Monday, April 30, 2007

Scott Joplin memorial concert and lecture

On May 12, the third annual Scott Joplin Memorial Concert will be held at St. Michael's Cemetery in East Elmhurst, NY. At 12:15, Edward Berlin will give a lecture on Joplin, ragtime, and the opera Treemonisha. The concert starts at 1 pm, with performances by Terry Waldo (piano), Howard Alden (banjo), Orange Kellin (clarinet), and members of the choir of the Presbyterian Church of St. Alban's. The choir had staged Treemonisha at York College, and will perform selections. The day concludes with a memorial ceremony at Joplin's gravesite, presided by Reverend Edward Davis. There will also be free barbecue and ale. This sounds like a great opportunity for a meaningful musical and spiritual experience.

Friday, April 27, 2007

FriPod: Slava

Today the sad news of Mstislav Rostropovich's death has swelled out in the blogosphere and the mainstream media. In honor of the great 'cellist, conductor, and human rights advocate this week's FriPod will look at the recordings I have of Slava, plus some tracks that have "Slava" in the title.

1. String Quintet in C Major, Franz Schubert, performed by the Emerson String Quartet with Slava. I love this piece and I love this performance. I transcribed the first movement for brass choir, though I never really captured the energetic drive of the closing theme in the transcription. The second movement still haunts me, especially the minor dominant chord that almost made me swerve off the road when I first heard it (2:51 in the recording). One fond memory is of singing this movement in the large second floor hallway of the Eastman School, as a group of us were trying to do a Schenkerian analysis. We were too lazy to go find a piano, so we assigned parts (I was second cello, just like Slava). The third and fourth movements have such verve. I can picture the five musicians swaying and bouncing in their seats as they communicate joy, tenderness, tension, anger, beauty.

2. Suite No. 1 in G major for unaccompanied 'cello, J.S. Bach. Many of the obituaries being published today mention Slava's memorable performance of this suite at Checkpoint Charlie as the Berlin Wall was torn down. They don't reveal that he had only recently started playing the suites, and did not record them until 1995, the collection I have. His tone is so wonderful, clear yet full of character. The phrasing is sparkling, letting the dances have the proper rhythmic character while also giving a larger shape to the movements and the entire suite.

3. Suite No. 2 in D minor for unaccompanied 'cello, Bach. Slava shows he understands the counterpoint behind the complex compound melodies of these suites. The Prelude sings as he gives a subtly different color to each contrapuntal line. The Allemande explodes with multistopped fireworks.

4. Suite No. 3 in C major, etc. I agree with Allan Koozin's description of Slava's suites: "His graceful accounts of the Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello illuminated the works’ structural logic as well as their inner spirituality." The Sarabande of Suite No. 3 is full of the trembling terror and awe that humanity feels as it faces God and the infinite. The unknowable is beautiful, but also humbling and frightening.

5. Suite No. 4 in Eb major, etc. I use the Bourees from this suite often as aural examples of the composite ternary form. It is so perfect, from the formal design down to the local motives as they drive to the essential cadences.

6. Suite No. 5 in C minor, etc. From Wikipedia:

Suite No. 5 was originally written in scordatura with the A-string tuned down to G, but nowadays a version for standard tuning is included in almost every edition of the suites along with the original version. Some chords must be simplified when playing with standard tuning, but some melodic lines become easier as well.

The Prelude is written in an A-B form, and begins with a slow, emotional movement that explores the deep range of the cello. After that comes a fast and very demanding single-line fugue that leads to the powerful end.

This suite is most famous for its intimate Sarabande, which is the second of the two movements throughout the suites that doesn't contain any chords. The fifth suite is also exceptional as its Gigue is in the French style, rather than the Italian form of the other five suites.

7. Suite No. 6 in D Major, etc. Slava plays the Prelude as if it were a 20th century work, with awesome echo effects. This suite has the longest track, with the Allemande clocking in at 10:31. That's impressive, especially given the extremely high notes required in this suite.

8. Slavonic Dances, Antonín Dvořák, performed by the New York Philharmonic. Okay, I'm cheating, as I didn't have any tracks with the complete "Slava" so I went with "Slav." I have three of the dances: "Dumka" op. 72, no. 6/14; "Sousedská" op 46, no. 6; and "Furiant" op. 46, no. 8. These dances capture the Slavic passion, the split between refined civilization and raucus barbarity.

9. Marche Slave, Op. 31, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, performed by Claudio Abbado and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps a funeral march for Slava?

10. Danse slave (Le Roi malgré lui), Emmanual Chabrier, performed by Ernest Ansermet and L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande. French schlock, after glorious Russian pathos. Sigh.

You young'uns don't know who you are!

I wrote previously about research on the correlations between personality and music preference. A new study by Jeremy Dean, et al has some interesting results. The participants filled out a personality questionnaire which measured their strength in five personality factors: extraversion, openness to experience, neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. These participants also took the Short Test of Musical Preferences (STOMP). STOMP is basically the same as the online test I linked to, except STOMP has only 14 music categories, whereas the online version adds Bluegrass, New Age, International, Reggae, Gospel, Opera, Oldies, Punk, and separates Funk from Soul/R&B. STOMP gives a result in four music preference dimensions: Reflective & Complex (Classical, Blues, Folk, and Jazz), Intense & Rebellious (Alternative, Rock, and Heavy Metal), Upbeat & Conventional (Country, Religious, Pop, and Soundtracks), and Energetic & Rhythmic (Dance/Electronica, Rap/hip-hop, and Soul/funk). I don't see the point in these dimensions if there isn't acknowledged overlap of genres. Pick dimensions that each genre has different strengths (averaged), so a true multidimensional picture can be developed. Ahem!

Dean, Yu & Epps broke the participants into two groups by age: 18-30 years, and over 30 years. The younger group had only two correlations between music preference dimensions and personality traits: openness to experience correlated with Reflective & Complex (r = .4) and with Intense & Rebellious (r = .19). The older group had four correlations: the two from the younger group plus conscientiousness correlated with Upbeat & Conventional (r = .29) and agreeableness also correlated with Upbeat & Conventional (r = .31). They interpret these results as an indication that younger listeners have not settled in their social identities, which affects their musical preferences.

Do you think personality traits should be compared with genre preferences, or preferences based on more abstract musical traits like timbre, tempo, or loudness? I'd be very interested to see results based on the latter, since genres are not monolithic.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Music in the News

One of the comments on my last post recommends for news, so I tried it. Though most of the stuff under music was trash about Brittany or Phil Specter, the top item was very cheery, an announcement that the National Teacher of the Year is music educator Andrea Peterson. It is fabulous that music education is getting recognized nationally. I also love the quote from Ms. Peterson's school superintendent: "Music isn't a subsidiary subject in Granite Falls. It's part of everything we do."

In general I don't follow news aggregators, perhaps I should do more so I have more interesting things to blog about.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Does this make me hip?

Chris Foley has informed me that I'm now on MySpace, as part of it's new MySpace News. The 25 main topics for the news aggregator include Music, which is then divided into six subcategories: Classical, Country, Electronica, General, Hip-Hop, and Indie. The Classical page is mostly blog posts by familiar faces like Alex Ross, On an Overgrown Path, Jessica Duchen, aworks, Steve Hicken, the Met's own Anne-Carolyn Bird, Marc Geelhoed, the Well-Tempered Blog, Chris, and myself. There are a few news media items from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the San Francisco Gate, surprisingly no feeds from the New York Times or other really big newspapers. I haven't noticed any visitors from this aggregator yet, and it certainly isn't as complete as New Music Reblog or Blognoggle New Music. There is one blog that isn't part of my blogroll, Richard Friedman's All I Know2. He is a director of Other Minds, a non-profit in San Francisco that promotes new music.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Theory is Not a game!

Okay, maybe it is. I've clearly lost some of my qualifying exam skilz, as only only scored in the 75% mark. Several of my friends are in the top list, though. I did find the snide comments rather annoying, given the self-hating tone. via Elaine.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Jazz Appreciation Month

I got music news from an unexpected source, one of my political action e-lists ( As part of Jazz Appreciation Month, Ken Kimery of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will guest host on Care2's Smithsonian Jazz Discussion Board on April 24, 1-3 ET. Two of my colleagues, Randy Salman and Lennie Foy, are members of this fine jazz ensemble, which is led by Indiana University's David Baker. You can join the board now and start posting questions, some of which Ken will answer on the 24th. I'll guess that this discussion will be mostly for nonprofessionals, which is excellent. Bravo to an action group that cares about the arts as well as "sexier" political issues.

Friday, April 20, 2007

FriPod: Random 10

I'm not up to picking a meaningful topic today, so I just hit the refresh on Party Shuffle.

1. Sonata in D: Spiritoso ed adagio – Arcangelo Corelli, performed by Crispian Steele-Perkins. A short movement that shows off Corelli's tender side. It's not as good as his Adagio from Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 8, but still a nice change from the normal fireworks of Baroque trumpet concerti.

2. "My Favorite Things" – Rodgers & Hammerstein, performed by John Coltrane on the eponymous album. For the length of this track, I'd like to hear the familiar piece deconstructed more. The head is played almost verbatim, and the solos are harmonically conservative. Yes, the conversion of a standard to a Cool style modal improvisation is interesting, but take it outside a little more, please!

3. Missa "Puisque je vis": Benedictus – Guillame Dufay (attrib.), performed by the Binchois Consort. This is a wonderful benediction, full of peace and hope. The voices are so clean, the counterpoint is so stark, and the melismas perfectly balanced. The harmonic language seems to slide between unapologetic modality and more gentle tonal cadences and motions.

4. "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Salome – Richard Strauss, performed by Rudolf Kempe with the Staatskapelle Dresden. Okay, get your minds out of the gutters, people. Let's address the music, not the incestuous, manipulative, seductive, sensuous.... Ahem! The orientalism is an interesting choice, giving a sense of otherness and perhaps a touch of judgment on those evil heathens. This performance is a little slow, losing the dance flow. But there are good timbral colors and some nice phrasing.

5. Four Seasons Concerti: Winter, III. Allegro – Vivaldi, performed by Itzhak Perlman and the London Symphony Orchestra. This is an icy movement, so careful and almost emotionless, except for the little gasps of the tutti strings at the end of the introduction. The solo has some fireworks in the arpeggios, but they still seem cold in the planning and more like fake emotions rather than the real thing. The obligatory Vivaldi tremoli have the same effect on me.

6. Symphony No. 3 "Rhein," 5. Lebhaft – Schumann, performed by Rafael Kubelik and the Berlin Philharmonic. I used to prefer Schumann's second symphony, but now I feel the third has more depth. This movement (hey, if Beethoven can go beyond four movements, so can I!) alternates between elegant figures, passionate turbulence, grandiose river motions, a little nostalgia/sorrow, and some Brahmsian metric displacements.

7. Graal Theatre: I. Delicato – Saariaho, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gideon Kramer on violin. This is a work driven by colors, not by melody. Listening to the soundscape being created, you can picture the sound masses that Varèse strove for (I never really experience them in his own works). This is indeed a delicate tapestry, with the violin threatening to tear the fragile fabric of timbres. It is a long movement (16:54) but has enough tension and movement to keep my attention.

8. "Scriabin" – Vince Mendonza, performed by Michael Brecker on Don't Try This At Home. This is a very sad work, appropriate with the tragic loss of this great musician. I purchased this album after seeing Brecker live back in 1989 at Lawrence University. This track is full of angst, the tenor sax sound almost wailing while still remaining "cool."

9. Sonata No. 2, Op. 35 "Funeral March," IV. Presto – Chopin, performed by Horowitz. Not the famous march movement, but rather a frenzied series of meandering runs that never pause for breath. Running from Death? If so, Death catches up on the last two chords.

10. Short Ride in a Fast Machine – John Adams, performed by Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Orchestra. A strange juxtaposition with the previous work, the machine doesn't seem nearly as fast after Chopin's run with the devil. This performance is 4 seconds slower than my De Waart/San Francisco recording, and just doesn't have that sense of out-of-control driving that Adams wanted. The low brass don't come out enough, losing that metric tension. Still a fun piece, though as I think back to my first time experiencing it (about the same time as the Brecker concert mentioned above), I'm amazed that I found it so radical at the time.

Scriptists, Beware!

On April 28 UC - Berkeley is hosting a symposium called "Invention and Convention: The Limits of Text and Performance." These papers in musicology look rather interesting:

9:30 Opening Remarks; Bonnie Wade, Chair, Department of Music

Mary Hunter (Bowdoin College), "Mozart Opera Productions and History"

Richard Will (University of Viriginia), "Topoi in Performance"
coffee break

Gretchen Wheelock (Eastman School of Music), "Vocal Promiscuity in Don Giovanni"

Katherine Bergeron (Brown University), "The Monotone of Sarah Bernhardt: Performing Sincerity in Republican France"

Daniel Zager (Eastman School of Music), "'Venerable Relics': Sacred Music of Orlando di Lasso in Nineteenth-Century England"

Donald Burrows (Open University), "Faithfulness to the Text: Has Handel Composed an Aria in Ariodante?"

Mary Davidson (emerita, Indiana University), "The Quest for 'Improvement' in 19th-Century American Musical Periodicals"

Graydon Beeks (Pomona College), "Some Thoughts on the Composition of Attilio Ariosti's Cajo Marzio Coriolano"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's not over 'till the fat lady has acid reflux

News has gotten around the media, even if not prevalent in the blogosphere yet, that opera singers are prone to reflux. The more you sing, the more you "wet burp" as the Guardian charmingly calls it. The research, conducted by Giovanni Cammarota et al from Catholic University of Rome, was published in Gastroenterology. The theory is that the breath control causes greater internal pressures, but that would suggest that oboists, trumpeters, and other wind players would have similar issues. And the only stomach problems I've heard about have been audition butterflies.

Academic Careers Wiki

From Phil Ford I have discovered a wiki that lists the intimate details of academic job searches. Like any publically-edited wiki the facts are not guaranteed: the music theory/composition page looks fairly accurate from various results I was already aware of, but the music librarian page is incredibly incomplete. DePauw is searching for a music librarian right now, and it isn't even listed, much less accurate about the stage of the search process. I'm still debating whether this is a good thing. In general, I think transparency will only help make the process more fair. Applicants who aren't immediately connected to big schools will have more information, and the whole process is more evident for grad students and other new applicants. However, personnel decisions can be sensitive, and efforts to scoop a result could end up exposing applicants or departments to awkward situations. I hope they stick with publically available information.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Schoenberg, eh?

Carleton University, in Ottawa, is hosting a symposium on Schoenberg's chamber music: "'I Feel the Air of Another Planet': Schoenberg's Chamber Music; Schoenberg's World."

It is part of the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, and will be held July 26-29. Besides famed music theorist Allen Forte as keynote speaker, the symposium will include Arnold's children: Lawrence, Ronald, and Nuria. This symposium does require registration and $50-60 (Canadian) fee, which does not include the other concerts of the larger Chamber Music Festival ($45 - 70 at a discount rate for symposium attendees) Here is the program:

Christ Church Cathedral

6:00 RECEPTION: Lauder Hall
Opening Remarks
Opening of the Schoenberg Exhibit

8:00 GALA CONCERT: “ ‘I Feel the Air of Another Planet’: The Chamber Music of Arnold Schoenberg”
Moscow String Quartet and Friends

Carleton University
Humanities Theatre (303 Paterson Hall)


9:00 KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Allen Forte, Professor Emeritus, Yale University
“Schoenberg as Webern”

9:45 Christian Meyer, Director, Arnold Schoenberg Centre, Vienna
“The Young Schoenberg”

10:15 Murray Dineen, Department of Music, University of Ottawa
“Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony and the Transformation of Tonality.”

11:00 John Covach, Chair, Eastman School of Music, Rochester. TBA

11:30 James Deaville, School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University
“Schoenberg’s String Quartet No.1 in Dresden (1907): Programming the Unprogrammable, Performing the Unperformable.”

12:00 Don McLean, Dean, Schulich School of Music, McGill University
“A Chronology of Intros, an Enthrallogy of Codas: the Case of Schoenberg’s Symphony, Opus 9”

2:00-- TBA

2:30 Alexander Carpenter, University of Alberta
"Waltzes in Schoenberg's Chamber Music"

3:00 James K. Wright, School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University
“Canadian Apostles of the Second Vienna School.”

3:30 Yoko Hirota, Laurentian University
“Schoenberg’s 17 Piano Fragments” (Lecture-Recital)

8:00 CONCERT: “Schoenberg’s International Legacy: Canadian, American, Italian Apostles,” Christ Church Cathedral

Carleton University
Humanities Theatre

9:00 Severine Neff, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Schoenberg’s ‘Augustin:’ Juxtaposing Popular Music in the Second String Quartet.”

9:30 Alan Gillmor, Emeritus Professor, School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University
“The Apostasy of George Rochberg”

10:00 Bryan Proksch, McNeese State University, Louisiana
“Precedents of Schoenberg’s Compositional Practice in the Chamber Works of Haydn”

11:00 Michel Paquette (Department of Computer Science) & James Wright (School for Studies in Art and Culture), Carleton University
“Computerizing Schoenberg’s Coalition Chess” Online Demonstration

2:00 CONCERT: “Viennese Lieder from the First Viennese School to the Second”
Christ Church Cathedral


2:00 CONCERT: “Schoenberg’s Pivotal Piano Works”, Yoko Hirota, Pianist
Christ Church Cathedral

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I've Got Rhythm, I've Got Brains...

A free symposium on "Music, Rhythm, and the Brain" will be held at Stanford University on May 11-13. The keynote speaker is Daniel Levitin, speaking in Clark Center Auditorium at 7:30 on Friday the 11th. This speech, "Music and Flow," is open to the general public. The rest of the symposium does require registration. Here are all of the events in full detail.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Grant to those departed eternal rest

My heart goes out to the friends and family of the shooting victims at Virginia Tech. One of my colleagues does her research on public tragedy and the grieving process, particularly at universities. I can't imagine how I would feel if some of my students or friends were injured or killed in such a way. I was shocked when a colleague was injured in a bad car accident a month ago, and that is nowhere near the scale of the Virginia Tech shootings.

There have been several prayers on various religious blogs I read: the Admiral's and Father Jake's are particularly eloquent. I just finished reading Anne Lamott's latest book, Grace (evenutally). One of the main points is the difficulty but necessity of forgiving those who sin against us. It is maddening to admit our own errors against others when they won't admit the same. It is painful to acknowledge that people who do horrible things are God's beloved creatures. It is frightening to open up our hearts to those who have wronged us, as they could hurt us again. But it is also necessary, if we are to build the world God intends, if we are to live a life of grace.

I pray with the Admiral that the gunman is judged mercifully by God, and that his living victims can find forgiveness in their hearts.

Friday, April 13, 2007

FriPod: The Four Emotions

1. "Memories: B - Rather Sad" – Charles Ives, performed by Susan Graham. This song is gorgeous, a gentle sadness that is more nostalgia than sorrow.
2. "The Sad Café" – The Eagles, from Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2. I've always liked using this piece as an example of mode mixture in rock music (the minor iv chord). It is interesting that though the song is about sadness, it is mostly major. The mode mixture sounds more bluesy than a shift of mood.
3. "This Sad Burlesque" – Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet, from The Juliet Letters. I like this song, though Costello's voice is not polished enough for this kind of lyricism. Note the bad vibrato on "cannot" as an example of this.
4. "Happy Go Lucky Local" – Duke Ellington. A straight-up blues, with a funky bass solo. Not James Brown funky, but rhythmically challenging funky. The sax solo does not sound happy.
5. "Get Happy" – Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. I have three performances, by Clifford Brown, Coleman Hawkins, and Bud Powell. Now this is a happy song. The Clifford Brown arrangement is a little too busy, taking away the simple joy of the piece. Coleman Hawkins is the most straightforward, though Bud's has a nice swing to it.
6. "Sometimes I'm Happy" – Clifford Grey, performed by Bud Powell. An elegant arrangement, it has the sophistication of someone who is only sometimes happy.
7. "Don't Worry, Be Happy" – Bobby McFerrin, from Simple Pleasures. I got really annoyed with this work while in high school. But I still like this website.
8. "Snarling Wrath of Angry Gods" – Gutbucket. Headbanging minimalism. Or perhaps a pissed-off Messiaen giving up on his Catholicism and grabbing a heavily distorted guitar.
9. "Angry Young Man" – Billy Joel, from Turnstiles. This doesn't give anger a good name. The young man is rather pathetic.
10. Four Peace Vignettes – John Levno, performed by Aries Brass Quintet. The first vignette, "Rainbow Chase," is as sophomoric as the title suggests. The second movement, "Solace," has a little more depth, though the performance is a little one dimensional. The third movement should apologize to Pachelbel for ripping off his Kanon with no improvement whatsoever. I'm not feeling peaceful form listening to this work. The last vignette, "Letting Go the Grudge," is more about the grudge than the letting go.
11. "Venus, the Bringer of Peace" from The Planets – Gustave Host. I have two performances: Chicago with Solti, and Montreal with Dutoit. This is peace, the shimmering waters of an impressionist painting, unfocused yet revealing inner truths.
12. "Peace" – Horace Silver (?), performed by Chet Baker, from Peace. This piece gets dangerously close to smooth jazz. But the combination of Chet's straight and soft trumpet tone with David Friedman's vibes are very nice.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rosin's expensive, man!

Dave Munger took a different take on the Bell-busker incident, looking at the social phenomenon of paying buskers. He polled his readers on how often they would give at least $1 to a talented street performer. His results show a fairly generous public, even after factoring for a self-selecting population:
I think you can make a good case that these people are so ambivalent about street performers that they probably fall in the "never give money" camp. If you add these responses into the data and recalculate, Bell's theoretical earnings from 1079 passersby drops to $104.28, or an hourly rate of $138.70 -- not bad, but Bell may want to switch to domestic caviar, and he'll almost certainly have to pawn his $3.5 million Stradivarius.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Liberal Arts Blogging

On Saturday I took part in a panel on Web 2.0 technology here at DePauw. I talked about my class blogs (see on the left under DePauw Blogs). The visiting keynote speaker was Bryan Alexander of NITLE. He has put together a wiki of Liberal Arts Campus Bloggers, which is admittedly very incomplete. But I found it interesting to see how class blogs are used in different disciplines. I'd be curious to hear of any uses of social software that you dear readers have used in teaching situations.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From Bell to Lebrecht in 8.2 seconds

1. The Joshua Bell-as-busker article I wrote about has proved to be very popular. I've had countless people visit through searches for Joshua, Weingarten, Bach, Partita No. 2, etc. And there have been many bloggers writing about it, expressing everything from approval to dismay to anger to criticism of Josh's busking skills. I stand by my statement that Weingarten and his team of reporters were very thorough in covering most of the possible angles, from rush hour needs to noise pollution to iPods. The art of busking was not addressed enough, so SawLady's criticism is a good addition to the story.

2. There is an undeclared war between Norman Lebrecht and Alex Ross about the state of the classical recording industry. It is so undeclared that each of the combatants has not stated the name of his enemy. This war has a personal front, as a colleague and I have been discussing the issue for the last (academic) year. This last week this colleague, who is very involved in the classical recording industry, pointed out that even if Lebrecht's conclusions are faulty and unnecessarily pessimistic, his books have spurred the whole classical music world. Music ensembles pick more imaginative programming. Record companies have started to look beyond the "stars" to wonderfully talented unknowns who can be recorded much more cheaply. Orchestras are starting their own recording labels to save on costs, since the digital revolution and the Long Tail effect has made it so much easier to store, supply, and advertise these recordings.

I also foresee more emphasis on chamber music over traditional large ensembles in music schools, as career choices for professionals, and as programming options for performance halls. Chamber music requires fewer musicians, fewer administrators (thus lower salary costs), less time for set-up, smaller space requirements, and lower travel costs. And unlike the joke about cost savings in Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, moving to chamber music does not sacrifice in artistry or aesthetic possibilities. In fact, I believe that chamber music gives the opportunity for a more intimate experience between the musicians and the audience. The smaller group does not require the acoustics of a large hall, nor the financial needs to play for a large audience, so the musicians do not have to be put on the isolated pedestal of the orchestral stage. Even if the quartet or octet is playing in Carnegie Hall, the lower number of musicians will not overwhelm the memory constraints of the audience. An audience cannot be expected to note and recognize each of the eighty-five members of an orchestra, whereas they can pay attention to each of the members of Eighth Blackbird in the space of a single piece, and form attachments to each of the players. And attachments will bring audiences back. Look at the draw of star soloists like Joshua Bell. [See how I have brought the categories together?] Orchestras pay ungodly amounts to soloists like Bell so people will come to their concerts. And the audiences flock because they can focus solely on the soloist, forming that necessary attachment. Yes, the conductor is often the source of focus for those pesky non-concertos that orchestras play, but the attachment is not satisfying as the maestro is faced away from the audience most of the time.

So, pay attention to the music in your life, don't mourn for the death of classical music, and notice how much intimacy you feel for your favorite music experiences.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bell's Hell?

Via Justin Davidson I found this incredible article in the Washington Post by Gene Weingarten. The basic premise sounds trite: let's have Joshua Bell pose as a busker at a subway stop and see if people notice his talent. But the conclusions Mr. Weingarten makes are wonderfully complex, investigating all possible angles and tossing out philosophical angles by Kant, Leibniz, and Hume. He also includes a great description of Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor, the history of Bell's Stradivarious, and other magical bits of trivia and insight. Go read this article now, and then beg Mr. Weingarten (not a music critic) to write more about music.

Friday, April 06, 2007

FriPod: What Passion is Missing?

As I ponder during this Good Friday, I realized that I don't own any Passions. Before getting too worried about my emotional health, I assure you that I do have passions, just no recordings of the Passion of Christ according to . So instead of listing those I have, I will list those compositions I'm aware of, and ask readers to recommend particular performances or other compositions that I haven't listed.

1. J.S. Bach - St. Matthew Passion BWV 244
2. J.S. Bach - St. John Passion
3. J.S. Bach (apocryphal) - St. Luke Passion BWV 246
4. J.S. Bach (reconstructed) - St. Mark Passion BWV 247
5. Sofia Gubaidulina - Johannes-Passion (2000)
6. Arvo Pärt - Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (1985)
7. Heinrich Schütz - St. John Passion
8. G.F. Handel - Brockes Passion HWV 48
9. Krzyzstof Penderecki - St. Luke Passion (1728)
10. G.P. Telemann - St. Matthew Passion (1766)
11. G.P. Telemann - St. Luke Passion
12. Tan Dun - Water Passion after St. Matthew
13. Johannes Mattheson - Brockes Passion
14. Johann Thiele - St. Matthew Passion
15. Mauricio Kagel -
Sankt-Bach-Passion (1985)
16. Gottfried Stölzel - Brockes Passion
17. Carl Loewe - Passion Oratorio
18. G.F. Handel (spurious) - St. John Passion

So, which of these do you highly recommend, and which recordings? And what other Passions are out there that I should know about?

New York is invading Canada!

Not really, but the New York State chapter* of the AMS is holding its conference at the University of Western Ontario on April 14-15.

Saturday April 14th:

8:30-9:30 Registration and Coffee

9:30-10:30 Session 1: Theater in the Time of Mozart. Chair, Rick Semmens

Monika Susan Fazekas (University of Western Ontario): "Masons and Illuminati and Jacobins, oh my!: Revolutionary Allegory and The Magic Flute"

Myron Gray (University of Western Ontario): "A Mode for Moral and Myth: Angiolini's Le festin de Pierre and the Apotheosis of Ballet as Nonverbal Drama"

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break

11:00-12:30 Session 2: Repertories Re-Evaluated. Chair, Bob Toft

Kirsten Schultz (University of Toronto): "'Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still': Gender, Power Relations, and Morale in Confederate Minstrel Show Songs"

Graham Freeman (University of Toronto): "Percy Grainger's Folksong Arrangements"

Sarah Carleton Latta (University of Toronto): "Heraldry in the Trecento Madrigal: A Reassessment of Bartolino da Padova's Imperial sedendo"

12:30-2:00 Lunch Break

2:00-2:30 Lecture/Demonstration

(Jay Hodgson, University of Western Ontario)

2:30-4:00 Session 3: Nostalgia and Identity. Chair, Kathryn Fenton

Charlène St.-Aubin (University of Toronto), "Patriotic Nostalgia or the Purpose of French Popular Music in Francis Poulenc's Oeuvre"

Lara Housez (Eastman School of Music): "'Putting It Together': From Seurat to Babbitt in Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George"

Durrell Bowman (University of Guelph): "What Makes Some Popular Music Canadian? or, Is Neil Young Canadian?"

4:00-4:15 Break

4:15-5:15 Chapter Meeting Keynote Address

David Brackett (McGill University): "Genre and Identity in Popular Music"

5:15-6:15 Chapter Business Meeting (North Meeting Room, Windermere Manor)

6:30-8:00 Banquet (North Meeting Room, Windermere Manor))

Sunday, April 15th:

8:45-9:30 Registration and Coffee

9:30-11:00 Session 4: Genre and Influence. Chair: Emily Abrams-Ansari

Andrew Deruchie (McGill University): "Camille Saint-Saëns, César Franck and the 'Heroic' Symphony in Late Nineteenth-Century France"

Martin Nedbal (Eastman School of Music): "'How about Some Borsch with Cherries?': Musorgsky's The Marriage and the Wagnerian Leitmotif"

Heather Peters (York University), "Tradition and Modernism in the Bosnian sevdalinka"

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-12:30 Session 5: Rebellion and Renewal in Popular Music. Chair: Norma Coates

Theodore Cateforis (Syracuse University): "From Neurasthenia to New Wave: Nervousness and Identity"

Karen Fournier (University of Michigan): "Rewriting History: 'Cut-and-Paste' and Musical Meaning in Early Punk Rock"

*Really the New York State/St. Lawrence Chapter, but that makes the joke even less funny.

I Theorize, therefore I Perform

The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center's Music Ph.D.-D.M.A. programs are holding their tenth annual symposium for graduate students in music, though it is free and open to the public. The theme of this year's symposium is "Theorizing Performance/Performing Scholarship," which gives a great opportunity to hear research that directly affects performance. I have already heard one of the papers, by Zach Wallmark, at the Dutch-Flemish conference. It is a very interesting look at jazz pianist Andrew Hill. The conference is on April 21, at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY
between 34th & 35th Streets. Here is the program:

10 – 10:30 Breakfast and Registration (Music Student Lounge)
10:30 – 11 Between Text and Performance: Ornamentation in Rossini's Semiramide
Cindy Kim, Eastman School of Music
11 – 11:30 Phonetic Play in Louis Armstrong's Tin Pan Alley
Jonathan Greenberg, University of California – Los Angeles
11:30 – 11:45 Coffee Break (Music Student Lounge)
11:45 – 12:15 Conceptual Sound Forms: The Event, Action Music, and Performance-Sculpture, 1958-1975
Gascia Ouzounian, University of California – San Diego
12:15 – 1 Bible Thumpin' V (performance)
Eric Roth, CUNY Graduate Center
1 – 2:30 Lunch (Music Student Lounge)
2:30 – 3 Alternative Temporal Approaches to Jazz Improvisation in the Music of Andrew Hill
Zachary Wallmark, University of Oregon
3 – 3:30 John Kirkpatrick, the Concord Sonata, and the Strange Loop of Editing and Performing
Drew Massey, Harvard University
3:30 – 3:45 Coffee break (Music Student Lounge)
3:45 – 4:15 Representing the Little Slave: Virginia Andreini as Lo Schiavetto
mle wilbourne, New York University
4:15 – 4:45 Echoes, Timbres, and Synaesthesia:The Luminous Noise of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Jenny Olivia Johnson, New York University
4:45 – 5 Coffee break (Music Student Lounge)
5 – 6 Keynote Speaker: Elisabeth Le Guin, Theme or Corporeme? The Case of the Boccherini Adagio, G. 10, and Its Relatives