How Stravinsky Caused a Riot in Paris.

Mischief-makers: Igor Stravinsky with Diaghilev
The Men Who Caused the Commotion and Ensuing Riot
The Trouble-makers: Igor Stravinsky (right side) with choreographer Diaghilev Photo: Hulton Archive



How Stravinsky Caused a Riot in Paris . Paris has always been thought of as an avant guard city. New and fresh ideas have had a chance to take hold be it in fashion, culture, entertainment or the arts. However, even Paris has its limits. Enter Igor Stravinsky  on May 29, 1913 at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees with his ballet, “Sacre du Printemps” (The Rite of Spring)  choreography by Nijinsky. The work represents an ancient pagan rite in two parts.

  • The Adoration of the Earth
  • The Sacrifice


Sacre du Printemps” just broke too many rules, musically speaking. It uses wild rhythms, harsh sounds issue forth from the instruments, polytonality (more the one key at the time), – all combined together to cause the audience to break out in pro and con factions along with fist fights, swearing other and the like. Stravinsky had asserted himself through dissonances. I must share a story of how the Rite of Spring impacted me at my high school, Cass Tech High in Detroit. The year was 1963.  I was in the chorus. Our choral director, Italo Taranta, would play the Rite of Spring on a phonograph every single day while the class was settling down.  Most of us hated the music; but after a couple of weeks everyone loved it as we would bounce and move to its seemingly crazy rhythms. I was never able to let go of this controversial piece of music. When I did my Master’s thesis at Wayne State University, for my music history class; I did a more complete story of of The Rite of Spring, while speculating on what could have been the actual trigger in the original riot. If you have taken the time to read this blog, please listen to “Sacre du Printemps” and e-mail me about your impressions. I would appreciate it. I think that even today the music is startling.

Beethoven Enlarged Everything

Beethoven Enlarged Everything. He almost single-handed crossed the threshold in music from the Classical era to the Romantic era while clearing the path for the rest of the world to follow. For example, in his 5th Symphony his feelings of jubilation were so great in the 4th movement, that he added a piccolo, contrabassoon, and three trombones to the standard orchestra. It was the first time that trombones took their place in the orchestral family. Also, the extreme registers were pushed further than ever before by the piccolo and contrabassoon.

In the 9th Symphony, the limits are pushed even further. Not only does he use the piccolo, contrabassoon and three trombones again, but he adds the triangle, cymbals, timpani and bass drums for special effects. But still Beethoven was not happy with the limited sound. He added four solo voices and a four part choir. The reinforced musicians and chorus joined forces to point to Beethoven’s vision of a better world: Beethoven used his text from Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”.  As a result, he is credited with bringing in the modern orchestra with its large tonal capabilities. Also his symphonies and concertos were on a greater scale than any of his predecessors. He vastly increased the use of the orchestra in his last three piano concertos,Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano and for his Violin Concerto. The orchestra was elevated to the status of a symphonic partner.

Beethoven was always looking for a more massive sound. He would move from one concert hall to the next in Vienna for this quest. He premiered his 9th symphony  at Vienna’s Karthnertor Theater because it was somewhat larger than the Esterhazy chapel he was using.  Instruments were often pushed to their acoustic limits in order to create the sound he wanted. He was also notorious for breaking strings on pianos, which required that  better pianos be built. By the way, Beethoven invented the technique of the prepared thumb; which my teacher, Mischa Kottler, learned from a linage of teachers going back to Beethoven. I teach this technique to my own piano students. As I  will be posting a youtube video of Debussy’s piano music; you will be able to observe this technique. Release date to be announced.

Portrait of Beethoven by Michel Katzaroff, early 1930s
Portrait of Beethoven by Michel Katzaroff, early 1930s

The Sign of Scorpio and Music

The Sign of Scorpio and Music. So many have had their astrological charts drawn in hopes of finding out what they are like deep down inside. Hoping to know the future is a universal desire that has even driven kings to retain astrologers. Some people look to astrology to answer all types of questions: In a relationship, who am I compatible with? What am I best suited for professionally? Is today a bad day to make decisions? Most daily newspapers still have an astrological column.

Image result for scorpio symbols images
Symbol for the sign of Scorpio


Yet how many people look to astrology for answers of musical import? Probably very few because there are few resources on this subject. What kind of questions might be asked by a Scorpio?

  • What instruments is a Scorpio compatible with?
  • What type of music is suited to my Scorpio personality?
  • Who were some prominent Scorpio composers

Here is a little free pre-publication information from my upcoming book: Music Under the Zodiac. Scorpio feasts on music not only mentally and physically, but his very core. He’ll enjoy music  with a mystical or even an experimental bend. In the in list are complex chords, modulations to distant keys, modern jazz and complex rhythms. Music satisfies his quest for meaning in life and  love. Scorpios enjoy music from the Baroque era as each movement tends to be a unique and intense in mood. Music can transport Scorpio to another world.

What instruments would a Scorpio enjoy mastering? Varied pitched percussion instruments like the timpani, triangle, marimba, celeste and xylophone. Piano, of course, is in the running.



xylophone with different types of mallets are great for Scorpio

Scorpio composers include some with a strong flair for melody (myself included).  In this collection we find George Bizet, Johann Strauss (the waltz king), Domenico Scarlatti, John Phillip Sousa, Aaron Copland and Henry Purcell. Over the months, I’ll be covering everyone’s zodiac sign so stay tuned.


The Golden Age; Where is it?

The Golden Age by Pietro da Cortona.

The Golden Age; Where is it? The ancient tradition of naming of ages the of man was documented by Hesiod, an 8th century BC Greek poet.  In Work and Days, he describes five ages. These ages are cyclic: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Age of Heroes, and Iron.

  • The Golden Age denotes all the good things in life: peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. Man lives to an old age, dies peacefully and wanders about after death as a benevolent spirit.
  • The Silver age was worse. Men were not only foolish and immature, but refused to worship the Deity.
  • The Bronze age was far more violent. Mankind destroyed one another with bronze weapons.
  • The Age of Heroes was more just. This age included some of the heroes of the Trojan War.
  • The Age of Iron, which we are still in, is characterized by turmoil, strife and sadness.

Things might seem bad now, but the cycle is about to restart once more with the Golden Age. The key to the door of our new Golden Age is the tiny grain of mustard seed called the 3 x 3 number square; the smallest of number squares. We can “read”its  numbers”, in a way called gematria as they did in antiquity. Often letters and numbers shared one symbol; not like most languages today that use separate symbols for numbers and letters.  This tradition is buried in the past but belongs to all mankind: Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, even Zoroaster. Here’s how to read the 3 x 3 square in Judaism.  Everyone will be included in future blogs. What we have in common promotes peace and all the good things that come with it.

  • 5 is the central number = 5 Books of Moses
  • 10, any two opposite numbers = 10 Commandments
  • 40, totals 8 numbers around #5= days and nights Moses was on Mt Sinai to receive the law
  • 15, total of any row of 3 numbers=the gematria of the shortest name of God, “Yah” (yud (10) , hei (5)
  • 20, the four corners or 4 inner numbers total 20 = the gematria of the double “Yud”, another  spelling of the Holy name.
  • 120, totals the fact that 15 can be found in 8 different ways by adding 3 numbers in a row: (3 sets vertically, 2 sets diagonally and 3 sets horizontally)=the years of the life of Moses.


Reverie-the Seeds of Debussy’s Greatness

Clair de Lune & Reverie * Original Unedited Edition for Concert Piano* with Performance CD

Reverie-the Seeds of Debussy’s Greatness. The year was 1890. Debussy was 28 years old, and like most composer-musicians, he needed money just to survive. That was why he wrote Reverie. He felt it was a commercial work.  However to add insult to injury his publisher, Fromont, did not immediately pick it up. Then, after a number of years, when Debussy was in more flush, Fromont published Reverie without first notifying  the composer.  Sure enough became a major hit in Europe before the turn of the 20th century. Was Debussy happy about this? NO! Debussy wrote back to his publisher the following: “I regret very much your decision to publish Reverie. I wrote it many years ago, purely for material considerations. It is a work of no consequence and I frankly consider it absolutely no good.”


Ah, the mystique of writing a hit! Reverie was just that. It sold in the late 1890’s like pancakes at a Veterans of Foreign Wars Sunday brunch. I like pancakes, too. As commercial as Debussy thought Reverie was, it has the trademarks of his great piano works. (1) Debussy uses numerous two note phrases, but with a little twist. The resolution of the first note often comes on the off beat or on the “and” after the first beat in the measure. Debussy, at times, makes the weaker 2nd and 4th beats in this piece, written mostly in 4/4 time, the emphasized notes; and the traditionally emphasized beats, 1st  and 3rd, into the weaker beats; thus favoring syncopation.  In this regard, studying piano music prepares today’s piano student for popular or modern music. Another fascinating rhythmical device he uses is alternating three notes to a beat with two notes to a beat. This often requires a piano student to use a metronome in order to get the correct timing. Debussy’s originality knows no bounds. I’m still working on a recording of Debussy on Youtube.

It’s time to appreciate composer Joachim Raff


It’s time to appreciate composer Joachim Raff. Critics of his day compared the quality of his compositions to his contemporaries, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner. I agree. Apparently so did Bernard Herrmann, conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra who featured his Lenore Symphony #5  on May 27-29 1970  in concert. But where is his music now? Why has his music been ignored? I just happened to be sight reading an etude from Schirmer’s Concert Etudes for the Piano edited by Balough.  Raff’s Etude Melodique  Opus 130 No.2 was so well written that I think it’s on a par with the Etude, Un Sospiro, by Franz Liszt. He orchestrated for Liszt for a number of years in the 1850’s.

Raff, 1878 (published in John Knowles Paine‘s Famous Composers, Vol. 2, 1891)

Joseph Joachim Raff (May 27, 1822 – June 24 or June 25, 1882) was a GermanSwiss composer, teacher and pianist.[1]


I feel that, quite bluntly, he went against the male bastion of composers that kept women out of their field. This segregation had been there’s for hundreds of years. In Frankfort Germany Raff was the first director of the Hoch Conservatory of Music. He actually established a class for female composers at a time when women were not taken seriously. Worse yet, Raff hired a woman, Clara Schumann, to instruct composition. Heavens! Does this make him any less of a composer? It just proves that he was secure in his own musical composition.


Felix Mendelssohn was a wonderful supporter of great musicians and composers. He resurrected the music of J.S. Bach in 1829, almost 80 years after Bach passed away, by conducting Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew.  Mendelssohn also championed the compositions of Raff. In writing this blog, I hope Im doing the same. I feel that music of a romantic nature is about to make a come back. I also think that Rapp has taken a bad wrap for too long a time. Please listen to some of his music and let me know what you think.



Why is it that playing the piano helps health?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression, “It’s all in the stars”. With music, it’s all in the numbers- Fibonacci, that is. The series, which was known in distant antiquity, is named after an Italian mathematician who coded them in 1201 AD in a book called Liber Abaci. This number series is found as a ratio of successive numbers in biological systems in their development by ratios; as opposed to crystals that simply grow by addition to the outside. Here is the crux:  When a living system grows in a healthy manner, it develops by the phi ratio (A.K.A. Golden Section) of 1.618 to 1. These numbers are seen by successive addition of adjacent digits as 1 + 1 = 2; 1 + 2= 3; 2 +3 = 5; 5 + 3 = 8……  Thus we have 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,55….


Now, let’s look at our piano keyboard: From one “C” to the next (the white key immeadiately to the left of the two black keys) is “1” octave.  as the tiniest boxes are numbered. in the little boxes in the diagram. “Two”, for the two black keys, is the the adjacent box as pictured. Three, for next set of black keys, the box is next to two. The set of 2 + 3 totals 5,which is the next bigger box in the picture. We have 8 white keys from one “C” to the next- as numbered by the next box. Finally, on the keyboard, we have a total of 13 keys from one “C” to the next as 5 black keys and 8 white keys =13.




Here’s the frosting on the the cake: The base clef (tilted on its side directly above) develops when drawn as a spiral out of the boxes that grow by the Fibonacci numbers. So, I am always begging my piano students, “please take the time and trouble to learn the notes in the bass clef!”  Conclusion: Why is it that playing the piano helps health? It offers the piano student the same series of numbers that characterize healthy, living organisms- meaning is this case, piano students.

Music is Love: The French Troubadors

Music is Love: The French Troubadors spread their music to the trouveres in northern France, then to the minnesingers in Germany in the the Age of Chivalry:. What characterized the Age of Chivalry? Respect for the Virgin Mary in particular and for women in general. The Age of Chivalry was an acceptable counter statement against male dominance.  It began the practice, at least in recent times, of placing ladies on a pedestal. The French people not only gave birth to impressionism, but also to chivalry, in part, through the musical ballad first sung by their troubadours. The earliest known troubadour was Guilheim VII (1071-1127). The noble group flourished from the 12th to the 14th centuries.

Music is Love: The French Troubadors: Their themes for poetry included courtly love, praise of women, religious songs inspired by Mary, and extolling the the bravery of the Crusaders. Sometimes it was the husband who was treated with comic derision. Traditions die hard, if at all. The troubador style found its way, centuries later, into Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde as the basis of the 2nd act.  In northern France, the song of the troubador was developed into “Chanson de geste”. These songs were longer epics of great and noble deeds. Music of the French trouveres and troubadors  often used regular four bar phrases in the mode of the major key as to the more unstructured musical melissmas and modes that the church used.

In no uncertain terms, melody, in the above sense, signals the return of the goddess culture be it through (1) Virgin Mary or (2) elevation of  female in general. I believe it is time for it to reappear. In my blog entitled One Musical Hoagy Please!, I discuss how melody had been coming back to America, alternating with rhythmically oriented songs, in 10 year cycles.  Hoagy Carmichael’s success was impacted by this cycle. Before the depression, no one would publish his Stardust. After October of 1929, when the Depression began, it became a nationwide best seller. Just as ladies can console and make the men feel better, melody has the same affect on both men and women. In conclusion, Music is Love: The French Troubadors and their sentiment of poetry and music will return. We are in great need of this new Age of Chivalry. Let’s celebrate and encourage its return.

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The Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo DaVinci around the year 1504. I believe it is an expression of the Age of Chivalry.




Where did the measure of 2.72 foot megalithic yard, re-discovered by Professor Alexander Thom of Oxford University in the 1960’s,  really come from?  Thousands of years ago, Plato called 272 the number of harmony. John Michell writes about the subject in his City of Revelation.  Thom found this unit at at 600 sites located in  England, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. In the 1900’s, Jay Hambridge discovered  that the megalithic yard was an extension of the Egyptian remen:  The 1.2165 foot remen x square root of 5 = 2.72 feet. Hambridge uncovered the source of numerous ancient measurements by multiplying the Egyptian remen by the square roots of 2,3, 4,5 etc.


I discovered that many older  measurements, including those that Hambridge uncovered are found in the 3 X 3 square pictured above. It was the cornerstone of ancient builders. In my blog on Genesis tunes to A-440, I talk about the hidden number codes. Please follow the numbers on the tick-tack-toe board above: By single digits the perimeter totals 40 as:  4 + 9 + 2 +7 + 6+1 + 8+ 3 = 40.  But overlapping double digits, the total becomes 440 as: 49 + 92 + 27 + 76 + 61 + 18 + 83 + 34 = 440 (we still tune to A-440). Overlapping the digits, three at the time, corner to corner, we have 2220 as: 492 + 276 + 618 + 834 = 2220. The formula for deriving the megalithic yard from this number square is: P1 (40) + P2(440) + P3 (2220)/(divided by) P3(2220)  times the square root of the central number,5. 


The 3 X 3 magic square can have some different number arrangements, as books on number squares illustrate. John Michell, states that the above diagram is the traditional way it is viewed, Now why is the traditional solution important? Because, other key megalithic measures and mathematical amazements are found when looking at the bottom row horizontally: As the numbers across the bottom are 816 or in reverse 618 we find:  (1) One megalithic rod = 81.6 inches (2) One megalithic inch = 0.816 inches. When these three figures are reversed as 618, magically, the Golden Section appears. Ancient sites around the globe  used the 1 to 1.618 ratio for construction. After they were constructed by the Golden Section, they were measured by megalithic units. This will be the subject of future blogs. Jericho was such a site.  .618 is  diminutive expression of the Golden section: 1/1.618…= o.618…  Finally the megalithic yard as 2.72 references another mathematical gem: the exponential factor of growth: 2.72 is a close approximation that expresses the limits by which systems can grow. I will save the appearance of pi for another blog. Thank you for your patience.

What Makes a Super Hit Song?


What Makes a Super Hit Song? Simplicity. Sometimes barren simplicity. An entire song or section of a song might only use two different harmonies. Being a piano teacher for decades, I can share some of my observations. Everyone loves the Beethoven superhit, Fur Elise.  Many wanted piano lessons only to learn this song. Some beginners would beg me to teach it to them by rote. The entire 1st section only uses two triads, E major and A minor The melody develops out of this basic harmony. Another great piano classic that only uses two different chords inspired many of my students over the years: Maleguena by Ernesto Lecouna. Some of my older male students were willing to work for years to master the music. It also was a favorite of Liberace


Other super hit songs have used mostly two harmonies, and perhaps in a rare measure, a third. Among them are Music Box dancer by Frank Mills, Achy Breaky Heart music by Don Von Tress, Camptown Races by Stephen Foster and numerous American Folk Songs  including Mary Had a Little Lamb, Skip to My Lou and- Row, Row, Row Your Boat. I think that there is something about simplicity to assures us that everything is going to be okay. At least in our minds, we can kind of become a child again.


What Makes a Super Hit Song? Simple is not only difficult, it is also an art, a great talent.  Leonard Bernstein, in his Joy of music, discusses a luncheon date he had with his Personal Manager. His manager complained that even though his show had been running for 5 months (title of show not mentioned), there were no hits in it. At any rate, Bernstein rued the fact that he wrote a symphony before he ever wrote a popular song. George Gershwin, on the other hand, wrote popular songs as easily as breathing. Bernstein said in his Joy of Music that Gershwin had the magic touch. In contrast, he with a friend tried writing a simple song for over an hour. They simply gave up in despair. Bernstein concluded that he and Gershwin grew up on the opposite side of the tracks. Gershwin was a song writer who became a serious composer. Bernstein wrote that he was a serious composer that could not become a songwriter. Naturally, I highly recommend Bernstein’s book: