Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Here is a little clip that sums up my approach to psychological problems very neatly:

I think Aristotle recommended something similar.

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The Guardian has been running a series of articles on the great musical centers of Europe. The final one focuses on Berlin:
For a lover of classical music, Berlin is perhaps the most rewarding city in the world. @PositivistDinosaur certainly thinks so. “[It] not only supports its justly celebrated orchestra but three opera houses, all with ticket prices a fraction of those in London, and goodness knows how many other musical venues. This summer, Iréne Theorin was singing Brunnhilde there at the same time that Nina Stemme was singing Isolde 400 metres down the road. Is there any other city where that would have been possible?”
I really need to spend some time in Berlin! I've been there several times with my German in-laws, but, remarkably, never attended any concerts.

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Conlon Nancarrow's house in Mexico City is going to be sold. Alex Ross reports that the hope is that it might be turned into a museum or artist's residency. Mexico City has a wealth of museums including some, such as Frida Kahlo's, that used to be residences.

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I love odd little technical terms like "mondegreens." Mondegreens are popular phrases or song lyrics misheard as something else. When I was a kid I always thought that the last line of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was "and a part of a juniper tree." Sure, that's kind of odd, but the actual words are also pretty odd: "and a partridge in a pear tree." Here is a website that has collected a bunch of amusing mondegreens. I think my favorite is:
The girl with colitis goes by
Which is a mishearing of
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes
from "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

I think that song lyrics are often misheard for two main reasons: the singer is failing to articulate the consonants clearly and second, the pattern of metric stress puts an accent where it would not appear in ordinary speech.

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Ok, this is waaaayyy out there--even for me! This is a concert in Finland in which the Finnish performers are pretending to be Russians pretending to be Americans. It is rather like the Red Army Choir and Band decided to do a homage to the Turtles. Oh, but the backup band? Yep, that's a real Russian military band.

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Jazz critic and music historian Ted Gioia has posted his list of the 100 best albums of 2016. I suspect I know which way they will lean, but never mind. One thing that occurs to me is that there is always a hidden assumption behind these lists and that is that everyone is already perfectly familiar with everything that was released before 2016. Of course that is not true. If I were to post my favorite albums of the year, for example, most of them would be from before 2016--in some cases long before. Right now I am listening to a CD release of a Sviatoslav Richter concert at Carnegie Hall in 1960, an all-Prokofiev program. Back to Ted's list. Here are the first ten:

David Bowie  
Art Rock

Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane / Matthew Garrision  
In Movement  

Hannah Epperson  
Experimental Pop/Chamber Music Fusion

L.A. Salami  
Dancing With Bad Grammar: The Director's Cut  
Wild Genre-Crossing Singer-Songwriter

Young Magic
Still Life
Brooklyn Dream Pop Influenced by Indonesian Music

William Fitzsimmons  
Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Vol. 2  
The Mournful Folk Bard of Pittsburgh

Michael Messer's Mitra  
Call of the Blues  
Hindustani Clasical Music/Traditional Blues Fusion

Ilya Toshinsky  
Red Grass
Bluegrass Banjo Virtuoso from Russia

Nick Ellis  
Daylight Ghosts  
Folk Singer-Songwriter from Liverpool

Lucas Debargue  
Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt, Ravel  
Classical Piano Music

I love the contorted descriptions of the, what, genres? Just what the heck is "Brooklyn Dream Pop Influenced by Indonesian Music"? Is it anything like Queens Logic? I am reminded of when I lived in a small town in Canada and used to buy Downbeat Magazine because it was the only serious music magazine I knew of. I read about all this absolutely fascinating and inspired music. Then, later on, when I got a chance to listen to some of it, I was disappointed to find that it was all jazz. Listening to a few samples from the above list I find that it is the usual jazz and pop gussied up with fancy phony descriptions and astonishingly pretentious videos.

Probably the only one on that list that I might listen to is the last one and wouldn't it be better to stick to Sviatoslav Richter?

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Canadians are punishing drunk drivers with what might be cruel and unusual punishment: on their way to the hoosegow they are going to blast you with Nickelback:
When we catch you, and we will catch you," the department added, "on top of a hefty fine, a criminal charge and a years driving suspension we will also provide you with a bonus gift of playing the office's copy of Nickelback in the cruiser on the way to jail."
What's so bad about Nickelback you ask? Here, judge for yourself:

Well yeah, ok, I'll be really careful not to drink and drive next time I'm in Canada.

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Here is an unusual and interesting perspective on Bob Dylan and "folk music":
We have had first-rate poets: Robert Frost is our national poet, if we must choose. Dylan is a clever satirist, a maker of light verse, a jester who refuses to take us seriously. For that he deserves a modicum of credit (and for his refusal to acknowledge the insufferable stuffed shirts of the Swedish Academy, whom he takes seriously as little as he does his compatriots). To hell with the Swedes, who have always made the mistake of thinking they matter, for daring to instruct us regarding our own literary pantheon. The fact that anyone takes Dylan seriously as a poet is a gauge of our own cultural misery.
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 For our envoi today I doubt we could do better than Sviatoslav Richter playing Prokofiev. This is the Sonata No. 7.

With both this clip and the one of Grigory Sokolov playing the last movement, the Precipitato, there are comments on YouTube saying that it is too slow. One fellow even said that it sounded as if Sokolov was still working on it, didn't have it up to speed yet! Just because some pianists don't understand the difference between "precipitato" and "mindless chaotic mess" doesn't mean that Richter and Sokolov don't know what they are doing.


Anonymous said...

The Leningrad Cowboys weren't Finns pretending to be Americans, they were a comedy toupe of Finns pretending to be Russians from the Siberian tundra. Their 1989 film directed by Aki Kaurismäki (which Criterion has released on DVD) did, however, have them touring the United States and discovering blues and rockabilly from the source.

Bryan Townsend said...

So I was almost partly right?