Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

Opening on a very light note:

Well, only the sharp keys.

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Traveling with your instrument continues to be hazardous. United Airlines piles up more unfortunate publicity with a recent incident where a supervisor tried to physically wrestle away a 17th century violin from a passenger while boarding. Be sure to read the statement from her lawyer which has the juiciest bits. One tip to United employees: don't threaten to call for security if you are the one likely to be arrested!

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I think we may have rehearsed some of these reasons here on the Music Salon, but it is nice to see it in Forbes: Ten Reasons to Let Your Kid Major in Music:
5. Music instruction is all about patience and listening. Over and over, music students are told "Listen to your tone. Listen to this phrasing. Is that what you're going for?" They know how to tune in. They know how to make course corrections. If the kid doesn't land a plum job working for a symphony orchestra straight of of school — and they won't — they know how to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking.
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How does one show one is a member of the elite? According to Aeon it is less through conspicuous consumption but more and more through inconspicuous consumption:
While much inconspicuous consumption is extremely expensive, it shows itself through less expensive but equally pronounced signalling – from reading The Economist to buying pasture-raised eggs. Inconspicuous consumption in other words, has become a shorthand through which the new elite signal their cultural capital to one another. In lockstep with the invoice for private preschool comes the knowledge that one should pack the lunchbox with quinoa crackers and organic fruit. 
Knowing which New Yorker articles to reference or what small talk to engage in at the local farmers’ market enables and displays the acquisition of cultural capital, thereby providing entry into social networks that, in turn, help to pave the way to elite jobs, key social and professional contacts, and private schools. In short, inconspicuous consumption confers social mobility.
This is, sort of, a good trend I suppose. Though I would feel just a tiny bit better if there were some mention that so-called "cultural capital" includes the great artworks and not just articles in the New Yorker, the Economist and, one presumes, other shallow jetties on the cultural shore.

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 The Globe and Mail has an article that makes an interesting point about the artistic response to the terror-bombing in Manchester: art can actually support (!!!) contemporary Western societies, it does not always have to be subversive:
This is not to say that the art we saw in poems and music was not a serious response to a global geopolitical crisis; it was. It was different from the calls for “resistance” art we have been seeing in other Western countries because, this time, the existential threat being responded to was not part of out own culture; it was from outside. One could talk of a difference between “protest art” (aimed at Western-generated political problems) and “solidarity art” (designed to lift morale in the face of terrorism). And although the solidarity art is not a complaint directed at any particular state or policy, it nevertheless serves a uniting and inspiring function.
That was unexpected!

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 The best article this week about the nuts and bolts of the practice of music comes from Business Insider. Wait, what? No, it's true.
He learned to practice by changing the rhythm of the piece. He learned to play one note at a time with a tuner. He learned to play each measure with a different metronome timing, and then he played the piece so slowly it took 20 minutes instead of just four.
During these insane lessons where Amy and my son spent one hour on five notes, the more we worked on the art of practicing the more I saw that practice is a method to do anything ambitious and difficult. He learned to create a system and process instead of just focusing on the goal itself.
There's a lot more interesting stuff there. The truth is that learning how to work on improving to some level of perfection a musical performance is one of the most challenging tasks any of us face. It demands attention to a wide range of problems from psychological (performance anxiety, boredom) to aesthetic (what is the expressive weight of the phrase) to physical (developing the fine muscles in the hands) to mechanical (controlling the response of the instrument) to ones we hardly have names for: how would you describe the challenge of perfectly controlling a crescendo from very soft to very loud?

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And that's about it. Cultural events seem to have been pushed offstage this week by the politics of terror and the terror of politics! So let's end with an inspirational envoi. The second of Stravinsky's great ballets leading up to the Rite of Spring is Petruska. This is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons:


Marc Puckett said...

That was an interesting article about the kid and his cello practice, and about good work habits in general. On the one hand, I wish that my own folks had required as much practice of me at that age; on the other, Penelope Trunk seems to be just a touch mad-- not that that necessarily matters of course; this based on a superficial recon online. Did she participate ("the more we worked on the art of practicing...") in the lessons? or is that just her narcissistic style of writing, I wonder?

Am looking forward to your Stravinsky posts!

Am taking that Biber Arminio booklet to Fedex Kinko's tomorrow to see if they can turn at least the 30 odd pages of Dr Brunner's historical/performance choices essay into a more easily read full size page format. The pages of the libretto are printed in such a way that it is more easily read but my poor eyes! the praenotanda needs a magnifying glass. One gives CPO credit for producing the album, but the larger music companies (e.g. Deutsche Grammophon) wouldn't inflict such torture (who's indulging his narcissistic melodrama now?) on their customers.

Bryan Townsend said...

Regarding the practice discipline: if you step back and start crunching some numbers you run into an interesting paradox: if you are practicing slowly, as you should, taking 20 minutes for one run-through of a 4 minute piece, and also doing technical exercises and so on, then where do you find the time to learn more repertoire? You can only practice so many hours a day, after all. How do you get to the point of having a large, memorized repertoire as every single solo artist does? The answer is that this slow and disciplined practice needs to lead, ultimately, to the ability to play with ease. You really have to make the repertoire easy to play, which is the point of the very slow disciplined practice. Students don't always get that.

Oh god yes, liner notes too minute to read are the curse of the CD! The worst I ever had were on a disc of Javanese gamelan music--in Japanese!