Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

The Early Music Movement, or what we like to think of as "HIP" these days (Historically Informed Performance) has wended its way into live theatre. At the new Globe theatre in London, they are beginning to do Shakespeare in the original pronunciation. Here, let's let them tell us about it:


When they do the side by side readings, doesn't it sound just a wee bit like "Talk Like a Pirate Day"? In any case, what I wonder is, with the entire absence of recording technology in Shakespeare's day, how can we have such detailed knowledge of how they pronounced stuff? They give a nice accounting of the three kinds of evidence. The best part is that there are all sorts of puns and rhymes that are recovered in the original pronunciation.

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Hunter S. Thompson's favorite LPs of the sixties? Sure, why not:
  1. Herbie Mann’s 1969 Memphis Underground (“which may be the best album ever cut by anybody”)
  2. Bob Dylan’s 1965 Bringing It All Back Home
  3. Dylan’s 1965 Highway 61 Revisited
  4. The Grateful Dead’s 1970 Workingman’s Dead (“the heaviest thing since Highway 61 and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man'”)
  5. The Rolling Stones’ 1969 Let it Bleed
  6. Buffalo Springfield’s 1967 Buffalo Springfield
  7. Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 Surrealistic Pillow
  8. Roland Kirk’s “various albums”
  9. Miles Davis’s 1959 Sketches of Spain
  10. Sandy Bull’s 1965 Inventions

I think I can agree on one or two of those...

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Now I have to buy Sgt. Pepper's again... On May 26, a 50th anniversary edition of the iconic Beatles album is going to be released with all sorts of goodies. Allan Kozinn reviews at the Wall Street Journal:
they are celebrating its half century by releasing a new stereo mix in multiple formats: as a single CD; as part of a “Deluxe Edition” double CD or LP, with the second disc devoted to an alternative “Sgt. Pepper” built of previously unissued outtakes; and in a six-disc “Super Deluxe Edition” that also includes DVD and Blu-ray discs with a documentary and an immersive 5.1 surround-sound mix, two CDs of outtakes and a third devoted to the original mono mix, and a hardback book packed with recording details and essays about the music, its cultural context, and reception. The reissues are being released by Apple/UMG on May 26.
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Tomorrow I pop over to Valencia, in a 300kph train, to see a performance of Massenet's Werther in the amazing Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (there she is again!) to be followed the next night by a concert by the Saint Petersburg Symphony in the symphony hall in the same complex:


Werther is loosely based on the book by Goethe that I think I may have read decades ago. It is a story of impossible love and the suicide of a young poet. The original novel spurred a rash of suicides sometimes called the "Werther effect." I don't think I have heard a French opera live before--remember I am mostly new to the genre--so I'm looking forward to it.

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The abuse of cellphones in concert halls continues, to no-one's surprise: Baritone orders three phone users to leave Concertbegouw recital:
I attended a recital tonight (at the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw) with baritone Christopher Maltman and accompanist Julius Drake singing Eisler’s Hollywood Songbook. It was a very fine concert – but Mr. Maltman stopped mid-concert in the second half to address three young ladies in the back of the hall.
‘You are directly in my sightline, and it’s clear that you do not want to be here. I can see you chatting and using your phone. If you do not want to be here, leave.’ The audience applauded warmly.
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This is a odd story: things have gotten so bad between the musicians and the management at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, that the music director was kicked out of the building for carrying his daughter's violin case:
Since the Fort Worth Symphony went on strike last year, relations between musicians and the Bass Performance Hall have iced over. A colleague writes: ‘Musicians aren’t allowed to take their cases into the hall. Any of them…even FWSO whose home this is supposedly is. On top of that, the FWSO musicians aren’t allowed to use their own locks on the lockers any more. They have to get one from BPH, which many won’t do because you can’t trust a super-expensive instrument not to be stolen when someone else gave you the lock. So now when many musicians would previously go into the lobby to talk to the audience post-show, they’re just leaving instead. Loss of good will. Loss of connection.
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Alex Ross has dug up a fascinating passage from 1936 Nazi arts policy:
“Because this year has not brought an improvement in art criticism, I forbid once and for all the continuance of art criticism in its past form, effective as of today. From now on, the reporting of art will take the place of an art criticism which has set itself up as a judge of art – a complete perversion of the concept of 'criticism' which dates from the time of the Jewish domination of art. The critic is to be superseded by the art editor. The reporting of art should not be concerned with values, but should confine itself to description. Such reporting should give the public a chance to make its own judgments, should stimulate it to form an opinion about artistic achievements through its own attitudes and feelings.”
So there you go, more encouragement for my project to return values-based criticism to the art world.

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Also from Mr. Ross is his review of the new palace-like concert hall in Hamburg:
The conventional wisdom in America is that concert halls have too often seemed like fortresses, and must become more down to earth. Such is not the philosophy guiding the Elbphilharmonie, which was designed by the Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron. It towers three hundred and thirty-five feet above the ground, the concert-hall portion of the complex resting atop a massive brick warehouse that formerly was used to store cacao beans. The glass-covered upper structure lunges vertically from the foundation in a way that somehow reminds me of Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig II’s hilltop castle in Bavaria. Yet there are no gemütlich touches. The glass exterior is cool, undulating, shimmering; the brick walls below have an industrial, almost military look. Far from welcoming you in, the Elbphilharmonie glowers imperiously, as if prepared to repel a sneak attack on the Hanseatic League.
It cost 866 million euros! But every single concert since it opened in January has been sold out.

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This explains so many things! Pop music is now written by committees:
A new study by Music Week magazine shows it now takes an average of 4.53 writers to create a hit single.
The publication analysed the 100 biggest singles of 2016, and found that only four were credited to a single artist - Mike Posner's I Took A Pill In Ibiza, Calvin Harris's My Way; and twohits by rock band Twenty One Pilots.
Ten years ago, the average number of writers on a hit single was 3.52, and 14 of the year's top 100 songs were credited to one person 
The best-selling song of 2016, Drake's One Dance, needed eight writers - but even that pales into insignificance compared to Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk, which took 13 people to create, leading Paul Gambaccini to brand it "the most written song in history".
Heh!

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Let's have something from Massenet's opera Werther for our envoi today--written entirely by M. Massenet himself. This is Werther's aria "Elle m'aime" sung by Ludovic Tézier:


7 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

Accompanying Philip Kennicott's Elbphilharmonie article in the Washington Post the 15th is an 'augmented reality' app designed, in this case, to help you to experience the acoustic (just visually perhaps, mind you: "we'll project the E.'s unique acoustic panels on your own ceiling")-- unfortunately I can't be more precise because the Post's app lives only in the Appleverse.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks for the tip! That's an excellent article on the hall with good photos. Suddenly there is a reason to visit Hamburg!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/augmented-reality/what-perfect-sound-looks-like/?utm_term=.bd936149b15b

Marc Puckett said...

The title catching my eye, I listened to Mike Posner's I took a pill in Ibiza, which turns out to be a quasi-lament apparently inspired by commercial-pop country hits written to be remixed for the clubs; and then to Calvin Harris's My Way, which very little impressed me-- the 26th repetition of the phrase 'my way' having something to do with that, perhaps. I had thought he was an American rapper, however, & so am now disabused of that misapprehension.

Enjoy Werther!

Bryan Townsend said...

Gosh, there is just so much uninspired pop music out there! And isn't using the title "My Way" a cultural appropriation from Frank Sinatra?

Will Wilkin said...


Regarding the expense of the new German symphony hall, its probably only a sliver of the proportion of local wealth that was invested in the medieval cathedrals. If we appreciate the legacy being given to future generations that will inherit great architecture, no doubt it is wealth well-spent. And quite possibly the details of design and construction involves as many persons as several decades of pop music "composition" in the entire English-speaking world.

Marc Puckett said...

Have just gotten done exploring at the Elbphilharmonie site itself and have a better understanding of the place. Gosh, there's a Westin in it, and residence apartments, and restaurants, and more than half a dozen smaller performance spaces: I wouldn't mind living there, klar. At the real estate agency's site, there's a minute-long video that's gives a few lovely perspectives looking outward from the building; none of the links to the videos for the apartments work so perhaps they've already all been sold. (In the real world, just bought season tickets for the Eugene Symphony-- Renée Fleming, Rachel Barton Pine, and Zuill Bailey being the most well-known artists performing-- and now must subsist on rice and beans until September. :-) A couple of premieres; we shall see.)

Bryan Townsend said...

@Will: Good analogy: these modern palaces to the arts, the Guggenheim in Balboa, the Elbphilharmonie, the Palau de Reina Sofía and others, are like secular cathedrals where worship of the arts replaces worship of God. Of course, what one would like, ideally, is for the sentiment I mentioned the other day to be true: no aesthetics without ethics.

@Marc: Oh yes, wouldn't it be nice to have an apartment in that building. Just a pied-à-terre where one could pop over for the occasional concert. Mind you, the budget would have to include first class airfare...