Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

I have never seen a production of Philip Glass' opera Einstein on the Beach and after watching this except I am almost certain I never want to:

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The LA Times has an article about Toru Takemitsu that has some interesting anecdotes:
Everyone who knew Takemitsu has stories. He was intentionally vague. He had a wicked sense of humor. He saw more than 200 films a year, and after a few drinks he could hilariously recite the plots of obscure B movies you’d never of.
Knussen had been a close friend. They were an odd couple — the tiny Takemitsu a fraction of the size of the Brit. Before the concert, I reached out to Knussen for a few anecdotes.
“The first time I met Toru was when I conducted ‘Rain Coming’ in 1982,” Knussen recalled. “He was very nervous, actually shaking. I asked him if anything was wrong, and he said, ‘Very nervous, first time I ever wrote piece without harp.’ ”  
In fact, the piece sounded terrible, even though he had carefully followed all the metronome markings. “I asked Takemitsu if he had any comments,” Knussen explained, “and he said, ‘Everything perfect.’ ‘Oh, God,’ I thought, ‘he’s going to be one those: “Are you sure?” “Everything perfect.” ’ 
“Then I went back to the beginning and lifted my arms to give the downbeat, when he said, ‘Just one thing. All tempi twice too fast.’”

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I was just saying to someone that Bob Dylan is probably the only person in the world to whom you could give a Nobel Prize who might not even notice. And sure enough: Nobel panel gives up knockin’ on Dylan’s door.
The Swedish Academy says it has given up trying to reach Bob Dylan, days after it awarded him the Nobel prize in literature.
“Right now we are doing nothing. I have called and sent emails to his closest collaborator and received very friendly replies. For now, that is certainly enough,” the academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, told state radio SR on Monday.
So far the American troubadour has responded with silence since he won the prize on Thursday.
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Here is an article on a new app for the iPad that is a "virtual controller": music synthesis made easy and intuitive. I don't think the headline writer understood the essay any more than I did: "When music can be made on a screen, we lose abstraction." Oh, for sure. Here is my favorite line, which I think is meant to be sardonic: "People with deep musical talent are not necessarily also good at increasing their output buffer sizing for RAM optimization." Well no, not most of them, anyway. Heh! Here is an interesting bit:
More nebulously, this pretty technology can be seen as part of a larger tendency in our lives towards the graphic representation of everything. Very little is abstract any more. Sounds and words and numbers are all spinning and glowing, colourful three-dimensional objects in our minds, because that’s what they look like on our screens. When we check the weather forecast on our phones we see an image of a stormy sky or a sun. That hits us before the actual temperature does.
When we use screenplay-writing software we become used to moving scenes around physically, as if stacking neat plastic boxes. Similarly our music – once represented only as cryptic black scratches on white paper – is now circles and squares and starbursts. Whether this has any long-term effect on our cognition will be for the scientists to study; I wonder if our ability to conceive the invisible will change, or even shrink.
I'm wondering if this kind of technology is similar to those innumerable ones developed over the years, essentially as teaching aides for those who are mostly lacking in musical ability.

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I'm sorry to miss this one: a production at the Royal Opera in London of Shostakovich's early satirical opera The Nose--in English! The Guardian has photos of the rehearsals:

Click to enlarge
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The Internet and networking software that uses the Internet like, oh, I dunno, Blogger?--are still causing fundamental changes in the way everything seems to work. The latest seems to be an interesting idea modeled after Uber, but for musicians. Wired has the story: Uber, But for Millenials Who Want Orchestras in Their Living Rooms. Sort of:
Professional musicians and those studying in conservatories can upload samples to a Groupmuse profile, which an internal team approves. Next, the Groupmuse team pairs performers with hosts who volunteer to host strangers and musicians in their home: a soloist for 10 people, a quartet for a house that can fit 50 listeners. Around 20 Groupmuse shows happen across the country every week, mostly in Boston, New York, Seattle and the Bay Area. Groupmuse suggests each attendee pays $10 for the show; musicians go home with an average of $160.
Sounds like a great idea. Most musicians have been frustrated with the difficulties of working with traditional impresarios and concert organizers, this seems like an interesting alternative.

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A suitable envoi for today would be Shostakovich's absurdist opera, The Nose. The libretto is an adaptation of a short story by Gogol. This is a performance from 1979 by the Moscow Chamber Opera Theatre Chorus & Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor:


Marc Puckett said...

Am not a great fan of Dylan (in the sense that I very rarely listen to his songs) but I do applaud his public indifference to the Swedish grandees' prize-- his refusal to perform for the media is a delight to witness.

I enjoy listening to parts of Einstein occasionally but I've never seen a production of the entire thing: while I would hope to be caught up in the spectacle, judging from that Guardian video, eh, not likely.

Bryan Townsend said...

Yesterday I sat down and listened to John Wesley Harding all the way through--something I haven't done for years. And it sounds pretty darn good.

Re Einstein: yeah, why is it that so much recent theatre reminds me of bad 1960s performance art?

Jives said...

re: the composition software. How are glowing circles and stars less abstract than traditional notation?

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh, heh, heh...