Various Thoughts About My Work
(and a few
posted in March, 2017, with additions from time
editing my interviews...
you may or may not be aware, my full-time employment
from 1975-2001 was with WNIB, Classical 97
in Chicago. Except for four hours overnight
during the week, and four hours on Saturday afternoons,
the programming was exclusively classical music in its
great variety. In addition to my regular duties as
announcer, I also gathered interviews with various musicians
for use both on the air and in selected magazines and journals.
In all (through about 2005), I did over 1600 exclusive interviews.
A few guests I met twice, and very rarely even more times.
While it was not the original intent of the management
to include atonal or cutting-edge repertoire, I was able
to add that material on my weekend overnight shifts, and part
of those programs were the interviews with composers and performers
of new music.
and presenting these interviews on webpages is very
different from editing sections for use on the radio.
What sounds good to the ear may not look good to
the eye. Hence, various changes need to be made
in order for the resulting impact to be virtually the same.
me state here that it is my purpose and duty to render
the thoughts and ideas of my guests as completely and
accurately as possible. It is also my feeling that
I should make the guests look good. This stands
in marked contrast to most other interviewers (whose usual
guests are politicians and business people) who have an agenda,
and usually try to embarrass the guest, often with ‘gotcha’
a genuine interest and overwhelming love of my subject,
and I always tried to solicit ideas from my guests
in response to my own inquires and proddings. Occasionally,
I would ask a question which was purposely ambiguous
in order to allow the guest to have the freedom to answer in
whatever way he or she chose. This would, however, come
after at least a few questions which would indicate to the guest
that I, as the interviewer, knew what I was talking about, and
that I was interested in knowing what they had to say.
the actual editing, when doing it for the radio, I
would always try to select sections that showed my guest
to their best advantage. I would also make sure
to end the section on a positive note.
me inject here that when WNIB was going off the air
on its final day, I chose an opera that ended with a positive
sound in a major key — Turandot — and
the final piece of music at 12 Midnight — Lyric for Strings by George Walker
— was also a chosen because
of its aural impression, and the
fact that it ended quietly in a major key. My first
thought was to use Adagio
for Strings by Barber, but that piece
was so associated with the movie Platoon and other works and dates,
that I desired something more unique and somewhat
unknown with the same feeling. To read more about
the final broadcast, click HERE.
editing the spoken words for visual (print) use,
certain mannerisms and repetitions become really annoying,
and when something is annoying, it detracts from the
overall impact. So the phrases ‘you know’
and ‘I think’, and the interjection ‘well’
were almost always dropped. I also usually
removed the phrases ‘kind of’ and ‘sort
of’ in most instances since they diminished the thought
and derailed the impact. My guests were
strong and vibrant, and there was no reason to veil them in any
kind of namby-pamby cloak. In speech, sentences would often
begin with the word ‘and’, so I would either drop
the word, or simply connect the thoughts into one sentence.
Parenthetical material, which is meant to amplify or clarify ideas,
makes for tricky reading, so I would often re-order the sentence
to get the thoughts together.
you notice that in all of the instances I never changed
any ideas of my guests, nor did I put words into their
mouths. Their thoughts are what has come through...
at least that has always been my hope, and what I strive
to accomplish. On the rare occasion that my guest
would not answer my question directly — or at all!
— I would change my question in the print edition so that
my guests could answer in the way they saw fit. If
there were any digressions or extraneous portions, those were
usually omitted, and any glaring errors were either fixed or
explained. Again, those instances were very rare.
change English-English to American-English, but mostly
only in spelling. ‘Labour’
and references to a group became singular rather than
plural. ‘The audience don’t care’
became ‘The audience doesn’t care’.
This adjustment, by the way, is only in the text of the
interviews. The biographical boxes and reprints of obituaries
were almost always left intact.
whose first language is not English will often become
quite proficient with English vocabulary, but will
continue to use their original structure patterns.
Whereas in English we put the modifiers first
— a lovely blue sky — others might speak about
‘a sky lovely blue’.
Those quirks have often been fixed, though not in
always was my intention to present these conversations
as something to learn from and enjoy. The
transcripts are not of the ‘legal stenographic’
kind. My guests were not on trial. I
was a guest at their concert venue or in their hotel, or they
were guests in my home or studio. I always treated
them with kindness and respect, and allowed them to express
themselves without fear of any kind of accusation or derision.
is special to be able to do it at all, but I have managed
to do it quite well in both the audio medium and the
printed renditions. Not to toot my own horn, but
most people seem to think I am pretty good at both.
I have found it necessary to look not only at the big, overall
picture, but also the smallest details. I’m
sure there is nothing new or extraordinary about this, but
keeping that in my mind as I edit goes a long way to strengthening
the impact of each interview.
know these interviews are generally
long, but they are what I have, and I want to share
what is there. In a radio broadcast, people have
to sit there until it is over... or go away and miss whatever
comes next. On the printed page, readers can interrupt
their journey and (hopefully) come back at some point to
pick it up again without missing a beat.
I will update the pages with new photos and links.
So even though a date at the bottom might indicate
the page was uploaded before others, that is why later
interview links can appear. I do not do this chore
very often, so there may be links which could be on a page,
but are not. However, as long as there is the possibility
of additions or corrections, things might get improved!
that thought, it always pleases me to be able to include
links to other interviews within each new one that is
posted. In most cases, these are names that are brought
up by the guest, or appear in the biographies or obituaries.
Only occasionally have I introduced them in the course
of asking questions, and in each case, the reference was,
I hope, relevant and logical.
I freely admit to being a cheerleader
for my topic and my guests. This is not a bad
thing since I am not a news gatherer, but rather a feature
reporter. Because my interviews were Features rather
than News, some of the basic rules and formats did not apply.
For instance, the old adage for news gathering is to ask
these questions: who, what, where, when, why, how, huh?
That last one (which I have added) is usually where I got the
best and most interesting responses.
[A brief related addition, posted on November
5, 2019] Regarding my webpages, several times I have
received requests to place advertisements. In all cases
I have declined, and despite my tight financial situation, I
hope to be able to continue to say a resounding “NO!”
to any and all inquiries of that sort.
= = = = = = = = = = =
following list appears on a couple of the interview
pages, but since people continue to ask, here is
the answer . . .
have done interviews with several musicians who
were born in the Nineteenth Century. My guest
with the earliest birth-date (March 10, 1892) was soprano
Dame Eva Turner.
However, composer John Donald Robb (June
12, 1892), though three months younger than Turner,
was nearly two years older at the time of our conversation.
Hence, a clarification is needed when I am asked who
my oldest guest was! Next in birth-order is composer
Paul Amadeus Pisk
(May 16, 1893), followed by composer/pianist Leo Ornstein (December
2, 1893), and lexicographer Nicolas Slonimsky (April
27, 1894). Then comes mezzo-soprano
Sonia Sharnova (May
2, 1896), composer/critic Virgil
Thomson (November 25, 1896), and composer
(January 28, 1898). The order continues
with composer/pianist Ernst Bacon (May
26, 1898), followed by composer Marcel Dick (August
28, 1898), conductor Werner Janssen (June
1, 1899), and composer Alfred Eisenstein (November
14, 1899). The remaining four are composers
Elinor Remick Warren
(February 23, 1900), Otto Luening (June
15, 1900), and Ernst Krenek
(August 23, 1900), and finally publisher Hans Heinsheimer
(September 25, 1900).
rest of my guests were born in the Twentieth Century.
Perhaps, if I have the opportunity, I might interview
someone born after January 1, 2001, and thus have conversations
with people born in three different centuries and two
different millennia! Though there is no clerical
error involved, and it is not my intent to pad my statistics,
somehow the film Mr. 3000
comes to mind.....
= = = = = = = = = = =
of my guests are mostly or completely unknown, and
in an odd way, that pleases me very much. If someone
who is little-known becomes more-known through my efforts,
then I have succeeded in bringing forth something special
to the composite knowledge of mankind. A lofty statement,
certainly, but when one thinks about it, each of us is asked to
push our tiny segment forward, and my task seems to have been to
enrich the musical world through discovery of interesting items.
Yes, I have also presented some of the best-known and most popular
figures, but, as John von Rhein mentioned in a Tribune article about the station,
he admired my collection of ‘oddball’ composers
and performers. Many times, after doing a program featuring
one of them, I would get a call or two asking why this person
was not better-known. The callers would remark to
the effect that the music or performing artistry just presented
could certainly stand up against the output of the well-knowns.
these interviews from a quarter-century ago or more,
I often find interesting sidelights and tidbits that
either amplify ongoing ideas, or give new insight into little-explored
or un-spotlighted areas of the subject. It is
truly amazing that these thoughts would be found in the
most remote places and come from such unlikely sources.
This is why I do what I do, and I hope that others both enjoy
and are enlightened by it all.
= = = = = = = = = = =
the fact that my early exposure to great music was
on radio (mostly WEFM, the station sponsored by Zenith
in Chicago), and that I built up a huge collection of
recordings on LP and open reel tape, and that I made my
living at another station (WNIB, Classical 97, also in Chicago),
I maintain — and have said openly
many times — that the real place to hear
great music is live in a concert hall or opera house. The
collision of these two worlds becomes the so-called ‘pirated’
performances. Usually operas, these gained
wide circulation amongst the cognoscenti, and in
my teens and twenties I found a number of people who traded
copies of various things with me. However, once I became
a professional radio announcer, I was very careful NOT
to use any of this material on the air. First of all, the
sound quality was often poor, and even though those of us who
obtained these performances understood this, the casual listener
would not be expected to be aware of the reason(s) for presenting
something in poor sound. Besides that, broadcast rights
were very tricky, and I did not want to involve the station in anything
which could have caused legal problems. It is a thorny issue,
and the musicians I have spoken with have not come to any kind of
consensus about it. Many of them collect copies
— not just of themselves but of others, both past and
current — even while decrying their use
and existence! I remember specifically one top record executive
remarking on the Texaco Opera Quiz that he does, indeed, collect
them, but would immediately bring suit against anyone who tried
to distribute copies of one of the artists on his label!
days, though I am not involved in the day-to-day broadcasting
activities, I am posting interviews with my guests
and illustrating the webpages with photos of the artists
and their recordings. I find things on the internet,
but try not to use any copyrighted material, and I eschew
the placement of images of pirated recordings on my sites.
The commercial recordings are fair game, especially since
I am giving them free publicity, but usually not the broadcasts
and in-house items which seem to abound.
= = = = = = = = = =
few random thoughts.............
named the Butterfly committed a spoonerism.
I think that every time I see one flutter by, no matter
what the articles on its etymology say.....
I was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, on March 11, 1951.
My mother’s doctor was at Elmhurst Hospital,
so that is where she went to deliver me. My father,
however, always insisted I was born in Evanston, since
that is where we lived at the time. With the myriad
suburbs surrounding most major and minor cities, I
wonder how often this kind of thing happens... It
is pleasing to me that I am exactly — to
the day — 100 years younger than
Verdi opera, Don Carlos
also had its premiere on March 11, but in a later year (1867).
I also share that date with composer Carl Ruggles (1876)
, and band leader Lawrence Welk (1903). A quick
Google search just now also revealed many others, including
Shemp Howard (1895). [Related story... I met Michael
Fine when he was producing one of the recordings made by the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I inquired if he was related
to Vivian Fine, whom
I had interviewed. He said no. I then asked if he was related
to Irving Fine, another composer, and he said no. Finally, I asked
if he was related to Burton Fine, principal violist of the Boston Symphony.
Once more, the answer was no. He then volunteered
that he was related to Larry Fine of the Three Stooges.] More
March 11 birthdays... Astor Piazzola (1921), Mercer Ellington
(1919), and Henry Cowell (1897). When I interviewed Geraldine Decker,
we had a great laugh that she, also, was born on March 11 (1931).
left out the letter ‘D’
from the name Arizona. I’ve never
been there, but I know it’s quite arid in
the South West...
are three major musical works in three different
languages, all of which the public quite often mistakenly
adds the word ‘the’
before the name. To wit: Messiah, Pagliacci, and Winterreise. Each one is named as
just shown, NOT The Messiah, nor
I Pagliacci, nor Die Winterreise. [Note that the
title of the TV Game Show Match Game also lacks the article. More
about that program later on this webpage.]
is with this overwhelming compulsion to cite the excrement
of the male cow?
English is not the easiest of languages… It can
be understood through tough thorough thought though.
General observation... Regarding professional sports, we,
in the Twenty-First Century are just like the Ancients.
We take delight when our
city’s hired gladiators defeat any other
city’s hired gladiators. [GO CUBS!]
= = = = = = = = = = =
1, 2017] While there have always been doomsayers
and other prophets predicting the end of time, in the
past twenty years, there have been three distinct events
which many people truly believed signaled the End of Days.
Obviously, they were wrong, but it is interesting
to make note of them...
(1) Y2K. In anticipation of the numbered-year
leaving the 1900s and moving to the 2000s,
the hue and cry was heard all over the world that
the computer systems could not handle that change, and
all our electric and electronic grids would fail, and we
would be destroyed. Much time and effort was put into
correcting the problem, which apparently worked.
(2) One version of the Mayan Calendar simply stopped
on December 21, 2012, and many people felt this was to be
the last day of Earth. Another version (which carried on
for many more years) was later discovered, but that did not seem
to prevent a few people from weeping and wailing and gnashing their
(3) On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the
= = = = = = = = = = =
26, 2017] A number of people have asked me about
how I selected which interviews would be used on the
air, and when they would be presented. These days,
on the WNUR series — and also on the
late (and hopefully lamented) series on Contemporary Classical
Internet Radio — there really is
no rhyme nor reason for selection. Programs were prepared,
and now the ones which exist are simply repeated after
two or three years, and usually in a different month. HOWEVER,
in my quater-century at WNIB, I was very careful and rather
ingenious about timing. Fairly early on, I stumbled
onto the use of ‘round birthdays’. This simply
meant that when a composer or performer had a ‘round
birthday’ — 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, etc.
— they got a show. Every five years each one would come
up, and a few of the early interviews aired several times. These
programs were in addition to any promotional use
— such as when one of their works was being presented in
live performance in the Chicago area, or in conjunction with a new
recording. The advantages of this system meant I did not have
agonize over who had been done and who might be neglected, and so
forth. It also was completely color-blind and gender-blind.
There are only 366 possibilities, and everyone has one whether
they like it or not. It also suited my style, in that I celebrated
life and not death. Yes, I mourned and eulogized my guests when
they passed away, but I did not, thereafter, mark their dates of death
with special progams.
brings all this to mind is a brief article in the newspaper,
which is reproduced at right. Since I am not doing
fresh interviews any more, I wondered just how well I
did during the time I was gathering them, from 1978-2006. So,
I counted up just the composers, and of the 496 names, 62
are women (12.5%), and 15 or 16 are African-American (approximately
3%). The discrepency is a man named Roque Cordero.
He was included in the series of recordings of music by
Black Composers issued on Columbia LPs, but in our interview
he told me quite forcefully that he did not like that label.
He insisted he was Panamanian, not black. There are
probably others — both in general and on my list
— who dislike or even disown one category or another, but that
is for another discussion. As to other minorities, I cannot
accurately compute them for various reasons. First, I am often
unaware of their background. A name might come from a few
generations back, or perhaps have been lost or changed through marriage
or assimilation. Further, I have met a number of composers
who belong to countries other than America. How should I count
them? Are they to be lumped into a vague category of Minority-Citizens?
Then, to discount the entire exercise, it is not my desire
nor intent (nor responsibilty!) to ascertain any kind of pedigree.
My interest is their music, and their ideas about its creation
and presentation. Beyond that, I truly do not care. Their
race or sexual orientation or any other factors are not my concern.
As long as they are part of the Classical Music community, I
accept them as such, and will give them their shot (as I like to say).
In truth, I consider all these kinds of labels both
insulting and unnecessary. We are all people, citizens, musicians,
etc. Naturally, I do not want to purposely include or exclude anyone,
and without really paying much specific attention to the matter, I think
I have been rather fair and equitable. Looking at the numbers mentioned
above, I assume that this percentage also holds for the performers...
though the women will have a higher resulting-number since they
account for nearly all of the sopranos and mezzos! As to
conductors — which are even more neglectful of the distaff
side — there are 14 women in my group of
224 interview guests, which is 6.25%, plus six African-Americans.
= = = = = = = = = = =
6, 2018] During this Holiday Season, I was
listening to some old favorites, including The Typewriter,
a novelty piece by Leroy Anderson. It occurred
to me that it might not be too many years until that device,
which was once ubiquitous, would not be even recognized by
most of the populace. In musical terms, it would be like
mentioning the Ophicleide or the Serpant...
Just a note
regarding soft timbre... Throughout musical
history, usually the brighter and louder instruments have
won the battle. However, the actual idea of being ‘loud’
is, ironically, soft-pedaled! There are
two significant instances where the idea (and nomenclature)
of being ‘loud’
was dropped. One of the early hammer-struck keyboard
instruments was the ‘fortepiano’
or the ‘pianoforte’. Forte
means loud, and piano means soft, so it was
literally the ‘loudsoft’ or the ‘softloud’,
indicating its ability to be both, contrasting to the plucked-instruments
such as the harpsichord and the virginal.
Quickly, the name was abbreviated to simply
as we know the instrument today. So, the idea of being
‘loud’ was dropped. The same thing happened
to the box which actually turns electrical signals
into sound, namely the ‘loudspeaker’.
We all know it as a ‘speaker’,
which, again, drops the idea of being loud. [You
may insert here any and all puns involving the word ‘allowed’.]
= = = = = = = = = =
subject of things that are obsolete, I have wondered
for a long time if the slide rule was the object which
went the fastest from being absolutely necessary to being
completely useless. Everyone who did any kind of mathematical
computation needed one, and relied on it in every instance.
But as soon as the electronic hand-held calculator
came out, the slide rule was immediately pushed aside, never
to return to any kind of use... except as a relic of a bygone
we can always look back even farther in time to the
abacus . . .
type (5 plus 2) above; Japanese type (4 plus 1) below
the two different systems shown, today, one might
think of the rivalry between Mac and PC, and realize that
such dualities have existed for centuries. Recently,
there was the debate between VHS and Beta video tape systems,
between 45 rpm and 33 rpm records in the late 1940s, and cylinders
vs. lateral-cut 78 rpm discs at the turn of the Twentieth Century.
There was no real problem with the introduction of electrical
recordings in 1925, since reproducers in the home could accommodate
both. The only real need for new equipment was at the
production end, and the record companies invested in the new system.
The same could not be said for the introduction of stereo
in the mid-1950s. There, the home consumer had to be persuaded
to purchase new equipment, and this was not even a decade after everyone
had to abandon their 78 machines in favor of the LP players. A
similar upheaval in the music industry was seen with the advent
of cassettes and CDs.
A story I heard
many years ago (and have repeated in the hopes it
was mostly or completely true) involves the size and playing-time
of the compact disc. It seems that one of the
people who were calling the shots at the time of its creation
was a Japanese man who knew that his countrymen simply adored
the Beethoven Symphony #9. So, to accommodate
that piece of music, the CD needed to hold about 74 minutes of sound.
The story may or may not be true, but it makes a good legend,
and I simply choose to believe it.
[August 31, 2019, and inserted here to
keep the topics together] Thinking again of 78s, here's
the famous image of our old friend Nipper, and a couple of
tidbits about its origins . . . . .
3, 2020, and inserted here to (again) keep the topics together]
I just ran across an interesting article about the latest in
sound reproduction. It is reproduced HERE.
His Master's Voice (HMV)
is a famous trademark in the recording industry, and was
the unofficial name of a major British record label.
The trademark image comes from a painting
by English artist Francis Barraud titled His Master's
Voice. It was acquired from the artist in 1899 by the newly
formed Gramophone Company, and adopted as a trademark by the
Gramophone Company's United States affiliate, the Victor Talking
Machine Company. According to contemporary Gramophone Company publicity
material, the dog, a terrier named Nipper, had originally belonged
to Barraud's brother, Mark. When Mark Barraud died, Francis inherited
Nipper, along with a cylinder phonograph and recordings of Mark's voice.
Francis noted the peculiar interest that the dog took in the recorded
voice of his late master emanating from the horn, and conceived the
idea of committing the scene to canvas. The incident took place at
92 Bold Street, Liverpool.
A different source relates a cautionary
tale for artists about getting and keeping the copyright
When Barraud painted Nipper curiously
searching for his master's voice in the phonograph's horn,
not only was the artist turned down for a copyright for the
image, but he was also rejected by the Royal Academy, and various
magazines. The Edison Bell company responded that "dogs don’t
listen to phonographs."
Barraud eventually sold another painting,
with a Berliner brass horn, to one of the company's managers,
where it caught the eye of the Emile Berliner, the company's
founder, who commissioned another copy AND bought the rights to
it! The famous image went on to become the trakemark of the Victor
Talking Machine Co. Victor was Berliner's partner, and the image
ultimately survived Victor's merger with RCA in 1929. It was printed
on record labels, letterheads, novelties, and catalogues for decades,
but Barraud, the original artist, only received two payments of £50
Here are a few more details about the
dog, and the original painting (shown below, which depicted
a cylinder machine, and not the flat-disc machine we all know)...
Nipper was born in 1884 in
Bristol, England, and died in September 1895. He was a mixed-breed
dog and probably part Jack Russell Terrier, although some sources
suggest that he was a Smooth Fox Terrier, or "part Bull Terrier".
He was named Nipper because he would "nip" the backs of visitors'
Nipper originally lived with his owner,
Mark Henry Barraud, in the Prince's Theatre where Barraud
was a scenery designer. When Barraud died in 1887, his brothers
Philip and Francis took care of the dog. Nipper himself died of natural
causes in 1895 and was buried in Kingston upon Thames in Clarence
Street, in a small park surrounded by magnolia trees. As time progressed
the area was built upon, and a branch of Lloyds Bank now occupies
the site. On the wall of the bank, just inside the entrance, a brass
plaque commemorates the terrier that lies beneath the building.
On 10 March 2010, a small road near to the dog's resting place in
Kingston upon Thames was named Nipper Alley in commemoration of this
In 1898, three years after Nipper's death,
Francis Barraud, his last owner and brother of his first
owner, painted a picture of Nipper listening intently to a
wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. Thinking the Edison-Bell
Company located in New Jersey, USA, might find it useful, he
presented it to James E. Hough, who promptly said, "Dogs don't listen
to phonographs". On May 31, 1899, Barraud went to the Maiden Lane
offices of The Gramophone Company with the intention of borrowing
a brass horn to replace the original black horn on the painting.
Manager William Barry Owen suggested that if the artist replaced
the machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, that he would buy the
painting. The image became the successful trademark of the Victor
and HMV record labels, HMV music stores, and the Radio Corporation
of America, after the acquisition of the Victor company in 1929.
The trademark was registered by Berliner for use in the United
States on July 10, 1900.
Francis Barraud said, "It is difficult
to say how the idea came to me beyond the fact that it suddenly
occurred to me that to have my dog listening to the phonograph,
with an intelligent and rather puzzled expression, and call
it 'His Master's Voice' would make an excellent subject. We had
a phonograph and I often noticed how puzzled he was to make out
where the voice came from. It certainly was the happiest thought I
The slogan "His Master's Voice", along
with the painting, was sold to The Gramophone Company for
£100 (equivalent to £10,628 in 2018) – half for the
copyright and half for the physical painting itself. The original
oil painting hung in the EMI boardroom in Hayes, Middlesex, for many
The two cartoons below reflect our 'progress'
as we firmly embrace the Twenty-First Century, and amplify
my remarks vis-à-vis the typewriter . . . . .
[Another observation, from May 11, 2020] Future
generations may wonder why something called a "compact" disc
held more material than a "long playing" record!
= = = = = = = = = = =
2018] Alert observers might notice that as of
the end of March, 2018, many of the links to my interviews
which appear in Wikipedia articles have a slightly
different format. Specifically, my name has been
removed from the line. For several years, it was <<<Interview
with (name of guest) by Bruce Duffie, on (date of interview).>>>
Because someone complained that I was spamming,
and felt the only reason for these links was my own self-promotion,
that person urged the removal of all of these links. A
discussion was launched, and several Administrators weighed
in with their opinions. Fortunately, enough of them
saw the importance of the interviews themselves, and the complainant
was admonished to cease the battering, and even urged to apologize
(which did not happen). After about a week, the discussion
was formally closed, and the upshot was that I removed my name
from many of the links, and am not including it in future postings.
However, a number of the old-style links remain, so there
might be a bit of confusion since they are not uniform. For
anyone who cares to read it, the entire discussion is reproduced HERE.
[Updated information about the above
item] Since I had "corrected" many of the links (to
remove my name), another editor(s) felt this was wrong, and undid
some of those corrections... thus replacing my name in the link.
One editor contacted me about the removals, and I showed
him/her the discussion (linked above). Since I don't go back
to old Wikipedia pages very often, I do not know whether the changes
have been made to a few or many of them. It is unimportant...
as long as the link itself is there, I am satisfied.
= = = = = = = = = = =
2019] In reading some of the comments about
my interviews, a couple people have noted that a few of my
questions tend to pop up with regularity. While
this is certainly true, I do hope that in each case the inquiries
come naturally, and at an appropriate place in the conversation.
I never worked with a specific list of questions,
and always tried to discuss the specific strengths of each guest.
However, since all were involved in so-called Classical Music,
there were bound to be common points of interest and expertise. To
look at it another way, when you eat at my restaurant, each meal
on the menu will be unique, but many will have some ingredients in
common. Since all are being prepared by myself as chef, there
will be some resemblances and similarities. I hope this does
not discourage anyone from sampling my cuisine.....
It is also
interesting to see how various people respond and
react to the same question(s). Continuing the metaphor,
there will certainly be differing opinions from various
people to the same item on my menu. Observing those reactions
should not, necessarily, cause me to change the recipe. Perhaps
having a few condiments on the table will allow for each person
to season the dish to their own taste, but this can only happen
when a certain stability is built into the process. Once
again, my goal with the interviews is to allow each guest to express
their own views, and I trust that a few similar questions will get
a variety of responses.
= = = = = = = = = = =
A few years ago, I met
a fine baritone whom I had known on the stage for
a long time. Warren Fremling has performed in local
and regional productions over the years, and has had a significant
impact each time. Lately, he has been an invaluable
help to me by proofreading my interviews before they are opened
to the public on my website. I am grateful to him for pointing
out not only mistakes (of which, fortunately, there are few), but
also for occasionally suggesting better ways of expressing the
ideas. As I have mentioned, I never change the focus nor direction
of the words my guests use, but by tightening and sometimes
re-gathering thoughts, their objectives are made more clear to
readers. In several cases, Warren has suggested slight
changes which bring these thoughts into sharper focus, and for
that I am eternally grateful.
In our exchanges, he
also has provided me with further insights into the world
of professional singing, and his most recent gift to me was
a clear and succinct explanation of the various voice-types,
and how they can be viewed by experts and novices alike. With
his permission, it is reproduced here...
are two things that decide this. The first
is color. Richness in the middle voice is revealing.
The second, and much more reliable, is the location
of the bridge or passagio. A mezzo’s bridge is a-kin
to a baritone’s. It’s on the D, a ninth above mid-C
(a baritone’s being an octave lower, obviously).
I’ve diagrammed voices according to their interest and comfort
to the listener’s ear – not what the singer does, but what
is natural to the instrument. A soprano or tenor sound
like this: \/ - the bottom is light and the voice sounds more
interesting and easier as the voice ascends. The mezzo and
baritone sound like this: () – the voice is fattest in the
middle. We have some of the low notes of the contralto/bass
and some of the high notes of the soprano/tenor, but you can’t
live there. The middle is where we’re most at home.
The contralto/bass is the exact opposite of the soprano/tenor –
the voice gets fatter and more beautiful with the descent.
= = = = = = = = = = =
[February 4, 2019]
As the the shortest month of the year rolls
around once again, I am reminded of the one word which I simply
gave up trying to pronounce correctly. I made an effort,
but it simply was too awkward to do both correctly and smoothly
at the same time. I could say Feb-ROO-rary, but it required
slowing down the enunciation to the point where it was simply
untenable. [You may insert any kind of joke here, regarding
it not being a ten, or even a nine, but perhaps a two or three at
best...] Imagine, if you will, a car on the highway, and
for some unknown reason it just slowed to a crawl. It would
certainly look strange, to say nothing about impeding traffic and
being hazardous. This is not to say that an announcer mis-pronouncing
a word on the radio could be hazardous in any way, but you get my
drift... So if any tapes exist of my work where I say the name
of the second month, you will hear a firm and confident FEB-you-air-ee.
I know it is wrong, and I knew it at the time, and I make no
I am sure I made other mistakes,
and, indeed, I was corrected on a few occasions. But
by and large, I was complimented by members of the public
on my accuracy and stylistic manners. It was especially
nice to hear that I had pronounced the name of a person or
location properly from someone who was from that particular locale.
I want to say, however, that when someone called to make
a correction, my first task was to ascertain if that person on
the telephone was accurate! There were a few occasions
when a caller would berate me and give a different version of the way
to pronounce a name, and when I checked with a known authority, I
found that my own rendition was correct, and the caller had been wrong.
It reminds me of the sign which famously hung in the City News
Bureau for many years, which screamed “If
your mother says she loves you, check it out!”
On that particular subject,
I remember one evening when we aired a syndicated broadcast
of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The announcer (who
shall remain nameless) proclaimed the conductor to be Esa-Pekka
Sa-LOH-nehn. Well, I had interviewed the Maestro,
and, as usual, had asked him to do a station break, in which
he said his name. His pronunciation was SAL-oh-nehn. At
some point during the evening, I must have said his name myself,
and pronounced it his way, and immediately received a phone call
screaming at me for my stupidity. “If
the announcer on the Los Angeles Symphony broadcast had said it
one way, that MUST be the accurate way!” I
tried, very calmly, to explain, but the caller simply slammed
the phone down. The next evening, I brought in my interview
tape and played the station break. I have no idea if that
caller from the previous night heard it, but at least I settled
the matter for anyone who was listening . . . . .
= = = = = = = = = = =
[April 22, 2019] Consider,
if you will, the following scenario... Bill opens
a small restaurant that features Fine Dining. He is
successful, and over the course of forty-five years, the eatery
becomes well-known and highly-respected. After spending
his adult life maintaining this establishment, he decides to retire.
As it happens, the location he originally chose -- which
was, at the time, perfectly good but not very popular -- had
become very desirable. So Bill closed the restaruant and sold
the location to Bonney, who brought in her own staff and opened
a shoe store. It immediately attracted business, and became
Now when one thinks of the
history of the restaurant vis-à-vis the ongoing
story of the shoe store, it should be obvious that aside from
the physical location, there is no connection whatsoever. Right?
Perhaps, the historical account of each one should have
a mention of the other as being at the same address, but that's
certainly all the crossover interest there would be.
With that in mind, I ask you
to look HERE.
= = = = = = = = = = =
[June 28, 2019] Following
up on my remarks about diversity (above, with the date of
December 26, 2017), much has transpired in the short time since
then. While I do not — and did not
— go into the political area when
conversing with my musical guests, it has come to my attention
that the Music World is, nonetheless, very much involved in such
social matters. For example, the editorial in Opera Canada
of Summer, 2019, discusses the “central
debate about how to keep the art form relevant for an audience which
no longer passively accepts the racist, misogynist and sexist
tropes of yesteryear.” It goes on to discuss the
“challenges faced by women singers portraying some
of the standard repertoire’s iconic roles...
many of which are mired in stereotypes we find unacceptable in
the #MeToo era.”
My reason for bringing this up
is to point out that in several of my interviews
— which date from 1978-2006
— I specifically ask the question of my female singer
guests. To wit: “How do we keep
these Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century characters relevant
to women (and men) today who have gone through world wars, and
social upheavals, and other developments of our times?”
This is not to just pat
myself on the back for being so forward-looking, but
to show that my own curiosity was such that it became imperative
to inquire about these ideas, and to ask how they resonated
with audiences far removed from the original mores and strictures.
Of course, in the theater, the
production team can (and often does) re-set the action
to a later era, or even to the present day. That is,
again, a discussion for another time and place, but it does move
the ideas in ways that can provoke or amuse. There is also
the need to remember that it was only in the early Twentieth Century
that the classical musical public abandoned its craving for anything
and everything which was new. Until then, while there were
performances of older pieces, it was the newest and latest symphonies
and operas which were anticipated with genuine eagerness. Once
this trend was lost, the oft-repeated repertoire began to show signs
of losing its immediate contact with concert-goers, and from there
it is the famous ‘slippery slope’.
In any event, I just wanted to
call attention to my own small attempts to make inquiry
when possible, and to show that my own feeling is that opera
can remain a viable and exciting living breathing art form.
= = = = = = = = = = =
Music Joke... Question:
What are the names of the Three Bears? Answer:
Smokey Bear, Yogi Bear, Jacques Ibert
Second Music Joke... What
if we discover that’s what it really is
all about? [Reference: Hokey Pokey]
Third Music Joke... Question:
What is the voice-range of the quarter-hour?
Answer: People often say, "It'll be tenor fifteen
Fourth Music Joke... A woman
is on trial for beating her husband to death with his guitars.
The judge asks, “First offender?” She
replies, “No, first a Gibson, then a Fender.”
Musical variation on an old joke... If
Verrett married Tenor George Shirley,
she’d be Shirley Shirley!
= = = = = = = = = = =
[August 29, 2019] I stumbled
upon this item just now, and thought it would be fun to
post it here. For those who do not read music, or for
anyone interested in seeing a nifty connection between this tune
and the main thrust of my website, click HERE.
Lest you think it is only one
or two goofballs at a single establishment who would make
such an error, consider the fact that the government of the former
DDR (East Germany) issued two postage stamps in 1956 to mark the
100th anniversary of the death of composer Robert Schumann. They
were the same portrait of Schumann, used for two denominations,
but the music in the background was by Franz Schubert! These
are the top two stamps in the illustration below. Soon, the
error was discovered, and a new version of the stamps (with music
by Schumann) was issued, as seen in the bottom two in the illustration.
There have been other philatelic mistakes,
but most have been caught before the stamps were available
to the public for use as postage. This is not about printing
errors, such as inverted images, or mistakes in colors or perferations.
Rather, place names have been mis-attributed and people
have been wrongly identified. But those shown below are the
only foul-ups I know which involve music or musicians.
= = = = = = = = = = =
[September 19, 2019] The
following is from an essay about the (missing?) "A" in Neil
Armstrong's famous first statement when he stepped on the
moon, which was posted on the website "The Conversation" 7/16/19.
When we talk, we formulate a thought, retrieve words from memory and
move our mouths to produce sound. We do this quickly, producing, in English,
around five syllables every second.
The process for listeners is equally complex and speedy. We hear
sounds, which we separate into speech and non-speech information, combine
the speech sounds into words, and determine the meanings
of these words. Again, this happens nearly instantaneously,
and errors rarely occur.
These processes are even more extraordinary when you think more closely
about the properties of speech. Unlike writing, speech doesn’t have
spaces between words. When people speak, there are typically very few
pauses within a sentence.
Yet listeners have little trouble determining word boundaries in real
time. This is because there are little cues – like pitch and rhythm – that
indicate when one word stops and the next begins.
But problems in speech perception can arise when those kinds of cues
are missing, especially when pitch and rhythm are used for
non-linguistic purposes, like in music. This is one reason
why misheard song lyrics – called “mondegreens” – are common.
When singing or rapping, a lot of the speech cues we usually
use are shifted to accommodate the song’s beat, which can end
up jamming our default perception process.
[October 18, 2019] When I was
a teenager in the mid 1960s, I actually did some work with computers...
designing flow charts and writing code in FORTRAN. The
lines were then put onto punch cards, which then ran through the
computer to execute the (very simple) programs. I didn't stick
with it, though, and only came back to computers via a Memorywriter
(a word-processor) which the radio station had, and used for awhile
to publish the WNIB
Program Guide in the late 1980s.
My reason for mentioning this at all is that
some time back then I saw the famous saying which is reproduced
below. Recently I remembered this saying, and looked
it up via a Google search. The many presentations varied
a bit, but had the same basic content. Besides the signs and
posters there was a tee-shirt, a coffee mug, and even one going so
far as to use faux nazi stationery.
In any event, here is one rendition for your
In the same Google search, I spotted the
following item, which probably should be posted in every office................
= = = = = = = = = = =
[March 24, 2020] During the coronavirus
pandemic, I happened upon this article,
and felt it was significant enough to share. Perhaps it should
also be posted in every office, along with the item shown directly above
(about the rising cost and increase of stupid questions), as an antidote
to the situation . . . . . . . . . (!)
Obviously, there is nothing funny about the
coronavirus, but there is some humor to be found in the actions
of a few individuals . . . . .
[April 22, 2020] Current version of old joke:
Why did the chicken cross the road? To maintain her
[November 9, 2020, and Covid is still the #1 topic everywhere...
= = = = = = = = = = =
[June 24, 2020] We owned a Smart Car (shown
on right in the photo) for about five years. It was really very comfortable,
and fun to drive around town. Our other car was a mini-van,
which we used for transporting larger items, and took on longer
road trips. One day, when our Smart Car was parked in a lot
that was full, the owner of the white Smart Car asked if she could
use the ‘other half’
of our space. The result looks as though our cars are kissing!
In the spirit of admonishing a couple who are showing too much
PDA (public display of affection) to “Get a room!”,
a passer-by shouted, “Get a garage!!!”
= = = = = = = = = = =
[September 12, 2020] As people
who have read my interview with Charles
Nelson Reilly know, one of my guilty pleasures is watching re-runs
of Match Game. The ones I like best are from the 1970s,
with host Gene Rayburn, and panelist Richard Dawson, who was there until
1978. Of course, Reilly was there throughout, and he truly made
the show funny. One of the other regular panelists, Brett Somers,
said that a fan had declared that the program should really be called
Charles Nelson Reilly's House Party, alluding to another program
actually called Art Linkletter's House Party. One week,
Raymond Burr was in the lower-middle position of the six panelists.
My reason for mentioning all of this is that on one episode that
week, there were two questions relating to music! The first one
went something like this... Tough Teddy said, "Our school was
soooooo tough... [audience shouts, "How tough was it?"] ...it was
so tough that the the school orchestra kidnapped the janitor and put
him in the _______." [The panel and contestants were to fill in the
blank at the end of the sentence, and when they matched, it scored a point
for the contestant.] The more popular answer was "Tuba", given by
the contestant and four of the panelists, but Reilly (and one other panelist)
said "Drum". This was what the writers were going for, since there
was a commercial product called "Janitor in a Drum". The second
musical question was, "Pat Pending (!) invented a juke box for people
who hate music. You drop a quarter in the slot, and it ______s
the record." The obvious answer (which won the game for the contestant)
was "Breaks" (or smashes).
[November 2, 2020... amazingly this goes with the
Match Game item above!] I continue to enjoy these re-runs,
and now they have added the evening series Match Game PM. Each
week had a stand-alone game which was edited a bit to get through the
entire game in one segment. (The weekday edition just played for the
time allotted, and games spread over to the next day when necessary -
which was most of the time!) Anyway, there were two music questions
in recent PM programs... The first was "Lawrence _______". The
panelists gave Lawrence of Arabia, and Lawrence Welk, then Reilly chimed
in with, "I know this is an old reference, but Lawrence Tibbett!" Rayburn
acknowledged that he knew of "the famous baritone", and began singing
the Toreador Song from Carmen, but the audience was not impressed.
The third response from the polled audience was Lawrence Olivier.
For the record, Lawrence Welk was chosen by the contestant, and won
the top prize. The other question was more obscure. The question
was "_______ foxes." The panel suggested sly foxes, and, being theater
people, Little Foxes (the play by Lillian Hellman). I don't
remember the third choice, nor which was the winning item. I was
engrossed in the fact that while Somers and Rayburn were trying to remember
which actress starred as Regina on Broadway, and which one was in the film,
Reilly screamed, "AND BRENDA LEWIS STARRED IN THE OPERA REGINA BY
MARC BLITZSTEIN." I was so proud of him at that point. For
the record, it was Tallulah Bankhead on Broadway (1939), and Bette Davis
in the film (1941). The opera premiered in 1949 at the 46th Street
Theatre, with Jane Pickens as Regina, conducted by Maurice Abravanel.
Lewis sang Birdie, but then moved to the title role when the opera
was revived in 1953 at the City Centre Opera.
[December 2, 2020... a couple more related items] Two more
questions come to mind, and both relate to music in the nude. (!) A
well-endowed lady volunteered for the All-Nude Orchestra. Unfortunately,
she played _________. The contestant responded with Cymbals, and
some panelists also said that. But after all six made their contribution,
Rayburn said that his answer was the Accordion! [Huge laugh from
the audience.] On another episode was this question... A man
complains to the conductor of the All-Nude Marching Band, "I don't mind
playing in your ensemble, but do I have to walk in front of the _________???"
Again, the contestant said Cymbals, but a couple of the panelists
[December 27, 2020... one more item!] This is from the
third version of the program, the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour.
This incantation of the program only lasted one season (October,
1983 - July, 1984). Rayburn returned as host of the Match Game
portions, and Jon Bauman (who had been Bowzer with Sha Na Na) hosted the
Hollywood Squares segment. Bauman dressed normally, in a suit
and tie, with regular hair, not all greased up. However, he did occasionally
refer to his Bowzer character "from a previous life," and sometimes showed
his famous open-mouth fists-in-the-air pose. Anyway, on one segment,
there was this (musical) question: "When well-endowed Wanda played
her accordion, Lady of Spain became Lady of _______." As
it happened, one panelist (Mark Russell) gave away the punch line by saying
that the title became Lady of Pain, and they had to throw out the
question before the contestant had a chance to respond. For those
who are interested, see my interview with accordionist Robert Davine.
On another program, the question was "George was always tired when he got
home from work because he was a ________ salesman." I don't remember
any of the other responses, but Bauman said "Anvil", and promptly started
singing the "Anvil Chorus" from Il Trovatore. (Remember that
Bauman had attended Juilliard!) Rayburn also joined in, but no one else
seemed to respond to their rendition. *sigh*
[January 16, 2021... though the date of my posting is not really relevant
since all the Match Game programs are re-runs from 45 or more years
ago!] Another couple of musical questions... "George knew his
son would be a musician because his head was shaped like a __________." The
contestant said Violin, and the six panelists said Drum, Grand Piano, Heart
- which is an Organ (the panelist said that!), Triangle, Tuba, and Reilly
said a G-Clef, and drew a very respectable image on his card. The
last panelist (Joyce Bulifant) noted that it was quite an ensemble, and
Rayburn pointed out that there were seven different excellent responses.
Another question was, "When Joshua wanted to destroy the wall in Jericho,
his trumpet wasn't enough, so he used a _________." The contestant
and one panelist said Tuba, another panelist said Piano, one said Buldozer,
and the other three said Hammer. Rayburn lamented that four of the six
panelists just didn't understand the question! Though there were no
'right' or 'wrong' answers, he often would gently deride them when there was
one (or more) obvious answer, and the contestant or panelists would completely
miss the joke.
[February 12, 2021] Yet another "Audience Match" question was, "Bella
_______." Dawson rightly said that the audience often mis-spelled their
responses, and that despite his name being Bela, they might have said "Lugosi,"
which, indeed was the number-one answer. Incidentally, other questions
on the program often used the character of Count Dracula, and Rayburn spoke
the quote in an accent quite close to Lugosi's. Again, I forget what
was the number two response, but Reilly's (third position) response was, "Bella
figlia dell'amore," which is the opening phrase of the Quartet from Rigoletto.
Rayburn then began singing the phrase (correctly). It's just
another reason why I love that show.
= = = = = = = = = = =
I am proud to say that a quotation from my interview with Maria
Tallchief was used as the text with the animation in this Google
To see the video, and read about its creation, click HERE.
= = = = = = = = = = =
[December 20, 2020] A couple of images for the season
. . . . . The first one is not new, but does involve some wonderfully
On the other hand, it has been a very tough year
. . . . .
= = = = = = = = = = =
The following panel contains two separate jokes.
Do NOT try to make them into one idea. They just happened to
be inspired by the world situation . . . . .
[February 10, 2021] While editing my interview with my old bassoon
teacher Wilbur Simpson,
he said something which led me to find more info about it. To wit: "When
you were a kid, some of the most interesting things that I can remember
real early were when Walter Damrosch was piped into school. We used
to listen to those programs." My research produced the material shown
in the box below...
= = = = = = = = =
Now, ninety years later, what would be the long-term effect of even
a mere five million listeners (and viewers) of similar presentations on their
computers? I hereby "donate" all the interviews which are
posted on my website as research materials to be used as any kind of
compendium or supporting material to a venture such as this.
Walter Johannes Damrosch (January 30, 1862 – December
22, 1950) was a German-born American conductor and composer. He is best
remembered today as long-time director of the New York Symphony Orchestra
and for conducting the world premiere performances of George Gershwin's
Piano Concerto in F (1925) and An American in Paris
(1928). Damrosch was also instrumental in the founding of Carnegie Hall.
He also conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov's third piano concerto
with Rachmaninov himself as a soloist.
Damrosch was the National Broadcasting Company's music director
under David Sarnoff, and from 1928 to 1942, he hosted the network's Music
Appreciation Hour, a popular series of radio lectures on classic music
aimed at students. (The show was broadcast during school hours, and teachers
were provided with textbooks and worksheets by the network.) According
to former New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg in his
collection Facing the Music, Damrosch was notorious for
making up silly lyrics for the music he discussed in order to "help" young
people appreciate it, rather than letting the music speak for itself.