March 31, 2009

Glad that's cleared up

I actually have no idea if this is still available (Update: no). But this offering from the musical autograph dealer Roger Gross Ltd., a signed note from Stephen Sondheim, is 40 kinds of wonderful:

March 30, 2009

"Knowledge of music... knowledge of literature... knowledge of... knowledge of... you're an interesting man, there's no doubt about it."

Our librarian friend (really, all of you should have a librarian friend) Rebecca Hunt alerted us to the news that Maurice Jarre has died at the age of 84. Jarre composed (and, uncredited, conducted) the score to David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, a film regarded with sacred awe here at Soho the Dog HQ—in addition to Lean (the score to Doctor Zhivago was also his) Jarre penned scores for Luchino Visconti, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, George Miller, and even the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio (Top Secret!). Jarre won three Oscars and also accrued a fair amount of abuse—Irwin Bazelon's film-music book Knowing the Score has some petulantly nasty things to say about Jarre. To me, that falls under the same banner as criticism of Ringo Starr—he's the drummer in possibly the greatest rock-and-roll band of all time, he must be doing something right. (For the record, I like Ringo's drumming a lot. Now I'm off topic.) Anyway, here's Jarre conducting the Lawrence overture—one of the all-time great distillations of classical-music exoticism.

March 27, 2009

The Shrovetide Fair

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is holding a food drive. Bring cans of the solid sustenance to this weekend's concerts (or donate online)—all in support of one of our favorite organizations here at Soho the Dog HQ, The Greater Boston Food Bank.

Your local orchestra might just be doing the same thing.

Ma di gaiezza il bel tempo fuggì!

It'll be random, spotty posting until I get out from under a crush of deadlines. (For some reason, I've been walking around thinking March had about 42 days.) In the meantime, enjoy the late, great Giuseppe Sinopoli (who I would totally look like if I stopped cutting my hair) conducting the "Intermezzo" from Puccini's Manon Lescaut.

March 24, 2009

Glass and steel

Via Geoff Edgers, John Mellencamp on how the corporatization of America has wrecked the music industry. I agree with a lot of this, although I think it's complicated by the fact that the rise of the popular music industry was also fueled by an economic quirk: the post-WWII increase in adolescent disposable income. Corporate money started flooding into pop music in the 1950s, even if the corporations had no clue about the content—it just took a while for technology to render that ignorance moot. And, for the record, I can sing the chorus to "All I Want For Christmas Is You," and frequently do, at seasonally inappropriate times.

The winners of the first Guthman Musical Instrument Competition were announced earlier this month. None of them, though, I'm betting, are as big as the Mid-Hudson Bridge, which Joseph Bertolozzi turned into percussion to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's journey up the eponymous river. (I'm still trying to imagine what that initial $2.2 million budget would have entailed.)

Singing astronomer! I'm a big enough nerd to get behind that. Have you ever drunkenly confused Messier and Messaien? I have. (Take a listen here.)

And "Beverly Hills Housewife," David Hockney's portrait of patron Betty Freeman, is expected to bring $7-10 million when it's auctioned in May.

March 20, 2009


Rodgers and Hart: "Spring Is Here" (Jessye Norman; Boston Pops/John Williams)
Philips 412 625-2 (available in compilation)

Arrangement by the prolific Joe Reisman. It's pretty brisk for spring here in Framingham—and the way things have been going, I'm expecting snow any day now. Sure, it's not in the forecast, but around these parts, that means nothing. (Cornelius Cardew would have been a fantastic New England weatherman.) But those crocuses are going to bloom because it's spring, dammit, and nobody tells crocuses what they can and can't do.

OK, back to work. Seriously, wasn't the computer revolution supposed to boost leisure time?

March 18, 2009

Manual transmission

Bruckner: Symphony no. 8
Mozart: Symphony no. 38 "Prague"

Staatskapelle Dresden
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Profil PH 07057

Travelling music in the official Soho the Dog 1999 Honda Civic as of late have been these excellent CDs, recorded live in 2002. We've been blasting this thing all week, to and from the store, to and from work, to and from various parcels of conservation land—today it was even warm enough to roll down the window and serenade the environs. Critic-at-Large Moe, it turns out, loves the stuff, as it seems to call forth ancestral memories of Medieval hunts, inspiring an unusually regal mien.

Noble mobile Brucknerian Moe.

What I like about this recording is that Haitink and the orchestra know when to just let the music sit there, a crucial part of successful Bruckner performance. There's no getting around that much of Bruckner's symphonies consist in large part of big, static chunks of music. Beethoven has his moments like this, of course, but Bruckner goes all out—where Beethoven uses Legos, Bruckner builds symphonies out of Duplo blocks. It is, I think, one of the things that people who don't like Bruckner's music don't like about it. But if you try and massage that aspect of the music, you usually end up with a counterproductive see-saw. Haitink and the band build up a good head of steam, polish the balance, and then just let Anton be Anton.

Even more than Messaien, I think, Bruckner is the one composer whose music always immediately gives away his organist identity. Not just in the orchestration, although you can almost hear him pulling the stops every time he gears up for a big crescendo—8' strings, add 4' winds, start tossing in reed stops (trumpets and horns), a 32' on the pedal, and finally mixtures of the higher winds. It's that modular construction, letting a particular texture sound for a span of time, changing dynamic by changing forces instead of individual volume. (When Bruckner does subito dynamic effects, it's usually by changing instrumental choirs, like shifting to a different manual.)

The "Prague" is a better pairing that one might think—the connecting thread being Bruckner's hammered articulations in the 8th's finale (an unusually pianistic texture for him) which nicely sets up Mozart's motoric Classicism. The performance is dangerously energetic—it's usually encouraging me to speed. I need to swap it out for something more serene.

March 17, 2009

"I took many a lump, but 'twas all in good fun"

Guerrieri: Clog Dubh Rag (2009) (PDF, 4 pages, 264 Kb; MIDI here)

This month's rag (previously: 1, 2) celebrates St. Patrick's Day in typically loud and chaotic fashion. The Clog Dubh Phádraig, the "Black Bell of St. Patrick," is now in the National Museum in Dublin. William Wilde (Oscar's father) described it thus in his 1867 book Lough Corrib, its Shores and Islands:
It was believed in the locality that this bell was a present from an angel to the saint, and was originally of pure silver, but that it was rendered black and corroded, as at present seen, "by its contact with the demons on Croaghpatrick, when the Apostle of Ireland was expelling them thence."
One legend connects the bell with Patrick's driving the snakes out of Ireland—the snakes were so persistent in their harassment during Patrick's mountaintop hermitage that he finally threw the bell at them, which scared them sufficiently that they didn't stop slithering until they were in the sea. (Hence the C strain, which makes liberal use of "Banish Misfortune" from the Petrie Collection.)

March 16, 2009

Lucha libro

I'm part of a distinguished mob spending the week over at Molly Sheridan's Mind the Gap chewing on Lawrence Lessig's latest book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Grab a cup of coffee and stop in.

A suitable soundtrack: remix pioneer Shep Pettibone's 1983 gloss on First Choice's "Let No Man Put Asunder":

March 13, 2009

Unlikely music critic of the day



Reply from THE MAYOR is I'm AT THE GAP BAND, ISLEY BROS. CONCERT. JUST WORN OUT FROM HANGING. (06/08 12:49AM EDT) to What are you doing?




Reply from Christine Beatty is I am laying here watching Antoine Fisher. Just chillin. (06/07 11:58PM CDT) to WHAT Are YOUUUU DOING? MAYOR KILPATRICK


Reply from THE MAYOR is That's HOW I WAS PICTURING U. DAMN NEAR NECKADE, JUST CHILLIN! (06/08 01:01AM EDT) to I am laying here watching Antoine Fisher. Just chi


Reply from Christine Beatty is LOL. I actually have on my Ralph Lauren pajamas and I'm chillin! (06/08 12:07AM CDT) to That's HOW I WAS PICTURING U. DAMN NEAR NECKADE, J


Reply from THE MAYOR is That's CLOSE ENOUGH. (06/08 01:19AM EDT) to LOL. I actually have on my Ralph Lauren pajamas an


Reply from Christine Beatty is LOL. I just had a little mini dream about you. (06/08 12:33AM CDT) to That's CLOSE ENOUGH.


Reply from THE MAYOR Is LOL! I'm HAVING MAJOR DREAMS. THE ISLEYS Are KILLING THEM. (06/08 01:35AM EDT) to LOL. I just had a little mini dream about you.


Reply from Christine Beatty is The Isley's are killing what? (06/08 12:37AM CDT) to LOL! I'm HAVING MAJOR DREAMS. THE ISLEYS Are KILLI


Reply from THE MAYOR is THEY ARE STILL PERFORMING! AND JAMMING: HELLO, CHOOSEY LOVER, ATLANTIS, ETC. ( 06/08 01:42AM EDT) to The Isley's are killing what?


Reply from Christine Beatty is Ohhh. Those are the jams! You still think of me when you hear love songs? (06/08 12:44AM CDT) to THEY ARE STILL PERFORMING! AND JAMMING: HELLO, CHO


Reply from THE MAYOR is HELL YEAH! LIVIN FOR THE LOVE OF YOU! (06/08 01:47AM EDT) to Ohhh. Those are the jams! You still think of me wh
Some of the approximately 6,000 text messages released this week by order of Wayne Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny, part of the scandal that drove both Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick ("THE MAYOR") and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, from office. Kilpatrick was in Denver in June 2003, attending the 71st Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; the concert was at Red Rocks.

The Isley Brothers' 2003 tour was in support of their R. Kelly-produced Body Kiss album, but former Mayor Kilpatrick shows a discerning taste for the classics: "Hello, It's Me," a Todd Rundgren cover, comes from the Brothers' funk-heavy 1974 album Live It Up, "Voyage to Atlantis" comes from 1977's platinum-selling Go For Your Guns, and "Choosey Lover," from Between the Sheets, was a late-night-radio slow-jam hit in 1983. But the best comes last: "For the Love of You Pts. 1 & 2" was one of the two biggest hit singles from 1975's epoch-making The Heat Is On, the other being "Fight the Power".

March 12, 2009

Take Care of This House

A serendipitous footnote to yesterday's ramble on places, real and virtual, is this story, which you probably have seen: Leonard Bernstein's composition studio is being shipped to Indiana.
Leonard Bernstein’s children have donated the carefully preserved contents of his main composing studio to Indiana University, which has promised to recreate the space.

The items run from the deeply meaningful to the banal. They include Bernstein’s stand-up composing table; a conducting stool that may have been used by Brahms, given as a gift by the Vienna Philharmonic; an electric pencil sharpener; a telephone; an ashtray and disposable lighters; 39 Grammy-nomination plaques; and a piece of the Berlin Wall.
The first time I ever went wandering around the main branch of the Boston Public Library, I turned a corner and found Walter Piston's studio, similarly transplanted from his home in Belmont, Massachusetts, after his death. Another Massachusetts example: in 2001, Julia Child's kitchen was moved, lock, stock, and barrel, from her house in Cambridge to the Smithsonian Institution.

Does this sort of thing happen in Europe? Not the preservation of an artist's studio—you can still visit Mahler's composing shed, for instance—but dismantling it and reassembling it somewhere completely different? I find it a very American thing to do, both in terms of American vices—prioritization of convenience, fetishization of stuff—and virtues: mobility, reinvention, history that accrues to people and not places. I started thinking about Bernstein's musicals and operas, all of which concern very specific places, from his early hit On the Town to his late flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It struck me that trucking his studio across the country would be a return to form for Bernstein, for whom the protean transience of New York was a better muse than the weighty history of the White House.

March 11, 2009

One more song about moving along the highway

Reviewing the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma.
Boston Globe, March 12, 2009.

Where'er you walk

Richard Florida has an article in The Atlantic this month speculating on the relationship between place and recession-pain level. It's basically a disaster-movie extension of his "creative class" brand.
Economic crises tend to reinforce and accelerate the underlying, long-term trends within an economy. Our economy is in the midst of a fundamental long-term transformation—similar to that of the late 19th century, when people streamed off farms and into new and rising industrial cities. In this case, the economy is shifting away from manufacturing and toward idea-driven creative industries—and that, too, favors America’s talent-rich, fast-metabolizing places.
What will this geography look like? It will likely be sparser in the Midwest and also, ultimately, in those parts of the Southeast that are dependent on manufacturing. Its suburbs will be thinner and its houses, perhaps, smaller. Some of its southwestern cities will grow less quickly. Its great mega-regions will rise farther upward and extend farther outward. It will feature a lower rate of homeownership, and a more mobile population of renters. In short, it will be a more concentrated geography, one that allows more people to mix more freely and interact more efficiently in a discrete number of dense, innovative mega-regions and creative cities.
Florida advocates using the economic crisis as an opportunity to reshape society to privilege such creative industries.

It's interesting that the idea of a critical mass of creative people in a particular place still holds for classical music, at least. Historically, that's par for the course—culture has been a big-city phenomenon going back to the Renaissance. But, given the hype of the game-changing nature of the Internet, you might expect to see a bit more evidence for a decentralized cultural ecology. Take the case of new music: will the Web eventually supplant geographical centers of activity with geographically scattered by digitally aggregated ones? Or will Florida's dense, creative cities consolidate their historical lead?

What makes this hard to predict is that much of it depends on the nature of the artistic activity in question. David Galenson, who made a splash last year with his economic investigation of why different artists bloom early or late, used his conceptual/experimental framework to look at the dissemination of artistic style in an NBER working paper called "The Globalization of Advanced Art in the Twentieth Century." Galenson reasoned that 20th-century styles spread comparatively rapidly because they were more conceptual (based on a pre-determined method or aesthetic stance) than experimental (based on trial-and-error):
The dominance of conceptual forms of art during most of the twentieth century was largely responsible not only for the increased speed with which innovations were made, but also for the greater speed with which they diffused geographically. Collage was an early example of a major innovation that was so highly conceptual, and so versatile in its uses, that artists could adapt it to their own purposes simply after hearing descriptions of it, without even seeing actual examples. The innovations of such movements as Dada and Pop put greater emphasis on ideas relative to execution than virtually any earlier artistic movements, and this allowed many of their new practices to spread almost spontaneously. Throughout much of the century, the great importance of written manifestos was symptomatic of the centrality of conceptual innovation, and these manifestos contributed to the rapid spread of the conceptual practices of the movements that produced them.
Galenson is writing about the visual arts, but the spread of the serialist and minimalist conceptual frameworks fits the pattern. However:
The dominance of artistic centers was reduced by the progress of globalization. During the twentieth century it became possible, for the first time in the modern era, for artists to make important contributions to the artistic mainstream without working in the art world’s central place.... Yet predictions like those that some art scholars and critics made in the late 1960s, that place would no longer matter for artistic innovation, appear to have been wrong. As in the past, it remains true today that artists who have already created novel styles or methods can work nearly anywhere they please, but also as in the past, it is unlikely that any contemporary artist can develop, or at the very least begin to develop, significant innovations anywhere other than in one of the central locations of the art world. The mainstream of western art still runs through central places.
For new music, even more so, now that the serialism/minimalism paradigms have become but two elements in an experimental eclecticism.

Back to the Internet—will the connectedness of the Web ever become sufficient to replace the geographic connectedness of artistic centers? Web-based social networking, for all its buzz, is as yet a diverting gimmick, with nowhere near the flexibility, nuance, and signal-to-noise ratio of an actual geographic artistic community. One assumes that, given Moore's Law, the capacity for that robustness will eventually be achieved. But will there still be a market for it?

Florida again:
[W]e need to encourage growth in the regions and cities that are best positioned to compete in the coming decades: the great mega-regions that already power the economy, and the smaller, talent-attracting innovation centers inside them—places like Silicon Valley, Boulder, Austin, and the North Carolina Research Triangle.
Of course, what we could also do is encourage research and development in making talent-attracting innovation centers in the virtual world that would rival those in the physical world—online social networking as rich and productive as real-world social networking. What it would mean is deciding, as a society, if geographical diversity is a worthwhile goal. Cities and states watching their manufacturing base dry up might not be able to retool themselves into a New York or a Silicon Valley, but would it be a worthwhile investment to develop the technological capacity to compete with those places virtually?

One more thought: the Internet has been a boon for artists and the arts. But remember, it was developed by the military, out of their R&D budget. So imagine: what would, say, the NEA look like if it was more like DARPA—if it had both the wherewithal and the goal of not just supporting artistic projects, but developing artistic infrastructure? Not just bringing the arts outside of artistic centers, but funding research that could make artistic centers accessible regardless of location? Small-town-to-big-city dreams might not have the same romance. But think what you'd save on gas.

March 10, 2009

Auction chant

The Longwood Symphony in Boston, made up mostly of doctors (a lot of doctors in Boston), and one of the more adventurous community orchestras around (hey, they're doing Antheil's McConkey's Ferry in May), is known for raising money for various medical causes, but later this month, they're having an auction to raise money for themselves. Benefit auctions are nothing new, but get a bunch of doctors together, and they'll slip in some wacky items for bid. Personalized blood analysis? An MRI of your brain while you're listening to the piece of your choice? Sure, why not?

The objet de résistance is a violin autographed by (so far) 33 Nobel laureates. (Including new Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who, I learn from a Longwood press release, played trombone in high school.) I'm looking under the cushions for change, but if that's too nerdy for you, there's also the opportunity to bid on a chance to play some chamber music with Yo-Yo Ma. (Beta blockers not included.)

March 09, 2009


Is your Monday as bleary as mine? A tonic: go here to watch The Bad Plus rip through Babbitt's "Semi-Simple Variations." With dancing girls. Though I suspect the Broadway-connoisseur Babbitt would have liked a kick-line finale.

Was (Not Was)

My lovely wife had a psychic reading over the weekend, which revealed this interesting factoid: according to the psychic, yours truly was, in a former life, a composer in a German court around the turn of the 18th century—not a particularly famous one, but apparently, someone who was held in some esteem by his colleagues.

After a bit of hunting around, I've narrowed it to four suspects:

Ernst Christian Hesse (1676-1762)

Composer and viol virtuoso (who, on a Parisian sojourn, managed to simultaneously study the instrument with Forqueray and Marais, who hated each other), attached to the court at Giessen and, later, Darmstadt. He scored one of the all-time great musician day jobs, as well: secretary of war for the Darmstadt court. His second wife was a singer, and the resultant general singer cattiness prompted his resignation as Kapelldirektor. Travelled much; knew everybody. Cause-and-effect, from his Grove entry: "In 1726 he was promoted to the war council; besides this, he devoted himself to his lucrative wine business and to his property. Later he withdrew still further from musical life, suffering acutely from gout."

Reinhard Keiser (1674-1739)

Employed at the Brunswick court until he took over the Hamburg Opera in 1703; in his day, one of the most highly regarded composers of opera. (His Croesus has seen recent revival.) Handel admired his music enough to steal it wholesale (friction resulting from the two composers' competing settings of Almira forced Handel to leave for Italy and, ultimately, England). Frequently beset by financial and administrative misfortune; ended up taking on a church gig as well (Kantor of the Hamburg cathedral). World-class indolence, from his Grove entry: "Following the final collapse of his administration in 1707, Keiser appears to have absented himself from the opera house for more than a year, passing much of his time visiting the estates of noble friends."

Johann Christoph Pez (1664-1716)

Choir-school brat made good, he became choirmaster of the Peterskirche in Munich, but musical old-fogyness on the part of his superiors led him to the Munich court; later Kapellmeister for the Württemburg court in Stuttgart. Spent time in Rome picking up the Italian style; his choral writing is compact and, according to Grove, "largely homophonic" (which may explain my Brian Wilson fixation). Out-of-the-frying-pan career move, from his Grove entry: "In 1701 the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession caused him to return to Munich, where, however, music was almost non-existent."

Agostino Steffani (1654-1728)

Venetian-born composer and organist at the Munich and, later, Hanover courts. In his mid-30s he embarked on a second career as a diplomat, first on behalf of the Hanoverian court, then for the Elector Palatine, Johann Wilhelm of Düsseldorf. Made general president of the Palatine government and a curator of Heidelberg University. Oh, and he managed to get himself appointed a bishop, too—first the titular Bishop of Spiga, then Apostolic Vicar of northern Germany. Composed a few works during his diplomatic career, published (for propriety's sake) under the name of his copyist; late in life, in financial difficulty, he was elected president of the Academy of Vocal Arts (later the Academy of Ancient Music), for which he wrote a handful of works in return, including a superb Stabat Mater setting. They'll-get-you-coming-and-going, from his Grove entry: "Apart from [his appointment as Abbot of] Löpsingen, he had three sources of income—a stipend from the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in Rome, the abbacy of San Stefano in Carrara, near Padua, and a provostship in the Rhenish town of Seltz. The stipend was small, his agent in Padua was a swindler, and most of the revenue from Seltz was seized by French Jesuits at Strasbourg."

So there's our past-life police lineup, as it were. Let's throw it open to the mob!

March 05, 2009

On differing interpretations of Andantino ingenuo

"O mio babbino": the right tempo for?
Have Fleming and Callas keep score—
By the time that Renée
Gets to "Dio, vorrei,"
La Divina could toss in a Suor.

March 03, 2009

Mod squad

I've been feeling awfully lazy and unproductive lately, but I suppose it's always a productive day when you can predate the Oxford English Dictionary. The word in question is atonal, which the OED dates in English from 1922:
1922 A. E. HULL in Musical Opinion Oct. 48/1, I have been working for two years at a system of non-tonal harmony, which I had long been unable to christen. Now, after visiting no less than seven foreign countries I not only find that the thing is widely known as Atonality, but [etc.]. Ibid. 48/3 Keyboard chord-writing as well as linear, tonal as well as Atonal.
Well, if the thing is already widely known, then maybe we're not quite getting on that bandwagon early, are we? And, in fact, a little investigation finds the French-English critic M. D. Calvocoressi using the term a full decade earlier than that. From "The Origin of To-Day's Musical Idiom" in the December 11, 1911 issue of The Musical Times and Singing-Class Circular (writing about Mussorgsky):
A score and more of such examples could be quoted. Not only these soft 'atonal' harmonies, but also the harsher whole-tome scales and aggregates, much used by Debussy and other contemporaries, appear in several parts of 'Boris Godounov'[.]
Calvocoressi was a member of Les Apaches, the group of French artistic young-men-in-a-hurry that also included Ravel and de Falla, making a musical splash by defending Pelleas et Melisande from its critics. So it's interesting to find atonal soon being taken up by the composer-pedagogue Vincent d'Indy, one of those critics, as a bit of a cudgel. D'Indy's 1912 article "Le Bon sens" isn't online, but you can find the American composer Daniel Gregory Mason quoting it:
"In the nineteenth century," [d'Indy] says, "some Russian composers, in the interest of certain special effects, employed the scale of Whole tones, which one may name atonal because it suppresses all possibility of modulation. In the twentieth century Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel elaborated these methods, making often very ingenious applications of them; but they made the mistake (one must dare to speak the truth of those one esteems) of erecting processes into principles, or at least of letting them be so erected by their muftis, so that the formula now established by fashion is: 'Outside of harmonic sensation and the titillation of orchestral timbres there is no salvation.'["]
Because it suppresses all possibility of modulation. You start to understand why, even given late-Romantic levels of dissonance, atonality so bothered the d'Indys of the world—dissonance was OK as long as the movement from key center to key center remained purposeful and perceptible, but lose that modulation, and things start to seem random. Debussy doesn't seem atonal to us, but his penchant for using familiar chords (dominant 7ths, for example) for color rather than modulatory function must have exacerbated that modulatory uncertainty—in a Heisenberg-like way, in fact. D'Indy's ideal Conservatoire ear could never correlate where Debussy's music was with where it was going.

March 02, 2009

We should be on by now

A couple weeks ago, in preparation for reviewing Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, I did something that most critics or performers have probably done when faced with a similar prospect: I listened to Rachmaninoff's 1939 recording. I have it on a pretty good Naxos transfer which is now out of print, but as the link indicates, it's not hard to find at all. Now think: this is the chronological equivalent of a critic/listener/performer in 1909 having access to a recording of Beethoven playing the "Emperor" concerto. Piano nerds, at least, don't take Rachmaninoff's recordings for granted—once you discover them, they and the scores end up their own synoptic Two-Source Hypothesis—but I don't think we realize how much their existence says about our relationship with the musical past.

In fact, I think what Rachmaninoff's recordings show—what the advent of recorded music shows—is that our perception of a musical past is, in many ways, an illusion. In general terms—
The perceived difference between the musical past and the musical present is a symptom of the limitations of information technology.
As information technology improves, the distance between past and present shrinks. You can make a taxonomy of musical examples. Nearly the entire corpus of surviving Ancient Greek music fits on a single web page, with tempo and tuning largely educated guesses. Chant and medieval music exists in more complete sources, along with more detailed instructions. Western classical music is documented in standardized notation and fuller contemporary accounts. Music written since 1900 has increasingly—an with increasing fidelity—been recorded by or, at least, under the guidance of the composer.

That brief rundown might be considered coincidental—the steady progress of information technology, directional over time, corresponding to how "old" a musical epoch seems to us. But much musical scholarship of the past century has been devoted to, in a way, improving the backwards compatibility of more rudimentary information technology. If we know more about how Renaissance music, or Medieval music, or Ancient Greek music is supposed to sound, it's because scholarship has filled in gaps that make performers better able to assemble the existing instructions—notation and treatise—into realized music that exists in the present.

In other words, all music—regardless of age—is ideally immediate and timeless, and as the technology of reproducing music—regardless of age—improves, the "pastness" of music falls away.

I already see the two implicational poles of this with the digital reproduction and distribution of music—old music ceases to gain an advantage from the imprimatur of age, but also ceases to suffer in comparison with music of greater chronological novelty. (This is, I think, why concerted efforts to bring classical music into alignment with pop music, to make it "appeal to new generations," always come off as tinny to my ear: they're trying to solve a "problem" that's fading away on its own, and, ironically, dating themselves—the technology advances faster than the solution.) As the reproduction converges on the fidelity and immediacy of live performance, and as those reproductions become ever-more immediately available, the "dead white guy" factor of classical music diminishes. It's like Faulkner famously said: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Here's another card in this file, one I will almost certainly be returning to in the next few months. Brian Wilson finished his unfinished masterpiece, the aborted "SMiLE" album, in 2004, ending over thirty years of fan speculation via bootlegs and homegrown reconstructions. Nevertheless, additional bootlegs and reconstructions of "SMiLE" have continued to surface since 2004. Why? Because of information technology—the raw materials of the original "SMiLE" sessions, once released into the digital world, have proliferated such that anyone with Internet access has near-instant access to them. Fragments of music originally thought lost have made their own way, to the point where they're constantly re-introduced into the present, refusing to be pinned down to 1967 or even 2004. Mahler's piano rolls, Rachmaninoff's 78s, studio tapes from the 1960s—they're all here and now. And, as the present continually renews itself, only more so.