Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mozart Flute Quartet K. 285

For this year's APO Chamber Music concert, my quartet will be tackling the first movement of the Mozart Quartet for Flute and Strings in D Major K.285. It's a lovely piece with great material for all four of the players. Our group will be made up of Carolyn Anderson on Flute, Catherine Castro on Violin, me on Viola and Richard Strauss on Cello. Carolyn played the Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp together with Anne Eisfeller of the NMSO during our last season, and it was just terrific! So we're excited about playing some chamber music with her.

The concert starts at 2:00 PM on Sunday, May 18th, and will be held at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 601 Montano NW. It's free, so come by for an afternoon of good music with a bunch of different chamber music groups from the APO.

See you there!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Potato Cannon Spug Gun Project (not music related)

A few weeks ago after watching some videos on YouTube, I decided to jump in and make my own potato cannon (often called a spud gun). Basically, these things are low-tech muzzle-loading guns made from PVC or ABS plastic pipe. My first one had a 1-1/2" bore, 4 ft. barrel, and a 3" chamber that was 18" long. I've learned that the "ideal" ratio of chamber to barrel volume is 1.5:1 to maximize muzzle velocity for the projectile (potato). I've also learned that one of the more common fuels, hair spray, is far from ideal. For one thing, it takes more of it to get the appropriate "bang". Also, it smells awful after burning and leaves a sticky residue that can gunk up your gun over time.

A aerosol product that I remembered as being very flammable proved to be much superior to hair spray: Static Guard. The smell after ignition is not great, but it beats hair spray. Others have reported that Axe deodorant also works well. I'm interested to try white gas (pure gasoline used for camping stoves) sprayed from a mister. One common mistake I see a lot on forums, YouTube and elsewhere is the use of too much fuel. It really takes very little, and you need a lot of air for the fuel to properly burn. I spray Static Guard for about a half second - that's all it takes even for a large gun like my second one.

So here's a video of some construction details and also the results...


I've just learned that the ATF considers suppressors, even on spud guns, ILLEGAL. So I'll be dismantling mine...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rodrigo Concerto

For the APO concerts in May, we will be performing Ravel's Bolero and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, as mentioned in an earlier post. In addition, we'll be playing Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez, with soloist Jeremy Mayne on classical guitar. Last night at rehearsal, we read the orchestra part for this piece, and it's really charming. I listened to a recording this morning and was reminded how distinctive, original, and musical it is. What a great piece! And as a string player, the big string part in the 2nd half of the Adagio (2nd movement) is a real treat.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Giovanni Quartet Smashes Priceless Instruments!

The Giovanni String Quartet, an ensemble made up of members of the Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra, recently began thrilling audiences by smashing their instruments at the end of their performances. “We realized that just about everyone has heard the exciting, but well-known standard endings found in the great chamber music from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky” states Karl Winkler, violist with the quartet. “But for greater impact, we decided to smash our instruments after the last note of each concert.” Apparently, this has gone over well with their fans, if measured by the rock-concert type of response now achieved by the Giovanni Quartet.

Inspired by the PBS promotion to “Be More Passionate” in which a mock chamber music ensemble destroys their instruments in a fake concert, Winkler described: “We’re very passionate as well. So it made sense for us to do that kind of an outrageous thing!” The only problem, according to Winkler is the escalating cost to the group of smashing fine violins, violas and cellos. “We’ve had to increase our rates substantially since including this element in our performances and we’ve had to re-negotiate our insurance. And this is without even getting to the Strads and Guarneris! At least we can still re-use the strings.”

Not all promoters have been willing to pony up to the new rates for the Giovanni. However, the venues that have hired the quartet have been pleased with the ticket sales. Jane Doe, a concert promoter in Santa Fe, New Mexico, added “You can’t believe how much of a following they have. I’ve never seen fans like that for classical chamber music.” Violin collectors also appear to be enamored of the Giovanni Quartet, due to the gradual elimination of quality instruments caused by the group’s antics. Hans Messar, a rare violin dealer in Cholo County, New Mexico, commented: “They more they smash, the more mine are worth!”

The Giovanni String Quartet is currently preparing for a tour of North Eastern New Mexico, where they hope that their unique blend of classical music and rock stage antics will be as successful as it has been in the larger cities in the state.