Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

Here is an interesting review of a book by pianist Susan Tomes about her life in music. Regarding attitudes toward classical music she talks about:
encountering notions of classical music as elitist. She mentions fellow pupils referring to “snobby classical music”, and one saying: “You think you’re so posh, just because you can play the piano.” Tomes became worried even as a teenager that classical music was feared or resented by quite a few people. Now sensing “a rising tide of antagonism towards so-called ‘elitist’ music”, she blames “a background of neglect of music in school education”; the result, she fears, is that a type of music “is being slowly pushed into the margins. The music hasn’t changed, but society seems to be looking the other way.”
I would like to add to this that resentment in society is not limited to those people who dislike classical music. Poor people sometimes resent rich people, minorities might resent the majority, those out of power resent those in power, those with minimal talent resent those with lots of talent, those with an awkward seat in the middle resent those with a nice seat on the aisle, and on and on. Resentment by some does not necessarily mean any moral failing by those who are resented, it really doesn't. I don't think classical musicians are under any obligation to apologize for what they do.

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I'm kind of becoming a Joan Baez fan. She had a very sincere comment on the massacre in Paris and I've been listening to her sing some Bob Dylan songs lately. Here, thanks to Slipped Disc, is her comment:

To the people of France,
I wish to send my deepest sympathy to those most closely affected by the executions at Charlie Hebdo, and to a French public in mourning. Liberals and conservatives in equal measure understand the value and importance, not to mention joy, of satire, humor, nonsense, and courage in the 21st century. Which makes the executions at Charlie Hebdo more than enraging, more than terrifying, more than shocking (as there is little left to shock us in these times). It makes the murders, simply, heartbreaking.I ask permission to share in your grief.Thank you, Joan Baez
And here she is singing "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright":

And, wow, was she ever gorgeous back then!

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Now we find out why Tom Service at the Guardian hasn't been doing too much of interest lately: he has been making a documentary film about Mozart. Well, good for him. He talks about it here:
with Mozart there’s as much myth as there is reality when it comes to finding out who he was, and how and why he wrote the music he did. The more you look into it, the more it seems as if Mozart’s music is hidden in a hall of distorting mirrors, a labyrinthine illusion of stories, images, myths, and even merchandise that began to accrue to the man and his works immediately after his famously early death at the age of just 35 in 1791.
Blah, blah, blah. I don't know if the documentary is going to be more informative, but we will get to see original manuscripts, talk to outstanding performers and tour places in Salzburg and Vienna. In other words, it is likely that it will be just as shallow and uninformative as every other music documentary I have ever seen. Why is that? Maybe it is because they always pick journalists to do them? I don't know for sure, but I think that the fundamental assumption, that everything needs to be made visual and simplified, is what kills these projects from the get-go. But if you actually want to know something about how Mozart did what he did, you can just read my post on the C major piano concerto I put up on Tuesday.

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Norman Lebrecht reports on the precipitous drop in revenue from recording sessions in Los Angeles. In 1998 it amounted to a $50 million dollar industry down to a mere $15.5 million in 2013. That is a drop of 68%. This report comes from the American Federation of Musicians whose rules and fee structure are likely the main cause. It is expensive to record in LA. Probably every orchestral soundtrack you have ever heard in the cinema was recorded in one 2.5 hour session. Studio musicians can famously read anything at sight, so most of these scores were played once only. In other places, with easier rules and lower fees, it is cheaper to record.

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And that's it for today. Very busy with other things this week, so not as much blogging as normal. Let's end with some Mozart because he just wrote so much truly great music. Here is his lovely Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581, played by a bunch of folks whose names all start with P:

Portal: clarinet / clarinette
Pasquier, Daugareil: violins / violons
Pasquier: viola / alto
Pidoux: cello / violoncelle

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