Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Arnold Rosner Chamber Music - Always a Pleasure

Another recording of Arnold Rosner's music is always welcome (in my opinion). Rosner was something of a musical outsider, much like Alan Hovhaness. Rosner wrote Hovhaness' entry in Groves and was an acknowledged authority on his music.

Like Hovhaness, Rosner wrote in a tonal language that was unconcerned with the conventions of traditional harmony. Hovhaness used Eastern modes, Rosner drew more from Western medieval and Renaissance traditions. Both lack the active forward motion implied in major and minor scales.

The chamber works collected here share many similarities. The modal melodies move in surprising and wonderful ways. Harmonies feature open fifths in parallel motion. There are false relations between voices. And yet these are works that could never have been written at any time before the 20th Century.

The works are all well-recorded and well-performed. I especially enjoyed Maxine Neuman's performance of the Danses a la Mode for Solo Cello. Her sensitive reading brings out subtle links between Rosner's motifs.

If you're a fan of Hovhaness, you should give Rosner a listen. If you're not a fan, Rosner's music deserves an audition. Each of his compositions is a world unto itself -- one that invites the listener in and tarry a while. It's an invitation I can't resist.

Arnold Rosner: Chamber Music
Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 18
Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, Op. 89
Danses a la Mode for Cello Solo, Op. 101
Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 121
Curtis Macomber, violin; Maxine Neuman, cello; David Richmond, bassoon; Margaret Kampmeir, Carson Cooman, piano
Toccata Classics TOCC0408

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Collecting - and Collecting Information Part 28

All of a sudden there seemed to be a lot of Shioji friction toy trucks appearing on the market. Over the last few weeks, I've shared what I've learned about the examples I own. But there's a lot that can be learned (and/or deduced) from just examining photos.

Recently two lots came up for sale on eBay. The one I passed on because of the cost; the second because it was outside of my field of interest. But only just.

Towing the line

I've found examples of Shioji using the same truck chassis for a variety of bodies: van, tanker, flatbed, and dumper.

Variations on a theme: five iterations of the Shioji truck.
This example is a tow truck, and it has some very interesting features. First, it's pretty easy to place in my Shioji timeline:
  • First generation: Rivet head hubcaps, flat chassis bottom, six securing tabs.
  • Second generation: Solid hubcaps (cheaper to make and install), rounded chassis bottom
  • Third generation: Four securing tabs instead of six
The tow truck is a first generation Shioji friction truck.
The six tabs securing the body to the chassis make this a first or second
generation vehicle.

The rivet head hubcaps make this a first generation vehicle. 
And note the crank's rubber cap. It's identical to the one used for the dump truck, which is also a first generation vehicle.

End of an era

The second eBay offering I passed on because, well, I don't buy broken toys. These trucks had plastic cabs, as well as metal parts from the earlier Shioji vehicles.

Around 1963 U.S. child safety regulations came into effect, addressing things like sharp edges on metal parts. That, plus the lower cost of injection-molded plastic spelled the end of the tinplate era. Plastic toys quickly became the norm. Which is what makes these examples so interesting -- they're a transition from metal to plastic.

In these models, Shioji replaced the stamped metal cab and frame with plastic one. Although the cab shape is different, it's made to fit the same metal parts of the old Shioji trucks.

The injection-mold cabs are new, but the metal bodies aren't.

The grille is identical, as are the tanker and covered flatbed bodies. I'm sure the next generation of these trucks (if there was one) were entirely made of plastic. The tanker was a third generation vehicle, probably the last before the transition. The covered flatbed was earlier.

Was Shioji trying to use up pieces of existing stock? It's possible.

And there's one more thing: note the opening in the chassis just behind the cab. That's where the crank's located on the metal dump truck.

The square notch behind the cab may have been necessary for
dump truck version.

The metal chassis is completely redesigned. It uses far less metal under the
cab than the original version. The tab only extends far enough to
go completely under the notch in the chassis.
The metal chassis holding the friction drive is much shorter than the original version. Yet it extends over that notch, probably to secure the crank mechanism.

I think this plastic chassis was designed to be all-purpose. And that suggests there might be a dump truck version of this plastic/metal hybrid. I wonder if the express and cattle truck bodies were also recycled?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Diabelli Project 160 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Did I mention I'm working on a woodwind quintet -- and not just for this series? This is the fifth quintet sketch that popped out of my head for the Diabelli Project. Clearly, my subconscious is telling me something. I'll share the composition process once it starts moving along.

This particular sketch came from one simple concept: everybody doesn't have to play all the time. So I have two duos, with the clarinet coming in with what would be (if time hadn't run out) a lyrical solo.

As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.