Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

Ex-drummer for The Police Stewart Copland talks about what he is into nowadays with the Globe and Mail. Groovin' with classical musicians and composing film scores is what.

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A glimpse into a typical blogger therapy session:

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A rather confusing article in the Guardian by Tom Service sort-of praises Sistema Scotland (based on the Venezuelan music education system) for early successes. But it is larded with so many caveats I'm not sure what it is saying. Here's what I think: if you get a bunch of kids interested in music involved in rehearsing and playing orchestral music and if you give them some decent instruction, you can transform their lives--especially if they come from economically depressed and cultural vacuous environments. This is pretty much a no-brainer, isn't it?

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What is it about a piece of music that either engages us or causes us to lose interest? No, I'm not going to scribble down the answer to that right here! But I am going to put up a clip from YouTube. This is s piece for 14 musicians by Harrison Birtwhistle called Cortege. It is well-played and the video quality is excellent:

So why is it that it never sparked any interest in hearing it to the end and I paused the clip at the 3:19 mark? Comments welcome. But don't say, "because you sir, are an idiot!"

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I heard an interesting concert last night with a young orchestra. The program was devoted to film music with suites from The Lion King, James Bond, Spiderman, Gladiator, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and, of course, Star Wars. The hall, a big one seating about 2000 people, was absolutely full and 95% of the audience were under 40 years old. They were also very enthusiastic. So what is all this moaning about the ageing symphonic audience? Perhaps the audience would be different for a different program, but I recently saw a small orchestra concert of two guitar concertos, one new, and two pieces by Gustav Holst and Arvo Pärt and, while not packed, it was pretty full, 80%, and again, the audience was nearly all under 40. But both these concerts were here in Mexico, so perhaps that is the difference...

So I won't suffer alone, here is the Indiana Jones theme so that you also will have it in your head for the next week:

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Years ago on this blog I did a post called "One Hit Wonders" in which I talked about a few composers who are known mostly for a single, solitary piece. In that post I just talked about the earlier composers, but musing over Gustav Holst reminds me that there have been quite a few more recent ones. Gustav Holst is overwhelming known for one single piece, his suite for orchestra titled "The Planets", which really is a spectacular piece of music. Here is  James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the movement "Mars, the Bringer of War":

He never wrote another piece that achieved similar recognition. Another composer with a single hit is the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo who wrote one spectacular guitar concerto and a bunch of other music that is much less often heard. Here is the middle movement with its extraordinary theme. The performers are John Williams (guitar) and Paul Daniel (conductor) with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Williams has to tune between movements because the first movement requires a scordatura:

And how about Modest Mussorgsky who is known almost exclusively for his amazing suite for piano (orchestrated by Ravel), "Pictures at an Exhibition". This is Sir Georg Solti with the Chicago Symphony:

Lastly, there is the Polish composer who wrote one exceptional symphony that was so popular it even made the British pop album charts. This is the Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki, but I am not sure of the artists:

That is a pretty unlikely pop crossover hit, but it touches some very deep chords in a lot of listeners. Again, I pose my question from above: "What is it about a piece of music that either engages us or causes us to lose interest?" Why does this piece, despite its so modest beginnings way down in the subterranean register of the contrabasses, so transfix us while the Birtwhistle leaves us (or me at least) completely uninterested and uninvolved?

And that's it for this Friday's miscellanea.

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