December 28, 2006
GF: My stepfather was a magnificent person, and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing.
JB: Where I grew up there was no way out, no avenue of escape, so you had to make a way. Mine was to create James Brown.
GF: I am proud of America, and I am proud to be an American. Life will be a little better here for my children than for me. I believe this not because I am told to believe it, but because life has been better for me than it was for my father and my mother.
JB: Any time an Afro-American kid, 9 or 10 years old, can get up and say "Mama, I think I'm gonna study hard because I want to be president," and have a shot at being president, then we've got America. Other than that, we've got a name and we're trying to find out what it means.
GF (defensively): The words I remember best were spoken by Dwight D. Eisenhower. "America is not good because it is great," the President said. "America is great because it is good."
(A long pause. JB looks up and down the line of people.)
JB: Killing's out and school's in and we're in bad shape.
GF: This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.
JB: The real answer to race problems in this country is education. Not burning and killing. Be ready. Be qualified. Own something. Be somebody. That's Black Power.
GF: "Black is beautiful" was a motto of genius which uplifted us far above its intention. Once Americans had thought about it and perceived its truth, we began to realize that so are brown, white, red, and yellow beautiful.
JB: I think what I came through is great, but my son can take it to another level, not having to fight racism. His mother's a Norwegian and I'm mixed up four or five times, so he can face the world.
(Another long pause. GF looks tired.)
GF: Sometimes we stumble in the dark, uncertain of the best course for ourselves and the nation we love.
(JB turns around.)
JB: It doesn't matter how you travel it, it's the same road. It doesn't get any easier when you get bigger, it gets harder. And it will kill you if you let it.
GF: We cannot stand still or slip backwards. We must go forward now together.
(JB turns around again, nodding and smiling.)
JB: Die on your feet, don't live on your knees.
December 22, 2006
Just a quick programming note: because of festive-type obligations, Soho the Dog will be officially on hiatus next week. That doesn't mean there might not be an unofficial post or two if the spirit moves me, but I'm not making any promises.
In the meantime, I should probably start practicing those Balbastre Noëls for Christmas. When's Christmas again? Oh, yeah—"The Twenty-Fifth of December" (as performed by the Middle Georgia Four in 1943).
Safe travels to anyone braving our crumbling transportation infrastructure. Happy holidays!
December 21, 2006
Filmed in 1980 by Fred Stern (link warning: auto-loading Zarathustra music), who has also been posting his avant-garde video work.
Because of my job, I always have lots of Presbyterian hymnals lying around, so I used one of those. I tallied all the initial melodic scale degrees for the Christmas hymns, and then did the same for the rest of the book. Note that I tallied hymns, not tunes; if a tune was used more than once, it got counted more than once. (I skipped the service music.) A few of the tunes (less than 10) were chant-based, which didn't always make it readily apparent what tonic was; I made judgment calls based on the prevailing harmony. Here's what I got:
Christmas hymns (39):The positions of the 1st and 5th scale degrees are pretty much reversed. In fact, if you take the non-Christmas hymns as representing the expected distribution of initial pitch level, and then run a Pearson chi-square test on the Christmas hymns, you get a chi-square value of 6.385 (I hope I did that right; any mathematically-inclined readers out there should feel free to check my work); convert that to a probability (I used Richard Lowry's online calculator) and you get 0.0411—that is, there's about a 4% chance of finding yourself as far out on the tail of the distribution as the Christmas hymns are.
Scale degree 1: 13 (33.3%)
Scale degree 3: 7 (18.0%)
Scale degree 5: 19 (48.7%)
Non-Christmas hymns (518):
Scale degree 1: 233 (45.0%)
Scale degree 3: 84 (16.2%)
Scale degree 5: 196 (37.8%)
Other: 5 (1%)
Weird. Why would Christmas songs be more likely to start on sol than do? Maybe it has to do with the season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas in the Christian calendar. It's the only part of the church year that's specifically devoted to waiting (Lent, the period leading up to Easter, is much more about penance and reflection). By the time you get to Christmas itself, you've been spiritually standing around for the better part of a month. Slow carols tend to start on sol and then take their time getting to tonic, perhaps a musical reminder of the joys of expectation; fast ones jump in with a solid V-I cadence, a harmonic reassurace that, yes, you've made it, the day is finally here.
Or maybe it's just a coincidence. Something to listen for over the weekend, though.
Update (12/22): Critic-at-large Moe pointed out to me that my math was only half right—I did the chi-square test on the percentages, which would be the equivalent of a 100-Christmas-hymn sample. If you use the actual 39-hymn sample, the chi-square is 2.63, which gives you a probability of 0.2685—about a 27% chance, in other words. To my taste, that's still too far out on the curve for a random variance.
December 20, 2006
Just Galen H. Brown duly blowing my mind.
Canadian arts consultant Elaine Calder, hired by the Oregon Symphony to evaluate its weaknesses, has suggested that one problem is that the orchestra plays too much classical music.She also suggested that zoos have too many animals and that sushi restaurants serve too much fish. It's a symphony orchestra, you moron. What do you want them to play? Oh, right.
[Calder] points out that when the Edmonton orchestra played with Christian soft-rock singer Michael W. Smith, $250,000 worth of tickets were sold, mostly to symphony newcomers.Oh, dear God. I'm all for pops concerts that boost the bottom line, but not pops concerts that are straight-up religious pandering. (How about some klezmer concerts and visits to the temple? An oud soloist and a trip to the mosque? Nah—it's not like those people will ever assimilate. Besides, there aren't enough of them to make pandering financially worthwhile!) If I were a patron of the Oregon Symphony, I'd be downsizing my donations by the exact amount they're paying this blowhard.
She also advocates performing in other locations, like churches, according to The Oregonian.
One wet morning, when she was playing the hotel piano, and he listening, thinking to have her to himself, there came a young German violinist—pale, and with a brown, thin-waisted coat, longish hair, and little whiskers—rather a beast, in fact. Soon, of course, this young beast was asking her to accompany him—as if anyone wanted to hear him play his disgusting violin! Every word and smile that she gave him hurt so, seeing how much more interesting than himself this foreigner was! And his heart grew heavier and heavier, and he thought: If she likes him I ought not to mind—only, I DO mind! How can I help minding? It was hateful to see her smiling, and the young beast bending down to her. And they were talking German, so that he could not tell what they were saying, which made it more unbearable. He had not known there could be such torture.
—John Galsworthy, The Dark Flower
(It wasn't like the time I lost my boy—the time my boy played the piano with that girl Reina in a little New England farmhouse near Bennington, and I realized at last I wasn't wanted. Guy Lombardo was on the air playing Top Hat and Cheek to Cheek, and she taught him the melodies. The keys falling like leaves and her hands splayed over his as she showed him a black chord. I was a freshman then.)
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon
CHARTERIS. She did what a woman like Julia always does. When I explained personally, she said it was not not my better self that was speaking, and that she knew I still really loved her. When I wrote it to her with brutal explicitness, she read the letter carefully and then sent it back to me with a note to say that she had not had the courage to open it, and that I ought to be ashamed of having written it. (Comes beside Grace, and puts his left hand caressingly round her neck.) You see, dearie, she won't look the situation in the face.
GRACE. (shaking off his hand and turning a little away on the stool). I am afraid, from the light way in which you speak of it, you did not sound the right chord.
CHARTERIS. My dear, when you are doing what a woman calls breaking her heart, you may sound the very prettiest chords you can find on the piano; but to her ears it is just like this—(Sits down on the bass end of the keyboard. Grace puts her fingers in her ears.)
—George Bernard Shaw, The Philanderer
December 19, 2006
"We're dealing with a group theft carried out over a short period of time," said an unnamed source quoted in The Independent. "And there is without doubt a collector behind it. The pieces are almost never catalogued, and so it would be very easy to sell them on the black market."And only five shopping days left until Christmas! I need to update my list.
Investigators might want to check that now remounted Berlin production of Idomeneo (which, yesterday, I heard our local news radio station pronounce as Indomínio, with the accent on the third syllable, making it sound like a Phil Collins song). They were down a few heads as of last week—maybe they got desparate.
In terms of borrowing from Bizet, though, it doesn't compare with the Horowitz transcription. (The Bizet starts at the 3:36 mark; you'll have to sit through Schumann's Träumerei first, which isn't such a bad thing.)
That's from his 1968 Carnegie Hall recital. Wondering what all those notes were? You can compare various transcriptions of all the successive versions of Horowitz's Carmen Variations here (as well as other Horowitz arrangements and compositions, including the early "Danse Excentrique," which remains one of my more prized 78s).
Also via YouTube, here's a couple of wonderful silent home movies of Horowitz playing at parties in the 1920's. If your primary image of Horowitz is as a kindly old man being bossed around by Toscanini's daughter, it's fun to see him at his most rakishly sly. I wonder what he's playing in the first clip—he seems to be having a great time hamming it up.
Incidentally, the Horowitzes are unfortunately also no strangers to grave robbers. (And you thought I couldn't bring this meandering post full circle.)
December 18, 2006
That's fine—it's their money, they can do with it what they like—but what's with the disingenuous smarm?
[BoA Massachusetts President Robert] Gallery said it makes sense for the 68-year-old Celebrity Series to become more self-sufficient....Thanks for the advice, Polonius. Unfortunately, unlike your company, Bob, the Celebrity Series doesn't have access to providers like, say, customers' Social Security benefits, or $42 million in taxpayer-funded job retention subsidies (not that the last round of corporate welfare kept any of those jobs around), or $650 million in 9/11 Liberty Bonds to build a new office, um, nowhere near Ground Zero.
"These things have a life cycle, and this has been a pretty long run," said Gallery. "We're very proud of that, but every organization we work with, we want them to reach out to as broad a community as they can to develop as their funding base. No institution should be too dependent on one provider."
Yeah, yeah, I could probably pull skeletons out of any corporate closet I peer into. But come on—do you really expect us to believe that Bank of America is yanking its funding as some form of tough love? This is a numbers game. It should also be another shovelful of cemetery soil on the notion that corporations view arts philanthropy as anything more than tax-deductible advertising.
BoA was contributing $600,000 a year to the Celebrity Series. The Celebrity Series pulls in about 100,000 people a year; that works out to six bucks a person. To compare, they've also given $5 million over the past two years to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, including underwriting this year's big "Americans in Paris" exhibition; extrapolating out from the only numbers I could find, the "Americans in Paris" show drew about 100,000 people in approximately three months. The back-of-the-envelope math still works out to around six bucks a person ($5 mil/24 months/~30,000 people per month; there's added benefits for BoA in that the exhibition also visited London and New York, but nobody's talking as to how much exactly was spent, and I don't think it would make a huge difference in the calculation).
But figure in the number of people passing through the museum who didn't buy the extra ticket needed for the exhibition, along with the plethora of bus, billboard, and streetlight-banner advertising that the MFA pumped out, all featuring the BoA logo, and that's a lot more corporate exposure for your buck. In other words, the Celebrity Series is getting dumped not because it's less efficient than other arts organizations, but because it's more poorly suited to ancillary advertising benefits. It doesn't have its own building; it doesn't get a lot of "passers-by" to glimpse a corporate logo as they walk through; it isn't big enough (as, for example, the MFA or the BSO) to warrant the kind of civic boosterism exemplified by those ubiquitous streetlamp banners.
BoA talks about changing "priorities," but the driving force behind those priorities isn't artistic excellence or value to the community. It's rather that the priorities are things BoA can permanently and physically slap its name on, the emphasis is on philanthropy that comes with a high-profile billboard for the brand. Why do you think BoA is shifting its performing arts support to free and/or open-air events—and concentrating more and more on museums? (Peruse this already out-of-date list.) Why do you think their competitor CitiGroup spent $34 million to rename the Wang Center? Why do you think (in the for-profit realm) BoA is also spending a ton of money to sponsor NASCAR, as close to a gravitational singularity of corporate branding as you can get?
Again, they're just doing what good corporations do to build their brand. But there's two forces at work here that musicians need to be aware of. As corporations get bigger and bigger, and are frequently operating far away from their own home base, corporate visibility and brand promotion will become the main goal of all non-operational activity; the personal relationships and local civic pride that support smaller, less splashy causes will become more and more abstract until they disappear completely. And if visibility is the key, let's face it: music is not the most visible of art forms. It would appear that the transitory, elusive nature of music has a real-world financial cost, at least in a society where the free market reigns, and philanthropy is just another front in the war for eyeballs. There's a built-in bias towards the visual arts and organizations with a bricks-and-mortar component; mid-level venue-renting classical music organizations like the Celebrity Series, too big to scrape by on government grants and small donations, too small to be attractive to increasingly huge corporations, are left high and dry.
What's to be done? Not much, I'm afraid. There are possible tax structures to try and alleviate this—for example, you could tie deduction rates to geographic diversity for companies operating in multiple states, or a balance between large and small receiving organizations; you could give greater breaks for long-term support, either via year-to-year increases or favors on extended commitments—but they all have significant downsides, and, more importantly, they'd just be used by corporations as an excuse to be less philanthropic overall. You could aggressively enforce anti-trust legislation—ahhh, who am I kidding?
No, the problem here is that corporate philanthropy requires a free-market benefit, and the benefits of classical music are rather poorly perceived by the free market—and those benefits are downright invisible unless the guy who pays the piper can make him wear a sandwich-board as well. Maybe you're you're more sanguine than I am about private philanthropy stepping in to close the gap, but for me, it's this sort of situation that government arts funding was invented for—fixing the holes that the free market leaves behind. Yes, the government is inefficient, and unresponsive, and often downright stupid, but at least there's a veneer of accountability, and at least they're not particularly worried about building their brand (domestically, anyways). Besides, the alternative is like a boyfriend who breaks up with you because you don't have enough pictures of him on your wall, and then tries to tell you it's for your own good.
(The title? From these guys. The rest.)
December 17, 2006
From Ben.H of Boring Like a Drill fame:
Eggs Antheil: Place a pistol in clear sight on the kitchen counter. Cook eggs using fifteen pressure cookers, while switching on every fan, electric mixer, garbage disposal, blender, and smoke alarm. When done, throw out the lot and cook another set of eggs in a traditional manner, as your mother used to make. Serve with a toast to Hedy Lamarr. Do not switch off your cellphone.(This one actually got my lovely wife curious enough to want to hear some Antheil.)
From the intensely serene Seth Gordon:
Eggs Cardew: Truffles are for the elitists! I will eat my eggs with a simple accompaniment of fermented beans and fish heads, as Chairman Mao did.Be sure to also check out Seth's updated Eggs Partch recipe, which is a thing of beauty.
Galen Brown leaves us wanting more:
Eggs Cage: Heat up your frying pan. Turn it off. Think about what not eating eggs tastes like.Although, as Mark Meyer cautions, best to avoid cage-free eggs.
Speaking of Cage, Colin Holter whips up an imaginary landscape:
Eggs Champaign-Urbana: Devise an elaborate plan for cooking eggs in a manner that will produce mildly piquant results. (Consider Herbert Brun's ideas on language.) When finished, name your eggs with an adjective followed by a singular common noun.In honor of UIUC, a suggested title: Flat Cornfield.
The mysterious Susanna cooks for a crowd:
Eggs Mahler: Obtain 432 eggs. Claim you have a thousand. Cook as many of the eggs as time permits. Invite people over. When they've had enough eggs, give them some more eggs. This really only needs to be done about once every twelve years.Samuel Vriezen keeps it simple:
Eggs Messaien: Brood.And from the Hardest-Working Supposedly-On-Hiatus Man in Show Business, Alex Ross:
Eggs Wuorinen: Music is much more complicated than eggs. It is a typical travesty of the "I Pod" generation to talk about serious music of a problematical character in relation to eggs. Moreover, in the wake of twelve-note composition, eggs have become superfluous. But, if eggs must be made, scramble them vigorously for nineteen minutes.Finally, from the palate of Daniel Wolf, an actual recipe. I'll name it appropriately:
Eggs Wolf: Take one ostrich, one duck, and one quail egg. Store them refrigerated, tip downward, for at least 24 hours (to insure that the yolks are centered). Hard boil the eggs, each at the appropriate time length, scare with cold water and peel and slice in half lengthways immediately to avoid greying. Remove yolks and mash them until smooth with a bit of mayonnaise, toasted and ground spices (fenugreek, cayenne, mustard, cumin, coriander), one finely chopped small dill pickle and salt to taste. Now place the the quail egg white within the duck egg white, and that within the ostrich egg white, with a healthy layer of the yolk mixture between the white layers and in the quail egg white. Garnish with sweet paprika powder and fresh fenugreek and coriander leaves.Again, read 'em all if you haven't: they're all good. Thanks also to Alistair, Mike, Marc, and Zachary, who, like Susanna, are but names—if any of you have a web presence you'd like me to link to, e-mail me and I'll update the post. (And, from Matt Van Brink, don't miss the Steakhausen compendium of puns.)
December 15, 2006
Here's the problem/opportunity with titles on pieces of music: once you move outside the most bland and academic appellation—either a shout-out to the basic form (Sonata, Suite, etc.) or a list of who's playing (String Quartet, Symphony)—you're essentially using the language in a surreal way, and that sometimes results in a bit of cognitive dissonance with the piece itself. Describing music is a notoriously difficult challenge for language, and to sum up even the simplest piece in less than ten words is pretty much impossible. Which means any title you apply is a) somewhat disconnected from the piece, and, more interestingly, b) somewhat disconnected from itself: you're taking words that normally have agreed-upon meanings and putting them in a situation where either they become meaningless by virtue of their necessary inadequacy, or they're being used in a deliberately misleading way. Both results are traditionally surreal: the language is being alienated from itself, either directly or indirectly.
If your aesthetic is a surreal one, this isn't a problem; you can easily come up with titles that not only aren't jarringly incongruent with the music, but actually contribute to the overall effect. (Think of Satie.) But if your artistic goals are less informed by the powers and pleasures of absurdity, titles can be a tricky business. The safe way to go is the previously mentioned bland and academic path, but of course, you're surrounded by people telling you that you need to do more to get people interested in your music, that you need to grab their attention and get them to want to hear what you've written. They've got a point: the marketing possibilities of an effective title are not inconsiderable, and few of us have trust funds that would enable a willful ignorance of the realities of the marketplace. But if you're not referencing an artistic tradition (like Surrealism) where a certain amount of bait-and-switch is not only expected, but welcomed, you run the risk of disappointing the guileless and annoying the skeptical: if you call your offering "Elegy to 9/11," plenty of people will find it to be a shallow experience compared with their expectations, and plenty of others will find it to be nothing more than a cheap stunt.
What can you do? You can set texts: naming the piece after the poem that's being sung shifts the above burdens to the poet. (This can work for non-vocal music as well: find a pre-existing literary title or quotation that has a vague connection to your piece, and it has a certain inoculating effect. Boulez does this all the time; I've resorted to it on occasion.) You can take refuge in a certain hip snarkiness: the Bang On a Can types do this a lot, and often quite well, coming up with titles that are just abrasive and anti-establishment enough to give the expectation of listening that frisson of sitting at the cool table in the cafeteria. You can opt for puns: titles become such obvious and deliberate jokes that they detach themselves from the piece, and become more of an intellectual amuse-bouche for the listener. (Milton Babbitt and Michael Gandolfi are the acknowledged masters of the practice.) You can reference events or relationships so private that the audience is completely locked out of determining the appropriateness of your choice. (Think of every piece you've ever heard with a title like "For [person known only to the composer].") Or you could go ahead and name-drop a great event/historical figure/tragedy, and hope that you get away with it. (It worked for Penderecki, in spades.)
I guess I'm lucky in that my own music seems to lend itself to a certain amount of leeway in creative titling, but that's probably because my musical taste has also been heavily influenced by my literary taste, which does run towards the surreal. I like linguistically alienating effects; I like focusing on the meanings of individual words out of context; I like the poetic point where one can slip back and forth between the sounds of words and the meanings of words a little too easily. So it's only natural that I also like playing in the space between a piece of music and its title. But I'll admit that the ground there gets a little slippery at times.
*Update (12/17): as Alex Ross rightly points out in the comments, how responsible we should hold Penderecki for the renaming is unclear given the murky moral ground of totalitarian Poland.
December 14, 2006
It's hollow plastic; inside is a battery, a sound chip, a couple of LEDs, and a spring-loaded switch. When you spin it, the centrifugal force closes the switch, and the thing lights up and plays a tinny electronic version of "The Dreidel Song." Clever.
The sound chip itself is somewhat primitive, though—by comparison, for my birthday last year, my inlaws got me a card (at right) that, when you open it, plays an excerpt from an actual orchestral recording of "Ride of the Valkyries." Pretty cool.
Now, like most people, I'm ambivalent about Wagner—I mean, nice music and all, but oy vey, Richard, always with the anti-Semitism—and I'm not above giving the man a bit of a karmic wedgie when the opportunity presents itself.
So—hack apart the dreidel:
Recycle the chip from the birthday card:
Solder the new chip into the dreidel circuit:
And put the whole thing back together:
Here it is in action:
I love the smell of suganiyot in the morning!
December 13, 2006
Two of my heroes when I was a kid were Peterson, for reasons obvious to anyone who remembers what it's like to be a beginning pianist, and my dad, for (among other things) looking the other way when I essentially appropriated all of his Oscar Peterson records and played the hell out of them. He and my mom saw the man himself a few times when he would make periodic appearances at the London House in Chicago. I'm jealous.
Is it baby's first Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Dies Natalis Solis Invicti? Soothe the little prodigy to sleep in the new year with a brand-new music box—a Stockhausen music box, that is! Yes, the tinkling sounds of one of the foremost avant-garde composers of our fractured modern world can inspire your infant to dream of being an angel made completely of light accompanying the vibrations of space and time themselves on a cosmic trumpet. Once they get to Kindergarten, imagine how quotidian the other children will seem! (Actually, when I was a toddler, I had a beloved music box that played the theme from "Camelot," and look how I turned out. Imagine if I had been winding up one of these.)
If all you want for Christmas is to escape your humdrum existence, you're in luck—now you can be Pulitzer-prize-winning composer Michael Colgrass for a day! Heck, you can be Michael Colgrass for the rest of your life once you find his entire archive of manuscripts and correspondence in your stocking. For a mere $135,000, you can fill your files with actual honored works commissioned by major ensembles, and leave a stack of mail from the likes of Sessions, Stravinsky, Cage, Copland, Persichetti, and Harold Pinter on your kitchen counter. Identity theft has never been so classy. Extra fun: go to town with a pencil and an eraser and hopelessly confuse generations of future musicologists!
Know somebody who turns every backyard cookout into an immolation scene? Someone who sends every steak and chop to a charred, kerosene-scented Valhalla? Let them tend that magic fire in style with this Richard Wagner BBQ apron. Now your Saturday-afternoon Siegfried can grill those burgers until they're tougher than Nothung itself, and remain unmolested by the Fafner and Fasolt of spills and splatters—so that once your meal is plunged into a river of inedibility, he'll still be clean enough to take you out. (OK, OK, I'll stop now.)
The female (or cross-dressing) scribbler on your list will love these "Composer" pumps by designer Richard Tyler. The shoe "features corset-style lacing" over a leopard-print insert—nothing says "music of the future" like faux-leopard bondage gear! Besides, it's "flirty"—and we all know how composers need to attract new audiences. (What? You want them to like you for your music? Good luck with that.)
And finally, for the person who has everything, and thus is in desperate need of sabotage from jealous colleagues, head over to eBay for this copy of Pietro Deiro and Alfred d'Auberge's Atonal Studies for Accordion. After your successful composer tastes the forbidden fruit of the 12-tone squeezebox, everything else will seem bland and pointless—and the resulting string of Schoenbergian polkas will send that once-promising career further south than Roald Amundsen. (Honestly? I want this one bad. And the music box, too. I love that music box. And I've been pretty good this year! I mean, for me.)
December 12, 2006
All was happy-go-lucky joy; and, at two o’clock, as Branton Hills’ Municipal Band, (a part of Gadsby’s Organization of Youth’s work, you know) struck up a bright march, not a glum physiognomy was found in all that big park.
Gadsby and Lucy had much curiosity in watching what such crashing music would do to various animals. At first a spirit akin to worry had baboons, gorillas, and such, staring about, as still as so many posts; until, finding that no harm was coming from such sounds, soon took to climbing and swinging again. Stags, yaks and llamas did a bit of high-kicking at first; Gadsby figuring that drums, and not actual music, did it. But a lilting waltzing aria did not worry any part of this big zoo family; in fact, a fox, wolf and jackal, in a quandary at first actually lay down, as though music truly “hath charms to calm a wild bosom.”
—Ernest Vincent Wright,
IGOR STRAVINSKY was such a firebird that he loved going to the zoo "to watch the wild animals at feeding time, when they devoured the raw meat."
Some say that music hath charms
To soothe the savage beast
I've also heard some people say
That enough is as good as a feast
Now I once paid court to a maid
I'd have stuck to her too, like gum
But she went music mad, alas
Thro' her violent taste for the drum
G.W. Hunt, "Music Hath Charms"
December 11, 2006
Most chef wannabes know about dishes named for Rossini: take just about any foodstuff, cover it with a Madiera sauce, and garnish it with truffles and sautéed foie gras, and voila! you've got [foodstuff] Rossini. But there's more where that came from, and, oddly, most of them seem to be egg dishes. Here's a few:
Oeufs Auber: Stuffed halved tomatoes with a chicken forcemeat mixed with chopped truffles. Top each tomato with a soft-boiled or poached egg. Make a velouté sauce (white sauce) flavored with tomato paste; at the last minute, add a julienne of truffles that have been cooked in sherry. Cover the eggs with the sauce.I love offal, so that last one actually sounds pretty good to me. And the eggs Berlioz might make a fun weekend project the next time I'm in an Asian grocery that carries cock's combs. But notice: every one of these composers has been dead for a century or more. All the composers who came after—what are they? Chopped liver? Literally? No, we have to fix this.
Oeufs Berlioz: Make some oval croustades from Duchesse potato mixture, and brown them in the oven. Fill the croustades with a salpiçon of truffles and mushrooms blended with a thick Madiera sauce. Top each croustade with a soft-boiled or poached egg. Lightly cover the eggs with a sauce Suprême (velouté enriched with cream). Fill the middle of the dish with fried cock's combs à la Villeroi (poached in court-boullion and dredged in breadcrumbs).
Oeufs Bizet: Butter individual molds and line them with finely chopped pickled tongue and truffles. Break an egg into each mold and poach them in a bain-marie. Cook some artichoke hearts in butter. Unmold the eggs and place one on each artichoke heart. Cover with a Périgueux sauce (demi-glace with chopped truffles). Garnish each egg with a slice of truffle.
Oeufs Meyerbeer: Garnish shirred eggs with grilled lamb kidney. Surround the eggs with a ring of Périgueux sauce.
Eggs Carter: Break an egg into a pan with a multitude of other ingredients, and place on the stove. Continually and simultaneously vary both the temperature and the cooking time. The dish is done when the aggregate intervals of the other ingredients allegorically crush the individuality of the egg.Who have I forgotten? Leave 'em in the comments, and I'll post the most appetizing ones.
Eggs Ives: Cook the egg in water, clear water from a mountain lake that a dilettante might try to write a song about. Boil it—hard-boil it—until the yolk is a firm yellow globe—a sun shining on manly hearts with cleaned-out ears. Sissies like a runny yolk, but real beauty—natural beauty—is not to be found in liquidy prettiness—the pale imitations of the passing spectacle must give way to the hard truths of the soul. Emerson once said, "Yonder masterful cuckoo / Crowds every egg out of the nest."
Eggs Feldman: Extremely soft-boiled. Durations are free.
Eggs Nancarrow: That's huevos Nancarrow, you stupid gringo!
Eggs Partch: Build your own oven. Calibrate both the thermostat and the timer to non-Western scales of your own invention. Then bake the eggs at 943 degrees for 17,000 minutes, or until the yolks are set. Top each egg with a slice of peyote.
Eggs Rorem: January 23—Dinner at Lenny and Felicia's with Judy Collins, Edward Albee, the Carters, Virgil, Gore, and Mayor Lindsay, who seemed to have wandered into the wrong apartment. Every course made from eggs, a typical Bernstein obsession that will burn bright and then fade by next week. At the end of dessert, Lenny pulls out a chafing dish and, with Hollywood flair, announces that he will make eggs in the true Parisian style, which he then attempts with American ingredients. When the Vicomtesse showed me how to make eggs, she only used Parisian ingredients. I know these ingredients exist, because I saw them when I was in Paris. I leave early, fleeing into the gray city snow. I must send an apologetic card to Felicia tomorrow. The snow makes one sad; the whole world looks fragile, like an eggshell.
Eggs Schwantner: Crack an egg into a crystal goblet. Run a moistened finger around the rim of the goblet until the egg is vibrating at the same frequency as background radiation from the Big Bang. Serve on a bed of maj7(#11) chords.
Eggs Strauss: Give an egg to a singer. Cover with the orchestra.
Eggs Zorn: Cook as many eggs as you like in as many different ways as you can think of. Serve them all on the same plate. Garnish with matzo.
Eggs Soho the Dog: Do a Google search for "egg recipes." Pick the funniest one. Link to it. Repeat five times a week.
Now, if you're going to cause an operatic scandal with offensive props, it might help to actually hang onto them. The Deutsche Oper Berlin has somehow lost the fake severed heads of Jesus, Buddha, Poseidon, and, most crucially, the prophet Mohammed from that off-again, on-again production of Idomeneo that got everyone into a frenzy. If those heads aren't up on eBay within the fortnight, the terrorists have won.
And in a break from silliness, Jeremy Eichler previews the upcoming CD release of the Lieberson Neruda Songs, and includes a sound clip, so you can see if it's really as special (Yes. Yes, it is) as everyone keeps telling you. (One of the borrowed studios I accompany in at Boston Conservatory still has a poster for a student recital by Victoria Livengood and Lorraine Hunt, which I always find an unusually touching artifact.)
December 08, 2006
Full disclosure: I was a Tanglewood fellow the first year that they decided to house the composers at Miss Hall's School, rather than the comparatively swankier confines of Seranak, so I can't help feeling a little sense of karmic realignment. Ha! No, seriously, I have great memories of a couple of dinners up there—and the balcony is a breathtaking place to watch a storm roll in.
Meanwhile, Tears of a Clownsilly embarks on an unusually long slide into senility and decrepitude. Now that it's all downhill from here, just think what you'll save on gas!
I was thinking about this after playwright George Hunka posted a link to this page, where the Canadian Broadcasting Company has streamed a bunch of excerpts from Glenn Gould's radio documentaries. If you've never heard these before, you're in for a treat—Gould's programs (on mostly non-musical subjects) are still ahead of their time, and entertaining as all get out.
Now, Gould (who died at the age of 50) is primarily remembered as a pianist and an eccentric, and often the latter more than the former. That's because his posthumous reputation was shaped by people whose opinions were no doubt colored by memories of his first major public appearances in the 1950's. Gould must have seemed like an alien—he came more or less out of nowhere, with a fully formed style that owed little to any existing school, and a collection of physical mannerisms that no doubt nearly upstaged his music-making. But his astonishing radio work (not to mention his engaging writings, as well as his film and television work) is a reminder that Gould was the real thing, a genius and a conscientious workaholic whose eccentricities were really the least interesting thing about him. Gould would have turned 75 this year, an age at which many musicians are still fully active; no doubt he would have had the opportunity to enjoy being a hero or a villian to at least a couple of subsequent generations. (And here's one to think about: you know he would have had a blog.)
Here's another example. My church choir just started rehearsing one of our Christmas favorites, "There shall a star come out of Jacob," by Felix Mendelssohn. I've mentioned my love for Mendelssohn's music here before, and this is no exception. I could talk volumes about this chorus, but I'll just point out this short passage at measure 73, which might be one of the most perfectly realized tonal cadences of all time.
The D that the tenors linger over in 77 is an absolutely masterful stroke, coloring an otherwise textbook cadence with a lovely string of rich dissonances.
It's remarkable enough out of context, but in context, it's a catharsis of subtle but unmistakable power; Mendelssohn has spent the entire chorus preparing us for this moment. We've had fully-formed contrasting A and B sections, including a development where the melodies of both are ingeniously combined and played off of each other. The A material is soaring and lyrical, the B material darker and more violent, and it's only at measure 79 that the lyricism wins out. And we know it, because it's the first full V-I cadence in tonic since measure 10, and only the second one of the entire piece. (That's long-range planning.) But that's not even the true genius of this moment. The true genius is that it's not the end of the piece. Mendelssohn has engineered this cadence to be but an exquisite curtain-raising for the coda: a simple but luminous harmonization of the old chorale tune "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern."
In other words, this is the work of a composer at the absolute top of his or anybody else's game, writing music that unfolds its considerable glories with an effortless sure-footedness. This chorus, of course, is all that we have of Mendelssohn's planned oratorio Christus, left unfinished at his ridiculously premature death. Every time I hear that cadence, hear Mendelssohn at the point where his craft will finally let him do whatever he wants to do, I can't help thinking about the fact that it was, unwittingly, the end of his career. And you know what? I don't feel sadness, or regret, or wistfulness: I'm downright pissed, pissed that he didn't live to produce a normal life expectancy's allotment of music, pissed that he didn't get to let his imagination fly on the wings of his technical mastery, and pissed that he came to be remembered as simply a prodigy who had a certain flair for melody but somehow lacked the mettle and inner strength (you know, because he was a Jew) to excel in the "larger forms" that seemed to be the only criterion anybody knew how to apply in those days.
Which is why I fully intend to move heaven and earth in order to maintain my grip on this mortal coil. On the off chance that I actually get to the point Mendelssohn did, I want to be able to enjoy it for a while, and stick around long enough to supersede anyone's indelible memory of me as a callow youth. And if I never reach that point? You can call me a failure, but you'll have to do it to my wrinkled face.
December 07, 2006
Most Dances Properly Conducted until Liquor begins to take EffectAll I can say is, if I ever write an homage to the Bach suites, I know what each movement will be called.
All the investigators report that up to about eleven p.m., generally speaking, the dances are well conducted; the crowd then begins to show the effect of too much liquor. Men and women become intoxicated and dance indecently such dances as “Walkin' the Dog,” “On the Puppy's Tail,” “Shaking the Shimmy,” “The Dip,” “The Stationary Wiggle,” etc. In some instances, little children—of whom there are often large numbers present—are given liquor and become intoxicated, much to the amusement of their elders. Many of them are forgotten by their parents in the excitement of the dance, and play upon the filthy floor, witnesses of all kinds of degradation.
—Louise de Koven Bowen,
The Public Dance Halls of Chicago
December 06, 2006
If you ever needed proof of federal indifference to the musical arts, there you have it; that is the most overcooked canned lima bean of a propaganda poster I've ever seen. Music inspires... what, exactly? Gazing into the sky? Greek revival fashions? And is that woman having a hallucination of a marching band? Good heavens.
Frankly, I expect more from our government fearmongers. For the taxes we're paying, they ought to be able to scare a few composers:
And audience members:
Ahhhh... being frightened into conformity is so comforting, isn't it?
December 05, 2006
I've been reading the new translation of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers. And that book, classic as it is, doesn't have half the thought or emotional depth of Casino Royale.I don't hold any particular brief for old literature just because it's old (Bulwer-Lytton cured me of that), but Dumas is magical in a way that I don't think any movie can even come close to. (Lawrence of Arabia maybe. Maybe.)
So what gives? I mean, Greg's not a dumb guy. I rather suspect that he's unwittingly reflecting the modern bias that only dark and serious things can be profound, that unless you heavily underscore a character's conflicted and troubled soul, your characterization is shallow by virtue of the sin of omission. The Three Musketeers is most definitely not serious or dark; and yet it is also deeply thoughtful and profound. The problem for modern readers is that Dumas (with his ghostwriter, Auguste Maquet) is pulling a masterful bait-and-switch from the very beginning. Here's how he opens the book:
On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of The Romance of the Rose was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it.We may not be familiar with the siege of the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle, but Dumas's readers would have been. It's like he's comparing the town to Stalingrad in World War II. Stern, serious stuff, in other words. So what's everybody worked up about?
It was a Bearn pony, from twelve to fourteen years old, yellow in his hide, without a hair in his tail, but not without windgalls on his legs, which, though going with his head lower than his knees, rendering a martingale quite unnecessary, contrived nevertheless to perform his eight leagues a day. Unfortunately, the qualities of this horse were so well concealed under his strange-colored hide and his unaccountable gait, that at a time when everybody was a connoisseur in horseflesh, the appearance of the aforesaid pony at Meung—which place he had entered about a quarter of an hour before, by the gate of Beaugency—produced an unfavorable feeling, which extended to his rider.Dumas is undercutting the swashbuckling surface of his story from the get-go. He name-drops both a masterpiece of Medieval literature and one of the most dramatic military spectacles of French history in order to stage-manage the entrance of a funny horse. This style permeates the book: the most quotidian details are put in high melodramatic relief, while the most telling observations are nonchalantly tossed off. The horse belongs to the young D'Artagnan; his father has entrusted the beast to him with the instructions to always keep it and treat it as a member of the family. Here's what happens:
[D'Artagnan] then drew two crowns majestically from his purse and gave them to the host, who accompanied him, cap in hand, to the gate, and remounted his yellow horse, which bore him without any further accident to the gate of St. Antoine at Paris, where his owner sold him for three crowns, which was a very good price, considering that d'Artagnan had ridden him hard during the last stage.Your modern psychologically astute novelist would have underlined the hell out of this scene, reminding us of the father's promise, making the buyer more mercenary, probably throwing in a poignant portrait of the old horse to boot. Dumas doesn't even bother to give the event its own sentence. He just shrugs: young people—whaddya gonna do? But he knows that we know, that we'll pick up on this little detail, that D'Artagnan's journey from the impetuousness of youth to the bittersweet wisdom of adulthood is now set up as the main engine of the book.
The other thing about Dumas that throws off readers accustomed to Bruckheimer-esque narratives is his sheer leisureliness. Once all four protagonists are off and running, the most thrusting action scenes are rendered at a casual gait, with plenty of attention paid to the verbal and emotional byplay between the actors. That's because the main plot is not the action or the treachery or the historical import, it's the friendship among D'Artagnan and the three Musketeers. In a way, Dumas is writing one of the most non-adventurous adventure novels of all time, and that's the whole beautiful point. He gives you plenty of action, and then reminds you that adventure is only important in that it gives you something to remember with your friends; he paints his background of a grand historical epic solely to assert the unimportance of grand historical forces compared to the everyday pleasures of companionship and trust. Good and bad things happen all through the book, but Dumas keeps the focus squarely on the humanity of the characters. The cruelest blow is often met with flippant humor, the most trivial insult becomes a full-out duel. Those we admire are occasionally infuriatingly ignoble, those we are meant to hate he gives moments of kindness and integrity. That's deeply unsatisfying by modern narrative standards, where we want consistently stereotyped characters (not stereotypes per se, but characters whose motives don't change), not to mention "deep" explanations of why those characters are the way they are. Dumas knows, though, that the way people are changes from situation to situation, and even from moment to moment. (After all, the way people are is a pretty slippery concept.) He lets that happen, and it's why the book feels so comfortable and true.
There's a musical analogue to this, and it cuts both ways: both the atonal use of local dissonance and the tonal use of large-scale dialectical conflict and resolution can be read as playing to the modern preference for only finding profundity in sharp-edged conflict and the darker corners of the soul. But I've always had a soft spot for music that seems to be built on consonant progressions, but always frustrates your expectation of resolution. Poulenc, with his lush chords and enigmatic trick endings, is particularly good at this, as is Morton Feldman in his late period. Ligeti has a bit of this quality, as does Elliott Carter. (I once heard Carter explain the whole concept of metric modulation as a way to make the upbeat into essentially the entire piece, which is sort of like what Dumas is often trying to do.) It's the same sort of shift of focus that The Three Musketeers is all about. Things don't always work out the way they're supposed to; people don't always behave the way you expect them to; justice is not always poetic; life is most often messy and confused. But we still get up every morning and go through that life, and that's wonderful enough to warrant a bit of art.
December 04, 2006
Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego has found that your native language affects the way your hear music. Patel has been doing some of the most entertaining research into nationalistic tendencies in music as of late, coming up with a methodology that lets one correlate the patterns of a given language to the music of its corresponding country of origin. His work can be perused here, including the classic paper "Comparing the rhythm and melody of speech and music: The case of British English and French," which is pretty much a Monty Python sketch waiting to happen. The one avenue Patel hasn't yet pursued is a sort of reverse-engineering application of a given dialect to pre-existing music: what would the Enigma Variations sound like with an Australian accent? Die Meistersinger with a Yiddish accent? "Fair Harvard" with a Southie accent?
Speaking of nationalistic tendencies, Nepal has a new national anthem. (They needed something that conspicuously avoided mentioning the monarchy.) Now all they need is a tune. Compose it, and maybe you'll get your own memorial plaza! Hey, it worked in China.
Opera Chic, an invaluable link to all operatic news out of Italy (you know, where they actually give a damn), notes an interview with Riccardo Chailly, in which the maestro promulgates the theory that Verdi packed Aida with musical codes based on the number three, seeing as how he was a secret Freemason. And of course, everyone knows the Freemasons run everything in tandem with the Illuminati, don't they? No wonder Alagna's getting cold feet.
Anybody lose a trumpet in Czechoslovakia?
Finally, if you're one of those types who breaks away from the tour group to see how the natives really live, Oberlin College is offering a course in "Vocal Folk Traditions," but I fear that the instructors need to be disabused of a few notions:
The two leaders said that both Georgian and shape note music was true music from the people: “It wasn’t as if some trained composer from a conservatory sat down and wrote this music,” said Book. “They’re all by normal people.”Hate to burst your bubble, guys, but if somebody put those notes down on paper, then, by definition, they're not normal. Sorry.
December 01, 2006
Music, too, plays an important role because it uplifts man's spirits. It does so without speaking in man's language, which complicates the business of distinguishing between a good and a bad piece of music. Sometimes you turn on the radio, listen to something, and say to yourself, "Who wrote this junk?" Then you find out it was written by Tchaikovsky or some other famous composer. Then again, sometimes you turn on the radio and hear the same music, only this time you think it's beautiful—all because you're in a different mood.That's Nikita Khrushchev, from Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament, edited and translated by Strobe Talbott (out of print, but you can probably find a copy here). He also tells a fascinating story about the political calculation behind giving Sviatoslav Richter permission to travel:
I told our collective leadership that I was in favor of allowing him to go abroad, They reminded me there was a chance he wouldn't come back. "So what," I replied. "We've got to take certain risks.... He may very well come back after all, and that would be good propaganda for our culture and our regime."Khrushchev, who was an opera fan (his son-in-law was director of the Kiev Opera, in fact) had a predilection for risk worthy of Don Giovanni. And like the good Don, it did him in; ousted in a bloodless coup, he spent the last seven years of his life under essentially house arrest. He probably would make a good operatic character—earthy and sutble, charming and brutal, with a soul that ran the moral gamut from light to dark.
(Illustration from Hans Muller's Communist Zoo, also out of print. I found the image on a discussion board for comic book collectors.)
November 30, 2006
Looking for a choral introit, cheap? The rest of the above (representing the last of my Advent composing and arranging obligations) is now available for free—for free—at the Choral Public Domain Library.
I have a fair pile of choral music that's accumulated over the past few years, and every so often, I'll send it off to publishers here and there, just to see the season's new rejection letters. My favorite is from one of the local concerns, who were kind enough to tell me that their refusal to publish my music "was in no way a reflection on the quality of [my] work." Really? How are you guys making your decisions over there—running hamsters through mazes? Darts? Haruspicy? Anyway, their loss is your gain. (If anybody uses it, let me know how your choir likes it. My choir did so much moaning and groaning over my Lenten introit last year that I'm currently trying to squeeze my budget enough to commission a new one from Dennis Báthory-Kitsz. Not free—but still a steal.)
November 29, 2006
An unfortunate combination of insomnia and the necessity of a lot of driving this week led me to throw a few gospel CDs in to the car; they do a good job of keeping me awake, and having some lady shout at me that Jesus died for my sins tends to make instances of road rage too ironic to perpetuate. Anyway, as of this week, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is now my favorite gospel singer ever. Here she is doing what she did best.
This performance dates from sometime in the 1960's, when she was attempting a comeback. Tharpe had recorded a series of non-gospel blues records in the 50's that managed to alienate both her sets of fans: the spiritual ones who listened for the gospel, and the secular ones who had made hits of her more jazz-inflected sides of the late 30's and 40's. Then again, Tharpe had always seemed a little too worldly for ecclsiastical propriety. She got her start singing and playing in her mother's church, and first became famous with a group of records recorded with swing bandleader Lucky Millinder. Here they are in a badly-edited 1941 short; if the combination of "Lonesome Road" and a quartet of Josephine Baker look-alikes strikes you as suspiciously incongruous, well, you're starting to get the idea. (The cut to the dancers' legs on the line "look up and see your maker" might just be the most hilariously blasphemous thing I've seen all month.) But Sister Rosetta (sans guitar) loves every minute of it, and inevitably, you do, too.
Here's the thing: take Little Richard (who was heavily influenced by Tharpe). He's quite a gospel singer in his own right, but he's spent his entire career seesawing between gospel and rock and roll, never quite sure how to bridge the divide. In his version of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," (you can listen to it on Rhapsody), his adopted ministerial baritone straddles the line between an homage and a impression: it's so stentorian that when the real Little Richard suddenly appears at the tail end of a melismatic riff here and there, the effect is almost comedic. It's like he sees his pop music and his gospel music as two different personae, two costumes that he can change in and out of at will.
For Tharpe, though, there is no divide. She is who she is, and that's who you get—there's no difference between the little girl in church and the sassy lady rocking the house with her Gibson SG, between the preacher warning you (with a smile) to get right before Gabriel blows his horn and the celebrity who was able to sell 25,000 tickets to her third wedding. (True story.) It's not just that she's spiritual and worldly all at the same time, she's spiritual because she's worldly, because she knows all the ins and outs of entertainment, she knows how to grab your attention, she knows how to put on a show, and so you end up listening to the Good News. And the musicianship is so ingrained that it's inseparable from the fact of her: she's not "being" a gospel singer, she's not "being" a blues guitarist, she's at the point where she's just being.
Here's a terrific Sister Rosetta clip. It's from a 1964 British "Gospel Train" TV special; hence the bizarre outdoor train station set. I love the fact that the absurdity of the staging doesn't faze her in the least, I love the fact that she's performing in a big pink coat (I know it's black-and-white, but you just know that coat was pink), and I love the fact that she wins over the crowd like it's her birthright. But my favorite part is when she pulls on her guitar, strums a chord, and doesn't like what she hears—at which point she coolly turns to the pianist and says, "Give me the key." Which he apparently does, and she's off and running.
Why does this little detail move me so much? It's a reminder that Tharpe was a pro first and foremost, and that in order to get at the spiritual aspect of music, there's an awful lot of worldly work that has to be done first. That's the work I love. Is it going to save my soul? Probably not. But if I can ever make it look as effortless as Sister Rosetta, it might save somebody else's.
November 28, 2006
(All the other permutations I tried had at least a handful of examples.)
A number of these come from lyrics to hip-hop songs, but I'm nowhere near cool enough to know whether it's an actual variant in the urban lexicon or just bad transcription. "Maintain my composer" (30 hits) appeared in an unusual number of NC-17 sources, which I suppose could be considered either flattering of frightening. As far as I could tell, only this was consciously making a pun.
On the plus side, our friend Mark Meyer noted in a comment that his computer's spellchecker keeps insisting that "Poulenc" should be "opulence." So there's hope.
November 27, 2006
Now, I have nothing against Reich's music; I liked it when I first heard it, and I haven't stopped liking it, but I haven't needed to hear it for a while. I think it's when I first heard it that's important. Reich entered my consciousness in my late teens—right around the time, in fact, when I first got hooked on Richard Strauss. Don Juan and Music for a Large Ensemble both got many a spin on my turntable (and lest you think that turntable makes me even older than I am, keep in mind that I didn't even buy a computer until the late 90's). I still have my copies of Different Trains and The Desert Music, and like Zarathustra and Sinfonia Domestica, they don't get a lot of play.
Glenn Gould once divided the world into two camps: those who outgrew their youthful enthusiasm for Strauss, and those who didn't. The implication was that there's a certain age at which all listeners (all boys, at any rate) who come into contact with Strauss's music become infatuted with it, and that age usually falls around late adolescence. Gould was on to something, I think: there's something about Strauss's music, a talent for turning the raw materials of nerdishness and awkward enthusiasm into the most grandiose of triumphal statements, that's irresistable to the teenaged mind. But even more than that, there's the sense that Strauss had figured it all out, that he had cracked the code, that this was the way music was supposed to sound.
I remember thinking that when I was 16 or 17. For a while, I thought that, like Gould, I would be in that minority that didn't outgrow their Strauss-o-philia, but my ardor cooled, and now my fondness is limited to his songs. That's not to say I don't relish a nice Heldenleben when the opportunity presents itself, but that pleasure is in large part nostalgic: for a little while, I can remember what it was like to blast it through my headphones late at night (the Karajan recording, the one where the trumpets cack on the high note), reveling in the hedonistic glory of a wildly over-orchestrated 6/4 chord.
Reich's music doesn't have very much in common with Strauss, with one exception: to my not-quite-adult ear, it sure sounded like he had squared the circle, that this was a way of making music that had worked out all the 20th-century kinks. I don't think that anymore—I don't think any less of the music, it's just that I've wised up about things a little—and I have a suspicion that, if I had encountered his music later, when my mind was more attuned to possibilities than solutions, I'd probably hear it much differently (and would have continued to hear it in new ways for a much longer time). But, like Strauss, it was a particular type of music at a particular time, and that initial impression was indelibly strong. I still enjoy a serendipitous chance to hear it; maybe Boston, it its curmudgeonly way, will celebrate Reich's 71st birthday just to reassure everyone that they're not jumping on some passing fancy of a bandwagon. If they do, though, some tangle of hard-wired teenaged neurons will insist on making it into a trip down memory lane.
It's like of some horrible plague! But worry not: our anti-social friend Kid Seditious has the cure. Head over to his MySpace page (zero friends as of yesterday; glad to see he's keeping up appearances) and click on "Insensitivity (Wishing a Jew Merry Christmas)."
November 24, 2006
Pseudoxanthoma elasticum: the Opera! Or maybe Tourette Syndrome. Or possibly Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. UK-based Santé Communications is being coy on the subject, but they're looking for a composer "capable of penning a 20-30 minute opera (possibly for a few principles, small choir and instrumental accompaniment of sorts) around an extremely medical theme". Imagine the possibilities: a minimalist portrayal of obsessive-compulsive disorder! An aleatoric masterpiece depicting ataxia! The mind reels—although that could just be a subfrontal meningioma.
On the other hand, if those voices in your head are unremittingly paranoiac, you might just be the person Universal Music Group is looking for to be their new Associate Manager for Digital Rights Management. Requirements: a lack of any sense of irony, an essentially Hobbesian view of human nature, and the ability to see the hardened criminal lurking behind a baby's eyes. All applicants will be required to submit to a criminal background check and a drug test, even though we already know what they're going to say, you coked-up little thief.
Speaking of thievery, if those pesky notes are eluding you, how about words? This guy would like you to write new lyrics to a catchy jingle by that mainstay of the charts, Antonio Vivaldi. With a few changes, of course.
As the song is written now, single words are sustained for many notes and I would like it broken up with more words so that it will be easier to sing, and also, so that modern audiences will relate to it better.So that's what's alienating modern audiences—melisma! Somebody tell Norman Lebrecht!
But if you're really desperate, you could try this.
What I am seeking quite frankly is a mate that is tall, slender, blue eyed. I want to pro-create the blue-eyed human being. This is not hate, just preservation of the vanishing blue.Percy Grainger is still alive?
I am seeking you my darling Goddess. You may look here just for fun, but are now perplexed at this opportunity and are even moved to respond even though you would never do that anyway. Yes this is real. We are the Golden ones. We must be proud and preserve our ways.
About me. Beautiful Blue eyes that can see right into your soul. Young looking. light brownish golden hair. Tantra connection. Tall medium build, strong. Enough income to support babes and us. Extremely knowledgeable in healthy living. Hands on construction and auto mechanics. A ballroom dancer and composer.
November 22, 2006
And since it's all about the food, here's some appropriate dinner music: the DJ Food masterpiece Raiding the 20th Century, the meta-mash-up to end all mash-ups (via UBUWEB). I've been listening to this all week. It's so much fun I can barely stand it.
The missus and I (and Moe, of course) will be mooching of off friends this year, but there's one thing we won't share, and that's a big batch of my Mom's stuffing.
Mom's Stuffing1 lb. pork sausage (like Jimmy Dean)
1 lb. Italian sausage
8 cups unseasoned bread cubes
Sauté the meat in a large skillet, stirring and breaking up. When browned, add the bread. Stir well to mix and let the bread absorb the fat. Remove to a large bowl. In the same skillet, melt:
½ cup butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups finely chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups shredded almonds
1 cup coarsely chopped mushrooms
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
½ tsp. ground pepper
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
Cook gently until the onions are soft. Add:
½ cup condensed beef consommé
½ cup dry sherry
Cook until everything's hot, then add to the sausage and bread mixture, tossing lightly. (If it looks a little dry, add more consommé and sherry.) Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake at 350º until it's done to your liking. (Or, cool the mixture and then stuff your bird with it.)