Thursday, March 15, 2018

What is the Difference Between a Philharmonic and a Symphony Orchestra?

It’s been a while, but this post returns to one of the original purposes of this blog: correcting people who are wrong on the Internet. As I’ve elaborated elsewhere, I aim my pedantry at publications that should know better, whether they neglected to consult a music scholar or need more attentive fact-checkers. In this case, it’s the blog for WQXR, New York City’s classical music radio station.

The WQXR Blog aims to inform and educate classical music lovers, so one could reasonably expect it to be accurate about the subject to which it is devoted. Unfortunately, their post “What Is The Difference Between a Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestra?” by James Bennett, II contains factual errors and skirts around the answer to the question. Many readers express frustration in the comments, taking issue with the writing style as well. In any case, this post fails to meet the needs of its audience, presumably curious people who would expect a classical radio station’s blog to have knowledge about classical music beyond a cursory Google search.

I’ll start with the outright mistakes. First, Bennett writes, “Orchestra comes to us from Latin by way of Greek…” [emphasis added]. Generally, etymology goes from Greek to Latin, and “orchestra” is no exception. This mistake is probably the result of careless wording and a lack of proofreading; nevertheless, it’s a factual error.

More egregious is Bennett’s definition of a chamber orchestra:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hey, Siri! Are You a Musicologist?

When Apple announced their HomePod in June 2017, press releases and advertising touted its new features, as would be expected of any competent marketing team. For my colleagues and me, one word stood out:
Hey Siri, how many Mass settings of
“L’homme armé” have been discovered?
“By saying, ‘Hey Siri, I like this song,’ HomePod and Apple Music become the perfect musicologist, learning preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across tens of thousands of playlists, and these music tastes are shared across devices. Siri can also handle advanced searches within the music library, so users can ask questions like ‘Hey Siri, who’s the drummer in this?’ or create a shared Up Next queue with everyone in the home.”
Press Release, 6/5/17
Oh, we had a lot of fun on social media with that!