Tag Archives | 20th Century

The Trautonium: A Forgotten Instrument

It’s safe to say that nearly anyone cognizant of the existence of the Trautonium can easily fit under the umbrella category of “eccentric.” Yet, this electronic instrument, invented in 1929 Berlin, is a medium for sublime human expression. Before synthesizers and computers usurped what can more aptly be called today’s “music assembling,” musical instruments that used electricity but still required dynamic human input and live performance had a brief but profound era in the 20th century.

oskar sala

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zHaQPyG7u4

Formal compositions and even orchestral concertos have been written for this instrument, among which is Paul Hindemith‘sLangsames Stück und Rondo für Trautonium.” Youtube user Ghost Money also has several interesting improvisations using the organic but other-worldly sounds of the Trautonium.

Perhaps the only person that can be said to have mastered the Trautonium was Oskar Sala (1910-2002) who pioneered the instrument’s capabilities and applications.  Among Sala’s credits are Hitchcock’s The Birds, where he created the sounds of the birds among a variety of other short films. … Read the rest

Continue Reading

First Great in Jazz: Jelly Roll Morton

ferdmortonFerdinand Joseph LaMothe, better known as Jelly Roll Morton is one of the greats of the roots of jazz, and is too often overlooked.  His virtuosic playing is larger than life, innovative, highly characteristic and a delight for the ears. With his salty beginnings playing in whorehouses as a teenager, he was known throughout the South and West Coast before finding success in the thriving Chicago scene. He will have been born 125 years ago this fall.

RedHotJazz.com has compiled a great many of his finest works to listen to and download for free!  Now, how ’bout dat!

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Take Me to the Death Cafe

hans van den berg (CC BY 2.0)

hans van den berg (CC BY 2.0)

Sophie Elmhirst writing at Prospect Magazine:

In the middle of the graveyard in Vissoie, a small town in the Swiss mountain valley of Anniviers, stands a grey stone cross. For years, the cross was the focus of a local competition among the town’s teenagers. The brief was simple: turn up at midnight, sit by the cross, and whoever lasts the longest wins. By day, the task doesn’t seem too onerous. The graveyard is absurdly picturesque, perched on the side of a hill next to the church, the valley dropping away to a river, mountains on the far side rising up against a faultless blue sky. Even the graves are palatable: there’s no ornate Victoriana here, no ghoulishness or mawkish angels, no sentimental inscriptions; just a few rows of simple wooden crosses planted in the ground. (A rule was declared in the town that the dead should all be commemorated identically, to prevent wealth-displaying one-upmanship.)

Not long ago, Bernard Crettaz, an eminent Swiss sociologist who was born and raised in Vissoie, sat on a stone wall by the shared grave of his parents—Pierre and Genevieve—and recalled his year of competition.

Read the rest
Continue Reading