Bach's Violin Partita no. 1 in B minor is a tour de force in which each movement is followed by its double. Shunseke Sato performs it for the Netherlands Bach Society:
Compare this kind of variation with what Beethoven did with the form.
It seems to have been pretty much a North American disease.The feminist nostrum that “the personal is political” was false from its inception. It has now become a warhead aimed at the edifice of a civilization deemed too male. Institutions like the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, or the Philadelphia Orchestra should be the prime defenders of that civilization. When, instead, they surrender to furious irrationality and sacrifice our greatest artists to avoid a wholly imaginary threat, they betray their most fundamental mission. I am cutting off my support for the Metropolitan Opera; other donors who care about our musical inheritance should do the same.At least cowardice in the face of feminist grievance appears to be predominantly an Anglo-American affliction. So far, Domingo’s future engagements in Moscow, Vienna, Hamburg, Valencia, Milan, Cologne, Krakow, Berlin, Madrid, and Munich have not been cancelled. The director of the Vienna State Opera, Dominique Meyer, said over the summer that Vienna would honor its contracts with Domingo, who is “valued both artistically and as a human being by all in this house.”
Clever packaging, deft promotion and imaginative musical content may help draw attention to classical recordings. But in order for an album to distinguish itself artistically, it must communicate an almost subliminal connection between a performer’s skills and a composer’s inspiration.Three very different young pianists have new releases out this month that exhibit that kind of elemental kinship: 36-year-old Swiss keyboard artist Francesco Piemontesi, 26-year-old Italian virtuoso Beatrice Rana, and 25-year-old American composer-performer Conrad Tao.
Math is a deeply frustrating subject for many elementary and high school students. But Seattle public schools are gearing up to accuse math of a litany of more serious crimes: imperialism, dehumanization, and oppression of marginalized persons.The district has proposed a new social justice-infused curriculum that would focus on "power and oppression" and "history of resistance and liberation" within the field of mathematics. The curriculum isn't mandatory, but provides a resource for teachers who want to introduce ethnic studies into the classroom vis a vis math.
Plenty of rumbling has followed since Scorsese, in a magazine interview earlier this month, suggested Marvel movies aren’t cinema but “something else” — theme park rides uninterested in “trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” Coppola doubled down over the weekend, telling journalists in France, gathered to see him accept the Prix Lumiere, that Scorsese was not only right but that he didn’t go far enough. Marvel films, he said, are “despicable.”
I think, if he had asked, I would have said that this is an airy-fairy idea that may be musically interesting but politically will have no effect at all. If the lack of peace is of political value to politically powerful people, then a few musicians aren't going to make any difference whatsoever.Twenty years after he co-founded with Edward Said an orchestra of young Arabs and Israelis, Daniel Barenboim has spoken openly about the Diwan as a dream that has, so far, failed.In a sombre 20th anniversary interview with the German press agency Barenboim said: ‘The orchestra exists (but not as) an orchestra for peace… We can not do that.‘Today we cannot play in most Arab countries or in Israel…’He takes credit for the training and experience the orchestra has given to many young musicians but is frustrated by the lack of political progress.’
And isn't the next stage when someone announces that the acoustics are crappy anyway?Top architect Jean Nouvel is suing one of his former clients, the Philharmonie concert hall in Paris, in a dispute over the cost of building the venue, which opened in 2015.In a complaint filed in the Paris court on October 14, his company Ateliers Jean Nouvel counters a 170-million-euro ($190-million) claim lodged by the Philharmonie de Paris against his company.The concert hall argues the architect's firm owes them the money because of budget overruns during the building of the hall, sources told AFP Monday.But the counter-claim filed by the architect's studio describes that demand as "exorbitant" and "unjustified", according to documents seen by AFP.The cost of the building rose from 173 million euros when the project was announced in 2006 to 386 million euros by the time it opened on January 14, 2015. Each side blames the other for having mismanaged the project.
On the airwaves since 1982, “New Sounds” bills itself as “New York Public Radio’s home for the musically curious,” telling us to “free your listening from the limits of genre and algorithm.” Avant garde giant Laurie Anderson was the show’s very first guest. Here was a space on the radio where tuning in could take you to Olafur Arnalds’ otherworldly field recordings of his native Iceland that he transformed into glistening electro-acoustic singles on the album Island Songs. It was a place for Pulitzer Prize winner and Bang On a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe’s Fire In My Mouth, a multimedia orchestral work that compiles archival information collected about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. Premiered by New York Philharmonic earlier this year, Fire in My Mouth is a musical exploration of this tragedy for full orchestra, women’s choir and unusual instrumentation that includes 100 pairs of scissors.
Without stretching the contrast, Boulez is a relic of an empirically discredited movement. He has not composed a work of substance for 18 years. His pseudo-scientific theories of musical progress are laughed off by today’s composers. Not one of his works is standard repertoire. Boulez is starting to resemble Arthur Scargill and Egon Krenz, true believers whose creed collapsed.
Crumb, on the other hand, is one of the few composers to change the perception and function of new music in the last third of the 20th century. His electronic string quartet, Black Angels, was an ear-opener to America’s Vietnam generation, suggesting that Haydn’s art form could grapple with post-nuclear conflict. Hearing Angels inspired the formation of Kronos and other front-line ensembles; it has been recorded four times and performed, I suspect, more than any modern string quartet.
I suppose that this might be the equivalent of what, in music? An early piece by Steve Reich like Eight Lines? I don't know how much money Steve has made off that piece, but if it were more than a few thousand dollars I would be surprised. I also don't know how much money Mark Rothko made off Blue Over Red, but somebody sure has made a pile. Let me just speculate for a moment: let's say he sold the painting when it was new for, what, $10,000? $50,000? Some collector bought it and either sold it to another collector or collectors until finally it goes up for auction. The individual or group of collectors are going to make an enormous profit. Ok, fair enough.Mark Rothko’s Blue Over Red from 1953, a critical period during which the artist developed his signature style of abstraction, will headline a Sotheby’s contemporary art auction in New York on Nov. 14.The painting is expected to fetch between $25 million and $35 million, and will be on public view at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries beginning Nov. 1.
Production of an entire piece through the application of variation is an approach to the logic of larger compositions.
As the name indicates, the piece consists of a THEME and several VARIATIONS upon it. The number of variations is determined by whether it is a movement in a cyclic work, like Op. 26-I, Op. 14/2-II, Op. 111-II; or an independent piece like the 32 Variations in c minor, or the 33 Diabelli Variations, Op. 120. A middle movement in a cyclic work includes a lesser number of variations. Often the piece is concluded by a coda, finale or fugue. In other cases the last variation is extended; and sometimes there is no special ending after the last variation. [Schoenberg: Fundamentals of Musical Composition, p 167.]I know what you are thinking--that semi-colon in the last sentence is really redundant! Oh, that's not what you were thinking? Perhaps it was that this seems strangely cryptic because it is a quote ripped out of context? Actually, this is from quite near the beginning of that chapter. So what are those compositions referred to only by opus numbers? Who was the composer? The reference to "Diabelli Variations" gives the game away, of course, as the most famous composer who wrote a set of those was Beethoven. But who wrote the mysterious "Op. 26-I"? For the answer we turn to the Explanatory Note in the beginning of the book where it says:
ALL citations of musical literature which do not specify the composer refer to works by Beethoven. If the title is not specified the reference is to his piano sonatas.Huh? I mean, huh? Isn't Schoenberg one of the notorious enfants terrible of 20th century music? The man who, almost single-handedly destroyed tonality and emptied concert halls everywhere with the screeching dissonance of his music? Isn't he, along with Stravinsky, the father of modernism in music? And you are trying to tell me that in his most important textbook on composition, written between 1937 and 1948, i.e. his mature thoughts on the subject, he doesn't even mention atonality and the overwhelming majority of musical examples are Beethoven? How does this compute?
It is one of the most famous social-science papers of all time. Carried out in the 1990s, the “blind audition” study attempted to document sexist bias in orchestra hiring. Lionized by Malcolm Gladwell, extolled by Harvard thought leaders, and even cited in a dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the study showed that when orchestras auditioned musicians “blindly,” behind a screen, women’s success rates soared. Or did they?
They collected four decades of data from eight leading American orchestras. But the data were inconclusive: The paper includes multiple warnings about small sample sizes, contradictory results and failures to pass standard tests of statistical significance. But few readers seem to have noticed. What caught everyone’s attention was a big claim in the final paragraph: “We find that the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.”
I think that the lesson to be learned here is that all studies that seem to deliver results that support or favor current progressive ideas should be regarded with considerable skepticism. Does this apply to the "climate crisis" as well? You bet.In 2017 a team of behavioral economists in the Australian government published the results of a large, randomized controlled study entitled “Going Blind to See More Clearly.” It was directly inspired by the blind-audition study. Iris Bohnet, a Harvard Kennedy School dean and Goldin-Rouse enthusiast, served as an adviser.For the study, more than 2,000 managers in the Australian Public Service were asked to select recruits from randomly assigned résumés—some disguising the applicant’s sex, others not. The research team fully expected to find far more female candidates shortlisted when sex was disguised. But, as the stunned team leader told the local media: “We found the opposite, that de-identifying candidates reduced the likelihood of women being selected for the shortlist.” It turned out that many senior managers, aware that sexist assumptions had once kept women out of upper-level positions, already practiced a mild form of affirmative action.
You can hardly find a more sanctioned and orthodox insider than Johann Sebastian Bach, at least as he is typically presented. He is commemorated as the sober bewigged Lutheran who labored for church authorities and nobility, offering up hundreds of cantatas, fugues, orchestral works, and other compositions for the glory of God. Yet the real-life Bach was very different from this cardboard figure. In fact, he provides a striking case study in how prickly dissidents in the history of classical music get transformed into conformist establishment figures by posterity.We do have some receipts from an inn where Bach was staying where he consumed a remarkable amount of brandy while finishing a cantata, but on the whole I think it is safe to say that he was "sober." Certainly his music is quite sober if by that you mean clear and well-organized. And yes, any portraits of him we have show him wearing a wig. He was also unarguably a Lutheran, employed by the town fathers of Leipzig and patronized by various nobles. So how is that a "cardboard figure"? Ah, right, because it does not fit the narrative that Mr. Gioia is going to foist on us. As for character, yes, he did not suffer fools gladly so he could be described as "prickly" but it boggles the mind to try and see Bach as a "dissident"! So it seems that this argument, such as it is, is getting off to a very rocky start.
This is the Bach branded as “incorrigible” by the councilors in Leipzig, who grimly documented offense after offense committed by their stubborn and irascible employee.Bach and the city fathers had a lot of disputes over the twenty-seven year tenure in which he was in charge of the music, not only at the Thomaskirke, but the other main churches in Leipzig as well as teaching the choristers not only music, but Latin! Over that long a time, you could easily assemble a list that would present Bach as incorrigible or irascible. And I imagine you could assemble another list of occasions in which the city fathers were incorrigible and irascible, or at least unreasonable. There was a time, not too long ago, in which all this would have been simply disregarded as irrelevant crap, but that was when writers on music tried to present a balanced picture instead of, as now, forcing everything into the Procrustean bed of their noxious narrative.
When the mythos of Bach’s genius finally emerged, it coincided with a rising sense of German nationalism and a religious revival, movements that envisioned ways they could use this now long-dead composer to advance its own agendas.There is nothing mythic about Bach's genius and it was there all along. It just took a while for public taste to shift around to it. Both Beethoven and Mozart were big admirers of Bach's music. I'm sure that German nationalism did not suffer from clutching Bach to its bosom, but to use that as a way of characterizing Bach is to seriously distort history and causality. And yes, Mr. Gioia is using this long-dead composer as a mere pawn in his agenda.
Now of course there is a grain of truth there. It is indeed true that one of the basic functions of music schools, even if not recognized as such, is to crush genuine creative originality. But while a great deal of innovation tends to come from outside the usual sources, simply being an outsider is neither necessary nor sufficient. You mustn't forget that genuine creativity is very rare and almost all those outsiders have nothing to offer. You could spend a great deal of effort sorting through outsiders before you found a crumb of talent. So another important function of music institutions is to offer a place where a talented outsider can come to tap into the traditions and practices that are essential to being able to shape inspiration into a form that can be transmitted.Innovative songs almost always come from outsiders—the poor, the unruly and the marginalized.The scholars Milman Parry and Albert Lord confirmed this fact in the 1930s, when they set out to trace the origins of ancient epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey. Their research took them to Bosnia, where they met Avdo Mededović, an illiterate peasant farmer they dubbed the “Yugoslav Homer.” Accompanying himself on a one-string instrument, Mededović performed a single story-song that took seven days to complete and went on for 12,311 lines—roughly the same length as the Odyssey. He performed entirely from memory, aided by patterned improvisations of the kind used by jazz musicians.Parry and Lord later declared that every one of the great singers of tales they encountered during their field research was illiterate. The ability to sing an epic poem was not only a skill that couldn’t be taught in college, but a formal education would almost certainly destroy it.
"Poetry comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often."
This piece is more technical than most because it was written by a conductor.Many conductors use a baton to help pinpoint this use of time, although some do not. Such an individual choice can vary with the size and style of the repertoire being performed. The beating arm is usually on the individual’s strongest side: I am right-handed, for example.A major part of the conductor’s role is to accurately show the length of each bar according to the interpretation and theoretical structure of it. A bar is a mathematical tool that helps to visually organize the music for the performers concerned.An avid audience member will notice that most bars have beating patterns that conductors utilize. The beating pattern is dictated by the number of beats in the bar. (The usual number of beats would be between two and four.) It is defined by a combination of vertical and horizontal beats. (The conductor will indicate these by moving the arm up or down or side to side.)
Our hope as composers and conceptualists is to summon the social memory of the oppressed, which bore witness to the horrors of capitalism, with its building blocks of genocide, slavery, and ecocide. These memories generate multiplicities of meanings when their call for justice summons the activists of ongoing liberation movements. Such figures animate and re-animate the call for a revolution of values, a revolution of the self and community, and ultimately, a revolution against global capitalism.
But what of the fermented juice itself? Waugh was conscious of the perils of writing about it, yet baulked at the starkness of Kingsley Amis’s observation “You can call a wine red, and dry, and strong and pleasant. After that, watch out”. In the 1970s there was a revolution in wine writing, in which anthropomorphic language gave way to a vocabulary that recognized wine as an agricultural product. The new wave found its most influential expression in the writings of the former Baltimore lawyer Robert Parker, typified in a note such as this, about a legendary Pauillac: “A dark, opaque garnet colour is followed by a fabulous nose of cedar, sweet leather, black fruits, prunes and roasted walnuts, refreshing underlying acidity, sweet but noticeable tannin, and a spicy finish”. Waugh was inclined to mock such geoponic rigour and even found another American wine writer absurd for likening a pinot noir to cherries. Yet he could still refer to an Italian red having a “beautiful hare’s blood or red garnet colour and a fragrance of freshly cut pine”.
Several events at the beginning of the fall music season demonstrated the virtue of projects that are driven not by celebrity allure but by a strong artistic purpose. Just as the Domingo crisis was hitting the Met—the singer withdrew from the roster on the eve of scheduled appearances in “Macbeth”—the company introduced a new production of “Porgy and Bess,” its first presentation of the work in thirty years. A brilliant cast of African-American performers infused Gershwin’s score with authority and nuance. In the same week, the New York Philharmonic mounted a stylishly enigmatic double bill of Schoenberg’s monodrama “Erwartung” and Bartók’s one-act opera, “Bluebeard’s Castle.”
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The arts are quarantined on campus, where the highest common denominator is theoretical pretension, and where no art of any worth is ever made. Entertainment is ghettoized on the internet, where the lowest common denominator, and the only sure way to make money, is sex and violence, and the even surer way is to combine sex and violence in the same image. No more Jackson Pollock and Elvis Presley. Today, the world looks to American ‘art’ only for pimps and porn — the imagery of slavery.
The idea that Americans could educate their own sensibilities to international standards lasted little longer than Emerson and Whitman. By the late 1800s, the United States had adopted a university system along German lines, and ambitious Americans were funneling themselves into its specializing disciplines. By the early Sixties, University of California administrators were boasting that they had created a ‘multiversity’ geared to the needs of technocracy, while University of California students were rioting about an alleged lack of free speech.
By the end of the Sixties, students and administrators had arrived at a Westphalian peace. The students permitted the university to stay in the business of training specialists and technicians. The university let the students redefine the humanistic curriculum. Henceforth, the purpose of liberal education was to prevent the education of classical liberals.Some huge claims there, but I'm not entirely sure they are wrong. Something went wrong, that's for sure.
Both artists were cheered — first in person, later on social media — for taking a stand against the growing ranks of smartphone addicts who cannot resist snapping pictures and making recordings that are often prohibited by rule or by law, that are distracting to performers and patrons, and that can constitute a form of intellectual property theft.And here is the counterpoint:
One dissenter argued on Twitter that “people who wholly submit to and enforce outdated/archaic concert rituals that require insane amounts of cultural capital to begin with are going to be completely irrelevant in about 15 years’ time.”Mutter commented:
Ms. Mutter, the German violinist who stopped mid-concerto, said she was in favor of sealing phones at concerts. In her first interview about the Cincinnati incident, Ms. Mutter said that she had grown distracted as she played the first movement of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto because a woman in the first row was holding up her phone and filming her. After Ms. Mutter shot her stern looks, she said, the woman put down her phone.
“The first movement is over, and I’m trying to concentrate and stay calm,” Ms. Mutter recalled. “Then she takes out a second phone, and a power bank. I continued the second movement, but it’s already boiling in me. I’m totally out of the flow.”
“I feel violated in my rights, of my artistic property,” she said, noting that unauthorized filming is illegal. “As an artist you take such care when doing a recording — that you have your own sound engineer, that the mics are hung in the right spots. The sound is a part of you, you want your voice replicated in a way that really represents what you have worked on for an entire life.”Should a serious artist like Mutter be accorded a minimum of respect? Beyond question, in my view. Should that extend to doing nothing to disturb the performance or the performer? Yes.
But the truly shattering experience is saved for the final disc where Shostakovich sits down in 1954 with his friend and neighbour, Mieczyslaw Weinberg and plays his new symphony, the tenth, four-handed on his home piano. Mark the date. Stalin has been dead for a year and Weinberg has been sprung from an NKVD cell by the brave intervention of Shostakovich. The tenth symphony draws a line under an era of sheer terror and moves tentatively into light, barely daring to imagine a better future. I listen open-mouthed. Rarely has music so accurately reflected a moment in history, projecting and preserving it for all time. Indispensable? That might be an understatement.
Every story like this follows exactly the same template. It would be much more interesting if someone wrote a piece that really was impossible and they did an article on why it was impossible.On paper, John Zorn’s “Jumalattaret” — which has its New York premiere at the Park Avenue Armory on Oct. 15, with Ms. Hannigan joined by the pianist Stephen Gosling — looks impossible: breathless vocalise; abrupt transitions from head-spinning complexity to folk-song simplicity; and, within the span of a single measure, whispering, squeaking and throat-singing like a winter storm.It’s the kind of piece that leaves you asking, repeatedly, over the course of its 25 minutes: Can a voice even do this? The answer, for Ms. Hannigan, is yes. It took a lot of practice, a thwarted summer vacation, and a well-timed email to get there. But once she and Mr. Gosling gave the first performance of “Jumalattaret,” it was clear Mr. Zorn had created something special.
We are essentially pattern-recognizing machines. Every great musician knows that a great performance involves building up tension to an eventual release. And that's because that taps into our pattern recognition apparatus in the brain. Our brain is trying to figure out what's going to happen next. So often, we love music that has a predictable pattern, maybe that we've heard before, but that either delays that release of tension like Barber's Adagio for Strings. You know the melody just weaves around the final climax over and over and over again.Well, yes, but this describes only one type of music: that which follows a typical narrative pattern. For nearly a hundred years, composers have been finding other ways of structuring music that avoids this pattern. So again, a psychological theory that goes wrong because it simply starts with an incorrect assumption.
How did New Age end up carrying so much baggage in our musical memory? Its fall from grace, when it once soared, might be due to New Age’s status as one of the most heavily marketed musical genres, making it the equivalent of aural snake oil, to be sold on the yoga-conference circuit and in corporate supplement chains. It’s not often that an emerging style of music becomes indistinguishable from a wellness product—one with excessive claims promising listeners reduced anxiety, altered biorhythms, and the soothing of inflamed prostates.Alternatively, the aural equivalent of tapioca or tofu. And it tends to inflame, not sooth my prostate. Or soul, to make a more salubrious metaphor.
First of all, let's unpack that a bit. Turns out that it is not "psychology" that is telling us anything. It is rather Francis T. McAndrew, a professor of psychology at an obscure liberal arts college in Illinois, Knox College, whose homepage looks like a marketing seminar gone over the edge on psychedelic drugs.As I’ve grown older, I’ll often hear people my age say things like “they just don’t make good music like they used to.”Why does this happen?Luckily, my background as a psychologist has given me some insights into this puzzle.
We know that musical tastes begin to crystallize as early as age 13 or 14. By the time we’re in our early 20s, these tastes get locked into place pretty firmly.His first link, on the phrase "begin to crystallize" is to a mainstream report on a study of data from Spotify exclusively confined to pop music. So, we need to add this caveat: one psychologist, using undefined statistical methods, found that people who use Spotify and just listen to pop music tend to have the development of their musical tastes arrested in their early adolescence. Well I for one am not too surprised!
In fact, studies have found that by the time we turn 33, most of us have stopped listening to new music. Meanwhile, popular songs released when you’re in your early teens are likely to remain quite popular among your age group for the rest of your life.So is it early teens or is it thirty-three? That first link is to an article about a "study" by Deezer, a music streaming service:
according to a new survey from Deezer, which suggests people stop discovering new music at just 30 and a half.
The music streaming service surveyed 1,000 Brits about their music preferences and listening habits. 60% of people reported being in a musical rut, only listening to the same songs over and over, while just over a quarter (25%) said they wouldn't be likely to try new music from outside their preferred genres.So is is thirty-three or just thirty and a half? In contrast to the other "study" this one found that the peak year for discovering new music was twenty-four. Also, I really think it is a stretch to call something a "study" when it is just an informal survey of people using a particular service. And again, we are given no hint as to the methodology.