Saturday, December 28, 2013

Miscellanea

It's the Friday Miscellanea, one day late! I keep forgetting... Let's start with something that is either really, really funny or really, really scary depending on whether you are booked to play a concert tonight. It's a thriller/horror movie in which Frodo, sorry, I mean Elijah Wood, is threatened with death (for him or his wife, it's not clear) if he plays one wrong note in a piano concert. Let's run the clip:


Of course, the solution is obvious: you just have to pick the right repertoire, the Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra by John Cage:



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Thanks to Alex Ross' blog The Rest is Noise, here is a really magnificent sounding harpsichord. The piece is a Passacaglia by Georg Muffat and the player is Andreas Staier. For some reason Blogger refuses to embed the clip, so here is the link. Well worth hearing!

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While we are over at The Rest is Noise, here is another item:
Not surprisingly, many self-described leftists have rejected John Halle's thesis that the vast majority of pop music serves as a tool (wittingly or not) of élite capitalist forces and that classical music has a role to play in resisting them. He is accused of defending "old white people's tastes nobody gives a shit about." Take that, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. On the Minnesota matter, Halle is sadly right in observing that many on the nominal left have accepted "the right's rhetoric, viewing classical musicians as a 'coddled' workforce receiving an unjustified exemption from market discipline." The collectivist model of the orchestra, the chamber group, or the chorus is unfashionable; instead, our heroes are mega-rich superstars who peddle populist fantasies while residing on a plane far removed from ordinary life.
I can't see how you can possibly defend the thesis that the pop music of today is the voice of youthful rebellion against a repressive society. It has long since become exactly as Halle depicts it:
The “new generation of goateed, rule-breaking entrepreneurs” now privileges immediate gratification, self-expression and originality albeit within market imposed limits, or,  as Oppenheimer puts it, “fun.”
It should be obvious that the leisure complement to this now dominant managerial class philosophy could not possibly consist of the sedate, repressed rituals of the classical concert hall. Nor is it a surprise to find the New Republic's meritocratic class contributors opining in favor of jettisoning instruction in Mozart sonatas in favor of the three-minute rock tune, campfire singing and ukelele strumming.
 The article ends with this peroration:
the virtues of classical music are inherently hostile to neoliberal mindset now dominant in all sectors of society. For many, classical music, its refusal to engage in high-volume harangues, its reliance on aural logic rather than visual spectacle, its commitment to achieving often barely perceptible standards of formal perfection, all serves as a repudiation of late capitalism —a refuge from hideous strip malls, the 24-hour assault of advertising copy, and marketing hype. Ultimately, it is a protest against the cruder, meaner and self-destructive society we have become.
Achieving this recognition is not easy, nor are most things worth doing. That’s the underlying lesson learned by a child confronting a Mozart sonata. And it will need to be relearned by adults if we have much hope of surviving the century.
Read the whole thing.

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For comic relief, have a look at this article explaining, completely seriously, why tuning A to 440 is really a Nazi plot and why the universe would be much happier if we tuned instead to A = 432. Just slightly flat. Uh-huh. Here is a little clip proving the thesis:


AGH!

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Now some John Williams, to clear the palate. A Volta by Praetorius recorded when Williams was just twenty-two:


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UPDATE: Just one more for you. I ran across this funny and musical cartoon here.


4 comments:

Rickard Dahl said...

Well, an even better solution would be picking John Cage's 4'33". No note to play!
That post at The Rest is Noise together with the article by John Halle made my day. It's very true that we have a big elite of pop artists "residing on a plane far removed from ordinary life" and yet it's classical music that seems elite to some people, how peculiar!

Rickard Dahl said...

Or, well, it depends on if you want the hero (pianist) survive or die.

Bryan Townsend said...

I persist in thinking of culture and economics as somewhat different things. I appreciate the efforts of current musicologists to connect music with its cultural context as I also appreciate the efforts of composers, like Arvo Pärt, to give us a music universe that seems to transcend its cultural context--or some of it at least. It is all in how it is done.

While classical music is, I suppose, in some way a repudiation of strip mall advertising hype and musical vulgarities like tweaking (or is that a dance vulgarity?) the phrase "late capitalism" troubles me because it seems a shibboleth from Marxist cultural studies. Free market capitalism may have many flaws, but I don't think they are aesthetic ones!

There is a great deal to be said for not mixing up the aesthetics of music with popular culture, let alone economics!

Bryan Townsend said...

Of course, I meant "twerking". This is one of those examples of the software "fixing" what it thinks is an error! Wish I knew how to turn off that "feature".