Various Thoughts About My Work
(and a few other things)
in March, 2017, with additions from time to time
As 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.
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.
Let 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’
I have 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 that 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.
As to 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.
Let 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.
When 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.
I hope 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.
I did change English-English
to American-English, but mostly only in spelling.
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 left
People 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 every instance.
It 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.
It 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.
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.
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!
On 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
[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.
= = = = = = = = = = =
A few pointers
for interviewers — suggestions
which I have always tried to follow myself. Obviously,
if you are trying to trip up your guest, to embarrass or
make him/her look bad, these suggestions will not apply.
Indeed, these ideas can even work to your advantage by showing
what not to do.
If that is the case, I truly feel sorry for you, and hope your work
is discredited and derided. Objectivity and neutrality seem
to have been lost these days, and while news reporters need not
be cheerleaders, they have a responsibility to present
their findings without bias either for or against the topic and
viewpoint of the guest.
That said, 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. Since 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
Know your subject,
but don't ever feel you know more than your guest
knows about it. You might, in fact, know more, but to
go into the interview with that assumption will close doors
in your mind, or will hamper you from inquiring further about
one or another detail.
Don't ask questions
where the only possible response is 'yes' or 'no'.
If you box your guest in so that they cannot make their
own reply, you've squandered the opportunity to learn anything.
In the same vein,
keep your questions short, and don't give possible
answers. [Poor examples: "Would you rather
do (this) or (that)?" Or, "Is it correct to say
such-and-such?" Or, "When you did this, did you feel
(this way) or (that way)?"] Let your guest respond to
an inquiry rather than select from a few choices you've given him
or her. Also, though it doesn't really apply here,
let your guests finish their responses. It's so annoying
when an interviewer interrupts the guest when they are making
their response. This usually happens when the guest
is presenting a view which is contrary to the one held by the
interviewer, but the advice is good for any eventuality.
When two people talk at once, it's impossible to understand what
either one is saying. That's the beauty of the operatic
ensemble — two or more people can be saying their
own lines, and it all comes out in perfect harmony... but that's
a topic for another discussion!
= = = = = = = = = = =
The following list
appears on a couple of the interview pages, but since
people continue to ask, here is the answer . . .
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
Vittorio Rieti (January
28, 1898). The order continues with composer/pianist
(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
The 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.....
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Many 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.
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
= = = = = = = = = = =
Despite 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!
These 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
= = = = =
= = = = = =
A few random
the Butterfly committed a spoonerism. I think
that every time I see one flutter by, no matter what the
articles on its etymology say.....
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 Rigoletto. Another 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).
They left out
the letter ‘D’
from the name Arizona. I’ve never been
there, but I know it’s quite arid in the South
There are three
major musical works in three different languages,
all of which the public quite often mistakenly adds 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.]
What 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!]
= = = = = = = = = = =
[September 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 teeth.
(3) On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World
= = = = = = = = = = =
[December 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.
What 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 the group of 224 interview guests,
which is 6.25%, plus six African-Americans.
= = = = = = = = = = =
[January 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
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 ‘piano’,
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’.]
= = = = =
= = = = = =
On the 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 age.
Of course, we can
always look back even farther in time to the abacus .
Chinese type (5 plus
2) above; Japanese type (4 plus 1) below
Noting 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 were mad about the Beethoven
Symphony #9. So, to accommodate that piece of music,
the CD needed to hold 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 . . . . .
[February 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 for art...
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 each.
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' legs.
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 resident.
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 ever had."
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 years.
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!
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[June 29, 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.
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[January 3, 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.
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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
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 excuses.
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 very competitive.
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.
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[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
My reason for bringing this up is to point
out that in several of my interviews — which
date from 1979-2006 — 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 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 minutes!"
Fourth Music Joke... A woman is on
trial for beating her husband to death with his guitars.
judge asks, “First offender?” She replies, “No, first a
Gibson, then a Fender.”
Musical variation on an old joke... If Mezzo-Soprano
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
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 enjoyment.................
In the same Google search, I spotted the following item,
which probably should be posted in every office................
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[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 social-distancing!
[November 9, 2020, and Covid is still the #1 topic everywhere... *sigh*]
= = = = = = = = = = =
[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, and 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 respnded 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 marching
band, but do I have to walk in front of the _________???" Again, the
contestant said Cymbals, but a couple of the panelists said Trombone!
= = = = = = = = = = =
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 Doodle.
To see the video, and read about its creation, click HERE.
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