Friday, April 5, 2013


  • Here is a discussion of the career problem of writing criticism. The bottom line: no-one will pay you to do real criticism these days. Instead, it is more likely you will get paid to write puff-pieces, one-dimensional publicity for the artists.
  • How classical Cambodian dance was revived by the few remaining dancers after the near-destruction of Cambodian culture in the 1970s.
  • This is a pretty interesting history of how the Rite of Spring has been choreographed over the years. Several of the choreographers talk about the problems of the complex rhythms. Rhythm is kind of my thing as a composer, so maybe I should do a post on the rhythms of the Rite?
  • Actress Valerie Bertinelli discovers a love for classical music. “Boulez’s ‘Pli selon pli,’” the actress says, “is the ultimate workout tape.” Before you get too excited, though, you should notice the date of the story: April 1st.
  • Here is a long, thoughtful essay on the nature of the vocation of music that contains one startling flaw. Go read the whole thing, I'll wait. Back? OK, did you spot the flaw? The writer and a friend were
denied entry to the sophomore level music classes offered by our high school. Because he and I had already been playing professionally for several years and had been doing very well in our music classes, our parents wanted to know why we had been rejected by the music instructor and scheduled a meeting with him, us, and the school’s dean of boys. ... The teacher explained that, in his opinion, we were not serious about music. Never mind that we were working, studying, and dedicating just about every moment we had to the subject; that I had been playing in the S.F. All-City Honor Orchestra (often as principal bass) and the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra for four years; that Roger and I had formed a group that was playing professionally around the city in addition to our other professional work; and that we were composing music as well. He felt we just weren’t really into music enough. His supporting evidence was that during lunch hours, Roger and I had taken up the habit of going into a practice room to work on our improvisation and would play jazz! He was of the opinion that jazz (and rock and funk and etc.) wasn’t serious music. This wasn’t at all an uncommon opinion in 1968, the year this occurred, even though it was one that was losing ground as student protests around the world were focusing on the lack of multicultural curricula in universities and public schools (as well as social issues like the Vietnam War and civil rights). Without going into too much detail as to how the rest of the meeting went, Roger and I were accepted into the music courses and, at the beginning of the next semester, our high school had a new music director, a working musician with a strong knowledge of American music styles. It was a shame because the instructor who denied us tutelage was a very good theorist who wrote excellent arrangements for the school’s concert band, including one of the third movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony (no other arrangement of this movement existed at the time). One of the things that I was particularly looking forward to in my sophomore year was studying harmony with him. It crushed me that, with our new music teacher, harmony classes were suspended.
  • So let's summarize: these two young musicians were unfairly excluded from music classes because the teacher had something of a prejudice against jazz. So they go in, argue their case and succeed in having the teacher fired! Whereupon the very class they hoped to take, harmony, was dropped from the curriculum by the new teacher! Do you appreciate the irony of all this? Ah, the unconsidered wages of the 60s. This sort of thing was repeated all over the place. 'Serious' music classes were dropped in favor of "American music styles". I'm not so sure that the word 'serious' should have scare quotes there. In fact, I am pretty much of the opinion that jazz and other American music styles are really not quite as serious as, say, Shostakovich. It seems to me that the obvious prejudice of the young musicians triumphed over the obvious prejudice of the older teacher and the result was a net loss for music in general.
  • How do you get an annoying ear-worm out of your head? Here is some research on the topic. My personal solution is to start humming the subject to a Bach fugue. It will push the other tune out of your head, but is not the kind of thing to get stuck itself. And even if it does, wouldn't you rather have Bach in your head than Lady Gaga? Here is the tune that I usually use:

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