Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A last hurrah!

I promise that this will be my last blog on what I will call ‘Beach Music’.  We’ll see????

Yesterday was President’s Day,  a big day in Puerto Rico. The beach in front of my condo, usually calm, with a few sun-tanners stretched out on it getting skin cancer, looked and sounded  like Coney Island on the Fourth of July. We were treated to non-stop noise coming from one magnificent ghetto blaster on the beach from mid-morning until dark. One was all it took for whatever was emerging from this infernal machine to be heard in Cuba. The young people standing near the Blaster merely stood. All Day!

No one danced. No one could possibly talk. They just stood, going deaf, no doubt.

All day!


In case anyone wants to compose a work for this medium (Jerry and Joseph take notice) I have found the secret. Here is the recipe.

   1.       Volume is of the utmost importance

2.       There must be no trace of a melody

3.       The rhythmic pattern must be ‘boom gada boom, gada boom, boom, boom’, ad infinitum.

4.       The composition must be absolutely stultifying.

5.       There must be no more than two harmonic chords used, preferably the Tonic and the Sub-Dominant.

6.       The words, if any, must be unintelligible.

7.       When nothing else is happening there must be an electronic drum beat that is loud, relentless and annoying.

8.       The composition must offend as many innocent people as possible; anyone within earshot: which includes all of the Lesser Antilles.

9.       This is not ‘Rap’, but it rhymes with that word and begins with a ‘c’ and an ‘r’.

Nine Lessons in Beach Music Composition from Professor Burtis: my next book. Available soon at Amazon.com.

As I write this, Electronic  Munchkins are now involved in the singing(?) . At least they are small- but amazingly loud.

There you have it! Composers!! Go to work!!!

As Ralph Vaughn Williams once said to a young composer who had written a piece using many of the techniques mentioned above:

‘Young man, should a melody ever occur to you, I shouldn’t hesitate to write it down.’

I surrender!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Who's afreud?

Dear Dr. Freud,

Last night I dreamed about Marian Anderson. She was dressed in a wild costume and standing on stage. As in many dreams, I couldn't see her face, but somehow I knew it was she.

I first saw Marian Anderson when she sang at the W.K. Kellogg Auditorium in Battle Creek Michigan in the 1940's. I was in the first row of the auditorium and I was ten years old. I remember that she sang with her eyes closed throughout the concert.

It was a strange and wonderful voice. I remember that she sang two spirituals. The first, 'There's no hidin' place down there', she sang in a high flutey voice; the second, 'Trampin', she sounded like a baritone. I was impressed! Two for the price of one.

She was first black singer to appear at the Met. I heard her often over the years. In later days, her voice became tremulous, but her early recordings are remarkable.

So, Dr. Freud, I have no idea where this dream came from, but you probably will tell me what my problem is. Is that why I became a voice teacher???

Sincerely, Herbert Burtis

PS I just found out that today is her birthday. Now I really need help!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music, music, music??

There is a type of very loud sound that passes for music in Puerto Rico these days. Boom boxes on the beach blast it from Isla Verde to San Juan Viejo. The hotel next door, where I used to stay, has it screaming from it's open rooftop cafe until 3:00 a.m.

I suppose it has a name.

It consists of four or five pitches that repeat over and over performed at quadruple fffff. There is an electronic bass machine that plays at a metronomic tempo without pause or variation. Someone seems to be trying to compete with the rest of the noise by screaming into a mike that is apparently held between their teeth so that words are unintelligible.

To my way of thinking, this kind of mindless noise has nothing to do with 'Music' but is a barrier wall between the person performing it and society in general. It is much too loud to talk over, so you must merely sit or move to the electronic bass beat without having to interact with your friends. They couldn't hear what you were saying if they tried. Perfect in an age when we text the person down the hall rather than walking twenty feet to speak to them.

A friend of mine describes this as 'Their Culture' whoever 'they' are. I have a less polite word for it.

I have been living in the peace and quiet of Rood Hill Farm too long to accept this cacophany, I guess. I'll be back there in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday, when the Ghetto Blaster was going full tilt on the beach outside my condo, two policemen on horseback came up the sand and told the perpetrators to turn it down. The cops stayed there, astride their steeds, for half an hour. Peace and almost quiet. Naturally, the minute they left, the purveyors of sound turned it back up to deafening levels. I literally could not hear the TV in my room, which is 200 feet from the beach.

Oh well, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, Puerto Rico is warm and beautiful. Mr. Burtis is just too old to go with the flow!