This superb, wide-ranging volume, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz and published by University of Minnesota Press, gives me the chance to quote again from Willis's 1969 essay on Woodstock, one of the sharpest pieces the New Yorker has ever published: "What cultural revolutionaries do not seem to grasp is that, far from being a grass-roots art form that has been taken over by businessmen, rock itself comes from the commercial exploitation of blues. It is bourgeois at its core, a mass-produced commodity, dependent on advanced technology and therefore on the money controlled by those in power. Its rebelliousness does not imply specific political content; it can be — and has been — criminal, fascistic, and coolly individualistic as well as revolutionary. It can simply be a more pleasurable way of surviving within the system, which is what the pop sensibility has always been about. Certainly that was what Woodstock was about: ignore the bad, groove on the good, hang loose, and let things happen. The truth is that there can't be a revolutionary culture until there is a revolution. In the meantime, we should insist that the capitalists who produce rock concerts offer reasonable service at reasonable prices."
September 12, 2014 | Permalink
A Kyle Gann list of American symphonies got me thinking about my own favorites in the genre. Certainly, I'd second many of Kyle's choices. Two additions: William Levi Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony, a neglected delight, and the piercing Symphony (1962) of Irving Fine, whose centenary will arrive at the end of the year. (Contrary to the caption in the YouTube upload above, Fine himself is the conductor.)
August 02, 2014 | Permalink
My thoughtful husband alerted me to the fact that on a recent episode of the Victorian-Gothic series Penny Dreadful the Wild West character played by Josh Hartnett is so overcome by the strains of Tristan und Isolde, not to mention several glasses of absinthe, that he is inspired to begin making out with none other than Dorian Gray (portrayed by Reeve Carney, previously a singing Spider-Man). "I'd ask if you had heard of Wagner," Gray asks, "but you'd pretend you hadn't." Opera Fresh has more coverage of the show's saucy operatic goings-on.
July 25, 2014 | Permalink
Longtime readers of this blog may recall sporadic posts on the subject of encounters between Richard Strauss and American soldiers in the years of the Allied occupation of Germany. One time I pleaded for information about Major John Kramers, who is mentioned in Strauss's diary. As I report in this New Yorker blog post, I finally know more about him: Dr. Carl Ellenberger, of Mount Gretna PA, interviewed Kramers some years ago about his meeting with Strauss, and in 2012 reported his findings on the blog of the chamber-music series Gretna Music. It's the bitterwseet ending to a longtime obsession. Many thanks to Hannah Edgar, a young writer and violinist from Walnut Creek CA, for having prompted this discovery. Walnut Creek is, incidentally, the former home of the celebrated oboist John de Lancie, who inspired the Strauss Oboe Concerto.
July 24, 2014 | Permalink
The seemingly indestructible diva has died at the age of eighty-nine. Sarah Larson remembers her on the New Yorker website. Stritch's immortal versions of "The Ladies Who Lunch" have been widely shared, so I thought I'd feature this clip from her final run of Café Carlyle shows, in which she singles out one of her most ardent fans. (Levine famously went to see Elaine Stritch at Liberty fourteen times.) The recent documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me captures her splendidly.
July 17, 2014 | Permalink
The NYPhil Biennial may be winding down, but the schedule will remain lively through much of June. Opera Cabal stages Georg Friedrich Haas's ATTHIS at the Kitchen, June 12-13; the same weekend, Chelsea Opera presents Copland's The Tender Land. Alexandre Lunsqui is the featured composer at the Chelsea Music Festival. The Early Music Festival NYC, a new initiative under the direction of Jolle Greenleaf and Donald Meineke, has a rich week of concerts June 13-19, culminating in a reprise of the Green Mountain Project's legendary Vespers 1610. Caramoor is offering this summer a Garden of Sonic Delights, with works by Laurie Anderson, Betsey Biggs, Annea Lockwood, Trimpin, Bruce Odland, and various others. The Philharmonic will include premières by Anthony Cheung and Sean Shepherd in the series starting on June 11 and 18. And, of course, there's Make Music NY on June 21.... On the other coast, WasteLAnd, in Los Angeles, offers Scott Worthington's Even the Light Itself Falls on June 13, and the What's Next Ensemble stages its annual Los Angeles Composers Project concert on June 21.... This year's MATA Festival is now streaming on WQXR.... Glen Wilson's masterly series of Naxos harpsichord recordings continues with a disc devoted to the undersung Elizabethan master Ferdinando Richardson and other treasures of the period, including the astounding, anonymous "Upon la mi re." ... In a futile protest against anniversary glut, I am not listening to Richard Strauss.
June 06, 2014 | Permalink
From Anastasia Tsioulcas's NPR Classical Facebook page: "If you've been following the ongoing conversation about how women are treated in classical music today...an interesting and relevant incident took place between yesterday & today. A source told me yesterday that during a session of the League of American Orchestras conference that is taking place right now in Seattle, a representative of the Berliner Philharmoniker was talking to a roomful of classical music professionals, and said that the reason that 78% of users for their (excellent) Digital Concert Hall is male is because...the computer setup is 'too complicated' for women." And more: "I received this via Twitter today from the orchestra: 'This was indeed a misleading statement – of course women can connect the devices just as well as men.'"
More: An official statement from the Berlin Philharmonic: "We very much regret this misleading statement and want to apologize for this mistake. As we know from the many emails we receive, difficulties in the use of such a complex technical offer as the Digital Concert Hall affect male and female users alike. We will address these difficulties very soon and work hard on an easier access."
June 06, 2014 | Permalink