Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

Every Friday I put up a post of smaller items. Today we begin with Anna-Maria showing us how to do overtone singing:

* * *

The science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel on which the movie Bladerunner was based and one of the best titles ever, was a big lover of classical music, especially Beethoven. Here is a link to a list of some of his favorite pieces.

* * *

I just want to assure all readers of the Music Salon that sighing and using irony will continue to be featured here on an ongoing basis. That is, assuming I have the writing skills to put them in print. I mean pixels! Sparked by reading this article about the treatment of a professor at the University of Warwick. Everyone seems to have come to their senses as we can read in this followup.


* * *

Here is a review of a recent performance of a Handel opera at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. This paragraph from the review outlines some of the differences in musical style of Baroque versus more recent operas:
Witnessing an 18th-century opera in a version of its original state is like overhearing a discussion about astronomy with people who still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. We just see things differently now. And in opera, it’s the concept of dramatic time that has changed beyond reckoning since opera seria ruled the world. We expect preparation, conflict, resolution in our dramatic timelines. Handel and his contemporaries, on the other hand, present a situation, explore the emotional intensity of that situation, and then move on to the next. It robs us of our contemporary expectation of dramatic time, but it provides a composer with dozens of opportunities to plumb emotional depths without worrying too much about plot, character development, or any other modern operatic convention.
What is left out is how "dramatic time" is expressed in music. It really boils down to a completely different way of handling harmony which in the Baroque era was more static. It was the early Classical composers that discovered how to make harmony create a feeling of narrative impetus and hence, "dramatic time". The odd thing is, in these times of widespread musical ignorance, someone reviewing a Baroque opera is not actually allowed to mention the music! You notice that the word "music", let alone the word "harmony" is absent from the above description?

UPDATE: To clarify, the review talks a lot about the music in reviewing the performances, just not in this paragraph, which is about the piece itself. Still odd.

* * *

This has to be my favorite item of the week: "Bach's wife composed his most famous works".
Born in 1701, and married to Bach in 1721, Anna Magdelena [sic] was known to have transcribed for her husband in his later years, however Jarvis will argue the handwriting does not match the slowness or heaviness attributed to someone copying – and it’s more likely that the inspiration has flowed from her mind.
Wow, is that a feeble argument, or what? If we can't find a great woman composer since Hildegard von Bingen (1098 - 1179) then we will just have to invent one!! Steven Isserlis gives this theory the treatment it deserves here.

In other news, Clara Schumann was the author of all of Robert Schumann's better stuff and the actual composer of Stravinsky's ballets was Coco Chanel. Stay tuned for more breaking news...

* * *

What really bothered me about this performance was that the guitar was out of tune... <sarc off> Blogger won't embed, so follow the link:

Hey, every guitarist does this sort of thing. But they usually stop after a minute or two, not keep it up for 6:47. Sheesh!

(And I really don't see the need for a score when you could just have a post-it note saying "just piss around on the guitar for six minutes or so in a random fashion...")

* * *

Apart from the fact that everything he says about Taylor Swift could probably apply to most pop musicians, this is not bad: "When Music Sounds Like a Cash Register: Taylor Swift"

* * *

You can learn a lot about music online these days. This course, "The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works", comes highly recommended. Has anyone purchased and watched it? Was it worth $114? I have to say, that while it does seem to have more than its fair share of warhorses, it does end in the right way, with two symphonies by Shostakovich: nos. 5 and 10.

* * *

Rounding off this special Halloween miscellanea let's listen to Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky:

You can hear Stravinsky's roots in that music. And for a different take on the macabre, here is Saint-Saëns' Danse macabre:

Which answers the question, what is that weird music Giles plays during the "Hush" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season four, episode ten when he is giving his analysis of how to fight the Gentlemen?


Craig said...

I've not sat through that particular set of "Great Courses" lectures, but I have listened to a few of Robert Greenberg's other music-related courses from the same source. I would hesitate to recommend them to you because I have the feeling that you would find him too much of a populist: his courses are very much on the level of "music appreciation for non-musicians". He goes to some trouble to describe musical forms (sonata, rondo, etc.) but I don't think I remember him ever getting right down to a score. Perhaps in a video course it would be different.

Having said that, Greenberg is himself a pretty lovable figure, with a prominent New Jersey accent, a treasure house of corny jokes, and an unquestionable love of the music. Some people find him annoying, but I kind of like him.

There are a number of clips of his courses on YouTube; you might sample and decide for yourself.

Bryan Townsend said...

Hi Craig! I wasn't asking for myself. I used to teach a course similar to this one to non-music majors. But I was curious on behalf of my readers. I'll look for those clips you mention.