A Classical Composition about Classic Caffeine Compulsion

Johann Sebastian Bach Coffee Cantata

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is primarily known as a classical composer of Christian music. It was rare that he strayed from religious themes in his music, but when he did it was for a purpose. One such occasion was when he wrote “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht” (“Be still, Stop Chattering”), a composition devoted to coffee addiction. Continue reading

Tuning the Helicopters

Helikopter-Streichquartett four helicopters and string quartet
The Dutch Grasshoppers aerobatics team, flying the Alouette helicopters they used in the world premiere of the Helikopter-Streichquartett

Musical instruments can be costly, and any band student who has had to lug a tuba or bell set on a school bus knows they can be unwieldy, too. The Sousaphone or cello is nothing, however, compared to the principal instruments in  Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Helikopter-Streichquartett” — four operational and flying helicopters.

“Helikopter-Streichquartett” (German for “Helicopter String Quartet”) was first performed in 1995. Stockhausen spent several years working on the piece, which went through several iterations, one of which contemplated the use of a large swarm of bees.

The final result was inspired by the composer’s dream of flying above four helicopters. He was able to see into each helicopter and see a member of a string quartet. This dream ultimately gave birth to the 32-minute opus.

In 2001 Angelin Preljocaj choregraphed “Helikopter”, a modern dance set to Stockhausen’s music.


Have Yourself a Jewish Little Christmas


jewish christmasMany of the most popular Christmas songs were Jewish songwriters:

  • “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin
  • “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells
  • “Let it Snow” by Sammy Cahn
  • “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” by Irving Berlin
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” music by Buck Ram
  • “Sleigh Ride,” lyrics by Mitchell Parrish
  • “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard
  • “Silver Bells” by Jay Livingston
  • “The Christmas Waltz” by Sammy Cahn


Another First for the American Space Program

The first musical instruments played in space -- now on display at the Smithsonian Institution
The first musical instruments played in space — now on display at the Smithsonian Institution

On December 16, 1965, astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra were on Gemini 6 when they transmitted the following message: “Gemini VII, this is Gemini VI. We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, up in a polar orbit. He’s in a very low trajectory traveling from north to south and has a very high climbing ratio. It looks like it might even be a … Very low. Looks like he might be going to reenter soon. Stand by one … You might just let me try to pick up that thing.”

The astronauts then played Jingle Bells on a harmonica and bells, thus earning their place in history for playing the first musical instruments in space.

You can hear a recording of the transmission here.

I’m Dreaming of a Best Seller


“White Christmas”, written by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby, is the best-selling single song of all time. With estimated sales in excess of 50 million for the original version and over 100 million sales for all versions, it has topped the charts since it was released in 1949 and has never been out of print since.


The Little Man from Nuremberg

Matthew Buchinger
Matthew Buchinger

Matthew Buchinger (1674-1740) was known as “The Little Man of Nuremberg.” Buchinger was born without hands, legs, or thighs and was less than 29 inches tall.

Despite his disabilities, Buchinger led a very accomplished life. He could play a half-dozen musical instruments including the bagpipes, dulcimer, hautboy, trumpet, and flute, some of which he invented himself, was an expert calligrapher, and was one of the most famous stage magicians of his day. He performed tricks with the cup and balls that have yet to be explained.

He was married four times and had at least fourteen children by at least eight different women.

Despite his having small, finlike appendages for hands, his engravings were incredibly detailed. One such engraving, a self-portrait (pictured above), was so detailed that a close examination of the curls of his hair revealed that they were in fact seven biblical psalms and the Lord’s Prayer, inscribed in miniature letters:Buchinger detail


Additional Space Needed on iPod


The longest musical performance in history is currently taking place in the church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt, Germany. The performance of John Cage’s “Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow As Possible)” started on Sept. 5, 2001, and is set to finish in 2640. The last time the note changed was October 2013; the next change isn’t due until 2020.