Let’s read THE GRAMOPHONE in Iceland: No. 4 — September 1923

Gramophone 4 ad
In the digital archive, this issue features only this single page of the many ads.

OCTOBER 19th 2018 — Starting with this entry of this “Let’s read” series, I have decided to share Spotify playlists of the pieces I pick out from each issue for special mention. These have also been added to the previous entries.

Editor Compton Mackenzie opens the issue by presenting the idea of what would later be named the National Gramophonic Society. Here he is only asking his readers whether they would support the venture enough for it to be worth doing. They would, and the Society would go on to make many worthwhile recordings of music previously unavailable on record.

The editorial is followed by an installment of “A Musical Autobiography”, also by the Editor. He looks back on a time when he was such a short way along the path of musical appreciation that he honestly couldn’t perceive the melody in the opening bars of Tchaikovsky’s SYMPHONY NO. 6 IN B MINOR, even though a friend played it to him over and over, getting more annoyed with each attempt.

Elsewhere in this feature the Editor writes:

“[…] I am always suspicious of perfect taste that has not been reached by leagues of bad taste.” (p. 65)

And:

“For one’s own pleasure I am sure that it is a mistake to have exquisite taste in all the arts. For the rest of my life I intend to be quite impenitent about music and painting, and never to allow myself to get beyond works of art that still delight me, though I know them to be far removed from the first rank.” (p. 65)

And:

“I do not fancy that I shall ever lose my bad taste in music, although I regret to say that I am beginning to find Puccini impossible. This is a sad business, and I grow to like Bach better and better every day.” (p. 66)

About the page numbers: At this point in its history, and for years to come, THE GRAMOPHONE employed page numbering that continued from one issue to another throughout one volume — one year.

Many people would have these volumes bound in handsome hardcover collections, so the result at the end of every volume was essentially a thick book of several hundred pages.

A highly detailed index was also produced for each volume. I have not seen any of these indices myself, as unfortunately they are not part of the magazine’s digital archive. But I should add that the digital archive is searchable — to the extent that the Optical Character Recognition catches each word.

Maybe one day an angel somewhere will drop these indices — not to mention the missing ads from the early years — on the laps of the people maintaining the archive. I hope so.

Recordings of especial interest that are on Spotify:

  • Cellist Pablo Casals and pianist Walter Golde play a transcription of Chopin’s NOCTURNE IN E FLAT MAJOR, Op. 9 No. 2. Casals would record this again some years later.
  • From pioneering harpsichordist Violet Gordon-Woodhouse (discussed in previous articles in this “Let’s read” series), Domenico Scarlatti’s SONATA IN A MAJOR, K. 113, L. 345 and SONATA IN D MAJOR, K. 29, L. 461. In these early days, recordings of instruments other than the most familiar ones comprising the symphony orchestra — and piano, of course — were rare. I always perk up when I find on Spotify one of these recordings featuring less common instruments.
  • Ragtime piano with Max Darewski: “MONKEY BLUES”.

F. Sharp starts her review of dance records with:

“To listen in cold blood to a succession of dance records is fair neither to the records nor to the reviewers. The following have all been danced to, and a dancing expert has given her valuable opinion on their merits.” (p. 79)

And a few paragraphs later she makes the first mention in the pages of THE GRAMOPHONE of the wonderful Cole Porter:

“Talking of syncopation, I cannot find in any catalogue records of Cole Porter’s marvelous syncopated music. I have not any American catalogues by me, but I suppose some recording company has got him on their list. I cannot understand why we are not given anything by this young master of rag-time.” (p. 79)


Spotify playlist for this entry, “Let’s read THE GRAMOPHONE in Iceland: No. 4 — September 1923”:

This issue is available as part of the magazine’s digital archive, which every subscriber (a month or a year, digital or print+digital) gets access to.

Earlier entries in this series:

Let’s read THE GRAMOPHONE in Iceland: No. 3 — August 1923

Let’s read THE GRAMOPHONE in Iceland: No. 2 — June 1923

Let’s read THE GRAMOPHONE in Iceland: No. 1 — April 1923

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Theater

Theater
A play about to begin?

OCTOBER 18th 2018 — The photo is from IceCon 2018, between panel discussions at Culture House Iðnó in Reykjavík (early October), but it made me think of theater.

Theater is special. There is a magic to it. This post is a small tribute to that.

From the heavy curtains to the wonderfully worn, scratched stage floors,  to the costumes and props, makeup and music, light and shadow, real people and things in physical space sharing an experience that will always be new, never exactly the same, and of course the amazing, intoxicating smell that many theaters have, theater engages all the senses and involves us as human beings in a beautiful world of art.

I support the idea that parents should let children discover this magic in one way or another at a young age.

Some things in life simply make for warmer and often — not always, but often — more empathetic souls. And theater is one of those things.

A dream of beauty

Room to Dream
Café Paris, Reykjavík, summer of 2018.

OCTOBER 16th 2018 — I had a lovely dream. Sometimes our subconscious mind, or some other providence, gifts us with moments of beauty in dream no matter how waking life is. The only downside is, of course, waking up.

In the dream I mentioned to someone a wedding of persons who were strangers to her. To my surprise, she got tears in her eyes, even though she did not know the people who got married. The topic of weddings in general could move her so deeply, or maybe there were more specific personal associations for her.

I felt such affection for this sensitive and beautiful soul. She smiled and laughed as the tears kept coming.

As we continued speaking, it came as the most natural thing in the world to lie down on the couch — we were in a living room I have not (at least yet) been to in the waking world — and seek out the other’s hand with our own as we kept talking, both unexpectedly so happy in the special moment that had suddenly happened that it felt like nothing could ever change it.

Talking, sharing, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, both warmed by the rich warmth of the other and of that moment, it was like swimming in happiness and the beautiful promise of life.

Chopin, Paris, Bradbury, happiness

Chopin tomb
Paris, October 2017, and his music in the air.

OCTOBER 16th 2018 — I visited Chopin’s tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris a bit over a year ago.

And the greatest thing was that there was his music in the air just then, just like in an episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER that had a scene actually filmed there: “On the Orient, North”. Someone was playing it from their phone. I almost couldn’t believe it.

Also wonderful was how the apartment I rented happened to be located literally just down the street from this cemetery (and I mean, Paris is huge), which I always knew I would want to visit. But I didn’t even realize this when arranging for the flat. It was the only one open to me, really.

It was on rue du Chemin-Vert (“Street of the Green Path”). And in Paris I experienced some of the happiest moments of my life. I treasure some of those memories.

These things will apply to everyone I will ever meet

Vision

From two or three years ago.

OCTOBER 14th 2018 — Never let anyone compromise your principles.

You are the one who would pay the price of living with that, perhaps for the rest of your life. It’s not worth it, whatever the situation.

And there are people who will appreciate and perhaps even love you precisely for refusing to lie or say false things.

I have decided to do what I can to live up to that ideal of never saying anything to anyone that could not stand as the last thing I said to them, should I rejoin eternity soon after that.

I will never play a single game with another person’s heart. It’s not what we’re here for.

* * *

I will never be one of those people making others feel there is something they need to change about themselves in order to be good enough. In order for me to like them.

Don’t listen to those people. That is a road that will never end.

You will never get lasting validation from them, and even if you did, it would be for all the wrong, manipulative reasons, and would be taken away the next time that person felt peevish — or the smallness of their own heart.

If I or others like you and your company just the way you are, you are already more than good enough, and wonderful.

This life is too precious and fleeting and fragile for anything more closed-minded than this.

Nudge for Concepts

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Some shapes Nudged into shape.

OCTOBER 8th 2018 — iOS app Concepts just introduced an amazing new Nudge tool, which finally adds a function to a drawing program I have always wished for.

Being vector-based, Concepts already let you always adjust any line and element of a drawing at any point in the process, but the Nudge tool makes drawing with it completely malleable. You can push and pull everything to mold and shape it with infinite freedom.

Incidentally, part of the Concepts team is Finnish. I am not involved with them, though certainly would be proud to be.


Here is a Medium article on the new tool and here is the app’s web page.

A great Bear McCreary piece

1 (18)
Mister McCreary with his Emmy Award in 2013 for the title theme of DA VINCI’S DEMONS. Photo from his official site.

OCTOBER 3rd 2018 — Here and embedded below is a great concert performance on YouTube of a terrific piece from the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA version of 2003–2010.

Mister McCreary conducts, and the vocal soloist is Raya Yarbrough. Recorded in July 2010 at the Tenerife International Film Music Festival, Canary Islands, Spain.

For me, music for American science fiction series stagnated for a long time following Gene Roddenberry’s death in 1991. From then on the producers of the STAR TREK spin-offs actively worked to push music as far into the background as possible.

They even fired their best and most interesting composer, Ron Jones. Fortunately all his soundtracks for THE NEXT GENERATION are now available on Spotify, for example.

From that point in the early 1990s, music in the TREKs became a thin, disappointing hum in the background, rather than being an active, strong voice or even character of its own.

This was not the fault of the composers, all of whom would have been capable of much more, as shown for example by Dennis McCarthy’s soundtrack for the seventh film, STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, where he was allowed more range and freedom. He was one of the most active composers for the spin-offs ever since the debut of THE NEXT GENERATION.

BABYLON 5 fortunately went for strong, powerful music, by former Tangerine Dream member Christopher Franke. And then later the GALACTICA reimagining with Bear McCreary was just wonderful in this area.

He scored every episode of those four seasons as well as the associated TV movies, having started as assistant to Richard Gibbs on the miniseries that preceded the first season.


Bear McCreary’s official site is here. And you can find him on Twitter: @bearmccreary.