Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

I did a post recently on a Kanye West song that I actually liked, so let's hear from someone else. Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is not as complimentary: Rap is More Damaging Than Confederate Statues.
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis didn’t hold back during a new interview in which he discussed the impact rap music has had on the Black community. He believes hip-hop is more damaging to African-Americans than statues of the confederate leaders who fought to preserve slavery.
In a recent interview with journalist Jonathan Capehart on his Cape Up podcast, Marsalis shared that he’s never been fond of the vulgarity some rappers spew on the microphone.
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“Today, we are launching a campaign for every primary schoolchild to be taught to play an instrument, at no cost to them or their families,” writes the group, which includes oboist and conductor Nicholas Daniel, violinist Nicola Benedetti, and cellist and reigning champion Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
“It is crucial to restore music’s rightful place in children’s lives, not only with all the clear social and educational benefits, but showing them the joy of making and sharing music. We are especially concerned that this should be a universal right. This is an opportunity to show the world that we care about music’s future and its beneficial impact on our children.”
Well, if it's for the children... The idea of providing resources so that every child who wants to study an instrument and who shows some aptitude is a really good one. But c'mon, the idea that everyone has to learn to play an instrument is just absurd. Not all children are that interested in music, at least in learning to play an instrument. It is a long and challenging discipline and most children are not up to it. It's a vocation and a discipline, not a "universal right."

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Marginal Revolution (I read everything!) links me to this article on the unimportance of music:
Music is not something that we’re prepared to invest in anymore. Coincidentally, or perhaps consequently, music is no longer the great cultural force and influencer that it once was. It seems to matter less to us, and many of us have found other things to do with our time, especially the young.
Much of this story will be familiar, even overly familiar. As ordinary music fans went online in the mid to late 90s the opportunity to greatly increase one’s music collection with free (illegal) downloads proved too big a temptation for most. A generation grew up unaccustomed to the idea of paying for music – and that generation is now reaching adulthood.
From a purely commercial point of view, this was a game-changer and one that the industry has never overcome, or is likely to anytime soon. But, it’s not just music industry profits which have shrunk. The cultural capital of popular music as a whole also appears to be in permanent decline. So how did we get here and will things ever get back to “normal”?
MP3s didn’t just detract from the commercial value of music. They inadvertently did much to reduce the aesthetic value of music too, I would argue. To be sure, this is a difficult, if not impossible thing to quantify and its causes are multiple and interconnected. Naturally any argument along these lines is necessarily subjective and speculative.
That seems like it might provoke a discussion or two.

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Musicologist Philip Gentry rakes the Philadelphia Orchestra over the coals for being, as he sees it, nostalgic and reactionary:
A right-wing fantasy tour of Israel, a glaring absence of women’s voices, an artistic vacuum when it comes to contemporary music – all hiding behind a romantic notion of the sanctity of classical music. These problems are all connected, and speak to the orchestra’s anxiety at its own status in this city, and in the larger world. For generations the Philadelphia Orchestra was one of few institutions in this town that could claim a world-class status, and even for the many citizens who could care less about classical music, this was a source of pride. Today, it’s hard to find similar pride in an organization so attached to a nostalgic, often reactionary vision of its own history. There is room for lots of different kinds of music in our big city, and maybe it is for the best if the Philadelphia Orchestra is no longer at its center.
 Well, he certainly knows the narrative...

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Time for something wacky. Courtesy of the Violin Channel we learn just how expressive the violin can be. In fact, it can imitate the sounds of a number of animals:


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Canadian superstar conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin had some words on political protests at concerts.  Here is an item on the protests. Slipped Disc has the story on Yannick's remarks.
Musicians are not men and women of words, but of notes and peace. The expression of a political opinion had no place here tonight.
The only thing is that we seem to be in the middle of a culture war and I'm afraid that classical music is no more isolated from it than any other element in society. I'm not sure where this is going, but one thing for sure, it ain't over yet!

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Time for something to remind us just how wonderful and, yes, important music can be, even when it is mere diversion. Some of Haydn's greatest music is to be found in his piano trios. The ensemble playing these trios in the box I am working my through is the Van Sweiten Trio with Franz Polman on violin, Jaap ter Linden, cello and Bart van Oort on a copy of a 1795 fortepiano. Here are four trios:


9 comments:

Will Wilkin said...

I hear you Bryan. I am too busy to say much, but I'm reading. I mostly listen to viola da gamba and harpsichord music when I control the selection, and the popular music at work ranges from (yes, very) vulgar "hip hop" to guttural and screaming metal. "Art music" has most likely always been more or less the tastes of a very small minority. I don't have a television, don't see movies or read "news." Hell, since I've gone paleo and read more about ancestral health, I don't even eat supermarket food anymore. It doesn't matter where popular culture goes, the spiritual power of deep music will persevere far beyond the time when all celebrity names have been forgotten.

Bryan Townsend said...

I'm almost afraid to ask where you get your meat, Will. But I am changing my diet as well, away from carbohydrates and sugar.

Will Wilkin said...

If you really make the switch to very low-carb (especially going all the way to ketogenic), you will feel so much better! I quit all grains and sugars and processed foods and vegetable oils, lost 35 pounds fast and have been stable for the year since, and I feel GREAT! Also important is sleep and stress management, helped greatly by quitting the news. Its all bad and there's nothing you can do about any of it, and the ordinary people around us are not the criminal types always starring in the news. If you want REAL news, ask a friend how he's doing lately! For me, learning to play instruments has become a great way to reduce stress, it is a form of meditation in focused attention and merging of senses and mind.

Marc said...

I found it to be interesting that Wynton Marsalis repeated his opinions about the 'offensive' lyrics of the Kanye but had nothing to say (in the text of the article, I mean; I didn't watch the video) about the music itself. Talking to someone the other day, the opportunity struck me (he's 26 and Black/Hispanic so far as ethnicity goes) and so I seized it; he said Runaway is a "masterpiece". I still don't see it.

Have been listening this morning to The Erlkings, an ensemble that does Schubert lieder into English. Entertaining, for a while.

"The cultural capital of popular music as a whole also appears to be in permanent decline.... MP3s didn’t just detract from the commercial value of music. They inadvertently did much to reduce the aesthetic value of music too, I would argue." Piffle, is my first reaction, to both parts. So when was the 'cultural capital' at its greatest? oh, the late 60s, of course. Gary Aster may be a fascinating conversationalist but, eh, the essay is a glimpse into the mind of a child of that decade: if he can't appreciate the bootlegged work he's finally acquired for longer than six or seven listens, the fault, such as it is, lies in him, not in the markets or the technology.

Marc said...

Please, remind me, when you've got a moment, which Collected Haydn you have? The Adam Fischer? and, if that one, which version? the original one, or the Brilliant Classics re-impression? Someone online is saying that the notes etc in the Brilliant version are confused etc.

Bryan Townsend said...

Marc: I have the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition, 160 discs and the symphonies are by Adam Fischer with the Austro-Hungarian boys. I quite like the string quartets by the Buchbergers--quite lusty versions. And the piano trios with fortepiano are excellent. The notes are ok, but nothing special. I kind of think that Runaway is a masterpiece, within its genre. But for the video as much as the music. Oh yes, if you grew up in the 60s that gives you an askew view on lots of things. It's taken me years to get over!

Will: I am working my way into a ketogenic diet and I have about 30 pounds to lose! I will take your comment as encouraging! Do you have a book or plan that you would recommend?

Will Wilkin said...

Best book on benefits of a ketogenic diet: Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore and Eric Westerman; Best books on dangers of grains: Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, and Wheat Belly by William Davis; Best book on intermittent fasting benefits and methods: The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung; Best 3 books on metabolic benefits of low-carb are: Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Lifestyle by Volek & Phinney, Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and The Obesity Code by Jason Fung; For a more philosophical and spiritual reflection on the big human twin mistakes of agriculture and civilization, read Against the Grain by Richard Manning;

OVERALL SINGLE BEST BOOK ON WELLNESS: The New Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson (make sure you get the NEW edition of 2016, extensively updated and improved over the first edition of 2009). Do not be deceived my Mark Sisson's accessible and conversational writing --I've read a lot of harder (more technical and academic) books on the subjects he addresses and he is VERY well-informed, up-to-date and marvelously gifted in synthesizing MUCH research and perspective on all aspects of wellness into a life-changing book. The New Primal Blueprint is DEFINITELY worth the money (get it on Amazon, cheaper than his website); also highly recommended is his blog Mark's Daily Apple.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Will! I already have Taubes and am going to start reading Moore and Westerman.

Will Wilkin said...

Bryan, one more piece of miscellanea...I got a call this morning from my very musical friend Paul to say he just noticed the CD of your "4 Pieces for Guitar and Violin" was recorded in San Miguel, which touched him by stirring memories of time he spent there in the 1970s when visiting Mexico to play some recitals in Mexico City. I asked if this call meant he'd been listening to your music and he said yes and it is delicate and delightful. I of course agreed heartily (that's why I gave it to him in the first place) and said I am anticipating more such works because you recently wrote you are writing more such duets. I'm sorry I made 2 extra copies of the CD when I got it free with purchase of the sheet music. I gave a copy to my brother (a classical guitarist), and one to Paul, a classical pianist. I told Paul the liner notes and CD cover were actually created by me using a pic I found of you and your violinist Claudia Shiuh, and your text I collected on the pieces. If you email me at willwilkin1@gmail.com I will send you a pdf of that 2-sided CD sleeve. And if you're on a Mac computer I will also send you the Pages file on which I created it, so you can easily modify it if you like.