Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

The Wall Street Journal chronicles a rash of tuba thefts. Yes, you read that correctly, lots of people have been having their tubas stolen. But as one thief discovered, it's not so easy, trying to unload a hot tuba:
The tuba, the biggest and lowest-pitched among the brass family, can run from around $2,000 for beginner band models to more than $20,000 for specialized professional versions, says Martin Erickson, a past president of the International Tuba Euphonium Association.
People with “nefarious” intentions, he says, probably try to resell tubas or use them in other bands. “You don’t expect tubas to fall into that sort of thing.”
Kenneth Amis, assistant professor of tuba at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, imagines thieves assuming something so big would be valuable, not realizing how tough it is to unload one. “Few people are looking to buy tubas from a pawnshop.”
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The British Library has done us the favor of putting online Mozart's journal of his last seven years in which he records themes from new compositions. Most of us don't compose quite as many pieces so that we are in danger of forgetting them if we don't put them in a thematic catalogue. Mozart however...

The third item down is the beginning of his "Dissonance" Quartet, the last of the group of six string quartets dedicated to Haydn.

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Russian violinist Dmitry Rotkin must have fallen in with bad company--guitarists, to be specific--because where else would he have picked up the outrageous right hand techniques necessary to execute his "Mad Fingers Pizzicato"?

Hat tip to the Violin Channel.

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I should probably recuse myself from this topic, out of boredom if nothing else, but the intellectual sleights of hand are so egregious that I keep wanting to comment. Once again, The Guardian boldly goes where just about everyone else has in the search for the Great Unsung Woman Composer. The title of the article is Settling the score: celebrating the women erased from the musical canon. The article is celebrating International Women's Day, but the writer, Anastasia Belina, seems to be at odds with the headline writer--and logic, for that matter:
The music written by these forgotten composers shows integrity, gravitas and invention, and deserves to be heard on its own merit, with 21st-century ears, and without 19th- and 20th-century prejudices. We do not differentiate between female and male violinists, pianists, or other instrumentalists. Why do we still feel the need to point out that a conductor or composer is female? And, most importantly, does making a distinction between male or female composers prejudice our experience of their music?
So, all the while celebrating International Women's Day with special BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, we should be gender-blind? Or should we be seeking out women composers because they are women? I'm confused...

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I knew this was only a matter of time: COLLEGE BANS MEN-ONLY CONCERT PROGRAMMES
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance in east London has said it will ensure that at least half the music it performs in future will be by women composers, with a particular focus on ‘missing’ modern British women.
For a series of comments on the above, ranging from the sarcastic to the scathing, please follow the link.

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Here's something you don't see every day: Marcel Duchamp and John Cage playing chess. Since it was the 60s they had to turn it into a "happening" with each move triggering different electronic compositions.

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Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go commune with my emotional-support iguana. And here is our envoi for today, the "Dissonance" Quartet by Mozart.


Marc said...

Having killed my Facebook account, and looking about for reasonable alternatives, I found Diaspora, which, apart from the fact that no one I know uses it, has certain advantages. Anyway, the point is that I have become acquainted there with someone who... only listens to music composed by women. It is possible to do this, evidently, with a strong enough will.

And I meant to reply to Will's comment earlier in the week-- indeed, indeed! how can anyone listen to music of the West without acknowledging religion as one of its chief sources and inspirations etc etc. I get a crick in my neck occasionally from so much shaking of the head. :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

Heh! There are at least three women composers that I listen to with pleasure, or real interest, at least: Elizabeth Maconchy, Sofia Gubaidulina and Galina Ustvolskaya. Not because they are women, of course, but simply because they wrote interesting music. Listening to music simply because it was composed by a woman seems to me to be a category error. Or a merely political act.

In the interests of multiculturalism we really need to also acknowledge all those great pieces of music that were inspired by Islam, do we not? Like, uh... give me a minute here...

Jives said...

from the Guardian....Today, International Women’s Day, you might hear her music on Radio 3 or be reading about her, but why is she, and so many of her female contemporaries, not celebrated every day? It’s not for lack of ambition, talent or accomplishment.

Well, I just did a youtube sampling of Augusta Holmes and I think it's abundantly clear why she is not celebrated every day, or programmed by major orchestras. She is a competent composer with a good grasp of orchestration. But I don't find anything particularly inspiring or ravishing in her music to last the ages, and in the tide of history, minor figures such as she will naturally fall into obscurity. Let's not forget the multitudes of 2nd and 3rd tier Male composers who suffered the same fate.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Jives! Yes, what irks is that we are constantly being told that second and third tier women composers must be honored and celebrated while second and third tier male composers are just part of the patriarchal hegemony.

Christopher Culver said...

"how can anyone listen to music of the West without acknowledging religion as one of its chief sources and inspirations etc."

China is often seen as the great hope for classical music. If you want audiences in China to grow because audiences elsewhere are shrinking, then bring too much attention on the religious aspect might be counterproductive. I remember once talking from some musicians who had been leading performances of Western early music in China, that they had to be very careful with how they presented these works, because the fact that they had patently religious texts already drew suspicion from the authorities.

Christopher Culver said...

"In the interests of multiculturalism we really need to also acknowledge all those great pieces of music that were inspired by Islam, do we not?"

There is certainly a great deal of it around. My own personal example is that long ago I was buying all the volumes of Smithsonian Folkways’ Music of Central Asia series out of a casual interest in the region. This series was funded by the Aga Khan, the leader of the Ismaili sect of Islam. Volume 2, The Invisible Face of the Beloved documenting the shashmaqam genre of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, ended up becoming one of my desert island discs. I was just floored by what I heard. Then on trips to the region I’ve collected a substantial amount of shashmaqam recordings now. These suites generally consist of poetry from poets like Rumi and Hafiz, interspersed with settings of lighter folk texts that are meant to be a rest from all that devotional intensity.

I spent this past winter in Morocco and Senegal. Morocco’s gnawa genre isn’t really my thing, but it seems to attract a lot of Westerners these days, and its performers are overtly inspired by their religious beliefs. Then, in Senegal, a lot of the mbalax repertoire is on Muslim spiritual themes because the musician – Youssou N’Dour for example – is affiliated with one of the Sufi lineages that are so influential in that country.

The cultural impact of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and, vastly more so, Umm Kulthum is hard to overestimate, and both of them sang spiritual repertoire.

Lord knows I’m no friend of Islam as a belief system, but a great deal of music that appeals to hundreds of millions of people around the world comes from musicians who feel their work flows from Islam.

Bryan Townsend said...

Valuable comments, as always, Christopher. We do live in a challenging and transitional cultural moment when so many of the methods and practices of progressivism make classical music problematic. The fact that so much of the great repertoire of the West was inspired by religion is likely a barrier in places like China. But has the same been true in Japan, where Western classical music has been very widely appreciated since WWII? I can see a situation where for decades the religious side of classical music might be ignored until it is "rediscovered" and performances of the Bach Mass in B minor, the requiems by Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi and Fauré take the world by storm. Not to mention the Monteverdi Vespers...

I admit that I wrote that little dig at Islamic music with an eye to seeing if there would be comments. I am certainly not familiar with much Islamic music, but I have heard some fine examples and even written about them here. There was some extraordinary singing from Pakistan, for example, on a vinyl disc from the 1982 WOMAD festival but I cannot recall the name of the singer I was listening to. (I just followed up on your mention of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and he was in fact the singer on that disc.) There are two discs of Andalusian music from Morocco in a box I have and I wrote about that music here:

I suspect that Islam itself might have a bigger problem with Islamic music than we do as quite often the first thing following an Islamic revolution is the banning of all music (and education for women). Candidly, while some of the music from Islamic cultures is interesting, passionate and engaging, much of it to me seems tedious, haphazard and drearily similar.