Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

Let's start off with a new clip of "Nessun dorma" the popular tenor aria from Puccini's Turandot, but this time sung by soprano Arina Domski with some unusual costume ideas:


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Marcus Berkmann is stepping down as pop music critic for the Spectator because he has said all he wants to say and feels that pop music is in decline. Read the whole thing. Here is a sample:
pop’s present is unusually burdened by the excellence of its past. Music fashioned long ago for instant gratification has proved to possess extraordinary staying power
Yes, well, we in the classical music biz know what that's like. I was just reading the last few pages of Charles Rosen's Classical Forms and he was talking about how burdened people like Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms were by the extraordinary excellence of Mozart and Beethoven--whom they never excelled. But at least in pop music there is big bucks in doing second rate work...

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One of the best classical critics around is Anne Midgette (who has even commented here at the Music Salon). Her latest is a discussion of quality at Washington DC's National Symphony Orchestra.
when you go to an NSO concert, you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes, you get very good playing. Other times, you hear unpardonable sloppiness, sections drowning each other out in a soup of sound that you don’t expect from professionals. It’s curious that an orchestra with so much talent is still able and, in some sense even willing, to sound like such a mess.
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What's wrong with the streaming music and video model: "When Amazon Dies:
What will happen to digital collections of books, movies, and music when the tech giants fall?" This is why I keep buying CDs instead of just subscribing to a streaming service. I really want to own the music.

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According to the Wall Street Journal, "Videogames Are Saving the Symphony Orchestra." This stunningly dreary paragraph explains:
Once considered a gimmick, performances featuring videogame music are now a regular part of pops orchestra programming. “You can no longer just sit there and play Beethoven,” said Andrew Litton, music director of the Colorado Symphony and the New York City Ballet Orchestra.
Not for people whose only exposure to non-pop music has been video games, no, I guess not. In my book, it is still a gimmick. One concertgoer said:
“From a business-strategy perspective, it completely devalues the brand,” said Roderick Branch, a 39-year-old lawyer in Chicago who attends symphony-orchestra performances about once a week. The very idea, he said, is “akin to Mouton Rothschild using its wine to make and sell sangria.”
If your attitude towards Beethoven is so jaundiced that you think that "just sitting and playing" him is insufficient, then I suggest you seek other employment--perhaps something in the video game or fast-food industries?

As I have said many times before, some of classical music's worst enemies are our so-called defenders.

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Just to keep you abreast of climate news: a leading weather broadcaster on France 2 has been suspended because he published a book questioning the prevailing dogma on climate change. Story at the link.
According to Mr Verdier, top climate scientists, who often rely on state funding, have been “manipulated and politicised”.
He specifically challenges the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, saying they “blatantly erased” data that went against their overall conclusions, and casts doubt on the accuracy of their climate models.
I guess that France 2 just went right ahead and proved his point.

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And here is more skepticism from fairly well-known scientist Freeman Dyson:
Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does more good than harm, he argues, and humanity doesn't face an existential crisis. Climate change, he tells us, "is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?"
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I have mentioned before that it has always been a wealthy elite that support classical music and one of the problems today is that the wealthy elite don't seem to like high culture that much any more. Instead, they go for a diverse mix of pop, jazz and world music, just like regular folks. Here is more evidence: "No classical musicians at Obama's 'celebration of American music'."
The White House concert was hosted by Carol Burnett and featured performances by Guy, Usher, James Taylor, Queen Latifah, Smokey Robinson, Esperanza Spalding, MC Lyte, Audra McDonald, Trombone Shorty, Keb’ Mo’ and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
‘An eclectic bunch,’ the president called them. Just not eclectic enough.
Worse, the event marked the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
That’s how far classical music has fallen off the American radar in 50 years.
The numerous comments merely demonstrate the vicious polarization of American politics

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You are going to have to read all of this article: "The Devaluation of Music: It's Worse Than You Think." Except for one interesting omission, the whole article is well-written and well-argued:
Those who care about the future of the music business ought to spend less time complaining about digital disruptions and expend more energy lifting up the public’s awareness of serious music, because we truly do devalue music when we reduce our most impactful art form to an artifact of celebrity and a lifestyle choice. Complex instrumental music has become marginalized to within an inch of its very existence, and that has a lot to do with industry folk defining “value” in only the way that affects their mailbox money.
The omission? Like all of these articles about what classical music needs, it just talks about it. It doesn't actually do it. The article doesn't spend one sentence actually increasing anyone's awareness of serious music!

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 Here is an intriguing article about a nearly-unknown composer: Julius Eastman worked with John Cage, Lukas Foss and Morton Feldman in the 1970s (though he seems to have enraged John Cage with his performance of the composer's "Song Books"). He chose titles that are so provocative that even this article, about an upcoming performance, won't print them. Too weird for John Cage? The mind boggles...

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Composer James MacMillan has a piece in Standpoint magazine about a topic very close to my interests: the viability of the symphonic tradition in the 21st century:
I have been asked why composers still want to write symphonies today. Haven’t all the best ones been written already? Is the form and idea not redundant in the 21st century? Hasn’t modernism (and post-modernism) moved the “cutting-edge” agenda away from the tried and tested? Is it not just nostalgia and conservatism to fall back on an idea from the past? Every composer has considered the possibility of writing a symphony and the questions that will be asked of him or her. Some decide it is not for them, but a surprising number in recent years and in our own time have persevered with the concept.
The whole piece is worth reading.

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For our envoi today, let's listen to some music mentioned in MacMillan's article on the symphony. This is the Symphony No. 10 by Hans Werner Henze written in 1997/2000:


6 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

Am listening to Noël Akchoké's arrangement for guitar of Victoria's mass O Magnum Mysterium-- which is the one unequivocally good thing about the streamers, I think: the near-instantaneous availability of otherwise practically unhearable music.

Bryan Townsend said...

Wow, you certainly are right about that! Absolutely nothing by Noël Akchoké on YouTube, let alone arrangements of Victoria!

Anonymous said...

Your comment about streaming is very timely. I, too, cherish my CDs but it won't be long before all music is streamed and CD players are no longer manufactured. Then what? All music will belong to Big Brother and we'll be "renting" it from our corporate masters.

Nice, huh?

Marc Puckett said...

Ha; rien indeed. It still does not occur to me to look at YouTube for music. I will plead on my own behalf that the notice that there is a new N.A. album of Victoria arrangements at Spotify reached me via email (I guess because I 'follow' Victoria); otherwise would have remained in ignorance even of N.A.'s name (let alone of the fact that there are guitar arrangements of Victoria's masses etc)-- unless of course someone posts about 'em. Ha.

Bryan Townsend said...

Hopefully my Harmon/Kardon system will last my remaining years!

The Spanish vihuelistas transcribed polyphonic vocal music by Josquin and others, but I never heard of any of Victoria.

Marc Puckett said...

Got around to looking at the Oregon Bach Festival's program for this year, 2016: the first thing I noticed is that we get the premiere of Sir James MacMillan's Requiem. Am very much looking forward to that & am wondering about its form-- will it be the ordinarium of the Mass (pace Fauré and Duruflé, please God he's done the Dies irae!), or something else?-- haven't gotten around to investigating; perhaps he or someone else has already publicly described the work.