As a sign of the times, the comments accompanying the post include a lot of complaining about other things the money should have been spent on, the high tuition at the Conservatory, the lack of jobs for graduates, general political whining and so on. My alma mater, the School of Music at McGill in Montreal, also received a massive donation a while back in the 20 million dollar range. They too built a massive new building.The William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation has just written a little check to the San Francisco Conservatory.At $46.4 million, it is claimed to be the largest ever given to a music conservatory for a new facility.Mr Bowes, who died in 2016, ran a venture capital firm.
* * *
The end of the controversy over that German music award is that the ECHO awards will simply be discontinued. A commentator sent me a link this week and the story is at Slipped Disc.
Yeah, well, that's what happens when many of the most prominent recipients return their awards accompanied by a press release.The country’s leading record prize will not be given again, it has just been announced.The decision follows an international uproar over this year’s award to a rapper duo with an Auschwitz joke.
* * *
The LA Times has an article on an interesting event in 20th century music: Four radical and radically original pieces of music that blew up the modernist status quo in 1968. The article is hard to excerpt, so read the whole piece. This will give you an idea:
Fifty years later, “Raft of the Medusa” retains surprising power and feels especially daring, a precursor of such works as Julia Wolfe’s oratorio, “Anthracite Fields.” Henze’s oratorio also retains a freshness, since has been basically neglected until recently (in Hamburg it has been revived to mark its 50th anniversary).
On the other hand, the 1968 Bay Area-derived pieces by Riley, Berio and Stockhausen are ever with us (the Los Angeles Master Chorale performs “In C” in May). Their lasting impression is not so much of a new accessibility now taken for granted as inspiring an open-mindedness. Thanks in great part to them, 1968 can be seen as having broken down not only political barricades but musical ones as well. It’s fine to try new things, or not.The four pieces are "In C" by Terry Riley, "Sinfonia" by Luciano Berio, "Stimmung" by Karlheinz Stockhausen and, oddly, "The Raft of the Medusa" by Hans Werner Henze. "In C" was the amorphous beginning of minimalism (the characteristic rapid repeated octaves in the piano at the premiere were the contribution of one of the performers, Steve Reich); "Sinfonia" was a post-modern mish-mash of Mahler, jazz and literary quotations; Stimmung was another kind of mish-mash of different musical styles, the names of gods and goddesses, harmonic overtones and various other complexities, all for six singers. "The Raft of the Medusa" is the odd man out, it is an overtly political oratorio, a requiem for Che Guevera. The truth is that each of these pieces is so very different and has had such a different kind of influence that their temporal proximity is of pretty minor significance.
* * *
The Atlantic has a piece going behind the scenes at the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Here jazz violinist Regina Carter is interviewed by David Graham:
Carter was one member of the panel, along with music critic David Hajdu; Paul Cremo of the Metropolitan Opera; Farah Jasmine Griffin, a professor of English and African American studies at Columbia University; and composer David Lang. Of course you can pretty much determine the results depending on who you choose for your jury. When I heard who had won, I just sat down and it was like wow. I felt that adopting the persona and vocal mannerisms of a teenager from Cleveland was the appropriate response. Like wow. Uh, this is how people on the panel express themselves? Like wow...Graham: I assume you heard Damn before judging. Were you familiar with it?Carter: I heard it. It’s not something I’m playing always in my home. I am probably more familiar with Kendrick Lamar from To Pimp a Butterfly. I remember walking in—and here I am, an older person, it’s not really my genre of music. But I walked in and I think it was a video or something on TV and my husband was checking it out. I was like, “Oh, who’s this?” He’s like, “Kendrick Lamar, check it out, he’s pretty prolific.” I just sat down and it was like wow. I just felt like what he had to say and how he would say it, you had to really sit down and think about it and what does it mean for me? It might mean something completely different for someone else that’s listening to it. I felt like it was his experience as a black man in America—and a lot of peoples’ story, not just his story—and just trying to figure stuff out. It’s so poetic. I felt like if you took his lyrics and put them in a book, it would be great literature.
* * *
With a heavy sigh I present the following article from the New York Times: A Note to the Classically Insecure.
Is this still true to any significant extent? In the last two or three decades have we not had a never-ending flood of articles all through the mass media telling us over and over again that classical music is not "better" (the scare quotes are integral), that people who go to, talk about and perform classical music are just snobs and out of touch with the music of today, that classical music organizations have to work overtime at achieving more "diversity" and "inclusiveness" and that concerts have to be reshaped to resemble pop performances. Isn't it lovers of classical music that have been made to feel ashamed because of their appreciation of music that is so obviously out of step with the times? I think I know where the real intimidation has been coming from.It’s sad but true that many people denigrate and distrust their own reactions to classical music out of fear that they don’t “know enough,” and that other, more sophisticated folks know more. When people leave the movie theater they rarely hesitate to give their opinion of the movie, and it never occurs to them that they don’t have a right to that opinion. And yet after most classical music concerts you can swing your program around from any spot in the lobby and hit a dozen perfectly capable and intelligent people issuing apologetic disclaimers: “Boy, I really loved that — but I’m no expert” or “It sounded pretty awful to me, but I don’t really know anything, so I guess I just didn’t get it.”At least those people showed up. Many others are too intimidated to attend classical concerts at all.
* * *
One more note about the Pulitzers: they took over thirty years to recognize the achievements of Steve Reich, not until 2009, and then they gave the prize for the wrong piece, the relatively minor work Double Sextet. What they should have given him the award for was Drumming and Music for 18 Musicians. So, a fairly extensive track record of being, well, wrong.
* * *
Oh, all right! The envoi for today will be, slightly reluctantly, "In C" by Terry Riley. This is the first recording, not the premiere: