Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

The New York Philharmonic is planning some concerts without conductor, story in the Wall Street Journal:
While the Philharmonic’s conductor-less program might seem novel to the orchestra’s regular attendees, it isn’t exactly new in the classical world.
Until the 19th century, conductors weren’t typically required to lead orchestras or other large musical ensembles, say classical experts. Instead, a member of the group would simply help keep time, not unlike what Mr. Huang is doing.
And more recently, conductor-less orchestras have become something of a sensation, with new ones forming throughout the country. Credit is often given to Orpheus, the New York-based conductor-less ensemble that was established in 1972, with jump-starting the trend.
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Ironically, the "British Invasion" of pop music in the 1960s that included conquest of American sales charts by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Cream, was the occasion for the re-discovery of the Black blues roots of a lot of that music. The Beatles had a touch of it, but for more of the pure blues, look to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Cream. This essay by Mark Ellis goes into the details:
Prior to the early 1960s British Invasion, a great many young American music lovers had little to no exposure to the authentic black blues music that so inspired the biggest names of the invasion, like The Rolling Stones and The Animals. While The Beatles did cover the music of black artists, their choices were more along the lines of rock: Chuck Berry and Little Richard classics like “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Long Tall Sally,” for example.
In the later 1960s, black blues broke big time, in great part due to promoters like Bill Graham, who started booking black bluesmen for shows that were being flocked to by the largely homogenized rock audiences of the day.
Suddenly, names like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters began to appear on bills for upcoming concerts headlined by artists like Country Joe and the Fish. Performances by one of the Kings—B.B., Albert, or Freddie— became mid-bill mainstays on shows topped by mega-stars like Steve Miller. By 1967, four years give-or-take after the invasion, the emergence of black blues and blues-rock was thoroughly implanted within the panoply of rock stardom in the minds of concertgoers.
A lot of commentators on the article disagree, but I think this is probably quite true for Canada and the northeastern US and less true for the South where they were always pretty well acquainted with the blues!

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This is the 50th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," that paroxysm of hedonistic excess in music and popular culture that reverberates throughout our culture even to this day. Roger Kimball has an essay musing over its effects:
the more popular culture has been raised up -- the more vigorously it has been championed by the cultural elite -- the lower popular culture has sunk. At the same time, though -- and this is one of the most insidious effects of the whole process -- the integrity of high culture itself has been severely compromised by the mindless elevation of pop culture. The academic enfranchisement of popular culture has meant not only that trash has been mistaken for great art, but also that great art has been treated as if it were trash. When Allen Ginsberg (for example) is upheld in the classroom as a “great poet” comparable to Shakespeare, the very idea of greatness is rendered unintelligible and high art ceases to function as an ideal.
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And Glenn Branca, composer of music for large numbers of electric guitars, has passed away.
Composer Glenn Branca died at the age of 69 from throat cancer in New York on 13 May 2018, as announced by his wife, musician Reg Bloor. Branca was famous for his groundbreaking, visceral symphonies for multiple electric guitars, bass and drums. Occupying a self-created nexus between the rock and classical avant gardes, his music was mostly embraced by the underground rock and visual art worlds, rather than the modern classical establishment. “He is a nonpurist within the pure tradition of new music,” Kim Gordon observed in 1983, which put him in sync with the postmodernist zeitgeist of the 80s but also underlies John Cage’s notoriously aggrieved reaction ("Branca had me shaking") to hearing his music at New Music America around the same time.
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Another abbreviated miscellanea today, I'm afraid. This week has been rather hectic and didn't leave a lot of time for research. Let's end with one of Shostakovich's most interesting and unusual symphonies. This is Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the Symphony No. 6 in B minor of Dmitri Shostakovich:


Tycho said...

The "Summer of Love" was actually 1967 (exemplified by Scott Mackenzie's lovely "San Francisco", which was much derided at the time). 1968 was a very different time: King and Kennedy had been assassinated, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, and the catastrophic Democratic convention in Chicago was just around the corner. Not much love in the air, and rock music took a much harder turn. Check out Blue Cheer's version of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues", which captured the sprit perfectly and was possibly the heaviest song ever to be a top 40 hit until the grunge era.

Bryan Townsend said...

Now that I think back, yes, you are right, it was 1967 that was the Summer of Love. And the mood was quite different a year later. The real souring of the mood happened another year later, in 1969, with the Stones' concert in Altamont. Oh god, yes I remember Blue Cheer's Summertime Blues! If I recall correctly they set some kind of record decibel level at one concert that was supposedly equivalent to a Saturn V rocket blasting off.