Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

Special jet-lagged edition as I am now back home!

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The Associated Press has a story on the sale of Jerry Garcia's favorite guitar "Wolf" that just sold for $1.9 million at auction:
A guitar that Jerry Garcia played everywhere from San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom to Egypt's Great Pyramids fetched over $1.9 million at an auction in New York.
The Grateful Dead frontman's guitar - named Wolf - was purchased at a charity auction in Brooklyn Wednesday night. The proceeds are earmarked for the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
The guitar was owned by devoted Deadhead Daniel Pritzker. The philanthropist, musician and film director bought it in 2002 at Guernsey's for $790,000.
Nowhere in the story do they tell you what guitar it was. The auction website gives further information:
Customized by luthier Doug Irwin, and labeled “D. Irwin 001”, Wolf was delivered to Jerry and first appeared in a 1973 New York City performance the Grateful Dead gave for the Hell’s Angels. Over the following two decades, Wolf became almost as well known as the performer himself as it was played in countless concerts and on treasured recordings throughout Jerry’s fabled career.  Indeed, the 1977 film “The Grateful Dead Movie” directed by Jerry features extensive footage of the beloved musician onstage playing Wolf.
And there's a photo:

Looks a bit like a Gibson SG with extra pickups.

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I have to admit I am really curious about this concert. Sure, it seems to have been born out of a purely political impulse, but a lot of interesting things come from chance inspirations. The Toronto Star has the story:
They’ve come from all over the globe — China, Pakistan, Mexico, Greece — to make music in a new world.
Twelve musicians, many of them playing ancient instruments from their home countries, show off their talents Friday night as the New Canadian Global Music Orchestra in a concert at Koerner Hall.
They’ll play original compositions by each of the band members, created in collaboration with each other and band leader David Buchbinder.
Mervon Mehta, the executive director of performing arts for Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, conceived of the project as a celebration of the diversity of Canada as the country celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Mind you, in the absence of strong creative direction, with all these different musical traditions and instruments (think of the tuning problems alone) what might ensue is music of the lowest common denominator. That's why it would be so interesting to attend the concert and see what they come up with.

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The New Yorker has an interesting article on "indie" opera:
While Heartbeat Opera was radically reconfiguring Puccini and Bizet, New York City Opera was announcing its 2017-18 season, which, depending on which press piece you read, was either a burst of promise or a sober reckoning with reality. I find the pickings rich: chamber operas by Donizetti, Rameau, Tobias Picker, and Dominick Argento, the American première of Charles Wuorinen’s “Brokeback Mountain,” and, not least, new productions of Montemezzi’s “L’Amore dei Tre Re” and Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West.”
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The New York Times has an article reflecting on the mixed success of Alan Gilbert's tenure at the New York Philharmonic.
If anyone symbolizes both the promise and the increasing problems of American orchestras, the delicate balance of vision and tradition, it is Mr. Gilbert, who is departing as the Philharmonic’s music director after a tumultuous eight years.
As Mr. Gilbert prepares to leave, it is clear from interviews that things did not go quite as planned. The conflicts it was hoped he could help smooth over — between new and old, change and convention — still fester. The long-delayed $500 million plan to renovate Geffen Hall, the orchestra’s drab home, has been delayed, in want of money and vision. And it’s in doubt whether some factions of the organization really want change after all: The pathbreaking new-music happenings that marked Mr. Gilbert’s early tenure have been scaled back in scope and daring in recent years because of what he called, in a recent conversation in his studio at Geffen Hall, “financial pressures and, I would say, philosophical differences.”
This is as close as they come to describing what these philosophical differences might be:
Mr. Gilbert may be remembered as the biggest change agent to lead the Philharmonic since Pierre Boulez in the 1970s. And he’s had an impact on personnel: “In eight years, Alan has hired 27 new musicians,” said Deborah Borda, the orchestra’s incoming president and chief executive orchestra. “So it is a new generation of musicians, including four principals. And that will leave its imprint for generations to come.”
But while his hires are likely to stick around, his innovations may not. His successor, the Dutch maestro Jaap van Zweden, is best known for crackling performances of a narrower slice of the standard repertory.
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 From the site Corymbus comes this thoughtful article about musical knowledge and ignorance:
Perhaps no amount of formal analysis, or scientific brain-imaging, will ever fully explain our felt response to music. Or, as Mendelssohn suggests, could it be that words, as a means of communicating understanding, are simply inadequate for the job? Perhaps an understanding beyond words is precisely the communication that music enables, perhaps it is that which makes it so special. From this viewpoint, we could see a score as a repository of unspoken knowledge, interacting with the physical understanding the musician has cultivated through years of practice; the many subtle instincts of manipulating sound, the unconscious recall of ‘muscle memory’.
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And as we have not had anything by Herr Mendelssohn for a very long time, let's set sail with our envoi today to the strains of the Fingal's Cave Overture, inspired by a Scottish landscape. This is the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado:


Christopher Culver said...

"Mind you, in the absence of strong creative direction, with all these different musical traditions and instruments (think of the tuning problems alone) what might ensue is music of the lowest common denominator."

I thought the same thing when I read this story elsewhere. Any time one of these non-Western traditional instruments gets put together with Western musicians, the music almost always eschews e.g. the microtonal intervals that particular instrument would ordinarily play, in favour of bog-standard Western common practice harmony. While the instrument might produce a wider array of timbres for its native audience, any that might be considered too "harsh" or "ugly" for an audience fed mainly on Western pop music are off-limits.

Bryan Townsend said...

I really would like to hear the concert because it might not be that. But the likelihood is as you describe.

Marc Puckett said...

Glad you made it back safely!

Didn't you just mention Daniel Schlosberg (the arranger of the Heartbeat Opera's versions of Butterfly and Carmen) the other day? I had to go look-- he is the composer of that 'Twin Peaks' string quartet &c.

I have very little patience with Russell Platt and his 'young artistic leaders' who "birth productions that tackle urgent questions confronting our society today"-- pft. He's quite right, though, that we may well reach a point where the Wowkle and Billy Jackrabbit roles e.g. will simply be eliminated from performance if some clever young person can't re-work them entirely (turning 'ugh' into arch ironic self-referential comment on something, who knows what or how). The opera houses have always cut and re-staged &c &c and its not that in itself that concerns me: it is the ideological straightjacket that seems to be on its way to being imposed (and of course from the other perspective the new shackles are being received willingly and with open arms).

Here in Eugene we'll hear Hercules and Messiah this year, and then Barber of Seville and Piazolla's Maria de Buenos Aires in the beginning of 2018: so I'm not exactly distraught at the thought of the 'limited' availability of opera productions in NYC, ahem. :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

It is interesting that there seem to be two different trends in opera: the one is to rewrite operas according to our current ideas so as to remove racism, sexism, cultural appropriation and other unspeakable evils. The other, and older, trend is to recover as best we can the original performing practices and contexts so that we are NOT imposing our ideas on the great artworks of the past. The whole revival of Baroque opera is an example.

One wonders who will win and for how long?

Marc Puckett said...

An excellent point certainly, about the revival of early operas. I'm eagerly awaiting delivery of Biber's Arminio (1690-1692?), of which there is evidently only the one recording.

Bryan Townsend said...

Please let us know how you like it!

Will Wilkin said...

Its the artist, not the guitar. I saw 29 shows with Jerry before we lost him. I didn't count Dead shows after that, and haven't seen one in about 4 years (Phil and Friends). I bet Jerry could make a rubber band sing! He knew his American roots music --he was both of his times yet historically informed and beyond his times. Probably Jerry was my favorite artist, which is funny because otherwise I'm totally classical (except for some old country and bluegrass).

And to show kinship with Marc Puckett, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Von Biber is another of my all-time very favorite artists!

Will Wilkin said...

Marc, Bryan, regarding Daniel Schlossberg (sp?), do you mean the young composer recently studying at the Yale School of Music? If so, I know him (no, he doesn't know me!). I noticed him right away as probably the most talented musician I've ever seen pass through there. I shook his hand once and several times told him how much I admire his music. The closest thing to an opera I know of by him was something called Frau Trude or something like that. About an old lady who lives in the woods and turns children into firewood to keep her cabin warm.

Marc Puckett said...

Will, Wouldn't you know that there are two Daniel Schlosbergs? One was at Yale but seems to be based in Brooklyn now; the other is professor at Notre Dame. I don't recall sufficient specifics of the articles where Bryan has mentioned/indirectly mentioned him but it looks to me as if either one of them could be guilty (joking...) of whatever he's been accused. But if I had to guess it is the younger one, in Brooklyn, who was named in the New Yorker article &c. :-) Professor S. at Notre Dame, however, is also table tennis team coach there, which ought to count for quite a lot. (Doesn't someone compose for table tennis balls in motion?)

Will Wilkin said...

Yes Marc, I recall an interesting video of music for table tennis, it was by a composer who was commemorating Nixon's Cold War visit to China and the table tennis diplomacy. The piece was very recent, written I think for the Shanghai or Beizing symphony orchestra.