Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

Kicking off the post we have an article that goes a long way towards supporting my frequent disparagement of all psychological "studies", "surveys" and "research", not only into music, but into anything. The answer to the question "How Reliable Are Psychological Studies" the answer is "very damn little!" Here is another report on the same research: "Many scientific studies can't be replicated."
Maverick researchers have long argued that much of what gets published in elite scientific journals is fundamentally squishy — that the results tell a great story but can’t be reproduced when the experiments are run a second time.
Now a volunteer army of fact-checkers has published a new report that affirms that the skepticism was warranted. Over the course of four years, 270 researchers attempted to reproduce the results of 100 experiments that had been published in three prestigious psychology journals.
It was awfully hard. They ultimately concluded that they’d succeeded just 39 times.
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Well, I'm not quite sure what to think about this via Slipped Disc:

Universal Music Classics is rather fond of them:
Elizabeth Sobol, President & CEO of UMC says: ‘I’ve been following Mother Falcon for quite some time now. Their classically-derived instrumentation and exploratory compositions set them apart. No one sounds like Mother Falcon. Their music is truly in line with the artistic vision of Universal Music Classics.’
Okaaaay.... These are very nice people having a lot of fun and a fine-looking bunch. But the music is, well, fairly characterless indie-pop. Or rather, bland indie-pop arranged for a random bunch of classical instruments, plus a couple of guitars. The singing is weak and the whole production reminds me of a rehearsal before the concert. They have no need of music or music stands because the tunes and arrangements are so simple that it is easy to play them from memory. In terms of phrasing, rhythm and harmony, this is pretty much pop music. What they desperately need is a composer, I suspect. Oh, and this comment is pretty telling:
Did anybody actually mention that they sound TERRIBLE??!? 
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The New York Times has a big article on just how creative artists, and musicians in particular, have been faring in this new digital world. And, it turns out, the situation is not as bad as has been thought: 1999 there were nearly 53,000 Americans who considered their primary occupation to be that of a musician, a music director or a composer; in 2014, more than 60,000 people were employed writing, singing or playing music. That’s a rise of 15 percent, compared with overall job-­market growth during that period of about 6 percent. The number of self-­employed musicians grew at an even faster rate: There were 45 percent more independent musicians in 2014 than in 2001. (Self-­employed writers, by contrast, grew by 20 percent over that period.)
...songwriters and music directors saw their average income rise by nearly 60 percent since 1999. The census version of the story, which includes self-­employed musicians, is less stellar: In 2012, musical groups and artists reported only 25 percent more in revenue than they did in 2002, which is basically treading water when you factor in inflation. And yet collectively, the figures seem to suggest that music, the creative field that has been most threatened by technological change, has become more profitable in the post-­Napster era — not for the music industry, of course, but for musicians themselves. Somehow the turbulence of the last 15 years seems to have created an economy in which more people than ever are writing and performing songs for a living.
Hmm, that is rather puzzling. Because we also know that the music industry has been collapsing with lower and lower revenues from the sale of recorded music. Turns out that live performances have been increasing. Ticket prices are steeply up, between 1997 and 2012 they rose 150%. The whole article is worth reading.

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Somehow this cartoon just makes me chuckle:
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High-fidelity sound systems have come a long way since Jack was a young man:

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Every August critic Jay Nordlinger from the National Review spends a couple of weeks at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, for which I deeply envy him as I was there for a month many years ago in Pepe Romero's master class and had an amazing time. Anyway, one of the things he does is interviews with some of the musicians there. For example:
The third guest in our Salzburg Festival Society series is Gianandrea Noseda, the conductor from Milan. At the festival this year, he is leading Il trovatore, the Verdi opera.
Toward the end of our hour, I ask him to give me a couple of living composers — just two or three — who are worth hearing. Not great, not destined for immortality, simply worth hearing. After reflecting a moment, he says, “May I name some from the recent past, whether they’re still living or not?” That’s cheating a bit, but I say sure. Noseda names Ligeti (1923-2006). And Messiaen (1908-92). “There,” he says, “that’s two. You said I could do two.”
Not sure about Ligeti (we will have to do some posts on him) but I certainly agree about Messiaen--and yes, expect more posts on him in the near future.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

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This piece from Slipped Disc is both charming and off-putting. A modest chamber music series asks of its performers:
5. What turns our concertgoers off fastest is a programme which they perceive as lightweight (in length or depth), or performers who assume that listeners are not knowledgeable because it’s ‘just’ a Suffolk country church on a summer Sunday afternoon. [More on not ‘talking down’ to the audience under At your concert below.]
6 By the time you see this, the programme for your concert will have been made public via a printed season brochure, as well as on the website. We are reluctant to agree any changes to this, but recognise that sometimes there are good reasons for doing so: contact me as soon as possible if you wish to discuss a change.
7 If you wish, or are asked, to perform any of the works you have agreed to perform for us at any public event within 50km of Cratfield in the three months before your concert for us, please check this out with me first.
8 If any of the works you will perform include repeats asked for by the composer, we encourage you to observe these, unless you have a good reason for not doing so.
And some of the commentators get rather pompous and arrogant.

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Here is an article about how critics rank the best orchestras in the world. European, and especially German, orchestras are in the lead. The piece is hard to excerpt, so go read the whole thing.

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The youngest conductor working in the US is Teddy Abrams, "at 28 years old the Bay Area-bred conductor heads the Britt Classical Music Festival in Oregon and the Louisville Symphony, with its illustrious history of commissioning and recording new work." Normally I'm not too impressed with most of the ideas about how to "revitalize" classical music because they so often boil down to "let's make it more like pop music!" But Teddy has a whole different approach. He thinks about the economic incentives involved:
So what’s wrong with the way this musical culture is set up?
Think about how we’ve constructed composition right now. There’s no great model for giving composers a reason to compose. When you compensate soloists and conductors on a very high level, where’s the equivalent for composers? Composers need to be given the financial resources and musical resources to do what they do. The fact is we have transitioned away from that.
A lot of very interesting ideas in that article.

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Let's end the post with a performance by the Louisville Orchestra. This is the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, op. 21 by Easley Blackwood. The soloist is Paul Kling, with whom I gave many chamber concerts. The recording is undated, but it must be from several decades ago when Paul was the concertmaster in Louisville.


Marc Puckett said...

In their favor, I will say that I may prefer Mother Falcon's "re-imagining" of Radiohead's OK Computer to the original-- of course only listened to three tracks. Vocals are still unimpressive, though.

The link to Jay Nordlinger's odds and ends is broken etc. JN, I appreciate him because he is civilised-- he knows about the culture he writes about, is educated in it, is respectful of it, he makes judgments, he is respectful of those he disagrees with-- that last is rare anymore. Not really, I suppose, but anywhere the media is the ability to criticise and judge and disagree civilly seems to be compromised.

Marc Puckett said...

And the Teddy Abrams interview, which will have to wait for me until tomorrow, is at:

Bonus dormitat Homerus... :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

I didn't even realize that Mother Falcon had done covers of Radiohead! That site I linked to was the first I had heard of them. How do you know this stuff, Marc? Anyway, heavy sigh, I guess now I will have to do a post specifically on them and their Radiohead covers...

Fixed the Nordlinger link. Thanks. And thanks too for the Abrams link! Homer didn't merely nod, he fell off his chair!

Marc Puckett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc Puckett said...

I used to listen to Radiohead and other pop music, chiefly to be able to know what people were talking about, ha. But this particular version of Rh, I know of only because when you click the artist name on Spotify, their entire discography (that is available on S., anyway) displays. The MF 'OK Computer Re-Imagined' I don't think is covers, it is as it were MF's variations on the Radiohead originals-- I think; only listened to three tracks and haven't listened to the Radiohead in years. It could be covers, for all I know. I will look, if you like.

Am being interested (through your mention in passing of 'the technical term col legno' in conversation with Christine the other day) in HIF Biber v B. and his 'program music' and whether there is a 20th c sound to his Missa Salisburgensis a 53 voci. I become enthused about this and that-- have been enabled in this also because Jordi Savall released a new album of Biber on Spotify yesterday.

Was on the verge of purchasing that complete Messiaen collection directly from Deutsche Grammophon yesterday via a download to iTunes but their site wasn't having it, which is doubtless a minor blessing-- a download to Amazon's music site would have worked, though.

The interesting point is that according to themselves, the download (once it happens glitch-free and whole and entire) is supposed to provide CD quality sound output on the iTunes system, because of the quality of the encoding etc etc. I don't know that I've ever seen a direct claim like that, although I haven't gone looking about at record companinies' online music sites.

Bryan Townsend said...

I bought OK Computer years ago based on the multiple claims that it was really superior popular music, on a level with the Beatles or something. But I was never able to develop the slightest liking for it! So comparing it to the Mother Falcon versions will enable me to take a second pass at it. For better or worse.

A good friend of mine in graduate school wrote a whole dissertation on Biber and specifically the programmatic elements. I wrote a post on Biber about a year ago:

What do they charge for that DG Messiaen download? But you don't get any notes with that, right? I dunno, for anything substantial, I want the actual CD because that they can't take away from you! Unless you cross an international boundary with it...

Marc Puckett said...

The DG Messiaen was thirty odd dollars. But the morning come, I won't do it. Probably no book; and I seriously doubt they would do another download when e.g. this computer dies.

Am sticking to my 'basic CD library' project... but may succumb to the three DVD version of St Fran├žois... the Dutch production, ha.

Have resolved my streaming dilemma by keeping both Spotify and the ClassicsOnline (Naxos), at least until the rumoured Spotify upgrade in sound quality etc happens. The better sound quality at CO is audible even to me, specially in solo piano recordings. And everything in the 'basic library' is available at CO, though the selections are more limited than at Spotify.

Marc Puckett said...

Am taking a break from my listening to Biber and Biber-and-Bach (and trying to keep up with the latest Messiaen post!) but stumbled upon this, in re the music of Anna Thorvaldsdottir ([]):

"... Thorvaldsdottir’s music is likely not what the average person thinks of when they hear the phrase 'classical music'. However, its atmosphere and tonalities are likely to appeal quite strongly to fans of forbidding music of any genre (dark ambient, industrial, noise, post-metal). With a quality sound system and proper lighting design, the music on Aerial could turn a concert hall into a deeply unsettling place, one filled with listeners under 60...."

Didn't realise anyone was wanting to turn concert halls into etc etc-- I thought the 'listeners under 60' was unintentionally comic.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks Marc. I'm going to steal that link for my Friday miscellanea.