I love music, pretty much every type imaginable—just not jazz. Especially not the kind of jazz that jazz types like. You know, the free-form bebop stuff that always sounds like four guys who get paid by the note playing solos to different songs at the same time. Gibberish.But I have always harbored the thought I might not be treating the music fairly. So I kept trying jazz and it kept making my brain hurt. I would think, Why can’t they have at least something vaguely resembling a song, or a melody, or a clue somewhere in the cacophony?Enter David Reaboi, whom I work with, and is a jazz guy.
For a pretty interesting introduction to jazz, follow the link and read the essays. The second one is chock-full of illustrative clips.For us early twenty-first-century listeners, jazz takes work for two main reasons: (1) we’re primarily used to listening for the familiar, rather than for new, very different musical variations; and, maybe most importantly, (2) because we grew up on post-Beatles pop music, hip hop, or classic rock, we just don’t have the repertoire in our ears and aural memories that allows us to really understand what’s happening on a typical jazz recording.
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The Wall Street Journal has a review of a new book on the art of conducting. The review, by another conductor, is both detailed and extensive:
In his self-effacing autobiography, the Russian composer and pedagogue Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov confessed that conducting “baffled” him. If Stravinsky’s teacher had a hard time making sense of what someone standing in front of an orchestra waving a baton was doing (or was supposed to be doing), how can we expect audiences to appreciate and comprehend the art of conducting? Suspicion whether there is actually anything difficult or substantial to conducting is commonplace among instrumentalists who play in orchestras or with them as soloists. To the eminent chamber musician and critic Hans Keller, conducting was just a “phony” musical profession.
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We knew this was just a matter of time, right? Area musicians call on BSO to diversify programming:
A group of more than 60 area musicians is urging the Boston Symphony Orchestra to expand its programming beyond a white male canon to feature more works by female composers and people of color.In an open letter, the group pointed out that though the symphony touts its diverse programming, the 2017-18 season “showcases neither diversity nor innovation.” Of the 73 pieces scheduled to be performed at Symphony Hall, only one is by a woman, the group noted.
I dunno, wasn't the traditional idea to demonstrate a commitment to aesthetic quality? I predict the next demand is to program a whole season or more of ONLY women composers, just to catch up. I guess I'm ok if a lot of the music is by Sofia Gubaidulina. Oh, darn, there I am with that aesthetic quality thingy again.“The remaining 72 pieces are all written by white men,” wrote the signatories, including performers in local ensembles and academics from Boston-area institutions including Harvard University and Berklee College of Music. The BSO “should demonstrate a commitment to equity by showcasing musical talent that is too often marginalized.”
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Here is another story in a similar vein: Lido Pimienta, a Canadian musician (originally from Columbia), winner of the Polaris Prize and the Globe and Mail's artist of the year got involved in controversy at a concert in Halifax in October. Pimienta asks men at her concerts to move to the back, women to move forward and brown women to stand in front. OK. However, in this case a white woman photographer refused to move and caused an "incident." The festival venue later apologized to Pimienta for "overt racism." Well, there was certainly racism involved, wasn't there? Not to mention sexism. As a US judge said decades ago, the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is simply to stop discriminating on the basis of race. So my question to you is, if you were asked to move to the back (or to the front) at a concert based on some personal characteristic, race, sex, height, fashion sense, whatever, would you do it? Or would you protest as apparently some of the audience did in Halifax?
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Woo-hoo! Now here is a story about music economics that is going to make you wish you were in the business: On the Heels of Lady Gaga, the Economics of Las Vegas Residencies Reach New Highs.
The race to lock down Las Vegas’ highest-paying residency is heating up with Lady Gaga announcing a two-year engagement at the MGM Park Theater. According to two well-placed sources, Gaga is guaranteed just over a million dollars per show, and is committed to 74 appearances. Should all go well with ticket sales, she could extend that run, inching closer to the $100 million mark, a new — and record — threshold for the city and for even the biggest of current pop artists. Gaga stands to earn even more on merchandise sales — typically a 50/50 split with the venue — and VIP offerings.
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Andrew Clements over at The Guardian does a round-up of the year's ten best discs that is well worth reading for its reflections on trends and repertoire.
Winter & Winter is another label with a reputation for championing a quirky roster of contemporary composers, one of whom is Hans Abrahamsen. Its collection of Abrahamsen’s four string quartets, magisterially played by the Arditti Quartet, follows on from the releases of his elusive ensemble piece Schnee and the entrancingly beautiful song cycle Let Me Tell You. NMC continues its steadfast support for British composers, most notably this year with a bewitching disc of Simon Holt’s concertos – including the percussion piece A Table of Noises, and Witness to a Snow Miracle, for violin and orchestra – while a newer, British-based label, Another Timbre, offers a rather different perspective on the music being written today. My personal discovery of 2017 was the insistently haunting music of the US-born, Canadian-based Linda Catlin Smith, both in concert at the Huddersfield festival and on Drifter, Another Timbre’s disc of her chamber music, which includes two string quartets and a piano quintet.
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Arthur Kaptainis at the Montreal Gazette has a piece on Charles Dutoit and why he seems to have gotten away with so much for so long:
there was a fully documented account of the conductor’s interview style at the Lanaudière Festival in the summer of 1995 by Natasha Gauthier. The former freelance columnist for the Gazette, who went on to write music and dance criticism for the Ottawa Citizen, was preparing a feature about Dutoit and the OSM for L’Actualité, and planning to accompany the orchestra on part of a U.S. tour.
Arriving backstage at what is now called the Amphithéâtre Fernand-Lindsay for an interview, Gauthier was surprised to find the maestro dressed in a white bathrobe. Soon Dutoit was posing the questions, including “Are you married?” and “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Then the “pawing” started, Gauthier said, even though her tape recorder was on. “He doesn’t care,” she recalled from Ottawa on Thursday after the AP story broke. “He’s used to getting his own way.”
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For our envoi today, here is a piece for string orchestra by Linda Catlin Smith: Orient Point with the Vancouver New Music String Orchestra: