A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In a Musical Mood

Those of you who remember so far back as In the Country of the Blind will recall that Red Malone played at the clarinet and was heard from time to time attempting the clarinet obligato from High Society, a test piece for jazz clarinetists.  In the final scene, the he plays it successfully in concert with Sarah Beaumont and others. 

In the interests of full disclosure, I also played the clarinet; or rather played at the clarinet.  I was passable for marching band, and could get partway through the slow movement of Mozart's concerto; but I never got really good at it, alas.  But that does not stop me from admiring the expertise of others. 

To get in the mood while writing In the Country of the Blind, I would play a "record" -- these were discs of vinyl on which music was recorded by an analog process.  The record was by the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, and so the music was arranged for a small orchestra heavy on band instruments.  This was the sort of orchestra which in the early 1900s played in movie theaters, skating rinks, municipal bandstands, dance halls, etc. 

I found the cut on YouTube!  Though I cannot answer for the odd graphic the tuber chose to accompany it!  Forsooth.  The clarinet solo comes in about halfway through.  In the trio section, the passage is first a violin andante, then a clarinet solo, the both together.  Enjoy.

And, since I am now in a ragtime/jazz mood, I present as a bonus feature "A Real Slow Drag" from Scott Joplin's second opera Treemonisha.  A YouTube commentator on one of the rags said that if Joplin had not been black they would have made a statue of him.  Of course, they did.  It's in the San Antonio Opera House.  Notice that a drag is not a rag; but neither is it a cakewalk.  But the arms-linked side by side goose-stepping was characteristic of it.  (A lot of the popular dances of the early 1900s were adapted from military marches.  In fact, we might compare Joplin to Sousa.

And last but not least, to march you out with your head held high, and feet high stepping, we will close this evening's concert with Preservation Hall Dixieland Jazz Band.  Dixieland is not ragtime.  Rags keep a regular beat in the left hand (bass) but syncopate the right hand (treble).  Dixieland jazzed up both clefs.  (Although they did not either swing or rock the beat.  Swinging meant to play two eighth notes as if they were the first and third note of a triplet.  Swing high and swing low depended on which direction the notes went.  Rock means to shift the beat from 1-2-3-4 to the back beat 1-2-3-4.  But we digress. 

In any case, here is The Gettysburg March.  They play it first in march time, then they jazz it up. 

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