“There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest (inspiration) does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.”
― Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Antonio Stradivari (1644—December 18, 1737) was an Italian luthier, a crafter of string instruments. He is considered the greatest artisan in this field. The Latinized form of his surname, Stradivarius, as well as the colloquial “Strad” are terms often used to refer to his instruments. Scholars estimate that Antonio produced 1,116 instruments, of which 960 were violins. It is estimated that around 650 of these instruments survive.
It is believed that Stradivari was a student of Nicola Amati, apprenticed from 1656–58, and produced his first decent instruments in 1660, at the age of 16. His first labels were printed from 1660 to 1665, indicating that his work had sufficient quality to be offered directly to his patrons. However, he stayed in Amati’s workshop until about 1684, using his master’s reputation as a launching point for his career.
In the early 1690s, Stradivari made a pronounced departure from his earlier style of instrument-making, changing two key elements of his instruments. First, he began to make violins with a larger pattern than previous instruments; these larger violins usually are known as “Long Strads”. He also switched to using a darker, richer varnish, as opposed to a yellower varnish similar to that used by Amati. He continued to use this pattern until 1698, with few exceptions. After 1698, he abandoned the Long Strad model and returned to a slightly shorter model, which he used until his death. The period from 1700 until the 1720s is often termed the “golden period” of his production. Instruments made during this time are usually considered of a higher quality than his earlier instruments.
Stradivari’s instruments are regarded as amongst the finest bowed stringed instruments ever created, are highly prized, and are still played by professionals today.
Click here to listen to videos of world-class performers, such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, and Yo Yo Ma, playing Stradivarius instruments.
The Vienna Philharmonic uses several Stradivari instruments that were purchased by the National Bank of Austria and other sponsors.
Information for this article came from Wikipedia.
Leopold Mozart, professional musician, teacher, and composer in 18th century Salzburg, Austria, had seven children, only two of whom survived infancy. He began teaching the older, a girl called Nannerl, on clavier when she was seven, with little Wolfgang (January 27, 1756—December 5, 1791), aged three, watching. Soon the little boy was picking out tunes on the keyboard, and his father played little musical games with him, encouraging him to imitate what he played.
By the time he was five, Wolfgang was composing his own pieces, written down by Leopold.
When he was six and Nannerl was ten, the family began touring Europe, with the children playing at royal courts in Munich, Vienna, Prague, Mannheim, Paris, London, and Zurich. The children became well-known throughout Europe.
Mozart’s first major position was as a court musician in Salzburg from 1773-1776. Later, he was court composer for the wealthy Archbishop Colloredo, a job he did not relish and was eventually dismissed from. From then on, he freelanced as a composer and a performer, supporting himself with commissions from patrons.
On August 4, 1782, he married Constanze Weber. They lived an extravagant lifestyle which they could not really afford.
Well versed in the classical style of Josef Haydn, he took it to its zenith with surprising harmonies and cadences. In all, he wrote over 600 compositions, including 41symphonies (the first written when he was eight), 22 operas, 15 Masses, 25 piano concertos, 12 violin concertos, 17 piano sonatas, and 26 string quartets.
Some of his most beloved works:
Eine kleine Nachtmusik:
Symphony #25 (you may have to manually restart the clip at the beginning; sorry, some of the embed codes are wonky):
Symphony #40 (you may have to manually restart the clip at the beginning):
From The Magic Flute, The Queen of the Night’s aria:
In September of 1791, Mozart fell ill. Sensing his imminent demise, he drove himself to finish some projects in order to provide support for his wife and their two sons. His symptoms of pain, weakness, and vomiting grew worse. His continued his final work, a Requiem paid for by a wealthy patron, on his deathbed, dictating portions to his student, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who subsequently completed it. Mozart was only thirty-five years old when he died.
Mozart’s life was fictionalized in the 1982 movie of the play Amadeus. It dwelt on a supposed rivalry between Mozart and his popular contemporary, Antonio Salieri. In the movie, Mozart dictated a portion of his Requiem to Salieri:
You may have heard of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay. This YouTube video, posted in 2012, has been viewed almost seven million times:
Cateura is the site of a huge garbage dump. The 2500 families who live there make a living by scavenging the dump for materials they can sell.
All of their need come from discards. Even their homes are built from garbage.
Favio Chavez, an environmental engineer employed by the dump, observed thousands of children who lived their lives surrounded by garbage. And drugs.
Wanting to provide a ray of hope, Chavez volunteered to teach kids to play musical instruments. He started with a number of donated instruments, which quickly ran out.
Chavez justly gets credit for his vision. He must be an accomplished musician, but I was unable to find any information about his background. For sure, he is an excellent and inspiring teacher, as evidenced by the accomplishments of his students.
And the children! Their dedication to practice shows in the way their performances shine.
A documentary about the orchestra, called Landfill Harmonic, came out in 2016:
In my opinion, the unrecognized angel of the orchestra is Nicola Gomez. A carpenter by trade, “Don Cola” Gomez is who Chavez turned to when he needed more instruments for his students. Could he fashion some violins from materials from the landfill?
Gomez had never seen or heard a violin before. But somehow, he made one out of baking sheets, pallet wood, a fork, and old wires. And then he made some more. Soon, he branched out to other kinds of instruments. Trumpets made from drainage pipes. Drums with x-ray film heads.
Amazingly, despite the humble materials he used to build the instruments, they sound remarkably good. It’s not easy to hand-make instruments that will play in tune with other instruments. Especially without specialized training. The man is an acoustical genius.
60 Minutes produced this segment about the Recycled Orchestra:
I recently visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and some of the Cateura instruments are on display there (click on the small pictures to enlarge and read captions):
“The ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017” is quite a mouthful. I’ve created a shorthand nickname for it: ALCGC2017. Let’s use the Twitter hashtag #ALCGC2017 to tweet about our goals.
Another month down. How are you doing on your creative goals?
I’ve been doing pretty good with my Bible reading. I only missed a couple of days.
I’m doing less well with my poetry and my visual art. I only wrote two poems in March, made one sketch, and colored a page in my journal.
I also haven’t spent 15 minutes a day decluttering my office. Sigh.
I know I’m spending too much time on social media. I promote my blog posts, read other bloggers’ posts, and share great content on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Add checking email, and it eats up two hours of my writing time. I keep saying I’m going to limit it to one hour, but I don’t. My other creative expressions lose out. So does my organizing.
I’m finding it hard to stay ahead on blogging, only devoting three days a week to it. I may have to take a day away from my other projects to get back on track.
I’m making good progress on reworking short pieces from decades ago and sending them out. I’ve entered some writing contests (haven’t won any yet), and I’m submitting a picture book to agents and an article to some magazines.
I’m still rewriting The Unicornologist, and it’s far from done, but it’s getting so good and the end is in sight. I’m excited about the progress. The God of Paradox is coming along, too.
Except for evenings when I’m exhausted (I thought I was over that when I “retired” from teaching), dancing, or at Bible study, I’ve been practicing piano an hour a night, and either guitar or recorder up to an hour. I’m up to page 35 in Essential Elements for Guitar. The fingertips on my left hand are numb; they still feel like the guitar strings are cutting them, but the calluses are getting thicker. Does it ever get better? I’m in Unit 11 in The Sweet Pipes Recorder Book. I think my tone is improving. I’m having a problem with intonation on the recorder. Sometimes the high C, D, and E are flat compared to the low ones.
And last Saturday my friend Barbara and I went to the Phoenix Symphony. We heard Buxtehude’s Chaconne in e minor (orchestrated by Carlos Chavez); Arvo Part’s In principio, and Mozart’s Requiem. We’re so blessed to live so near to a world-class orchestra. I’ve never attended one of their concerts where they did not earn their standing ovation. Conductors, chorus, soloists, and instrumentalists–all were awe-inspiring. That counts as my “artist date.” We both left feeling fueled for inspiration.
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know how all of you are doing so far in 2017, so I (and ARHtisticLicense readers) can encourage you. Don’t be shy! If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. ARHtistic License was created to help the creative community keep refining their skills. Check in on May 1, 2017 to share your progress during April.
Thirteen lucky articles to make you smile and tweak your imagination.
- Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival.
- Trip to the beach.
- Be happy and successful.
- Be more creative.
- Delightful short story.
- The illustrations of Katherine Tillotson.
- Surreal photography.
- Just in case you need reasons to journal.
- Here Comes the Sun like you’ve never heard it before.
- Traditional wedding attire from around the world.
- More quilts from the Killer Bees.
- Does the fact that I’m ROFL about this just confirm that I’m old?
- Transformed photographs.