Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

So you go to music school, maybe Julliard, maybe Curtis, and you spend those long years studying repertoire, technique, phrasing, polishing your control of dynamics, your mastery of timbre. You graduate with high honors and, after much, (MUCH) practicing of orchestral excerpts you win an audition and start your career, perhaps with the Seattle symphony. Then, one day, you find yourself onstage with Sir Mix-a-Lot and you ask yourself, why? Why? Why me? Why did I ever bother?


UPDATE: After writing this, I noticed that Norman Lebrecht has an item up on it. There are a lot of interesting comments that mostly seem to miss the point.

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Just a little reminder: Bob Dylan is the William Blake of, what, electric folk music? If only for this line:

"the ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face"

from this song:


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And a hat tip to Norman Lebrecht for directing me to this article about two documentaries about Glenn Gould from 1959, shot by Canada's National Film Board. He really was an extraordinary musician who goes a very long way towards dispelling the notion that Canada is a country of nice nonentities.

Here is another piece from the same source that has two other fascinating films on Gould, in one of which he goes into great detail about how to interpret (and not interpret) Beethoven.

Here is another documentary on Gould from the series called "American Masters", don't quite know how that happened. But it's in color, at least:


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I ran across this fascinating account of how music criticism has turned into lifestyle reporting. It seems a bit familiar to me, either because I have posted about it before, or because I share so many of the same sentiments:
When Harry Connick, Jr. recently used the word “pentatonic” on American Idol, his fellow judge Jennifer Lopez turned it into a joke. And, indeed, what could be more humorous than a musician of Connick’s stature trying to talk about musical scales on a TV reality show? Yet football announcers not only talk about “stunts” or the “triple option” but are expected to explain these technical aspects of the game to the unenlightened. The hosts on business cable channels refer to PE ratios and swap spreads, and no one laughs at them. So why can’t a judge in a TV singing contest employ some basic music terminology? The pentatonic scale is a simple concept—just five notes (do, re, mi, so, la) we all learned as children. Yet even that tiny dose of musical knowledge is apparently too much for modern-day media.
It wasn’t always like this. When I was a child, Gunther Schuller’s byline appeared in Saturday Review, and Leonard Bernstein hosted music specials on CBS. In my teens, I could read smart, musically astute critics in many magazines and newspapers. I might disagree with the judgments of Harold Schoenberg, John Rockwell, Winthrop Sargeant, Robert Palmer, Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, Alfred Frankenstein, and others, but they knew their stuff.  Many of them were musicians themselves. Sargeant had served as a violinist with the New York Philharmonic. Frankenstein had played clarinet with the Chicago Symphony. Palmer gigged in bands before he started writing about them. Feather had recorded as a pianist, and although he would never put Oscar Peterson out of business, he knew his sharps and flats.
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And finally, as a kind of footnote to that highly contentious debate a couple of weeks ago occasioned by five British music critics mentioning the physical appearance of a mezzo in an opera production and the subsequent backlash, here is quite another take on it from music blogger Sounds & Fury. His conclusion:
It's astonishing how thoroughly legitimate and appropriate if brutally frank criticism by five Brit (male) opera critics of a simple but egregious bit of physical miscasting has morphed into being considered by some as a "sexist" crime against women (a crime perpetrated by "The Old Guard – those white European males we love to hate...." as one (female) American opera critic characterized these five Brit opera critics). Incredible PC/feminist gibberish.
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To end, here is a brief excerpt from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier with Vesselina Kasarova in the role of Octavio. Yes, it is a "trouser" role, something I discussed in this post.


1 comment:

Rickard Dahl said...

1. Sigh, why can't they let the orchestra do what they do best: play classical music. They should let classical music stand on it's own feet like it always has and always will.

2. Yes, hosts of music TV shows should know their basic music theory and use it. Obviously the problem lies deeper, while most people with an education know how for instance basic economics work, most have no idea how the basics of music work (not saying they should understand how music works in complete manner beacuse it's a quest that takes long time, maybe a lifetime because you need to view things from many different aspects (melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, timbre, human perception of sound, acoustics, instrumentation, psychology, tuning, various ways to organize the pitches within octaves, maybe also work with the building blocks (compose) etc.))

3. "Incredible PC/feminist gibberish." Sums it up very well.