November 29, 2010

A thousand violins fill the air

Hey, Kim Jong-Il—your isolated, repressive, and dangerously unstable regime has just precipitated yet another military standoff with your neighbors to the south. What are you going to do next?

"I'm going to a concert!"

Apparently having run out of provocations for the weekend, Kim Jong-Il, his designated heir, Kim Jong-Un, and a host of North Korean political grandees took in a little music last night (well, one assumes it was last night, though the report doesn't specify), attending a concert by the State Symphony Orchestra of the DPRK. According to the North Korean news agency:
Put on the stage were serial symphonies "Song Dedicated to the Party," piano concerto "Do Prosper, My Country," orchestras "A Bumper Harvest in the Chongsan Plain" and "A Soldier Hears Rice Ears Sway" and other colorful numbers.
(I don't think "serial" means what the translator thinks it means, but my Korean is nowhere near good enough to tell what's trying to be said. If you're curious, the orchestra has recorded Choe Jong Yun's piano concerto on "Do Prosper, My Country.") North Korean concerts inevitably come with a healthy dose of propaganda (this particular concert, for instance, comes on the heels of an annual concert dedicated to Isang Yun, whose stature in the North is equal parts musical accomplishment and his kidnapping by the South Korean security forces in 1967). Maybe that old story about Bismarck listening to Beethoven's Fifth before declaring war on France is still current in Pyongyang.

In other news:

Louis Andriessen wins this year's Grawemeyer Award.

Meanwhile, the Louisville Orchestra (like its Honolulu counterpart) mulls bankruptcy options.

Next year's royal wedding could feature Peter Maxwell Davies and Andrew Lloyd Webber on the same program—if the latter is asked.

Tomorrow, the town of Dumfries unveils a memorial cairn for Angus MacKay, first to hold the post of Queen's Piper.

In closing: the neurology of Satie's Vexations.