JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Bartók

This afternoon I attended a performance of the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. I don’t have a subscription this year, so this was the first concert I went to this season. It was a mixed bag.

The last few years that I had a subscription I had box seats that were in the Second Tier behind the orchestra. While this distorted the sound very slightly, it did give me a view of the conductor’s face and I could see most of the players fairly close up. And as I was reminded today as I took my seat in the Orchestra section, there was nobody behind me to cough all the way through the performance.

A few minutes before the performance as the Philadelphia Orchestra is warming up

The first work was one of my favorites by one of my favorite composers, Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. When I came to Philadelphia in 1980, one of my very first concerts featured Eugene Ormandy conducting that work (a treasured memory), and I’ve heard it played at least a couple times since, most recently in 2014 under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski. Today Salonen gave it another terrific performance; I just wish the coughers could have held off just a little bit longer to let the final pianissimo notes (marked ppp in the score) sound without competition. The perils of the live performance.

After intermission came two works by Béla Bartók. I have to confess, as far as I’m concerned, Bartók’s works can be divided into the Concerto for Orchestra and everything else.

I have always thought that Bartók wrote the Concerto for Orchestra in a deliberately easily accessible style, and I think he’s pandering to the audience, so I’ve never really been able to love it like so many others do. Yes, a performance can be enjoyable. But it’s a piece I tire of very easily.

Then there’s everything else.

For example, today’s pieces, the Viola Concerto, performed by Choon-Jin Chang, and the Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin.

They just don’t sound like music to me.

Let me explain.

Of course, they are music. I’m using a very loose definition when I say they don’t sound like music. What I mean is as far as I’m concerned, if the orchestra had played a bunch of musical notes that had been randomly generated by a computer instead of the notes that Bartók presumably painstakingly notated on his score, I feel I would not have been able to tell the difference. There just didn’t seem to be any coherence or logic to the series of notes. And I’ve listened to these pieces in advance, in the case of the concerto, many times.

And it’s not just these pieces. I’ve tried listening to his opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, several times in several different recordings, and I attended the concert performance a couple years ago that Yannick conducted with the Philadelphians. That opera leaves me cold.

I’ve listened to Bartók’s string quartets, his second Violin Concerto, his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, and a number of other pieces. Many times.

The only works of his that sound like music are the third movement of the Viola Concerto and the opening of the second Violin Concerto. Everything else sounds like random gibberish to me.

I guess I have to conclude that Bartók’s music is just not for me.

An Enchanted Afternoon?

Liat and Lt. Cable (Alison T. Chi and Ben Michael)

As I've written previously, South Pacific is my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, so I was looking forward to the Walnut Street Theatre's current production.

I like sitting front row center when possible, but the ticket I bought was for the far right seat, which had a partially obstructed view because of the palm tree on the stage and some other scenery. I've grown to accept that modern audiences generally don't stop their gabbing for the overture, but I wasn't prepared for the latecomers who jostled their way in front of me in search of their seats or the obnoxious couple to my left who kept fiddling with their phones, shining them on their programs to read and incidentally into my eyes. And said obnoxious couple were roughly my age, so they should have known better. Plus I was sitting right next to the over-amplified speaker so the sound was quite unpleasantly loud. And when the show began, I realized that with my obstructed view seat, I could only see perhaps 50% of the action on stage.

Bloody Mary (Lori Tann Chin) hawking a grass skirt

So I decided I'd leave at intermission.

But then something happened. Kate Fahrner as Nellie Forbush and Paul Schoeffler as Emile de Becque launched into my favorite song of the score, “Twin Soliloquies”, and I had an inkling of how powerful a spell this show can cast on me.

The spell continued when the men's ensemble broke into my favorite song of the show, “There Is Nothing Like a Dame”, performing a pitch-perfect rendition of that rousing number.

Luther Billis (Fran Prisco), Ensign Nellie Forbush (Kate Fahrner), and the Seabees

Lori Tann Chinn as Bloody Mary gave a very broad interpretation of that role, quite different from Juanita Hall’s, but I loved the way she handled my two favorite numbers from the score, “Bali Ha’i” and “Happy Talk”. While we’re on the subject of “Bali Ha’i”, I thought the staging of that number was the director’s only major misfire. Mary begins her seduction of “Lootellin” Cable with that song and her focus should be on him and him alone; everyone else on stage should disappear from the audience’s attention. Instead, the director had the stage brightly lit and although Mary began singing directly to Cable, after a while she started roaming the stage and engaging with the various Seabees. That was just wrong. Her only interest is in Cable.

Emile de Becque (Paul Schoeffler) and Ensign Nellie Forbush (Kate Fahrner)

Nellie and the Nurses gave an outstanding performance of my absolute favorite hit song from the show, “A Wonderful Guy”, though sadly I missed most of the stage business and choreography because of the aforementioned obstructed view. But with its very long verse setting up Nellie's conflicted feelings and need to justify her decisions to her friends, followed by one of the most lilting and exhilarating waltz tunes that Rodgers or anyone ever penned, oh, what a song!

By the time Act I ended all thoughts of leaving had long since evaporated.

Ben Michael as Lt. Joseph Cable got to perform my favorite social protest number in the show, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”, and Schoeffler’s performance of “This Nearly Was Mine” just might turn that into my favorite song from the score.

Overall the cast was fine, even great at times, the orchestra played wonderfully, and the staging, what I could see of it and other than the “Bali Ha’i” number, was terrific.

Captain George Brackett (Dan Olmstead) and Cmdr. William Harbison (Jeffrey Coon) drive onto the stage in a Jeep

In short, after a rocky start it turned into an enchanted afternoon after all.

UPDATE 2016-10-23: I went to see it again this afternoon at what was its final performance. This time from the mezzanine where I could see about 95% of the action. And there was a lot to see; I had missed more than I expected. My verdict still stands. I'd add “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” to my list of director misfires; it was just a little bit too well staged. But overall, I liked what I saw.

One other criticism: they cut a bit of Emile's music right after “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”, but that music does appear in the underscoring a little while later. Which is why I was confused about whether it was included or not.

Mahler's Homage to Brahms

Dennis Fowler posted a comment on a classical meetup event about the similarity of the opening theme of Mahler's Symphony Number 3 to the main theme of the fourth movement of Brahms's first symphony. Was it a case of Mahler paying veiled tribute to Brahms? The Mahler theme, he said, sounds like a “minor-key ghost image” of the Brahms.

I had never noticed the similarity, so his comment inspired me to fire up MuseScore to make a direct comparison of the two themes. Here is the result.

The upper violin line is the main theme from the fourth movement of Brahms's first symphony; the horn line is the opening theme from Mahler's third symphony.

It's easy to compare the themes as they are both notated in the key of C major although the Mahler is actually in F because of the way horn music is annotated. You can decided for yourself if this was Mahler's homage to Brahms, but I think the similarity is too great to be accidental.

Here is the fourth movement of the Brahms symphony

Mahler's Third Symphony

The Golden Spinning Wheel Annotated

 

 

 

 

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Yannick, the Orchestra, and Strauss

Just back from this afternoon's Philadelphia Orchestra concert, and I'm exhausted. In a good way. But before I talk about today's performance, I want to go back and catch up on some of the earlier highlights of the season so far.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin began the season with a powerful performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony in September 2013, which also kick-started a two season traversal of all the Beethoven symphonies. The performance was rhythmically intense and emphasized the revolutionary aspects of the symphony; Yannick really brought out the drama in the work and made it seem fresh once more. I particularly recall the pounding tympani in the scherzo.

The orchestra is celebrating the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss this season, which suits me fine, as Strauss is probably my third favorite composer (right behind Wagner and Beethoven). So in October Richard Woodhams was the featured soloist in the Strauss Oboe Concerto.

A brief digression on Richard Woodhams: he is a force of nature. The orchestra's principal oboe since 1977, Woodhams has carried on and extended the tradition of John de Lancie, his predecessor and teacher. Frequently appearing as soloist not only with the Philadelphians but also with other leading orchestras across the country, he distinguishes himself with every beautifully crafted oboe line he plays. The city is fortunate to have him.

Richard Woodhams, principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra

The Strauss Oboe Concerto is one of those pieces that has slowly grown on me. A product of Strauss's so-called Indian Summer period, the concerto initially seemed pleasant but relatively light-weight. Lately, however, I've developed a new respect for the piece. Needless to say, Woodhams played it beautifully, seemingly oblivious of its challenges. The challenges begin with a 56 measure passage for the soloist, giving no opportunity for the player to take a breath, and they go on from there. Woodhams even played the passages that are doubled by other instruments, which according to Norman Del Mar many distinguished soloists skip in order to take a well-earned breath. As I said, Richard Woodhams is a force of nature.

That particular concert also featured a wonderful reading of the Mahler 4th Symphony by Yannick. I've often said that the 4th is my least favorite Mahler symphony, but after hearing this performance, I might have to change that assessment: Yannick brought out all the 20th century aspects of the piece and made it sound more modern than I've ever heard it played before.

In November Yannick led the orchestra in an exhilarating performance of Strauss's Ein Heldenleben, which I have long considered one of Strauss's lesser tone poems; it has always seemed episodic with the parts never adding up to a whole. I don't know if it was hearing it live, or if it was Concertmaster David Kim's playing of the solo violin part, or if it was the way Yannick approached the piece–but whatever it was, I found the performance thrilling and even moving. At the climax of the battle scene, when Strauss combines the themes of the Hero and his Companion, I felt tears welling up in my eyes as well as goose bumps running up and down my back.

In the final section of the tone poem Strauss adds an allusion to the final movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, which brings me to today's concert.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Once again a Strauss Indian Summer work led off–this time his Metamorphosen, one of my favorites. Metamorphosen is Strauss's cry of despair over the destruction of several of his beloved cities at the end of World War II, and its motto theme is derived from the Funeral March of Beethoven's Eroica. Yannick led 23 solo strings of the orchestra in a lovingly played performance, bringing out dramatic aspects of the work that I didn't realize were there. (I do have one question: when a work like this is performed, how are the players chosen? Just wondering…)

Shostakovich's first Cello Concerto followed with Johannes Moser substituting for an ailing Truls Mørk on the cello. I'm at a loss for superlatives; when the orchestra can tap a substitute as brilliant and talented as Moser for a very difficult 20th century concerto, we listeners are fortunate indeed.

The concert concluded with Yannick's account of the Eroica itself. I'm going to repeat myself, but the performance was rhythmically intense. When Yannick barely waited for the entrance applause to die down before barreling into the two incisive opening chords, I knew we were in for a very special treat. He took the opening movement at a fast clip, emphasizing once again the revolutionary aspects of the work, and giving himself room to slow down when the music warranted it. The Funeral March with its multiple climaxes brought chills, and the scherzo was properly playful. The orchestra members, who surely could play this work in their sleep, sounded like one enormous instrument that Yannick was putting through its paces. The final movement brought a fitting end to a remarkable performance.

But don't think for a moment that I came to praise Yannick unconditionally. In the first movement he skipped the repeat of the exposition, which seriously threw off the balance with the enormous development section. <sigh>

Anyway, as the Strauss celebration continues, I'm eagerly looking forward to hearing the performance of Salome this spring.

Music Licensing -- Grrrr! Arrgh!

Yesterday Saundra asked me about music licensing for YouTube videos; my reply turned into a bit of a rant, and since I don't like to waste a good rant, here is an edited version of what I sent her.

The short answer to the music licensing question is I don't do anything about it; I let GooTube handle it. (I'll use GooTube to refer to the Google/YouTube industrial complex.)

And here is what they do:

Most of the time GooTube is very good at finding and identifying music in my videos (they can identify it to the specific recording and more generically as well), and most of the time they simply tell me that they have identified it, but that I don't need to worry as my account is still in good standing, and they just put a button below my video that allows the viewer to purchase the music from one of several online music stores. Very civilized.

One of the first videos I ever uploaded to GooTube was a very short one of a portion of a bike race. It was a little over two minutes long and just showed the cyclists emerging en masse from around a corner onto Ridge Avenue, followed by some stragglers, and then both groups returning. For the music (and really it was nothing without the music) I used a track I had found on an old video that some anonymous Microsoft employees had put together to show how an iPod's packaging would look if it were a Microsoft rather than an Apple product. I didn't know what the music was, but it had fast uptempo sections that I used for the mass of cyclists and quieter passages that I used for the stragglers. The music worked perfectly for the Microsoft video and pretty damn well for my bicycle video, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, GooTube identified the music as a Danny Elfman track called Breakfast Machine (From "Pee Wee's Big Adventure"), and they put a button below my video to let people buy it. When I saw that, I bought a copy myself from the iTunes store for 99 cents. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do. I'm listening to it now. It's a very catchy piece.

About a month or so ago, I noticed that GooTube had silenced that video because the music violated copyright or something. So I deleted the video, because without the music it was boring. And it's not like anyone would grab the music from the video because the video included the sounds of the cyclists, etc. Nor was I in any way profiting from using it; if anything the copyright holders might see an occasional purchase from time to time. Very strange.

On some of my other videos I see a notice that they are blocked in some countries because of copyright violations. That's the case with video of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary (people in Germany can't view it). By the way, that's the second video I ever edited (from VHS tape footage shot in 1993 by two relatives) and it's probably my favorite of all the ones I've done. It has flaws and if I were doing it today there are a lot of things I'd fix, but I still like it a lot. Probably for sentimental reasons...

Go ahead and watch it; I'll wait...

Something else that's strange: The videos of the final piece in the Philadelphia Orchestra's Pop-up Concert, which the conductor Yannick explicitly gave the audience permission to record, are marked as "Matched Third Party Content". The music is the Polonaise from Chaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, well over a hundred years old and clearly in the public domain. The performance itself doesn't match any commercially recorded performance. But there is a company that licenses the orchestra parts for that piece and they are claiming it as theirs and GooTube is going along with it. I protested, but GooTube overruled me. It really doesn't matter because it doesn't prevent anyone from viewing it, but it's the principle of the thing.

As a side note, the two videos of that concert that I uploaded are 1) the raw footage that I recorded on my iPhone and  2) a mashup of thirteen of those videos, or as the Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns put it: "one with several camera angles edited together to suggest a multicamera PBS production." He didn't mention my name though. Or even give me a link.

Anyway, I think the mashup (not really the best term for it, but I thought it might attract the youth audience) is the far more interesting video, and I spent the better part of a week editing it and teaching myself how to use Final Cut's Multicam editing features in the process, but because my first video had a head start, it has and is still getting far more views than the mashup (843 vs. 84). It has more Likes as well (5 vs. 1). I believe when someone searches for the pop-up concert, my original video appears much higher in the rankings because it has more views and Likes; a self-perpetuating cycle.

Go ahead and watch it. I could use the views. And if you like it, maybe you could Like it by pushing the thumbs up button.

Then there's The Case of the Indiana Jon Video. It went from Matched Third Party Content, to Video Blocked in Some Countries, to Video Blocked World-wide (no one could view it), back to Matched Third Party Content. It uses the last five minutes of the end title music from the first Indiana Jones movie, starting in the middle of the music. There are other sounds on the video, like rushing air, dialog, etc. In other words I can't imagine anyone "stealing" that music from my video. What I guess is happening is that the rights holders are changing their minds from time to time over how they want to handle these things.

Right now the only videos of mine that don't have a notice of some sort next to them are:

The two Sunday in the Park With George videos, both of which consist entirely of clips from the video of the Broadway show.
The Dick Van Dyke Opening Times Three which shows the three different openings of that classic show side by side (this has been my most popular video so far with over 37,000 views).
The two videos of my Ken Jennings (no, not that Ken Jennings) interview which consist of audio from my interview with him while clips from his performance in Sweeney Todd are flashing by.

What they have in common is that they all are clips I took from DVDs. If they don't match third party content...<sigh>

Sorry this is so long, but when I start on a rant, there's no stopping me. Did I answer your question?

Update 2/6/2014: I just noticed that the videos which indicate they are blocked in some countries cannot be viewed on mobile devices.

I Can't Dance, Either...

As I explained in a previous post, while watching "All In with Chris Hayes" a few weeks ago, a comment that Hayes made about the (possibly temporary) legalization of same sex marriage in the state of Utah reminded me of a song, and I set about making a song parody video. You can read that post to find out why it's taken me so long to produce anything, but the (good or bad, depending on your point of view) news is I now have a rough cut of the video up on YouTube.

I let a few selected friends see a preview and I received some very positive feedback. For various reasons I've decided not to edit it any further but to leave it in its rough state.

With the caveat that this was a self-teaching tool and I just wanted to have some fun, here is the video.

In Utah State - The Rough Cut

A couple notes (Warning: SPOILERS!):

Of the feedback that I received from the previewers, I got perhaps the best review anyone could hope for: "It was much, much better than Cats!"

I think of the two characters as Good Twin and Evil Twin. It was always my intention that the Good Twin should get progressively more banged up because of his ineptitude, including poking his own eye with a cane. But when I got near the end of filming, I found I had forgotten to film the scene where a hat pops onto the Good Twin's head and a cane flies into his hand. With little time left, I improvised and had the Evil Twin "accidentally" poke the other's eye, which makes for a more satisfactory plot, but alas, I didn't shoot enough retakes to make it look credible. Hence, the rough cut. In case you're wondering, at the end the Good Twin is trying to inch away from the evil one, but the actor moved too far so part of his body sometimes goes out of the frame. That's the trouble with working with amateurs.

My Piano Teachers

My uncle Curtis was also a church organist. I think this picture was taken at the Lutheran church on Route 422 just outside Stouchsburg, PA.

My uncle Curtis (father's brother) was a music teacher and started to teach me to play the piano about the time I began kindergarten. As a result, I knew how to read music before I could read words.

He continued to teach me while we lived on the farm (the piano was in my grandparents house; it was their farm, we lived in the house on the other side of the meadow that would normally be rented out) and after we moved to Richland, my parents bought a piano, so Curtis resumed the lessons there, coming to our home and charging us a dollar a lesson. After about a year of that, he said he was no longer going to give piano lessons as his full time job kept him too busy (he was the music teacher for several schools in our area, including mine), so I had to find another teacher. I've long suspected that his real reason for stopping the lessons was that I was a lousy student (I seldom practiced).

After I had been taking lessons from Mrs. Layser for about a year, she started me on Czerny exercises, terrible music but good for the fingers.

In those days Richland (population just under 1300) had two piano teachers: Mrs. Fromm, a barber's wife (we had two barbers also), who was very strict and (so the story went) kept her piano in a humidity-controlled room that was insufferably warm; and Mrs. Layser. I opted for Mrs. Layser. She was married to Neal Layser, who I think was in my mother's class in school; I remember him telling me, jokingly, that he and my mother went to different schools together, but I don't recall the details. This was in 1959 when I was ten; I can state that with some authority because I still have some of the music exercise books annotated with the date. I think she charged $1.25 per lesson.

Anyway, Mrs. Layser, whom I called "Ann" (maybe because I was used to calling my uncle by his first name?), was a great teacher, but I still didn't practice regularly. I remember times I would show up at her house for a lesson and it was painfully obvious that I had never practiced the pieces even one time; it was obvious because I stumbled badly when playing the piece for her and showed dramatic improvement when she had me play through it a second time.

I also remember being extremely embarrassed a couple years later when I realized all her other students called her "Mrs. Layser"; but not embarrassed enough to change--"Ann" was what I continued to call her.

When I was 13 or 14, the Laysers moved away from Richland (to get away from me? I don't think so; I believe they moved for Neal's job), and I had to find another teacher. By this time Mrs. Penchard was giving lessons. She was married to my 7th grade music teacher who often said that men should marry like he did: find a woman a few years older because women have slightly longer lifespans. Supposedly this would improve the odds that when they went, they'd go together. I think that was a serious misapplication of actuarial tables.

My first encounter with Czerny's studies was Excellent!

Mrs. Penchard (and having learned my lesson, I did call her Mrs. Penchard) had a reputation as an excellent pianist; it was said that she gave up a promising concert career in order to marry and raise a family.

I think I was slightly intimidated by her reputation, though she was a sweet, sweet person, so I did practice a bit more for her than I had previously. But my problem always was this: I wanted to be able to play the piano well, but I didn't want it badly enough that I was willing to put in the practice time. That's sort of the story of my life; I'm only willing to spend time learning things that come easy (you know, like computery stuff). So after a year or possibly two, I stopped the lessons altogether. Or perhaps my parents were tired of paying for the lessons as I never seemed to show any improvement. I believe the price was about $1.50 by that time.

A sad footnote: just a year or two after I stopped taking lessons from her, Mrs. Penchard developed cancer and died.

Later on in the early 70s, when I was living on my own, my parents bought me a used piano, which I think I gave to a church when I moved away from Richland. In 1978 or 79 when I lived in Harrisburg, I bought a new piano on the installment plan; that's the one I still have today. Over the years I have waxed and waned in the amount of time I devote to it.

I still love the idea of being able to play fluently, but not enough to motivate me to sit down and practice, practice, practice...

Update: My sister, who also took piano lessons, informs me that Shirley Penchard didn't die until 1977, a whole decade after my recollection.

I Can't Belt! Don't Ask Me!

A few days ago I was watching a news program where the topic was the court's declaration that same sex marriage was now legal in Utah, and something that someone said suggested a song parody and video to me. As it happened, Apple had just released a major upgrade to their Final Cut Pro X software, and I decided this would be just what I needed to give me some experience working with the revised program, as well as learning how to do green screen and lip synching. I didn't seriously expect to release the video in the wild, as it would just be a self-teaching project. What could go wrong?

It didn't take long before I had sketched out parodic words to a well-known popular song, so the next step would be to record the soundtrack. I found a karaoke version of the song on Amazon.com, and fired up Amadeus Pro to lay down my vocal track.

As it happens, Amadeus Pro is a very powerful audio editing program, but if one only uses it occasionally (like I do), it can be rather daunting to figure out how to make it do what one wants. But that was just another learning experience, and as I worked with it I found it could do just about anything that I wanted it to do.

Except one thing. I can't sing, and try as I might, I couldn't figure out how to fiddle with the software to make my voice acceptable--even to me.

I thought adding a touch of reverb would sweeten up anyone's voice. Not mine, apparently. I did multiple takes, and re-takes, and re-takes of the re-takes. All told I spent an entire afternoon plus the following morning and some of that afternoon, but try as I might, I couldn't coax a listenable performance out of me.

Now here's the thing. The song that I picked is a show tune (actually, it's originally from a movie, but it's by a couple of venerable Broadway songwriters), so I thought I could partially mask my lack of a good singing voice by just belting it out.

Nope.

It turns out that belting a tune is not a simple matter. Every time I thought I was belting, on playback I found that I was using my head voice. Well, call it an approximation of a head voice.

Suddenly I have even more respect for Ethel Merman.

As I have now found out, there is more to belting out a tune, than, uh, just trying to belt out a tune.

Eventually, however, I decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to release the video, was I? Well, maybe to one or two people who might get the joke, but certainly not to the general public. So I simply took the best of a bad lot, and decided to start recording the video.

Now the real fun began. Several years ago I had purchased a green screen kit from Amazon.com, but I had never gotten around to trying it. (That's not the one I bought, but it looks very close.)

So I dug out the kit and watched the accompanying DVD, which made setting it up look like child's play. They even showed a bunch of children making a movie with it.

And for once one of those videos was correct, it wasn't particularly hard to set the thing up. Right up until I was ready to put a bulb into one of the lamps. One of the bulbs was smashed. Presumably it had arrived like that however many years ago, and I had just never inspected the contents.

Oh well, Amazon.com still carries the replacement bulbs.

Tomorrow is another day.

Nerds--The Musical

Benny Elledge and Matt Bradley as the two Steves who founded Apple in the musical Nerds. Can you tell which is which?

A musical about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates with a supporting cast of characters that includes Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen? Welcome to Nerds. Or N3RDS, as the Philadelphia Theatre Company bills it.

I'll say right off that I enjoyed it, but more important, the audience at the matinee that I attended seemed to enjoy it even more.

Musically, it's an eclectic combination of Broadway and many of the pop music styles of the last 30 years, including rap. It sounds a lot like William Finn, sort of like Falsettos but without the pathos.

The book is filled with lots of in-jokes that will appeal to, well, the nerds who know the history of Apple and Microsoft, but it never loses sight of the broader audience; if you remember what it was like to use a DOS-based computer, you'll get most of the gags.

Kevin Pariseau (as Tom Watson) schooling Stanley Bahorek (as Bill Gates) in the ways of ruthless business.

Bill Gates comes off as a bullied child who tries to get back at the world that mistreated him, especially after he's schooled in the wicked ways of dog-eat-dog business by Tom Watson of IBM. Dum-dum-DUM! Yes, every time anyone utters IBM (Dum-dum-DUM!) three ominous chords are sounded. Gates is also pretty clueless, as when he meets Steve Jobs at the Homebrew Computer Club: "I'd like to stop by your garage sometime and give you a hand, Jobs." (This becomes something of a running gag.)

Steve Jobs, OTOH, is a brilliant but arrogant guy who steals most of his ideas, first from Woz and then from Xerox. He's prone to making predictions like "I see birds on a hand-held device. Why are they so angry?"

Needless to say, this is a cartoonish history of the development of Apple and Microsoft.

The cast is mostly young and enthusiastic. Stanley Bahorek (Bill Gates) and Matt Bradley (Steve Jobs) were fine in the two leading roles, though I especially liked Benny Elledge as Woz (he did extra duty in some of the ensembles as Albert Einstein, etc.).

The production is fittingly very high tech with lots of video screens, projections, and flashing lights.

As to the songs, I think I enjoyed the ensemble opening number ("I Hope I Win") best; it's set in a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club and it effectively prepares the audience for what is to follow. Jobs's "Email to God" is also a winner.

As I said, I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. Judging from their reaction, most of the audience did love it.

My major complaint: the volume, especially during the ensemble rap numbers is way too loud. If you go, take some earplugs. For more information go to Nerds.