Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

You would think that this might be interesting, but it really isn't: a compilation of different versions of the first two opening chords of the Symphony No. 3 by Beethoven by different orchestras and conductors from 1924 to 2011:


What we are mostly hearing are small differences in tuning (and later on, with the Early Music folks, the difference between A = 415 and A = 440) and variations in hall ambiance. Courtesy of Slipped Disc.

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This next item calls for a trigger-warning: Norman Lebrecht over at Slipped Disc shamelessly posts this guaranteed clickbait: "The Bad Sex Guide to Opera." Featured are the worst sex scenes in contemporary opera productions. This blog would never sink that low just to attract more traffic. Almost that low, perhaps, but not quite that low.

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I'm not sure, but I think this is depressing:
Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.
That's from this article "The Battle Is For The Customer Interface." I'm not sure what the implications for music are, but they don't seem good. Interface companies, as they deal with people in great numbers, are always erasing subtle variations in favor of a pipeline of essentially bland content. At least that's my sense of how it works with music. Uber, though I haven't used it, sounds like a terrific idea, but I am less a fan of Facebook and the streaming music services. In the battle for the music-lover's dollar, it seems that the musicians and composers are getting less and less. What do my readers think?

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This, from the New Yorker, is my favorite cartoon:

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The Wall Street Journal has a consumer's guide to wireless sound systems. This quote should give you an idea: "You tap on your phone or tablet and you’re grooving to any song in any room in seconds." Not me, dude, not me! I think I got my Harmon Kardon system just in time, because soon they are going to stop manufacturing systems that play CDs entirely. That's going to be another problem for those few companies that are still putting out CDs...

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It is the 21st century: Clapping Music by Steve Reich is now available as an app for the iPhone.


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And, in other 21st century news, "Hip-hop is the most listened to genre in the world, according to Spotify analysis of 20 billion tracks." The record for the most number of streams in a day was 9.6 million achieved by Kendrick Lamar with his new album "To Pimp a Butterfly". I looked at a couple of tracks from it and there is nothing there that I would want to post on this blog. For several reasons.

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Here, from the Guardian, is Philip Clark's excursion into the weirder corners of the music world with several people of whom I have not heard before (and a couple I have). No promises, but you might find something interesting there. The odd thing for me is how often these supposedly extreme examples of music experimentation sound just like a 60s jam session aided with psychedelic pharmaceuticals:


Cool picture of Edgar Varèse, though:

Click to enlarge

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Another piece of new music from Alex Ross: The Difference Engine by Dario Palermo (b. 1970) sounds just like, well, a hundred other pieces of its ilk. How to describe it? Agony in outer space? There always seems to be these random floaty sounds interspersed with unpleasant little moments. Sure, its all about the inhumanity of man to man. But, frankly, shouldn't it be a little more, well, interesting? Musically?

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Neil Young is contemplating taking all his music off the streaming services because of the quality of the audio. Oddly enough, in his case, I find myself not too concerned. It seems that all we hear about lately is how one artist or another is either putting their music on such and such a service or taking it off: Prince, Taylor Swift. All this perpetual jockeying for position makes me even more reluctant to sign up for a streaming music service: the audio quality is lower and music that you supposedly "own" can disappear at any time depending on the whim of the artists or company. So you don't actually "own" anything. So what are you paying for? The "right" to have access to millions of songs you probably couldn't care less about?

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Our envoi (follow the link for the definition of envoi) for today is a genuine piece of experimental music: the Symphony No. 1 in D major (W. 183) by C. P. E. Bach composed in 1775/76 in Hamburg. In this and other pieces, C. P. E. Bach (son of J. S. Bach) developed entirely new ways of structuring music using periodic phrases and motifs that could be modified according to their role in the structure: exposition, development or recapitulation. The development of techniques like these took music halfway from Baroque style to Classical style. Haydn took it the rest of the way. This is Ton Koopman conducting the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana:


9 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

Someone should mix samples of the Palermo, the Reich clapping, and all the folks observed by Philip Clark, and of the Beethoven chords, and market it as 'classical fusion'.

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh!

Marc Puckett said...

Am having to order subscription tickets for the symphony season upcoming. My last choice is down to a Mason Bates premiere (it's Eugene Symphony's 50th anniversary season) or Ginastera's Piano Concerto no 1 and his Estancia. Ginastera I've listened to-- because someone was going on about his music a couple of months ago, Ross or someone-- but I've never heard any Mason Bates. Hmm. Any suggestions?

Marc Puckett said...

Robert Kyr's first piano concerto is premiering too. Hmm.

Bryan Townsend said...

I have written about Mason Bates on the blog before. He contributed a quite nice piece to Hilary Hahn's encore album that I did several posts on. Regarding Robert Kyr, I don't have much to offer except that he is a neighbor of yours: he teaches at the University of Oregon and has written a lot of music that might well be worth hearing. I would say give them both a chance.

Marc Puckett said...

Saw this via Althouse earlier, and thought you might like to mock it; 'who uses the most words in his music?' [http://www.digitalspy.com/music/news/a659792/eminem-has-the-biggest-vocabulary-in-music-beating-jay-z-and-bob-dylan.html#~pjhngZpA3I6mT2]

Robert Kyr-- I don't know him, obviously-- but (judging by the photograph I saw when I looked about online) I believe he was present for one of those talks William Caplin presented on cadence etc back in... March. Listened briefly; 'wide ranging' works is a term I saw somewhere, ahem. In the end I'll probably get to go to every concert of the ESO this season, barring the interference of the Fates.

Listening to the Bates 'Ford's Farm' from that HH Encores CD now-- it's followed by Rautavaara's 'Whispering'-- both of them are quite lovely. One distinct advantage of the streaming services: one can listen immediately, for a first and second listen anyway, even if one is going on to purchase the CD.

The Hahn Encores CDs are on Spotify and Apple Music, but not on the Naxos streaming service, ClassicsOnline. Both Naxos and Apple offer free trial periods, so am doing just that, trying them out (Naxos for a month, Apple Music for three). Naxos provides what is called 'lossless streaming' and the possibility to stream from HD CDs, and even I can tell the difference between it and Spotify, in some cases, anyway, in many cases.

If one has a perfectly well functioning Internet connexion, that LL and/or HD streaming is supposed to be identical to CD sound quality: I can believe it (and it looks like some audiophiles believe this to be the case). But the thing is that the online player displays the kbps ('kilobit per second', I believe) streaming rate, and because of the vagaries of the Internet connexion, or at least, of my Internet connexion, it fluctuates, doesn't it, the streaming rate-- it's stable most of the time, a very high percentage of the time, almost all the time. Of course, if you have the CD, why bother with it?




Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks for the link. That will make it into tomorrow's miscellanea for sure.

Lots of good pieces on the Hahn encore CD (and a few clunkers). The reason you won't hear her on the Naxos service is that she is under contract with Deutsche Gramophon. I assume that Naxos just has access to their own discs.

Yes, due to the vagaries of the internet, I would be surprise if streaming music was of as high a quality as CDs. But maybe I am wrong. Usually the music you find on YouTube is actually pretty good sounding. But I haven't done any direct comparisons.

Marc Puckett said...

Naxos/ClassicsOnline has access to all sorts of labels, as a matter of fact, although I don't doubt that there are some that they don't deal with. There are six or seven Hahn CDs at Naxos/CO but none of them have the liner notes available, which presumably is down to someone's contractual obligations somewhere. Nineteen Hahn CDs are available at Spotify, including all those available at Naxos/CO.

Apparently, there are some people in the world (a not entirely negligible number, judging from the comments threads at the couple of audiophile sites I've looked at lately) who have a 'platinum' Internet connection via 'platinum' cable. I've never met any of them.

Bryan Townsend said...

No liner notes is a big omission! Hilary writes her own notes and they are usually excellent.

I suspect a platinum internet connection is only available in a few limited areas.