Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Thirteen Ways of Looking at "Dark Dream": An Analysis

A couple of years ago I was writing a piece for violin and guitar that I ultimately titled Dark Dream. This piece went through several stages and ended up being the longest single piece of music I have written. We recorded it in Toronto a little over a year ago and it ended up being fourteen minutes in length. The process of composition involved writing the piece and then taking it apart and rewriting it several times. I could check, but I think it took about two years before it assumed its final shape.

As the piece seemed to me to be a significant breakthrough I have recently decided to do an analysis of it akin to what Schoenberg did with some of his pieces in the transition from tonal to serial composition. He would write a piece in free atonal style and afterwards try to discern how it was put together.

There are so many different ways of approaching an analysis that I am going to take a cue from Wallace Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" and try and find thirteen ways of looking at Dark Dream. Also because I am pretty sure that it will not fit within any of the usual analytical methods.
I was of three minds, 
Like a tree 
In which there are three blackbirds.
--Wallace Stevens
1. The piece is for violin and guitar, a favorite ensemble of mine. One of my most satisfying musical relationships was with violinist Paul Kling with whom I gave quite a few chamber concerts of music by Giuliani, Paganini and others. He was a violinist of outstanding abilities. But my relationship with the violin is complex as my mother was a violinist, a "fiddler" in her words. The violin always represented to me a hemisphere of music to which I, as a guitarist, did not have access. In my mother's hands it was a folk instrument. In the hands of Paul Kling it was, along with the piano, another instrument that I did not have access to, the supreme instrument of Western Music. In one concert Paul played the Bach Chaconne in D minor as a solo offering. All I could come up with in response was a Tombeau originally for Baroque lute by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, a friend of Bach's. In Dark Dream there is an interesting fusion and then separation of the two instruments. The piece begins with a unison possible because the violin and guitar share one open string in common: the 4th string of the violin is the same pitch as the 3rd string of the guitar. The opening uses these strings, plus some octave displacements, to unfold a G nexus. 

Click to enlarge
The guitar sounds an octave lower than written as you can see from the clef, so what look like octaves here are actually unisons. This idea of the two instruments fusing together and then separating is also realized in the speeding up and slowing down motif, one of the basic themes. Later on each instrument has a cadenza:

Click to enlarge
The violin's is extended into a more lyric melodic idea that returns at the end of the piece:


It also appears, for both instruments, in the "moment form" section. Here is how it appears at the end:


I suppose that what I was doing, in part, was to place the guitar and violin as equals, but at the end, the guitar returns to a sonority unique to itself, as does the violin. Separate but equal? The violin certainly wins out melodically. But the guitar, with its mysterious sonority at the end, preserves its identity. By "preparing" the guitar by putting a paperclip on the 6th string, you get a complex mixture of pitches, vaguely bell-like. The violin, with its col legno on the 4th string open, contributes its own uniqueness to the composite. So one aspect of the structure of Dark Dream is my personal relationships with both the guitar and the violin.

2. A composer that I became interested in, in recent years, was Sofia Gubaidulina, a Russian/Tatar woman who never quite fit into any of the niches available in the Soviet Union and eventually emigrated to Germany. One thing I learned from her music is that a "theme" does not have to be melodic or motivic but can be a texture or a timbre. This is why I use a number of different coloristic ideas in the piece as building blocks. These include:
  • pizzicato for both instruments
  • harmonics for both instruments
  • col legno and sul pont mainly for violin
  • "prepared" guitar using a paper clip
  • glissandi for both instruments
  • trills for both instruments used as a texture more than a harmonic or melodic device
  • unmeasured tremolandi on two strings for both instruments similarly
  • "snare drum" effect on the guitar which is achieved by crossing the 5th and 6th strings over one another for a rustling metallic effect
3. The ineffable influence of Zeno of Elea. I have always been fascinated by the paradoxes of Zeno of Elea who seems to show that, for example, Achilles can never catch the tortoise. This paradox seems to point to the question of whether or not space divides into infinitely small points. Or so I understand it! For my purposes I want to see the temporal flow of music as being of two kinds: with an underlying pulse or with no pulse and extended sounds. Pop music always has a rigid beat while Gregorian chant has floating sonorities. Is time more like a march or more like a river? A big part of the structure of Dark Dream is based on contrasting these two concepts of time. For example, in the very beginning we have a single note, fermata, with no fixed duration. This is followed by a simple rhythmic counterpoint. This in turn leads to the speeding up and slowing down motif which the two instruments play against one another. The contrasts are throughout the piece. Other similar contrasts are between fixed individual pitches and glissandi. On a higher structural level the two outer sections of the piece use a traditional score layout. In the middle there is a contrasting section in "moment form" in which each instrument is given a collection of musical moments that they play in any order. This is repeated so there is another ordering. The effect of this kind of texture is that not only is there no narrative direction, but there is of course no shared pulse between the instruments. The music floats.

Click to enlarge


4. There are four basic motifs in the piece:

A.
B. 
C.
D,

Two are with pulse, A and D, and two, B and C, are without pulse. Only D resembles a traditional motif. These ideas are developed in various ways.

5. In order to avoid traditional tonal implications, I use different forms of the octatonic scale in the piece.

6. The piece really avoids a structure with "directed motion." When I started to do a Schenkerian analysis what seemed to be coming into view was a movement from G up to D flat! Rather upside down. I am going to go back and go into that more carefully later on.

7. Silence has a significant role in the piece. This is on analogy with the layout of traditional Chinese art which tends to have a blank or "negative space" in the centre where Western art would have a focus or climax. In Dark Dream, the climactic moment really comes at the end of the moment form section which is a silence followed by a kind of recapitulation.

Well, there are seven ways of looking at Dark Dream. Rather sketchy, I know! Here is the original post with the clip of the recording:


Comments are welcome, of course.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

All Kinds of Brows

Reading a new collection of essays by Richard Taruskin, in this case Cursed Questions, is always a disconcerting experience because it is, on the one hand, stimulating and informative, and on the other hand, dismaying and destabilizing. It is stimulating to question our common assumptions, but also disturbing. Taruskin assembles such a large cast of characters and delves so deeply into the cross-currents of culture that at the end of the day, one scarcely knows what it is safe to think or believe.

The essay I am currently wrestling with is titled "Which Way Is Up? On the sociology of taste" and it is a knotty one indeed. The issue revolves around the problem of modernism and modernity and the sociology of taste, specifically how the taste for the finer arts, classical music and its more challenging examples, has been promoted to the masses as an enlivening and upwardly mobile product. The issues are complex and Taruskin skillfully unveils the history of what used to be called "middlebrow" taste and aspirations. Everyone is going to learn to like Beethoven, and perhaps even Stravinsky, whether they want to or not! He remarks:
More advanced technique is now to be equated with enhanced moral standing. That way is now up. And so it is with the politicized critical vocabulary we use today, in which progressive is given a default aesthetic privilege and conservative is stigmatized.
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
Taruskin takes aim at some of the more uncompromising figures in this project such as one of my own heroes, Joseph Kerman, as follows:
Was there ever a musical writer as militantly highbrow as Macdonald? None but Joseph Kerman comes to mind. His Opera as Drama—derived from a series of critical essays he had written in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when he was a very young man, for the Hudson Review, one of the many “little magazines” devoted to high culture in midcentury America—is the only musicological book (or perhaps I should say, the only book by a certified, sheepskin-carrying musicologist) that seems to exemplify in all its purity the highbrow or snob position defined by Richard Peterson, the leading American sociologist of brows, as “moralistic contempt for and distancing from all cultural manifestations that do not fit with what is taken to be proper.” Kerman’s book has been compared with F. R. Leavis’s The Great Tradition as an exercise in winnowing. Its ten chapters comprise what John Updike (thinking of Vladimir Nabokov’s literary judgments) called a “willful little pantheon” of exemplary works. Its tone is suitably irritable and prim, in keeping with the class anxiety to which snobbery gives outward expression. As Peterson writes, to a thoroughbred highbrow “even the ‘serious’ study of popular culture by academics is a threat to ‘standards,’ because, within the received perspective, it is seen as lending legitimacy to that which is vulgar, and it thus threatens the sanctity of the status boundaries distinguishing between what is fine and what is common.” Opera as Drama starts right off with a warning that “flabby relativism is certainly the danger,” and with foreboding: “it is hard to think that all our operatic activity can proceed much longer without standards.”
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
Ignoring the recurring slaps ("moralistic contempt," "proper," "willful little pantheon," "irritable and prim," and so on) that Taruskin assembles to cue us as to how to evaluate Kerman's stance, I pretty much am on Kerman's side here. But, as aforementioned, with a disturbed uneasiness. Perhaps my own belief in some sort of aesthetic standards and purity is just so much codswallop. But I really can't disavail myself of the notion that yes, despite the enormous intellectual smokescreen Taruskin releases to hang over the battlefield, there is such a thing as aesthetic vulgarity. I offer as evidence a truly nauseating arrangement by André Rieu of the middle movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo with the guitar solo given to a set of bells.

But after Taruskin has delivered his devastating analytical blows to the whole sociological history of high, middle and lowbrow consumption of art, one almost wants to emulate Whoopi Goldberg and simply shave off one's eyebrows!
A religious, ethical impulse undergirds all art promotion that sees art consumption as a means of self-improvement. That especially includes middlebrow promotion, going all the way back to Matthew Arnold himself.
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
If one sees the idea that art can improve oneself in some way as being illegitimate, then what does that leave? Art as a purely formalistic pleasure with no social context? Surely that is not what Taruskin is arguing?
I had a bit of sober academic fun debunking these religious appeals in The Oxford History of Western Music, as regarded both César Franck and Elliott Carter. Nobody paid much notice in the case of Franck, but there was a furious reaction to the discussion of Carter, especially because the Carter chapter was paired with one on Britten to illustrate what I was calling “the essential question of modern art,” namely, “whether artists lived in history or in society.”126 Pretty much everyone with a stake in the question assumed I was coming down heavily on the side of society, and therefore on the side of Britten. That is how I gained my middlebrow and antimodernist spurs.
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition. 
Taruskin makes the claim that the history of the 20th century, specifically that of the relationship between the Nazis and classical music, forever severs claims to the moral benefits of classical music.
Without a moral claim, what is left of our brows? Just taste, which, to remind you, Bourdieu defined as “manifested preference.” The definition is important: it shows why de gustibus non est disputandum gets it wrong. We incessantly declare and dispute, in pursuit of social capital or (as it used to be called) social advantage, the very thing that the proverb tells us is beyond dispute. In an important sense, then, our tastes are not even tastes unless we are disputing them. As long as there was perceived social advantage in a taste for high art, and as long as its pursuit mandated the negation and avoidance of the low, the middlebrow could thrive—but, much more vitally, so could high art itself in countries, like the United States, without a tradition of aristocratic patronage. The middlebrow was part of the support system that sustained the art that could not pay its way, of which classical music was perhaps the archetype. The middlebrow’s much-deplored, easily derided commercial enterprises gave classical music a purchase it now seems to be losing irreversibly.
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
 But, you know, my own personal history is at odds with this. I really never pursued classical music because of some notion of social advantage as there was none--not where I came from. There was only a sort of diffuse notional advantage in that knowledge of classical music, along with literature, philosophy, history and so forth, did offer one a wide perspective that, patently, was not very common.

I think the most disturbing thing about Taruskin's discussion is that he seems too fastidious to make any simple claims of value. He won't argue outright for cultural relativism, but he acts as if it were an unavoidable truth. Or am I just missing the point?

At the end of the day, Richard Taruskin, in addition to his monumental five-volume history of Western Music, wrote another monumental two volume, 1,800 pages, devoted to the music of Igor Stravinsky. Not André Rieu!


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday Musings

This is how my day is going:


* * *

The English have a unique approach to every crisis:


Next I expect the Bavarians to show us how it is done with excerpts from Wagner blatted from assorted balconies on tuba.

* * *

The Finns show a unique courtesy and grace: Opera Star Notifies Neighbours She is About to Resume Practicing.
Dear neighbours, I am temporarily living on the 7th floor, apartment 30. I will begin practising my singing on the coming Friday. My aim is to practise daily for around 2 hours between the hours 14-18.
My apologies in advance for the extra noise caused.
Kind regards,
Karita Mattila
* * *

Khatia Buniatishvili gets praise and blame for different things, but she has sparked some interest in the Liszt piano concertos for me:


* * *

There always seems to be something interesting going on in Iceland. This is Arngunnur Árnadóttir playing the Clarinet Concerto K. 822 by Mozart with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Cornelius Meister, conductor.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday Miscellanea

On top of the coronavirus epidemic my week has been plagued by Internet and electricity outages, but that isn't going to stop the Friday Miscellanea, even though it has certainly inhibited much additional posting.

* * *

I stole this from Somewhere in the Internet:
Almost time for my jerk neighbors to start yelling and banging on the wall again. Every night from midnight until two. It's non-stop and it really messes with my drum practice.

* * *

Wenatchee the Hatchet has also been blogging about Richard Taruskin's new essay collection Cursed Questions:
I've read Taruskin enough over the last fifteen years to have a pretty good sense that on the topic of a Romantic and post-Romantic assertion of the aesthetic autonomy of the arts in general and high art in particular that Taruskin's answer to the question of whether there is a baby in the bath water is that, basically, no, there isn't.  We cannot ultimately disentangle the aesthetic considerations of art works from those social, economic and political and ritual aspects of reception history through which works come to our attention.  To put it in musical terms, the extramusical associations through which music can receive meaning from "us" as individuals and as grous are inextricable from the music we listen to that we then admire or reject.
Yes, and I guess we have to accept that this is largely unarguable. But on the personal level, I came from a cultural milieu where there was very little in the way of cultural associations, myths and social contexts to shape my reception of the music. Sure, I picked up some of that from reading in the local library, but I honestly think that much of the way I interacted with the music was on a personal level. The kind of fundamental assumptions that one picks up from one's piano teacher and peers were really not available. There was the world, a confused medley of politics, economics and everyday culture, and then there was the world of classical music which seemed to me pretty much a separate universe. Your milage may vary.

* * *

 Very much connected with the Taruskin collection is this article on the influence of the Cold War magazine Encounter on culture:
It is almost 30 years since the demise of Encounter, the London-based monthly review of culture and politics, but no other magazine has since come close to matching its influence. Certainly none has attracted such a glittering contributors’ list of philosophers, poets, novelists, critics, historians and journalists. The sense of loss occasioned by its ending, akin in my own case to that caused by the death of a close friend, combined with a fear that a force for good in the world had been carelessly allowed to perish.
But communism had just collapsed, the Cold War had been won and the US foundations which had recently supported the magazine concluded that its aim of fighting communism had been heroically served; underwriting a magazine is an expensive business, and there were new concerns to address.
* * *

Just a few days ago, March 29, the great Polish Composer Krzysztof Penderecki passed away.
The Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, who has died aged 86, was an outstanding representative of musical modernism’s success in the 1960s. From the early 70s he became equally emblematic of the subsequent failure of so many of that modernism’s principal pioneers to sustain a lifelong career without abandoning their original principles.
In Penderecki’s case, that appeared to mean the substitution of his early trademark emphasis on sound itself, the innovative textures of his choral and orchestral music replacing themes and tonality as the basis for musical construction, with a more lyrical and Romantic style that seemed more like a continuation of 19th-century compositional concerns than a radical reappraisal of received materials.
The Guardian obituary seems to raise quite a few questions!

* * *

I was once fined by the musician's union for playing a free concert, and now we have the Munich police raiding the Bavarian State Ballet for rehearsing against orders!
This morning, a police raid took place at the Ballet Rehearsal House at Platzl in Munich, the headquarters of the Bavarian State Ballet. The dancers had to identify themselves and their personal data was recorded. This was the last so-called “voluntary” daily training, which ballet director Igor Zelensky had decided to hold despite the pandemic…
* * *

Inexplicably, this Sarabande by Bach, from a possible seventh cello suite, was just discovered! How odd that it was on April 1st...


* * *

The New York Times informs us that The Coronavirus Hasn't Slowed Classical Music. And I retort, "just the paychecks!"
The live streams began immediately, with production values ranging from tinny iPhone videos to cinema-ready sophistication. On March 12, the day New York theaters shuttered, the pianist Igor Levit gave a lo-fi performance from his living room, while the Berlin Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra played to empty halls and audiences at home. (In retrospect, these groups of 100 or so musicians should probably have stayed as far apart as the rest of us.)
Since then, a day hasn’t gone by without something to stream. In the past week alone, I’ve been able to watch older performances I missed; ones I had hoped to travel for this spring; ones that would otherwise seem unfathomable, like the pianist Maria João Pires coming out of retirement. If anything, I’m taking in more music than before; the only difference is that now I can be in multiple places — or at least multiple browser tabs — at once.
* * *

I've been putting my extra time to use by memorizing a couple of Bach gavottes.

* * *

Let's have a really splendid envoi today. First up Igor Levit with Beethoven. I am amazed they got him to play on an upright!


Here is one of my teachers, Oscar Ghiglia playing the second movement of the Sonata Romantica by Manuel Ponce. UPDATE: He is playing the second and third movements.



"Come, Heavy Sleep" from the First Booke of Songes or Ayres by John Dowland with Nigel Rogers and Paul O'Dette.


And finally, the Andante con moto, used in countless European films, from the Trio No. 2 by Franz Schubert played by Ambroise Aubrun, violin, Maëlle Vilbert, cello and Julien Hanck, piano


Enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Art as Religion

This post is inspired by some of the comments on the last post "There is No Hope for Art?" One commentator wrote: "I'm in the art-religion church even though I know there is not a lot to recommend it." I'm not so sure of that. I realized early in life that art, music in particular, was for me a substitute for religion. It took several decades to realize some of the implications of that. I do generally appreciate religion and what it seems to provide in the lives of my religious friends, but I have just never felt the allure myself.

It was G. K. Chesterton who said: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” And so now we have people who fetishize any number of things as replacements for religion--sometimes even the religion of other cultures! We have people that worship their own bodies, their appearance generally, their material acquisitions, the environment, food and wine, and a host of other things. Set alongside this, the idea of art as religion is really not so bad!

Imagine that you pursue art or music as a vocation. It provides a daily discipline in your life. You study it in either a practical or scholarly manner (or both). You use it to take you on aesthetic and spiritual journeys. You debate the finer points, including the moral implications. All this is really positive. You could, of course, pursue some of the other things I mentioned in similar ways and derive similar benefits, though many of the things we pursue we do in an unhealthy way. I suppose I would take a kind of Aquinian approach. Thomas Aquinas reconciled the philosophy of Aristotle with the theology of the Catholic Church. If you pursue art with a reasonable and intelligent approach, it need not become a fetish, but rather a benefit in life. Same with everything, really.

But art and music have very special potential benefits that most other activities do not. There is a long and rich history to explore with all sorts of aesthetic and social implications. There is the challenge of performance which rewards not only the artist, but the audience as well. There is the challenge of understanding music from the point of view of the listener and the analyst. Writing about music is another multifarious challenge.

As religions go, you could do a lot worse than choose art and music.

Woody Allen once said that Mozart was proof for the existence of God. I lean more to Bach myself. Here is the Magnificat in D major with Concentus Musicus Vienna and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt:


Talk about serendipity! Just after I posted this I ran into this supporting argument:


Sunday, March 29, 2020

There is No Hope for Art?

I'm reading Richard Taruskin's newest collection of essays, just published a few days ago. One of the largest pieces in the book is the one titled "Is There a Baby in the Bathwater? On aesthetic autonomy" from which this passage is taken:
To single out as “music worthy of human beings” a music that is inaccessible to all but an infinitesimal, self-congratulating, and possibly mendacious fraction of actual humans seems to me no different from claiming that only the tiny fraction that possess the right bloodlines, or the right class affiliation, or the right racial or religious heritage, are fully human. If this is the use to which the doctrine of aesthetic autonomy is to be put, then the baby has drowned and it might as well be thrown out with the bathwater. 
For if the grim history of the twentieth century has not discredited the idea of redemptive high culture and undermined the authority of its adherents, then there is no hope at all for art.
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
He is quoting Theodor Adorno and this passage comes in the last section of the very long essay. The music referred to is that of Arnold Schoenberg. Despite the fact that he has built up to this with a meticulous discussion of many examples from many perspectives it feels as if, finally, he has thrown out at least part of the baby! The question is, is art truly autonomous, floating like a fragrant cloud over the messy reality that it offers an alternative to? Or is it possible for a fine art like contemporary classical music to be an active and non-hypocritical agent in the world? In an earlier section that I have to quote at some length Taruskin notes that:
The ideal of aesthetic autonomy at its pinnacle of purity, by fostering a now-discredited and hopelessly academicized avant-garde, has contributed heavily to the social and cultural marginalization of music as a serious fine art. A tragicomic example of that marginalization comes by way of the Pulitzer Prize, one of the most prestigious awards an artist or scholar can earn in America. (And it is also a stunning example of the independence of cultural capital from monetary, because the Pulitzer purse is negligible.) The annual prize recipients in fiction, history, biography, and drama, even (sometimes) poetry, are almost always figures of interest to the public at large. Those awards are publicly debated; sides are taken; approval and disapproval are vehemently aired. The prize in music, until very recently, traditionally went to somebody the general music public had never heard of (often enough to somebody I’d never heard of), and nobody ever cared who won it, except jealous fellow-professionals. 
And then even the professionals began to despise it. When the composer John Adams won it in 2003 for his 9/11 memorial On the Transmigration of Souls, he expressed what one critic called “ambivalence bordering on contempt.” To another he wrote, as if paraphrasing my own judgment, that “among musicians that I know, the Pulitzer has over the years lost much of the prestige it still carries in other fields like literature and journalism,” for “anyone perusing the list of past winners cannot help noticing that many if not most of the country’s greatest musical minds are conspicuously missing, . . . passed over year after year, often in favor of academy composers who have won a disproportionate number of prizes.” With the award of the prize in 2018 to the rapper Kendrick Lamar, about whom a large public certainly does care, the Pulitzer judges have come around to recognizing the meaninglessness of their habitual public recognition of artists without a public. The decision was widely viewed as an attempt to make amends. Can the prize now ever go again to composers of contemporary “classical” music? Or has their marginalization been effectively pronounced hopeless?
Taruskin, Richard. Cursed Questions . University of California Press. Kindle Edition.
I have just the suspicion of a feeling here that Taruskin is perhaps just a tad too competent in his job of ripping away the veil. As a composer of contemporary classical music who has won no prizes and sought no vainglory (nor money for that matter) I think it would be kind and perhaps even moral of Taruskin to point out, oh, just occasionally, that perhaps people in general might look to classical music, even in its contemporary manifestation, as something that might contain expressions and experiences coded in musical terms, that could be widely enjoyed. Of course, he would riposte, this is not his job as historian. True, that. Still...

As an envoi I offer the Six Little Pieces, op 19 of Schoenberg played by Michel Béroff:


Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Miscellanea

The Verbier Festival in Switzerland is canceled:
The festival has just announced ‘with infinite regret and sorrow’ that its 27th edition, planned for July 17 to August 2, has been called off.
This makes me nervous for the Salzburg Festival. However, the latest word is that all is ready for the festival to proceed with a final decision being taken on May 30.

* * * 

From the Guardian, here is a review of the disc by Barbara Hannigan I posted about the other day: La Passione review – Grisey's masterpiece endures.
On Barbara Hannigan’s recording with the Ludwig Orchestra, she pairs Quatre Chants with a Haydn symphony, No 49 in F minor, which gives its nickname, La Passione, to the entire disc. Hannigan’s performance of the Grisey (which she conducts as well as sings) is cooler, perhaps less immediate than the other version available on disc, with Catherine Dubosc and Klangforum Wien, but it evokes the work’s haunting, unclassifiably expressive world more vividly than ever.
* * * 

The Wall Street Journal Magazine has a feature article on Kanye West this week: The Creation and the Myth of Kanye West. He is actually the only current pop artist that I am a fan of. This might be behind the paywall, but here are some quotes.
West, who mentioned in passing that he was preparing to record a new album in Mexico this spring, has 21 Grammys, including four for best rap album. He has been called an “American Mozart” by Atlantic writer David Samuels.
But West aims to be a great designer of all kinds of things. For more than a decade he has pursued plans to have the phenomenal impact in fashion that he’s had in music. West admires Steve Jobs. And McDonald’s. And the Gap, where he worked as a teen, when it was cool in the 1990s. “I believe that Yeezy is the McDonald’s and the Apple of apparel,” West says. “In order to make the Apple of apparel the next Gap, it has to be a new invention. To invent something that’s so good that you don’t even get credit for it because it’s the norm.” 
Possibly the most lucrative business decision West ever made was to retain ownership of the Yeezy brand. Today he produces sneakers and slides in a partnership with Adidas. The Yeezy merch, the apparel and nonathletic footwear—the products that he has been working so diligently to develop this past year—are West’s alone. During an appearance on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment last October, West told the talk show host, “Yeezy [is] worth $3 billion.” An Adidas representative declined to confirm West’s estimate, citing a confidentiality agreement. West, who says it bothers him that people don’t think of him as a successful businessman, repeated the estimate to me in February when he explained how he could afford to support so many endeavors. “The fact that Yeezy does $1.5 billion in revenue per year and the valuation is $2.9 billion means that money does not have to enter into the equation.” I later reviewed documents that reflected those numbers.
* * *

The Ojai Music Festival has also been canceled.
“As we were monitoring the COVID-19 crisis over these last several weeks, we considered the unpredictability of travel as well as the safety and comfort of our artists and patrons,” Eberhardt said in the announcement. “It has also become clear that the institution cannot shoulder the projected financial burden due to the forecasted drop in festival revenue and increase in festival expenses.”
* * *

This is a very bad time for all musicians and performing artists. Some very prominent artists, including Anne Sophie Mutter and Plácido Domingo, have contracted the virus. At least one prominent artist's management agency in England has gone out of business, nearly every symphony and opera has canceled the remainder of its season with some paying their artists and others not (coughTheMetcough). Music festivals are canceling right and left. Dark times indeed. But I think that perhaps things are not as bad as they seem and that we will recover, perhaps sooner than we think.

* * *

Let's have some optimistic envois today. Here is Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks, for chamber orchestra, from his neo-classical period:


Here is the estimable Hopkinson Smith playing all the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin by Bach on the Baroque lute:


His justification, not that he needs one, is that Bach did a version of at least one of these pieces, the Partita No. 3, for Baroque lute. Here is Khatia Buniatishvili playing the Rondo from the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Beethoven. There is just something exhilarating about this performance.


Hilary Hahn playing the Presto from the First Violin Sonata:


Let's end with something diverting. How about the Divertimento K. 563 for violin, viola and cello by Mozart, perhaps the most substantial divertimento ever written?