Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Alex Ross has a lovely, celebratory essay about the history and current incarnation of Marlboro Music "an outwardly low-key summer gathering that functions variously as a chamber-music festival, a sort of finishing school for gifted young performers, and a clandestine summit for the musical intelligentsia."

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City Journal has a brief essay explaining how the students at Yale in their demand to rid the curriculum of white, male authors have really not gone far enough:
The trouble with the demand is not its petulance but its timidity. If the canonical English bards, novelists, and playwrights are to be minimized—or banished entirely—why stop there? If the protestors want to “decolonize the course, and focus the curriculum” to “deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism and ethnicity,” why not decolonize the entire university catalogue?
Manifestly, this purification of Western culture would have to include music. Out goes J.S. Bach, who was not only Caucasian but German, deeply religious, and straight (two wives, 20 children). The Teutonic Franz Josef Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johannes Brahms would join him on the proscribed list, along with the Austrian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and such Italians as Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Verdi, and, it goes without saying, Antonio Vivaldi, the redheaded priest.

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Another infuriating tale of musicians mistreated by airlines: "Musician ‘kicked off’ United Airlines flight for attempting to stow her violin safely." This is the main reason why I would never fly with my guitar, the other being the danger of customs agents deciding that my ebony fingerboard was "illegal". As a musician, you come to have quite a negative impression of air travel. After a number of years of touring I came to deeply detest the staff that treat musicians so badly.
Lee was flying first class from Washington Dulles Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on 12 June with her violin, which met FAA regulations, according to the musician. However, when she was unable to fit her instrument in the overhead locker, she asked a flight attendant for assistance:
‘She said she didn’t have time to help me,’ writes Lee. ‘I saw that the under-the-seat space for the first row of economy was plentiful, although there were some small backpacks of customers sitting there. It looked like my violin case would fit. I very politely asked the customers sitting there if they’d be willing to move their bags – I would buy them drinks (and move their bags) – and since my violin is a very rare (antique) precious instrument that cannot be checked, if I could possibly put it there. They complied. While I was doing that (and my violin case fit perfectly there, see picture), the aforementioned flight attendant came to me and said, “You are being a disturbance, I don’t want you on my flight anymore” and kicked me off the flight.’
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And if you thought that was just some random event, here is another one, with an equally autocratic person, this time the pilot: "American Airlines pilot denies Rachel Barton Pine access to cabin with her violin."
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine was denied boarding an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque with her instrument yesterday evening, according to her PR company. The captain refused to allow the musician to take the 1742 Guarneri ‘del Gesú’ ‘Soldat’ violin – on lifetime loan to Pine and pictured below – into the cabin because ‘its dimensions were not correct for a carry-on’.
Pine was travelling to perform with the New Mexico Philharmonic and to take part in the orchestra’s outreach programme. The violinist flies over 100,000 miles a year with American Airlines and has flown on the same type of plane on numerous occasions, placing the violin case in the overhead compartment.
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The "Stairway to Heaven" copyright case has finally come to trial and the New York Times has the story.
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, testifying in a closely watched copyright trial on Wednesday, said that until recently he had never heard the song he has been accused of plagiarizing in the band’s 1971 hit “Stairway to Heaven.”
A couple of years ago, Mr. Page said, his son-in-law told him that people online were comparing “Stairway” to “Taurus,” a 1968 song by the lesser-known group Spirit. But when Mr. Page finally heard the other song, it sounded “totally alien” to him.
“I know that I had never heard it before,” he said.
The case was previously discussed in a post back in April.

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I don't want to tramp on anyone's toes, but is it really the case that the only male composer that could possibly be performed at this year's Ojai festival was the long-deceased Claude Vivier? Or are the organizers simply following the suggestion a while back that publishers should publish nothing but women writers for a year? Or was it for a decade? Millennium? The Wall Street Journal has a report on the festival. Doesn't this comment sound oddly perfunctory and out-of-tune:
Vivier, who was murdered in 1983, a few weeks before his 35th birthday, was the only nonliving composer on the roster this year, an unprecedented occurrence at this festival. More significant was his status as the only male composer featured. To the festival’s credit, this laudable initiative in favor of women wasn’t flaunted, allowing the music to speak for itself.
"Laudable initiatives" at least when they follow lock-step the demands of cultural Marxism, are anything but laudable in my book. Perhaps if they had followed a different selection process the festival might have been more successful?

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And that provides us with our envoi. This is Zipangu for string orchestra by Claude Vivier played by I Musici de Montréal:


Ken Fasano said...

But Roseanne Roseannadanna has no problem with violins on planes!

Bryan Townsend said...

I had to Google Roseanne Roseannadanna!

Marc Puckett said...

Thanks for the name of the composer Kaija Saariaho, in that Mermelstein review at the Journal: wil listen to a CD after work.

Also, I had been under the impression (no laughing! at least not online) for whatever reason, ahem, that 'Claude Vivier' was one of those mostly unknown 17th or 18th c French composers &c., so there's that bit of ignorance vanquished. I like the idea of 'contemporary oratorios', but Kopernicus seems not to have been all that successful. Listened to his Trois airs pour un opera imaginaire, after the Zipangu you included. Hmm; I'd go to the concert performance but it's doubtful if I'd then go out and find the CD. One sees one reason that the Ojai people will have 'been open to' Vivier's presence amongst the women composers (he was, evidently, famously 'other' than the traditional patriarchal oppressive whatever and so on and so forth). We had Mark Adamo's Little Women at the Opera last month to conclude the season, and there is some beautiful singing: but it did occur to me (I haven't listened to any of his other work) to wonder briefly about how success sometimes partly depends on connexions and friendships, real or work, who knows whom, chance. It's hard to believe that there aren't wonderful artists out there about whom we'll never know anything because of their obscurity (of whatever sort) or lack of opportunities.

Bryan Townsend said...

Mistaking Claude Vivier for a Baroque composer is not such an odd thing to do. After all, we think we know all the important 20th century French composers and his name isn't on that list. The reason being that he is French Canadian. Canada, sad to say, has shockingly few good composers and almost none of them are known outside Canada. Vivier is one of the better ones.

Initial success depends on connections and social networking. Lasting, substantial success, I like to think, depends only on the quality of the work.