Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Miscellanea

Here is a piece from NPR about "Selling Sex and Symphonies". It manages to completely miss actually considering the issue, but does have an extensive gallery of sexy album covers:

Like so many of this kind of article, its notion of the history is completely subsumed to the Narrative. For example, this quote:
Overweight men in opera, who sang lead roles, could pretty much expect to be judged on their voice and their acting, with no mention of their size. But a large woman would always be criticized for her size, often before any comment was made about her voice or acting.
—Deborah Voigt, soprano
As a matter of fact, I can recall lots of conversations from back then that critiqued male opera stars as much as female ones. A friend of mine was telling me of a performance she saw, probably in the 70s, with Luciano Pavarotti and, I think, Jessye Norman who were supposed to be lovers in the opera (don't recall which one!). But they were both too fat to actually embrace, so they had to be content with a bit of hand-holding. It was quite comic, apparently. So take all these claims with a grain of salt...

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You may have noticed that I sometimes complain about the crude attempts by "scientists" to explain, or explain away, music, aesthetics and other non-scientific phenomena. I'm not alone of course and I read the beginning of this article with particular glee:
Scientism, manifested most dismally in exaggerated claims about the capacity of neuroscience to explain (or explain away) human nature, is perhaps the most serious intellectual disease of our time.
 Well, maybe not the most serious intellectual disease of our time, that would be socialism. Or Electronic Dance Music.

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You know you want it, so here it is: Sibelius' Valse Triste arranged for six double basses:

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It is only with great apprehension that I venture to put up the following item on climate change, "Cold Sun Rising." But I feel I have to because of its fascinating--and music-related--last paragraph:
Recent research has determined that the famous Stradivarius violin owes its unique, esteemed sound to the last Maunder Minimum. The solar condition changed the texture of the trees that provided the wood from which the instrument was crafted. So lovers of classical music can place their orders for the next generation of incomparable violins, coming - giving the trees time to mature - in about 100 years.
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And now for a piece on the venerable viola joke: "The History of the Viola Joke."
The more masochistic viola players are keen tellers of viola jokes themselves. They write them down, collect them and even invent new ones so that they may be further taunted by their colleagues. I am fascinated by this. Most viola players that I know seem perfectly normal people (well, at least as normal as any other musician). Yet these jokes play on notions that viola players are in turn incompetent (Why are orchestral tea-breaks only 20 minutes long? Because if they were any longer the violas would have to retrain), neurotic (How do you get a viola player to play flying staccato? Write a semibreve with the word ‘solo’ beside it), and despised figures, the object of everyone else’s sadistic impulses (How do you stop a viola player from drowning? Take your foot off his head!).
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 More bowed instrument news, though slightly less funny: "Hong Kong Sinfonietta concertmaster collapses on stage during concert."
The leader of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, James Cuddeford, collapsed midway through a concert on Saturday in front of a shocked audience.
The Australian born violinist had been ill prior to the orchestra’s performance of Schumann’s Cello Concerto with French soloist Aurelien Pascal. However, it was not until 20 minutes into the concert, during the slow movement of the concerto, that the violinist stopped playing and slipped off his chair, falling onto the floor and crushing his Gagliano violin in the process.
James is recovering nicely, apparently, but no word yet from the violin hospital about the Gagliano. Still in surgery, it seems.

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And, save the envoi, I'm afraid that is all for this week's miscellanea. I was unable to access the Internet for half the week, so I just didn't collect many items. Here is the Piano Trio No. 44 in E major by Joseph Haydn. The artists are Robert Levin, fortepiano, Vera Beths, violin and Anner Bylsma, cello:


Christine Lacroix said...

That was a great Friday miscellanea, Bryan. Just the antidote to the news in France this Saturday morning.
I found the story of the violin player falling off his chair hilarious. I would be ashamed of myself but years ago I was paid to participate on a study done at U California on sense of humor related to IQ and personality. We underwent a battery of tests and then were asked to evaluate jokes on how funny they were. I noticed with horror that the jokes that had people falling down, getting crushed, sucked into tornados,blown out of airplanes were the ones that tickled my funny bone the most. I refuse to think about what that means or feel guilty about it since it's certainly outside of my control. In the meantime I suffer from severe stage fright at all live performances for fear that one of the performers might do one or all of the above.

Christine Lacroix said...

By the way I recently taught a group of scientists including a few climatologists.I thought a discussion of the accuracy of anthropomorphic climate change would keep them busy for at least an hour. Alas they informed me that there is no scientific controversy on the subject, only a political one. And that was that.Three minutes. I did consider informing them that they were victims of a plot but I was seriously outnumbered and under informed.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Christine and let me extend my heartfelt sympathies to you and everyone in France.

Stepping back for a moment, this whole climate change kerfuffle is extremely perplexing. There are all sorts of people and fora where it is simply taken for granted that there is no significant disagreement or controversy over anthropogenic climate change and its causes and solutions. But turn around and there seem to be as many places where you can read the exact opposite: a huge number of scientists do not agree, the amount of human influence on climate change is very unclear and there is an enormous amount of political pressure promoting the first position and denying the second. So I guess my question is, who do these scientists work for? If they are all employed by politically-funded institutions then I'm not sure they are unbiased.

Twenty or perhaps even ten years ago I wouldn't have seen this as very controversial, but every day I read something that makes me more doubtful. That article I linked in the miscellanea was from the Nation!

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to turn the comments section of your fine blog into a cheap porn forum but what exactly is Vanessa Mae trying to hide? Is the producer trying to corner the pedophile market? These people are shameless!

Bryan Townsend said...

Vanessa Mae was the first "classical" artist that I can recall that really sold herself as a sex-object. And still showing everyone else how it is done! Let it not be said that classical artists run very far behind Miley Cyrus in shameless exploitation.