Music Notes

What do you do with those old vinyl LP recordings that you can’t even give away these days?  Well, someone has come up with the bright idea of trimming the LPs down so that only the labels and a bit of the black vinyl is left.  Then they smooth everything and laminate both sides to protect the labels during their new lives as coasters.  Neat idea!  The Los Angeles Philharmonic store is selling a set of six for $25.

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For years I listened to a weekly classical music program called The Record Shelf on our public radio station here in Baton Rouge.  The host, Jim Svejda, is a walking encyclopedia concerning classical music, and his show is superb.  The Record Shelf is still syndicated, but you can hear him every weeknight on KUSC public radio in Los Angeles from 7:00 p.m. to midnight Pacific Time over the internet.  Be sure to check out the weekly highlights while you’re at the site.

If you are just learning about classical music, check out Svejda’s books on the subject.  They are big books, and they are jam-packed with great information.  One thing to be aware of is that his two big books, The Insider’s Guide to Classical Recordings, From the Host of The Record Shelf, a Highly Opinionated, Irreverent, and Selective Guide to What’s Good and What’s Not, and The Record Shelf Guide to Classical CDs and Audiocassettes: Fifth Revised and Expanded Edition, were written/updated in the 1990s, so they don’t include the latest recordings.  However, you will find many classic recordings in these books that still represent some of the best interpretations of the greatest classical composers of all time – and Svejda’s comments are witty and enlightening.

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Christmas is over, and all the Christmas music has been replaced with the usual fare.  But, you can be sure that Christmas music will return in 2013, and that one of the songs you will hear over and over will be Bing Crosby’s interpretation of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”  Many thought it would disappear after its debut in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn, but Berlin knew better.  The story about “White Christmas” is worth reading.

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Can musical ability be inherited?  I think the jury is still out on that point since people like Mozart, Beethoven, Bizet, Verdi, and others had no siblings or children who showed the remarkable musical abilities that they showed.  (Yes, Wolfgang Mozart’s father, Leopold, had some talent, but nothing close to that of his son.  In fact, I think the few compositions of Leopold that are performed today are performed because he was Wolfgang’s father, not because they are so good.)  However, there are a few exceptions such as the Bachs and the Strauss family in classical music.  In movie music there is only the remarkable Newman family consisting of Alfred (the most gifted composer by far), his brothers Lionel and Emile, his sons Thomas and David, and his nephew Randy.  Thomas Newman has just received his 11th Oscar nomination (for the score of the James Bond film, Skyfall), which means that the family as a whole has now received an astounding 87 Oscar nominations.

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