About neuroscience and music (mainly classical). Exploring the relationship of music and the brain based on experience of two careers.

October 10, 2012


"Chamber music in Lebanon County? C 'mon!" 

We heard that a lot at the beginning and still do occasionally from the denizens in Pennsylvania Dutch country, or, as we like to shoot back: "Buggyland." Although hard-core of chamber-music devotees came out of the woodwork to our first concerts in 1976, most of our neighbors were nonplussed (or hostile) so in year two we prudently thought we should do something for them, not only because they owned the place where we played. Hence came -- with a little arm-twisting because the band charged a fee ("don't they play for the love of it?") -- the New Black Eagle Jazz Band for their first of 36 annual celebrated appearances at Gretna Music. The 'faithful' attending (free) Sunday morning New Orleans Worship Services still spill out into the streets around the hall. 

Ben Shankroff points out that we may have broken from local traditions: the "not-from-around-here" and the "we-don't do-that-because-we-never-did-that" traditions. 

In the 1920's Lebanon native Whitey Kaufman and his "Pennsylvania Serenaders" broke out too. After attending Lebanon Valley College, just down the road apiece from Mt. Gretna, his 11-piece dance band recorded for Victor and appeared in hotel ballrooms, nightclubs, and fraternity houses around the country. Rumor has it they also played a mansion in West Egg. Gatsby might not have danced to Whitey's music but his guests would have -- all night. Ben is particularly partial to "Paddlin Madelin Home" that Whitey wrote himself and I can hear why. It can brighten your day.

Some music you just can't imagine not dancing to, like the Badinerie from Bach's Suite in b minor or the Allegro of Schubert's Rosamunde Quartet. In fact, if you don't feel like dancing, you are either moribund or the players are not communicating. After the first half of our Momenta Quartet's concert on August 24 (2012) when Thomas Baird and Stephanie Sleeper danced (in 'authentic' 18th Century style--ooohh) to the music of Beethoven and Schubert, I regretted that no one came out to dance to the Schubert quartet in the second half. "All music is either a song or a dance" is a bit of a stretch, but there is no question that music and dance were once considered one art. And everything you can say about music -- as unsatisfying an effort as trying to describe the French language in English -- and the place of each in human evolution, is nearly identical.

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