Sunday, May 27, 2007

FriPod: Sunday edition! Memorial Day

I had ten four and five year-olds over for a birthday party yesterday, which ate up all of last week and yesterday. Thus the lateness of this week's FriPod and the lack of blogging this week. This week's FriPod is devoted to Memorial Day weekend.

1. "Memories," by Charles Ives. I have two versions, by Thomas Hampson and Susan Graham. This song is in two halves: Very Pleasant and Rather Sad. The Very Pleasant portion is about waiting for a show at the opera house, rather manic in anticipation of the curtain rising. The Rather Sad part is the bittersweet part of nostalgia, regretting how some things have become old and worn over the years, perhaps to fade away completely. I think this sort of nostalgia is dangerous, leading to an idolatry of permanent things over changing people.

2. "Old Photos. New Memories," from James Horner's soundtrack to House of Sand And Fog. A provocative mix of solo piano with synthesized sounds that shifts to strings. A minimalist presentation, with an oscillating chordal progression. The movie is devastating, as each character neglects ways of connecting with each other, leading to sorrow for everyone. Another form of that dangerous nostalgia.

3. Elegy in Memory of Serge Koussevitsky, by Howard Hanson, performed by Gerard Schwartz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Similar to Hanson's Romantic Symphony in some ways, this memorial to the great conductor and bass virtuoso pays tribute to SK's roots in romanticism. Hanson himself was also rooted in this backwards-looking movement, to the detriment of the Eastman students' educations on 20th century music during his tenure.

4. Tres Lent (In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen), by Joan Tower, performed by André Emelianoff on cello with Joan Tower on piano. This homage is almost creepy in its imitation of Quartet for the End of Time. There is passion, sorrow, respect. Why do these memorials avoid expressing joy for the great things these artists made?

5. "Hope and Memory," from Howard Shore's soundtrack to LOTR - The Return of the King. This clip starts very anxious sounding, but transitions to the hope from the Shire mixed with the Heroes' motive. These memories are nostalgic but full of joy for past accomplishments and hope for the future, rather than dreading any change (at least in the music, the books are a different story).

6. "Lammon tells how Pan saved Chloé in memory of his love for the nymph Syrinx. Daphnis and Chloé act out the story," from Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel, performed by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Lush and romantic, this memory is not locked in the past, but willing to interact with the present to affect the future. Impressionistic candy, full of timbral colors through parallel chords and orchestration, and avoidances of cadences.

7. North American Ballads. 1. Dreadful Memories, by Frederic Rzewski, performed by the composer. This ballad starts very cheery, a lilting sea chanty. But a deceptive cadence leads to an abstract deconstruction of the ballad, revealing painful feelings hidden in the pleasant exterior of the melody. There is rage, confusion, sorrow, and regret.

1 comment:

Daniel Wolf said...

Great list, Scott. I would add one more Ravel item, La Valse, as a memory item )the original title was "Wien") that also looks forward, albeit darkly.