Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

This probably violates some progressive strictures, but then, what humour doesn't?

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We just have not talked enough about Monteverdi here, of which I am reminded by this article in The Spectator: The true radical genius of Monteverdi is not in the operas but in the madrigals:
Monteverdi’s eight books of madrigals span more than 40 years of his life, and condense the emotions of that lifetime into a sequence of miraculous miniatures that hit the ear with shocking force. A narrative in thrall to greatness, which cannot forget the operas, sees these madrigals as apprentice pieces, growing in sophistication and innovation until they graduate to the late, great works — Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea. But this is writing history backwards.
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If government can do this, then why can't it do something about disco Mozart? Iceland's president wants to ban pineapple on pizza:
Pineapple on pizza would be a forbidden fruit, if the president of Iceland had his way.
President Gudni Johannesson hates the hotly debated topping so much, he wants to ban it, according to a report Tuesday.
Johannesson slammed the sweet yellow fruit as a pizza world abomination while visiting a school in Akureyri in North Iceland
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 Last Friday I included an item about a university taking a four million dollar donation from a librarian and putting one million of it into a new hi-def scoreboard for the football stadium. This provoked a bunch of comments about the validity--or not--of allowing political themes to intrude into the Music Salon. Opinions were divided! So this week I run into this item in the Guardian: John Adams: ‘Trump is a sociopath – there’s no empathy, he’s a manipulator'
“The question I’m now being asked, and it’s almost corny,” Adams says, “is will I write a Trump opera? So far I’ve always said a categorical ‘no’.” What drew him to Nixon was his aspect of self-doubt. “Unlike JF Kennedy, say, he came from modest circumstances, a Quaker upbringing, a moral universe. Perversely, Nixon was destroyed by his own uncontrollable paranoia. Trump, however, is not interesting because he’s a sociopath. There’s no empathy. He’s a manipulator. We all have our paranoia. It’s how you handle it that counts. When Obama suspected people hated him he controlled himself and kept his eyes on the prize … ”
What do my readers think would be the best policy regarding this sort of thing? Simply ignore it under the "two wrongs don't make a right" principle? Push back? Offer supportive praise? If we adopt the general principle that gratuitous political remarks in an item about music are as offensive as gratuitous nudity in a Disney movie, then shouldn't we take John Adams to task as well? Just askin'...

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Germany is another country. A country where Franz Schubert makes a good jingle to sell Filet-O-Fish sandwiches:

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Terry Teachout has an excellent piece at the Wall Street Journal on marketing symphonic music to millennials:
What the California Symphony discovered, in short, was that “almost every single piece of negative feedback was about something other than the performance.” Another important discovery was that it’s single-ticket buyers, not veteran subscribers, who are most likely to use the orchestra’s website. They’re less experienced in the sometimes arcane ways of classical concertgoing—but far from stupid: “We can be informative to smart, curious people who want to learn and want to know very much why each concert is special without dumbing it down. Casual and approachable does not equal dumb.”
It seems to me that it really boils down to casual and approachable information being made available. And not assuming that the potential audience members have any prior knowledge of who Mozart and Beethoven are. It's education, really, but without any trace of condescension.

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Alex Ross has a fascinating new piece up at the New Yorker on a new work by composer Kate Soper: a piece of music theater using Aristotle's Poetics and other works as libretto. Here is an excerpt to give you an idea:

He calls it a "philosophy-opera" which indeed it seems to be! Both the article and the excerpt really whet one's appetite for the whole work.

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For our envoi today a good choice would be some madrigals by Monteverdi. This is the sixth book in a performance by Concerto Italiano, dir. Rinaldo Alessandrini:


Jives said...

Great article on Monteverdi. I fell in love with Cruda Amarilli (book 5) and Ah Dolente (book 4) over a quarter century ago, and I return to the madrigals again and again, they are so beautiful and durable and rich. A group called Apollo's Fire has done an exquisite recording of the Vespers, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think I just decided to do a series of posts on Monteverdi! I had the Harnoncourt Orfeo recording from when it came out in the 70s--just loved it!

Marc Puckett said...

'Oh, you've got to be kidding me' is my initial reaction to the Vimeo clip from Kate Soper's Ipsa Dixit. But have been listening to the ''37-'38 recording' of Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Mozart's Magic Flute so my head isn't likely in a good place for the Soper. Admirable spectacle, but "21st century masterpiece"? A few great men may no longer "dominate the conversation" but Kate Soper isn't going to do that, either. Gosh. If only someone would pay me to write about my enthusiasms of the moment, I'd gladly give Alex Ross my job.

Am just finished being distracted by fifteen or twenty minutes of her Tales from the Killing Jar (don't ask me), however, which seemed more accessible than what I heard of the Ipsa Dixit.

The Germans are still doing penance for their descent into barbarism last century, I guess. (That is a comment on the McDonald's advertisement. If John Adams can psychoanalyze Donald Trump, and expect to be lauded for his diagnostic skills, I-- who, I'm pretty sure, have as much expertise in two or three different schools of psychology as he does-- don't see why I can't put an entire civilisation on the couch.)

Bryan Townsend said...

Marc, my first reaction to the Soper was just as yours: who is she kidding? But I kept listening and after a while it got more interesting. I suppose I have a weakness for avant-garde chamber opera with four performers from having given several performances of El Cimmaron by Hans Werner Henze way back when.

Yes, I think that there is still a deep well of guilt in many German people about the role Germany played in the 20th century.