November 12, 2012 | Permalink
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
Another post-Sandy photoblog at the New Yorker website.
November 01, 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
“I tell you, humanity has no idea what it is doing. In nature, one sees the order and justice of the eternal divine intelligence. Not so in the work of humans, where the reason that enlightens them seems to make them descend ever deeper into the abyss of darkness.”
— Rubén Darío, "Thus Spake Ahasuerus"
October 30, 2012 | Permalink
October 25, 2012 | Permalink
Tomorrow the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as part of Carolina Performing Arts's season-long Rite of Spring at One Hundred program, launches a four-day academic conference on the subject of Stravinsky's masterpiece. Richard Taruskin gives the keynote address; dozens of papers and panels ensue. Be sure to keep up with the Reflections on the Rite blog, hosted by Noise friend Will Robin.... A few years ago, an avid 78-RPM record collector named Guy Walker made a remarkable discovery at an estate sale in Manhattan: an acetate of Kurt Weill's 1939 World's Fair project Railroads on Parade, which was long thought to have gone unrecorded. A CD is about to be released; it's a fabulously odd artifact of its time, and a telling, if uneven, document of Weill's musical metamorphosis in America.... I've been reading with great sadness of the travails of the Minnesota Orchestra, whose musicians have been locked out after refusing to take a drastic cut. The blogger Song of the Lark has a riveting description of a concert that the musicians organized on their own, in league with their former music director Stanisław Skrowaczewski.... The Brooklyn Philharmonic opens its new season tomorrow with a concert that includes a reprise of Tim Fite's Copycat, a highlight of last season's mold-breaking programs. Here's a video excerpt.... The Seattle Symphony, hardly less innovative, presents a Sonic Evolution concert Friday night, with world premières by Alexandra Gardner, Arlene Sierra, and Kenneth Hesketh. Having just come from Donaueschingen, where just two of thirty-one featured composers were female, I'm happy to see the balance tilted in the opposite direction in Seattle.... Some other notable NYC events in the next few days: Phil Kline's Zippo Songs and Out Cold at BAM; Gabriel Kahane at Carnegie Hall; the American Composers Orchestra's season opener; the Argento Chamber Ensemble's presentation of Mozart's Requiem, with Georg Friedrich Haas interludes; Bunita Marcus's 60th birthday at Roulette; the New York New Music Ensemble playing Jonathan Harvey; Stockhausen's Cosmic Pulses at White Light; and, of course, The Tempest.
October 24, 2012 | Permalink
"I was an orchestra": another Donaueschingen protest against cutbacks in radio-orchestra funding.
October 22, 2012 | Permalink