On Inauguration Day, the percussionist and conductor Steven Schick was in San Francisco, leading a concert of challenging contemporary and late-twentieth-century pieces. In a program note, he spoke of a “resistance born of complexity”—of the dissent implicit in artistic work that cannot be assimilated into the pop-culture machine that Trump has mastered and disarmed.The reference is to Twitter, of course, but the truth is that it was Obama who turned the White House into a pop-culture machine with frequent performances by guests like Jay-Z and Beyoncé. We have no idea of Trump's musical tastes and frankly, they are pretty much irrelevant to the job he was elected to perform.
In the field of classical music, practitioners habitually respond to man-made disasters by quoting a statement that Leonard Bernstein made on November 25, 1963, three days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The previous day, Bernstein had led the New York Philharmonic in a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, the “Resurrection.” Afterward, Bernstein explained why he had offered, in place of a conventional requiem or memorial, Mahler’s “visionary concept of hope and triumph over worldly pain.” Bernstein’s words have been tweeted and Facebooked countless times since the advent of social media, and have made the rounds again since November 8th: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”The irony here is that Alex Ross is equating the election of Donald Trump as president to the assassination of JFK. An assassination is a violent act, an election is the very antithesis! What makes the irony especially keen is that the violence, and there has been a lot of it since the election, has all come from those whose candidate lost. Alex Ross lives in some sort of Bizarro world where everything is reversed. Has he really not noticed the actual violence--over 200 people arrested for felony rioting at the Inauguration?
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Lots of politics in music these days, including in this interview with John Adams: "Why John Adams Won't Write an Opera About President Trump."
The idea of a Trump opera doesn’t interest me in the least. First of all, because so much of what he does is theater to begin with. It’s a terrible form of exploitive theater, but there’s no point in trying to make theater about theater. Furthermore, you don’t want to spend time as an artist giving your very best to a person who is a sociopath. He’s not an interesting character, because he has no capacity for empathy. The only empathy that he can extend is to his family, who are just extensions of his own ego, and beyond that, he doesn’t care. Everyone else is someone to be manipulated and controlled.That would be news, of course, to all those people who voted for Trump because they were convinced that he did have empathy for their plight.
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John Williams, the film-music composer, had his 85th birthday two days ago. Here he is conducting the main theme from Star Wars:
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Why is it that the so-called pundits in the arts have been hectoring us with the same dreary message for decades? "Disruption and diversity are key to the future of classical music, says BBC Radio 3 controller: Classical music must address issues of diversity to remain relevant, says Davey." At what point can we stop paying attention to this stale nonsense? On the very same web site as the last item is another one that contradicts it: "Britain’s classical audience grows while orchestras lose money." In the disrupted, diverse future, that is to say "now", after decades of singing the same old song:
‘Many of the achievements [in bringing in larger audiences] have been fuelled by audience development initiatives such as discounted ticketing, free concerts and fixed fee performances at open air events,’ said ABO director Mark Pemberton. ‘These have left orchestras suffering a double whammy – a decline in earned income alongside significant cuts in public funding. The message is simple: Orchestras cannot continue doing "more for less".’"Issues of diversity" have absolutely nothing to do with the arts as aesthetic objects, they are mere ideological shibboleths that have the capacity to harm the practice of the arts.
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I have--not yet at least--really gotten into the spectralist composers. Here is an article, with a nice photo, about a new release of three works by these fellows.
|Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Tristan Murail and George Benjamin listening to a playback of their world premiere recording of Murail's piano concerto Le Désenchantement du monde|
Tristan Murail was together with Gérard Grisey a pioneer of the spectralist movement, and it was Grisey who reminded his peers that "We are musicians and our model is sound not literature, sound not mathematics, sound not theatre, visual arts, quantum physics, geology, astrology or acupuncture"Not to mention, politics!
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I was never a fan of the classical music site Sinfini, not least because of its tendency to dumb everything down. It is interesting to read music blogger On an Overgrown Path about why it failed:
It is now standard practice to apply consumer marketing techniques to classical music, and Sinfini was an example of the currently fashionable technique of native advertising - surreptitious mixing advertorial and advertising content. During my career I worked both in classical music and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) marketing, and the conclusion I reached was that classical music does not behave like a consumer product such as cornflakes. So my proposition today is not only that FMCG marketing techniques such as native advertising are an ineffective way of promoting classical music to new audiences, but that this type of marketing actually produces a negative reaction in the crucially important established audience. In applied psychology cognitive dissonance theory recognises that individuals seek consistency among their cognitions (opinions); which means when there is an inconsistency (dissonance) between cognitions, something must change to eliminate the dissonance. The remorseless hyping of classical music's next big thing inevitably creates dissonance when experience fails to match expectation. A good example is Valery Gergiev's tenure at the LSO, when to eliminate the dissonance between experience and expectation both the orchestra and the audience voted with their feet.Bach and Mozart are not able to be marketed like frozen fish sticks or denim jeans. And thank god for that!
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Our envoi for today is Le Lac by Tristan Murail for chamber ensemble: