purposes of space-filling that can be found among these 114 articles, which I'm imagining is some sort of pathetic record. Keep in mind also that, while I was in charge, about half of the issues never made it to the internet because I didn't really understand the importance of webmastering and all that.)

The latest of those hits is an article written within the last month giving a sort of white-washed, in-joke summation of my life since June 2006 with lots of local college vernacular.

Anyway, while I was editor, a man who was about 4 years older than me, a really wild, awesome guy who I had played trivia with one year, emailed me in a panic. He had started dating a girl, and knew that since it was getting serious, she was going to google him any day now. He hadn't written anything terribly embarrassing, just your garden-variety juvenalia--you know, mistaking the local bar band for the second coming of Kurt Cobain, taking ridiculously strong stands on terribly mundane issues, things of that nature. In addition to fears that his girlfriend would find out how nerdy he was, he was also starting work at an advertising agency (or a law firm, I forget) and wished that he had sounded smarter. I tried and tried to remove the articles. I really tried to help him out. But somewhere, in a vast data farm, google clutched millions of copies of it close to its strange little heart.

There are several Peter Gillettes, many of them from the Minneapolis area, where I think my Great-Great-(Great?)-Grandfather's brother settled a long time ago. To hear my grandfather tell it, they were the "city" or "industrial" Gillettes, and I come from the Michigan, or rural, Gillettes (putting it too simply, since there were some fancy cats to come out of the SW Michigan Gillettes!) I've even found a Peter Gillette of a different race/ethnicity, and I think that's cool. It makes me wonder, what if I were black? How would I be different? Silly question, I suppose.

Was it one of the other Peter Gillettes who was watching an episode of Taxi at 1 AM the summer before leaving for college who started writing a rambling essay about it before submitting it to the quasi-scholarly sham web publication The Journal Of Mundane Behavior?

One thing you should be sure not to miss if you're e-stalking me is this insanely thorough interview I gave last spring to Iowa's college radio station. If you're a potential employer wanting to check me out surreptitiously while wasting an hour of your boss's time, that's a good place to start. (Audio starts immediately after clicking the link.) Not all of the information about my life is up-to-date, but there it is, in the internet.

Now, I had forgotten I even made this blog until I did my quarterly extensive google search on my name, and blog-searched my way back to this blog I had shamefully neglected. In the course of blog-searching myself I found a few disturbing things. First of all, there's this thoroughly disturbing segment from a LiveJournal story "community" (?!):

"She closes her locker door and turns to find Peter Gillette standing in front of her. Peter Gillette, five foot-eight, dark hair, blue eyes and first string forward on the pyramid team.

"Hi Kara." He says. "You, um, going to practice today?"

She shakes her head and holds up her arm to show him a cast. A clean break, courtesy of her mother's latest drinking binge. "Maybe I'll sit in tomorrow, but I have something to do today."

He smiles and nods at her. "I'll see you around then, I guess."

Now, I have green eyes, not blue, but I can't shake the feeling that that resembles me. If only I knew 1) what a pyramid team is, and 2) who this guy is...Or did someone vaguely use my name to match a description which, admittedly, is quite generic?

My favorite blogs about me, however, fall into the general category of "international reactions to ill-advised attempts at conceptual humor through the unforgiving medium of the ironic review."

This is the review in question. The summer of 2005, I was an absolute loafer. I had a minimal job, few expenses, a few good friends, and hundreds of hours of TV on DVD. I also discovered that there was a whole subculture of reviewers who refused to grant certain works--OK Computer, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, anything by Mozart or Bach or Beethoven--"classic" status. Sometimes it was on the flimsy grounds of packaging or obscure complaints about analog-to-digital transfers. While wasting an entire evening searching for these, I had my Itunes on shuffle. First, a techno-inspired movement from Uri Caine's wonderful purist-baiting manifesto, his Goldberg Variations, album popped up.

The album takes Bach's Goldberg Variations on a trip through Bach's past and present, the intervening years between the 18th century and today, and into the future.

Here's Uri Caine talking last spring about his affinity with Bach:

Listen to a few seconds of that. Doesn't Caine's absolute love of Bach come across? Now, on that boring June evening, as one of Caine's techno-inspired Goldberg Variation came on, I of course went to its page, that had several virulent negative reviews, including this one-star review, entitled "God-awful":

"After listening, appalled, to this recording I can only think that Uri Caine hates the Goldberg variations and has made this recording to exhibit his contempt for them. First, there are the (relatively) conventional tracks: It's pretty clear even from the opening aria, before you understand just what depths of depravity he's heading for, that he has absolutely no feeling for the work as it was written...his hummingbird-fast ornaments are entirely wrong, his tempo wrong...the idea of using a Silbermann fortepiano is a good one, but there is little feeling in his mechanical playing. His 25th variation is just it is being played by a bored teenaged piano student, which in a sense it is. And some of his tracks of the original variations with original instrument ensemble are just ... okay, nothing to write home about. If the recording consisted of only these tracks, it would be at worse laughable, at best ignorable.

On other tracks, can I put this? It's like going to a gallery to see Rembrandt and then in comes Uri with his magic markers and crayons. Not only does he think his scribblings deserve to be on the wall by Rembrandt's masterworks, but he proceeds to draw *on* the paintings themselves. Then he brings in a gaggle of other artists to urinate, vomit and defecate on the result. All the while we're supposed to applaud this juvenile irrationality."

First, a very technical critique that attacks the music for not being what it doesn't say it is, and then a wrenching criticism that it should not be what it is, and all perfectly valid! The reviewer sets out expectations for what the music should achieve and then attacks the music for not being that.

Next on my shuffle that night came the wonderfully exciting Pablo Casals Cello suites movements. I remember it was a Sarabande, I think from the second suite. (For my non-musical readers, if I have any this far down in a long post, a Sarabande is a slow baroque dance in 3 often accenting the second beat slightly.)

Now, in my high-concept, lots-of-free-time mind, I thought, "Hmm...What if I did what Caine's reviewer did to the beloved Casals?" There are lots of puristic reasons to turn up your nose at romantic renditions of Bach, but I thought, hey, what if, instead of coming at it from the perspective of a baroque purist, I attacked his recording from the standpoint of a 21st century fan of mixed media?

In retrospect, my 2-star review entitled, simply, "Lacks accompaniment", was what the kids call a "massive fail":

"I think that Mr. Casals' playing is very fine but I was very disappointed that he chose to play these unaccompanied. Perhaps the pianist and chamber group could not be booked or miked appropriately due to the time. I was so disappointed in this production choice because the first and only other Bach cd I have, the goldberg variations by Uri Caine, blew me away: JS Bach was very ahead of his time in his use of electronic musics and freely improvised counterpoint and jazz musics, things that the rest of the "classical" world did not catch up to for another few centuries. Save your money on this one. Sorry, Pablo. I won't come to florida for you."

I even closed it, in true George Michael Bluth fashion, with a stupid Jerky Boys reference. Well, the international blogosphere took me to task for it, here in, I think Portugese (although, I think, it may be an amused and not offended post.)

And here, in...Chinese?

There are a few responses on the Amazon page as well.

The lesson? Now I'm studying to be a historical musicologist, and this bit of foolishness is everywhere attached to my name. Is there any way to delete reviews on Amazon? The site is so important that it pops up as a first google hit. And what if girls find out, or my new ad agency? Sigh.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


From a few years ago, Senator Obama roasts Congressman Rahm Emanuel:

Best line? (Paraphrased, because sometimes, like the Daleys, Obama forgets to use verbs in true Chicago fashion):

"I think as many of you know, [he was] working in a deli, in an accident, lost part of his middle finger. As a result of this, this rendered him practically mute."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Grandpa's a felon, but he's soooo cute :)

This is embarassing...

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens maintained his lead over challenger Mark Begich this
morning with 99 percent of the precincts counted, just a week after being found
guilty of seven felonies and pre-election polls showing him in deep trouble.

You're running to unseat a sitting, out-of-touch (albeit popular) Senator. You're running a spirited campaign, and aren't too far behind when WHAM! The feds indict Stevens! Hot golly, we got ourselves a race! Then you're running neck in neck, because Stevens doesn't tank for the same reason that Daley's re-election poll numbers wouldn't be affected by a corruption allegation. "Richard Daley? Corrupt?! Noooo...."

Then WHAM! the jury convicts Stevens on seven felony counts. Nevermind the prosecutorial misconduct--by Republicans against Republicans, no less! Maybe Alaskan voters realized that a gas grill=one felony count; used couch=two felony counts...etc. And honestly, I think the most politically damaging thing Stevens said at his trial was, "But...I only go to my Alaska house for about two weeks a year if even that!"

Keep in mind, Sarah Palin is popular and all that, and the state is right-leaning. But Don Young, the GOP Congressman from Alaska, is also under investigation, and sailed to reelection.

But come on... even if Begich wins this on a recount, don't you have to be a tad bit embarassed that you can't beat the guy who just got convicted of "seven federal crimes"?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To every man a specialist

Warning: nighttime generic cold medicine is typing this. (And if you have to ask, yes, it's Wal-tussin.)

I have a nasty cold that I can trace
back to other people I was hanging around with (and also my immune system shutting down in regards to stress lately.)

Has anyone else ever been curious enough about the origin of a cold or other minor ailment to want to bring in a pathologist?

Or rather, who would be the appropriate specialist to satiate my frivolous interest?

This is why I wish I were independently wealthy.

And of course, I've created a wide opening for my conservative friends to walk through, with Joe the Plumber jokes and the like about what would happen to my wealth. Well, I would be a patriotic rich person and embrace a sense of common purpose--unless I made $251K, then I'd just be incredibly first. Then I'd remember that that crazy socialist Obama wants to roll taxes way back to Reagan-era levels. And then I'd fall back on a fundamental belief I have in the ingenuity and creativity of the American people, my belief that if you're smart enough to get wealthy, then you ought to be smart enough to find reliable tax shelters. Like if you suspect you've got a dullard for a child, put it in a college fund that you suspect will never really be needed?

Which brings me to my last point: I felt good last night when one of my most conservative friends (I have alot, actually) thanked me for not rubbing it in. That was very rewarding to hear. I know how embittering politics can be, but at a certain point it's not a game, meaning: 1) real things are at stake, but more importantly 2) winning and losing is more complicated.

I have my own beliefs and opinions and am prepared to explain them and, to a certain extent, defend them, although at a certain point, a value is a value and our proclivities are hard-wired into us by our perspectives and experiences (duh). But I like when someone with a different point-of-view defends or explains their position in a similar way. I'm often left with, "I see, but I disagree." Maybe I should learn some debating skills and, you know, really go for the takedown.

But in the meantime, can somebody get to the bottom of my nasty cold?

[cue crack about socialized medicine--I've left one heck of an opening!]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What am I going to do now? (Some predictions)

It's over. (Yay!) And I'm happy. Yet, some considerations, and some predictions:
  • What websites am I going to frenetically refresh?
Prediction: ESPN, JSTOR, Oxford Music Online, and I'll go back to randomly looking up places I hope to visit someday on Google Maps.
  • What will make me watch edited youtube clips of FoxNews and boil over in righteous anger?
Prediction: T-Minus three days until Fox News labels an inadvertent Obama transition misstep/conflict-of-interest a "-gate?" with a question mark, culminating in a massive "Confirmationgate" concerning one of Obama's cabinet appointments.
  • Who will create the latest "gotcha" youtube clips?
Prediction: Joe Biden will, frustratingly, refuse to go to an undisclosed location.
  • What will make Saturday Night Live watchable for the next three years, and can it survive the years between elections?
Prediction: Amy Poehler's maternity leave becomes do or die moment; Tina Fey pinch-hits on Update to ride limelight and cross-promote 30 Rock.
  • Will Bristol and Levi really get married?
Prediction: this is the barometer that Vegas oddsmakers will use to gauge Palin's interest in continuing on in national politics.
  • The nation has spent the last year preoccupied the executive branch. What will be the next action-packed "must-watch" branch of American government?
Prediction: T-minus 100 days until this Chicago native retires:

Well...My. Brain. Is. Fried. I am going to sleep for twelve hours or more. See you in the afternoon.

(**Update**: Slept for 11 hours. And. It. Felt. Great.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Saint-Saëns Septet and the Glass Ceiling

Two comps questions now down, one to go! I've typed 37 pages total in a bit less than 4 hours per day... But if I've done all this work, why waste it? I saved my answers on a USB key, and I'm adding some linked content (to correct what I may have missed when I was sitting and typing without sources and to make it more web-friendly).

There's a problem with chamber music, particularly mixed chamber music. Picture this: you're a member of a string quartet or a piano trio. With either configuration, think of all the choices you have! Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Ravel. Most twentieth century composers tried their hands at string quartets as well, and it makes sense to write "new music" for these established genres rather than a configuration of performers who would otherwise only come together for a single performance.

As brass musicians, we're constantly needing to justify our own existence. String quartets, as a genre, are established as being something aristocratic, something elegant, something that people of culture go to, even if it's just for the overpriced wine and conversation at intermission. Most of the string quartet literature needs no introduction--and no defense. Mozart and Haydn were prolific composers, but seriously: they phoned it in sometime.

And yet, audiences give established composers the benefit of the doubt. "This must be good music. I mean, that guy has his own bust!"

  • Oskar Böhme
  • Victor Ewald
  • even Eugene Bozza
  • Alvin Etler
  • Tony Plog
  • Eric Ewazen
  • Arthur Frackenpohl
  • John Stevens
  • Verne Reynolds
  • David Sampson
  • Fisher Tull
  • Walter Hartley
  • Alec Wilder, to a certain extent
I really care for most of these composers quite a bit, especially Plog and Böhme. While musicians (performers, fellow composers, and brass-sensitive audiences) may prefer some of these "brass-heavy" composers and dislike others, but the point remains the same: general audiences do not come to our repertoire with a fundamental sense of goodwill or, possibly, the sense that they're listening to something of monumental importance to Western Culture. And sometimes, music is all in good fun...but how many string quartet concerts have you been to that include a show-tune medley and a few Joplin transcriptions? Uh-huh. For better or worse.

A former teacher of mine won the concerto competition when he was at graduate school at one of the top five public university schools of music in the country, an impressive and rare feat for a brass musician. When prepping us, his students, for competitions of our own (I even played the Tomasi concerto, the piece he won with) he hammered the point home, and I'm paraphrasing from the many times I heard him say this:
We have to play better than pianists and string players. The day after last year's competitions, they chose this year's concerto, and they've been beginning to learn it for years before that. They probably have next year's concerto picked too, and know what competitions they're going to. And we have to work even harder than they do, because we empty our spit out on stage, and it's just not as glamorous.
Saint-Saëns couldn't imagine writing for the trumpet before he composed his Septour in 1881. The work is a neo-classical, neo-baroque fish swimming up the stream of thick chromaticism. Like some of the above-listed composer, Saint-Saëns was considered a bit of a stodgy "academic" composer obsessed with the vanishing history of French music. When the French chamber music society La Trompette asked Saint-Saëns, a member and supporter of the organization, to write a septet for strings, piano, and trumpet...Saint-Saëns recoiled, according this recent critical biography:

"I shall write for you a concerto for twenty-five guitars and to play it you will have to depopulate Castille and Andalucia; but a piece with trumpet? Impossible!"
Another version of this story exists (from a review of another scholarly book on Saint-Saëns):
In the entry on the Septet for trumpet, two violins, cello, contrabass and piano (no. 122). for example, the section concerning the autograph contains a long quotation in French by Emile Lemoine, who requested the piece of Saint-Saens. Lemoine writes that when he asked the composer to write a piece for this unusual combination, Saint-Saens joked that first he had to write a piece for guitar and thirteen trombones (p. 175).
Well, Saint-Saëns was skeptical, right? After all, Saint-Saëns was a performer of serious chamber music, like the Franck quintet (the terrifically difficult piano part of which he premiered the year before writing his septet). Just take one listen if you don't know the piece. It's music that means business:

Well, Saint-Saëns had it with all the chromaticism, the crazy key changes, the uneven forms, the anything goes bombast of Franck and others. He had other beefs with Franck, actually, that are worth reading about. Anyway, the septet--which he was reluctant to write--was his attempt to rein in some of the excessive formal and harmonic tendencies of post-Wagnerian music. Interestingly enough, it could be his attempt to reclaim the trumpet along the way as the trumpet shatters the glass ceiling of chamber music. The treatment of the trumpet alternates between the military and melodic.

Speaking of the military, the Saint-Saëns septet is not exactly the work that shatters the glass ceiling of the trumpet in mixed chamber music during the nineteenth century. In 1829, Hummel wrote a charming (if a tad dopey) Septett Militaire No. 2 in C Major for piano, flute, violin, clarinet, cello, trumpet, and bass. IMSLP has a free PDF of the score and parts here. Even though Hummel wrote one of the first works for keyed (chromatic) trumpet in his famous concerto, this one goes back to the overtone series, if only because the early keyed trumpet was a MASSIVE FAIL.

The Septet is both jaunty and graceful. It follows a blend of classical forms (followed almost to the letter, down to the pattern of movements one would find) along with simple baroque textures. The themes of the first and last movement are stated as a sort of baroque ritornello placed within sonata form, and spawn very clear and perceptible fugal sections. The counterpoint could have come straight out of a textbook. The occasionally lush string writing or harmonic substitution make it recognizably romantic, as does the virtuosic piano writing and motivic connections between the movements. What makes Saint-Saëns’ trumpet writing so compelling is that much of the first and fourth movements, especially, could be played on a -chromatic- natural trumpet, and this reflects Saint-Saens previous engagement with the instrument, in the orchestra. While piston trumpets were available at this point, composers still clung to the whole crooked natural brass tradition, from the legacy of the Viennese classicists. The imitation of the natural trumpet, however, helps Saint-Saens in his quest to recreate the soundworld of the 18th century within the romantic era.

And yet, at the same time, he gives the trumpet the benefit of the doubt as far as rich melodies go. The stepwise trumpet melodies that float on top of the string sections would not have been possible on a chromatic natural trumpet. Indeed, especially in the Minuet (movement two), the trumpet is treated as if it were a string instrument, playing sometimes in unison with the homophonic chorale. With the pedaled piano and sustained strings, the sound is unusually warm and inviting—much more inviting than, say, 25 guitars and orchestra would be!

So, we may have alot going against us, spit valves and all. But we won over at least one tough customer!

There's a beautiful recording of the septet from Charles Schlueter from 2005, the same year he retired as principal trumpet Boston Symphony Orchestra. It's a terrific album, with repertoire that every trumpet player has to know played as it should be played. It is a must buy! Somebody's put his recording onto youtube, but definitely buy the disc!:

Movement One: Preambule

Movement Two: Menuet

Movement Three: Intermed.

Movement Four: Gavotte

And, just for fun, this classic:

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Music I'm Living With From Now Until Tuesday

Next Tuesday, by the way, has nothing to do with election day for me.

So you (of whom there are none yet, I think) can share in my life's journey...

I am taking my trumpet comprehensive exams next week. One of my tasks, for Tuesday, is to write on three of the most important trumpet chamber music works. I might as well work on my young blogging skills while preparing. I wanted to choose something by Heinrich von Biber (1644-1704):

What a fancy chap! Well, Biber is quite known for his violin compositions, which are virtuoso showpieces for performance in the chambers of the courts where he was in residence, but he also wrote quite a bit for trumpet and trumpets. What I like most about his trumpet writing, and why I think it's historically significant, is that it merges the Late Renaissance genre and conventions of trumpet ensemble music with baroque basso continuo techniques. Sure, the music is primitive in its modulatory structure, but it's fascinating to hear these play out.

For the record, traits of late Renaissance trumpet ensemble music in Italy and Germany (the two regions traded trumpeters quite a bit) are:

-5 part texture, divided into
--1. Clarino/soprano
--2. Sonata, quinta, or principale (which, in the renaissance at least, typically played the melody while the clarino improvised a descant)
--3. Alto e basso (which mirrors the sonata part, just lower)
--4. Vulgano (or, "the follower"), and
--5. basso.

Vulgano and basso typically, in the renaissance, drone on a fifth, and you'll hear in the Biber a fifth being sounded down low, but notice what happens at 4:12 in this recording from The Amsterdam Baroque Orquestra of Sonata a 7 for six trumpets and basso continuo, composed in 1668:

The low voices drop out so that the clarino and soprano can break away and follow the basso continuo into a new key on the higher partials. Interesting. By the time Bach would be writing for Gottfried Reiche and other Leipzig trumpet players in the early-to-mid 18th century, the clarino was beginning to reign supreme, and the bottom was (literally) dropping out of the music. It's a truism, and nothing shocking, to say that trumpets can't modulate on the lower partials and cannot play a major scale (although Reiche and others reputedly could "lip" enough notes to make some lower-partial linear passages possible) until the upper partials. That makes clarino playing the ideal--and, indeed, only--choice for a composer who wants a modulating trumpet part. Music in Biber's time was, macroscopically speaking, in the late-to-middle stages of its great modulation from modality (as expressed through Renaissance counterpoint) to chromatic tonality.

Biber is not unique in this mid-baroque tendency to treat the instrument in its strict Renaissance regal usage on the one hand and a melodic solo instrument over basso continuo on the other, but it is interesting to note that this composition, in 1668, was his first work to include trumpets. In fact, most of his compositions were for strings. Biber was a violin virtuoso, and seemingly improvised streams of melodies, often in free fantasia or variation forms, spilled out from his bow and his pen. His writing for trumpets--this, his Sonata for 8 Trumpets in 1673, and (less so) several chamber sonatas using two trumpets--acknowledges both the past, present, and future of the trumpet in his time...Whereas, for instance, the later composer Torelli (1658-1709) treated Bologna's clarinists/trumpeters on par with oboists and violinists, as roughly interchangeable solo voices, only with the trumpet's emphasizing arpeggiation.

But how--and why--did a string player like Biber learn to write for trumpet ensemble?

In 1661, the Bohemian-born Biber met Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky, a Moravian trumpeter who was soon to become a minor but prolific composer, particularly of concerted mass settings and trumpet ensemble music: you see, Vejvanovsky made his career as both a court trumpeter and a choir director. "Court trumpeter" was a term with considerable honor attached to it, and a leading modern scholar of baroque trumpet, a brit named Don Smithers, seems to imply that Vejvanovsky was a bit of a charlatan despite his toughguy trumpet image! Via GroveMusic online for those who have "credentials" (emphasis added):
Throughout his life Vejvanovský used the title of Feldtrompeter, although he was not qualified to do so. He remained at Kroměříž and in 1664 entered the service of the new prince-bishop, Karl Liechtenstein-Castelcorno, as principal trumpeter and as Kapellmeister; his duties also included the copying of music, and many sets of parts in his hand survive...He seems to have been on very close personal terms with his patron and was one of the highest paid court servants

Did Vejvanovsky, a minor composer and trumpet player but first class copyist and music director, influence Biber's ensemble writing? In the words of Sarah Palin, "You betcha!"

Elias Dann writes in Grove's Biber entry:

In 1668 he became a valet de chambre and musician to the Bishop of Olmütz, Karl Liechtenstein-Castelcorno, in Kroměříž, where Pavel Vejvanovský was director of the Kapelle. Biber was popular among the courtiers at Kroměříž, and was highly valued as a violin virtuoso.

So we have a great violinist going to work for a trumpet player, and writing--in the year that he starts under Vejvanovsky--a trumpet ensemble work. Isn't history neat like that? Just a guy trying to please his boss. Vejvanovsky, while not "qualified" to be a feldtrumpeter, Vejvanovsky was nonetheless privy to the tricks o' the trade, and trumpets were a guilded bunch, wary of non-union scabs stepping in and stealing their thunder. (This wariness comes to fruition with the totally awesome royal Mandate Against the Unauthorized Playing of Trumpets and Beating of Military Kettledrums. Dated the 23rd of July in the Year 1711, translated by Ed Tarr in an ITG publication worth perusing.

Biber brought a sense of melodic and textural variation that is, frankly, more nuanced than Vejvanovsky's more blocky works. There is a natural build of drama through the instrumentation, thinking across longer forms than 8 bar structures. It is not difficult to imagine the alto lines sitting quite naturally along a string. The clarino/sonata duet at 2:50 is a moment of grace one might expect from violins in a trio sonata, when, at 3:32, the remainder of the trumpets gleefully crash the party. It is a fusion of Biber's world with Vejvanovsky's. In fact, it's painful to admit it, but trumpets still play at best (er) "second fiddle" to violins in historical assessments of this period. So naturally, Biber enjoys a richer reputation these days than does Vejvanovsky, a fact Smithers points out:

It is difficult to assess Vejvanovský's influence on other composers, but it may be noted that in a number of works Biber employed motifs and harmonic procedures otherwise found only in Vejvanovský's music. Biber's knowledge of it may well account for the borrowing of trumpet motifs in particular for several sonatas that appeared after he had left for Salzburg. A detailed comparison of the two composers' music might well reveal a number of other similarities. Several works by Biber survive only in copies made by Vejvanovský.

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber eventually, slowly, climbed his ranks into the nobility, and by 1684, he was Kapellmeister of Salzburg. He had the world on a string, and wrote grand church music in the style of the day, occasionally involving trumpets. But this was Vienna, and it was church music, so Biber's brass writing (as part of an orchestral accompaniment) moved on mostly to the trombones. But we'll forgive him.

Welcome to nerdland. More to come, on Saint-Saens' Septet (Septour) for strings, piano, and trumpet and Stravinsky's L'historie du soldat