Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

Not a lot of time for blogging this week, but I have a few items for you today. First up a discussion with composer George Pepper about modernism vs traditionalism in music composition. The site is Remodernism which I think I have linked to before.
Q: How does music express spirituality? .
 GP: It always has for me. Even music by other composers moves my spirit. And lots of genres too. The first thing I learned to jam on was the blues, so Stormy Monday Blues is one I’d say moves my spirit. Then lots of Charlie Parker, Larry Carlton, Jimi Hendrix – “Rainy Day Dream Away/Still Raining Still Dreaming” always moves me – The Who – I wore Quadrophenia out in high school – many others.  In classical music, my single favorite piece in all of the symphonic literature is the Scherzo from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is, in fact, my first musical memory. When I was really little, like three to five years old, that Scherzo was the intro music to the Huntley Brinkley Report news program. My dad watched it every night, and I would just stand there spellbound until it faded out. I remember it like it happened five minutes ago. But that piece takes me on a spiritual journey, as does the opening movement and the slow movement. The Finale, for some reason, doesn’t really work for me.  It’s a sublime masterpiece by any objective measure, but it’s stubborn or something. The vocals and chorus don’t help for me. In fact, I actually prefer Liszt’s transcription of the finale for solo piano!
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In the midst of a bunch of posts on the music of the latest Star Wars film there is actually quite an interesting one on the music of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu over at Musicology Now: 
In analyzing Takemitsu’s music, especially his music after the 1980s,<2> the significance of the “parts” takes on more relevance than does large-scale coherence in the interpretation of his music. The importance of individual “parts” is important in many aspects of Japanese culture, including traditional Japanese gardens, Japanese language and literature, and Japanese architecture. It is well known that Japanese gardens gave great inspiration to Takemitsu, who saw connections between them and the coloristic shades of sounds, which exist alongside other natural fluctuations.<3> Many of his works from the mid-1980s are modeled on Japanese gardens, especially those designed by the 14th century Japanese monk Musō Soseki.<4> I find it especially crucial to investigate how the metaphor of following the garden path is manifested in Takemitsu’s music.<5>
The numbers refer to footnotes in the original post.

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Here is a funny little piece in The Telegraph: Are lessons killing my child's love of music?
Today, my seven-year-old .... refuses to pick up the violin case. He had a pathological hatred for the ­piano lessons we tried. His dreams of playing the drums deteriorated, too, when he realised that packing out stadiums might involve some practice first, and that, in turn, would detract from playtime.
For a while I insisted. We rowed over the piano keys as I begged, bribed and cajoled him to fumble thunderously through Chopsticks. It was miserable. So we stopped. But have I failed him? Do music lessons matter?
Playing an instrument is a rite of ­passage for most middle-class primary school children. Fail to start early, the orthodoxy states, and you miss the chance of incubating a mini Mozart. Mastering music - quite literally - takes practice, practice, practice.
I think the problem here is that too many people actually believe the nonsense spewed by Malcolm Gladwell that anyone can master a skill with enough practice--say, 10,000 hours. Nope. A lot of people are massively untalented in music and actual creativity is extremely rare. So, no, lessons are not killing your child's love of music because probably he never had any.

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And it's still not safe to turn on the radio: William Shatner signs with country music record label.
William Shatner signed with Heartland Records Nashville and "is currently working on a very special project that will be released later this year," according to a press release.
Few details are known about the 86-year-old "Star Trek" actor's new venture but the Heartland Records promised more details "will be released soon."
This isn't the first musical project to come from the actor. He has released eight previous albums, most recently 2013's "Ponder the Mystery."
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This piece in the San Francisco Chronicle reminds me of my mixed feelings about composer Philip Glass: Philip Glass concert celebrates composer’s monumental influence.
Let’s start with a sweeping but fairly sturdy proposition: No composer has left a more pervasive or distinctive stylistic imprint on Western classical music in the last half a century than Philip Glass.
Glass’ music is everywhere — in concert halls, in opera houses, on film and television soundtracks. He has created both a singular sound world and a repertoire of compositional strategies that have almost single-handedly transformed the face of contemporary music. His work has become a reference point for much of what audiences have experienced for decades.
What's wrong with this, of course, is that they are saying the right things but they are likely saying them about the wrong composer. The name that should appear here is that of Steve Reich who, starting in a slightly different place than Glass, has followed a similar path of rebuilding music from the ground up, starting with rhythm.

Glass has been amazingly successful, but at the end of the day, his music is largely a lot of rising minor thirds in eighth notes. A LOT of them! Steve Reich has done more interesting stuff in more interesting ways. But please, correct me in the comments!

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The New York Times notices something I have commented on several times here: audiences for classical music are only shrinking and aging in North America, in Europe they are numerous with lots of young people. An Unlikely Youth Revolution at the Paris Opera:
...the Paris Opera’s extraordinary success in attracting younger audiences. According to the company, it had 95,000 audience members younger than 28 last season — more than 10 percent of tickets sold and 30,000 more than just two years before.
The company, which celebrates its 350th birthday next year, is an unlikely contradiction to the worldwide trend of an aging audience at operas. The average age of an audience member in Paris is 45 — 48 for the opera, 43 for the ballet — compared with 58 at the Metropolitan Opera and 54 at the Staatsoper in Berlin. The largest segment of the Houston Grand Opera’s audience is between 65 and 72.
The photo they use to illustrate the article is from a joint production (with the Teatro Real in Madrid) I saw two summers ago. Great production of a very unlikely opera by Schoenberg.

Click to enlarge
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And now for the depressing part of the miscellanea today: the economics of music in Britain. Unpaid ‘exposure’ does not benefit musicians’ careers:
Over half of musicians worked unpaid over the past 12 months, and 66% of musicians who worked for free ‘exposure’ believe doing so did not benefit their career, according to the ‘world-first’ live music census. 
Low wages and the expectation on musicians to work for free were identified as a major challenge. 68% of musicians said stagnating pay was making it difficult for them to make a viable income, and this figure rose to 80% amongst those identifying as professional musicians.

Responding professional musicians indicated nearly half of their annual income now comes from performing live, compared with only 3% from recording.
I would look up the average earnings for musicians in Britain from a previous post, but I don't want to depress you any further.

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Let's have some Takemitsu for our envoi today. This is a piece mentioned in the Musicology Now post, Far Calls. Coming, Far! for violin and orchestra:


Marc said...

Am having to go out to the office but noticed this, in the Kosman piece.

"But a better way to think of Glass’ creative output is as a long series of variations on a few basic themes. Instead of posing and then solving a fresh array of artistic problems with each new opus, he uses each work to chip away at some detail of an overarching creative project.

This is an esthetic framework with a long and venerable history (albeit one that came into disfavor at the beginning of the 19th century). It’s what allowed Bach to write 200 cantatas, or Handel to create some 40 operas and as many oratorios; it’s the difference between Haydn’s 104 symphonies and Beethoven’s nine."

Is this true, I wonder. There are too many minor variables for me just at the moment to get to what is presumably Kosman's major hypothesis.

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, you are correct, this is his central claim. Perhaps I should dig into this in another post, because it is an interesting claim.