Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

Canada's singing astronaut, Chris Hadfield, is still doing musical projects as we learn from this piece in the Globe and Mail. If you remember, a while back Chris, who is a pretty fair singer and guitar player as well as being a fighter pilot and astronaut, did his cover of a David Bowie tune. The first music video shot in space!

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For all of us who might be lacking in self-confidence, here is the "Kanye West Self-Confidence Generator". My favorite quote:
"For me to say I wasn't a genius, I would just be lying to you and to myself."
Wow. Now I'm having a moment of cognitive dissonance because when I hear what he actually does:

I think, what a load of crap...

But that's just me, right?

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One entrepreneur in West Hartford, CN, has a plan to stage Wagner's Ring with a digital orchestra. The New York Times has the details. My orchestral musician friend says that the comment around the musician's union office i"Welcome to the blacksmiths' union!" Or, perhaps, buggy-whip manufacturer's association?

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And now, in the interests of pandering to the audience, three supposedly classical musicians decide to do their impression of Taraf de Haïdouks (or any gypsy ensemble). Seems to me that this is the musical equivalent of a bad ethnic joke.

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Ginger Baker is a wild man. One third of the super group that invented heavy metal, Cream, he is one of the finest rock drummers ever. Mind you, he has always thought of himself as a jazz drummer. He once said about Cream that while Eric Clapton might have thought they were playing the blues, he and bassist Jack Bruce were doing jazz. If you were in a group with him, there was always the slight danger of getting stabbed if you pissed him off enough. Just a rumor! In any case, Mr. Baker, now age 74, is just about to do a tour of the US with his group Jazz Confusion and he has a new album coming out on June 24th. In an article in the Wall Street Journal he muses about what really turned him on to music.

Here he is in a Cream revival concert in, I believe, 2005, showing what a groove is:

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And while we are talking about drummers, here is an article that really could have benefitted from a little Ginger Baker. From Open Culture are the isolated drum tracks from several big names in drumming. But I was disappointed they didn't feature Ginger Baker and the one they picked for Ringo is less interesting than a lot of other tracks. I think Ringo's drumming on, for example "Rain" and "Something" pretty much makes both those songs. Here is "Something". Just listen to the drums:

And "Rain":

And here is Ginger Baker, with the only rock drum part I know of that has a front beat instead of a back beat:

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And here is the very best of very good news: Scott Ross' complete Scarlatti is again available, this time at a reasonable price: 34 discs and lots of documentation. Here is a review. And here is what you would be missing if you didn't order this box set:

But, wow, who painted the case?

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Norman Lebrecht picks up on an anniversary I am sure I would have missed, the tercentenary of the birth of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714-1762), an important writer on aesthetics. Of course Norman manages to both muddy the waters and insult the practice of aesthetics. Wikipedia describes the work of Baumgarten as follows:
With the development of art as a commercial enterprise linked to the rise of a nouveau riche class across Europe, the purchasing of art inevitably lead to the question, "what is good art?". Baumgarten developed aesthetics to mean the study of good and bad "taste", thus good and bad art, linking good taste with beauty.
By trying to develop an idea of good and bad taste, he also in turn generated philosophical debate around this new meaning of aesthetics. Without it, there would be no basis for aesthetic debate as there would be no objective criterion, basis for comparison, or reason from which one could develop an objective argument.
 Norman finishes his comment with this:
Kant said of him (in Critique of Pure Reason, 1781): The Germans are the only people who presently have come to use the word aesthetic[s] to designate what others call the critique of taste. They are doing so on the basis of a false hope conceived by that superb analyst Baumgarten. He hoped to bring our critical judging of the beautiful under rational principles, and to raise the rules for such judging to the level of a lawful science. That endeavour is futile.
Next time you’re judging a music competition, remember that.
As a matter of fact, I have judged lots of music competitions, often in company with other adjudicators and I am struck by how often, despite coming from different traditions and locales, we come up with very similar results. I can remember hearing a young guitarist in a competition in Quebec with another judge from the Maritimes (me being originally from the West Coast, but I studied in Spain) and, after hearing the guitarist, the other judge turned to me and said: "what do you think? Around 81 or 82?" This is out of a hundred. I was thinking the same thing. Norman's little sneer on behalf of absolute relativism in aesthetics is incoherent on the face of it. If there are no objective criteria for aesthetic judgement, then the very idea of a music competition is incoherent.

Oh, and of course Baumgarten did not "invent" aesthetics, but just reconfigured it for the needs of a new age. Probably the best candidate would be Aristotle whose Poetics are usually accorded the title of being the first work on aesthetics.

And there were a lot of other people working on aesthetics in the mid-18th century, among them David Hume. Here is an excellent article on his aesthetics.

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Let's end with a bit more Scarlatti from the fingers of Scott Ross. Here is K. 455 (Scarlatti really had a gift for catchy titles):


Shantanu said...

Another phenomenal Ringo track is She Said She Said!

Bryan Townsend said...

Now I will have to go check that one out! I don't recall much about the drum track.