Saturday, November 2, 2013


A few short items today. First of all, an explanation of why I go out of my way to kick around the mainstream media when they report on classical music, as I did in the BBC item yesterday. One reason is that pieces like that just offend me because they are so misleading if not simply wrong. Another reason is that the sad truth is that most people get their understanding of music from sources like this, which is a big problem for classical music these days. We really need people to understand, not misunderstand, music.

Here is an interesting item: "Is everyone really a critic?" This seems to be another one of those simply wrong things the mainstream media believe:
...user-generated content is driving out expert or elite opinion and this is affecting the film reviewing trade in particular. “Everyone’s a critic” is no longer a Hollywood curse but a simple statement of fact. If reviewers can’t get paid, where are the next Barry Normans, Alexander Walkers and Pauline Kaels going to come from? Do we even need them?
But as I hope I have shown in several posts, a lot of what we get in the mainstream media, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, even classical music sites, is hardly "expert or elite" if by that we mean informed and insightful opinion. I'm not quite sure where most of the people that write about music in the mainstream media get their training, but from what they write I think it is safe to say that they are amateurs. On the other hand, a lot of music writing in the blogosphere is by real professionals.

Another one of my hobby-horses is what I call "scientism" or the misuse of pseudo-science in realms, like music, where it doesn't belong. Here are some posts on that. I just ran across a wonderful dissection of a particularly noxious example of pseudo-science in the field of psychology. Extra points for the lovely phrase "nonstop level of moderate dishonesty". Yes, that's what we tend to get, not just in the mass media, but even in many places that purport to be scholarly.

So those are my beefs for this morning! Now, what else is in the news? How about an item that reveals where the people that create the music for Hollywood come from? The number one and two spots are Berklee and USC.

Finally, a little Frank Zappa item. In Los Angeles they recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of Walt Disney Hall with a performance of an orchestral version of Zappa's idea of a 'rock opera', 200 Motels. As a matter of fact, way back in 1970 I actually attended a live performance of this piece at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. Wikipedia describes the genesis of the piece as follows:
In 1970, Frank Zappa formed a new version of The Mothers of Invention which included British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, jazz keyboardist George DukeIan UnderwoodJeff Simmons (bass, rhythm guitar), and three members of The Turtles: bass player Jim Pons, and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who, due to persistent legal and contractual problems, adopted the stage name "The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie", or "Flo & Eddie".[6]
Zappa began writing a film for his new lineup called 200 Motels, and the band debuted on Zappa's next solo album Chunga's Revenge (1970),[7] which was produced as a preview of the film.[8] Zappa also met conductor Zubin Mehta. They arranged a May 1970 concert where Mehta conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic augmented by a rock band.
 Here is an article on the recent performance from a new music site. What I remember most about the concert version I saw was Frank's kinetic conducting style: I mean, have you ever seen a lead guitarist conducting a drum solo in god knows what time signature by leaping wildly in the air? The singers were, as Wikipedia says, the guys from The Turtles and Frank was conducting them too. Wild stuff! I remember the lyrics as being a lot raunchier than the article mentions. A lot of stuff about groupies and what goes on in those motel rooms... I'm often surprised at how much of that chaotic, crazy music from the 60s seems to have survived.

Let's end with some Frank Zappa. Here is an excerpt from 200 Motels that will give you a bit of the flavor of it:

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