Monday, October 25, 2010

Wikipedia Topics

Here's my Wikipedia user page: User Page

And here are my five proposed topics:

1. The International Alliance of Women in Music
2. The Utah Children's Choir (Kay Asay, conductor)
3. John Morrison, composer
4. The Longitude New Music Ensemble
5. Jody Rockmaker, composer

I've contacted the IAWM about establishing a Wikipedia page, and they're excited about the prospect and willing to support me. Hsiao-Lan wrote and said, "This is a great idea! We have been wanting to have an IAWM presence on wikipedia and have had some discussions about this. We really just need someone to jump start the project. Too much pre-planning makes things complicated sometimes." Sounds like a go!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Boris Godunov" and Popcorn

Opera is for stuffy old rich people.

Or is it?

Yesterday, I took a four-hour bus trip to New Haven to watch "Boris Godunov" broadcast live from the Met. It was a riveting experience (the opera, not the bus ride. . .although the leaves are beautiful at this time of year.) :-)

In some ways, I think I enjoyed the broadcast performance more than I could have enjoyed front row seats at the actual Met. Through the lens of a camera, I was able to experience the dramatic and musical prowess of the performers in a very intimate way. I was also able to witness interviews with the leads, the director, and the conductor and to follow the cast backstage as set pieces were switched during each of the three intermissions. And what's more, I was able to snack on peanut butter cups and popcorn without fear of censure from pearl-laden old ladies peering through opera glasses!

The movie theater in New Haven was packed. . .but my friend and I seemed to be the only two people under age fifty in attendance. :-) A season of live broadcasts from the Met seems like such a fantastic, gap-bridging concept, and I think that even young people who have never been exposed to opera might enjoy this sort of full-sensory experience (particularly in such an informal setting). So why didn't I see more--as in any--Yale students there? Come on, kids; you can come in sneakers and bring your popcorn!

The four-plus-hour opera was lavishly-produced (at any given point, there might be 150+ chorus members, elaborate set pieces, and even live horses on the stage!), artistically-directed, and beautifully-acted and sung. The plot itself is a bit more substantial than your typical operatic storyline, and the characters were uniformly well-developed and well-performed (Mussorgsky's through-composed score helps the actors to delve, quite successfully, into the inner psyche of their characters). According to one reviewer, "German basso Rene Pape dominates the stage as Boris. A big man with a big voice and a big personality, Pape delivers the sort of visceral operatic experience one does not often get these days. But Boris is not just big, he is complex: he must also be a loving father to his children and the reflective, concerned father to his people. Pape gives us a multidimensional character whose musings and troubles linger with us long after the performance has ended. Bravo!"

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to a youtube clip from the broadcast: Boris Godunov Clip

Dallas Opera FAQ's

Sorry, I'm going crazy on posts today, but I could not resist! I was surfing the Dallas Opera website for another assignment, and came across their FAQ page. If you have a minute or two, read down the list of questions and responses. They seem to be trying to de-mystify some of the opera-going experience. Now, I don't know how many people actually read this page, but I think it is really great that they put it up.


Wikipedia Username & ideas

Here's the link to my user page.

Here are some ideas I have been working on:

David Noon, composer/educator
Neil Rosenshein, tenor
Red Light New Music Ensemble, NYC
Reiko Füting - composer

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is Hip-Hop Dead?

For a longtime now there has been an on-going debate about the status of hip-hop. “Hip-Hop is dead” is something that many people have declared time and time again and multiple rappers and fans alike have been sharing their views on the state of Hip-Hop. The usual areas of interest when this comes up are “Old School vs. New School” and the importance of Lyrical content vs. Entertainment. This lines up very nicely with what classical music has been through many times before and is going through now.

Old School Hip-Hop would be the 80’s through about mid 90’s and New School would be from the mid 90’s to the Present. Generally the older generation feels that the true era of Hip-Hop, when it was real and meant something is long gone and all that is left is trashy, meaningless music. The younger generation, however, feels that Hip-Hop has only become more diverse and open to new styles that were not around before and is no were near dead.

Many Hip-Hop artists have claim that they are determined to stop Hip-Hop from dying. Nas completed in entire Album pertaining to the death of Hip-Hop and how he plans to revive it titling an album “Hip hop is Dead”. Jay-Z after declaring to be retired decided to make a comeback album title “Kingdom Come” to save Hip-Hop. Lil’ Wayne can be found stating in many songs that he and Hip-Hop are one and that it would be nothing without him. In his song “Dr. Carter” he equates himself and other rappers to doctors of Hip-Hop stating what is needed in Hip-Hop or a rapper with his last line being “I saved your life”.

Clearly Hip-Hop is not dead in terms of popularity, but the authenticity of its musical style is always being questioned not only by the public, but performers themselves.

Jay-Z and Bing working together

Hip-Hop Performer Jay-Z will be releasing his Memoir “Decoded” on Nov. 16th. While advertising of course will be at play, the form of advertisement in which Bing and Jay-Z has created is very innovative. The project is a world-wide scavenger hunt with the grand prize being a trip to Las Vegas to see Jay-Z and Coldplay in a New Year’s Eve concert. The full story is in the New York Times.

Link to full story.

Nicki Minaj: The Minority of Hip-Hop Music

Just as women are heavily under-represented in the classical world, women are heavily under-represented in Hip-Hop. Women are usually spoken about or to in Hip-Hop, but hardly ever actually have a voice themselves. The first women to really have a voice in hip-Hop are “Salt-n-Pepa” who were a duo. Since then, there have been very few females that have been able to stand on their own and really make it big. Some women those are famous include MC Lyte, Lil’ Kim, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot and Eve. While that may seem like a lot, there are many more male counterparts that have attained much greater success than females. At the moment Hip-Hop is still lacking in female representation with only one female rapper that is really famous right now, Nicki Minaj. While Nicki Minaj is a female, she is also the first openly bi-sexual rapper creating much buzz in the Hip-Hop world. While some are ok with her lifestyle and the way she chooses to represent herself, many question and sometimes even reject her. What’s more, many of the people who choose to view her negatively are mostly women. Namely three women that have recently commented on her style both life wise and musically are Pepa, Lil’ Kim, and Gloria Velez. Pepa questions her legitimacy as a role model, Lil’ Kim demands Minaj pay her due respect, and Velez down right admitted to just not liking or respecting her. While I believe she’s been under fire by women mainly because of others jealously, others may have different opinions. Links to the articles displaying the three criticisms are as follows:

Gloria Velez


Lil' Kim

The Best Rapper Alive

Lil’ Wayne was simply known as one of the most famous rappers of our time until he declared himself to be more. On December 6, 2005 Lil’ Wayne released his album “The Carter II” and claimed to be the best rapper alive on a song titled “Best Rapper Alive”. After he made this statement much debate arose to the discussion as to if this was in fact a true statement or merely an overly inflated ego grown out of control. Since the time of the album’s release he has collaborated with practically every famous hip-hop, R and B, and Pop and artists of other genres including Enrique Iglesias(Latin Pop), Jason Mraz(Indie Rock), Weezer(Alternative Rock), and even Madonna. Naturally being so exposed across so many different platforms of music (his album titled “Rebirth” is in even in the style of rock), he is very easily recognized all around the world.

The reason this is important is because a very good lesson can be learned from this. What if Classical music were to be approached in the same sense in which Lil’ Wayne approached his career. To declare it as the best music around and to spread its influence across every musical and cultural platform possible until everyone had no choice, but to listen to its voice. As many people say these days, “Is there any song Lil’ Wayne isn’t in?” to which one could respond, “Yes. One that people don’t know”.

More Information about Lil' Wayne.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Definition of ESSENTIALIZE

: to express or formulate in essential form : reduce to


Errol Morris's chilling New York Times series on unknown unknowns, mentioned today in class.

Nkosi Sikeleli Africa videos

Hey all,

I thought this would be helpful in light of our Cook readings.

This is a traditional version of the song before it became the national anthem.

This is the official national anthem version as sung at the Rugby World Cup in 2007.

Even though it's the same music, these versions feel quite different. I feel like the latter version has been "Anglicized" - it sounds much more like a European chorale or hymn than a traditional South African song. What do you think?


Symphony Hall Organ

I will admit that this is copied from a summary of the organ, but it seemed all too perfect and concise:

The Symphony Hall organ, a 4,800-pipe Aeolian-Skinner (Opus 1134) designed by G. Donald Harrison, installed in 1949, and autographed by Albert Schweitzer, is considered one of the finest concert hall organs in the world. It replaced the hall's first organ, built in 1900 by George S. Hutchings of Boston, which was electrically keyed, with 62 ranks of nearly 4,000 pipes set in a chamber 12 feet deep and 40 feet high. The Hutchings organ had fallen out of fashion by the 1940s when lighter, clearer tones became preferred. E. Power Biggs, often a featured organist for the orchestra, lobbied hard for a thinner bass sound and accentuated treble.
The 1949 Aeolian-Skinner reused and modified more than 60% of the existing Hutchings pipes and added 600 new pipes in a Positiv division. The original diapason pipes, 32 feet in length, were reportedly sawed into manageable pieces for disposal in 1948.
In 2003 the organ was thoroughly overhauled by Foley-Baker Inc., reusing its chassis and many pipes, but enclosing the Bombarde and adding to it the long-desired Principal (diapason) pipes, adding a new Solo division, and reworking its chamber for better sound projection.

Æolian-Skinner Organ Company, Inc. — Æolian-Skinner of Boston, Massachusetts was an important American builder of a large number of notable pipe organs from its inception as the Skinner Organ Company in 1901 until its closure in 1972. Key figures were Ernest M. Skinner (1866-1960), Joseph Whiteford, and G. Donald Harrison (1889-1956). The company was formed from the merger of the Skinner Organ Company and the pipe organ division of the Æolian Company in 1932.

Here is a link to photos taken when the organ was re-built in 2003.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Interesting Statistics

Kind of random, but a friend of mine posted this article on Facebook and I found it interesting. Make sure you scroll down to occupation number 1 on the list!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Performance Practice

There are experts who have read everything about certain performance practices, and have developed an opinion on how to play certain kinds of "classical" music, like the Baroque period. The biggest debate among many musicians is how to play certain pieces of music. Most classically trained musicians want to play with the correct style that each piece fits in. There are certain ways to ornament notes, and there are certain ways to articulate notes so it sounds like a piece from the Baroque era. Some musicians may think that you start with the trill with the above note, or start the trill with the lower note. How would one truly know how certain pieces were played? There are no recordings of the pieces from that period of time, and there is no one who lived during that era that is alive. It is really hard to say what is correct or incorrect.

I immediately thought of Glenn Gould while writing this post, who plays many Baroque pieces on the piano. If you lived during the Baroque era, you would typically play any of Bach's pieces on the harpsichord. The thing about the harpsichord, is that you cannot change the volume, because every note is at one dynamic level. One plays expressively with the tempo by speeding up and slowing down to play expressively and in the style that Bach might have played. One may chose to slow down at a cadence to play "expressively." The reason I bring up Glenn Gould is because first of all, he plays Bach's music on the piano, not on the harpsichord. He plays with the volume by playing certain sections louder than others. He also plays the pieces almost like you would from the Romantic era by having these long lush lines on the piano. He plays the trills a certain way, that someone from the Baroque period might not have played. He is one of my favorite pianists to listen to, and there are some that don't like his playing because he does not fit the Baroque style of playing. Is this really that big of a deal to play music a certain way?

I think the main point here that I'm trying to make is to say that there is no wrong or right way to play music. I believe one should play music to the style that is enjoyable to them, and there will always be someone out there that may not like the style that you play, and that's okay. I also believe that a musician who can play in the style that others might enjoy or want as well as playing their own style is a true musician. I believe this because it shows that you truly understand others opinions, and you have also formed your own.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

One of the most important composers of our time.

This is an article from today's New York Times on the composer Arvo Part. In the midst of the world's hustle and bustle, the simplicity of his music can be arresting. As a singer, I am most familiar with his choral works, as I have had the chance to perform several of them over the years. However, I know he is an equally gifted instrumental composer.
In the context of our class conversations, he seems like a composer who who is completely unconcerned with whether his music is considered 'highbrow' or 'lowbrow'. He simply writes for the universal human spirit, which has no class or economic divisions. I did find it interesting though that he is now writing mostly for commissions, which ends up being only for those people or groups that can afford it....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Recipe for Success from the "Cook Book"

Today in class, we discussed Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony. I was struck by the uniformly powerful effect that this piece seems to have had on most of the members of our class, and I enjoyed the quote we read aloud (I'm paraphrasing here): "I'm not a religious person, but when I listen to Mahler, I become religious. He somehow manages to capture a sense of the infinite." A quick google search after class revealed page after page of listeners who have had similar experiences with Mahler's 2nd; sheer numbers will prove that this piece has the power to effect change! So what endows a musical work with this kind of evocative, uplifting, altering power? Does the power lie in the music itself (in its craft and composition)? Does it rest in some musical allusion to a universal human journey, some expression of absolute truth? Does it demand something from its audiences (and if so, what)?

Here's what it seems to boil down to for Cook:

*The composer's job: To create an environment where listeners can experience music as a natural phenomenon while recognizing it as a human construction and then to use this "hidden persuader" to cross barriers created by faulty assumptions.

*The audience's job: To listen with open ears and minds, ready to gain insight into other cultures/subcultures (in a word, to be willing to consider and possibly accept new forms/levels of truth).

*The net result: The ability to bridge cultural gaps, to encourage individuals and societies to reconstruct their own identities, and to effect lasting, positive change.

Here's the full quote:

"If both music and musicology are ways of creating meaning rather than just of representing it, then we can see music as a means of gaining precisely the kind of insight into the cultural 'other' that a pessimistic musicology proclaims to be impossible. If music can communicate across barriers of difference, it can do so other barriers as well. One example is music therapy, where music communicates across the cultural barrier of mental illness. But the most obvious example is the way we listen to the music of other cultures (or, perhaps even more significantly, the music of subcultures within our own broader culture). We do this not just for the good sounds, but in order to gain some insight into those cultures. And if we use music as a means of insight into other cultures, then equally we can see it as a means of negotiating cultural identity. Music becomes a way not only of gaining some understanding of the cultural 'other' but also of shifting your own position, constructing and reconstructing your own identity in the process. Music, in short, represents a way out of cultural pessimism. If we don't experience music as though it were a phenomenon of the natural world then we cut ourselves off from a means of overcoming difference. But at the same time we need to know that music is not a phenomenon of the natural word but a human construction. It is the ultimate hidden persuader."

Do we agree?

Conflicts in Detroit

From todays New York Times: Violinist Sarah Chang gets drawn into union battles in Detroit.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Challenge

By the end of my second post in this class, I came to the conclusion that we need to change the context of our music concerts; to somehow re-package them. I have full-faith in the musical product, but I believe we may have taken the personal aspect out of the experience.
After we talked about it in class, it boiled down to; well, how do you change it? So, that got me thinking. In this new musical utopia, what would my new concert experience be like? Would it be longer, or shorter? Would I talk more than I sang? Would I play things twice if someone wanted to hear it again? Would I let people clap whenever they wanted?
Well, I think it is time to put my money where my mouth is. I have a piece of music that was written for me and another singer, that is prepared and ready to premier, but have no date set. Could we, my fellow music-makers, devise a concert experience that breaks out of the social norms of the usual graduation recital that we see quite often? If we (granted I do have my own ideas) come up with a plan, I am more than willing to put it into action, and then see what the public thinks. We're only going to change the future of classical music if we go out and actually try new things.

Thoughts on Entertainment and More Wagner

I was thinking about our discussion last week about art and entertainment, and a particularly relevant essay came to mind. It is called "Trickster in a Suit of Lights," and appears in Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon. Chabon is one of my wife Shannon's favorite writers (Shannon is a Ph.D. candidate in English). His writing is also very witty and fun. I will try and make copies for everyone tomorrow, but here are the first few sentences:

"Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives off a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of a movie-house lobby, of karaoke and Jägermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a Street Fighter machine grunting solipsistically in a corner of an ice-rink arcade. Entertainment trades in cliché and product placement..."

Chabon goes on to suggest:
"...Maybe the reason for the junkiness of so much of what pretends to entertain us is that we have accepted - indeed, we have helped to articulate - such a narrow, debased concept of entertainment."

Just like "art," "high culture," and "lowbrow," "entertainment" has inherited a lot of baggage regarding its meaning. Perhaps we can discuss this as a class tomorrow.

On another note, I wanted to mention that there is an awesome article on the MET's Ring cycle and how they are trying to change the image of opera in the latest edition of Newsweek. I will also try to xerox this for tomorrow.

Last chance to catch Mahler 2 tomorrow!

Hey all,

Just in case you didn't know, the BSO is performing Mahler 2 one last time tomorrow night at 8 PM. College Card tickets are available for the performance, and you can start picking them up at 10 AM at the BSO Box Office. I am going to go to the Box Office around 9:30 AM tomorrow to make sure I get a good place in line.

If you aren't doing anything tomorrow night and you haven't seen it already, you should definitely catch it! The BSO is one of the greatest symphonies in the world (no joke) and it is kind of amazing that we live mere miles away from their home!


Mahler 2

I must say, I too agree that the Mahler Symphony was absolutely incredible. It was actually the first Mahler I have ever seen live and I must say that I will never forget what a powerful piece it truly is. I was amazed by the playing of the BSO. There sound was unified and at times frightening, it seems that when they pull a big name out of the hat like Mahler they must also pull the big members of the BSO on stage for the performance. I have never seen so many original BSO members on stage at once before. Usually, they are mixed with either subs or subbing section players, but this was the BSO stacked. The soloists were incredible, the choir was off at times but their size and volume made up or any lack of musicality, and the organ entrance was both thrilling and disappointing. I know that me saying I wanted to be blown away with volume and force could be expected from others as well, James Levine's true genius was seen in that 4th movement. The organ only added to the sound, never once overtaking the orchestra, which then allowed the orchestra to grow to a full ff making a far more exciting overall experience. All and all, it was an incredible concert and I urge all of you to attend the next Mahler concert considering it is the REAL Boston Symphony Orchestra.