Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Frank Zappa has always seemed to me to be one of the most interesting rock musicians and this article in the Wall Street Journal reviewing a new documentary about him just substantiates that: ‘Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words’ Review: An Entertainer’s Story. Here is an interesting bit:
Back in 1988, a magazine asked me to interview Zappa on the occasion of his campaigning for voter registration—not of leftie voters or libertarians, but voters of every stripe and flavor. (Zappa considered himself a conservative.) I showed up at his house in the Hollywood Hills at 10 p.m., as instructed by his publicist, and descended with him to his basement studio, where I made it clear that I wasn’t a music critic and claimed no special knowledge of his work. He made it equally clear that he thought the magazine had sent the wrong man. We talked awkwardly—almost painfully on my part—until I happened to mention my childhood delight in the music, if you could call it that, of the absurdist band leader and 1940s iconoclast Spike Jones. Suddenly Zappa’s face lighted up, I was his friend and the interview went brilliantly until just before dawn, when he said he was tired and thought he should take a nap.
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This is an interesting discussion between Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers about the problem of mediating the encounter with great works of art by inserting a political ideology. This is pretty much the view I have presented here in various places, but it is refreshing to hear their thoughts on it.


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Maybe she is just really cranky because of that strict diet she is on to keep the pounds off? Adele swore 33 times during 90 minute Glastonbury headline set after admitting BBC WARNED her about potty mouth

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From the Annals of Depraved Marketing, this new release of some Nathan Milstein concerto recordings:


What sound in particular does this photo suggest? Hint: it is nothing remotely Brahmsian.

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This is a kind of percussion virtuosity you don't see every day:


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Noisy neighbors are always a problem but this one sounds like she is exceptional. They had to confiscate everything she had that could make a sound: Noisy neighbour in Folkestone has stereo taken off her by council

No word yet on whether she has started taking voice lessons.

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The Game of Thrones seems to be the most important drama on TV these days. Even the Wall Street Journal breathlessly summarizes each new episode. Early on I was quite impressed with it as the narrative breadth and really extraordinary production values, not to mention the fine acting, won me over. Those scenes in the wintry North? Wonder why they look so real? Virtually every scene in every movie and television show with snow and ice is utterly unconvincing (to me at least, who grew up in the North) because it is not real snow and ice. It is always flakes of paper or plastic and painted ice. But everything in the Game of Thrones is strikingly real looking (well, except maybe for the dragons--you really think those beasts can actually fly?). The scenes in the snow and ice were shot in Iceland for verisimilitude and damn, it works. But I started to lose interest after horrific scenes like the Red Wedding. I noticed that every character I liked was getting killed off (except for Tyrion) and I started to think the show was simply morally bankrupt: maximum shock value with no moral structure. But I was just looking at a few scenes on YouTube and I found one that almost restores my faith. Samwell is given free range of the Library and when he comes to the central part and sees the great stacks of books with a look of wonder, it reminds me of the first time I saw a big library. It was six floors of books, a million volumes and I looked about with wonder. If you don't have any reverence for the accumulated wisdom of the past, there is little hope for you (which is why today's universities are often worse than no education at all). But if you do...

Blogger won't embed, but here is the link:


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That last item brings to mind this one in the Wall Street Journal about the epic battle going on between the music industry and YouTube: Industry Out of Harmony With YouTube on Tracking of Copyrighted Music.
The music industry is locked in an epic battle with YouTube, the most popular on-demand service, over the declining royalty rates the site pays and the difficulty in detecting copyrighted material from the mass of videos uploaded on the site.
It is doubtful that anyone would call the rates YouTube pays as being exorbitant or even adequate:
But YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc., with its more than 1 billion users, packs clout and reach that the industry can’t ignore. YouTube says it has paid about $3 billion to music companies since it launched a decade ago, and today half of its payout comes from user-generated content identified by its system called Content ID.
Although the Alphabet unit pays out more overall each year, it now pays an average of eight one-hundredths of a penny ($0.0008) per play, and less than six one-hundredths ($0.0006) of a penny for user-generated content, down roughly 20% from a year ago, people familiar with the matter said.
Woo-hoo!

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There is a new chamber orchestra in Canada. The Allegra Chamber Orchestra, based in Vancouver, has all women musicians, a woman conductor, and dedicates itself to performing works by women composers. No word on whether any specific percentages of Asian and First Nations players will be included. As an organization basically devoted to employing a certain category of musician, it sounds like a great idea. Of course, when it comes to attracting audiences they will have to compete just like anyone else. That might be just a tad difficult if they avoid male composers. I'm just sayin'.

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This past week was the fiftieth anniversary of two pretty important albums of the 60s. One was Freak Out! by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. A week before was the release of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. I think that I used to own both of them on vinyl.

That gives us our double-barrelled (in honor of the fact that both of those were double albums) envoi for today. First, from Blonde on Blonde we have "Just Like a Woman", one of his finest songs:


Side four of Freak Out! is Frank Zappa's answer to Stravinsky and Debussy. The piece is called "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet (Unfinished Ballet in Two Tableaux)" and the first part is titled "Ritual Dance of the Child-Killer." Recall that Frank Zappa wrote another piece titled "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask" and you can see the depth of their influence (on the titles at least).


Our next post will return to our regularly scheduled program of classical classics.

8 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

Don't 'get' Glastonbury which is perhaps to be expected since I've never been a fan of camping, not bathing, and ubiquitous drugs; there is lots of fine music, I gather, and a bit of wit, spread around between Left Field and Hell Stage-- Billy Bragg, Sigur Ros, Bastille... I suppose it's as if Woodstock continued to happen year after year. Adele herself isn't really fond of rolling about in mud, either, I think, and so conclude it's mostly marketing, marketing, marketing, for her. But am cynical.

Have been learning all sorts of odd things trying to understand what I can of the score for tonight's OBF MacMillan premiere-- 'Bartok pizz', for one. The lecture he gave Thursday afternoon is going to be published in Standpoint, in August, I think. I wish you had been there to hear him respond to a woman who asked how she might learn to understand his 'atonal music' because (now) she just 'doesn't get it'; she seemed to think he and Schönberg were one. He produced a brief history of Western music from Stravinsky and Berg forward that was (pointing out indirectly that he doesn't actually do 'atonal') quite clever and succinct (noting, among the several other composers, Steve Reich), five or six minutes. Was also asked how he squares his present existence with his early one as a Marxist, more or less telling the fellow that people change, mature, 'grow up'--, which earned a round of applause.

Bryan Townsend said...

I attended one outdoor rock festival way back in the day and that was enough.

It is always interesting to hear how composers answer questions like that because it can be quite revealing. I don't think many people write genuinely atonal music these days--a few perhaps.

I think I was briefly a Marxist, or socialist at least, for a brief time back in the 70s. Then I read Karl Popper, Alexandre Solzhenitsyn and a few others and realized I didn't want to support the international march of socialism after all!

Marc Puckett said...

Ha; I was a Marxist in 7th or 8th grade-- in those days Moscow sent out Pravda to whoever asked for it, I suppose (no, no, one subscribed via some bookstore in DC)-- I had, then and now, perhaps a dozen words of Russian-- so day after day (haven't thought of this for years) it would show up in the mailbox, usually three or four issues at a time; my poor parents endured a great deal of suffering on my account. I believe my friend N. and I wavered between being obedient servants of the Party line and a more anarchic approach that may possibly have evolved to include an experiment or two to see if the mixture of bleach and ammonia really might serve as a weapon in the armory of the proletariat. That proved to be a step too far, however, and she betrayed me to the imperialist dogs. Oh, the 70s! :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, all that plus bad fashion!

Marc Puckett said...

Did you see Michael Cooper's article in the NYT today? I guess we are meant to consider shortening works by means fair or foul to appeal to those without sufficient ability or training to concentrate for more than four minutes? think of all those arias in Handel! (I do agree, however, that not every academic emendation ever made has to be performed semper et ubique &c.) [http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/arts/music/could-you-shorten-that-aria-opera-weighs-cuts-in-the-classics.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0]

Bryan Townsend said...

I go to so few operas that I don't really have an opinon on this. I do know that going overtime with the musician's union has severe budget consequences, though, which explains some cuts.

Marc Puckett said...

We get a 'reduced' version of... Carmen, I believe, next season (Peter Brooks? haven't investigated so don't know anything beyond the name); just you wait, though, they'll be trying out reduced versions of Mahler and Sorabji before too much longer-- how they'd do it, no idea. :-) Probably a movement of this, an ample interval with bars open, and then a movement of that, call it a night.

Bryan Townsend said...

I look at this issue more from the performer's standpoint. For a variety of practical reasons musicians have always been trimming pieces of music in various ways. Sometimes you do the opposite: bulk up a piece of music by adding more repetitions. The reason for that might be because it needs to fill in a certain amount of space in a ceremonial context. But cutting repeats or even whole sections from operas and other pieces long and short is an age-old practice.