The League of American Orchestras has published a list of 165 premieres that North American orchestras have given or will give in the 2012-13 season,.... Joshua Smith, the dapper principal flutist of the Cleveland Orchestra, has set up a Kickstarter page in support of recordings from the Happy Dog, Cleveland's alternative home for classical performance .... The greatly gifted Augustin Hadelich plays the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the New Jersey this week.... Make Music Winter, the cold-season counterpart to Make Music NY, has announced this year's events. Phil Kline returns with more migratory boombox music, James Holt reprises his deeply charming Bach-on-the-subway concept (this time the G, not the F), and Christopher Dylan Herbert, formerly connected with the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency's Integrated Crisis Early Warning System, sings Winterreise in the botanical gardens of Brooklyn and Staten Island.... I've updated my CD Picks. The Joyce DiDonato disc will be near or at the top of my best-of-the-year list; her Sunday recital at Carnegie was one of the great live events of the season. Most deservedly, she is Musical America's Vocalist of the Year.... I neglected to mention, in my anniversary post below, the centennial of Witold Lutosławski. Any excuse to focus attention on this twentieth-century master is welcome. Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra have a site dedicated to their upcoming celebration, with videos about the composer's life; on Nov. 30, Salonen begins a parallel series with his old band, the LA Phil.
Residents of a West 57th Street building threatened by a hurricane-damaged crane describe the noise of the crane snapping apart: "'If you know the opera Salome,' said Naomi Graffman, who has lived in the Osborne since 1962, 'the way the double basses play as they’re starting to cut off John the Baptist’s head — it sounded like that.'" For good measure, there are also references to The Shining. (Via Raphael Mostel.)
In a recent column on the Rite of Spring conference at the University of North Carolina, I noted some remarks that the musicologist Richard Taruskin made on the subject of his work Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions. This 1757-page masterpiece of scholarship, which I discussed in the New York Times in 1996, dominates the Stravinsky bibliography, yet it is not invulnerable to shifting intellectual tides, as Taruskin acknowledges. In a question-and-answer session, he said that a couple of his statements — notably, the declaration that "Stravinsky was the most completely Russian composer of art music that ever was and, if present trends continue, that ever will be" — could now be seen as overzealous. At the time, Taruskin pointed out, he was "writing against the force of this entrenched discourse" — the formalist reading of Stravinsky that the composer himself encouraged, with all manner of misinformation concealing his early Russian influences.
In my column, I mentioned a paper by Annegret Fauser, in which it was suggested that the French influence on the Rite spectacle was more pronounced than the reader of Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions might assume. I should also have mentioned a subsequent paper by Brigid Cohen, since the statements quoted above were made immediately after she spoke. Cohen, drawing on the work of Raymond Williams, has made a study of migratory patterns in twentieth-century music history, particularly with reference to the extraordinary career of Stefan Wolpe; she feels that too much emphasis has fallen on "nation-centered histories." In the case of the Rite of Spring, she called for a less nationally rooted understanding of the score, for a richer awareness of its cosmopolitan context. This is an illuminating perspective on Stravinsky, complementing Fauser's account of French aspects of the Rite project, and I regret not having included it in my report. Taruskin continues to maintain, I should add, that the score of the Rite stems unmistakably from a St. Petersburg tradition.
Celebrations of the Rite centennial are just beginning. The Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, site of the première, is presenting no fewer than six versions of the score this season, three staged and three in concert. On the anniversary itself, the Mariinsky Ballet, with Valery Gergiev conducting, will dance the original Nijinsky choreogoraphy in the reconstruction by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer; a new vision by Sasha Waltz will appear on the same program. Taruskin is to speak again at an accompanying conference.
Many thanks to all those who came out to hear me at UW Milwaukee on Thursday and Friday. My hosts at the Peck School of the Arts were most kind. I was delighted to meet Tom Strini, writer and editor at the online arts hub Third Coast Digest. In my talk, I sounded a somewhat pessimistic tone about the fate of arts criticism, given the hostile attitude of so many newspapers and periodicals around the country, but Third Coast Digest, like ArtsATL in Atlanta and the Arts Desk in the UK, is suggesting an alternative future. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay around to hear Timothy Andres's new work Comfort Food, which Present Music plays this afternoon.
November 18, 2012 | Permalink
In my column this week, I note that in May 1913 the Paris magazine Montjoie made a point of disdaining the centennial celebrations of Richard Wagner that were then occupying space in cultural publications. Instead, it declared that the best way to honor Wagner would be to embrace a new work by a radical young composer — as it turned out, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Now, rather ironically, the Rite has become one more cog in the anniversary machine that drives so much classical programming. There is much to be said against the anniversary racket, and Bob Shingleton said it well in a recent post. You can't find a more painfully obvious symbol of classical music's excessive fixation on the past. Nonetheless, I feel differently about the current cluster of events around twentieth-century composers and works: Cage, Britten, Nancarrow, the Rite, Pierrot lunaire. This is not a repetition of the already universally familiar (well, the Rite excepted); mainstream audiences are still coming to terms with the twentieth-century legacy, and these anniversaries are a chance to carry that process forward, and, perhaps, to banish at long last the "modern music" bogeyman.
All this is a roundabout prelude to further news about the Cage centennial, which continues to yield fascinating programs around the world. On Saturday, Bard College, home of the John Cage Trust, hosts On & Off the Air!, a celebration of Cage's radio work. A John Cage Festival at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music starts tomorrow and runs through the weekend, with performances by the likes of So Percussion and Stephen Drury. Two full days of talks and discussions include a presentation by D. J. Hoek on Northwestern's Cage collection. Down in Philadelphia, the ongoing Beyond Silence festival will turn its focus after Thanksgiving to the Song Books, with Joan La Barbara performing. Dancing Around the Bride, a panoramic exhibition of Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp, is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Up in Boston, Drury's Calllithumpian Consort will conclude a three-part Cage tribute at the Gardner in December. On Nov. 24, the Orchestre Philharmonique Luxembourg begins a series called Good Luck Rainy Days. And, here in New York, a Symphony Space series focused on Cage's 1989 improvisation exercise How to Get Started is pairing writers and musicians; tomorrow it's Wallace Shawn and Allen Shawn (sons of the legendary New Yorker editor William Shawn), and on Dec. 13 it's Robert Pinsky and John Wesley Harding, aka Wesley Stace. On the same night, the American Symphony gives a Cage Concert at Carnegie. More events can be found at Cage 2012.
November 14, 2012 | Permalink
by Alex Ross
The New Yorker, Nov. 12, 2012
“Periodicals are commemorating this year the centenary of Richard Wagner,” the Paris magazine Montjoie declared, on May 29, 1913. “We hate how convenient these events ruled by the artistic calendar have become for presenters of all kinds. We render homage to the genius of Richard Wagner by honoring, at its birth, a masterpiece by a young musician whose influence upon the élite is already very great: Igor Stravinsky.” The work in question was “The Rite of Spring,” which the Ballets Russes premièred that evening at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. Famously, some in the first-night crowd had an adverse reaction, but the world soon came round to Montjoie’s point of view. Almost a century on, Stravinsky’s ballet of pagan sacrifice is itself occasioning the kind of calendar-driven programming that Montjoie deplored; this season, the “Rite” centennial will be intertwined with the Wagner bicentennial, which falls one week earlier. In September, both the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics played the “Rite” in their opening weeks, and Carolina Performing Arts, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has devoted its entire season to music and dance performances related to the work. In late October, the University of North Carolina presented an allied academic conference called “Reassessing ‘the Rite,’ ” with two dozen lectures and papers, spread over four days.
The anniversary industry is more dubious than ever, symptomatic of a music culture fixated on the past. The New York Phil might better have honored Stravinsky if it had opened its season with, say, a provocative new piece by a thirty-year-old composer. Still, the “Rite” remains incomparably vital, and I happily underwent the crash course provided by U.N.C. (Because of the approach of Hurricane Sandy, I had to leave the gathering a day early, but caught up with what I missed on video.) Scholars scrutinized the “Rite” from multiple angles, examining its Russian and Parisian roots, its cultural context, microscopic details of its score, its reception as a ballet, and its afterlife as an orchestral showpiece. Even so, much went unexplored: Stravinsky’s effect on jazz and rock, his influence on movies (the octatonic dinosaurs of Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” were mentioned only in passing), his relationships with modernist writers and painters, his seismic impact on almost every aspect of twentieth-century music. One conference is not enough to register the full extent of what Stravinsky unleashed.
The scholars spent little time rehashing the legendary première. The event is familiar even to those who know little of modern music: the boos, the whistles, Stravinsky leaving in a rage, Nijinsky yelling out beats, Gertrude Stein watching a man smash another man’s top hat with a cane, Florent Schmitt’s cry of “Shut up, bitches of the seizième!” In a keynote address, the Berkeley musicologist Richard Taruskin, whose 1996 book “Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions” dominates contemporary discussion of the composer, pointed out that the riot is principally a problem for dance historians; the raw stomp of Nijinsky’s choreography appears to have been the main cause of the bedlam. The music, to the extent that it could be heard, went over fairly well, and one year later, at a concert performance, it triumphed. Within a few decades, the “Rite” was enshrined as a virtuoso vehicle for orchestral players—an “audition piece,” in Taruskin’s words. A scholar of rare critical flair, he spent much of his lecture questioning the glossy perfection of recent performances, saying that the score’s darker energies have been “resisted, rejected, repressed.”
Commentators from the world of dance had a quite different view. For them, the “Rite” is anything but a tamed beast. the choreographer Millicent Hodson discussed her meticulous, though inevitably speculative, reconstruction of the 1913 staging, which she first presented with the Joffrey Ballet in 1987, in collaboration with the designer Kenneth Archer. Hodson proposed that the final “Danse sacrale,” in which a young girl dances herself to death for the sake of the collective, was an allegory for Nijinsky’s own role within the Ballets Russes: “In the end, they took everything that he had.” Lynn Garafola, the author of the authoritative 1989 study “Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes,” surveyed a century of “Rite” choreography, noting that the cultural specificity of the original Russian setting has given way to a dizzying range of styles and locales, from Native American and African dances to salsa and Japanese butoh, from AIDS wards to post-nuclear dystopias. Garafola enthralled the audience as she showed a video of the “Danse sacrale” from Pina Bausch’s 1975 staging, a sweat-drenched modern classic. Here an aura of danger was restored: the sacrificial girl, the Chosen One, desperately scampers backward as the crowd advances upon her with zombielike tread.
The motivations of the Chosen One provoked sharp disagreement. Taruskin, who has drawn attention to Stravinsky’s reactionary tendencies in later years, his “antihumanist message,” cast doubt on the idea that the young girl resists the role that has fallen to her. Even Hodson’s reconstruction, he said, recoils from the pitilessness of the scenario; in the “Danse sacrale,” the Chosen One is shown trying to break out of the circle, introducing “a bit of humanitarian sentiment.” Pieter van den Toorn, whose strict formalist analyses of the “Rite” have often collided with Taruskin’s sociological readings, seemed at one with his rival when he spoke of the “sadism” of Stravinsky’s unpredictable accents. Hodson, in a Q. & A., protested that she had evidence for her conception in the testimony of Bronislava Nijinska, Nijinsky’s sister. The musicologist Tamara Levitz likewise perceived a spirit of opposition in the “Rite,” a desire to show the “violence inherent in all systems.” The argument went on at lunches and dinners, while U.N.C. prepped for the big game with N.C. state.
On the last day, the scholar Annegret Fauser, in a talk on the French context for the “Rite,” threatened to start a new donnybrook by suggesting that the work may not be as inherently Russian as Taruskin’s study makes out. “Virginal sacrifice and pagan rite were in the mainstream of Parisian theatrical topics,” Fauser said; the ballet seemed designed to satisfy a local hunger for exotic primitivism, although in the end it proved too brutal for the opening-night audience to handle. Brigid Cohen, in a subsequent paper, called for a less nationally rooted understanding of the "Rite," for a richer awareness of its cosmopolitan context. Taruskin, who has a well-deserved reputation for intellectual feistiness, might have been expected to unleash a wounding quip, but he responded to Cohen by agreeing that he had at times overstressed Stravinsky’s Russianness, as a way of countering the composer’s mendacious accounts of his early nationalist period. Collegiality reigned, yet no clear consensus emerged. Stravinsky, no less than Wagner, remains an intellectual hot zone.
Taruskin’s point about the streamlining of Stravinsky in the concert hall went uncontested. The process is hardly peculiar to the “Rite”; as musicians have grown ever more adept at handling the thorniest patches of the modern repertory, almost any work you could name has grown cleaner, more polished, and, perhaps, more lifeless. Taruskin played an excerpt from Stravinsky’s 1940 recording of the “Rite” with the New York Philharmonic, aptly describing it as “an unholy mess—or perhaps a holy mess.” By contrast, Alan Gilbert’s recent rendition with the same orchestra was essentially flawless, exuding what a friend of mine described as “glittering menace.” Although it was one of Gilbert’s finest performances to date, it seemed at some remove from the wildness of the original. The Dudamel version, which I heard on the Internet, was more vehement, but it, too, communicated, to take another image from Taruskin, “the elation of an athlete finishing a decathlon.”
Everything changes when dance enters the equation. as Bausch’s writhing choreography played on a video screen at Chapel Hill, I lost my usual impulse to bop along to the rhythms; instead, I fell into a motionless fright. Sonic entertainment became tragedy. Garafola’s conclusion seemed solid: the “Rite” may be a supreme musical creation, its première a governing myth of cultural history, but it has stayed current, and invites worldwide celebration, through its restless reinvention as a dance spectacle. No matter what the creators’ intentions, the presence of bodies gives human breath to a masterpiece of masks.
by Alex Ross
The New Yorker, Nov. 12, 2012
In 1921, when Prince Max Egon zu Fürstenberg agreed to finance a festival of contemporary music in the German town of Donaueschingen, he might not have guessed that the series would still be going strong nearly a century later, much less that it would be playing host to onstage provocations involving young composers smashing instruments and pretending to smear themselves with excrement. So it went at the 2012 edition of the Donaueschingen Music Days. Over a weekend in mid-October, this Black Forest tourist hub witnessed a stimulating and stupefying onslaught of activity: six concerts, twenty-one world premières, an evening of avant-garde improvisation (featuring the venerable English ensemble AMM), and sound-art in- stallations around town. Some ten thousand people attended, advertising their opinions in the form of applause, bravos, boos, and shouted insults. “Langweilig!”—“Boring!”—was heard more than once. The audience skewed young; T-shirts and hoodies outnumbered dress shirts and suits. It was a music festival in the mode of an art fair, with a crowd avid for adventure and scandal.
The mood at Donaueschingen this year was especially charged on account of looming budget cutbacks at Southwest German Radio (SWR), which has run the festival since 1950. SWR operates not one but two orchestras, the SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony; in September, an advisory board voted to fuse them by 2016. The decision has drawn furious opposition: at stake, it seems, is not just the fate of the ensembles but the future of Germany’s lavish system of cultural funding, whose premises have been questioned amid economic turmoil. The community of contemporary music has perhaps the most to lose from a potential shrinking of state support. Much of twentieth-century music history unfolded at Donaueschingen— the list of local premières includes Schoenberg’s Serenade, Weill’s “Mahagonny Songspiel,” Xenakis’s “Metastaseis,” and Ligeti’s “Atmosphères”—and it is almost impossible to imagine such an enterprise subsisting on private funds.
Hence the remarkable gesture made at the opening concert by the thirty-two- year-old German composer Johannes Kreidler. After an announcer introduced the program, Kreidler, who looks a bit like Johnny Rotten, walked onstage, grabbed a violin and a cello from members of the SWR Symphony, and took hold of the announcer’s microphone. Kreidler then noisily strapped the instruments together, until they formed the shape of a cross. When he described his creation as an inartistic “fusion,” the audience cheered. He then set about destroying the instruments (cheap models, it was later revealed), perhaps in homage to Nam June Paik’s 1962 performance-art piece “One for Violin Solo”—a ritual smashing that predated similar efforts by Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix. A more restrained, but no less potent, protest occurred at the final concert. After François-Xavier Roth, the music director of the SWR Symphony, asked the audience to consider what kind of Germany it wanted, there were multilingual shouts of “For music! For culture!” and an immense ovation for the orchestra itself.
Donaueschingen has never been without its critics. In the twenties, the left-wing composer Hanns Eisler dismissed festivals of its kind as “orgies of in-breeding,” devoid of social relevance. In the fifties and sixties, Donaueschingen often projected an arid intellectuality. Anyone intent on mocking the 2012 incarnation would have found plenty of juicy targets: works in which violinists scratched away and percussionists clattered around, to no pressing purpose. Then again, nobody could have sent up the proceedings more pointedly than Trond Reinholdtsen, one of the featured composers, whose “Musik,” for narrator and ensemble, contained crazed parodies of recent compositional trends and theories, not to mention a nonsensical ditty about Donaueschingen’s director, Armin Köhler. “Musik” was essentially performance art, with Reinholdtsen, as the narrator, losing his mind amid the profusion of stylistic possibilities and the confusion of cultural politics. Toward the end, he stuck his hand down his pants and covered himself in brown goo. There was an enthusiastic ovation.
Such prankish attacks on a stale avant-garde are themselves rather stale; back in 1960, Mauricio Kagel’s conceptual piece “Sur Scène” lampooned theoretical gibberish, and included a toilet joke to boot. Reinholdtsen also went on too long—a habit shared by more than a few Donaueschingen composers, who tended to exhaust the possibilities of their material four or five minutes before their works were done. (Dismayingly, the composers were almost all men; only one woman, Malin Bång, was selected for the main concert series.) Klaus Lang’s wordless vocal scene, “the ugly horse,” was initially bewitching in its blurred tonality but fell victim to a taxingly prolonged epilogue. Franck Bedrossian’s “Itself,” a riot of orchestral color, thrashed around in search of an ending. By contrast, Beat Furrer, one of only four composers over the age of fifty, gave a lesson in clarity and economy in his elegantly frenzied ensemble piece “linea d’orizzonte.”
Of course, young artists are undisciplined by nature. Self-indulgence aside, the Donaueschingen posse proved admirably open to the outside world: the younger ones were particularly eager to sample textures and technologies derived from pop music, though anything resembling a tune or a steady beat was in short supply. Bernhard Gander, a Mohawk-wearing, comic-book-reading, hip-hop-listening Austrian, offered “hukl,” a pummelling tone poem inspired by the Incredible Hulk. Klaus Schedl’s “Selbsthenker II” evoked black-metal music, with contrabass electronic tones that did strange things to my abdominal region. And Marko Nikodijevič’s “ketamin/schwarz”—capital letters are clearly out of fashion—was intended to suggest the effects of the tranquillizer ketamine, with trancelike drones underpinning hazy echoes of Mongolian folk song. The piece came to an abrupt end, perhaps describing what might happen if you took a lot of ketamine in Ulan Bator.
Nothing made a deeper impression than “Generation Kill,” an explosive synthesis of live and electronic sound by the thirty-three-year-old Belgian composer Stefan Prins. In a program note, Prins reported that he had been pondering intersections of technology and global conflict: American soldiers in Iraq revving themselves up with video games, Arab Spring insurgents communicating via Facebook, drones operated by remote control. Rather than pasting such portentous themes onto the surface of a work, Prins found a way to embody them organically. Four members of the Nadar Ensemble, playing violin, cello, electric guitar, and percussion, were positioned behind transparent screens; facing them were four performers with PlayStation video-game controllers. These devices allowed for the recording, replay, and manipulation not only of sounds but also of images: the players had to compete with superimposed, sometimes sped-up video projections of what they had been doing moments before.
The result was mind-bending, and not in a druggy, blissed-out way. As the composer intended, it was disturbingly difficult to tell what was real and what was virtual. The musicians were caught in temporal loops, as if Philip K. Dick had written a novel about chamber music. Instrumental timbres were distorted in the direction of glitchy noise, in the manner of much recent European music, but the extension of playing techniques achieved a kind of visceral precision. The cellist executed several abrasive cadenzas with a crushed beer can stuck between the strings, and the violinist applied aluminum foil to the bridge of her instrument. There was a desert harshness to the sound, in keeping with the Middle Eastern focus. Twice, Prins halted all musical activity to make that focus clear: we heard crackling radio voices discussing “collateral damage,” and saw inhabitants of a nameless town running from a Predator drone.
This display of spastic near-genius was, to my puzzlement, one of the works that drew a cry of “Boring!” I wanted to ask the protester what would have held his interest. Music for amplified lobby toilets? A piece in which an orchestra gets drunk on Fürstenberg beer and trashes everything in sight? Next year, perhaps.
More: Donaueschingen extras.
On my last German trip, I made a detour to Neuschwanstein, which I'd never visited. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but it's also a staggering vision — the most extreme, although by no means the most faithful, expression of Wagnerian fervor. As you can see from the scaffolding on the left-hand side, the castle is undergoing renovation. When I walked by, the construction workers were blasting "Call Me Maybe." So it goes....
November 10, 2012 | Permalink
In this week's New Yorker, I write about the 2012 edition of the Donaueschingen Music Days. On the SWR website, you can watch videos of two events: the closing concert, with works by Bernhard Gander, Aureliano Cattaneo, and Franck Bedrossian; and the Nadar Ensemble concert, which includes Stefan Prins's remarkable PlayStation piece Generation Kill. Prins is currently studying for a doctorate at Harvard; I wonder if any American presenter will be brave enough to take on this work, which implies a critique of the American drone program. Those with hardy ears should check out Fremdkörper, Prins's two-disc set on the Sub Rosa label. YouTube has evidence of Johannes Kreidler's now famous instrument-smashing action at the opening concert, protesting the planned merger of the two SWR orchestras. Kreidler, a composer with a bent for high-tech whimsy, is plentifully documented on video; above is Charts Music, which extracts ditsy melodies from plunging stock prices. There's also the mildly demented video world of Trond Reinholdtsen, whose work Musik was an absurdist highlight of Donaueschingen 2012. As for Gander, I'd cautiously recommend videos of his Viennese Radio Symphony project melting pot, which can only be described as Austrian atonal hip-hop.
For some years now, the Neos label — source of all those invaluable Mieczysław Weinberg recordings, notably the Blu-ray of The Passenger — has been issuing Donaueschingen compilations. I picked up the three-disc 2011 set, which includes Hans Thomalla's mesmerizing California desert fantasia, The Brightest Form of Absence. I've written before about Raphaël Cendo's black-metal apocalypse cantata Introduction aux ténèbres, which appears in Neos's 2009 collection. One of the most treasured items in my record library is the col legno set 40 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage; alas, this seems to be out of print. Just out on col lengo is a one-disc portrait of the Austrian composer Clemens Gadenstätter, whose Sad Songs was a Donaueschingen highlight that I lacked space to address; its very ingenious setup included four gongs distributed around the audience, each one vibrating in sympathy with frequencies picked up remotely from the stage.
The real scandal at Donaueschingen, as I pointed out in a previous post, was the paucity of female composers. Only one — Malin Bång — appeared on the main concert series. See The Rambler and Lauren Redhead for a related discussion.
November 10, 2012 | Permalink
This Saturday, the musical forces of Trinity Wall Street will give a benefit performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor. According to the press release, "The event will benefit the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which is gathering donations to provide essential living supplies to New Yorkers in need – including food, water, blankets, baby supplies, and other emergency items. The Mayor’s Fund retains no administrative fee, and 100 percent of donations are being dispersed to relief efforts and organizations to provide essential living supplies to storm victims in the New York City area." Julian Wachner will conduct. I think back to the Bach Collegium Japan's rendition of the Mass at Carnegie last year, in the wake of the terrible Tohoku earthquake. Once again, it will probably seem as though Bach had heard the bad news in advance.
If your taste goes more toward the Pop Music that the kids like so much these days, my friend Brandon Stosuy, of Pitchfork, has helped to organize a benefit at St. Vitus, in Brooklyn, tomorrow night. The lineup includes Neon Indian, Buke and Gase, Believer/Law, Bloodyminded, and Walter Schreifels.
November 08, 2012 | Permalink
November 07, 2012 | Permalink
Photo: Pascal Perich.
The American master, seemingly inextinguishable, died this afternoon, at the age of 103. An entire world of culture dies with him — a landscape of memory that included Stravinsky, Nadia Boulanger, Ives, Gershwin, even Gustav Holst. As recently as July, Carter remained astoundingly undiminished, as this delightful video with Alisa Weilerstein attests. Allan Kozinn has the Times obituary; Russell Platt has thoughts on the New Yorker website; Tim Rutherford-Johnson gathers other memorials. I wrote about Carter mostly recently on the occasion of his hundredth birthday.
November 05, 2012 | Permalink
In this week's issue of The New Yorker, I have a column about the 2012 edition of the Donaueschingen Music Days (not online) and a long essay about gay rights and culture (available here). The election is tomorrow — if you're American, please vote. It has become fashionable in some circles to say that there is no difference between the candidates, but this is not the case.
November 05, 2012 | Permalink
The American Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Society for Music Theory are holding their annual joint meeting in New Orleans this weekend. As I did last year, I've picked ten titles that jumped out at me for whatever reason. I'd like to make clear that these selections are of a playful nature and should in no way reflect upon the fundamental seriousness of the scholars in question. I stress this because, as I've been informed, being singled out by a known practitioner of mere journalism may not boost the prospects of young scholars on the job market.
Rastko Jakovljević (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts), “Familiar yet Uncanny: Negotiating Cultural Identities within Serbian Bagpipe Musical Practice”
Maren Haynes (University of Washington), “Heaven, Hell, and Hipsters: Attracting Young Adults to Megachurches through Hybrid Symbols of Religion and Popular Culture in the Pacific Northwest”
Laina Dawes (Independent Scholar), “‘Black Metal is not for n@#$s, stupid b@#h!’: Black Female Metal Fans’ Inter/External Culture Clash”
Micaela Baranello (Princeton University), “Never Ask the Merry Nibelungs: Wagner in Operetta from Critique to Aspiration”
Bonnie Gordon (University of Virginia), “Mr. Jefferson’s Ears”
Brad Osborn (Ohio University), “Kid Algebra: Radiohead’s Euclidean and Maximally Even Rhythms”
Scott Warfield (University of Central Florida), “‘When all the stupidities and irrelevances of a thousand critics have hardened, it is of no use at all’: Hofmannsthal and Ariadne’s Critics”
Jonathan Waxman (New York University), “I Went to the New York Philharmonic and Came Home with a Cadillac: The Alliance Between Business and the Arts in the Early Twentieth Century”
Delia Casadei (University of Pennsylvania), “Maderna’s Laughter”
Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier (University of Victoria), “Pirates of the Caribbean: Music Circulation in Late Socialist Cuba”
November 02, 2012 | Permalink
The keen-eared critic David Shengold attended The Tempest at the Met last night. Not able to make the performance myself, I asked him for a brief report on the mood in the house, and he generously complied. His full review will appear in another publication at a later date.
The Met's third performance of Thomas Adès's 2004 Tempest took place in extraordinary conditions: the city had been virtually closed for two days for the most destructive local storm since 1938, with the most flooding since 1821 at Battery Park (site of Swedish cult diva Jenny Lind's bayside U.S. debut, the Beatles-playing-Ed Sullivan cultural event of 1850). Millions hereabouts remained in darkness; the crucial subway system remained inactive. The Met's Figaro, with its ghastly female leading trio, was mercifully skipped Monday; less happily, on Hurricane Sandy Day Zero Tuesday, the second-cast Turandot, with Irène Theorin's first local Ice Princess and Janai Brugger's much-awaited Met debut as Liù, got scotched, along with the in-house orchestral rehearsal for Harry Bicket's impressively cast Clemenza di Tito.
But, amazingly, last night, composer/conductor Adès (who in a random pre-show encounter confessed himself haunted by the televised image of the sinking H.M.S. Bounty), the orchestral musicians, the entire cast (not one of the eleven listed singers was missing), a sufficient crew, and a decent-sized, by Met terms youth-skewed audience for—hey, look, Ma, a workable and striking Robert Lepage production!—got themselves there to enact or witness a narrative that begins with a sinking ship, high winds, and apparent loss of life, and ends with the hope of lives mended within reason, and—for the island's dazed longtime inhabitants, as well as the frightened visitors from far away—restored tranquility.
— David Shengold
November 01, 2012 | Permalink