What are you listening to/watching?

What can I say? It doesn't fit above, put it here. Also the location of board rules/info.
Salmoneus
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Salmoneus »

The unique soundworld of the Stroh violin!

The stroh is wonderful because it's not really just one instrument: it's an entire (very poorly-documented) family (the best-known relatives are the stroh viola, and the phonofiddle (a one-stringed version)), and one of the last fundamentally different acoustic instruments to be invented.

As you can see, the Stroh is a string instrument, usually bowed (although plucked versions based on mandolins, ukuleles and guitars do exist) - but with no conventional soundbox. Instead, there's a small vibrating membrane attached to the bridge, and that in turn is attached to a large horn.

The sound is intimately connected with that of early recorded music, for two reasons. One is that the mechanism of the Stroh resembles the amplification process of old grammophone machines - a small vibration passed through a horn - and so the Stroh automatically sounds as though it's played on an old grammophone. The other reason is that the violins you hear on early sound recordings generally aren't violins at all, but Strohs - the stroh was invented for this very purpose, because its horn produces very directional sound that could be recorded by primitive equipment easily (basically, you had to play into a horn, and normal string instruments are very bad at concentrating sound on one spot, so the recording device could only pick up a small amount of the sound). A lot of film music, for instance, from the first half of the century was recorded on strohs, and one reason strohs are still made is for the niche silent film market.

However, once they were invented, they were also adopted by folk musicians across the world (particularly in the US at one point); as well as their sound being directional (which also produces a distinctive fade as the performer turns from side to side), they're also loud and piercing, so ideal for outdoor performances, like village dances. They became big in eastern europe and continue to be played in Transylvania. Outside of modern Western reconstructors, however, the home of the stroh is now... Myanmar, where they continue to be made by local artisans. I suspect this is because the.... confident.... sound of the stroh melds with with southeast asian reed instruments, which likewise tend to be aggressive in tone. [the link at the top is an unusually musical attempt at playing one!]


A final note, though: although the Stroh is ingenious, a similar effect was actually exploited over 500 years earlier, in the form of the trumpet marine. Here, rather than a vibrating membrane attached to the bridge, the bridge itself vibrates, only being supported on one side (some makers added nails to the vibrating foot to amplify the sound), and instead of a separate horn, the body itself is a horn: a giant wooden pyramid two metres long. Invented in the age of the shawm, the instrument inexplicably had a renaissance in the mid-Baroque, when less ghastly versions of it became available and hundreds of pieces were written for it, until eventually people realised that it was still unbearable and it disappeared again. Here's a sample of music on some more sophisticated versions. It's actually a fascinating instrument: acoustically it's more like a brass instrument than a string instrument, with players selecting upper harmonics by touching (but not stopping) a single string - up to the 16th overtone can be called for. It's actually even brassier than genuine brass instruments, with lots and lots of upper harmonics, which when it works can be a powerful sound - but it's also prone to a lot of random noise. Apparently even in its day it was notoriously difficult to play well - the father and grandfather of Philidor (the world's greatest chess player of the time) were trumpet marine players.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Salmoneus »

But if those instruments are too abrasive for you, here's a third little-heard instrument: the octobass. Often misused and comical, here for once it's played how it should be, in music that suits it...
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by LinguoFranco »

I've started watching the Expanse, but I'm only three episodes into it so far.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by elemtilas »

Salmoneus wrote: 27 Mar 2021 01:18 But if those instruments are too abrasive for you, here's a third little-heard instrument: the octobass. Often misused and comical, here for once it's played how it should be, in music that suits it...
This is actually very exciting! It's been several years now, but at least one major orchestra (OSM) has invested in the octobass as a permanent instrument. Though I just don't get the HUGE size of the levers. I'd think something more human sized, like tuba finger plates, would work better than those pub taps. Sooner or later, someone's also going to have to come up with a better cabling system and also a more ergonomic and adjustable keyboard, so the player doesn't have to sprain every muscle in his body just to play the thing.

In other bassic news, there's light at the end of the tunnel in the quest to build a subcontrabassoon. It looks like he's steadily approaching the finish line.
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Dormouse559
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

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LinguoFranco wrote: 27 Mar 2021 03:17 I've started watching the Expanse, but I'm only three episodes into it so far.
Excellent choice! Amazon decided to give me a free trial of Prime, so I'll finally get to watch the fifth season.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Salmoneus »

Just came across Scarlatti's Sonata K. 32 - and it may be one of the most desolate pieces of music I've ever heard. [if the word 'sonata' intimidates you, don't worry: Scarlatti sonatas are single-movement pieces, uner 10 minutes - this one's less than 4 minutes].

I've only really looked into Scarlatti in the last six months or so; he's a fascinating composer. In some ways he's like a bridge between Bach (Baroque melodies (all meandering and rhythmically odd) and dense harmonic progressions) and Mozart (elegant simplicity). But there's also something really modern about him - some of his pieces could be 20th or 21st century works. In particular, his use of sparse textures (although he was a famous harpsichord virtuoso, a lot of his music is straightforward for beginners to play, at least in a technical sense), his strange harmonies, and his pathos, he reminds me a lot of later Liszt. He's always slightly unexpected (a lot of his sonatas seem to start with some inelegant theme, and then make it trascendent in the second half).

In fact, this confusing anachronicity had me personally puzzled until a couple of months ago: for many, many, many years I've been familiar with a short piece of music that I learnt to play at one point, but I could never work out what it was (I have the sheet music, but it's a photocopy from a book, and didn't mention the composer on that page, or even a full title). Its driving harmonic rhythm made me initially assume Bach, but I couldn't find it in Bach's works; in any case, it had a certain direct simplicity, a sentimentality and warmth, that I didn't associate with Bach; I wondered whether it was a much later (late 19th century) work in an intentionally old-fashioned style. Turns out: it was Scarlatti all along. [it's this one, if you're wondering - if you're wondering why I might have thought it was modern, wait for those growling dischords at the end of the first part...]


[for something really 20th century: what the HELL is going on with the theme of this fugue!? It's more Shostakovich than Bach! In fact, it's so utterly bizarre that for centuries people assumed it must actually have been written by Scarlatti's cat, wandering randomly across the keyboard, and so it's traditionally called the Cat Fugue (although there's no contemporary mention of this idea).]


But I'll leave you with something a bit more pleasant and accessible: K. 531. Sometimes it's Mozart, sometimes it's Bach, sometimes it's a century later than either of them... (particularly once the harmonies of the second half arrive).



[Unfortunately, there's one giant problem with Scarlatti's sonatas: there's 555 of them. They're all short, most of them have the same structure, and none of them have any names. Most were published posthumously, and while some were published in sets, they aren't definitive - the same sonatas could be published in different groups or orders in different publications. They're known by the catalogue numbers given by later indexers, but there's half a dozen catalogues and the numbers are completely different - the G minor one I posted above is K.8, but it's also L.488 and P.64... which is a bit confusing. Wikipedia prefers the Kirkpatrick numbers, but IMSLP knows them by their Longo numbers. For a newcomer, this kind of turns Scarlatti into an amorphous, intimidating mass of music - the combination of a vast number of pieces, the fact that they're all short and hence less easy to remember which is which, and the lack of any names all makes it frustratingly hard even to find a piece you've heard before....]
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

I’ve been listening to a couple of podcasts lately. Three, in fact. Each of them are interesting in their own ways, and are applicable to worldbuilding and conlanging.
Ologies with Alie Ward is about fields of science that end in -ology. Lots of fun topics that you wouldn’t expect. As I’m typing this I’m listening to Ursinology. Each episode has an interview with an expert in the field. This episode features an interview with Chris Morgan. Episodes come out weekly, which is just crazy.
Lingthusiasm is hosted by Gretchen McCulloch and Lawren Gawne. It is, as you might expect, a podcast that aims to make you enthusiastic about linguistics. Each episode is on a specific linguistics topic. I’m currently listening through the old episodes, and it looks like they make a new episode once a month.
Lastly, I’ve been listening to the Artifexian podcast hosted by Edgar Grunewald and Bill McGrath. This podcast is about worldbuilding in general. Often most of the podcast is discussion of feedback from the last episode, with great insight to listeners’ worldbuilding questions. There is also a section for Bill’s worldbuilding, which is always an enthralling short story from the perspective of people in-world.
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elemtilas
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

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Salmoneus
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Salmoneus »

Update: it's Tuesday, and 2/5 of the trending topics on Twitter are still about Sunday's Line of Duty (it was up to 4/5 at one point).
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Egerius »

Last week, but eh: Beforeigners.
Synopsis (with as little spoilage as possible): People from the neolithic, the Viking age and the 19th century start appearing in Oslo.
They have to live and work together, and there's a murder case to solve…

Unfortunately, I had to sit through six episodes of German dubbing (with German subtitles for sections in Old Norse), but I got hooked on the series within the first minutes of the first episode.
Languages of Rodentèrra: Buonavallese, Saselvan Argemontese; Wīlandisċ Taulkeisch; More on the road.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Davush »

Salmoneus wrote: 23 Mar 2021 02:26
What's going on here? Well, this is an example of a 17th (and early 18th) century avant garde musical genre known as the prélude non mésuré, or 'unmeasured prelude'. They evolved out of earlier French lute music, but later were exclusively associated with the keyboard. Often (as in this case) they served as toccatas, introducing a suite of more formally-constrained music (usually dances); sometimes they were played alone, and sometimes they even took on the guise of another form (often the allemande, a dance that was often quite abstract in its music). Many are written in the ancient French tradition of a tombeau: a mournful piece composed in memory of a mentor or earlier composer, and some even reuse specific melodic motifs associated with tombeau preludes in particular.


You can get a better sense of the oddity of this music by comparing it to 'normal' music of the time. Not only can you do this in a suite, but even in some of these preludes themselves, which juxtapose mainstream and non mésuré sections. In this piece by Rameau, for example, the prelude itself contains, as it were, an unmeasured prelude-within-a-prelude, leading into a much more typical Baroque second half (at 1:35). Finally, in this piece Couperin begins in the unmeasured style, before returning to normality (2:50)... only to fade back into unmeasuredness to end (4:20).



Anyway, I didn't really have anything to say about it. It just struck me that this entire episode is a really unusual moment in the history of Western music, which many people are probably completely unaware of, so I thought it was worth mentioning...
Thank you for sharing this! I was certainly unaware of it, although I have been wondering for a while if there was any tradition of "unmeasured" music (with a hint of improvisation) in the Western tradition(s), and this seems to be just it! It was actually nice to listen to.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

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Davush wrote: 14 Apr 2021 17:57 I was certainly unaware of it, although I have been wondering for a while if there was any tradition of "unmeasured" music (with a hint of improvisation) in the Western tradition(s), and this seems to be just it! It was actually nice to listen to.
Indeed! Improvisation was a key skill for any musician of earlier kinds of music, whether folk music or art music. But this is far less ex tempore and much more of a deep conversation between composer and performer. Even more so than the more conventionally written measured music. It's a matter of crossing the depths of time to understand what the composer is telling you by all the sweeping lines that connect the notes and determining where the chord shapes are taking the evolution of the piece and where the phrasing goes. There are some really excellent teaching material on this kind of music on Youtube as well, for the interested!

It's also nice to be reminded that in all things we're just reinventing the wheel! There is an old mode of singing in the World that works something like this unmeasured music. The singer's air and the lutenist's accompaniment are at variance because the melody is conventional, tied to the shape of the language and the words of the song; while the lute's accompaniment is free of those conventions. The disjoint works because of the harmonic and chordal agreement between the two structures. That and the two musicians have to be in communication as to when to finish up a phrase and start a new one.

That unmeasured music really is quite beautiful!
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

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Contact [:D] [tick]

One of my favorite sci-fi movies. I don't think I've fully appreciated the cinematography before. So well done. Characters opposing Ellie sometimes take positions that she should be able to counter easily, but the sense of wonder in the film is intoxicating.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Salmoneus »

The collapse of the ESL. There's something perversely delightful in such a profitable idea exploding so quickly and catastrophically. When your company announces its new project on Sunday evening, and by Monday the Prime Minister of the UK (backed by all major parties) and the President of France have united to promise "all action possible", including sweeping legislative changes, just to block your (perfectly legal) plans, and there are angry mobs forming in the streets, you know you've made a mistake...


But serious, I've been watching Taskmaster. It's been around 11 series now, so I'm kind of late to the party. It's the sort of show I've kept catching bits off, but never watched properly, partly because of how they structure their advert breaks (which is designed to keep people watching, but deters casual channel-switchers...). But I've now caught up on the ongoing series 11, and I've watched series 10 as well. And it's absolutely, struggling-to-breathe-from-laughter, hilarious.

For those who don't know, it's a silly show in which five 'comedians' (most of them not well known) compete against each other by completing various small, absurd tasks that test their ingenuity and dignity (like "build a marble run", or "mix a cocktail without making any noise", or "move the end of this toilet paper roll as far away as possible within the alotted time", or "do the most impressive thing possible, with one hand, under a desk, while staring at a camera and waving", etc). They are then lightly bullied by the host, who mocks their woefully awful and humiliating failures. It's very British.
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by lsd »

we miss our theaters ...
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Dormouse559
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Re: What are you listening to/watching?

Post by Dormouse559 »

Fiddler on the Roof (the film) [:D] [tick]
Divergent :wat: [maybe]

Overgrown theater kid that I am, I somehow hadn't seen "Fiddler" in full before. It's good to know that the fiddler is a Metaphor™. I finally decided to watch "Divergent" after having seen every YouTube video essay about all the series' flaws. It was fine; the philosophies and societal functions of the factions don't play out convincingly, but Shailene Woodley does well.
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