Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

Looking over my miscellanea today, I decided it needed something whimsical, so I am adding this at the top:



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The perennial category of "how can we make classical concerts more appealing to people who might not like classical music?" is fulfilled this week by this piece in the Guardian: Beer, Bach, tweets and Taverner: mixing up the classical concert
Creating a bite-size concert format like this won’t get people immediately comfortable with listening to 70-minute stretches of Mahler or Bruckner symphonies. Classical Mixtape isn’t addressing that “problem”. But if you’re training for a marathon, you can’t go from nought to 26 miles in one go – you have to build up your stamina. Classical music’s extended timespans and architectures are one of its most wonderful attributes, but not to someone whose listening habits are solely the short haul of most other music genres. If something like Classical Mixtape gives them confidence and curiosity to take that musical discovery further, then it will have done the second part of its job. And the first part? Simply to give people an entertaining, memorable experience – one that invigorates, consoles or touches to the core. As a programmer or performer, you should never lose sight of that aspiration.
There is really nothing wrong with this approach. I'm all in favor of anything that helps people connect with good music (even though sometimes I complain about just how they go about it!). But it would be amusing to turn this around: the next time there is a pop music performance can we ask, why don't they do something to appeal to those people who really don't care that much for pop music? You know, pick better songs, have more comfortable seats, less distracting light shows and costumes, maybe more engaging lyrics, you know, a little less of all those annoying things that pop music does. What, you say that that would change the essence of the experience? Oh dear, how unfortunate!

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Here is a fascinating, if a bit lengthy, article on music and architecture from FutureSymphony:
Their common wordless expressiveness is perhaps what most links music and architecture in my own experience. Why can I be reduced to tears on hearing Bach’s “O Mensch, bewein die Sünde Gross” or upon stepping into Michelangelo’s vestibule to the library of San Lorenzo? Paradoxically, the first is music in a major key (which we tend to associate with “happy” content in contrast to the “sad” minor keys), and the second is simply an arrangement of columns and niches around an oddly configured stairway, seemingly without explicit emotional associations. And yet, the response in both cases was immediate and profound. The emotional effects of music and architecture are simply ineffable, but it is also now clear that the modernist abandonment of traditional tonality and perspective rendered both arts capable of communicating only anxiety and disorientation. Only in a system in which consonance and dissonance can be distinguished, and in which consonance is the norm, can we find and express a fuller range of human emotion.
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The app has already raised eyebrows in the classical community, after BBC Music magazine featured it in a review.
“I was surprised to see you endorse Octava, an app which sends texts to your phone during a performance with information about the music,” one concerned reader wrote in this month’s edition. “
What happened to the rather quaint idea of reading programme notes before a performance, then simply enjoying the music and not disturbing those around you?”
The editor replied: “We have to agree - programme notes are indeed far superior, and don’t shine brightly in the gloom.
“But we live in an ever-changing world, and music needs to try and attract new audiences.”
Even at the cost of alienating the current audiences and ruining the concert experience?  One or two illuminated smartphones in a darkened hall are extremely distracting--imagine if half the audience were using them!

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Here is a review of Peter Williams' new book on Bach: 
Bach: A Musical Biography is Peter Williams’s third work about the life of Bach. It is his longest and his last: He died just months before its publication. Like the earlier two biographies, this one is organized around the composer’s obituary, written together by son Carl Philipp Emanuel and former student Johann Friedrich Agricola. Williams’s working plan throughout entails quoting excerpts from the obituary, then fleshing them out in considerable detail.
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We seem to be having a Bach-centric miscellanea today, so let's end with a Bach envoi. This is "O Mensch, bewein die Sünde Gross" from the Matthew Passion. This is the Collegium Vocale Gent conducted by Philipp Herreweghe:


11 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

The Oregon Bach Festival began last night and tonight with the St Matthew Passion. The music director, Matthew Halls, was absent from the podium last night and will be tonight, too, because his wife has just had a baby-- the OBF's director of its Vocal Fellows Program et cetera is doing the conducting in his stead; Scott Jarrett. The conspiracy-minded will recall the Oregon ArtsWatch essayist's criticism and wonder... (totally joking).

Christine Lacroix said...

Well here's a way to make classical concerts more fun. Let stray dogs wander onto the stage. Vienna Chamber Orchestra in Turkey was interrupted by this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stray-dog-earns-symphony-of-laughs-for-interrupting-orchestra_us_59553055e4b0da2c7321e528

Marc Puckett said...

Ha, that is amusing, Christine, at this distance, certainly; I suspect that were I in the audience I would have smiled, sure, but silently wondered why on earth the applause was happening.

Marc Puckett said...

It occurs to me that the 'taking days off on the opening days of a festival because one's wife has given birth' is probably something that conductors wouldn't have felt themselves permitted to do e.g. fifty years ago? perhaps I'm mistaken of course-- this is the first such 'days off' on account of childbirth I've heard of. Even looked at Slipped D., since this is the sort of inside baseball nonsense NL sometimes enjoys posting about, but maybe I'm not very good at using search engines.

Steven said...

That dog is much better behaved than a lot of audience members! (Resisting the temptation to make a Bach, or even Offenbach, joke...)

Bryan Townsend said...

Glad to see the comment section come alive! I attended a concert once using a unique gimmick. I don't remember the name of the fellow, but he had written a concerto for dogs with orchestra. The idea was, he would come to town a week or so ahead of the concert and meet with people who volunteered their dogs for the concert. He would work with the dogs for a few days and pick out those ones that would vocalize reliably on command. Then at the concert the dogs would bark, howl and moan with orchestral accompaniment. It was actually quite entertaining and very flattering to the dog owners, many of whom I suspected of being symphony board members.

As for the Turkish audience, they loved the dog's performance more than the orchestra's! Reminds me of the old theatre maxim, never appear on stage with a child or a dog as they will always upstage you!

Yes, that missing two concerts because your wife had a baby seems rather odd. But we don't know the details. Perhaps it was a fraught delivery and his wife was in critical condition. Perhaps Scott Jarrett, the replacement, was an equally expert conductor. But no, I have not heard of this before.

Marc Puckett said...

Ha, had thought to forestall the 'perhaps a fraught delivery' observation with the information that Master Halls is 'healthy' but then decided, eh, I prose on long enough. It only now occurs to me that the language used leaves open the possibility that perhaps the mother (Canadian singer Erin Cooper Gay) isn't quite as healthy as the child. Which made me wonder, and so I clicked through to the full press release, ahem. Mother and baby are in Toronto. "Halls is expected to return to Eugene mid-Festival to resume duties as Maestro on his remaining scheduled concerts." Who knows. Halls would've left Eugene at 0700 (one knows the earliest flight times from Eugene's not-large airport, ha) on the 28th. I find it rather odd, but we are presumably at the place in the march of Progress where both parents are entitled to parenting leave; personally, won't argue with that. Halls's next scheduled appearance is on the 5th.

Turns out that Mr Jarrett, the substitute, has not insignificant links with Maestro Rilling (and is quite well known in the vocal music world, evidently, Handel and Haydn Society in Boston etc).... Do I see a coup unfolding? (joking, joking).

I will add that the OBF director of marketing and communications needs to proof read his press releases.

Marc Puckett said...

Happy Canada Day!

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Marc! And I'm off to a BBQ this afternoon to which I am going to bring that traditional Canadian side dish: penne rigati with eggplant.

Marc Puckett said...

Curious, I installed the Octava 'EnCue' app on my mobile. Searching for performances, there were none at the BSO (not sure which BSO), at Houston, DC, Los Angeles, Baltimore... but the National Orchestral Institute's annual festival [that looks to be for high school age musicians? didn't investigate] is ending today in College Park (University of Maryland) with a concert at 8 pm including Elgar' Cello Concerto. We'll see if I can think about this at 5 pm. I'm wondering if the slides advance with the progress of the music? or does one do that oneself? hmm. Also wonder if they have a caged area set aside for the EnCue users, like the RPO does, or not.

There is a screen that appears as one opens the app: "We recommend that you turn your device notifications off while enjoying the performance." Sure, sure. Apparently you can also share the slides et cetera on Facebook while you are... enjoying the performance.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think that this fits into my general theory about popularizing classical music which holds that every attempt to make classical concerts more hip and relevant and accessible involves taking the focus away from the music and putting it on the audience members.