Saturday, November 29, 2008


Just an update on my wikipedia article: I've finished up most of the text for my article and posted it in my sandbox.

I still need to fix/add citations and possibly figure out how to put in some pictures, although I'm not quite sure where to get pictures that I can legally use. I don't think the ones on the school website are in public domain...

Communal Music Making

The idea of making music together has come up several times on here in recent weeks. I had several experiences over the break that reminded me of the conversation, so I thought I'd pass them along.

Several siblings/friends of my two roommates were staying with us for thanksgiving. The six of us were hanging out after eating breakfast together thanksgiving morning, and my roommate, Katie asked me if I would play something on the keyboard we have in our living room. I played some Beethoven and Schubert (definitely not quite the same on a keyboard, no matter how nice it is, but that's another post all together). Katie and her siblings all took piano lessons as kids, but are by no means professional musicians. In spite of that, they all ended up playing for the group.

As cheesy as it sounds, it made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside to play and listen in a setting where no one really cared how badly you messed up. The point was just to play and listen and share the music we knew.

But at the same time, I found it impossible to shut off my inner critic. As Katie's brother played, I couldn't help thinking a constant stream of critiques: "Voice that chord to the top... crescendo more there... the sixteenth notes are a little muddy here..."

I can see how, as music has become a more specialized field and recordings become more widespread, amateur performances in the home would also decrease. Why bother listening to an amateur play live when you can listen to a recording of the same piece by the likes of Rubenstein or Horowitz? And really, it must take a very confident amateur to play knowing that those of us with more musical training will most likely find ourselves unable to keep from analyzing the smallest details of the performance.

I think to a certain extent, we as musicians are shooting ourselves in the foot with our high standards. There's certainly a time and place for pushing ourselves as close to perfection as we can, but I know that I, for one, tend to allow that quest to stop me from sharing music with others and from devaluing the contributions of so-called "non-musicians." There's more to music-making than technical, and even musical perfection.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An argument for culture?


Could you post the title and author of the book you mentioned at the end of class? So far I'm not having any luck finding it.

bad behavior at concerts

This is in response (sort of) to Sarah's post - and I think I told her about this (so sorry if you're hearing this for a second time, Sarah).

A few weeks ago, I saw Keith Jarrett, which was an amazing concert. My friend and I were late, (which, I'll admit, is bad behavior in itself). We patiently waited and watched the first song on the TV moniters they had at the hall, and were let in before the next song started. There were, of course, two people in our seats who either didn't realize they were in the wrong seats, or didn't want to leave those seats - we've all been there, leaning over other people, whispering angrily in the dark, and upsetting everyone's experience for those few minutes.

However, once we got settled, the thing that began to bother me the most were all of the cameras around us. Although there weren't flashes exactly, there were the lights and small sounds of digital cameras constantly going off. The younger members of the audience seemed to be the bigger culprit, but there were enough that it was a problem (this was a packed house at symphony hall - there were a lot of cameras).

Jarrett performed two encores, which was great. The audience, of course, kept cheering, and he came out for what seemed to be a third encore. He almost sat down at the piano, but then went to the microphone. He referred to the "blue light guy" and the "orange light guy" and expressed his extreme disappointment at the behavior of the audience. Part of his frustration was his surprise at how frequently this has become a problem - and in his decades of being a performer, he can't understand this sudden facination - he said he's had many discussions with his colleages, and they've never known anything like it. He did not play a third encore, but instead left the stage.

It was an unfortunate note (no pun intended) to end the concert with. I was happy, though, that he brought it up. This is a way in which modern technology can be really detrimental - with MySpace and Facebook, people fetishize artists in a way they have been before. It's as if you can't just brag about seeing a cool musician; pictoral documentation must be present as well. Why is this? Shouldn't you just be there to listen?

a broken string...

Last week I attended the Pacifica quartet concert. I went specifically to see them perform the Beethoven string quartet and also to hear them play "Black Angels". I've only ever heard recordings of the latter, and was definitely eager to hear them. I must say it was a great performance. I'm not going to review it or recap everything that happened or how I felt listening, or what I think of them as musicians. Instead, I was just wondering about your feelings on audience etiquette.
During the beginning of "Black Angels" I noticed that the violist had broken a string. Now not being a string player, I definitely had to look twice, just to make sure. The quartet ended that section and the violist got up, pointed out his broken string and went to door. An announcement was made, just to keep everyone posted, and as the violist went up to open the door, he found it locked. Instead of staying quiet, the audience laughed. It was embarrasing I felt as a student here, that the stage hands weren't right back stage and ready to help. I'm sure it was very disheartening for the performer. Although, as a professional he was quick to change his string and was back on stage in no time. At this then the audience cheered.
For some reason this really bothered me. The tone of the piece was set, and it's definitely a serious piece where laughter isn't very appropriate. The quartet was able to just get back on and finish the piece with the intensity that it requires. It really was great. But shouldn't an audience be quiet during those mishaps? Maybe they felt as if they were supportive. However, it all seemed incredibly inappropriate and "lowbrow", forgive me, I had to. Perhaps it's more my problem. But it isn't fun when things like this happen, but I'm sure that they do. I would just rather the audience deal with it quietly and not laugh, and then cheer. Really? What do you think?

In response...

This is a response to both VER and Shilpa –

You’re both hitting upon something that I think about a lot: the huge gaping hole where everyday music-making should be.

Between kids taking music lessons and professional musicians (from all genres), there’s not much in between. Besides karaoke (and Marie’s Crisis – which sounds like a step up?) and wii music (and all its relatives), and maybe community choirs, the opportunities for casual, communal music-making are rare.

This fall I joined a “performance group” that meets monthly. It’s basically a loose collection of musicians who need an outlet to share music they’re working on or have performance anxiety. We met on Saturday and this particular gathering included a cellist, two classically-trained pianists (one learning jazz), two guitar playing singer/songwriters, and myself.

The afternoon started off somewhat strained. There was an immediate polarization of those who fell on the classical side of music and those who fell on the…other side. After everyone had played, I suggested we do some improvisation, since that is what I have been working on these days. I set up a chord progression, we began to play, and the whole energy of the group shifted. We came together in that way that only playing music together can do. From separate individuals, we became a unit and by the end of the meeting, we were just making music together, at whatever level each of us were comfortable with. The exuberance was palpable. Our host said it best in her follow-up email:

Hey all!
Great group Saturday! For those of you who weren't there, we had a mix of jazz, folk, classical, free improv, and an ensemble jam on a couple of pop songs!!! Quite the musical gathering! Where else can you hear a song about murder and prison time followed by a Beethoven sonata! Or an ensemble of cello, violin, piano and 2 guitars playing U2???

I don’t know what it is, and I wish I was more articulate about this, but experiences like these seem so ‘true’ to me, and are of ‘now’. All these stories remind me that music is participatory in nature; it is a communal act. The improvisatory nature of an evening at Marie’s Crisis is necessary for us, and something we need – music woven into everyday life, where there’s not a stage, there’s not an audience, and there’s not a program; there’s just people making music together.

Marie's Crisis

This weekend I was going through my journal and came a across my entries from my most recent New York City trip in October. For me, this city is paradise. I have felt this way my entire life. This most recent trip sold me again for many reasons but I would like to share the music related one. My friend and I went to the bar “Marie’s Crisis.” Perhaps some of you have heard of it. It is a basically a big Broadway sing-a-long. There is a pianist who sits in the middle of a small room playing any and all of the Broadway tunes you can think of. He does medlies from varying shows anywhere from Cabaret to The Sound of Music without a score in sight. Everyone there is singing at the top of their lungs. It is truly a special place. Everyone once in a while regulars would do breathtaking solos. It really made me remember how expressive musical theatre can be. I was there singing “Climb Every Mountain” with the best of them. The pianist also knows how to gage his audience. When Chorus Line started to bomb, he moved on. At one point an audience member asked one of the bar’s staff if they could request “Les Misarble.” The staff member curtly replied, “It’s not gonna happen, honey.” Eventually, this request did reach the ear of the pianist and he did indeed oblige his audience and with absolutely no snobbery. It was fantastic. I wish that classical musicians did this more often. In undergrad we did it much more but recently. I remember saying things like “let’s see if I can hit the Queen of the Night high F.” No, my teacher would not have approved. My group of friends and I have become so serious and so precious about music. I miss just messing around and sight-reading for the sake of it. If you get the chance to visit NYC, check this place out, even if you’re not big fan of musical theatre it may just surprise you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

FYI: BSO, GEB, OED, & Wiki


Here's a bit of news on our neighbor across the river.  Did you hear of how a guest conductor walked out on the BSOthis past weekend?  77-year-old Russian conductor Gennady Rozhedstvensky refused to conduct the four performances that were scheduled for the past weekend due to his outrage against the BSO marketing strategy.  Julian Kuerti stepped in for these performances instead.  Check it out.

I mentioned a Hofstadter in class last week when we spoke of writers who use fancy words.  It's actually someone whom my boyfriend knew of through his graduate work on artificial intelligence.  In fact, my boyfriend admires this thinker greatly, and has gotten on my case--too many times now--about how I must read this man's work on creativity and the human mind.  So here I am, sharing this post with you and making the bf happy. ;-)

This is Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University in Bloomington, best known for his pulitzer-award winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.  He is an immensely fascinating person and has produced even more immensely fascinating works.  I'll leave you to read about him and his work on Wiki.  Just click on either of the links above for their respective Wiki pages.


I did some quick research on the term "pastiche" on the Internet.  Wiki summarizes it as having two distinct meanings: a "hodge-podge" or an "imitation".  Here is the Oxford English Dictionary entry:
A. n.
   1. a. A novel, poem, painting, etc., incorporating several different styles, or made up of parts drawn from a variety of sources. Cf. PASTICCIOn.b. A musical composition incorporating different styles; a medley. Cf. PASTICCIO n. 1a.
2. a. A work, esp. of literature, created in the style 
of someone or something else; a work that humorously exaggerates or parodies a particular style.
    b. The technique of incorporating distinctive elements of other works or styles in a literary composition, design, etc.

1. Composed as an imitation or parody of a particular style or artist. 
2. Exhibiting or incorporating an amalgam of different styles. 

None of these things so far seem to suggest an overtly negative connotation to the term "pastiche".  Its Italian ancestor, "pasticcio", however, seems to be the culprit for its derogatory aspect.  Here's the OED entry on "pasticcio" : (my favorite is, of course, the last definition) 

1. a. Music. An opera or other work consisting of a medley of pieces from different compositions or by different composers. 
   b. A work of art or architecture imitating an antique or older style;  one incorporating elements taken or copied from antique or classical works; this style in art or architecture. 
   c. A confused mixture, a hotchpotch; a mess. 
2. An Italian pie usually containing a mixture of meat and pasta.

And, lastly, "Pastiche" is also a fine desserts & cafe place in Rhode Island.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wii music

I happened to spot an add for Wii music while watching TV online the other day. It brought to mind our class discussion of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. This would seem to be the Wii version of these games. Based on the video clips they have on their website, it would seem to be pretty elaborate. They have something like 60 instrument options ranging from piano and violin to electric guitar, cowbell, and beatbox. One play mode seems to allow groups to play together, creating their own "arrangements" of pieces like Ode to Joy.

I'm rather curious about how all this works, actually. I can see how the gestures for instruments such as drums or violin could be a fairly close approximation of reality. But what about piano or trumpet? How do you "play" these instruments realistically with a Wiimote? In the arrangments, how much control does the player have over things like dynamics, pitches, and tempo?

I will grant that it seems like a fun concept, and given the opportunity, I'd probably enjoy playing it a bit. But part of me feels rather strongly that if Wiimusic is what friends and families turn to when they want to create music, we're loosing out on a lot of the richness of music making. The sound quality in their ads was pretty awful- at the very least, I wish they'd made recordings of actual instruments instead of what sounds like a bad midi file. Much as I hate sounding like some old woman yearning for the "good old days," I kind of wish we could go back to a time when playing music together was a common leisure activity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wiki Idea: Futurism and Music

I am ripping out a page from Sarah's book by proposing to add substantively to the wikipedia article concerning music and Futurism. The link to the wikipedia article on this subject is here and could contain more information. Since the thesis of our class revolves around pondering the future of classical music, I thought it would be interesting to focus my project on a branch of a 20th century philosophy that championed noise as music in the early 1900s. I also think that the Futurists laid the foundation for experimental art and music of the future (particularly in the 1960s), and just to provide a snippet of what they created:

With the Russolo's invention of the new instruments of orchestra, the "intonarumori";[5] he and Marinetti gave the first concert of Futurist music in 1914. The program of "four networks of noises" with the following titles:

1. Awakening of Capital.
2. Meeting of cars and aeroplanes
3. Dining on the terrace of the Casino and
4. Skirmish in the oasis.

The future of orchestra?

A friend of mine sent this to me. It is literally a virtual orchestra. Each orchestra member has a laptop instead of an instrument. Each "instrumentalist" designs their own "instrument" using a computer program, and the conductor merely provides visual cues for the "musicians". The group is SLORK, Stanford's laptop orchestra.

Having taken a bit of computer music myself, there is quite a variety of sound manipulation that is possible live, during a performance.

It would be interesting to see such a group.

A few words on recording

I am currently deep into the application process for the next steps in my education. As a soprano, and really as female voice, I have to submit recordings for prescreening purposes to almost every school I am applying too. I was looking into recording studios in the past I have regretted it because of the dead acoustics. The thing that I found really interesting and comical was how much the recording engineers are able to manipulate. I suppose I always knew about certain things like pitch correction and reverb. If I want to sound like I was singing at the Met, they could easily do that for me. If I wanted something a little bit more intimate, they could make me sound like I was singing in the Kammermusiksaal in Berlin. Of course, these things are a little bit uninteresting to me because at this point, not only do I find that aspect of recording a kind of odd, it’s really not allowed in an audition CD. It makes me wonder how much manipulation goes on in a classical recording. Certainly, editing is an essential part of the process. I don’t judge it in a professional CD but it could be seen as less “authentic.” In the August 2008 edition of Classical Singer magazine Eric Cutler talks a little bit about his experiences with recording. He said that it was a place where he felt like he could present the best parts of his voice because of editing. Glenn Gould used to say similar things. Perhaps it is just a different way of thinking about music.


Music critic Greg Sandow just made a post on his blog about hearing Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time at a club, Le Poisson Rouge, in NYC.  He writes about his experience of hearing Messiaen's piece programmed between two sections of ambient music with electronics, and saw that it received a very enthusiastic response from the crowd.  He describes the reason for the effectiveness of the program is that the music surrounding the Messiaen piece puts the audience in a similar mood to the center of the program, so that the Messieaen "gets put in a space where they're read to hear him".  My favorite line of this entry is thus:  

"there's something really wonderful about playing classic pieces for people whose silence and applause are completely spontaneous."

So I encourage you to check out this entry.  Most importantly, make sure to read the comments at the bottom, because they go so well with many ideas about what and how to talk about classical music which we have been sharing in class this whole semester.

I definitely recommend checking out the link to the venue, which is dedicated to "offering the highest quality eclectic programming" to which they invite people to "bring open mind and drinking shoes"-- certainly makes me want to make sure to check out when I get the time to visit the city!

Monday, November 17, 2008

First I would like to admit that, yes, I was thinking about this class while at a bar. I am that nerdy. Moving on.

While I was out this weekend at a bar with music playing, someone among my party inquired what the song was. Another of the party then brought out his iphone, held it above his head, looked at it, and informed everyone it was Suchandsuch by the Soandsos. I seen this technology advertised but never seen it in action or given it much thought.

In light of our recent reading of Hewett, I did give it much thought. At first it seemed this phenomenon was directly related to the formal aspects he talks about on page 15: a specific song could not be identified as separate from others if songs themselves had not, at some point, been given mobile identities. I do think this fact is only partially true.

But there are also very immobile factors here, which causes me to wonder if music in this case is being treated more as it used to be, as a singular, though replayable, event. As I sat there, fascinated, I began to wonder what factors of the sound the technology is picking up. Is it pitch, key, melody, timbre, rhythm, what? What would happen if we transcribe it? Speed it up? If it is another voice singing? Use a live version? I suspected, and still suspect, any of these changes would cause the technology to consider the sound a different song.

I did some research on the internet and found the iphone utilizes a technology called Shazam to read the sound's acoustic fingerprint, which is apparently the end result of the code that digitally stores the sound. There is some leeway in matching acoustic fingerprints, accounting for differences in the file storage and audio quality, but it is based off a master recording. Therefore, the technology would not be able to identify two people singing the same Schubert song, for instance, as the same, or I suppose anything live at all.

So here, a piece of music becomes one unchangeable event. It is certainly different from the days when music and function were inherently tied, but I see similarities; and I certainly see differences from the idea of complete mobility within the same musical identity.

Lest this post turn into a dissertation, I will end it, but I leave you with the next step: What does this idea do for the concept of authenticity?

Help with Chapter 6?

Hit a mental roadblock in the reading and wondering if any one might like to take a stab at clarifying some of the themes Hewett explores in “Authenticities”:

1. Page 156, top of the page, first paragraph. Could anyone speak more to the criteria that at one time made art music legitimate?

2. Page 156-7, the paragraph that starts, “Authenticity is what everybody looks for in music…” He then goes on to ask whether the plurality of authenticities each match up with their own practice or if they span across different practices. I’m having a difficult time imagining how these two conceptions are exemplified in the world. Can anyone give an example or speak to this?

3. EXPRESSIVITY – what is Hewett actually trying to say? More about this idea in general? Where does expressivity figure into music today and how? What is expressivity? What is being expressed? Why is this significant?

Sensless Waste of Time

This is a cop out. I spent so long on wikipedia trying to figure out what on earth was wrong with my sandbox, I didn’t have time to post an article. I do apologize.

The good news is that I did, and I’m almost done with the plot summary for Granados, and so I will have two posts this week to make up for it. Pardon my dust.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In our Own Backyard...

If you do nothing else Monday from 10 – 11:30 am, go to the Strategic Plan Task Force in the Wolfinsohn room. Not only will you get a nice hand out and chat with Karen Zorn (who has a great sense of humor), but you’ll have a chance to see the kind of thinking that is propelling this institution forward and, moreover, be a part of it! I bring it up here because, in light of our reading, I see it as breaking out of the same ideologies that we have been examining and enacting a new paradigm that, I think, is and antidote to music’s past and analogous to music’s future.


First, the process itself – The entire student body is openly invited to take part in the visioning of Longy. Right away we move away from a hierarchical dictatorship into a collaborative relationship. (The analogy being the top-down, one way street hierarchy of composer -> performer -> audience).

The common theme that runs throughout the vision is PARTNERSHIP. In that same boat are the ideas of community, connections, and diversity. This idea of partnership comes out of the desire to meet the needs of the community- to offer what is needed. I find this significant because it is a reversal of the intention that gave rise to the modern symphony orchestra (as recounted by Levine); that intention being the desire to no longer have to rely on the support of the community and therefore, no longer have to meet or fulfill it’s wants and needs.

I think too, we can see how that thinking was taken up by other musical institutions: conservatories and schools set apart from the community, aspiring to things far greater (an aesthetic ideal) than the provinciality of the community in which it is set – perpetuating exclusivity and sacralization.

Contrast that with Longy, who receives more than 2/3 of its budget from tuition (that includes conservatory students, prep and continuing ed. students). Longy’s endowment is small ($8 Million) and so relies very heavily upon support (money or otherwise) from those who wish to study at or support Longy. To survive, then, it MUST remain relevant to the community. By association, we, as students, have the opportunity to orient ourselves to this communal-minded spirit and can become a part of enacting this particular paradigm.

What is of value, what is the living force of Longy, then, is the work that is being done as opposed to the focus on the production ‘works’ (‘works’ being in the form of awards, won auditions, published articles, and other quantifiable measures). Again, I see a significant correlation here between Cook’s perspective of looking at music in terms of what it DOES, rather than what it represents. Using the analogy of music, Longy is not a static ‘work’, yoking its initiated participants to its immovable tradition. Longy has a vision where those involved are creating the institution; giving it it’s meaning and significance (not the other way around).

Karen Z. said it best when she said (I am paraphrasing), “We want Longy to be not just a great education but a great experience.” That’s something everyone can be a part of!

Now, where did I put that application for Director of Public Relations at Longy…

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

wikipedia, continued

I'm continuing to work on my article about my alma matter- everything is still in my sandbox at this point, but I added a section on Facilities today. I spent some time looking at the talk page for the Longy page to give me an idea of what problems to avoid in creating my page. I also tried to upload some photos but discovered that you have to make a certain number of edits or something before the wiki gods will approve you to add photos. So those will have to come later.

Warm fuzzies


A quick post: Alex Ross has posted a video taken at Union Square on the day of the election. In the wee hours of the morning, the crowd broke out into the national anthem. Bob Dylan also, apparantly, once Obama was announced, played "Blowin' in the Wind." I thought, since we have discussed the ways in which song can be used politically (as a unifying force) that this was relevant.

It is cheesy on my part, but it really does give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

If you want to see the video, just go to Ross's website ( and scroll down.

new wiki....

I've decided to change my wiki topic (as some of you others are doing as well!), not that Balinese gamelan doesn't interest me. On the contrary, having played in one, I absolutely love it and just could not do justice to creating a new page. There is just already so much information out there about it. I will however, complete my page by listing some gamelans around the country for anyone that is interested. Maybe there's one that is close by to your hometown that you had never known about!
Back to my original reason for this post, another great interest of mine... I'm going to be creating a page about music in the DADA movement. There is already quite an extensive page about DADA on wikipedia but not much about music. Compared to the artwork and literature that came out of the movement, there is not as much in terms of music. Music that we perform and listen to. Usually the composer Erik Satie is mentioned, but that is just about it. There is alot about DADA out there, and it's ideas are still prevalent in the arts world today.
I feel that this is much more exciting as there is so much that I could add to a page that is already in place, as well learn so much more about a movement that I'm so eager to find out about! In case you aren't sure about DADA here's a link to Tristan Tzara's Dada Manifesto

A brief research update

I’ve decided to refocus my work on Wikipedia to Edwin E. Gordon – an apparently influential force in the field of music education but someone I’ve never heard of. I will be giving a brief presentation on his theory at the end of the semester in another class so I figure I’ll make the most of my research efforts and kill two birds with one stone.

Much like Wikipedia’s Dalcroze article, the Edwin E. Gordon article is more of a stub and only references outside sources. I can envision expanding his biography as well as writing a related article on his music learning theory and other aspects of his work.

I had been having trouble finding any substantial information on Gordon until I hit the informational mother lode in the form of the Edwin E. Gordon Archive, housed by the University of South Carolina. They have a comprehensive collection of Gordon’s work as well as articles pertaining to Gordon’s work and all the sources are listed on the website.

Research resources:

For those of you doing any research relating to educational topics, is an AWESOME resource for articles. Access is unrestricted and each entry includes an abstract of the article in addition to the article title. If you register (free), you can save your searches and articles.

Also, the Bakalar Library page has a list of all the online resources we mentioned in class (JSTOR, RISM, RILM, et. al) but they can only be accessed through Longy computers or through Longy’s wireless network.

Getting to know Wiki

I spent some time this week reading through the history and talk pages of the Longy Wiki pages, as well as the pages for other Boston area music schools.  I did that so to get my bearings in the Wiki world, before I start contributing anything to the existing pages.  Among other things, I learned about "peacock terms"-- words that "reflect unqualified opinions", which Voceditenore helped us to correct on the Longy wiki page.  However, I did spot numerous occurrences of peacock terms on the pages of our neighboring music schools, and plan to raise my hand at those as soon as I figure out how to use the right editing codes.

Happy belated birthday to Mary Morrison!

Happy Birthay to Mary Morrison, soprano! I fortunate that I am able to write this entry just two days after her I wanted to just say a word about this important Canadian soprano and pedagogue. Ms. Morrison was born on November 9, 1926 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She received and Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada in 1948. She has performed in the major orchestras in Canada. Her roles include, the countess, Pamina, Marguerite, Mimi, Marie in The Bartered Bride, Fiordiligi among others. Besides singing opera, Ms. Morrison’s most significant contributions are in contemporary Canadian art music. She has sung premieres by many composers including Jean Papineau Couture (who studies with Nadia Boulanger at Longy for a short time) and Oscar Morawetz. She played Sarah in the opera Louis Riel. She has also done Canadian premieres of European and U.S. works of Berio, Cage, Crumb, Peter Ligeti, Takemitsu, Xenakis and others. Mary Morrison married the composer Harry Freedman. She has taught in many Canadian universities and is still teaching at the University of Toronto. In 1983, she was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Boston Lyric Opera's New General Director

I attended the opening night of Boston Lyric Opera's production of Jacques Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffman" (or "The Tales of Hoffman") on Friday night, which was a fantastically fanciful production with phenomenal singers (especially the soprano who played Hoffman's four loves). Tonight, I stumbled upon this interview with Esther Nelson who is the newly appointed general and artistic director of the BLO. The interviewer brought up the issue of the physical limitations of the Schubert theater, and Ms. Nelson responded:

"Yes. As many theaters as Boston has, to my disappointment, we don't have a single perfect opera house. It's unusual for a city of the size of Boston, with its level of cultural integrity, to not have an opera house where you can do grand opera. That for me is a major handicap, a sadness, because it eliminates certain work that, as the largest company in New England, we should be able to do. We can't do Wagner or "Otello" the way it's meant to be done."

To me, part of the charm of BLO is its small size and similarly moderate productions. I think that in restraint and limits can come an enormous capacity for creativity and resourcefulness. I've enjoyed all the operas I've seen put on by the BLO, even though they may not be ridden with elaborate machinery or big-named stage directors, they are always of top quality with wonderful singers.

Ms. Nelson mentions how it is impossible for the BLO to mount large productions such as Wagner and "Otello," well now in this economic recession, that may be an advantage, as this article from the Washington Post describes the first casualty of the economic downturn being Wagner's "Ring" cycle which the Washington National Opera has postponed indefinitely.

Let's hope we get out of this recession soon so that all opera productions both big and small can be enjoyed by everyone :)

My Week's Work

This week I took one more stab at tracking down my 16th century friend. I looked through several online archives, searching the name that was given as the author of the book I had. Then I found a source listing the author as having a slightly different name, as in one letter difference. Apparently my friend is known as ConfortI as well as ConfortO. I should have tried that spelling before because I had heard it said that way but figured it was a mistake because I have seen the book.

So, I was then happy to find Mr. C does in fact have a page on Grove, which is a wonderful starting place. I also found a couple other citations that I will try to track down.

And yes, I do feel very silly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The presidency and the arts

In honor of election day, here is an article from yesterday's The Times (London), titled: "What will the new president do for the arts?"  It only briefly talks about the cultural activities in the US during the Bush years, and comments the current presidential candidates have made about the arts.  The article mentions films, books, plays, popular music, visual art, musical theater, etc.  Though not too surprising, I was quite disappointed to notice that nowhere in the article mentions classical music and related performance arts.  Nor does it mention anything about arts education in public schools.  Furthermore, I was also struck by this comment found after the end of the article by a reader:

"Who CARES?...We are in survival mode right now. Anyone concerned with the Presidents role in the arts has got to be economically unaffected, or someone whose job is "arts dependent" 
If for one moment you think that the Arts are important enough to even be discussed right now, than get real."

I thought to share this on here, so to hopefully start a discussion on the relationship between the arts and politics in the US.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lois McDonall -- new wiki idea

Lois McDonall is a Canadian, Operatic soprano. I have decided to devote a Wikipedia page either to her to Mary Morrison, who is another Canadian Soprano. I take special interest in both singers because not only are they important to me as Canadian singers but also, I have studied with each. This week, I would like to talk a little bit about Lois McDonall. Lois McDonall was my first mentor and in many ways, continues to be. She was born in Alberta in 1939. She was a semi finalist in the 1967 Met Auditions. This was the same year that she made her Canadian Opera Company debut. Ms. McDonall became a resident artist at the English National Opera and spent much of her career there. Her major roles include, Tosca, Constanze, Elsa from Lohingrin, Marschalin from Der Rosenkavalier, Donna Anna, Violetta, Freia, Miss Jessel from Turn of the Screw and many more. She is an expert in the music of Donizetti and Mozart. She has sung some rarer operas by Donizetti, such as the title role in Maria Padilla. Ms. McDonall has also premiered contemporary operas singing the title role in Anna Karenina (a role which was created for her) by Ian Hamilton and Mrs. Medlock in Stephen McNeff’s, The Secret Garden. In 1984, Lois McDonall thought at the Banff Centre and in the next year began to teach at the University of Toronto, where she retired from in 2001. She continues to teach in her private studio in the Toronto area. Many of her students have gone onto notable opera houses around the world, including Othalie Graham. Lois McDonall also has an extensive list of recordings which can be purchased online, if anyone is curious.

Just for the record

I posted a comment on Jessica's posting called "What music does..." It's down the page a bit, and I wanted to make sure to get credit for making a post this week.

Sarah Palin's Soundtrack

It's the night before election day, so I couldn't resist writing an election-themed post! This Youtube video of pianist Henry Hey accompanying a portion of an interview given by Sarah Palin to Katie Couric made me laugh so hard. Please watch it, it's super short (only a minute long) and it'll put a smile on your face, whether you're a Palin supporter or not.

Go out and vote tomorrow if you're registered in MA :)

We are not snobs.

As I was reading the Hewett, of course putting it on top of my previous reading of Cook, it occurred to me how bitter I was getting from all our transparent assumptions and canons and all. I know our authors here have written these books out of a love for music; it goes without saying, which is why they do not emphasize it. Without it, however, it is rather easy to see the whole view as more destructive than constructive criticism. Cook has this optimistic view, but mostly explains it at the end. The point is to know why we think what we think rather than deplore everything we think. I have been reminding myself of this fact.

For one thing, transparent assumptions are inevitable. Seeing them or not seeing them is functionally moot, because they have to occur for society to exist. If we did not assume composers were more important than performers then we might assume the opposite or something completely different, but we would assume something nonetheless. Hewett talks about a Malian wedding song being a whole, where Westerners assume music to be made of separate parts, but the indivisibility of the Malian song is also a transparent assumption. The music is sound just like any music and could be broken apart or kept together just the same. It is simply important to be aware that these assumptions exist in order to broaden our ways of thinking.

My second consolation is that the existence of the "canon" is not actually a bad thing. None of our authors have told us to toss it out. It is simply a thing, and they want us to know why it exists and, even more importantly, how it exists. I see the canon as a good thing, in perspective. It gives us a history, something against which to understand ourselves. Beethoven made good stuff. He is not divine, and the point is to understand why we might think he is and to open ourselves up to the possibility there are other things out there.

None of these are new to you, I know, but articulating them makes me feel better about the life of classical music, both past and future.

Posting links

I told someone I'd post an explanation of how to include links in blog postings, so here goes:

1. While you're creating a new post, highlight the text you wish to link. You can use any word or a web address:
2. With text selected, click on the "link" button- 5th from the left, picture of what I believe is an earth with a paper clip (or something)
3. This will bring up a dialog box that says: "Enter a URL" with a space for you to type. Type in the address you want to link to.
4. Click "OK"
5. The text you selected should now appear purple and underlined in the edit box. When you publish or click preview, it should show up as a link.

Hope this helps!

She's got a chicken to ride...

While reading Cook’s second chapter on words and music, I was interrupted by a fellow passenger (which happens a lot) who was interested in what I was reading. As I gave them the short version of the "Words, words, words", they brought up songs they knew, in which they misheard the lyrics and it completely changed the songs meaning. There is so much more that goes into the experience of listening to music, and words are only a part of it. Something as external as “what did I do today” can influence how we respond to what we hear.
Cook says that the moment we try to isolate the purely musical, we are “forced into the realm of metaphor”. I certainly notice that the first connections I make when I hear a new piece is the imagery the music makes me feel. I have to wonder if television is to blame. As a child of educational program, I have always had a visual element in the learning experience, and visuals are a powerful educational tool. Is it so surprising that, when listening to music, the first thing that pops into my brain is an image?

Maybe I just watched too much Loony Tunes.

On the subject of misheard lyrics, this might make you chuckle warmly. It is a comfort to know that many people impose their own meaning on music to the point where it changes what they hear.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Something's Cook - in' (sorry, I couldn't resist)

In order to find inspiration for my post this week, I decided to open up International Piano, a magazine about...well...piano. One of the articles, titled "First Among Equals," (written by Tully Potter) discusses the playing and recording life of Rudolf Serkin.

What I found interesting was that, according to the article, Serkin's reception by the U.S. was unlike that of Schnabel, Horzowski, and Petri, because Serkin was actually accepted and became quite well known.

I don't know how accurate this author's account is of the other pianists - I was aware that Horzowski never became incredibly famous in the U.S., but was surprised to find that the same was true at first of Schnabel. This made me think of Cook's comments about music and critical theory.

Horzowski and Schnabel are, of course, not the only pianists (or musicians, for that matter) to have met this fate. Many have attained a higher status in other countries and not here. It raises the question: who makes this decision? What is it based on? How could a European or Russian audience be riveted by a player and not a U.S. audience? In most cases, my guess is that the audience doesn't get much of a chance to have a say. If the players that are revered in the U.S. become what is important in performance, what players like Schnabel have to add is what becomes absent in the discourse. This, is, of course, problematic - not just according to critical theory, but I think, on principle.

On a much smaller note, Potter also calls Serkin's playing of Mozart "masculine" and "sometimes even muscular". This, of course, also made me think of Cook.

Finally, for those of you aren't aware, The Rest is Noise is now available in paperback. Yay!