Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2007 October 10

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October 10[edit]

William Shakespeare[edit]

Seeing the Bard as today's featured article reminds me of a question I have always had. In that "famous" portrait of Shakespeare (the Chandos portrait displayed in the feature article), why would they have Shakespeare wearing an earring? I found that odd. I know that males starting wearing earrings in the 1980's or 1990's or so. But was that a common -- or even accepted -- practice in Shakespeare's day? Or was the portrait artist employing some artistic license ... and, if so, what would prompt this manifestation of such (i.e., adding the earring)? Thanks. (Joseph A. Spadaro 01:44, 10 October 2007 (UTC))

Men were as lavish as women in the wearing of jewelry, even to the wearing of earrings, though men usually wore a ring in only one ear at a time. LaMar, Virginia A. (1958) English Dress in the Age of Shakespeare. p. 13. OCLC 735619.

eric 02:25, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Haven't you ever seen a pirate movie? Arrr! TresÁrboles 06:07, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, I needed that chuckle. Dureo 06:30, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Huh? What do you mean? Shakespeare was in a pirate movie? Or he wrote one? I'm confused. (Joseph A. Spadaro 06:51, 10 October 2007 (UTC))
No he meant that many pirates are portrayed wearing earings, even though they were from before the 1980s. Cyta 07:49, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I know -- I was just kidding. (Joseph A. Spadaro 21:09, 10 October 2007 (UTC))
and there are loads of pirates since the 1980s that wear earrings. Richard Avery 10:50, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
In Shakespeare in Love, he was working on a play called The Adventures of Romeo and Mildred, the Pirate's Daughter. Corvus cornix 20:21, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Wasn't that "Ethel, the Pirate's daughter"? --LarryMac | Talk 21:02, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, you're right. Corvus cornix 18:36, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

OK - thanks for the input. So, it seems that it would not be uncommon / odd for a male in his day to wear an earring. Thanks. (Joseph A. Spadaro 21:09, 10 October 2007 (UTC))

The married name of the violinist Maria Soldat[edit]

The name of this violinist is spelled with a tilde in the title, but in the article itself is spelled with an umlaut. I suspect the umlaut is probably correct; however, I don't know how to edit the article title. Interestingly, the German language version of the article does not use either an umlaut or a tilde, so maybe that is the correct way? TresÁrboles 06:05, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

"ö" and "oe" are orthographically equivalent in German, so the umlaut would correspond to the spelling in the German article title. Of course, there are no tildes in German either. However, German names can use either "ö" or "oe" depending on the person (they aren't interchangeable in this case), so we probably should ascertain which she used. The two spellings have almost the exact same number of Google hits. The tilde is certainly wrong though. -Elmer Clark 06:15, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
I moved it to "Maria Soldat-Röger" for the time being. -Elmer Clark 06:17, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Note also that the spelling Maria Soldat-Röger (or Maria Soldat-Roeger) with the given name ending on a is only found on the web in our English Wikipedia article or copies thereof.[1]  --Lambiam 12:48, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
You are right about Marie. However the vast majority of german webentries give her as Roeger. See: [2]--Tresckow 13:11, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

"ö" and "oe" are orthographically equivalent in German, so the umlaut would correspond to the spelling in the German article title. This answer is partially correct. Relatively seldom familynames are spelled with ue or oe intentionally not using an umlaut like ü or ö. The e then is used for elongation of the vowel before. I think you better trust the de:wp on this.--Tresckow 13:07, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Elongation? not fronting?! —Tamfang 07:51, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

Meal Monday at Edinburgh University[edit]

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When I was at Edinburgh University in the early 1960s there was a long weekend in February which included "Meal Monday". Can anybody give me any historical information about this? Does the holiday still exist? Stephen Wimbush 07:20, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

According to J. CAMERON SMAlL O.B.E, LD. (1963) In the 17th century students lived in very basic accomodation in Edinburgh University. They were required to bring their own fuel, faggots and peat, to maintain a fire in the winter. Meal Monday was the day on which students were permitted to return to their homes to collect oats with which to make their porridge. To me this sounds as though it was a ?monthly holiday or at least more often than annual. As to whether it still exists, perhaps a student from Auld Reekie will pop up. Richard Avery 10:47, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Stephen, I asked a friend of mine who attended Edinburgh University (she graduated last year) about this and she says she has never heard of such a thing. I should make it clear that she is English. Perhaps 'Meal Monday' is yet another of those mysteries that the Scots keep to themselves! Clio the Muse 22:22, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

Richard Avery is correct. According to Proverbs, Proverbial Expressions and Popular Rhymes of Scotland, Andrew Cheviot (1896) "The second Monday in February, which is a holiday in the University of Edinburgh, is called Meal Monday because the day was originally held as a holiday, in order to allow the students to return to their country homes to procure a supply of oatmeal to last them to the end of the session." As a former employee of UoE, I can confirm we haven't had that holiday for at least 6 years (but there are still plenty of UoE students with country homes). Historically, it wasn't specific to Edinburgh though, as Glasgow and Aberdeen observed the holiday too. According to Alexander McCall Smith, "The Scottish universities used to have a special holiday called Meal Monday, which was meant to allow students to return to the farm to replenish their sack of oatmeal. That holiday was still celebrated some 30 years ago, when I was a student, although nobody used it to fetch oatmeal." [3] So I guess it stopped being a holiday sometime between the mid 1970s and 2000. Incidentally, this rather interesting blog quotes a source that seems to suggest it was probably known as Oatmeal Monday before being reduced to its shortened form. See also here Rockpocket 22:44, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

Leaving Cuba[edit]

For the novel I am writing I am hoping to have the character leave the country (legally) and I've been doing research; I know there's a whole process to obtain a permit to leave the country, and usually it gets declined, etc. but there's one thing I do not know and I'd like to have my information as accurate as possible. I believe I read somewhere that an invitation from someone in another country would allow a person to leave? This is what I plan on doing for my character under her circumstances but I am not sure exactly if that is a possibility that is likely, or not, and if it would be different than applying for a permit to leave. Thanks in advance.

I met a few people in Cuba who had traveled abroad. Some of them were quite pompous arses, acting like 'big spenders'. I don't know what their deal was, but I understood that a lot of Cubans go abroad on scholarships. Cuba considers education very important, but has limited financial means, so it makes sense that any opportunities to get a free education elsewhere is welcomed. Mind you, this is just a combination of hearsay and conjecture. DirkvdM 18:35, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Yes, this is what I was told when I was in Havana. Seemingly all you have to do is to write to the government (I'm sorry; I do not know exactly which department) inviting X to come to your country, explaining the reasons for your invitation. As I understand it what then happens is that the authorities will look into the background of the person in question and if they have no 'criminal' record (subject, I have to stress, to a very wide interpretation) and are not otherwise suspect, then the application will be granted. I had this information from three separate sources: an official on the tourist industry, whom I suspected was a member of the Communist Party, and two ordinary Habaneros. I do have to stress, though, that it is all theory. I myself know of no Cubans who have been granted permission to leave using this particular method. Clio the Muse 22:49, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Ah, yes, the scholarschip thing would of course also fall under this. But there's another issue. Who would pay for it? Most Cubans won't have the money to travel very far. Just a short trip by plane would cost at least a month's salary (barely over 20 euro I've been told). And then when they get there, they'd need either a job or some financial support. Or of course the inviting person taking them in as a guest. DirkvdM 06:59, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Oh, in case you wonder how someone could live off that little money, housing, education and health care are free in Cuba (effectively, they're all house-owners). But that is not going to help here, of course. DirkvdM 07:05, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
The person sending the invitation is also expected to pay for the cost of travel. Clio the Muse 22:17, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

Moray and Huntly[edit]

What was the cause of the feud between the houses of Moray and Huntlay in late sixteenth century Scotland? Donald Paterson 08:23, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Some good info here History of Scotland it appears an arrest warrant was issued, someone was killed, much avenging ensued. May need to scroll up a bit, Google has more info on it also. Dureo 09:01, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Donald, you will find all of the information you are looking for and more in Bloodfeud in Scotland, 1573-1625 by K. Brown, and The Bonny Earl of Moray by E. Ives. There is also quite a good piece entitled "Bad Blood in the North: The Feud Between the Earls of Huntly and Moray in Sixteenth Century Scotland" by Harry Potter (no jokes, please) in History Scotland, May/June 2002. Clio the Muse 00:54, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Was it this feud that cost Lady Mondegreen her life? —Tamfang 07:58, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

Dnieprostroi Dam[edit]

Can anybody tell when when the Dnieprostroi Dam started construction and when it was finished, please.

Thanks in advance, 10:38, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

See Dnieper Hydroelectric Station -- 12:49, 10 October 2007 (UTC)


I am Looking for a essay or an updated version of the 39 Articles of the Anglican church, suitable for the present time.

How about 13:12, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
We have an article 39 articles... AnonMoos 17:00, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

slave trade[edit]

Please I would like to know about Lorenzo de Sliva and the campaign against the Atlantic slave trade. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jonathan Muzenzi (talkcontribs) 12:09, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

He apparently was an Afro-European Brazilian whose full name was Lourenço da Silva de Mendouça, who travelled to Rome in 1686 and succeeded in getting a con­demnation from the Curia of the slave trade as a violation of human rights. Unfortunately, all links that I can find by a Google search that appear to offer more information require a subscription of some sort.  --Lambiam 13:10, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Lourenço da Silva de Mendouça (1620-1698)[4], probably born in Brazil, went to Lisbon in 1681, then Madrid in 1682 where he became procurator-general of the Confraternity of Our Lady, Star of the Negroes, a charitable lay society in Brazil and Portuguese Africa.(Mullett, Michael A. (1999) The Catholic Reformation. p. 194. OCLC 50553439.) Lourenço, claiming to be descended from kings of Kongo and Angola, travelled to Rome in 1684 to protest to the Pope against slavery. His petitions, which presented a firsthand account of the cruelties inflicted by slavery,(Gray, Richard. (1997) "The Kongo Kingdom and the Papacy". History Today. 47: 44. OCLC 86379560.) supported by Capuchin missionaries, convinced the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and led directly to the March 20th, 1686 condemnation by Pope Innocent XI.(Hastings, Adrian. (1996) The Church in Africa: 1450-1950. p. 125. OCLC 44954750).
correction 1886 → 1686 applied.  --Lambiam 20:07, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

His petition is located in Rome in the archive of the Propaganda Fide, the body responsible for missionary territories. In it he describes the forms of ill-treatment used against slaves, including burning with lard, pitch and other materials. As a result of these cruelties many Christian Blacks "seeing that not only they, but also their children, even though they are White, are condemned to remain enslaved, desperately commit suicide as a result of the diabolical use of such slavery." De Silva goes on to ask the Pope to excommunicate "those wretches who are involved in the sale and purchase of these unhappy Christians."

Prior to discussion by the Cardinals of the Propaganda Fide, Archbishop Edoardo Cybo, Secretary to the Congregation, took the matter up with some former missionaries, who confirmed the truth of the account, adding some further horrors, saying that reluctant slaves were greased and grilled "as meat is by our cooks."

At this point the investigation broadened out to consider not just the question of Christian slaves, the focus of de Silva's petition, but other injustices and cruelties committed by the slave owners and traders. As a result of these investigations letters were sent to the Nuncios in Madrid and Lisbon, ordering that all such activities should be prohibited under the severest penalties.

In 1685, the year after de Silva's petition, the Capuchin missionaries mounted a major offensive against the slave trade, sending a memorandum with a series of propositions to the Propaganda Fide, seeking, amongst other things, to establish that it was unlawful to capture "innocent blacks or other natives" by violence or fraud, as well as forbidding those who already owned slaves from torturing and killing them. It was not an attack on slavery as such, but an attempt to establish a clear division between what was 'just' and what was 'unjust.' The petition was forwarded to the Holy Office, with a reminder following at the beginning of 1686. In March 1686 the Holy Office decided in favour of the Capuchin propositions. The Propaganda Fide thereupon contacted various bishops in Spain and Portugal with news of the findings, though the approach had moderated somewhat since 1684, carrying none of the severe penalties that de Silva had wished. In the end Papal disapproval carried no more than the loosest of moral force, which made little real difference when set against the vested interests of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns. Clio the Muse 00:39, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

A tale of two putsches[edit]

Is there any direct comparison to be made between Castro's attack on the Moncada barracks in 1953 and Hitler's atempted coup in Munich in 1923? 12:34, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

You've already made the direct comparison (in your title) - they were both failed putsches, also both led to prison sentences. Reading Moncada_barracks and Munich putsch (Beer Hall Putsch) you will be able to check for any other similarities. 13:10, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
By comparison, do you mean similarity? I can think of a difference, though. Castro intended to get Batista out of power, while Hitler rather intended to get himself into power. Same dif, you could say, but then, hey presto, you've got a similarity. :) DirkvdM 18:41, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Yes, it is possible to make comparison between the two events in terms of the political mythology they engendered, that of the heroic failure, one that subsequently became an integral, and celebrated, part of the propaganda of both German Fascism and Cuban Communism. I also suspect that Castro had more than a passing familiarity with the 1923 events in Munich; for in his subsequent trial he cast himself in more or less the same 'man of destiny' role that Hitler did in 1924, even drawing on the same tiresome hyperbolic style. Consider these;

For it is not you gentlemen, who pass judgement on us. That judgement is spoken by the eternal court of history...Pronounce us guilty a thousand times over: the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to pieces the State Prosecutor's submissions and the court's verdict: for she acquits us.

I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully... I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it... Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.

The first passage is Hitler and the second is Castro. Both, it would seem, have lodged appeals in exactly the same court. I leave it to you to decide if this is coincidence or not! Clio the Muse 23:27, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Okay, but you have to work with the loser....[edit]

Is there a system of voting/government where the second place finisher is appointed as vice president/chairman/prime minister/etc. to the winner of the race? Dismas|(talk) 13:22, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

If I recall correctly, that was the original U.S. Presidential election system. The obvious problem is having your arch-rival in a position of power (holding the gavel at Senate meetings for instance) and in a position to replace you if you suffered an unfortunate accident, got assassinated, or your missteps were exposed leading to impeachment. It was then changed so the President and Vice President are elected as a team. Edison 13:55, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
See Vice President of the United States#Original Constitution, and reform and Twelfth Amendment for Edison's example. ---Sluzzelin talk 15:12, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
It seems to me that, with more than two candidates, the original rule might just as often choose near-allies as rivals. Though Adams and his veep Jefferson were opposed, I gather that that's not why the rule was changed. In the election of 1800, Jefferson and Burr conceived the idea of running as a team, and won in a tie, leading to months of wrangling. —Tamfang 08:07, 15 October 2007 (UTC)
In the Netherlands, all 150 'first places' get into parliament, so they all win equally. :) However, I assume you mean elections for a single person. May I point out that prime ministers aren't elected that way. Usually, at least (any exceptions?). They are supposed to represent the government, but then what if you get, say, a left-wing government and a right-wing prime minister? A prime minister is just a 'primus inter pares', a first among equals, a spokesperson. At least, that's how it should be. In answer to your question, one could say the vice prime minister is the 'second choice', elected by the government, so (s)he could be viewed as having finished in second place. DirkvdM 18:49, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Btw, a loser would be someone who comes in last place. Being considered the second best choice for the highest position in government isn't quite what I'd call 'losing'. DirkvdM 18:55, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
"Getting second place just means that you're the first loser." I don't remember the movie I first saw this in but it's a fairly popular phrase for printing on t-shirts, beer cozies, etc. Besides which, the person in second in a presidential race does in fact lose and therefore it's an accurate descriptor.
Thanks for the links. I thought I'd heard of some form of this in my history classes, just couldn't remember when or where. But there's still no mention of a name for this system, huh? Dismas|(talk) 22:04, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Again, the 'first loser' thing depends on the form of government. The vice prime minister does hold extra authority (ie is asked for his opinion more often than other ministers - think Gordon Brown under Blair). The same goes for the leaders of the other ('losing') parties in the coalition. And for the leaders of the 'losing' parties in parliament (the ones that weren't included in the coalition). They didn't didn't lose, they just didn't win as much. And someone who was placed in too low a position on the list of a party can still get into parliament by getting a disproportionate amount of votes. Basically, all the people on the lists of the various parties have a shot at becoming prime minister (even though the election isn't officially about that), and get various amounts of power depending (in part) on how many votes they get. At least, that's the Dutch system. Other systems are similar. A presidency is indeed a winner-take-all sort of thing, but you made the mistake of including prime ministers in your question. :) DirkvdM 07:34, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Touché.  :-) Dismas|(talk) 10:58, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
A small correction, John Prescott was the deputy prime minister under Blair; Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hammer Raccoon 12:42, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Indeed. Britain does not have-has never had-a 'Vice-Prime Minister'. Clio the Muse 22:15, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Oops. He acted like one, though. Of course one can also have extra power just through skill, reputation, personality and such without that being linked to an official position. DirkvdM 06:36, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
As has been brought up in this thread, the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom holds no real powers as such, and it isn't even mandatory to have one - Brown currently has no deputy. Harriet Harman is the deputy leader of the Labour Party, but not the deputy Prime Minister. None of this has anything to do with the question, I just thought people might like to know... Hammer Raccoon 13:28, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Ah, sounds like the same thing under a different name. The Dutch vice prime minister holds no extra power, nor does the prime minister, for that matter. They have extra authority, though. They are listened to more, which is everything in a democracy, and therefore effectively constitutes more (future) power. DirkvdM 17:39, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
I suppose the whole thing with Brown and Blair was a bit of a special case anyway, what with the deal between the two ensuring Brown's prominence within the party (and then cabinet). Hammer Raccoon 19:32, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Funny, I just finished watching The Deal (2003 film), which ends with the suggestive line "Gordon Brown is still waiting". Could do with an update. :) DirkvdM 14:34, 13 October 2007 (UTC)

Ontario ballot history[edit]

When did the party affiliation of each candidate first appear beside the candidate's name on an Ontario ballot?--Tilda29940 14:22, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Today. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:08, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Yep. Here's a cite for that. --Anon, 22:34 UTC, October 10, 2007.
Actually, let me amend that. Yesterday was the relevant election day, but there were advance polls, which natually used the same ballots. So technically the answer would have been whatever day in September the first advance polls opened. Anyway, it was this year's election. --Anon, 23:29 UTC, October 11, 2007.

Town Commons of Tarboro, NC[edit]

I would like to know more about the Town Commons located in Tarboro, NC? So far, I know it is the second oldest official town commons in America and it was started in the 1700's. I also was informed from different sources this is the only "official" town commons besides the one in Boston, MA in America. What is the meaning "official" with the town commons? Plus how large is this town commons? I would really like to know more about the Town Commons of Tarboro, NC? The Town Commons of Tarboro, NC may be a good future article on this site, because of it significants, just a suggestion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:22, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

For the benefit of those, such as myself, who have no idea - what is a "Town Commons". I would guess at an area of common land within a town, sort of like a park. But this sounds very unspecial. -- SGBailey 19:23, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
See Common land. In early colonial times in North America, the town commons was a section of the town which was held in common by all of the town's residents, and was used, in general, for grazing livestock. Corvus cornix 20:24, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
There is a very brief mention of the town Common on Tarboro's own website. That page also says that the area was settled in approximately 1733, and chartered as "Tarborough" in 1760, which means it isn't all the old (in terms of US history). By comparison, our article on the Boston Common indicates that it dates back to 1634 or so. The Boston article also mentions some of the other uses of the land besides grazing.
Regarding the "official" designation, I've not found a lot of detail. At this point I think the Tarboro, NC article might benefit from a well-sourced addition about its Common, but it doesn't seem quite notable enough for a separate article. --LarryMac | Talk 21:01, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
You might like to check how commons are or were created in North Carolina. I don't know anything about land law in the American colonies, but I imagine the concept of rights of common there is or was much the same as in English law, which has a huge and fascinating body of law to do with commons. Most of the recent cases here in England are to do with the Commons Registration Act 1965, which provides for new commons to be registered after twenty years' use of a piece of land by local people 'as of right' (nec clam, nec vi, nec precario) for lawful sports and pastimes. It sounds simple, but the courts (including the House of Lords) are still grappling with all the concepts involved. Xn4 21:31, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
If the Tarboro Common dates to the mid-1700s, then it is certainly not the second-oldest in what is now the United States. As others have noted, the Boston Common dates back to 1634 or so. The Cambridge Common in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dates back to about the same time (1630s), as do the Salem Common in Salem, Massachusetts and several other town commons in eastern Massachusetts. Most towns in colonial Massachusetts had town commons, and about 100 Massachusetts towns had been founded by the mid-1700s, when Tarboro came into being. While the Boston Common and Cambridge Common have articles because of their historical prominence, most town commons in Massachusetts are not prominent enough to merit encyclopedia articles. I'm not sure I see why the Tarboro Common should have an article if, for example, the Salem Common does not. Marco polo 20:39, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

Sheep in literature[edit]

I have just read 'Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann and found it a most enjoyable book. I see that Leonie Swann is an orphan article. Can anyone suggest sensible articles to link to this German author who writes stories about "Detective Sheep investigating a murder". (Honest its a good read despite how that previous sentence sounds.) -- SGBailey 19:18, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

You might write an article on the Friedrich Glauser Prize... Corvus cornix 20:26, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
I've added her to List of German-language authors, List of crime writers‎ and List of detective fiction authors‎. If 'detective fiction' is stretching a point, any writer who can get a flock of sheep to solve a murder must deserve a little leeway. Xn4 21:00, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Nuremberg/Hitler Picture[edit]

Front of the Frauenkirche

In this picture at [[5]] of the Nuremberg Rally, there is a building that resembles a castle. Does anyone know what building that is?

It's the Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche) in Market Square. Clio the Muse 22:32, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Thank you.
Why are there at least two gentlemen carrying bunches of flowers in that picture, was it symbolic of something? Rockpocket 22:39, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
They are not gentlemen, no gentleman would ever have been involved in such an exhibition. DuncanHill 22:44, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
The one on the left looks like Göring, if that helps. -- 22:52, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
The figure in the foreground is Hermann Göring (certainly a gentleman by upbringing!); I do not know who the other individual is. It is likely that they have taken flowers handed to Hitler, in the same fashion as the attendants of our own dear Queen do on her walkabouts! Clio the Muse 22:57, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
He may have been a gentleman by upbringing, but he certainly wasn't one by inclination! DuncanHill 22:59, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Depends on how you choose to define gentleman, I suppose. I chose not to cast aspersion by association. Rockpocket 23:03, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Ah, Duncan; you should have had an invitation to Karinhall in the company of the Reich's Hunt Master! Clio the Muse 23:04, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
His brother sounds like a decent chap though. DuncanHill 23:07, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

de:Frauenkirche (Nürnberg) if that helps.-- 23:00, 10 October 2007 (UTC)


When one is conducting music for a performance by a symphony orchestra, exactly how much influence does the conductor have on the musicians during a performance? While I don't doubt they are integral to the process during rehearsal, it always appeared to me that such talented musicians as those in the orchestra would know their parts so well that the conductor's routine is somewhat redundant by the time they are performing for an audience. Is the theatrical hand waving more of a show for the audience than a guide for the musicians? Rockpocket 22:56, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

Depends on whether the players like the conductor or not. If you've ever been to a symphony orchestra rehearsal, you'll notice that most of the comments that the conductors gives are stylistic. Therefore, whether it is followed is really a matter of personal taste. My friend from the LA Phil tells me that they listen to Essa-Pekka but not to many guest conductors. Really, the audience can't tell much anyway, but it makes a good impression. bibliomaniac15 23:11, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
During performance, the key things that the conductor does is give direction on tempo and expression (primarily through adjusting dynamics). The first one is essential to follow. I've played with both professional and amateur ensembles (sometimes with the same conductor) and the direction given during performance does make a huge difference. There won't be huge variations from the directions given during rehearsal, but it's one less thing to have to know or control. If you watch a professional performance, you'll notice that the players keep a close eye on the conductor (and also the section leader who sets a fair amount of what happens at the basic level, such as bowings for string instruments, moments for breathing for wind instruments etc.) Donald Hosek 23:16, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
Thank you, both. That answers my question nicely. Rockpocket 23:23, 10 October 2007 (UTC)
So, could an orchestra perform without a conductor? If so, would anyone notice? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:03, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
There's only one way to find out: by trying it. AecisBrievenbus 00:09, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Has anyone tried it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:13, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Most certainly. There are many examples, and when I have some time I'll dig out a few. -- JackofOz 00:28, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
JackofOz you are absolutely correct. In Soviet Russia orchestras had to learn to play without a conductor because it was part of the communist ideal. Also the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is famous for playing without a conductor. --S.dedalus 07:12, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Gulp, guess my post below was a classical case of tl;dr! ---Sluzzelin talk 08:10, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
If you are referring to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra point, it looks more like the WP:TLDR was on my part. Oops. . .By the way, the source for the Soviet Russia thing comes from an interview with John Adams I’m looking for more background on it now though. --S.dedalus 01:19, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Two characteristics that may require a person entirely devoted to conducting are the size of the orchestra and the complexity of the music in terms of dynamics, tempo, meter, and so forth. Ensembles and chamber orchestras often perform and record without a conductor. Before the 19th century, orchestral concerti were usually "conducted" by one of the instrumentalists. More modern works, as well as operas or musical works including choirs, for example, would be more difficult to perform without a conductor than a Mozart symphony. PERSIMFANS (Pervyi Simfonicheskii Ansambl, no article on en.wikipedia) was a famous conductorless orchestra in the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1932. Prokofiev attended a performance of his Third Piano Concerto in 1928, and was impressed, though he noted that they had some difficulties with agogical elements such as ritardandi or accelerandi. Nikolai Myaskovsky was less enthused when PERSIMFANS premiered his more complex 10th symphony that same year - the performance lacked co-ordination, and, during the fugue, the composition fell apart in front of the audience. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is a more contemporary example of an excellent orchestra without a conductor. I have also heard former members of the Berlin Philharmonic claim they performed without a conductor during the late 1980s - with an ancient Herbert von Karajan merely serving as an audience attraction standing in front of the orchestra. ---Sluzzelin talk 00:53, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
I just remembered witnessing a performance that proved how important a conductor can be. It was a chamber orchestra, with conductor, premiering a Colombian composer's piano concerto, the composer was also the soloist. The program had been quite boring up until then (Vivaldi's Four Seasons, believe it or not), and at least half of the audience, including myself, had come for the premiere anyway. We were not disappointed: the concerto was one of the finest premieres I had ever heard, the pianist rocked and so did the Colombian rhythms he incorporated in his music. There was a standing ovation and everyone was shouting for an encore. Since the whole thing was a charity event, the conductor then auctioned off his baton to round off the collected sum. The highest bidder not only received the baton, but was also invited on stage and asked to conduct an encore of the concerto's final movement. It was a catastrophe, the poor bidder was humiliated, the composer/pianist was humiliated, and everyone ended up looking bad. So, even if he demonstrated extremely poor judgment in creating this embarassment, the conductor obviously did contribute a lot to making the concerto sound right the first time around. When the conductor who rehearsed the work with the orchestra has to be replaced for the performance, things can easily start sounding shaky - even when the replacement is a pro. ---Sluzzelin talk 01:21, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Pieter Wispelwey the cellist does a lot of work with conductorless orchestras. From [6]: Pieter has appeared with a variety of orchestras and ensembles both with and without conductors. Notable projects without conductors have been the touring and recording of the Schumann and Shostakovich cello concertos with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. This orchestra has, without doubt, provided for Pieter the happiest and most satisfying musical collaborations of his career to date, not least due to the genius of leader and musical director, Richard Tognetti. I also believe the Prague Chamber Orchestra plays without a conductor. -- JackofOz 01:26, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
The conductor of a band, chorus or orchestra sets the tempo and dynamics, as stated above. He also cues entrances by glancing at the soloist when it is time for him to come in. This can actually lessen the chance of a missed or tentative entrance. Edison 03:56, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Isn't the first violinist also sort of a conductor for the string section, in that the other violinists follow his lead? DirkvdM 08:14, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
The concertmaster? ---Sluzzelin talk 08:31, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Surely it depends on the size of the orchestra and how well the orchestra 'know' each other? A fairly small orchestra that has played together a lot for a long time is likely to be able to keep itself together and give an artistically satisfying result without the conductor (I remember a conductor getting annoyed with us in string-group once, when I was very young, and saying 'Fine, see how you do without me!'. Of course, we played it perfectly... That may be more related to the 'liking the conductor' bit). I fail to see how knowing your part very well would render the conductor redundant. Playing music isn't about playing exactly what is written, as a computer would do. The tempo, emphases, dynamics, the way the music is 'pulled about', the 'effects' such as shortening or lengthening notes, the lengths of pauses and rests, these all need to be done in a way that gives a good overall effect, although each of these things must be done by individuals. 17:37, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Quite. But I fail to understand how all those subtleties can be communicated to up to 100 different musicians simultaneously by waving a little stick about at them, unless a large part of it is already committed to memory during rehearsal! Rockpocket 18:04, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Rockpocket, although it is hard to understand without actually having played in an orchestra, a conductor or at least a leader (concert masters used to lead orchestras too), really does help hold the group together. Of course there are exceptions; the Vienna Philharmonic is a very great orchestra, but conducts seldom change how the musicians play the music because the musicians already know most of the music and have usually played it many times! It is unfortunate that Wikipedia does not yet have an article on Communication in chamber music. A similar thing happens in orchestras. Musicians learn to take their cues from more than the “stick waving around.” It almost a psychological thing. Because the players can not watch each other and still play they sense the movements of the conductor with their upper peripheral vision while still reading the music. Good conductor now that conducting is more than just counting off beats. A good conductor balances the orchestra by showing what parts should be loudest or most expressive or whatever. Bad conductors confuse an orchestra by giving conflicting signals or, often, by showing off too much for the audience. The point is anybody with some basic training can act like a metronome, the skill is in interpreting the music and communicating it during performance. --S.dedalus 01:41, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
As for "waving a little stick about at them", there are good reasons for that, visibility for the players without being visually intrusive to the audience being an important one. However, not all conductors use a baton, preferring their own appendages. Leonard Bernstein often dispensed with the baton, for example. And on Bernstein, look at this youtube video of him conducting Mahler’s 9th Symphony. He might, as usual for Bernstein, have "become the performance" himself - it was often joked that the orchestra was really only there to accompany Bernstein's conducting. At the other extreme, when Richard Strauss conducted, it was often complained that he was just standing there doing nothing, because his movements were almost imperceptible to the audience - but by the same token Bernstein was outstanding in being able to communicate the feeling he wanted from his players. Music without feeling is just sound, really, and when it comes to this type of music, there has to be a unified approach, because if the players are left to decide the mood, character, tempo and endless nuances of the particular piece for themselves, it will sound like many individual players rather than one orchestra. Even with a conductorless orchestra, there must be some prior agreement among the players about the starting point and all the other characteristics of the piece. So, a conductor is not absolutely essential for a very good performance, but if you want a great performance, I'd say the larger the ensemble, the more essential there be a conductor. That's why string quartets get by without a conductor but the Berlin Phil et al can't. -- JackofOz 04:20, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
Personally, I sympathies with Bernstein’s decision to do away with the baton there. It can be a little silly. A violist acquaintance of mine says that when she was playing with a professional orchestra a number of years ago they had a guest conductor come in to conduct a performance of Beethoven’s sixth symphony. In rehearsal the guest conductor took the piece very slow, and by the week of the concert it became apparent that he was not going to speed it up to a proper tempo. So, to save audience from their impending agony, the concert master and timpanist told the rest of the orchestra to follow THEIR tempo not the conductor's! The poor guy had to just stand there and “lip sync” with the music. Obviously orchestras can do without the conductor if they really have to. --S.dedalus 05:41, 12 October 2007 (UTC)
That's extraordinarily interesting, S.dedalus. Any given orchestral work can be interpreted in a vast number of different ways, and it's almost always the conductor's personal conception that prevails. That's essentially what he's there for - not just to beat time, but to convey the whole concept of the piece. Most conductors would simply not tolerate the players disobeying his tempo indications, and usually have more than enough personal authority to quickly bring them back in line if they do wander off. If they did what they did to the poor guy in the Beethoven Pastoral, he'd probably vow never to conduct them again (which is probably exactly what they wanted). Conductors with more gumption would have preferred to stop the performance mid-stream, even at the risk of creating a scandal, rather than be associated with a performance they disagreed with. When there's a soloist, as in a concerto, the soloist and the conductor have to agree beforehand on the intepretation, otherwise there'd be chaos. I know of one case where the conductor deferred to the soloist - the famous 1962 performance of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, with Glenn Gould at the piano and Bernstein (again) conducting. Bernstein so profoundly disagreed with the interpretation he was about to conduct that he addressed the audience beforehand as follows:
  • Don't be frightened, Mr.Gould is here. (audience laughter) He will appear in a moment. I am not - as you know - in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception. And this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" (mild laughter from the audience) I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist, that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith, and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too. But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss (audience laughter) - the soloist or the conductor?" (Audience laughter grows louder) The answer is, of course, sometimes one and sometimes the other depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together, by persuasion or charm or even threats (audience laughs) to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept, and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. (audience laughs loudly) But this time, the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why I do I not make a minor scandal -- get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct? Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much played work; because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist who is a thinking performer; and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element" (mild audience laughter) - that factor of curiousity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week (audience laughter) collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto; and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you. (loud clapping) -- JackofOz 06:14, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

(outdent) If nothing else, when the music is particularly complex in rhythm, it can help to have a timekeeper showing the beats. For example, Frank Zappa often conducted his band through some of the more rhythmically tricky music. Funny to watch a long-hair freak who has just sung a song about poodles and played a guitar solo to suddenly put down the guitar and pull out a baton and start beating time for the band... Pfly 04:33, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

The conductor also must be a coach and referee. In some ensembles, the trumpet section, say, may decide that the louder they play the better the performance will be, and dirty looks from players in other sections are unlikely to reduce the volume to a level which best presents the artistic intention of the composer. Yes, the orchestra could get through the piece without a conductor, and as we have seen in old western movies, a wagon or stagecoach can move along pretty briskly for a time after the driver is shot. Edison 14:50, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Simply put, the conductor has a few functions:

  • Keeping time
  • Cuing certain instruments/groups to begin playing a certain part
  • Signalling to the performers, for example, telling them to play softer/louder
  • During rehearsals, keeping the ensemble in order and telling the ensemble how to improve their playing
  • Helps interpret stylistic aspect of playing a piece for the players

And, yes, it is possible to play without a conductor. My Wind Ensemble played five minutes of Carmina Burana while the conductor went to answer the phone... 20:38, 13 October 2007 (UTC)