Various Thoughts About My Work
(and a few other things)
by Bruce Duffie
First posted in March, 2017, with
additions from time to time
On editing my interviews...
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.
Preparing 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.
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,
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
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. ‘Labour’
‘organization’, 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 intact.
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
I 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.
Occasionally 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!
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 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 responses.
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 the 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 . . .
I 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 Vittorio Rieti (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
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
= = = = = = = = = = =
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.
Editing 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.
= = = = = = = = = = =
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
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 would 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 to abound.
= = = = = = = = = = =
A few random thoughts.............
Whoever 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.....
Technically, I was born in Elmhurst 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 West...
There 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.
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.
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[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
(3) On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
= = = = = = = = = = =
[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 ‘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 ‘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
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 . . . . .
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
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
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
The two cartoons below reflect our 'progress' as we firmly embrace the
Twenty-First Century . . . . .
= = = = = = = = = = =
[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.
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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 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.
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[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 . . . . .
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[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
(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 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
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 imperitive 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.
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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: Many people say, "It'll be tenor
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.”
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!]
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[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
old 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 image, used for two denominations. The portrait is Schumann, 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 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 that involve music or musicians.
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[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"
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.