Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

Tim Cook, CEO of the first trillion dollar company, Apple, worries about "the humanity being drained out of music." Here are some more thoughts:
“I couldn’t make it through a workout without music,” Cook says. “Music inspires, it motivates. It’s also the thing at night that helps quiet me. I think it’s better than any medicine.”
Dude, I worry that you are draining the aesthetics out of music. Ok, you work out to music, it quiets you down at night, it's inspiring and it's motivating and it's like a medicine. Is it also a bit like music? I get that it revs you up, it calms you down and it's medicinal. It just doesn't seem that there is any music in your music. The music that I think is music really doesn't do any of those things, or only secondarily. It worries me that a lot of people listen to music the way Tim Cook does.

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This is cool: a workshop for people wanting to compose for film: Learning from Hollywood's best at a film scoring workshop.
My focus has been, for many years, trying to elevate or at least maintain the level of quality and respect for people who compose music for film and television and games,” said Richard Bellis, who has led the program for 21 years.
The 12 selected applicants spend a month in L.A. under the guidance of Bellis, Emmy-winning composer of the 1990 miniseries “It,” who crams in a year’s worth of education. Each attendee is assigned a scene from an existing film and given a week to write a piece of original score. They orchestrate the music, with insight they gain hearing from pro musicians, and work with established music editors on fitting the piece to film. They learn part preparation as their scores are prepared by JoAnn Kane Music Services, the best in the business.
They’re coached in the interpersonal skills needed for collaborating with directors, podium procedure and running a big-budget recording session. They also meet with music supervisors, concertmasters, agents, studio executives and A-list composers.
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Ever since I began this blog several years ago, I have seen reports of the reconstruction of ancient Greek music. Finally, they all say, finally we have rediscovered what ancient music actually sounded like. And then you listen and it sounds like music from North Africa or modal fusion or, worse, something by Carl Orff from Carmina Burana. And so I read the latest claim without much hope: Ancient Greek music: now we finally know what it sounded like.
In 1932, the musicologist Wilfrid Perrett reported to an audience at the Royal Musical Association in London the words of an unnamed professor of Greek with musical leanings: “Nobody has ever made head or tail of ancient Greek music, and nobody ever will. That way madness lies.”
Indeed, ancient Greek music has long posed a maddening enigma. Yet music was ubiquitous in classical Greece, with most of the poetry from around 750BC to 350BC – the songs of Homer, Sappho, and others – composed and performed as sung music, sometimes accompanied by dance. Literary texts provide abundant and highly specific details about the notes, scales, effects, and instruments used. The lyre was a common feature, along with the popular aulos, two double-reed pipes played simultaneously by a single performer so as to sound like two powerful oboes played in concert.
Despite this wealth of information, the sense and sound of ancient Greek music has proved incredibly elusive.
The more I read, the more I suspected that these researchers and performers were on the right track. Here is a clip that explains their approach and demonstrates the results:

Still, all we have are a few fragments out of the whole corpus of Greek poetry, all of which was set to music. But these performances have an authenticity to them that is promising. And they sound nothing like North African music or Carl Orff!

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It is never easy being an artist, but this seems a bit extreme, even in these benighted days: The Chinese Government Destroys Ai Weiwei's 'Zuoyou' Studio.
It's been just seven years since the dissident artist was arrested and incarcerated in a secret location for 81 days. (The government suspected him and other activists of trying to start a "Jasmine Revolution.") Ai also had his passport confiscated and was forced to pay a steep fine of $2.4 million after authorities charged him with tax evasion.
Now Ai has posted several Instagram videos of his "Zuoyou" studio being destroyed without warning over the weekend. As he explained in one video, he had worked in this Beijing studio since 2006. Ai tells NPR that some of his art was damaged in the process, as he had not been given any time to prepare.
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Cellist Jinging Hu had an unfortunate experience flying with her cello even though she had purchased a seat for the instrument: Cellist ‘humiliated,’ kicked off American Airlines flight after buying ticket for instrument.
When Hu boarded her return flight to Chicago Thursday, she was told to get off the plane, WBBM reported.
Hu said flight staff told her that the cello was too big, and the aircraft was too small to hold the cello.
She said she was escorted off the plane by law enforcement, even though her instrument met the seat size restrictions.
I'll be purchasing a seat for my guitar on a flight to Toronto in December so I really, really hope this does not happen often. It is not easy traveling as a musician these days.

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Deutsche Grammophon has signed a deal with Apple Music to have playlists curated by classical music artists. Sounds pretty interesting.
Deutsche Grammophon has signed a longterm deal with Apple Music to have classical playlists curated by major artists.
For today’s launch at Salzburg, the pianist Daniil Trifonov, tenor Rolando Villazón and cellist Peter Gregson curated Apple Music’s three main composer stations: Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.
The DG Playlist will be regularly updated to include videos by DG stars. Check it out here.
Further plans include the first full visual opera on Apple Music – Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette from Salzburg 2008 with Rolando Villazón, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin – along with a Salzburg video playlist, including the Mozart Gala in the composer’s 250th-anniversary year, featuring Anna Netrebko, Magdalena Kožená, Thomas Hampson, Daniel Harding and the Vienna Philharmonic.
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Hey, we've all been there! A woman in Slovakia was arrested for playing Verdi loud to drown out a neighbor's barking dog: Woman detained in Slovakia for playing Verdi for 16 years. I played Stravinsky loud at 6am once to retaliate for a barking dog. Just once, mind you.
According to Hungarian news site, the woman, identified only as Eva N, played a four-minute aria from Giuseppe Verdi's 'La Traviata' non-stop, in her house with on speakers full blast, from morning until night. says that the homeowner in the southern town of Sturovo played the music for years to drown out a neighbour's loud barking dog, and had simply continued doing it.
Residents poured out their anger to local media, furious that the high volume harassment had been allowed to go on for so long.
Police in Slovakia sure seem to take their time responding to noise complaints.

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Wednesday night was Grigory Sokolov's Salzburg recital which I had put in my calendar back when I thought I might be attending this year. There was a thunderstorm, as often happens in Salzburg in August, and the sheer volume of rain caused a leak in the Grosses Festspielhaus:
At last night’s recital by Grigory Sokolov in the Grosses Festspielhaus at the Salzburg Festival, as Sokolov was into the trio of the final menuet of Haydn’s 49th sonata, nearing the end of an all-Haydn first half, water began to pour from the ceiling onto the patrons in the 5-8th rows, center.
I was sitting in the 1st row, directly in front of Sokolov, and was reluctant to turn around, not wishing to distract him…but of course the water was coming down loudly, as if from a large showerhead, pouring from one of the light fixtures high overhead, and it’s hard to believe he didn’t hear it. Nonetheless, I never saw so much as a glance or any other sign he was aware of the deluge – his commitment to the music was absolute – and his performance appeared in no way affected by the fact that roughly two dozen people had to get up right in front of him and quietly file out.
After a slightly longer than customary intermission, during which the leak was stopped, the floor mopped, and dry seat cushions provided for the affected patrons – several of whom did not return – the program resumed with a stunning Schubert D.935, plus the usual generous complement of wondrous encores, six in all. The fourth of these was – naturally – Chopin’s ‘Raindrop’ prélude.
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Ross Douthat has a column at the New York Times about the battle between technocratic ambition and humanism. Spoiler: humanism is losing. the end neither a Christian humanism nor any other has been able to withstand the spirit of Conant, the spirit of technocratic ambition, the spirit of truth-replaced-by-useful-knowledge, that rules today not just in Washington and Silicon Valley but in much of academia as well. 
...this trend is sharper among elite liberal arts colleges, the top thirty in the US News and World Report rankings, where in the early 2000s the humanities still attracted about a third of all students, but lately only get about a fifth. So it’s not just a matter of the post-Great Recession middle class seeking more practical degrees to make sure their student loans get repaid quickly; the slice of the American elite that’s privileged enough and intellectually-minded enough to choose Swarthmore or Haverford or Amherst over a state school or a research university is abandoning Hermes for Apollo at the fastest clip.
Douthat offers some thoughts on the deeper cause of the problem:
That problem is the one that Auden identified seventy years ago: In an Apollonian culture, eager for “Useful Knowledge” and technical mastery and increasingly indifferent to memory and allergic to tradition, the poet and the novelist and the theologian struggle to find an official justification for their arts. And both the turn toward radical politics and the turn toward high theory are attempts by humanists in the academy to supply that justification — to rebrand the humanities as the seat of social justice and a font of political reform, or to assume a pseudoscientific mantle that lets academics claim to be interrogating literature with the rigor and precision of a lab tech doing dissection. 
I have certainly noticed both these trends: on the one hand the continual invasion of the "diversity and inclusion" warriors and on the other, the pseudo-scientific attempts to explain how music works. From my point of view, music really doesn't need either of these remedies, but I guess I have a minority view.

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Though I have posted about her before, I am really not that familiar with the work of composer Missy Mazzoli. The San Francisco Classical Voice has a nice article about her.
Mazzoli’s musical accomplishments include a notable performance career with her own ensemble, Victoire, and premieres of a variety of works with classical organizations from Opera Philadelphia (Breaking the Waves, 2018) to the L.A. Philharmonic (Sinfonia, 2014), as well as collaborations with more cutting edge performers and composers such as percussionist Glenn Kotche (Vespers for a New Dark Age, 2014) and cellist Maya Beiser (Salt, a “mini-opera,” 2012). Currently on the faculty of Mannes College of Music, Mazzoli makes for a new kind of role model, a working female composer who is creating works on her own terms and receiving prestigious commissions and high praise from top critics. Recently, Anne Midgette of The Washington Post dubbed her “less a black sheep than a sacred cow: the ‘it’ girl of the contemporary scene.”
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 Let's listen to some of her music for our envoi today. This is the quite lovely Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) in its European premiere at the BBC Proms last year. The performers are the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karina Canellakis.


Christine Lacroix said...

Hi Bryan, I thought this might interest you, maybe?

Bryan Townsend said...

Hi Christine. We've missed you! I was just reading some wine articles about New Zealand and the Roussillon region, so thanks for this one.