Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

It's going to be a grab-bag today. Wait, that's what the Friday Miscellanea always is. Ok, then. First up, courtesy of Slipped Disc, is this little video from cellist Inbal Segev about how she uses technology. It's not on YouTube so you have to click the link.

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Music teachers believe a lot myths about neurological research into music, this article in the Pacific Standard tells us:
Asked to evaluate seven "neuromyths" regarding music, a sample of German music teachers incorrectly labeled them as scientifically proven 40 percent of the time. Disappointingly, a group of young people studying to become music teachers did no better.
"There is a gap between the state of research in neuroscience related to music education, and the knowledge of current and future music teachers about these findings," writes a research team from the Hanover University of Music led by Reinhard Kopiez. It reports instructors are particularly prone to accepting false assertions when they are accompanied by certain brain-related buzzwords.
This really shouldn't be surprising as the media are constantly pumping out articles on questionable scientific research. But one thing to realize is that none of this has anything to do with their actual jobs: to teach music! Yes, the sheer irrelevance of this kind of research to practical music-making is almost as salient as its vacuity as science.

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It is absolutely astonishing how this long essay on John Lennon's song "A Day in the Life" (with help from Paul) has almost nothing whatsoever to say about the song itself, except for the lyrics. At the end of the article, you are rather more ignorant than you were at the beginning. But you feel you understand something. We live in truly diminished times as far as public discussion and understanding--of almost anything!--goes. An example:
The song has so much happening that when I casually listen I feel the accumulated effect, but attempting to really figure out what’s going on, I fear may take the fun out of it. Liking songs is risky. They are aural fireflies, and you can get too close and lose them. If “A Day in the Life” is about anything, it speaks to the way the daily unfolding of worldly events touches the private fragilities of ordinary people. It’s Ulysses in a pop song, the typical day made unforgettable.
But here goes. What exactly is happening? In the best rock songs, you can almost see it. When Paul tells me that a girl was just 17 and I know what he means, in fact I don’t know what he means, which is the point. “A Day in the Life” is filled with a collage of images in enticing half focus. Lennon, the crowd, you, and I are all voyeurs, transfixed by something horrible, the newsworthy death. Everybody recognizes the victim but nobody knows exactly who he is.
Yes, and we really have almost no idea of what you are talking about. This is the kind of musical listening that depends on the near-total vacuity of the listener. No, liking songs in this way is really not risky and you are in no danger whatsoever of taking the fun out of it.

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Music blogger Slugging a Vampire weighs in on the music-by-committee writing of pop songs and makes some interesting points:
I think it’s very obvious that this trend is ruinous. Their music globalises and helps eviscerate local cultures. The ‘elites’ in society, for want of a better word, all swear allegiance to it where once they would have been the patrons of high culture. Politicians become too scared to be seen at the opera. Society becomes more musically illiterate as people’s musical imagination is severely restricted by the homogeneity of omnipresent pop music, and people struggle to find ‘relevance’ in serious music. Music literacy will then genuinely become the preserve of the privileged. People lose a source of profound beauty and, in the case of pop music especially, of social and communal bonds, and are given a miserable opioid substitute.
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Jessica Duchen, another music blogger, recommends an upcoming concert by the Curtis Institute orchestra and has an alumnus explain what is so great about Curtis:
"But what is this Curtis Institute?" I hear you cry. Well, it's probably the greatest music college on the planet. The place that probably trains more of the solo pianists, violinists, orchestral concert masters, principal clarinettists, Met Opera singers, composers, and conductors than any other institution in the world. From my time studying there alone, Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, and Jonathan Biss are at the forefront of pianists; the concert masters of Vienna Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony, Met Opera Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony and soloists with every reputed orchestra. Juan Diego Florez is the most famous of the swaths of singers who have trained there; Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Lukas Foss, Jennifer Higdon some of the most adorned composers etc.
A bassoonist friend of mine attended Curtis and yes, it is a remarkable place. Everyone is on full scholarship. She had to learn a new Vivaldi concerto every week.

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The Guardian has a review of a DVD release of the Kirov Opera (now Mariinsky Theatre) production of The Golden Cockerel conducted by Valery Gergiev:
Valery Gergiev’s Philips recordings of Rimsky-Korsakov’s stage works, with the singers and orchestra of the Kirov Opera (as the Mariinsky in St Petersburg was still called then), remains one of the landmark operatic achievements of the 1990s. Gergiev had recorded only five of Rimsky’s 16 operas when the series was halted; the most significant of the works he did not get around to were The Snow Maiden, May Night and the last and perhaps most forward-looking opera of all, The Golden Cockerel. But three years ago he conducted a new staging of the latter at the Mariinsky, directed by Anna Matison, and to some extent this DVD of that production fills the gap.
Not entirely, though. Today’s Gergiev is not the same hugely inspirational figure he was in the 1990s, when his performances of the Russian repertory in general and Rimsky in particular were so compelling. This version of The Golden Cockerel is never less than well played, and it’s occasionally very beautiful, but there’s none of the sense of crusading zeal and energy that coursed through Gergiev’s accounts of operas such as Sadko and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh two decades earlier.
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 Let's listen to Maestro Gergiev conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival in 2005 in a performance of Scheherezade by Rimsky-Korsakov:

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