Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

I don't want to depress anyone unnecessarily, but here, from Amazon, are the Hot New Releases in Classical. By "classical" you have to understand that odd little niche in the current commercial marketplace where you put crossover, classical/pop, Italian tenors, groups of Italian tenors, seasonally-oriented heavy metal, aging Italian tenors and the occasional classical album by Yo-Yo Ma that is crossover oriented. And may God have mercy on our souls.

* * *

I somewhat cautiously offer the following link to a piece titled "The Alpha Male at Bay" because it talks a lot about art forms like motion pictures and has an interesting take on them. But largely because of the last paragraph:
The good news about this is that it’s self-limiting. No society can operate in complete defiance of natural law for very long (Just look at Islam for an example.) Eventually, alphas will be annoyed enough to leave their current strongholds (generally business and arts such as film and music, where swashbucklers are still admired, along with the Internet -- what are hackers but the highwaymen of old armed with mouse and modem?) to straighten things out. The question is, how much damage will occur before that happens?
The arts are often thought to be where less ambitious males end up, but I think this is wrong. Music is still where you find some rugged individuals. The betas seem to be collecting in the ever-expanding ranks of government service and academia.

 * * *

I just have to share this photo of the oldest continually operated library in existence. Located in Egypt, in the south Sinai, the library, contained in St. Catherine's Monastery, was built around 564 AD by order of the emperor Justinian I. They have some very old editions of Homer and Plato.

Click to enlarge
* * *

Always hoping to keep you amused, here, from the Independent, are their thoughts on The Top Ten Worst Christmas Songs (and shouldn't that be "Holiday" songs?).


How very odd that someone could have thought that we could just end war? Hilariously, the Globe and Mail includes this same Lennon song in their best holiday songs.

* * *

Is the classical music world demanding? You bet. Just read this detailed account of one young musician's road to his audition: "Inside a symphony audition." In a nutshell:
“If you want to absolutely precise, it boils down to about 15 seconds. We can tell with a pretty high degree of accuracy what kind of a player you are within the first 15 to 30 seconds. The rest of the time, we’re there to make sure that our initial assessment was correct," Colberg said.
 I'm afraid that is true. I have auditioned many musicians for entry into a university music program and what sort of musician they are is evident pretty quickly. Mind you, at this very elevated level, you do want to be sure your first impressions were correct.

* * *

One not-very-interesting category of journalism is the blue-sky speculation piece where the writer just lets it all hang out. A nice example is this one: "Is the Future of Music a Chip in Your Brain?" Some of it is amusing:
The recording industry, as it anachronistically continues to call itself, was nearly bankrupted by digital piracy at the beginning of this millennium. That prompted a shift in thinking. Noting the growth of the adjacent videogame industry, forward-thinking executives began to adopt its business model, moving away from unit sales and toward the drip-feed revenue model of continuous updates organized around verified purchases. A resurgence of profitability followed, although a significant portion of the spoils went to the software developers, who have begun to exhibit their own offbeat version of classic music-business decadence. (A recent profile of the 23-year-old Harvard graduate behind a key hook-selection algorithm revealed the little punk just spent $100 million to buy 11 acres of undeveloped land in the Pacific Palisades, on which he planned to site his 250-square-foot portable micro-home.)
But a lot of it is just clumsy science fiction.

* * *

Also in the Wall Street Journal is a rather more practical article by Cynthia Yeh, percussionist for the Chicago Symphony. She talks about her favorite gear:
People made fun of me when I first got it because it’s so bloody huge, but I use a Samsung Galaxy Note II to draw the stage diagrams I send to the crew that sets everything up for us. This afternoon we’re performing Leonard Bernstein’s score to the film “On the Waterfront,” and I’m personally playing snare drum, three toms, xylophone, bells, vibraphone and marimba. If the stage is not set up the right way, you get percussionists crossing paths and running into each other. I used to draw a diagram with pen and paper and take a picture of it, but the Note is really handy.
(If you find yourself blocked by the WSJ paywall, you can usually read the article for free just by googling the title.)

* * *

Classical musicians tend to be a hard-working bunch. Conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt just announced his retirement--at 86 years of age. And other musicians like Gustav Leonhardt and Andrés Segovia also continued performing well into their 80s.

* * *

I think we can put this in the general category of things that were probably not the best idea ever:


You can find a better video of this at the Violin Channel, but it doesn't want to be embedded.

* * *

And on a lighter note, for those of us who are connoisseurs of awful album covers, here is a fascinating article giving the stories behind some of those awful albums: "Behind Those Awful Album Covers." There is something of an embarras de richnesses, but this is a personal favourite:


* * *

It is a bit of a challenge finding the most appropriate musical envoi for today's miscellanea, but how about this? Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting the very festive Cantata 147 by J. S. Bach:


9 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

I used to have to drive a client home in the late afternoons and, since he required familiar music, I have heard the two front teeth song, the Santa Baby song, and the all I want for Christmas is you song at the very least scores of times-- never the with Justin version of the last, though. The most awful thing was that the damn radio station began its 'Christmas songs' rotation on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day (that they stopped on Christmas Day itself-- none of this twelve days nonsense-- was, I guess, the blessing on the other side of the coin). Purgatory is also designed for artists and radio station execs who in their pride or greed inflict such things on the rest of us. :-)

Had to laugh out loud at the Amazon 'hot new releases'; is that Pope Francis CD the one that all the (mostly very, very awful with one or two exceptions) ironic/mocking/comedic raps that were on Twitter the other day were based on? perhaps not. And I noticed the Capella Sistina's recording-- from September, ahem ('hot new')-- in the Capella Sistina, too.

Learned yesterday that there is an album of Elvis songs in Latin (presumably not sung by himself but I didn't look) available out there. He did Christmas albums, as I seem to recall (is the one in the list for C.?), but don't know if any of those songs made it on to that album.

Bryan Townsend said...

Apart from listening to the occasional CBC show in which I was featured, I don't think I have listened to the radio for, oh, about forty years!

I missed that Twitter feed!! You keep up with everything.

Christmas albums seem to be VERY lucrative.

Marc Puckett said...

You will appreciate this, Bryan, for at least a couple of reasons. There's a music app that assembles your Spotify data to present a 'picture of 2015' and is promoted by Spotify.

Resisted clicking on it for almost a day but then succumbed: I 'listened', so it seems, for 2,418 hours, 101 days.

It also reveals who I 'listened' to how often etc, sort of, but it's obviously incapable of distinguishing between performers, conductors, instrumentalists, etc, and seduced me into clicking through 'the year in' rap, Drake, Justin, the triumph of SS 'marriage' in the US, Kylie, refugees' crisis, Skrillex etc.

Will give 'em the benefit of the doubt and accept that it was on for 2,418 but beyond that....

Bryan Townsend said...

"Data", it's the great curse of the 21st century. Because no-one can confirm it, so no-one can deny it. My personal estimate is that I probably listen to about 1.5 hours of music a day. That means I will listen to about 547.5 hours of music in a year. It is probably a bit more than that because I don't count listening to brief snatches of the clips I post here to confirm that they are what they are, but it is not wildly wrong either. I don't listen to music while I cook (hardly ever, at least) or while I am reading or writing or all of those other activities that are often accompanied by music. I am almost exclusively an active listener, preferably with the score in my hand!

"Skrillex"?? Is that a brand of household cleaner?

Marc Puckett said...

Ha; I recognised the name Skrillex because had read about him at the Guardian just Friday; he invented some new species of EDM called brostep, bro-step, which evidently allows him to like Hanson and work with Justin but be mean to Deadmaus.

It is true that I often keep music playing when I'm not actively listening to it; a resolve in the new year to reduce the level of 'environmental sound' isn't a bad idea, perhaps. Hmm. I do listen while commuting to and from work, there's 300 hours or more annually there; reading on the bus doesn't work, alas.

Bryan Townsend said...

My typical commute here is a fifteen minute walk into my office. I don't like the sensation of earbuds, so I never got used to listening to music when I walk or ride public transportation.

That's spelled "Deadmau5" you barbarian!

Marc Puckett said...

Ha, yes, am v. uncivilized by nature, and occasionally it escapes its wonted bounds,yes.

Will plead, however, that I thought the 5 had to be reversed. My English mobile keyboard doesn't even have a percent symbol, no way it's going to have a backward 5 hidden away anywhere.

Bryan Townsend said...

Not according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadmau5

Marc Puckett said...

I had thought the 5 backward, I ought to have written, until I read your 8:29 comment. -)