Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

Everything is going smooth and soft in today's miscellanea, in tune with our first item "Soft, smooth and steady: How Xanax turned American music into pill-pop"
21st-century pill-pop has a sound, too. It’s a smoothness, a softness, a steadiness. An aversion to unanticipated left turns. It isn’t new, but it’s increasingly everywhere. You can hear it in the Weeknd’s demulcent falsetto, in Rihanna’s unruffled cool, in Drake’s creamier verses, even in Justin Bieber’s buffed edges. Out on the dance floor, it’s most evident in the cushiony pulse of tropical house, a softer style that Kygo and other big-time producers have used to mitigate the intensity at various EDM festivals in recent years.
"Demulcent?" Ah, tropical house:

Yes, I see what they mean. Unfortunately both tranquilizers and this music have a similar effect on me: they make me anxious and uneasy. What's wrong with me?!
the pill-pop aesthetic and the streaming experience go hand-in-hand. Crafting a hit single with sleek synthesizers, pillowy electronic drums and Auto-Tuned purrs might be enough to get you in the game, but it isn’t enough to win. Dominance belongs to those superstars willing to replicate their softness in abundance, and then roll it out on the streaming platforms — the way that Drake and the Weeknd have each done on their wildly successful, shamelessly overlong albums of late (“More Life” and “Starboy,” respectively). Instead of forging new sounds or fresh styles, these guys are defining the era by taking leisurely laps back and forth across their respective comfort zones.
I dunno, sounds a lot like the fifth circle of Dante's Inferno to me.

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I think we need to clear the palate with a Shostakovich string quartet. This is the String Quartet No. 9 from 1964 played by the Emerson String Quartet:

You're welcome.

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The Wall Street Journal has a book review about the fortunes of musicians and songwriters in a digital universe. "Whose Song Is It Anyway?"
Musicians have a long, if not always distinguished, history of political advocacy. Of late they’ve taken supposedly bold positions on climate change, gun control, Brexit and low voter turnout. One advocacy effort is notable for its obscurity, however: Last year, nearly 200 luminaries, from the young ( Taylor Swift ) to the old ( Paul McCartney ), urged Congress to modernize the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The 1998 law, they said, enriches YouTube and other corporate platforms while providing only meager benefits to artists and songwriters: “We ask you,” they declared, “to enact sensible reform that balances the interests of creators with the interests of the companies who exploit music for their financial enrichment.”
Mr. Taplin sees a “massive reallocation of revenue from creators of content to owners of platforms.” Facebook and Google, he says, seek to “extract as much personal data from as many people in the world at the lowest possible price and to resell that data to as many companies as possible at the highest possible price.” Platforms also show a “blatant disregard for the artist’s intellectual property.”

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Speaking of creativity, Jordan Peterson, the psychology professor who seems to have something to say about everything, talks about the risks and rewards of being creative in this clip. Some hard truths are stated:

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The New Yorker is nothing if not predictable. Their new slogan is "Fighting fake stories with real ones" so let's have a look at their latest music item: "What Du Yun's Pulitzer Prize Win Means for Women in Classical Music"
Conversations about gender and diversity in contemporary composition have intensified in recent months, prompted in part by the Metropolitan Opera’s staging, last fall, of Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin”—the first opera by a female composer to be produced by the company in more than a century. Last year was a notable year for women in classical music more broadly: Julia Wolfe won a MacArthur “genius” grant, Debora L. Spar became the first female president of Lincoln Center, and the conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla was appointed music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony. In December, the Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed declared 2016 to be classical music’s “year of the woman.” The hashtag #HearAllComposers, a social-media campaign advocating against gender, race, and socio-economic discrimination in contemporary music, has galvanized members of the classical-music community. Following the Pulitzer news this week, some wondered whether the all-female lineup might signal a permanent shift in the stodgily male profession.
Heavy sigh. Talk about stodgy, this meme is so threadbare that apparently it cannot even be sent out to be washed. If we are to express delight, and why should we not?--then let it be for the individuals, not the collective. Creativity is not a collective attribute and celebrating the creativity of women, or conductors from Quebec, or Finnish composers, or left-handed redheads as being about women or Quebec or Finland or lefthandedness or redheadedness is nothing more than a category error. Go ahead and read the rest of the article, noteworthy for its absolute uniformity of utter balderdash. Nothing is preventing women from working in classical music in any role whatsoever. I have had lots of women colleagues in every possible area in music in the whole time I have been in the profession: composers, conductors, performers, theorists, deans, administrators and so on. You Are Not Excluded!

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After that, a suitable envoi would seem to be a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun. This is "When a Tiger Meets a Rosa Rugosa" written for violinist Hilary Hahn and released on her album of contemporary encores. Very oddly, Blogger won't allow it to be embedded, so you have to click on the link:

We talked about this piece before in the multiple posts on the album.

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