Friday, May 29, 2015
I'm posting this blog by Elizabeth Palermo, Staff Writer of livescience.com, July 29, 2013 07:46pm ET
Do Indoor Plants Really Clean the Air?
Sure, that potted fern is pretty, but can it really spruce up the air quality in your home? Studies by scientists at NASA, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Georgia and other respected institutions suggest that it can.
Plants are notoriously adept at absorbing gases through pores on the surface of their leaves. It's this skill that facilitates photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert light energy and carbon dioxide into chemical energy to fuel growth.
But scientists studying the air-purification capacities of indoor plants have found that plants can absorb many other gases in addition to carbon dioxide, including a long list of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Benzene (found in some plastics, fabrics, pesticides and cigarette smoke) and formaldehyde (found in some cosmetics, dish detergent, fabric softener and carpet cleaner) are examples of common indoor VOCs that plants help eliminate.
These VOCs and other indoor air pollutants (such as ozone) have been linked to numerous acute conditions, including asthma and nausea, as well as chronic diseases such as cancer and respiratory illnesses.
An indoor plant's ability to remove these harmful compounds from the air is an example of phytoremediation, which is the use of any plant — indoors or out — to mitigate pollution in air, soil or water.
Indoor plants remove pollutants from the air by absorbing these gases through their leaves and roots. The microorganisms that live in the soil of potted plants also play an instrumental role in neutralizing VOCs and other pollutants.
While most leafy plants are adept at purifying indoor air, some of the plants that scientists have found most useful in removing VOCs include Japanese royal ferns, spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, English ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants and peace lilies.
Japanese Royal Ferns
Purple waffle plants
Friday, March 20, 2015
FIRST, THE MONEY 0921
In memoirs he wrote in 1896, conductor Luigi Arditi recalls a situation in which a stubborn baritone named Novara pursued his demand for money all the way into a performance.
Novara had agreed to sing the part of Rocco for three performances of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio with the understanding that, like everyone else in the company, he would be paid in advance.
His payment for the first performance went well enough, but on the second night he had to go to a lot of trouble to get paid, and so Novara made it clear that he would not sing the third performance until he had his money in hand.
He arrived at the theater, put on his costume, and asked the impresario’s agent for his money, only to be told that impresario James Henry Mapleson was dining out and had forgotten to sign a check for him,
Novara told the agent, Levelly by name, that he wasn’t going to sing until he was paid. Find Mapleson and get the money, he demanded.
“I don’t know where he is,” Levelly said, all too aware that curtain time was approaching. “Here, take my watch as a guarantee, Novara, and for God’s sake, get into your clothes.”
The baritone stood his ground. “I don’t require your watch, man. I want my money, and unless I get it before the curtain rises, I shall take off this damned wig, and the stage carpenter can sing the role of Rocco.”
Levelly ran from the theater and hailed a cab for parts unknown in search of Mapleson.
When the curtain rose and Rocco sang his first aria offstage, conductor Arditi was startled to hear a voice that sounded strangely like that of the stage manager. About then, Levelly ran back into the theater, dripping with sweat, having come up with the necessary cash from nowhere. He stuffed it into Novaro’s hand, and the stubborn baritone rushed onto the stage just in time to save the performance.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The Right Season 1230
“I think they’re very interesting. You should learn them.” So said Alfredo Antonini to violinist Louis Kaufman in the autumn of 1947. The Columbia Broadcastin System’s music director had just said much the same thing in the hope that Kaufman would perform the distinctive 200-year-old Vivaldi concertos in an upcoming concert. Kaufman was reluctant. He had never heard of the four concertos known collectively as The Four Seasons.
Two days later Kaufman got a call from Samuel Josefowitz, the co-owner of Concert Hall Records, wondering if Kaufman could record some concertos for solo instrument and small orchestra during a visit to New York. Kaufman mentioned the Vivaldi concertos and Josefowitz snapped up the idea because Vivaldi was all but unknown to performers and concert goers.
Josefowitz had another reason to be eager. The President of the American Federation of Musicians had banned all recordings after December 31, 1947, unless record companies accepted his terms requiring the payment of domestic royalties to the Federation rather than to the musicians. The big companies – RCA, Columbia and Decca – had big stockpiles of unreleased discs that they could use to skirt the ultimatum. Smaller companies like Concert Hall Records were working hard to stockpile recordings before the deadline.
Josefowitz hired string players from the New York Philharmonic and conductor Henry Swoboda and rented Carnegie Hall for the last four nights of the year, with the sessions in the tightly-booked hall to begin at midnight. Kaufman received the Vivaldi scores from CBS the day before he boarded the train from Los Angeles. He studied them en route and found them enchanting.
The musicians were charmed too. Despite the late hour and their fatigue from being overbooked, they worked with enthusiasm and completed the very first recording of The Four Seasons just hours before the deadline, at four o’clock in the morning of December 31, 1947.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
AWKWARD ENCOUNTERS 1009
In the summer of 1907 Spanish pianist and composer Manuel de Falla piled up his meager savings and went to Paris in the hope of breaking into the international music scene. He was in for some setbacks.
The jobs he had arranged fell through, and after playing piano with a traveling pantomime company, he scraped by in Paris by teaching piano and harmony students. “I’m more and more glad that I decided to leave Madrid,” he wrote a friend. “There was no future for me there.”
He set about introducing himself to the city’s major musical figures, but summer was a bad time for it because many of them were out of town, although Frenchman Paul Dukas went out of his way to be helpful and introduced him to the influential Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz.
Getting to know the celebrated Claude Debussy would not go so smoothly.
Fall finally met him in October, played the piano score of his opera “La vida breve” for him, and found the Frenchman’s sarcasm a little intimidating.
A little later, Falla’s shyness made for an even more awkward encounter.
Falla came to visit Debussy, was told that he was out, and was ushered by a servant to a dark alcove off the dining room, a storage space filled with grotesque Chinese masks. After a while Falla heard Debussy, his wife Emma, and composer Erik Satie come into the dining room and begin lunch. Falla was too timid to enter the dining room unannounced and sat there in the dark alcove, faint from hunger, staring at the weird and ghoulish faces of the masks.
When the chatting and clatter of lunch seemed loud enough to cover his retreat, he slipped into a dim hallway and hastened toward the egress, only to bump headfirst into Debussy’s wife, who screamed.
Even though everybody encouraged Falla to join them for lunch, he was so rattled by the encounter that he made his apologies and departed.
The string quartet is a curiosity, a series of short dances for three violins and cello to be played on open strings. It’s attributed to Benjamin Franklin and since he was so versatile, it’s tempting to assume that Franklin would also turn his attention to composing music.
Franklin played the harp, the guitar and something called the glass dulcimer, but his best known contribution to music was his improvement of the so-called musical glasses. The instrument had become popular in Europe by 1746, when Christoph Willibald Gluck performed in London a “concerto on 26 drinking glasses tuned with spring water”, accompanied by an entire orchestra.
In 1762, during a sojourn in London, Franklin described in a letter his improvement of the musical glasses by fitting glass bowls concentrically on a horizontal rod, which was turned by a crank attached to a pedal. The turning of the bowls kept them moist by passing them through water, and enabled the performer to stroke their rims with a minimum of motions. Franklin’s new instrument, which he called the armonica, was fairly popular in America, but quite the rage in Europe.
A few years later, in a letter to a friend in Edinburgh, Franklin wrote a short treatise on music theory, setting down his ideas about the nature of melody and harmony, and in a letter to his brother Peter he favored clarity and simplicity in vocal music and took issue with the relatively intricate arias of recent operas and oratorios in the Italian style.
The intriguing string quartet attributed to Franklin probably says a lot less about his musical tastes. The manuscript, with Franklin’s name on it, was discovered in Paris in the 1940s, but since then, copies have turned up in Prague, Vienna, and elsewhere, each attributed to a different prominent composer of the time. It’s quite possible that the scientist, statesman, and inventor was simply too busy to write music.
Friday, August 8, 2014
YOU ARE PLAYING THAT WRONG
Pianist Harold Bauer had never heard of the young woman dancing at the home of an acquaintance and took no notice of her name. But he watched with fascination as she gestured and posed to the sound of familiar classical music. He had never seen a performance quite like it. Her gestures seemed to illustrate the dynamics of the music, and he hit upon the idea of letting his gestures at the piano bring forth corresponding dynamics in the music.
His first efforts to bring tone out of gesture were ridiculous, but he persisted and eventually used the approach whenever he played.
Thirty years later, after he had given a recital in Los Angeles, his friend, violinist and composer Eugene Ysaye greeted him in the artists’ room by introducing a companion. “Of course you know Isadora”, he said.
“Isadora Duncan,” said Ysaye.
When Bauer realized that she was the dancer from all those years ago, he told her how greatly she had influenced his method of performing, and before long, the two of them planned to give a concert together.
It was to be entirely pieces by Chopin, and while rehearsing the Etude in A-flat, Opus 25 No. 1, they had a falling out.
“You are playing that wrong,” Isadora said. She explained that the crescendo had to continue to the very end of the phrase and be softened later.
With some annoyance, Bauer said that he was playing the piece the way it was printed on the page.
Isadora didn’t care. She said that the music had to build to a climax at the end of the phrase or else she’d have nothing to with her arms. “Anyway,” she insisted, “you are quite mistaken.”
After a long discussion, Bauer gave in for the sake of allowing her the indispensable dramatic gesture.
Afterward, when he had a look at Chopin’s original manuscript of the piece, he found that it had the precise dynamics the dancer had instinctively required, and he played it that way ever after.