Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

I have to keep reminding myself that the Friday Miscellanea should mostly be a collection of the wild, weird and amusing and not get too, y'know, serious. So here is something for ya: Piper Blush, a new YouTube star from Montreal, uh-huh. Here she is talking about a new iPhone X feature that doesn't quite seem to work so she tries to cover that up with some little fragments lifted from a Jimi Hendrix recording of Voodoo Child. Uh-huh. Mind you, no-one seems to notice because they are mostly watching her, uh, costume. Uh-huh. But she has got the post-modern weirdness really down. Uh-huh.


* * *

The Guardian has a review of a new album of ambient music by Brian Eno. I have to confess that I have never really been attracted to this kind of thing. It always reminds me of the soporific music that one used to hear in new age bookstores accompanied with floating wisps of smoke from sandalwood incense.... Whoa, started to drift off there! Anyway, here is an example from the album, Kazakhstan, composed for an art exhibition there.


* * *

Slipped Disc has a post with a clip of Christiane Amanpour interviewing Gustavo Dudamel. Interviews with him, due to the crisis in Venezuela, can be a bit awkward. How do you manage to completely avoid any criticism of the regime and, of course, most important, how do you manage to also avoid the use of the word "socialism?" Well, they seem to have that part down.

* * *

Orchestral earnings in the dark: but now revealed by Norman Lebrecht. This is rather dispiriting, isn't it?
Now a reports from a tutti player in the famed Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam, living not much above the minimum wage:
I have been a member (tutti) for about twenty years. Before tax monthly income is €5.040 (US $6,000) and this is the maximum. Of this, I give about 55% to the taxation office. Extras are €1.000/year (before tax) for recordings and radio/tv things, 8% ‘holiday money’ (of course that is taxed as well), per diem when on tour plus a small compensation. Without a family, you will not starve, of course, but we do have to compromise on what food we buy with a wife and children to feed, too. Amsterdam is also not cheap (new colleagues struggle to find an affordable place where they can live, and preferably practise), I feel that I am paying a big monetary price for the honour of playing in this famous orchestra, and if another band wants to appoint me that will reward me with better conditions (money isn’t everything, but it helps to convince that lesser acoustics, possibly different conductors and what not might be worth the move), I will definitely consider it.
* * *

Here is another article on the subject from the BBC: Nearly half of the UK's classical musicians don't earn enough to live on, says the Musicians' Union.
Forty-four per cent of players told the MU they struggled to make ends meet.
And two-thirds of veteran musicians - who'd been playing for more than 30 years - said they'd considered alternative careers.
"Wages are increasingly depressed," said Michael Kidd, who plays French horn with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
"If it continues in that direction, it's not going to remain a viable career option."
The 29-year-old, who played at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, receiving a piece of wedding cake from Prince Charles as a thank you gift, told the BBC that many musicians were also saddled with debt.
"A lot of the string players are basically having to take out a mortgage to buy an instrument on top of a not very good salary," he said.
A couple of friends of mine, long-time classical musicians, have remarked to me that what used to be a pretty good middle-class job seems to be slowly sliding down the economic spectrum. There used to be some compensation in the social prestige that came with being a highly respected classical musician. But that is fading as well.

* * *

The Quince Ensemble, an all-women vocal group specializing in contemporary music, has a new album coming out that sounds pretty interesting.
...the vocal quartet’s third studio set explores four vibrant contemporary works. It takes critical aim through its anchoring piece, the a capella oratorio “Prisoner of Conscience” by Jennifer Jolley, with texts by Kendall A. It draws from protest art collective Pussy Riot’s trial and imprisonment for demonstrating against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012. Square at the intersection of power, people and sexual violence — as well as three women’s courage in the face of it all — the content suits Quince quite well.
* * *

VAN Magazine has an extended piece On Music and Activism:
Musical activism reached its zenith in the wake of the political turbulence of the 1960s and ‘70s. From Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” to Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” the cold war era was a time when people, even faced with the prospect of global annihilation, still believed in the power of music to promote peace and equality. And while change did come to some extent, namely in the form of the civil rights movement, the end of the cold war only brought a tenuous reluctance toward global conflict predicated on the less-than-peaceful doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Nevertheless, the idea that music can influence politics continues to be a popular talking point for artists, writers, and musicologists alike. It’s long been a cliché to see “Ode to Joy” rolled out by governments of varying democratic integrity as an anthem of political unity, within a wider tendency to see classical music as a unifying force; Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which, despite fairly unanimous praise in the West, has been criticized in the East for its perpetuation of an ideal of universal peace grounded within a distinctly Western cultural tradition. Can music alone ever be a successful mode of political activism?
That has the usual weird distortions that these kinds of articles always seem to fall into. First of all, the fundamental assumptions are always that all forms of political "activism" coming from the left are inherently good and that the function of art and music is simply to promote them to the general population. There is little difference between this and the tenets of "socialist realism" as it was practiced in the Soviet Union. Second, it is more likely the case that it is politics influencing music, not the other way around, as witnessed by the never-ending series of works by John Luther Adams and others that are essentially propaganda pieces for the climate change doctrine. Art that seeks to win popularity by adhering to the latest political fashions is definitionally bad art.

* * *

From the Violin Channel we discover that there is a Mozart concerto performance by the great Russian violinist Leonid Kogan newly-uploaded to YouTube. Here are the second and third movements of the Violin Concerto No. 5 with Lev Markiz conducting the Moscow Chamber Orchestra:


My dear departed friend Paul Kling once mentioned to me that nearly every great violinist of the 20th century was either a Russian Jew from the Caucasus--or studied with one!

6 comments:

Will Wilkin said...

I want to marry Piper Blush immediately. Uh-huh!

Bryan Townsend said...

That doesn't seem entirely surprising!

Uh-huh!

Marc said...

Am listening to Bone Needles, by Gilda Lyons, the first of those four works on Quince Ensemble's Motherland. Am insufficiently impressed to proceed to Laura Steenberge's The 4 Winds (although was briefly tempted by its second part, Howling like a jackal, moaning like an owl) or to Cara Haxo's 3 Erasures. But Jennifer Jolley's Prisoner of Conscience is more interesting musically; if perhaps she had chosen a less offensive subject-- the experience of three women worked and starved to death or summarily executed by Stalin, say, rather than that of libertines who profaned the celebration of the Christian mysteries-- I'd probably listen to more than a few minutes but since she didn't I won't. Fuck it, to borrow some of her text.

Bryan Townsend said...

I don't think that one is on YouTube, but I found Bone Needles II for string quartet and it's ok, I guess. Sort of sounds like uninspired Bartók. I like your incisive critique of the Jolley piece. Nicely put!

Marc said...

You all know Twitter, the microblogging site. There is a competitor (there are at least three wanna be competitors...) called Gab, which evidently caters to the deplorables. In any event, I went over there for the first time since, oh, Christmas and it turns out that they have just introduced the ability for people to start groups (which is a Facebook thing, I suppose)-- anyway, I seized the moment and set up a Classical Music Group with a link to today's Friday Miscellanea as the first post. Maybe there are lots of gabbers who are aficionados of classical music? time will tell.

Read that John Lewis review of Brian Eno's five and a half hours of ambient music; gosh. I 'get' that the experience of an art installation/exhibition might be augmented by the Eno, or this or that piece of Eno, but just to listen to? apart from its original setting? eh, not so much. But there seems to be plenty of pleasant sounds.

Bryan Townsend said...

Good heavens, Marc. If we are not careful, you could make this site popular!