FAREWELL, ETUI.

Lively lexicographess Erin McKean (a long-time LH favorite) writes in the Boston Globe about “the changing language of crosswords”:

Last year, during the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, host and puzzlemaster Will Shortz held aloft a tiny object. It was barely visible from the back of the cavernous hotel ballroom, but the whole room of more than 700 contestants promptly burst into applause. What was it? A little needlecase, better known to puzzlers as an etui – one of the mainstays of the curious language of crosswordese.
The vocabulary of crosswords is like the dialect of an alternate and highly specific universe, populated by Ednas and Enids and Ians; where the food is Oreos and oleo and the drinks ales and tea. It embraces particular bits of French (ami, ete), Latin (esse, ave), Spanish (este, oro), and even a little Hindi (Sri). It wields an epee with elan; is on familiar terms with tsars and emirs; enjoys music, especially the oboe and altos, and likes to travel: Iran, Oslo, Reno, Etna. And it’s interested in science, exploring ions and the atom, as well as the erne and the orca….
Today, however, many of these classic puzzle words are fading slowly, yielding to newer, fresher entries. Elater (click beetle), istle (carpet fiber), and Omri (Ahab’s father, or the first name of the actor Omri Katz, and no, I hadn’t heard of him either) are giving way to slang (phat, mondo, bling), trademarks (Lycra, Freon), and modern pop-culture figures (J. Lo, A-Rod).

My wife and I regularly do the NY Times Sunday puzzle, so we’re aware of this trend; while I regret the loss of the old standbys, change is a good thing and keeps us on our toes. And if you’ve never seen an etui (I hadn’t), here‘s a nice picture. (Thanks, Trevor!)

Comments

  1. “Qyrqyz” is a scholarly version of “Kirgiz”, which has at least two other common spellings (“Kirghiz” and “Kyrgyz”.) I’ve been promoting “Qyrqyz” as a scrabble word for years.

  2. “Qyrqyz” is a scholarly version of “Kirgiz”, which has at least two other common spellings (“Kirghiz” and “Kyrgyz”.) I’ve been promoting “Qyrqyz” as a scrabble word for years.

  3. michael farris says:

    “I’ve been promoting “Qyrqyz” as a scrabble word for years”
    I think that’s the saddest sentence I’ve read this week.
    I wonder sometimes about crosswords in other languages. In Polish crosswords are (informally but strictly) restricted to nouns in the nominative case. Typically there are far fewer interlocking words…
    Also, etui is used in Polish for almost any plastic case as can be seen here:
    http://images.google.pl/images?hl=pl&q=etui&lr=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

  4. jamessal says:

    “Qyrqyz” is a scholarly version of “Kirgiz”
    Ah, so that’s where the spam’s been coming from.

  5. Do you take Games magazine? I don’t do crosswords very often but when I did I found theirs to be much more fun and engaging than the Times ones.
    That bit about Will Shortz holding up the etui is excellent.

  6. Also “Qyrqyz” is no good as a Scrabble word, unless you have a blank tile, in which case the second “q” does not matter scorewise. And no bonus for using all your tiles is possible, on a 6-letter word. Is “Qyrqyzi” possible? (Similar problem with “quizzing”.)
    Ideally you would want a word that had one each of “q”, “z”, “x”, and “j”; but I don’t know how prevalent such words are in English.

  7. Also, I want to rewrite the Scrabble rules for the sake of “qyrqyz”.

  8. Also, I want to rewrite the Scrabble rules for the sake of “qyrqyz”.

  9. Not to worry, Mr. Hat! There are plenty of crappy crosswords out there that are clinging to old crossword answers that Will Shortz largely eschews. Mind you, you won’t enjoy solving them—but they’re out there, being generated by software without regard for wit.
    Qyrqyz is a proper noun, and hence not kosher for Scrabble. And you’d need the Z, the Q, both Y’s, and a blank in play to make it possible, and what are the odds of drawing those tiles?
    When the crossword answers bearing the patina of time—your ETUI, your RARA avis—show up in a puzzle, it’s a nice reward for those who’ve been doing the crossword for ages.

  10. Amy: You resisted the urge to include a link to My Crossword Life, but I am not so disciplined.
    Note that this item appeared on Amy’s blog, which you should visit regularly if you’re a regular NYT crossword puzzle solver.

  11. At least one too many ‘regular’s in the above comment. Very sorry.

  12. A J P C Rown says:

    An ear pick?

  13. rootlesscosmo says:

    A related (I think) development was noted on the New Yorker letters page: the point values in Scrabble are assigned on the basis of the frequency with which the letters occur in English. But tournament Scrabble has decreed that there are only one or two absolutely authoritative word lists, which players lobby to expand with words like “qi” (“life force,” roughly) and “za” (slang for “pizza”); the point values haven’t been changed, so they’re increasingly distant from their original foundation.
    What we have in both the Scrabble and puzzle cases is lexical change, adopted by specialist authorities under pressure from a specialist public. Any other examples?

  14. the whole room of more than 700 contestants promptly burst into applause. What was it? A little needlecase, better known to puzzlers as an etui

    That is a scene whose sense could be conveyed to a German or French readership only with great difficulty. Etui is a standard, plain vanilla word in both languages, used where English uses case or (small) box.
    It’s really sad that so few Americans know even enough French or German as required to ask for a cardboard box in a store. I can’t imagine a German audience bursting into applause at the sight of a hamburger. The nation was not so cockily indifferent towards furrin languages in the 19th and even early 20th century, as described in The Metaphysical Club by Menand (fabulous book), which someone here at Hat put me onto.
    The etui phenomenon surely also has to do with changing lifestyles. When most people wear contacts, no one on vacation in Europe will need to buy a new Brillenetui or étui à lunettes. Nowadays only school kids in America have a Schreibetui (I suppose, anyway).

  15. Thanks very much for “My Crossword Life,” MattF!

  16. Etui, brute?

  17. That’s etui thing to say, Conrad.

  18. marie-lucie says:

    As an avid crossword puzzle solver, I am familiar with the “English word” etui, but I have never heard the word spoken and I don’t know how to pronounce it.
    Un étui in French is a lot more than the little container for small tools such as those needed by a lady, as shown in the picture. It is a closed container that is specially shaped for what it is supposed to contain, whether needles, nail files, cigarettes, eyeglasses, scissors or other tools, a violin or even a cello, so you rarely use the word by itself unless the context is obvious, just as you don’t just say in English Have you seen my case? when you are looking for the one that contains your eyeglasses.

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Another work beloved of cruciverbists is eke, which receives the most bewildering array of definitions.

  20. A J P Crown says:

    I cannot see a lady saying ‘Has anyone seen my ear-pick étui’?

  21. I have never heard the word spoken and I don’t know how to pronounce it.
    I too have never heard the word spoken, and I suspect few English speakers have; the dictionary pronunciation is standard Anglicized French (ay-TWEE).

  22. My own take on trends in crosswordese is here.

  23. Bill Walderman says:

    My violin case is labeled “Original Jaeger Etui” but I can’t tell whether that’s English or German.

  24. marie-lucie says:

    It looks like a trilingual label: English – German – French.

  25. The Germans name violins after commando units and predatory seabirds? That explains a lot.

  26. The Germans name violins after commando units and predatory seabirds? That explains a lot.

  27. ear picks:
    If you hang around enough British museums, sooner or later you will see Roman ear picks (scroll down). They were apparently a hot item in the Roman bath along with skin scrapers (strigils), tweezers, and fingernail cleaners.

  28. Bill Walderman says:

    The Germans name violins after commando units and predatory seabirds?
    Just the case.

  29. mollymooly says:

    A lot of this only applies to American crosswords, where every white square is “checked” (i.e. in an Across and Down clue); typically most answers have 3-7 letters.
    British crosswords have ~40% unchecked letters; typically most answers have 6-10 letters and few are obscure vocabulary, proper names or foreign words. The difficulty is that the clues use a greater variety of cryptic conventions. Recycled vocabulary is much less of a problem.

  30. Original Jaeger Etui

    That’s advertising German, as in “Original Sacher-Torte”, “Volkswagen Original Teile”. “Volkswagen Originalteile” is also OK. Original is not fused with the following word when this is a brand name.
    Funny that I can posit such a “rule” when it may be the first time in the history of the universe that someone has written it out explicitly. It’s not a “rule” that you would learn in school, or “apply”, but just a description of the way people actually write (and, in speech, there is the briefest of pauses between Original and the brand name). Thinking about how I might explain “Original Jaeger Etui”, I thought about “similar things” (advertising slogans), and the “rule” occurred to me.
    Maybe I’m creating the puzzle for myself by using the word “rule”. But the alternatives that occur to me have “rule” in them in one way or another, such as “a regularity of German”. Is it possible, or useful, to describe regularities of speech while rigorously excluding any kind of imputation of agency or intention? The Chomskians gave that a whirl, I think, but didn’t get far. I’m beginning to wonder whether what I’m writing here makes any sense. Oh well …

  31. “That’s advertising German, as in “Original Sacher-Torte”, “Volkswagen Original Teile”. “Volkswagen Originalteile” is also OK. Original is not fused with the following word when this is a brand name.”
    Actually, for your Volkswagen example, to my knowledge only the scond variant is in accordance with official German orthography; besides that, “Orginal Volkswagen Teile” would also be OK.

  32. A J P Crown says:

    Roman culture was coarse and heartless. Quite revolting, really. Ear picks were the tip of the iceberg.

  33. “Volkswagen Original Teile” comes from the Volkswagen site. Actual advertising slogan practice, by German practitioners, must be regarded as part of “official German orthography” – else the latter becomes unrealistic, and therefore impracticable, dogma.
    By

    “Orginal Originalteile” would also be OK

    I meant also OK on the Volkswagen site. It is, after all, another usual way of doing things – namely outside of advertising. Yet another way, usual in cellphone texting, happens to be the same as in advertising, with “Volkswagen Original Teile”. The reasons are different: with texting, it’s easier to write separate words, because T9 or iTAP interferes too much in long words, and long words wrap in the display.. In advertising, I assume “Original” is written separately so it stands out to attention.

  34. Naming violin cases after commando units and predatory seabirds strikes me as even stranger. In certain circumstances a violin might strike terror in my heart, but a violin case, never! I’m not as cowardly as that.

  35. Naming violin cases after commando units and predatory seabirds strikes me as even stranger. In certain circumstances a violin might strike terror in my heart, but a violin case, never! I’m not as cowardly as that.

  36. “etui” was apparently pluralized to “etweese”, taken as singular, then extended to “tweezers”.

  37. Good lord, if I ever knew that I’d forgotten it. What a great etymology!

  38. “The Best Book We’ve Never Heard Of” contest.
    LH should enter a team. I’m thinking of Conrad Roth especially. I’ve sent a query, but I’m pretty sure that books must be in English.

  39. “The Best Book We’ve Never Heard Of” contest.
    LH should enter a team. I’m thinking of Conrad Roth especially. I’ve sent a query, but I’m pretty sure that books must be in English.

  40. Naming violin cases after commando units and predatory seabirds strikes me as even stranger. In certain circumstances a violin might strike terror in my heart, but a violin case, never! I’m not as cowardly as that.
    I thought a violin case might have caused problems in Chicago in the 1930s ?

  41. A J P Crown says:

    Especially one called Jæger Etui.

  42. BTW, the contest is open to non-English books and “so bad it’s good” books.

  43. BTW, the contest is open to non-English books and “so bad it’s good” books.

  44. A J P Crown says:

    Fire and Sword in the Sudan, by Col. Sir Rudolf C. Slatin Pasha isn’t a bad book, but unfortunately my mother’s got it, not me.

  45. Bill Walderman says:

    In certain circumstances a violin might strike terror in my heart, but a violin case, never!
    My case alone is enough to strike terror in the hearts of those who see me with it–they fear I might take the violin out.

  46. Bill Walderman says:

    Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a violin case?
    They think he’s carrying a machine gun and might be about to use it.
    Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a viola case?
    They think he’s carrying a viola and might be about to use it.
    http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/jokes/viola.html

  47. marie-lucie says:

    In the British film The Lady-killers (with Alec Guiness), some gangsters pretend to be a string quartet. They rent a room with a little old lady to “practice”, arriving with the relevant instrument cases, and they put on records of Beethoven quartets, until she finds out …

  48. mollymooly says:

    “Ladykillers” was pointlessly remade by the Coen Brothers, with Tom Hanks in the Guinness role. Easily their worst movie. Not his, though.

  49. Cruise sets a very high worstness standard, unlike the Coen brothers.

  50. Cruise sets a very high worstness standard, unlike the Coen brothers.

  51. Bill Walderman says:

    “Ladykillers” was pointlessly remade by the Coen Brothers, with Tom Hanks in the Guinness role.
    Did the gangsters pose as a string quartet?

  52. Marie-Lucie – “they put on records of Beethoven quartets”. Actually it is the Boccherini Minuet, if I remember correctly.
    As for book titles, how about “The Big Problem of Small Organs” by Alan T. Kitley?

  53. In similar vein, it’s interesting to see anachronisms still persisting in clues. You still get the odd UK cryptic crossword that has failed to spot the fall of the USSR, and uses “Russian” in the clue to indicate “…red…” in the answer.

  54. A J P Crown says:

    Actually it is the Boccherini Minuet
    Thank you for that Graham. Here is a version of it. It has been bothering me ever since Marie-Lucie wrote Beethoven and I realised I’d no idea what it was actually called. I need a way to google sounds.
    Did the gangsters pose as a string quartet?
    Yes. It is an absolute classic Ealing Studios comedy of the early 1950s. I get ‘The Ladykillers’ and ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’, which is another one, very mixed up. Alec Guinness has to keep taking the 78 record off every time his landlady comes upstairs to offer the quartet/mob tea, or otherwise interrupt their planning. Then he puts it on again when she leaves.

  55. Bill Walderman says:

    “Did the gangsters pose as a string quartet?
    Yes. It is an absolute classic Ealing Studios comedy of the early 1950s.”
    I was wondering whether the criminals in the contemporary remake, not the original, posed as a string quartet. I’ve seen the original several times, as well as The Lavender Hill Mob. The first time I saw The Ladykillers I must have been about six or seven, too young to appreciate the humor. My aunt took me to see it and I remember being very disturbed by the killings, especially the one where the “professor” (that would have been Alec Guiness) fell onto the train. Peter Sellars was also in the mob, wasn’t he?

  56. A J P Crown says:

    Sorry, Bill. I may have been too young to have been disturbed the first time, although now it is quite frightening in some of the places with railway steam and vertigo. Peter Sellers is in the gang, as is his Inspector Clouseau superior, the Czech actor who played Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru, aka Herbert Lom.

  57. Bill Walderman says:

    The famous Boccherini minuet (yes, now I remember, that’s what they were playing in The Ladykillers) is from a string quintet–not a quartet–and an unusual quintet at that, one with two cellos (like the Schubert quintet) instead of two violas. Were there five gangsters with two cellos in The Ladykillers, or did the professor make a mistake that should have immediately audible to the little old lady?

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Boccherini vs Beethoven, quartet vs quintet: sorry about the mistakes, but I saw the film when it first came out (not the remake) and I don’t remember the actual music, except that it was well-known chamber music, so I will gladly defer to those with a better or more recent memory of the film.

  59. A J P Crown says:

    You’re right, Bill, this film is flawed. They are a quintet, but unlike in the minuet there is but one cello (it’s the cello that bursts open, revealing banknotes from the robbery to the landlady). Although it’s deeply flawed, it is a film with a very satisfying ending, I feel.
    The Coens haven’t kept the quintet in their version, according to the Wiki synopsis (I haven’t seen their film). It says their gang play cds of gospel music. However, in typical Coen style, at one point the minuet is played.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    an unusual quintet at that, one with two cellos (like the Schubert quintet) instead of two violas
    Many pieces for unusual formations were written for specific groups, often friends of the composer, who wished to play together but did not have music suitable for their particular group. Schubert’s Trout quintet is one such work.

  61. Bill Walderman says:

    “it is a film with a very satisfying ending, I feel.” Yes, the gangsters kill one another off and the little old lady winds up with the stolen cash when the policeman, thinking she’s senile, dismisses her attempt to turn it in. There, I’ve given it away.

  62. marie-lucie says:

    Bill, you have, but there are plenty of incidents to enjoy on the road to this conclusion.

  63. A J P Crown says:

    Ok, but the Trout’s a piano quintet, unlike the Schubert quintet Bill’s talking about.
    Marie-Lucie, if you last saw The Ladykillers when it came out, fifty-four years ago, you have quite a memory. I have a hard time remembering films I saw last week.

  64. A J P Crown says:

    A very good novel, with the Trout and some string quartets by Haydn — but mostly the Trout, actually — featuring almost as characters, is An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth. (One reason I like it is because it’s set in the part of London where I grew up, but it’s still a good novel.)

  65. marie-lucie says:

    the Trout’s a piano quintet, unlike the Schubert quintet Bill’s talking about.
    Yes, I knew the comment was about a string quintet, but I was only talking about unusual combinations of instruments, since the Boccherini minuet is apparently written for one such, and so is the Trout.
    if you last saw The Ladykillers when it came out, fifty-four years ago, you have quite a memory.
    OK, the film must have been a few years old when I saw it, in the 60′s, but I thought it was very recent at the time, and I did not think of checking the year.
    When I was a child, I would hear my parents saying “ten years ago, twenty years ago, etc” and I would think “How can they remember that far back?” – at 6 or 7 you have trouble imagining yourself older (to me, 12 years old was unimaginably far away), and you can’t remember your early childhood, 3 or 4 years back, so how can your parents remember events much older than yourself? But as time goes on it is not how far back the events are, it’s how old you were (within limits) when they happened. (But for events last week, or even yesterday, it depends on how unusual they were – no point remembering routine, unremarkable stuff).

  66. Bill Walderman says:

    The Trout quintet is charming but lightweight; the C major cello quintet is a transcendental musical experience.

  67. A J P Crown says:

    I think the reason why time is moving so much faster as I get older is that, gradually, each year is becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of my whole life. When I was ten a year was one tenth, whereas now it’s only one fifty-fifth.
    Damn the Trout with faint praise, but the first twenty or fifty times you hear it it’s as transcendental as anything going, including the late piano sonatas of Beethoven and anything you care to name.

  68. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: I think the reason why time is moving so much faster as I get older is that, gradually, each year is becoming a smaller and smaller proportion of my whole life.
    That’s exactly how I think of it.
    BW: Schubert’s Trout was not meant as a transcendental experience, just as a fun thing to play among friends in the country. And it has a wonderful piano part.

  69. David Marjanović says:

    Schreibetui

    What? Never heard that. Federschachtel, Federpennal.
    (Carried over from the times when quills were used for writing. And -pennal is a cran morpheme; I’ve never seen it anywhere else, may never have seen it written at all, can’t think of an etymology [though it must be Latin/Romance], and am not completely sure if it’s really spelled with nn.)

  70. According to Mackensen it’s ‘Federbüchse’ (zu lat. penna Feder).

  71. Bill Walderman says:

    a fun thing to play among friends in the country. And it has a wonderful piano part.
    Yes, you’re right, and it’s a wonderful work, and I shouldn’t have dismissed it so condescendingly. But the cello quintet is on a completely different level.

  72. A J P Crown says:

    But the cello quintet is on a completely different level.
    That’s right: it has no wonderful piano part.
    it’s ‘Federbüchse’
    Roughly, ‘feather trousers’ in Norwegian.

  73. I agree with Bill: the cello quintet is on a higher level than just about anything else Schubert wrote (or, indeed, almost anyone). And I yield to no one in my affection for the “Trout” Quintet.

  74. A J P Crown says:

    I don’t agree with this higher level business. Different music is important to me at different times and for different reasons, but it’s all visceral. Pretty soon some old fart’s going to start telling me that Bruckner is on a higher level than Bob Dylan or some such nonsense and you’re just bringing the argument down to that level, Language.
    It’s like ‘the greatest poet in the world’ or ‘the greatest nation on earth’: meaningless advertising copy that says ‘fuck you’ to every other contestant in the category.

  75. Bill Walderman says:

    “I don’t agree with this higher level business. Different music is important to me at different times and for different reasons, but it’s all visceral.”
    Ok, I retract my comparison.

  76. marie-lucie says:

    According to Wikipedia, the Trout Quintet was composed in 1819, when Schubert was 22, and the Quintet in C minor in 1828, the year of his death, when he was already very ill. Surely that would make a difference in the tone of the works, as well as the degree of maturity and mastery of the composer.

  77. It’s some time since I saw “The Ladykillers”, but I think the banknotes were in a double bass case, not a cello case, which makes it even more wrong for the music. And I agree about the two Schubert quintets – the string quintet is sublime, but the Trout Quintet great fun (and it’s one I’ve played the piano part of several times).

  78. A J P Crown says:

    Gosh, thanks Bill. Especially since — having the Jæger etui, and all — you can probably even play Schubert.
    Marie-Lucie, I don’t think his having composed it when he was very ill would make a difference to the ‘tone’, though it might in theory have led to him mucking it up a bit.

  79. Bill Walderman says:

    AJP, are you familiar with Schubert’s C major quintet? Have you heard it performed live by a first-rate ensemble? If not, I encourage you (and everyone else) to experience it for yourself, just for your own satisfaction and enjoyment.

  80. A J P Crown says:

    Yes, I know it and have played it only today, not by coincidence. I haven’t heard it live. It’s great, I agree. It’s from a more sombre composer than the one who wrote Trout and it reminds me in places of the late string quartets — which are from roughly the same date, I guess.

  81. marie-lucie says:

    Graham, let’s shake hands.

  82. About quintets, Trout or otherwise:
    It is misleading to characterise the combination with an additional cello (the Boccherini quintets, and the Schubert C major) simply as “unusual”. We do think of an additional viola as standard, but perhaps this reflects a prejudice in favour of Mozart’s great masterworks, and of many that followed them.
    Most composers usually wrote for available resources. Boccherini wrote for string quartet plus cello because he was a cellist himself, and could join in:

    The string quintet formation with two cellos that Boccherini created seems to have resulted from the fact that Don Luis had a string quartet which with Boccherini himself could become a quintet. (New Grove)

    But then, Mozart was a violinist and a violist, so his preference for string quartet plus viola is accounted for in the same way. (He would not have wanted an added violin part, since the result would be unbalanced: 3 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello; Sammartini, though, had written for such a combination.) New Grove introduces each of these two instrumentations with equal weight:

    The most important chamber music forms are the string quintet (normally for a string quartet of two violins, viola and cello with an additional viola or cello), the piano quintet (usually for piano and string quartet) and the Wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn); … (New Grove, “Quintet”)

    Elsewhere New Grove does allow that the “standard” involved the addition of a viola – with plenty of variation and experimentation along the way:

    The ‘modern’ title Quintetto and a scoring of two violins, two violas and cello did not become common until the 1780s, chiefly in Vienna; even then, ‘older’ titles and alternative scorings continued to be cultivated, by Michael Haydn (Divertimento for two violins, two violas and double bass, p110, 1784), Dittersdorf (k185–90, 1789, for two violins, viola and two cellos) and Anton Wranitzky (op.8, c1801–2, for violin, two violas and two cellos). (New Grove, “String quintet”)

    Composers often came up with unique instrumentions because of some special need or other, usually at the whim of friends or patrons: Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” trio (clarinet, viola, piano); Schubert’s “Trout” quintet (violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano); Haydn’s innumerable works that include the baryton:

    Prince Nicolaus may have acquired his first baryton as late as 1765 when, on a trip to Innsbruck, he purchased the Stadlmann. While there he received the first pieces for ‘paridon’ from his Kapellmeister, Joseph Haydn. His enthusiasm for the baryton continued for more than a decade. Meanwhile, to satisfy the prince’s voracious appetite for new chamber music, Haydn was required to compose dozens of trios as well as solos, duos, quintets, octets, concertos and a cantata with obbligato baryton; Haydn also enlisted his colleagues and pupils to compose chamber works using the instrument. (New Grove, “Baryton”)

    Much has been made of the circumstances that induced Messiaen to compose for violin, clarinet, cello, and piano. It is less well known that Hindemith had written for the same combination a decade earlier (without being confined to a concentration camp); and I believe that the earliest such quartet is a truly delicious work by the twenty-three-year-old Walter Rabl, of 1896. It brought the composer to the attention of Brahms, who helped the young man with his publishing connexions and much else.
    I close by wholeheartedly endorsing the view that Schubert’s C major quintet is incomparable in all the literature. But some other late works, like his other chamber music and the superb last piano sonatas, share with it some bold and engaging technical features – mainly harmonic. 

  83. SnowLeopard says:

    It’s been interesting to give the Schubert another listen in light of this discussion. For those who like to refer to the score, you can find links to it here.

  84. Bill Walderman says:

    “Mozart was a violinist and a violist, so his preference for string quartet plus viola is accounted for in the same way.”
    I feel that Mozart had a special affinity for the viola. Some of his best works involved adding a viola to a standard ensemble: the piano quartets (piano trio plus viola), the quintets (string quartets plus extra viola), the Sinfonia Concertante (concerto for violin plus viola). And then there are the trio for viola, clarinet (which he also favored) and piano–a very unusual but in his hands successful combination–the two duos for violin and viola and the e flat divertimento for string trio, which makes demands on the viola as an equal partner with the violin and cello. But maybe we’re straying too far from the language-orientation of this site.

  85. Hell no—I love Mozart and Schubert as much as I love language. (In fact, I consider music another form of language, but one lifetime is too short to try to figure out the details of that.)

  86. (In fact, I consider music another form of language, but one lifetime is too short to try to figure out the details of that.)
    Thanks LH: I’ll borrow that as an excuse for my own serious shortcomings in both realms.
    Bill Walderman, I agree with you about Mozart and the viola. Note that we both mentioned the “Kegelstatt” trio, but you did not name it. We should record that he wrote only one work for clarinet, viola, and piano. The combination is not unique in the literature, though it is extremely rare.

  87. Bill Walderman says:

    If I’m not mistaken Kegelstatt means something like ‘bowling alley’ and the trio takes its name from a rumor that Mozart composed it while bowling. The only other works for the for the same combination of instruments that I’m aware of are some short pieces by Max Bruch.

  88. Bill Walderman says:

    There’s a list of works for viola, clarinet and piano here:
    http://www.frankmusiccompany.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=138527_138586_138592_138543
    In fact, there are two trios by someone named Reinecke, which leads neatly into the next thread.

  89. …two trios by someone named Reinecke, which leads neatly into the next thread.
    Ah, they must be seguidillas then. Schumann also wrote for clarinet, viola, and piano. See that work and others listed at Wikipedia.
    Your link was great for me, Bill. I found one work listed there for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano that precedes even Rabl: Moscheles’ opus 46, Fantasy, Variations & Finale. I have long been researching music for that combination, so this is quite a momentous discovery. Thank you! It is not listed in New Grove, but has been recorded by the Nash Ensemble. Apparently it’s a slight thing, with “frequent empty gestures” (as quoted in Appraisals of Original Wind Music: A Survey and Guide, by David Lindsey Clark, 1999); but it was published in 1819, so it predates Rabl by 77 years.
    Interestingly, Clark knows nothing of the Rabl piece, which has been recorded twice to my knowledge (in recent years only, on CD). Clark takes Hindemith’s to be the next after Moscheles’ quartet.
    A correction: the Hindemith is from 1938–9, so it preceded the Messiaen by only about two years, not a decade as I had said.

  90. A J P Crown says:

    I love Mozart and Schubert as much as I love language.
    The discussion of the Trout reminds me of the Douglas Adams quotation from his final book, The Salmon of Doubt: ‘Mozart tells us what it’s like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it’s like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it’s like to be the universe’. Of those, I very much agree about Beethoven and I can’t argue about Bach, but I’ve never been so fond of Mozart to think that he was saying much about my life. I’d substitute Schubert. (I like the Zauberfløte.) As with literature, what appeals to you is so personal. You can intellectualise music until you are blue in the face, but Nietzsche doesn’t make want to listen to Wagner; nor switch him off, either.

  91. Bill Walderman says:

    Noetica: The Frank Music Company website is a great resource. But I think that listing the Schumann Maerchenbilder as a trio may be in error. If I’m not mistaken, it’s for piano plus one other instrument–either viola or clarinet. There’s a violin arrangement, too.

  92. Bill Walderman says:

    AJP: ‘Mozart tells us what it’s like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it’s like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it’s like to be the universe’. To be quite honest (and please don’t take this amiss), this quotation makes absolutely no sense to me. I find pleasure in the music of all three of these composers as well as that of Schubert and many others from Leoninus to John Adams, but not because they tell me anything about anything. For me, at least, music is a sequence of sounds that’s beyond words.
    I’ve never been able to work out for myself a coherent theory of value in music (or any other field), which is why I readily withdrew my comparison of the two Schubert quintets that you objected to. I’m just delighted that our exchange apparently prompted you to go and experience the string quintet for yourself–I hope it lifted your spirits the way it does mine, and I hope you’ll listen to it again and again.
    But even though I can’t justify it on rational grounds, I can’t get away from the feeling that some music is better than other music–that the Bach Mass is somehow greater than the Pachelbel canon (which I’ve grown to detest over the years). I don’t want to embark on a lengthy discussion of this, which will ultimately prove inconclusive, and I’m prepared to admit that I don’t have any basis for my prejudices, but I just can’t bring myself to abandon them.
    Go and listen to the Schubert quintet or something else that moves you. Or if you play an instrument, go and play it!

  93. A J P Crown says:

    Bill:For me, at least, music is a sequence of sounds that’s beyond words.
    If there’s any art form where I’m sympathetic to the idea of art for art’s sake it is music. But there is more to life than that: I get an idea of what Beethoven was like while I listen to his music — whether it’s the Pastoral symphony or that transcription he made of Scottish folk songs — and I like to know about the man and to know that there once was this man, and that this isn’t heavenly elevator music provided by the gods. And, yes, Pachelbel’s Canon is nowadays only used to torture Americans who haven’t paid their public radio dues.
    I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Schubert string quintet. I think of it as a service you’re providing, and I do the same if I think people are missing out on a great piece of music (or cheese, or cake).

  94. A J P Crown says:

    Today I bought the 1952 recording of the Schubert, with Casals & Paul Tortelier, recommended by The Gramophone. Thanks, Bill.

  95. But even though I can’t justify it on rational grounds, I can’t get away from the feeling that some music is better than other music–that the Bach Mass is somehow greater than the Pachelbel canon
    Rationality is overrated. It’s very important in its place, of course, but that place is not in making aesthetic judgments. If you listen to enough music, your soul (another non-rational term) will tell you the mass is greater than the canon, and if it doesn’t, you have poor taste.

  96. The Frank Music Company website is a great resource. But I think that listing the Schumann Maerchenbilder as a trio may be in error. If I’m not mistaken, it’s for piano plus one other instrument–either viola or clarinet. There’s a violin arrangement, too.
    The Frank site correctly lists opus 132 as a trio for clarinet, viola, and piano. The work is called Märchenerzählungen, and is not to be confused with the opus 113 Märchenbilder, which is for clarinet OR viola, and piano. See this handy Wikipedia list of Schumann’s chamber music.
    As for the Schubert string quintet, though I am no connoisseur of recordings generally I can recommend the Naxos offering (Ensemble Villa Musica). Naxos is formidable, and we should not be misled by their affordability. I have one or two other recordings of the quintet that I like in my collection. Details on request (and for the Rabl piece, one recording of which is superb).
    Cheese? Where can I get real and correctly conceived erbolino in the southern hemisphere? Haven’t tasted or seen it since childhood. I never knew how we came by such a comestible when I was little, but it was memorable and a half.

  97. David Marjanović says:

    the Douglas Adams quotation from his final book, The Salmon of Doubt: ‘Mozart tells us what it’s like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it’s like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it’s like to be the universe’.

    Nicht Bach, sondern Meer sollte er heißen
    – Goethe.
    BTW, I’d have been very surprised if anything called Pachelbel could possibly be good. From the way the spelling looks, I want to pronounce it with two syllabic [l]s, then I recoil in horror, then I insert an [ɛ] in front of the first [l], then it still sounds just ugly, then I notice the [p] which is directly followed by a vowel and therefore just not German (though maybe it’s just a pre-orthographic spelling of Bach-; that would at least give an etymology to half of the word…), and then I wonder if I should pretend there’s another l at the end and shift the [ɛ] from in front of the first [l] to the position in front of the second [l], getting rid of the foolish [bl] but making a mockery of everything else… Madness. And most definitely not Sparta.

  98. Naxos is formidable, and we should not be misled by their affordability.
    Well said, and very true.
    From the way the spelling looks, I want to pronounce it with two syllabic [l]s, then I recoil in horror
    Heh. I just checked Wikipedia, and found “in German, pronounced ['johan ˈpaxɛlbl̩], [ˈpaxl̩bɛl], or [paˈxɛlbl̩].” I had always assumed it was of Slavic origin, but now that I think about it I’m not sure why—probably the P-.

  99. Bill Walderman says:

    “The Frank site correctly lists opus 132 as a trio for clarinet, viola, and piano. The work is called Märchenerzählungen, and is not to be confused with the opus 113 Märchenbilder, which is for clarinet OR viola, and piano. See this handy Wikipedia list of Schumann’s chamber music.”
    I stand corrected.

  100. My son played a funked up version of the Pachelbel canon while he was in HS. It was funny the first time, but not a joke that you wanted to hear again and again.

  101. My son played a funked up version of the Pachelbel canon while he was in HS. It was funny the first time, but not a joke that you wanted to hear again and again.

  102. Is the best quality music on CD these days? I haven’t kept up with the technology at all since returning from abroad.
    I’m afraid the few CD’s I carried with me are in poor quality from being inside airplane-proof plastic sleeves. I play them on my computer since it seems to track better than the boom box.
    How do you download music and is it any good when you do that? Is there anyplace to listen for free or do you just have to take a chance?

  103. Mozart I find excessively emotive, Beethoven just right, Bach is too mechanical and lacking in heart. There, I said it–now the Bach afficionados will scorn me.
    For some reason I used to enjoy playing Bartok.

  104. SnowLeopard says:

    now the Bach afficionados will scorn me.
    No scorn, though I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Bach as “mechanical and lacking in heart”; I go through phases myself where Bach is the only music I find meaningful, which subjects me to scorn from a different quarter. For some reason I’ve had a taste for complex polyphony since I was very young, and music that doesn’t have it — or a similar level of structural sophistication — has often seemed lazy and poorly thought-out by comparison. Late Mozart and Beethoven usually come close enough by this yardstick, but Schubert’s C Major Quintet doesn’t quite do it for me, at least at this point in my life. But I read a precept once that you should never mock what others consider holy, and if others find salvation in the Schubert (or Bartok, for that matter), then I at least consider it worth my attention and even study. I know polyphony isn’t the sole vehicle for meaningful musical expression, even if it’s my favorite. And often, I find, pieces grow on you with repeated listening, or you find yourself exposed to different structural concepts or organizing principles that take some getting used to. That can be rewarding in its own right, especially if you’re exploring musical traditions from other parts of the world. Some in this audience may find that too intellectual an approach, which is fine, but my view is that the appreciation of music is fundamentally a cognitive experience, though not necessarily an entirely conscious one. Great composers, of every tradition, aren’t simply taking divine dictation (if they were, they wouldn’t improve over their careers) but are often displaying a profound understanding of human psychology, and it’s worth getting to know their idiom the same way that you’d study a language to enjoy a poet in the original.

  105. I could go halfway with you on Bach as far as Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, not sure if that’s late or early, but the fugues or Inventions or whatever they are are completely unrewarding to play, besides being technically demanding. As far as structural concepts I enjoy Indian ragas which are supposed to have some spiritual value–Koran is equally calming, a multicultural effect I’ve noticed when I play a few bars for my students so they can hear what it sounds like. The sufi whirling music is pretty interesting too. But the most haunting sounds of all are the ones in the open air. I am thinking of the call to prayer sounded simultaneously from many mosques in the same city, also in the small areas where it is a live person instead of a recording. I remember sitting on the roof of a house in a refugee camp and hearing the call to prayer that was not a recording but a live voice and stopped the conversation to remark on it. The girl I was sitting with smiled shyly and said “that’s my father.” In Kathmandu there is a valley dedicated to Ganesh and Saraswati and Vajra Jogini where you can hear something like elephants bellowing across the valley from temple to temple. It is quite dissonant by our standards. When you see the instrument up close it looks like a saxophone with a straight neck. At least I think it’s the same instrument.

  106. I have always suspected that the same people who like Bach will like ice hockey.

  107. A J P Crown says:

    I hate all spectator sports, particularly ice hockey, and love Bach. There’s nothing inherently mechanical about the St. Matthew Passion, say. Did Sarah Palin ever give us her thoughts on Bach?
    What I do nowadays is download music to my computer using iTunes. You have to make sure it’s backed up, because you don’t have a hard copy. ITunes doesn’t have a huge classical music selection yet, but it’s improving. I’ve got all my old cds on my computer too. The other good thing with iTunes is their selection of podcasts that you can download free.
    Noetica: Where can I get real and correctly conceived erbolino in the southern hemisphere? Haven’t tasted or seen it since childhood.
    Can’t you get a cheesemaker to mail it to you? I know some of them provide this service.

  108. I have never noted a crossover between Bach and sports fans. Heavy metal fans and Bach fans, yes, but heavy metal fans are not typically great fans of spectator sports either, at least not in the US.
    And ice hockey, when played well, does approach art.
    At least among classical musicians I’ve met, it seems to be a badge of honor to love Bach and detest Mozart. My son’s cello teacher just told him the other day “Mozart was a hack.”

  109. SnowLeopard says:

    Sorry Nijma, but like Mr. Crown, I hate all spectator sports. I’m not insisting that you should like Bach — that would be foolish, especially if you’ve already given him a serious try. I’d agree with you that Indian ragas are quite interesting, though as in all traditions there seems to be a huge range in quality. The other traditions I’ve been sampling have shown similar merit. Because I’m especially interested in non-Western divisions of the octave (while there still are any), I’m currently researching Arab maqamat.
    As for the other enviable experiences you describe, I note that from your descriptions they seem to have as much to do with where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing, as with the particular sounds you heard. It’s a lot like the fact that your fondest recollection of a meal will probably not be from some restaurant, but from some trip together with family and friends where you all returned to the kitchen laughing with an armful of produce and threw something together. Those sorts of experiences don’t qualify as reproducible experiments, so to speak, nor are they subject to intellectual criticism, but I wouldn’t presume to dismiss their value on that account. I only question whether the music was the sole factor contributing to your enjoyment; if it were, the chances of the rest of us being lucky enough to have the same experience would not seem so remote.

  110. A J P Crown says:

    At least among classical musicians I’ve met, it seems to be a badge of honor to love Bach and detest Mozart. My son’s cello teacher just told him the other day “Mozart was a hack.”
    I hardly listen to Mozart (I thought everyone but me liked him), but that’s a bit much.

  111. marie-lucie says:

    Vanya: At least among classical musicians I’ve met, it seems to be a badge of honor to love Bach and detest Mozart. My son’s cello teacher just told him the other day “Mozart was a hack.”
    I am shocked to hear this opinion of Mozart. Could it be because Mozart is quintessentially 18th century and that is out of fashion at present? and by “hack” did the cellist mean that Mozart, like others at the time, often composed on commission rather than always from “inspiration”? (it is true that some of his late chamber music is disappointing).

  112. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: the fugues or Inventions or whatever they are are completely unrewarding to play, besides being technically demanding.
    Practicing Bach gives your fingers an excellent workout. To me Bach sounds good even if played slowly, something that is not the case for many other composers.

  113. Now that I think about it she was referring specifically to Mozart’s string quartets. I’ll have to see if she holds his operas and orchestral works in higher esteem. But she’s certainly not the only classically trained musician or composer I’ve heard speak this way. Mozart does seem to be out of fashion, probably because familiarity breeds contempt. I think musicians presented with a Mozart piece feel they have nothing more to say. And if you play cello, Mozart quartets are almost up there with Pachelbel – the sort of music you are forced to play at a wedding reception or cocktail party. Oddly Shostakovich seems to be in fashion these days, a composer I love, but who I would have thought is also maybe too accessible to the masses to be “cool”. I hear teenagers performing Shostakovich for recitals all the time.

  114. A J P Crown says:

    I love Shostakovich and play his concertos a lot, but my favourite piece is the (piano) 24 Preludes & Fugues, Op. 34, (played by Tatiana Nikolaeva). For a while I went around like Bill, telling everyone to get it. He was a great Bach fan, Shostakovitch. I’d no idea he was in fashion, though. Which of his pieces do teenagers like? My daughter doesn’t like him very much. If anyone is open to being called a hack it’s him, but thank goodness he managed to survive Stalin. Tea for Two and the ‘jazz’ stuff are weirdly attractive.

  115. marie-lucie says:

    I hear teenagers performing Shostakovich for recitals all the time.
    Many of the Russian composers during the communist area taught in music schools and composed music specifically for students at various levels. Quite often you find longish pieces which are not very difficult, too long for children but OK for teenagers. Recital pieces are not often chosen by the performer, but by the teacher.

  116. SnowLeopard says:

    Thanks for the Shostakovich recommendation, AJP. I wasn’t familiar with the 24 Preludes & Fugues, but the samples on Amazon sound very interesting. Are you sure it’s not opus 87? I don’t see an opus 34 coming up on my search for preludes and fugues.

  117. Bill Walderman says:

    ‘My son’s cello teacher just told him the other day “Mozart was a hack.”‘
    Maybe it’s time for another cello teacher for your son.
    Shostakovich is an interesting case in the history of musical fashion. Forty years ago, when post-Webern serialism was in vogue, Shostakovich was widely sneered at as a hack and a lightweight. At that time, he was known in the US largely for massive symphonies in a tonal style with a Soviet orientation and he had become identified with Soviet musical orthodoxy (despite having been attacked in the Stalin era, on one occasion in an anonymous review possible written by Stalin himself).
    In the 1970s, two things happened. First, tonality became acceptable again, and second, Shostakovich’s chamber music, particularly the quartets (some of the later ones were being written in the 1960s), became known in the West.
    Since then, his reputation has shot up and today he’s hot. There’s been an effort to re-evaluate his big Soviet symphonies as ironic, and Simon Volkov published what purports to be S.’s memoirs or interviews with him that take a very negative view of Soviet Communism, although their authenticity is disputed. Some of the later quartets verge on atonality and it seems clear that he was following musical developments in the West–he was influenced by Stravinsky (though he once put his signature to a published article denouncing Stravinsky, maybe by coercion), Bartok (who satirized his symphonic writing in the Concerto for Orchestra) and even Webern himself.
    If anyone is interested, I recommend listening to the wrenching e minor piano trio.

  118. A J P Crown says:

    Snow Leopard: Are you sure it’s not opus 87?
    No, I’m not, I copied it from my i tunes, and I think you’re right: it’s op. 87 according to The Gramophone Classical Music Guide. The 2 Tatiana Nikolaeva versions are surpassed by Vladimir Ashkenazy, according to The Gram. Just don’t buy the one by Keith Jarrett.

  119. Bill Walderman says:

    “Simon Volkov” No, Solomon Volkov.

  120. snowleopard, As for the other enviable experiences you describe, I note that from your descriptions they seem to have as much to do with where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing, as with the particular sounds you heard.
    Not at all. Many who have heard the cacophony of the call to prayer at sundown in a major Middle Eastern city will tell you the sound itself is haunting. Every little mosque in the neighborhood starts their recoding at a slightly different moment, but you can still hear the distinct tones. If the town is in a valley that adds another dimension. I suppose the twilight doesn’t hurt any, but it is the sound itself, not the ambiance. It’s one thing from over there that I’m homesick for (not that I’m ready to have mosque loudspeakers start up here).
    We have sounds in the public space as well. Here there are church bells, the noon whistle, and my home town had chimes to indicate on the hour the times for changing classes on campus. Even if the sounds are not secular, the effect is just interesting, not numinous.
    The Vajra Yogini temple at Pharping is on the way to Dakshinkali where they have the animal sacrifices (creepy place), there is a poor picture here and some very decent ones of Dakshinkali. http://sirensongs.blogspot.com/2008/04/mandala-meanderings.html (music alert) Quite a few temples are in this hill, and the sounds from the numerous temples in the valley were again haunting, perhaps because it was sacred music. I don’t know if you could go at a particular time to experience the same thing.
    I would have to add the music at the Ethiopian New Year, Sept 11, where they play music all night to usher in the new year. The main church for this is at Lake Tana at the source of the Blue Nile, the priests lean on wooden sticks to stay standing all night as they play on drum and sistrum, instruments that King David would danced to. The smaller islands have a pretty amazing music outdoors on the porch of their circular churches (replica of the arc of the covenant is inside and is closed) but at the main church on the mainland it is possible to creep in and listen from the other side of a curtain as the bass and tenor notes of the drums fugue back and forth. I can’t imagine why more people don’t go there, but it seems the people stay at home.

  121. In contested areas in E Europe and probably Spain there were bell vs. muezzin wars. Not one against the other: Muslim-ruled towns would have muezzins and no bells, and Christian-ruled towns would have bells and no muezzins, and if control switched, so would the type of religious noise. It depended more on the ruler than the dominant population, I think, though I imagine that some indulgent rules allowed the populations to choose.

  122. In contested areas in E Europe and probably Spain there were bell vs. muezzin wars. Not one against the other: Muslim-ruled towns would have muezzins and no bells, and Christian-ruled towns would have bells and no muezzins, and if control switched, so would the type of religious noise. It depended more on the ruler than the dominant population, I think, though I imagine that some indulgent rules allowed the populations to choose.

  123. marie-lucie says:

    Consider also the nursery rhyme (?) about “the bells of London”, each church having its distinctive ring (and the ringing patterns must have been different according to the days of the week and the time of day).

  124. It was when Christianity came to Scandinavian countries that the trolls left. I think from the pictures, they were the kind of troll that lives underground in a mound on the farm. They couldn’t stand to be around the church bells. They were really sad to leave and the few people who knew about their presence were sad too.

  125. bruessel says:

    After ploughing through the 1504 pages of A Suitable Boy, only to find that (for me) it came to a very unsatisfactory conclusion, I decided to never read anything by Vikram Seth again. So I am in two minds as to whether I would really enjoy An Equal Music.

  126. It’s called ‘Oranges and Lemons.

    “Oranges and lemons”, say the bells of St. Clement’s
    “You owe me five farthings”, say the bells of St. Martin’s
    “When will you pay me?” say the bells of Old Bailey
    “When I grow rich”, say the bells of Shoreditch
    “When will that be?” say the bells of Stepney
    “I do not know”, says the great bell of Bow.

    It’s a 17th or 18th Century, sung nursery-rhyme about some churches in the City of London.

  127. An Equal Music is MUCH shorter. It’s about a group of chabmer musicians, a quartet and a pianist. It has a satisfactory conclusion, as far as I remember, but not a happy ending. Whether you would enjoy it depends also on your feeling about Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet.

  128. By ‘chabmer’ I meant, of course, ‘rembach’.

  129. Rembach is often confused with Offenbach.
    The “Trout” Quintet also features in Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s superb novel Disturbances in the Field (warning: disturbing reading if you are a parent).

  130. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, thank you, that is the rhyme or song I meant. No doubt the lines “said” by the bells have been adapted to the churches’ own names, but the rhythms and simple tunes must correspond more or less to the individual signatures of the bell sets (each church with three bells tuned to different notes).

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