Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Our kickoff this week is "Enter Sandman" the tune from Metallica's Black Album, performed on toy instruments by Metallica, Jimmy Fallon and his band The Roots:

It's ok to find that deeply disturbing. Stay tuned, we will have a better version a bit later.

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This is a quite interesting little video by Adam Neely on how classical and non-classical musicians feel rhythm differently:

Mind you, I think that his picking on a single moment by that string bass player might have been a little unfair. We classical musicians can do three against two pretty reliably. In fact, we can even do five against four, though I confess that five against three is pretty tough.

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 Even for musicians, Thanksgiving Dinner is a conversational minefield just waiting for you to take the wrong step. You’ll be passing the yams when you’ll hear yourself say, “Guatemalan Balsa? Now there’s a tonewood. I could wear mittens and make that guitar sound good,” – Boom. Triggered.
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Now here is an interesting example of criticism: David Goldman offers a critique of the use of rhythm in rap by going back to St. Augustine's treatise De Musica and working his way up via Keats and Coleridge:
The kerfuffle over Vice President-elect Mike Pence's run-in with the cast and audience of "Hamilton" provokes me to raise another issue: I won't go to see "Hamilton." I don't like rap in any form, even in the sterile, commercialized version in the popular musical. Poetry elicits powers of mind more intense and elevated than quotidian thought, and it does so by forcing us to think of poetic rhythm at a higher level. By contrast, rap imposes an unchanging sing-song rhythm that does nothing to provoke us to think in this way.
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How about Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini playing "Michelle" by Paul McCartney?

Or is this a clever hoax?

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Let's have a Fine Art Moment. This is "The Bagpipe Lesson" by Henry Ossawa Tanner:

Click to enlarge
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In the annals of stuff we already knew is this Chinese study: New research finds we respond intellectually to classical music and physically to pop music:
‘The sub-cortical reward region was more sensitive to popular, while the cortical region was more sensitive to artistic music,’ reported the study. In addition it was found that ‘cognitive empathy regions’ of the brain responded more favourably to classical, implying a richer and more complicated level of engagement.
‘This study gives clear neuronal evidence supporting the view that artistic music is of intelligence, while popular is of physiology,’ concluded the researchers.
In related news, Beethoven late string quartets are newly discovered to be more aesthetically profound than Beyoncé and pasta should be cooked al dente.

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Developing a theme today, here is Korean gayageum virtuoso Luna with her arrangement of Metallica's "Enter Sandman":

Soembody buy that girl a wah-wah pedal! Isn't this a blatant case of cultural appropriation, though?

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Ok, too much Metallica today! So for our envoi, let's have a Metallica antidote. How about some Emil Gilels? This is the Fantasia in D minor, K 397 by Mozart:


Anonymous said...

Very nice video on rhythm. My favorite line: "Check out Ravel's First String Quartet... Actually he wrote only one."

"Michelle" is fun but it'd be more convincing if the piano fingering matched the sound...

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh, yes.

If you look closely, the Michelle video is an obvious hoax. Somebody put some time into that.

Jives said...

Neely video ... that's a lot of hot's more

First of all, orchestral music HAS a groove, and you'd better lock into it, or you won't be with the rest of your section, or the conductor, who will give you the stinkeye. Staccato strings, strings playing pizz or sforzandi, percussion, brass are all exceptions to his 'attack transience' idea. Try playing a ripping fast Mozart overture without phase-locking.

I think maybe what he's getting at is the difference between playing behind the beat and playing on top of the beat. Orchestras tend to play a little behind. Rock and funk are right in the pocket. To keep a Strauss waltz on the rails, the afterbeats actually have to be played AHEAD of the beat. It's called a Viennese something-or-other. Strange that all of this comes from a jazz musician, who should be familiar with wild extremes of rubato. The Bernstein clip was amazing, like telepathy between him and that trumpet. All Adam sees is people "not playing in sync," which betrays his lack of understanding about what a conductor does. He's not just a metronome.

These differences in rhythmic deployment are idiomatic and can be learned with some time and exposure. I feel compelled to point out that the classically educated musician has at hand all the tools required to learn about other styles, should she be so inclined. Could the same be said about a rock or jazz musician trying to learn Mozart? I don't think so, not without a lot of additional training and experience.

Anyhoo, I'm guessing that his string quartet was a young group not too conversant with other styles, who need some time and exposure to get in the groove. Who knows why they can't execute a sixteenth rest followed by a dotted eighth, but I bet it has something to do with the context. All this palaver about phase-locking just strikes me as absurd. And yes, unfair.

Notable too, his clear (although very apologetic) disdain for the rhythmic abilities of classically trained musicians, his clear (although very apologetic) relish in taking them down a peg.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks Jives, for a nice critique of that video. I have noticed that orchestras play slightly behind the beat. When I have played guitar or mandolin in a pit orchestra, it always takes me a rehearsal or two before I am really in synch with the orchestra. That doesn't happen when I am playing a concerto, of course, because they are following me! I am somewhat familiar with Viennese waltz style, but isn't it just the third beat that is just a tad late?

My experience jibes with yours: classical musicians generally are very adaptive to different rhythmic styles. If you can play Elliot Carter, Joseph Haydn and Bela Bartók, then you can play pretty much anything. Jazz musicians, on the other hand, are very immersed in their styles and I suspect that a lot of classical rhythmic notation would confound them.

Jives said...

Viennese afterbeat is an anticipation of the second beat. Good for draggy sections with a long heavy melody to support.