Category: Music Life

A Juicy Baroque Murder Mystery

Is there anyone behind me?

Born today, Jean Marie Leclair (also know as the Elder as there were a few other musicians in his family) had a good life as a composer and violinist. He is often considered to have founded the French violin school. He married twice, but his second wife is also rumored to be a suspect in his murder most foul.

After his divorce to his second wife, engraver Louise Roussel, he bought a residence is a seedy part of Paris. Bad idea. Six years later he was found stabbed in the back three times.

Was it his ex-wife, who knew his music as his engraver, and was in financial straits at the time? She was able to sell his house, his stuff, and even publish some of his works. (Um, duh. What, was Jacques Clouseau on the case?)

Others point to his nephew who blamed his uncle for not supporting him enough in his own career. The gardener was also suspected as he was the one who “found” the body.

Nevertheless, it bring a terrible end to an otherwise outstanding musical career any of us would have been happy to have. Enjoy some of Leclair’s fine Baroque music here.

Some other articles about Leclair:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Marie_Leclair

Jean – Marie Leclair (1697 – 1764)

Who murdered Jean-Marie Leclair?

 

Joseph Haydn and The Value of the Steady Gig

I remember one of the first things early in my Music History study was the stunning output of Franz Joseph Haydn. Drink this in:

108 symphonies; 68 string quartets; 32 divertimenti for small orchestra; 126 trios for baryton, viola, and cello; 29 trios for piano, violin, and cello; 21 trios for two violins and cello; 47 piano sonatas; about 20 operas; 14 masses; 6 oratorios; and 2 cello concerti. And this is pared down from a larger number! I went through several sources and the number averages around 800 total pieces!

So, how did he write so much? The answer is…he had a gig.

haydn_esterhazy
Haydn directing an opera at the Esterhazy Theatre in 1775.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s life was like many of ours. He started with many musical pursuits, including singing in a choir, then picking up odd music jobs where could find them. He eventually found himself though leading the musical affairs for a large estate of the very rich and powerful Esterhazy famîly.

This steady gig, while sometimes taxing and demeaning, brought something to Haydn’s life that only a few of us get to enjoy. He had time. He was given funds and authority. And he had also deadlines.

Anyone who knows the pressure of putting together a church service or lesson plan every single week, knows how it also spurs creativity. Many times just the act of having to write a new song, arrange a song for your group, or come up with ideas on how to teach a subject can bring new works from your mind that wouldn’t have ever existed otherwise.

He had to write symphonies, and quartets, and operas, and even specialty trios and works when his benefactor took up the baryton (similar to a viol) and wanted music written for it. Kind of like when your pastor who is also a singer wants that perfect song to sing and has you write it. Or an amazing wunderkind on flute wanders into your orchestra. You need music, and if you are a composer, you write for that!

Haydn had weekly things he had to prepare for and since they lived out in the country, it was just easier to write it himself.

“I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” – Joseph Haydn

Nevertheless, Haydn flourished and grew through these years and eventually became known throughout all of Europe as he defined the symphony style.

Why This Matters

Sometimes it’s easy to think of our music jobs as a hassle, or a step towards something else, or perhaps we have found ourselves in a staid job we have been doing for years, if not decades. But this gig you have had, that you were blessed to find, could be the way the sum total of your output is measured.

Like Haydn, you may move past your “Esterhazy” phase into a “Vienna” or “London” phase where you bloom even more. But without the season of work and growth, the next season of opportunity might now ever present itself.

Got a steady gig? Have some autonomy? Maybe it’s time to take more advantage of it. Haydn the heck out of your position, and write, write, write. Sometimes we forget when we are the boss, we have the opportunity to actually do what we love.

Have a great week!


John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, but he is studying to be, and for now he plays one on the Internet. Be sure and join this blog to receive more writings like this, as well as our Facebook and Twitter followings for daily inspiration and news.

Music for Nothing?

musicMusicians the world over (maybe even more than other artistic people like authors or painters) have become outraged that their music be “worth” something. That with all the hard work involved being a songwriter and/or artists, they aren’t earning back enough to pay their bills and make a nice life, and perhaps music just isn’t even worth doing?

The 20th century brought recorded music via the phonograph, album, and CD. These made billions of dollars for musicians and record companies for just over 100 years. But now that the internet has brought music to the world through cheap and free streaming, music folk are screaming that they aren’t getting paid enough.

This is particularly true of those who were part of the insanely profitable music industry of the latter 20th century. But is money the only reason we make music? Is that the determining factor if we even go to the trouble to make it or not?

I just read an article where Roger Daltrey of the Who said they weren’t going to make a new album because it wouldn’t make any money.

“We’ve talked about it, but it’s not going to be easy. There’s no record industry anymore. Why would I make a record? I would have to pay to make a record. There’s no royalties so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away free. I can’t afford to do that. I’ve got other things I could waste the money on.” – Roger Daltrey

Then maybe you should indeed waste your money on other things, Roger. I’m sure you have enough. Perhaps your music isn’t important enough if you’re only making it for financial gain.

To me that says, you don’t want people to hear an artistic statement or even go to the trouble of making music if you don’t see good money from it. That’s just sad.

That kind of thinking goes against not just art, but why God gave us our talents in the first place. He didn’t say, “Here are talents to use and share with the world…but only if YouTube and Spotify pay well!”

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I believe our talents are our voice and our gift to the world. Everyone deserves, maybe even needs, to hear our songs even if they only get to listen once or come across it in a Facebook feed.

Your music may never pay the bills, but it may the music that soothes someone’s soul or pushes someone to pursue music themselves. What’s the cost/benefit ratio there? Is it worth it if you bring happiness, fulfillment, and joy to someone, even if you don’t get paid for it?

“If you can do anything else other than music, do that instead.”  ― Well known music quote.

Those of us who do music consistently (and sometimes for an attempt at a living) do it because we can’t NOT do it. We can’t possibly shut it off, stop the music from coming out, or not want to share it with the world.

For those of us like this, there is no way to wake up every day for the rest of our lives and just not do music. YES, of course we want to be paid well for our efforts, but if it does not, should we quit making it?

What I’d say to Roger is, if you can quit doing music, then maybe you should go do other things. Who are you, indeed!

“There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.” – Duke Ellington

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland happens to make a living through music, but not necessarily his own. But he still makes what he feels he must and gets it out to the world. You can find out more at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Musical Indentured Servitude

“It’s really hard to make a living as a musician. It’s almost impossible.” – Billy Joel

servitude500In order to make a living with music, we have all done what we had to. We have studied, practiced, achieved degrees, taken paying music positions, and played whatever gigs we could find so that we could eat, live, and support ourselves and our families. The problem is, it is usually on someone else’s terms. Even if we are the boss, or own our own business in music, we have clients who dictate what we do for them, and how we create or produce the music.

This has been an issue throughout music history.

J.S. Bach was mostly always employed and creating his music for use in his job as organist or music leader. At some points his job required a new cantata each Sunday! That’s one way to build your catalog! And like all of us, he knew the struggle to make amazing music and please his bosses.

My masters are strange folk with very little care for music in them. – Johann Sebastian Bach

Joseph Haydn had many jobs as a music teacher, a street musician, and accompanist before he got a sweet gig for the prince of Esterhazy, and rode that job for decades. But he was often little more than a paid servant, and felt that way. As with Bach, in order to have music ready every week for the music hungry Esterhazys, Haydn’s output was extraordinary. Eventually he was able to work with a publisher, gain some fame outside the estate, and later become more independent in London and elsewhere.

Mozart was one of the first composers to say no to working “for the man”. But even with many commissions and a post here and there that didn’t last very long, it was a struggle for one of the world’s best ever composers to make a consistent living.

The first to really sever ties and find somewhat lasting success was Beethoven, who after moving to Vienna in 1792, began to establish a reputation as a superstar pianist and composer. He was able to secure patronage to write and perform the rest of his life, making him somewhat the first successful “indie” musician.

Why This Matters

Getting to the music we want to make is very difficult in a life where we make or work in music for someone else. Even as a full-time traveling artist, there is booking, marketing, and other things to do besides actually composing and being artistic. It’s just hard to make music when there are so many other things to do (I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter, and oh yeah, the next job I have to do to continuing getting paid so I can pay a mortgage, car payments, etc.)

The key is finding that balance, like turning off email and social media for the weekend to compose, or self-imposed block out times to sit at your instrument and just create.

On the other hand, being secure in a music position may allow us to create much of the works we will leave behind, just as Bach and Haydn did. We will make things we never expected because a client, boss, or sponsor will suggest a direction, a subject, or a use for a piece.

Wherever you fall on the indentured servitude scale, whether an instructor, producer, orchestral member, composer for hire, or whatever, finding the balance between the thing you love and making a living is crucial.

If you can create an honorable livelihood, where you take your skills and use them and you earn a living from it, it gives you a sense of freedom and allows you to balance your life the way you want. – Anita Roddick

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you think this is drivel. He’s just your everyday, full time music producer who is also pursuing a musicology masters because he wants to help all music folks and students how to make a great living in music.

Life on the Fringe

lachnerMany of us in music will not become well known. We will perhaps meet important people in music, perhaps even be an influence on them. In fact, we may teach, guide, or lead folks that do indeed become very famous. But as for our lives, we will do well to find our niche, excel in it in an area, and have a long career in music.

Many composers through time have fallen into this category. One such composer, who I picked solely because he was born on this day, is Vinzenz Lachner (1811-1893).

He was the younger brother of another and better known composer, Franz Lachner who was quite prolific and well-known is his day and whose work would go on to influence Beethoven and Schubert.

Vinzenz would scratch out a living teaching music in Augsberg, Germany until his brother Franz would arrange for him to become conductor and house musician for Earl Mycielski of Coscevitz in the Grand Duchy of Poznań. Eventually, he would replace his older brother in Mannheim and was highly valued for 37 years as court conductor.

As a teacher, he encouraged many, including Fritz Steinbach, Max Bruch, Hermann Levi, and Carl Wolffson. Of particular interest (to me!) was his distaste of the cult of Wagner, even going so far as to conduct a mutilated version of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (much to Wagner’s chagrin! In fact, Wagner would eventually campaign for Vinzenz to be retired from the court conductor role.)

Vinzenz retired after 30+ years and settled down for a quiet life of teaching until his death at 81. He lived a nice long life of music work, taught, encountered, and hobnobbed with many famous musicians, some who are known as masters hundreds of years later. Yet his life and work is lost to most in the modern music world.

Why This Matters (Or why maybe it doesn’t)

Many of us toil away in seeming obscurity; composing, teaching, singing, performing, and doing other things that have made some famous, but outside the limelight except for our own little local role. We have tangential relations with some who are well known locally, nationally, or even worldwide, but we ourselves are known only to a few.

What’s funny is that many people in the world would describe what we call living on the fringe of greatness as their life’s dream! We look to the greats and dream of that level of work, but there are just as many that we lead who look at us as “living the dream.”

As in the case of Vinzenz Lachner, our place in music history does matter. We are influencing, teaching, and yes even challenging many more folks that we know. We are making a difference in people’s lives and doing the work that has to be done in our area. We may even be highly respected in our little corner of the world. Even though Vinzenz Lachner is not regarded as a major composer, his work and output was valued greatly in Mannheim for many decades. His life in music mattered, and so does yours.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is a very casual musicologist, and continues his search through music history to teach and show all of us who work in music today that yesterday is important. For more examples of why Music History Matters, check out http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org and find your place in history.

Mrs. Poynter, Bernstein’s West Side Story, and the First Moments of my Music Maturity

94ff7-west-side-storyGod bless Mrs. Poynter! She was a perky young teacher that I had in ninth grade, and thank goodness she had some amount of artistic leanings.

One day, as part of our assignment on something, she told us we would be watching Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story. Now, personally, I feel this is one of the great works of the 20th Century. Growing up, I had the album at home and I had listened to it many times with only the LP album art to clue me in on what the characters looked like.

But Mrs. Poynter changed all that.

The janitor wheeled the TV and VCR into our ninth grade room one afternoon, and the lights were turned out. Everyone was glad we weren’t doing some kind of silly work, even if it was a boring musical. For me however, it was a life-changing experience.

From the first moments of the film, the high whistles and the mysterious percussion bring a sense of mystery. To be honest, we all giggled when the tough guys started ballet dancing, but it was the music that hooked me. Still when I watch or listen to the first numbers before and during “When You’re a Jet” I love the flowing sax and string lines intertwining with larger orchestral melodies. It builds and flows, and carries the performers along like they are in a river.

Then later when an old style march transforms quickly into a tumultuous mambo, Bernstein really gets going. One minute the strings and woodwinds are plodding along in a very honky traditional fashion, then Bernstein somehow devolves into horns blaring the stabbing lines of the Latin number. Everyone yells “Mambo” and it’s off to the races.

But still the defining moment is coming. A moment that makes me realize I may be a little different from my fellow students.

The song “Maria” begins with a very 20th Century and now classic melody. Through the song, kind of like Tony knowing “Something’s Coming” earlier, I was hearing this genius melody (and lyric, “say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying”. Wow, nice Sondheim.) But towards the end, when the entire key changes for the tag (“The most beautiful sound I ever heard…”), then Bernstein writes the notes that forever changed me. “Mari-a.” Ending back on the third of the original key. Gasp.

A chill went up my spine that day. I might have cried, don’t remember. I hope not because that was the year I finally got that bully off my back.

But I DO remember looking around at all the other kids. They were sleeping, or pulling each other’s hair, or staring off into space bored. They were NOT having chills. They were NOT on the verge of tears. Those notes meant nothing to them. Those notes would not stop them in their tracks anytime they heard them the rest of their life.

That’s when I knew I was different. I wasn’t writing songs yet, or even singing (although I was playing trombone in band), but I knew “something was coming”. I was headed for a life that had to do with notes, chords, and orchestration like Bernstein wrote there.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

We all had a teacher, a parent, or someone that inspired us, or helped make a connection to something that drove us more into music. Mrs. Poynter was certainly not the only music influence, or maybe the most important music teacher in my life, but this incident I will always remember.

Do you have an incident like this? If so, share it below.

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but he does play one on the Internet. For more on his unique twist on Music History and why it matters today, subscribe to this blog or join us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!