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ELDER MUSIC: More Classical Gas

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, named the original Classical Gas post and I thought I'd keep the title for this second round. This column, like its predecessor, is just some lesser known composers whose works I like that I'd like to share with you.

FÉLICIEN DAVID was a French composer who lived in the 19th century.

Felicien David

When I first heard this piece I was struck by how similar it sounded to the quartets of Alexander Borodin but on further investigation, I discovered that Félicien had died before Alex had written his so no hanky panky there.

Unless it was the other way round, of course, but I don't wish to imply anything. See what you think with the first movement of his String Quartet No. 2 in A major.

♫ Felicien David - String Quartet No. 2 in A major (1)


MADDALENA SIRMEN was born Maddalena Lombardini in Venice to a poverty-stricken family in the middle of the 18th century.

Maddalena Sirmen

She started studying violin at an orphanage and was noticed by the famous composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini who taught there occasionally. He was so struck by her talent that he paid for her tuition.

When she grew up, she toured with the noted violinist Ludovico Sirmen whom she later married.

Maddalena composed a number of works for violin: concertos, string quartets, sonatas and trios. She was a considerably better composer than her husband and reports from the time suggest that she played the violin better than he did as well.

Here is the first movement of her Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat major.

♫ Maddalena Sirmen - Concerto No. 1 in B flat major (1)


FRANZ TAUSCH apparently was a great virtuoso on the clarinet, one of the first as it was a rather new instrument at the time. He was taught by his father starting at a very young age.

It seems that Mozart heard them both playing the instrument and was really taken by it. So much so, that he started using it in orchestral works including the most beautiful piece of music ever, his clarinet concerto.But we're not here to discuss Mozart, this is Franz's turn.

Franz Tausch

He wrote a number of concertos and quartets for the instrument including this one, a Double Clarinet Concerto, which I assume that means two people are playing the clarinets and not just a single person with two in his gob, Roland Kirk style.

The official title is Concerto No 1 for Two Clarinets, Op 27. It's the third movement.

♫ Franz Tausch - Double Clarinet Concerto No 1 (3)


ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK is mostly known for one thing (well, two, if you include having his name pinched by a sixties pop singer) and that is the opera "Hansel and Gretel.”

Englebert Humperdinck

There was more to old Engle, though. Besides a number of other operas, he wrote some string quartets but we already have some of those today so we'll ignore them.

I'm going with his Minuet for Piano Quintet in E flat major. I think he lent a close ear the works of Felix Mendelssohn.

♫ Englebert Humperdinck - Piano Quintet in E flat major, EHWV 18 ('Menuet')


JAN BAPTIST VANHAL was a pupil of Dittersdorf and a friend of both Haydn and Mozart. These four would get together and play string quartets – the first super group I suppose.

Jan Baptist Vanhal

Like the others, Jan wrote string quartets but as much as I like them, it's time for something else. I'll play a flute quartet instead.

It consists of flute, violin, viola and cello. I used not to like flutes but they're growing on me – they are still far from my favorite instrument but I can listen to them without grinding my teeth. I'm not alone, Mozart didn't like them either.

Anyway, here is the fourth movement of the Flute Quartet, Op. 7, No. 2.

♫ Jan Baptist Vanhal - Flute Quartet, Op. 7, No. 2 (4)


CARLO TESSARINI was born in Rimini and early on played violin in a chapel in Venice and taught that instrument as well.

Carlo Tessarini

He learned of the opportunity to make money publishing his compositions so he hightailed it to Paris and did just that. He also went to Holland and England to play and write music. He got around as he was recorded as doing the same in (what's now called) Germany and Belgium.

This is the third movement of his Violin Sonata in C Op.3 No.1.

♫ Carlo Tessarini - Violin Sonata in C Op.3 No.1 (3)


I see there's an international "Save the Bassoon" movement afoot. It seems that few new musicians choose the instrument to play and the ranks of bassoonists are thinning alarmingly.

So, to help inspire people to take up the instrument (assuming that there are any young players reading this) I'll play some bassoon music. There's actually quite a repertoire and I had fun playing them all. Well, not all. When I found this one I stopped, otherwise it would take days).

It's by JOHANN FRIEDRICH FASCH who was born towards the end of the 17th century near Weimar.

Johann Friedrich Fasch

He was important in that he was a link between the earlier baroque and the later classical periods. You can pretty much hear the transition between the two in his music but probably not in the single piece I've used today.

It's the third movement of the Bassoon Concerto in C major.

♫ Johann Friedrich Fasch - Bassoon Concerto in C major (3)


The brothers CARL HEINRICH GRAUN and JOHANN GOTTLIEB GRAUN had such similar style of composing that these days it's difficult to determine who wrote what. A lot of their works are just attributed to Graun.

Graun2B

However, the probability is that Carl wrote this next piece as he was known to have written trio sonatas. We'll go with that but if any descendants of Jo are around and know better, please let me know. The second movement of Trio Sonata B flat major.

♫ Carl Heinrich Graun - Trio in B flat major (2)


ERNST GOTTLIEB BARON was a composer and a master of the lute and the theorbo, which is a member of the lute family and has bass strings as well as the normal ones.

Ernst Gottlieb Baron

He traveled a lot, he was always on the go, wandering from court to court (as that's where the paying customers were). He ended up being the head musician for Frederick the Great in Potsdam when Fred moved everyone there.

Ernst wrote a whole bunch of music for the lute but there were other instruments in the mix as well. It's one of those other instruments I've selected, the second movement of Oboe Sonata in D minor. This has some theorbo backing the oboe.

♫ Ernst Gottlieb Baron - Oboe Sonata in D minor (2)


GEORGE ONSLOW was born in France but his father was English and was rolling in money, it seems. However, dad was a bit of a naughty boy and had to flee to France.

George Onslow

George was educated in both France and England and as he had inherited all that lovely loot, he didn't have to work. He turned his hand to composing and he found he was pretty good at it.

He was very fond of chamber music and wrote many string quartets, quintets and the like. I've selected his Cello Sonata in F major, Op.16, No.1. The third movement.

♫ George Onslow - Sonata in F major, Op.16, No.1 (3)



INTERESTING STUFF – 3 October 2015

EDITORIAL NOTE: I try to keep this weekly links post to nine items or fewer because I believe that too much choice is no choice at all.

Even so, I've gone overboard today but there was just so much interesting stuff this week – and I omitted as many as I have included.

If someone would like to think up a good name for it, perhaps I could post just one Interesting Stuff item on Tuesdays and Thursdays – days for which I have stopped writing full posts. Or not – just a stray idea for now.

* * *

WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF THIS PHOTOGRAPH?

Can you tell? Look closely at these Bostonians waiting to see movie stars arrive for a film premiere.

OldWomanSansPhone

As Alan Goldsmith said in his email with this photo, “There is something to be said for analog born.” If you couldn't tell, catch the elder woman in the front row. She's the only one enjoying the moment without a cell phone in front of her face.

More at Huffington Post.


THE WORLD OLDEST STREET ARTIST

Actually, Grace Brett, at age 104, is the world's oldest “yarn bomber.” It's a thing, yarn bombing. You can look it up. Here's a little video of Grace – be sure to note the phone booth cover:

I first saw this at Senior Planet. If you are interested in knowing more, google “yarn bombing” for additional video and stories about this phenomenon.


CHINESE GLASS BOTTOMED BRIDGE OPENS

In recent years, a worldwide meme has developed in the physical world to scare the pants off everyone with transparent walking areas. Here is one of the latest, a glass-bottomed suspension bridge in China. Take a look (if you dare):

There are more facts about the bridge at the YouTube page (scroll down).


SANDERS CAMPAIGN SETS DONATION RECORD

According to the Wall Street Journal:

”...the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said it reached its goal of one million individual online contributions.

“He is the first candidate of the 2016 campaign to announce it had reached this number – and he reached it faster than President Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012.”

Alternet notes that Bernie's campaign

“...is not supported by dedicated Super PACs, as are all of his opponents on the GOP side and Martin O'Malley and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.”

In addition, the amount of Sanders' contributions almost matches Clinton's. From Politico:

”Clinton’s operation raised more than $28 million in the third quarter after a grueling fundraising schedule, compared with about $26 million for the Vermonter — who raised his money largely from online donations, and few in-person fundraising events.”

THE NEW DAILY SHOW

Trevor Noah has weathered his first week in the Jon Stewart chair at Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Quite a number of critics were – well, critical. I watched all four shows. Sometimes jokes fell flat. He was obviously a bit nervous. But overall, I think he's doing fine.

Do remember that it took a good while for Stewart to get his groove when he took over the show in 1999, so let's give Trevor Noah room to grow. Here is his first opening monologue:

THIS VIDEO HAS BEEN REMOVED BECAUSE COMEDY CENTRAL HAS CHANGED THE CODE SO IT STARTS AUTOMATICALLY. SORRY.

You can watch all Daily Shows online at Comedy Central.


JOHN OLIVER: MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

Have you realized that four(!) alumni of The Daily Show are now holding forth on late night television? Stephen Colbert on The Late Show on CBS-TV, Larry Wilmore at The Nightly Show on Comedy Central, Trevor Noah also on Comedy Central and John Oliver on Last Week Tonight at HBO.

That makes Jon Stewart quite a successful talent spotter.

John Oliver returned from hiatus last Sunday. An immigrant himself to the U.S., he took at sharp look at the current migrant and refugee crisis:


OH, LET'S DO ONE MORE FROM OLIVER

Oliver's long essays are uniformly brilliant – or damned close. But he also produces a short video each week which I rarely post here. This one, however, is irresistible.

It was reported, without corroboration, that British Prime Minister David Cameron had an interesting episode in college between a private part of his anatomy and a dead pig.

Of course this is something that Oliver could not resist. Look at the video and if you're not laughing out loud as much from Oliver's delight with the story as from the segment itself, you are probably no longer breathing.

For the record, Cameron has denied the episode although it took him a week to do so.

MY APOLOGIES: that the short Oliver video has been removed. It was really funny. If you want to know what it was about, just google "david cameron pig" and you'll get the explanation.


WHY DOESN'T SOMEONE IN CHARGE STOP THIS CRAP?

On Thursday, the State of Alabama stopped issuing drivers licenses, which are required to vote, in counties where 75 percent of registered voters are black.

”Due to budget cuts,” reports Raw Story, “Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said that 31 satellite DMV offices would no longer have access to driver’s licenses examiners, meaning that residents will need to travel to other counties to apply for licenses. The move comes just one year after the state’s voter photo ID law went into effect.”

As John Archibald wrote at alabama.com:

”It's not just a civil rights violation. It is not just a public relations nightmare. It is not just an invitation for worldwide scorn and an alarm bell to the Justice Department. It is an affront to the very notion of justice in a nation where one man one vote is as precious as oxygen.”

I don't understand why this is allowed to happen – again and again and again.


HOLOGRAMS ARE MORE THAN ENTERTAINMENT

Holograms are kind of strange and wonderful but in all the years we have had them, I've never figured out if they are good for anything besides resurrecting fuzzy images of Abraham Lincoln. Now comes a really good hologram idea from Russia. Take a look.

Thank my friend Jim Stone for that video.


NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON AND PEPPER THE ROBOT

My favorite astrophysicist (well, okay, the only one whose name I know but you have to admit he's a cool guy), Neil DeGrasse Tyson, interviewed Pepper the robot at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative last week:

There is more about Pepper at Technology Review and Gajitz. and you can find other videos from the Clinton Global Initiative meeting here.


FRANCINE'S INTERVIEW

Filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand said this:

“I dreamed of a film in which the power of words would resonate with the beauty of the world. The movie relates the voices of all those, men and women, who entrusted me with their stories. And it becomes their messenger.”

The film is titled Human and Mr. Arthus-Bertrand

”...spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries.

"Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.”

Of all the many choices, my friend Jim Stone sent the video below and that's the one I'm showing you too, Francine's Interview:

The goal of the filmmaker was to investigate

“...what it is that makes us human - that Human the movie – many interviews looking into what it is that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The question for discovery?”

There are three feature-length parts to this monumental, amazing, ambitious project. You can see them all for free on YouTube.

Human the movie Part 1
Human the movie Part 2
Human the movie Part 3

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


How Low (or No) Inflation Affects Elders' Income

Have you noticed that it's bill increase season? It is for me – the time of year when notices of an uptick in price arrive from the companies that provide products and services one cannot cancel or do without.

My auto insurance goes up 3.25 percent in November. If I stay with the Medicare Part D provider I have now, the premium will increase by 17.2 percent in January. The Medicare Supplemental premium goes up by just over 5 percent in November.

And one of those top two companies Americans love to hate the most has just increased my internet access fee by 6.6 percent – that would be without any additional speed (which is abysmal) or other services. It's just an arbitrary increase - they do it every year.

These percentage figures don't include the annual property tax bill that will arrive in a week or two. For the past year, the local news has overflowed with reports about how much housing prices have increased in the Portland area, so that assessment is liable to be a shocker this time.

3.25 percent and 6.6 percent don't sound like much but foreshadowing the point of today's post, 6.6 percent here, 3.25 percent there, another 17.2 percent – each of them every year – and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

The system is rigged, my friends, rigged to, over time, impoverish elders along with anyone else on a fixed income. It's the income that is fixed, but everything else is flexible – always upward.

Hang on to your hats: for those of us who rely largely on Social Security, it is all but official that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2016. The announcement will be made in a few days.

The COLA is determined each year by comparing the CPI-W (Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners) in the third quarter of the current year to the prior year's third quarter and this year (2015), it is below the 2014 inflation number.

(There is ample evidence that the CPI-W does not reflect elders' spending as compared to wage earners' spending and if inflation for elders were calculated more fairly, there would be a COLA increase because the kinds of items we spend more money on go up in price more each year than workers' average expenses. But that's an argument for another day.)

As I often note, I am not unique. If it is happening to me, it is happening to thousands, millions of other people and here is how it has been with me: even in past years where there has been a cost-of-living adjustment, I have lost financial ground. Every year since I became a Social Security recipient in 2006, the total increase in my expenses (however small each individual one is, sometimes) is greater than the COLA.

Since it has been that way now for ten years, I can't help but ask in what year the outgo line in my budget will overtake the income line. Especially since I have no way to increase other income. Where can I get a Walmart greeter application.

All right – that last sentence is an exaggeration (for now) but one still must ask how it is that in a year in which, according to the people who do that kind of bean counting, the price of so many items increases enough to cut into what little I have left after paying the monthly bills?

I don't think TGB readers have a right to know details of my finances, but here are some examples of what has changed since 2006:

Social Security benefit increased by 21.5%
Supplemental Medicare premium has increased by 70%
Condo HOA has increased 17.5%
Part D premium increases next year by 17.2%

I can look for a lower Part D premium when the tables are published later this month at medicare.gov. Although the percentage is high, the increase is only two or three dollars but for me, it is the principle.

You will recall that early this year, I cut way back on cable television. In fact, I would have ditched it entirely except that (absurdly) it is cheaper to subscribe to internet AND the lowest-level, basic TV service than internet alone. That cut my monthly expenses by about 10 percent.

Plus, to indulge in a little black humor, the upside to global warming where I live is that it doesn't cost as much to heat the house in winter these days so that bill is down a little lately.

My point in this list of one person's expenses is that all elders except those lucky enough to have a reasonably good pension (that has not been taken away), in addition to Social Security, go through this same fiscal dance each year: where and what can I cut down?

How many elders live so close to the bone that they live in fear of – oh, say an old appliance finally dying (have you seen the prices on stoves and refrigerators lately?) or a big veterinarian bill or major dental work?

And in what year do the annual increases in premiums, utilities, food, homeowner's dues, household repairs, etc. cut so far into stagnant income, that there is no more room to dance?

In case you hadn't noticed, we are in an election year for president, all representatives and one-third of the Senate. Every year congressional Republicans try to cut Social Security and this year will be no different, including whichever Republican finally grabs the Republican nomination.

The Republican party has a long-term goal of eliminating Social Security by whatever means - privatization, reduction of COLA, cutting the benefit, raising eligibility age, etc. They have been trying to do so for decades and so far they have been beaten back by the Democrats in Congress.

Which is why it is crucial to keep at least as many Democrats in Congress as we have now.

Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders [I-Vt], has spent years pursuing a change in the CPI to better reflect elders' expenses in Social Security COLA increases. This year, he and others are pushing for a straight increase in the Social Security benefit. (He also knows all the smart ways to raise Social Security revenue that is needed.)

But even on the off-chance Sanders is elected president, his only power to change any of this is the bully pulpit.

Because of Republican gerrymandering, it is probably impossible to elect a Democrat in Republican districts. But we can work to make sure that Democrats hang on to the seats the have and, possibly, increase them in the Senate.

Even if you're not all that interested in politics, please pay attention to whom you are voting for next year. I don't know about you but I can't afford to have the Social Security benefit we all paid for over many years chipped away at anymore than it has been.

* * *

ADDITIONAL WONKY (BUT IMPORTANT) NOTE: Without a COLA, the Medicare Part B premium, currently at $104.90 (which is required to be deducted from the Social Security benefit), will not change for most of us.

But for certain individuals and couples in higher income brackets and for new Medicare enrollees in 2016, there will be higher Part B premiums. Substantially higher.

It's complicated and explaining it is not the point of today's post but if you think you fall into one of these categories, you can read a good explanation of what to expect here.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) has sent a letter to Congress urging them to block this massive premium increase. You can read it here [pdf].