Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Sometimes I worry that I amuse you too much with these Friday miscellaneas, I really do. So to cool things down a bit, I want to start off with a very calming piece of performance art. The description I think really captures what is going on. Just follow the link for "Wall Melody."

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It is always heartening to read a well-argued defence of aesthetic beauty and this one, in the Wall Street Journal, is worth your time because it looks at the situation from a different angle: Remember When Art Was Supposed to Be Beautiful?
There was some connection between beauty and freedom—a link I only made years later after immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. The mullahs resorted to censorship and violence to sever that connection. But in the Free World today it has been severed, not by any repressive regime, but by the art world itself.
In today’s art scene, the word “beauty” isn’t even part of the lexicon. Sincerity, formal rigor and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendent—all of these ideals, once thought timeless, have been thrust aside to make room for the art world’s one totem, its alpha and omega: identity politics.

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I know you've been waiting for this: the salsa version of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5:

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On a slightly more serious note, Alan Kozinn gives a judicious appraisal of a new work by ex-R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills' new composition "Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra".
Melody is Mr. Mills’s strong suit, and he has filled his work with bluesy themes, propulsive figures and ear-catching riffs—but also with abidingly sentimental tunes that quickly turn syrupy. Don’t look for novel timbre combinations, quirky turns of phrase or, especially, unusual rhythmic twists: a soporifically steady drum beat underlies much of the work. And the orchestration, which Mr. Mills turned over to David Mallamud, is entirely conventional, its most vivid moment a Dvorak-like swirl at the end of the “Nightswimming” movement.
You weren't actually expecting Mozart, were you?

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Alex Ross has a very interesting article on Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho in the New Yorker. Her credentials are impressive: she studied with both Brian Fernyhough and at IRCAM in Paris where she currently lives. Her music is complex and involving. Laterna Magica might be a good place to start. The music starts at the 3:07 mark:

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In honor of his 80th birthday, The Guardian has a fairly substantial interview with Steve Reich that provides a good introduction to his music and thoughts on music:
“I am not an activist, never have been,” he explains, playing down the resonance between Come Out and the Black Lives Matter movement. “I mean I have beliefs and if offered the opportunity, I will help out.” But, he says “in the long run, subject matter doesn’t mean crap. Let me give you an example. One of the greatest artists of the last millennium is Pablo Picasso. And one of Picasso’s greatest masterpieces is Guernica … It’s extremely topical, it’s extremely passionate, it’s extremely political. As a work of art, it’s a towering masterpiece. As an effective political tool, it’s an absolute waste of time. Pablo, get out of here, you’re an idiot.”
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This is rather interesting: the Globe Theatre in London, built to house productions of Shakespeare, is firing its artistic director Emma Rice:
How very disheartening: Emma Rice is to leave Shakespeare's Globe in 2018, after a tenure of only two years. She's clearly been pushed, but it's the speed that's so shocking. The decision comes at the end of her very first season – a season that has shaken things up without being given the chance to shake down again.
Rice has challenged a hell of a lot in a short space of time – too much, too soon it now seems. Pledging gender parity in Shakespeare (and almost achieving it straight away) is not something that can be done without radical revisions. The same goes for audiences and accessibility. For all we say that Shakespeare's for everyone, it can just as easily be exclusive and elitist. Accessibility isn't just a price issue. It's about taste.
If people feel aggrieved by today's news, that's why. The changes she's made have sought to open Shakespeare up and it's hard not to feel that the Globe board is closing him back down again.
Rice writ her intentions in big neon letters right from the off. The words 'Rock the Ground' blazed over her opening show, A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a riot of colour, lit up in blues and pinks, and mic'd up for good measure. Katy Owens tore up the space like a lusty little Puck, and there were bursts of Bowie and Beyonce.
The article is opposed to the firing, but despite the special pleading, it gives a few clues: perhaps, in an oak and thatch replica of the original theatre of Shakespeare's time, it is not the ideal location to deliver the most radical productions? Perhaps it rather provides a context to acquaint audiences with the original Shakespeare? I mean, does Shakespeare really need "bursts of Bowie and Beyonce"? The BBC has a more balanced article:
Mr Constable added: "The Globe was reconstructed as a radical experiment to explore the conditions within which Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked, and we believe this should continue to be the central tenet of our work.
"Whilst the realisation of Emma's vision has been a vital part of our continuing experimentation as a theatre, we have now concluded that a predominant use of contemporary sound and lighting technology will not enable us to optimise further experimentation in our unique theatre spaces and the playing conditions which they offer."
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Some very clever folks in Sweden seem to have solved the problems of travelling violinists with this new kind of violin travel case. Watch the video, it's fascinating:

If only they could do something for guitarists! I would be able to travel by air with my guitar, something I refuse to do under present conditions.

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Hmm, what should our envoi be today? Beyoncé or Steve Reich? Honestly, it's a toss-up. Still, I think I will go with Mr. Reich. This is the first part of "City Life" which he wrote when he moved out of New York city to the countryside (to get away from the noise). It's kind of a musical exorcism:


Marc Puckett said...

I will happily read Ahmari's The New Philistines: it's only 144 pages and the Kindle version (five bucks) is already on my tablet-- so not a five hundred page scholarly work but I imagine that the audience for multi-volume scholarly defenses of or prosecutions of anything is pretty small in these latter days. It'll be interesting (for this other convert to the Catholic religion, anyway-- I thought I recognised the name) to see how he describes the relationship between religious faith and the transcendent claims of Beauty-- if indeed he brings any of all of that up.

Having spent hours in doctors' waiting rooms lately, the salsa Fifth is certainly more tolerable than any music I've been subjected to in any of them. I guess that's not a vigorous thumb's up but it's the best I can do. :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

I just downloaded it to my Kindle. Looking forward.