Puccini Plus. The New Yorker, July 25, 2016.
At the first public Dada-Soirée, at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, on July 14, 1916, Hugo Ball read aloud his Dada manifesto — "How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada" — and recited several of his sound poems, including "Karawane," reënacted above. This week critics of the New York Times have an overview of Dada's influence. Esa-Pekka Salonen's recent choral-orchestral work Karawane, an elegantly barbaric setting of Ball's poem, is one sign of Dada's lingering presence.
July 14, 2016 | Permalink
Photo: Jonathan Bachman / Reuters.
Will Robin writes in The New York Times about a Dream Unfinished concert in New York next Wednesday, titled Sing Her Name. The program, under the direction of James Blachly and John McLaughlin Williams, includes music of Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Ethel Smyth, together with a new work by Courtney Bryan, to a text by the African-American poet Sharan Strange. Listen here to Bryan's Sanctum, premiered last year, which features the voices of Ferguson activists.
Also worthy of note is Tyshawn Sorey’s Josephine Baker: A Portrait, which Zachary Woolfe described in the New York Times as "one of the most important works of art yet to emerge from the era of Black Lives Matter." The première, with the remarkable soprano Julia Bullock, took place in Ojai in June; a video is available on YouTube. Mostly Mozart will present the piece at Lincoln Center on August 24.
July 10, 2016 | Permalink
This recording of Vagn Holmboe's Tenth Symphony, with Sixten Ehrling conducting the Gothenburg Symphony, appeared in 1977 on a Caprice LP; on the flip side was Nystroem's Sinfonia Breve. A decade later I picked up a copy for my WHRB radio show "The Twentieth-Century Symphony." Sadly, the pairing never seems to have made it to CD, although you can find a fine reading of the Tenth in BIS's complete survey of the Holmboe symphonies, with Owain Arwel Hughes conducting. I love the work's opening gesture, a kind of tremor that turns into sound.
July 10, 2016 | Permalink
— Taylor Brook, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, Andrew Greenwald, A thing is a hole in a thing it is not, Kate Soper, Nadja; Mivos Quartet (New Focus)
— David Lang, the national anthems, the little match girl passion; Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon cond. (Cantaloupe)
— Ursula Mamlok, vol. 5 (chamber works); Holger Groschopp, Kolja Lessing, Parnassus, Heinz Holliger, Spectrum Concerts Berlin (Bridge)
— Michael Pisaro, Continuum Unbound; Pisaro, Greg Stuart, Patrick Farmer, Joe Panzner, Toshiya Tsunoda (gravity wave)
— William Lawes, Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol; Richard Boothby (Harmonia Mundi)
July 02, 2016 | Permalink
The Sound of Hate. The New Yorker, July 4, 2016.
There are considerable resources online devoted to the dark subject of music, torture, and violence. This page at Social Musicology has links to important articles by Suzanne Cusick, M.J. Grant, and others. Grant recently wrote a powerful overview of the music-and-torture question for VAN magazine, which has rapidly established itself as a venue for unfettered music writing. On music torture at Guantánamo and other American prisons, see Cusick's “You are in a place that is out of the world...," Tony Lagouranis and Allen Mikaelian's Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator’s Dark Journey Through Iraq, Moustafa Bayoumi's "Disco Inferno," and David Peisner's "Music as Torture," among other sources. The log of the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani can be read here.
Some significant books that I was unable to discuss in the piece: Jonathan Pieslak's Radicalism & Music, examining the musical tastes of Al Qaeda militants, racist skinheads, Christian radicals, and eco/animal rights militants; Steve Goodman's Sonic Warfare; and the anthologies Music, Politics, and Violence, Music and Conflict, and Music and Genocide. Pieslak recently wrote a piece on the music of the Islamic State.
June 27, 2016 | Permalink
President Obama said in Orlando today: "You can't make up the world into 'us' and 'them,' and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world."
June 16, 2016 | Permalink
The GVSU New Music Ensemble, which won nationwide notice back in 2007 with their buoyant recording of Music for 18 Musicians, have launched a project celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service. Eight composers — Alexandra Gardner, Molly Joyce, Betsey Biggs, Patrick Harlin, Rob Deemer, Jeff Herriott, Paula Matthusen, and Phil Kline — have been commissioned to write works related to one or another of the parks; performances at the designated sites will begin on July 1. Watch a video preview.... On a similar theme, Michael Gordon's Natural History will receive its first performance on July 29 against the backdrop of Crater Lake National Park, in Oregon. Teddy Abrams, the director of the Britt Festival, will conduct.... The twelfth edition of the Dog Star Orchestra, Michael Pisaro's annual festival of experimental music, is under way in Los Angeles.... The happy pandemonium of Make Music NY descends again on June 21; this year's Mass Appeal events feature accordions, bagpipes, cymbals, harmonicas, mandolins, and music boxes, among others.... The New England Conservatory's Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP), affectionately known as Sick Puppy, runs this year from June 19 to 25, with Vinko Globokar as composer-in-residence.... The NY Phil Biennial's Ligeti Forward series — the master's three concertos alongside various other works — can now be seen and heard online. Don't miss Pekka Kuusisto's furiously vibrant account of the Ligeti Violin Concerto, with Alan Gilbert leading alumni of the Lucerne Festival Academy.... Pierre-Laurent Aimard has added the Étude No. 2, "Cordes à vide," to his online project exploring Ligeti's piano music.
June 11, 2016 | Permalink
— R. Nathaniel Dett, The Ordering of Moses; Latonia Moore, Ronnita Nicole Miller, Rodrick Dixon, Donnie Ray Albert, James Conlon conducting the Cincinnati Symphony and May Festival Chorus (Bridge)
— Mark Simpson, Night Music and other works; various performers (NMC)
— Shostakovich, Symphonies Nos. 5, 8, 9, Suite from Hamlet; Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Symphony (DG)
— Brahms: recaptured by pupils & colleagues; Carl Friedberg, Felix Salmond, Danil Karpilowsky, Edith Heymann, Marie Baumayer, Ilona Eibenschutz, Etelka Freund, Brahms (Arbiter)
— Satie, Complete Solo Piano Music; Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Decca)
— Beethoven, Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5; Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting the Concentus Musicus Wien (Sony)
— Beethoven, Complete Works for Cello and Piano; Colin Carr, Thomas Sauer (MSR Classics)
— Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, Coriolan; Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony, Feb. 1949 (Pristine)
— Haydn, Complete Symphonies; Christopher Hogwood conducting the Academy of Ancient Music, Frans Brüggen conducting the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Ottavio Dantone conducting the Accademia Bizantina (Decca)
May 25, 2016 | Permalink
The Boston Musical Intelligencer has a story about imminent cuts in free-lance classical criticism at the Boston Globe. Several people have confirmed it to me privately. This is a disheartening development, not least because the Globe has, aside from staff classical critic Jeremy Eichler and writer-editor Steve Smith, some of the sharpest critics in the country. I know particularly well the work of David Weininger and Matthew Guerrieri — the latter the author of The First Four Notes, one of the notable music books of recent years. What's more, the Globe had recently been publishing Zoë Madonna, to whom the jury of the most recent Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, myself included, unanimously awarded its first prize. All this comes in the wake of a widely publicized fiasco in Toronto, in the course of which an arts editor at the National Post said, “I really hate running reviews for performing arts." I will have more to say on this subject soon, but for the moment I'd like to join many voices in begging the Globe to reconsider what looks to be a major reduction in review coverage. One upbeat note: in September Jeremy will be taking a sabbatical to work on a book called Memorials in Sound, and Steve will be filling in for him. I'm very eager to see what both of them produce; the Globe should feel very lucky to have such brilliant writers on staff. But one or two critics cannot cover the entire teeming Boston scene, a bastion of music both early and new. Boston-area music organizations, the time to speak up is now.
May 24, 2016 | Permalink
The NY Phil Biennial takes flight on Monday, with a JACK Quartet program of Cenk Ergün, Derek Bermel, and Marc Sabat. Some highlights from the remaining fortnight: Jennifer Koh's program of new-music miniatures; Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest, with Ilan Volkov conducting; the Ligeti Forward series, with Alan Gilbert; an Interlochen Academy concert, with premières by Gabriel Kahane, Hannah Lash, and Ashley Fure; and the final Phil concerts, with Bolcom's new Trombone Concerto, Stucky's Second Concerto, and the Nørgård Eighth.... Volkov's Tectonics Festival, from which the Biennial could learn a few lessons in boldness, took place earlier this month; BBC 3's Hear and Now series is broadcasting some highlights. I'm listening now to music of Alwynne Pritchard, Jessika Kenney, Eyvind Kang, and Michael Pisaro (his extraordinarily beautiful Lucretius Melody), and am looking forward to a Pisaro première that comes online on May 28.... On May 24 and 31, Jacaranda presents guitar music of Nørgård, Henze, Ginastera, Berio, and others at the Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades.... For VAN, Heather O'Donnell has an enlightening article on musicians with disabilities.... Maria Schneider has a blistering piece on the musical-ethical black hole that is YouTube.... On June 17, the Cincinnati Opera introduces Gregory Spears's Fellow Travelers, about the gay witch-hunts of the nineteen-fifties.
May 22, 2016 | Permalink
"Imagine a member of Congress facing his constituents after voting to appropriate $200,000 to teach young people how to execute vocal gymnastics, or play on the fiddle. We are not so esthetic as that." So said the Indianapolis Journal on Feb. 25, 1888, in response to Jeannette Thurber's request for federal funding for her National Conservatory. Quoted in Jean E. Snyder's Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance, new from University of Illinois Press.
May 15, 2016 | Permalink
Snapshot from Zurich: the Thomas Mann Archive, out of the picture to the left, is at the corner of Doktor-Faust-Gasse and Schönberggasse. The latter presumably doesn't refer to the Schö/oenberg, who had no Zurich connections that I know of, but the coincidence is amusing.
Previously: The corner of Strauss and Stravinsky.
May 13, 2016 | Permalink
Louis Menand writes in this week's New Yorker about Matthew Futterman’s book Players: The Story of Sports and Money. One passage caught my eye: "[Futterman] thinks that the industry has expanded beyond the scale of its actual audience. 'One of the great illusions of the sports industry is mass fascination,' he says. It’s true that hundreds of millions of people watch special events like the World Cup and the Olympics, but the day-to-day audience for sports is tiny. In the United States, it amounts to about four per cent of households. Fewer than three per cent on average watch their local N.B.A. games; fewer than two per cent watch their home-town N.H.L. teams."
And more: "About twenty per cent of the average cable bill goes to sports channels, which pay the teams or the leagues for the right to show their games. Which means that sports are currently enjoying a very large subsidy from a public that doesn’t watch them ... A statistic related to the shrinking market is the rising age of fans in some sports. According to Futterman, in 2009 the average age of a postseason baseball viewer was forty-nine; in 2014, it was fifty-five. The average age of someone who watched a regular-season baseball game that season was fifty-eight .... Sports’ 'cultural relevance,' as Futterman puts it, may be in decline."
May 13, 2016 | Permalink