November 12, 2014

A singing comet?

Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium (RPC) has uncovered a mysterious ‘song’ that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is singing into space. The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment. It is being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased in this recording.

Listen here.

Posted by John at 2:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2014

Sing-Off details announced

From the press release:-

NBC will air a two-hour holiday special of its popular a cappella musical competition series “The Sing-Off” on Wednesday, Dec. 17 from 9-11 p.m. ET/PT. Six new groups will compete for a first-place prize of $50,000.

Returning judges Jewel and Shawn Stockman will be joined by Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump while Nick Lachey is once again set as host.

Well a scaled down version is better than no show at all. Will miss Ben Folds as judge. 50k and national TV exposure is pretty darn good I'd say

Posted by John at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2014

The Hand That Rules the Chorus

New York Times:

Once the rehearsal process for a production at the Metropolitan Opera moves from basement rooms to the main auditorium, Donald Palumbo, the company’s chorus master since 2007, gets uncomfortable sitting down. He walks restlessly up and down the aisles, score in hand, watching the stage, conferring with the conductor, making notes in his head.

If there’s a break in the action, he races backstage to offer tips. That is how he tripped during a 2009 run-through of Rossini’s “Barbiere di Siviglia,” breaking a wrist. He conducted the offstage choruses in Verdi’s “Aida” later that day.

In a lull during a recent rehearsal for a rare revival of Shostakovich’s scorching “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” which opens Monday, Mr. Palumbo, 66, came upon a group of choristers waiting for a cue. Amid the raucous music of the opera’s wedding scene, he had detected a slight imperfection. “Make sure that F-sharp in the tenors isn’t too high,” he announced.

It is tiny observations like that, arriving by the dozen, that have transformed the Met’s chorus over the past seven years, from an inconsistent ensemble in the shadow of the company’s world-class orchestra to an equal partner currently excelling in the most challenging fall season in years. “What’s palpably different is that the commitment and the vitality of the group have been ignited again, and it functions very, very thrillingly,” James Levine, the Met’s music director, said in a phone interview.

Read more.

Posted by John at 4:16 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2014

Boyz II Men Dishes On Mike, Their Estranged Fourth Member

Huffington Post:

In the early and mid '90s, Boyz II Men enjoyed as successful a run in the music industry as any peer. Their first three albums — 1991's "Cooleyhighharmony," 1994's "II" and 1997's "Evolution" — all went platinum. It seemed like anything their voices graced became a hit.

Back then, Boyz II Men had four members. Since 2003, the crew has only been three: Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman. So what happened to Michael McCary, the fourth member?

"Mike was kind of always the odd guy in a sense," Stockman told host Marc Lamont Hill. "Obviously he was a freak of nature vocally. There's nobody that we've encountered outside of Melvin [Franklin] from The Temptations that actually spoke the way that he sang. Like, he was a true bass. You got guys that act like basses and sing like basses but aren't basses."

Officially, McCary has said a severe case of scoliosis was his reason for leaving the group, though the remaining members say that the back condition was only a fraction of his reason for departure. McCary said in 2012 that he wanted to return to the group, but he balked at signing a contract that would protect the other three should McCary bolt again.

"Because he left us hanging so many times, we had to cover what we had been doing the last nine years he wasn't there," Nate said. "You can't just run out one day and don't show up. We had to have some sort of contractual agreement to make sure he was going to be there for everything." Read more.

Posted by John at 2:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2014

John Rutter on his secret 'composing cottage'

Classic FM:

Each morning at 10 o’clock, John Rutter sets off to a secluded cottage some miles away from his home where he tries to spend the entire day writing music. No one has his telephone number there, and there's no road, so it’s unlikely that anyone will be passing by to disturb him.

"I think we all have to be fairly disciplined," Rutter told Classic FM’s Charlotte Green, ahead of the release next month of his new double album, The John Rutter Songbook.

And despite his strict regime and the lack of distractions at his composing cottage, there’s no guarantee that inspiration will come.

“What you’re doing is trying to reach for a tap and it’s always slightly out of reach and you don't know why,” the composer said.

“The water will flow some days, and other days you only get a miserable little drip, and other days you get absolutely nothing.”

“And of course the worst day of all is when you write lots of stuff down and think ‘Oh I've got that.’ You look at it the next day and think, ‘Oh no. That's not good enough.’ You have to go back over what you've done.

Rutter’s advice for budding young composers is “just keep trying”.

Read more.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2014

New York Times obit for Tim Hauser

New York Times:

Tim Hauser, a singer and showman who founded the Manhattan Transfer, a Grammy-winning vocal group that brought four-part harmonies to several decades’ worth of American popular songs, died on Thursday in Sayre, Pa. He was 72.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said his sister, Fayette. She said he had been taken to a hospital in Elmira, N.Y., with pneumonia shortly after arriving in nearby Corning for a scheduled performance and was later moved to a hospital in Sayre, where he died.

Begun in 1972 when Mr. Hauser was making ends meet as a New York City cabdriver, the Manhattan Transfer became known for its jazzy treatment of a wide spectrum of musical styles, from gospel and swing to doo-wop, pop and rhythm and blues; for stylish and sophisticated arrangements; and for a razzle-dazzle stage presence featuring slick costuming and arch choreography.

The group’s wide repertoire embraced different eras. It included Louis Armstrong numbers from the first half of the 20th century; “Tuxedo Junction,” which had been a hit for Glenn Miller in 1940; “Route 66,” Bobby Troup’s 1946 paean to the great American highway, which had been covered by Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry and others; the gospel tune “Operator,” recorded by the Friendly Brothers in 1959; the Rascals’ 1967 pop hit “Groovin’ ”; and soul songs like “The Boy From New York City,” a remake of a 1965 hit by the Ad Libs that was the group’s only Top 10 single.

Before Mr. Hauser’s death, the Manhattan Transfer had the same four members — the others were Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne — since the late ’70s, when Ms. Bentyne replaced Laurel Massé, who had been Mr. Hauser’s first recruit for his new vocal group but who had been injured in a car accident. By then the Manhattan Transfer had earned a substantial following, touring extensively, recording for Atlantic Records and headlining a summer variety series on CBS in 1975.

Still, the years between 1979 and the early 1990s were the group’s heyday. During that time they recorded their best-known albums — among them “Extensions,” which included a vocal version of the Weather Report song “Birdland,” which became one of their signatures; “Vocalese,” a collection of songs with lyrics (written by Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross) set to previously recorded jazz instrumentals; and the samba-tinged “Brasil” — and won multiple Grammys in both jazz and pop categories.

In addition to providing a midrange voice and crisp diction to the group’s renditions, Mr. Hauser was in charge of its public image, of which he was very conscious. Always flashily dressed onstage — sometimes with casual extravagance, now and then in formal wear — the Manhattan Transfer employed showbizzy dance steps in live performances, a Hollywood or even Las Vegas touch that appealed to many fans but that critics sometimes found irritating.

“On the one hand,” the New York Times critic Robert Palmer wrote in 1980, the four vocalists “are genuine aficionados of pop music’s many vocal-group idioms.” But, he added, “they’ve built their following with the help of a liberal amount of flash and often their jive talk, costume changes and showy stagings have tended to overwhelm the more musicianly qualities in their work.”

Timothy DuPron Hauser was born in Troy, N.Y., on Dec. 12, 1941, and grew up mostly on the Jersey Shore, in Ocean Township and Asbury Park. His father, F. Jackson Hauser, was an insurance adjuster; his mother, the former Theresa Butters, was a school secretary who later opened her own travel agency. She died earlier this year.

Mr. Hauser went to high school in Belmar, N.J., and studied economics at Villanova University. He was interested in vocal pop music from an early age and sang in his high school glee club.

In 1956, he met the members of the doo-wop group Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

“I heard them warm up a cappella in the dressing room before a concert, and that did it for me,” Mr. Hauser recalled in a 2012 interview for the Archive of Music Preservation. “I would say karmically, that was God hitting me with that lightning bolt, going, ‘Here it is, kid; if you miss it, it ain’t my fault.’ ”

When he was still in his teens, Mr. Hauser and a friend started a singing group called the Criterions, recording several songs and appearing on the same bill with groups including Dion and the Belmonts. He later sang in a folk trio, the Troubadours Three.

After graduating from Villanova in 1963 and serving in the Air National Guard, he worked for a time in advertising and in the marketing department of Nabisco. In 1969 he started a singing group, a quintet with a country and rhythm-and-blues bent that he called the Manhattan Transfer. (The name comes from the title of a 1925 novel by John Dos Passos.)

They recorded one album, “Jukin’,” for Capitol Records before disbanding. In 1972, Mr. Hauser was driving a cab to pay the bills when he picked up Ms. Massé, then a waitress and aspiring singer, as a fare, and the second iteration of the Manhattan Transfer began to gestate. Several weeks later, another fare brought him to a party, where he met Ms. Siegel. Mr. Paul, who was performing in the original Broadway production of “Grease,” was a friend of Ms. Massé’s boyfriend.

Mr. Hauser, who lived in the Los Angeles area, recorded a solo album, “Love Stories,” that was released in 2007.

He also appeared as an actor in the 1991 film “The Marrying Man,” whose soundtrack he helped produce.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his sister, he is survived by his wife, Barb Sennet Hauser; a son, Basie; and a daughter, Lily.

Posted by John at 7:55 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2014

Tim Hauser dies

It comes as a huge shock to learn that Tim Hauser of the vocal jazz pioneers the Manhattan Transfer passed away this morning. We have no further details at this point but will post more information as it becomes available. He was 72 years of age.

Posted by John at 2:01 PM | Comments (0)