Monday, November 25, 2013

Flashmob plays Beethoven's Ninth in public square. So it's a commercial for a bank? So what?

Banco Sabadell, in the city of Sabadell in Catalonia, gives the background:

Published on May 31, 2012 On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell we wanted to pay homage to our city by means of the campaign "Som Sabadell" (We are Sabadell) . This is the flashmob that we arranged as a final culmination with the participation of 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l'Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.

Some more commercials, promoting:

The last performance, of the Hallelujah Chorus at an Ontario food court in 2010, has the best production values of the lot. "This flash mob was organized by to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!" says the YouTube blurb. "Special thanks to Robert Cooper and Chorus Niagara, The Welland Seaway Mall, and Fagan Media Group."

According to a Nov. 19, 2010, article in the Welland Tribune, "The seemingly spontaneous event actually took weeks to plan, said Jennifer Blakeley of Niagara Falls-based Alphabet Photography, who organized the event and recently posted the video to YouTube." Blakeley added, "The cafeteria chorus was part Alphabet advertisement, part performance art designed to put people in the Christmas spirit."

Alphabet Photography has another Christmas message at

It's also a good example of what advertising creatives can do for their customers. A house ad, in other words.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Leonard Bernstein on modes (especially Mixolydian)

Understandable explanation of how the modes developed, with examples of what feelings they can evoke in listeners, in Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts" TV show from 1966. Shows aired for nearly 20 years. See Wikipedia for background and list of program segments at:'s_Concerts.

Available on YouTube, in four takes, and in transcript (linked below) on the Leonard Bernstein website. First take begins here ...

Leonard Bernstein: Young People's Concerts | What is a Mode? (Part 1 of 4)

Link here for the other takes:

Transcript of Leonard Bernstein, "Young People's Concert: What is a Mode?" Nov. 23, 1966.

A little history:

The word Dorian obviously comes from the Greek, and in fact, as well as the other modes we're about to discover, does come originally from the music of ancient Greece. We don't know too much about that old Greek music: What we do know is that the Greek modes eventually made their way to Rome and were taken up by the Roman Catholic church during the Middle Ages in a somewhat different form. But the church kept the old Greek names for the modes: Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian, and Ionian. Now there's a mouthful for you. I know. But they're much easier to understand than their names are to pronounce. And they are still used today in Catholic churches all over the world, in those beautiful chants called plainsong.

* * *

... From about the time of Bach until the beginning of our own century—roughly two hundred years—our Western music has been based almost exclusively on only two modes—the major and the minor. I can't go into the whys and wherefores of it now, but it's true. And since most of the music we hear in concerts today was written during that two hundred-year period, we get to think that major and minor modes are all there are. But the history of music is much longer than a mere two hundred years. There was an awful lot of music sung and played before Bach, using all kinds of other modes. And in the music of our own century, when composers have gotten tired of being stuck with major and minor all the time, there has been a big revival of those old pre-Bach modes. That's why Debussy used them so much, and other modern composers like Hindemith and Stravinsky, and almost all the young song writers of today's exciting pop music scene.

And this, on the Mixolydian:

Now this is the only major mode that has a lowered leading tone, and believe it or not most of the jazz and Afro-Cuban music and rock-and-roll tunes we hear owe their very existence to this old Mixolydian mode. Like this Cuban riff.


That's just Mixolydian. Now, do you hear how that lowered seventh tone makes a jazz sound? Of course, the examples I could give you are endless, but just to take a recent smash hit:

[PLAY & SING: Berry/Greenwich - Hanky-Panky]

Mixolydian. Could you believe it? Or do you remember a really terrific, barbaric song a few years ago, such by a group called the Kinks. It's called You Really Got Me.

[PLAY & SING: Davies - You Really Got Me]

That's old Mixolydian. Or, I wonder if you know take that absolutely charming Beatles tune, called Norwegian Wood.

[PLAY: Lennon/McCartney - Norwegian Wood]

You hear that lowered seventh note?


You hear that lowered seventh note?


That makes it Mixolydian. They're all Mixolydian. Now again, I don't want to give you the idea that this mode produces only jazz and pop music. It's still to be heard as much in churches as in discotheques. And, in fact, our old friend Debussy, when he wanted to suggest a Cathedral rising out of the sea (in that famous piano piece of his called The Sunken Cathedral used this same Mixolydian mode.

[PLAY: Debussy - Preludes Bk 1: La cathedral engloutie]

Isn't that a wonderfully impressive sound. I don't mean my sound; I mean Debussy's sound. ...

And finally a word or two on the Ionian, or major mode:
... And at last we come to C,


the starting note of our final and most triumphant mode of all, called the Ionian. Listen carefully now: Here is C,


and up we go, white notes only, to the next C,


and what have we got? Surprise: The C-major scale! The good old, tried and true C-major of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.

Now this C-major scale, once known as the Ionian, had simply survived better than all its neighbors the evolution of history and emerged in glory as king of all Western music for two hundred years. For instance, this tremendous C-major celebration by Beethoven.

[ORCH: BEETHOVEN FIFTH—coda of finale]

That, that was the last 30 seconds of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and there's no doubt that it's in C major. Beethoven doesn't leave any doubt about that. He hammers the point home. ...

And so on ...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mixolydian mode -- Grateful Dead, bebop, trad Irish sessions; links to definitions of tonality, modality, etc.

Links posted here so: (1) I can start pulling together my scattered reading on the Mixolydian; and (2) so I'll sound like I know what I'm talking about as I edit my article on "Roll Jordan" -- pe

BBC GCSE Bitesize "A secondary school revision resource for students studying their GCSEs featuring written content, interactive content, audio, video and games." The GCSE (short for General Certificate of Secondary Education) is the high-stakes exam taken by 14- to 16-year-olds in the UK. "Revision" refers to studying or cramming.

Notation -- Revise Notation -- Test yourself on Notation Instrumentation -- Revise Instrumentation -- Test yourself on Instrumentation Harmony and tonality -- Revise Harmony and tonality -- Test yourself on Harmony and tonality Melody -- Revise Melody -- Test yourself on Melody Rhythm and metre -- Revise Rhythm and metre -- Test yourself on Rhythm and metre


The character of a piece of music is related to its key centre or tonality.

  • Tonal music is in a major or minor key.
  • Atonal music is not related to a tonic note and therefore has no sense of key.
  • Modal music is in a mode. A mode is a seven-note scale.

See the typically informative discussion on The Session on the way the Mixolydian works in trad Irish music at Especially:

Re: mixolydian….??

There is a psychological feel to the modes. The mixolydian mode, which has the flattened 7th, tends to have a slightly more minor key feel to it than a true major key. The lydian mode, on the other hand, which has a sharpened 4th (so, in effect, two leading notes), tends to sound more agressively major than a major key.

Quite some time ago I did a fairly thorough analysis of this aspect of the modes, but I don’t remember what the thread was. Anyone out there remember? Zina?


# Posted by Trevor Jennings 9 years ago.

Various interpretations of the "character" imparted by the different modes have been suggested. Three such interpretations, from Guido of Arezzo (995–1050), Adam of Fulda (1445–1505), and Juan de Espinosa Medrano (1632–1688), follow:

Name -- -- -- Mode -- D'Arezzo -- Fulda -- Espinosa -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Example chant
Mixolydian -- VII -- angelical -- of youth -- uniting pleasure and sadness -- Introibo (listen)

David Malvinni. "The Modal Basis of the Grateful Dead’s Jams and Songs." The Grateful Dead World: A Musicological Exploration of the Grateful Dead. Oct. 21, 2010.

In rock history the Grateful Dead pioneered long, probing, and psychedelically oriented improvisational jams, best represented by their song “Dark Star.” However, most of these jams were not free form but actually highly organized musical structures, and followed the lines of exposition found in modal jazz of the late 1950s and 1960s, especially Miles Davis, John Coltrane (names well known to Deadheads) and their followers.

* * *

Taking this idea of modal soloing a step further, I will try to show how modal linear thinking in turn also influenced the Dead’s vertical thinking, that is, the kind of chord progressions used in their music. As an obvious example, the main “Dark Star” vamp can be heard as having two chords, A and G (with the caveat that in modal jamming, the chords are not of the first order of relevance, and sometimes the chords are ambiguous or only casually present in the accompaniment—sometimes the E minor substitutes for the G). Here the G chord is built on the defining lowered seventh degree of the A Mixolydian scale. “Wharf Rat” is similar, and indeed this song seems closely related to “Dark Star.” Here the Mixolydian note “G” is the third of the E minor chord, where the main verse of the song is sung to an oscillating A chord and E minor chord. A song permeated with Mixolydian thinking is “Althea,” where the tonic is E (Bm>A>E, a minor twist on the standard blues V-IV-I, ), but the B minor (the opening chord of the song) also has the third, D, which is the Mixolydian 7th scale degree in E; finally the song’s chorus and bridge state the VII chord, or D major.

MUSICAL TRADITIONS Of Scales and Modes By Stewart Hendrickson

Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian modes correspond to the element earth (cool, dry) and govern the Melancholic humor, the most complex humor. These modes are associated with the physical body and promote solidity, firmness, and steadfastness, but also a certain indolence and tenacity.

So when you say modal it can mean many things depending on your culture, what you are used to hearing as normal, what feeling or mood the music evokes, and where the music has come from. The more we listen to music of other cultures and understand the structure, the more enjoyment we derive. **** Stewart Hendrickson is Chemistry Professor Emeritus – St. Olaf College, Research Professor Emeritus – University of Washington, and in his new career, an unemployed folk musician (voice, fiddle, guitar; ). Reprinted from the Victory Review, Sept. 2006

Essays in musicology: a tribute to Alvin Johnson edited by Lewis Lockwood -- Claude V. Palisca, "Mode Ethos in the Renaissance" -- Google eBooks.

"... There is some agreement also concerning the Mixolydian, which Plato called mournful (Republic 398d), Aristotle plaintive and restrained (Politics 1340B), and pseudo-Plutarch passionate (De musica 1136D)."

Table 3: Ethos of the Modes: Classical and Renaissance Compared
VII Mixolydian -- Classical, threnodic, lamenting -- Gaffurio 1518 exciting, withdrawn -- Aron 1525 mixture of modesty and joviality -- Glarean 1547 suitable for praises

Music theory is the study of the structure of constructed music.[citation needed] Music theorists look for patterns and structures in composers' works across or within genres, styles, or historical periods. Music theory distills and analyzes the fundamental parameters or elements of music—rhythm, harmony (harmonic function), melody, structure, form, and texture. Broadly, music theory may include any statement, belief, or conception of or about music.[1] ...

Notes can be arranged into different scales and modes. Western music theory generally divides the octave into a series of 12 notes that might be included in a piece of music. This series of twelve notes is called a chromatic scale. In the chromatic scale, the interval between adjacent notes is called a half-step or semitone. Patterns of half and whole steps (2 half steps, or a tone) can make up a scale in that octave. The scales most commonly encountered are the seven toned major, the harmonic minor, the melodic minor, and the natural minor. Other examples of scales are the octatonic scale, and the pentatonic or five-toned scale, which is common in but not limited to folk music. There are scales that do not follow the chromatic 12-note pattern, for example in classical Ottoman, Persian, Indian and Arabic music. Arabic and Persian classical traditions often make use of quarter-tones, half the size of a semitone, as the name suggests.[citation needed]

In music written using the system of major-minor tonality, the key of a piece determines the scale used. (One way of showing how various keys relate to one another may be seen in the circle of fifths.) Transposing a piece from C major to D major will make all the notes two semitones (or one full step) higher. Even in modern equal temperament, changing the key can change the feel of a piece of music, because it changes the relationship of the composition's pitches to the pitch range of the instruments that play the piece. This often affects the music's timbre, as well as having technical implications for the performers.[citation needed] However, performing a piece in one key rather than another may go unrecognized by the casual listener, since changing the key does not change the relationship of the individual pitches to each other.

A melody is a series of tones sounding in succession. The tones of a melody are typically created with respect to pitch systems such as scales or modes. Melody is typically divided into phrases within a larger overarching structure. The elements of a melody are pitch, duration, dynamics, and timbre.

Musical texture is the overall sound of a piece of music commonly described according to the number of and relationship between parts or lines of music: monophony, heterophony, polyphony, homophony, or monody. The perceived texture of a piece may also be affected by the timbre of the instruments, the number of instruments used, and the distance between each musical line, among other things.

Timbre, sometimes called color, or tone color, is the quality or sound of a voice or instrument.[10] The quality of timbre varies widely from instrument to instrument, or from voice to voice. The timbre of some instruments can be changed by applying certain techniques while playing. For example, the timbre of a trumpet changes when a mute is inserted into the bell, or a voice can change its timbre by the way a performer manipulates the vocal apparatus, (e.g. the vocal cords, mouth and diaphragm). Generally, no common musical notation speaks specifically to a change in timbre, (as pianissimo indicates very soft for a change in dynamics).

Joe Craig, jazz guitarist of Anchorage @

Index at

Welcome. This introductory music theory text is created as an initial gateway for new learners into the realm of music theory. As this is a web based "cyber text", the on-line learner can easily include other web based resources for learning. Truly an amazing ability that in this digital format, any of the musical terms within this text can be further Googled, thus providing many educational links to further pursue each topic of interest. We can also use the email capabilities of the net to create an ongoing dialogue for each learner, to not only ask topical questions but to also intellectually express themselves using the written word. The ten topics in this text are designed to create a broad based perspective of the music we love and its theories. We do this by examining its natural organic structure from natural sound, fundamental properties of its root organization, essential musical components, vocabulary, its history and positive ideas for individual expression and creativity through composing and performance. Working individually or in groups, as learners advance through the broader survey material of each chapter, additional challenges can be created by linking from here to the more in-depth web based Tonal Resources For The Creative Musician ©.

Monday, November 11, 2013

KADC fall retreat in Townsend, Tenn.: Beef cabbage soup and dulcimers on the "peaceful side of the Smokies"

When I go to a dulcimer workshop or a music festival, my first thoughts aren't about the food. Brats, burgers and chili taste better at a festival, but they're just bratwurst, burgers and chili. And institutional food, even at the John C. Campbell Folk School, Western Carolina University or Our Lady of the Snows in suburban St. Louis, still reminds me of dorm food. I'm there for the music, not the food.

But at the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club's fall retreat over the weekend, the beef and cabbage soup at lunch Saturday was so good, I asked for the recipe. It's linked below.

KADC's retreat was held at the Townsend Church of God, in the mountain resort community of Townsend 30 miles south of Knoxville. Members of the congregation served meals in the church gymnasium, and the cabbage soup was one of the choices Saturday noon. It featured ground beef, kidney beans and tomatoes in addition to the cabbage in a beef broth -- perfect for a fall day.

The Rev. Jeff Dockery, who co-pastors the church with his wife Angie, found the recipe on line -- on the Everyday Manna website hosted by Lisa Smith of Living Faith Television. Dockery grew up in the restaurant business, and he has a good eye for flavorful recipes that are easy to prepare and feed a lot of people.

"We make it a lot, and it's our favorite soup," he said.

Dockery says he believes the church is called to be involved in projects that help the community. He hopes it provides a good venue for KADC, and he knows it's good advertising for Townsend. He said Mike Clemmer of the Wood-N-String Dulcimer Shop on U.S. 321 brought KADC and the church together.

"They were looking for a venue, and Mike down at the dulcimer shop said, 'Have you talked to the Church of God?'" said Dockery.

They talked. And as a result, the retreat has been at the Church of God for a couple of years now.

It seems like a good fit. The KADC retreat is intentionally small, and I think the words matter: It felt like a "retreat," not a festival. It wasn't a wham-bam-thank-ye-ma'am rush from one class to the next like at so many festivals, and I felt like it gave me a chance to grow musically. Perhaps even spiritually. Which, of course, is what retreats are supposed to do.

Here's the link to that recipe:


'Peaceful Side of the Smokies'

Townsend (population 244) is only 20 or 25 miles from the bumper-to-bumper traffic and major tourist destinations to the east at Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but it's a whole different world. It consists mostly old-fashioned motels, inner tube rentals, craft shops and barbecue-, steak- and trout restaurants strung out along U.S. 321 and Old State Highway 73 leading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its vacation guide, published by the daily newspaper in nearby Maryville, calls it "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies."

It's also a knowledgeable side of the Smokies.

Or maybe it's just more relaxed than the big tourist destinations.

Saturday afternoon Debi and I went to the IGA to pick up a couple of items, and a clerk at the register noticed our wooden KADC name badges in the shape of a hammered dulcimer.

"Oh," she said. "Are you in town for a dulcimer conference?"

We said we were, and we chatted about music a minute or two.

Dulcimers aren't part of the regional culture in Illinois, where I live now, and I think most people couldn't identify one if they saw it in a police lineup. So I was impressed.

No doubt they'd also be familiar with dulcimers in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which also have a lot of genuine mountain crafts and some very fine luthiers, but I don't know if the clerks in a grocery store there would have time to chat about them.

Family dulcimers in southern Ohio

Among the instructors and performers at KADC's retreat were Kendra Ward and Bob Bence of southern Ohio, who publish the Upcreek Productions Let's Jam! fake books. In addition to several numbers on hammered dulcimer and guitar, they played "Uncloudy Day" on a two-person courting dulcimer that had been in Kendra's family -- Bob playing backup while Kendra strummed the melody traditional style, using a noter and letting the drone ring out on the open strings. She said several generations of her family played the mountain dulcimer, but they called it another name.

"I never heard it called a dulcimer until the late 1970s ... in our area, they just called them 'dulcerines,'" she said.

I wasn't familiar with the term, but it is "a recognized southern Ohio variant name for dulcimer," according to a comment by Ken Hume in the thread "where are the heads?" in the Making Dulcimers group of the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer website June 22, 2011, 9:24 a.m.

Kendra Ward, who grew up along the Ohio River near Gallipolis (up river from Parkersburg, W.Va.), has posted pictures of the family instruments to the forum on History of Dulcimers and Songs, under the heading "Dulcerine Pictures" on the the website. She also mentions the term, along with reminiscences of her father playing "fiddle tunes and old standards like Grandfather's Clock" with a noter creating a "resonant buzz ... the ancient sound of the dulcimer," in an article "By TAB or By Ear: I'll Take Both, Please." in the Spring 2010 issue of Dulcimer Players News.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Prairieland Strings -- dulcimer tab for Christmas, and clips of the English version of "Away in a Manger"

Some clips to supplement our playlist for the Advent supper Dec. 18 ...

One of the tunes we'll play is "Away in a Manger" from Maureen Sellers' Simply Christmas tablature book. This is not the usual American version -- it's English, and it has a much nicer melody, IMHO. Maureen has both melody and harmony parts in her book. Of the several dulcimer tab versions available on line, the only one that has this melody is in a discussion thread headed "Away in a Manger - Richard Wilson dulcimer 1-5-8-5 tuning" -- on the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer website. It has a very nice 2:17-minute sound clip by Robin Clark. He says:

Here is 'Away in a Manger' played on my 1981 Richard Wilson dulcimer - it is a fine instrument I have it set 4 string equidistant and tuned 1-5-8-5 for this recording today. I've just checked and the instrument is smack on D-A-d-A (a bit of a surprise to be that accurate because I just tuned it up from slack without using a tuner ). Here's a useless fact - When I was eleven years old I sang the second verse to this carol as part of a trio for the live broadcast BBC Christmas Concert from the Royal Albert Hall.
FOTMD is a wonderful resource, BTW, and I've just joined (member page at

once I figure out what to do with it.) For a link to a PDF file of the melody of "Away in a Manger" in standard notation, scroll down to Wilson's reply, which is the second one under "Replies to this Discussion, and open the attachment. If that doesn't work, here's a direct link to the PDF file.

Two videos follow. The first is a lovely English choral arrangement, complete with boy sopranos, by the King's College Choir at England's Cambridge University in 2001:

The second gives us the full Celtic Woman stage treatment in a (bootlegged?) telecast of a concert performance:

Also on the tentative playlist:

-- "Joy to the World" - Tull Glazener's arrangement, available on the internet at Glazener's website.

-- "O Come all Ye Faithful" -- R.L> Walker of the Dogwood Dulcimer Association of Pensacola, Fla., has an online arrangement that looks pretty straightforward. I haven't tried to play it (I've never really had the patience to play from tab), but let's print out copies and take a run at it Thursday.

We'll also do four songs from Steve Eulberg's book of Christmas ensemble arrangements, Deck the Halls. There's more about the arrangements, including an audio clip of two songs we'll be doing, "In the Bleak Midwinter" and a video clip of "Still, Still, Still" on Steve's Owl Mountain Music website. (Eulberg means "owl mountain" in German.) We'll also play "The First Nowell" and "Silent Night."