Tuesday, November 30, 2010
link to video and article
Overall, something about this book really bothered me, but I'm having trouble figuring out what it is. I have been brain-storming and came up with a list of troubling issues (in no particular order):
1. When I first picked up this book, I thought that Hewett would be discussing "healing the rift" between art music and popular music. Yet, I was surprised that he is really only concerned with merging modernist music (as he calls it) back into the traditional "classical" tradition. This is strange to me, because I automatically consider modernist music to be part of the larger Western art music tradition, though not necessarily representative of the sole path to the future. To me, a much larger and more serious problem is that there is such a divide today between art music and popular music, to the point where it can't be "cool" to listen to classical music. Furthermore, many people have difficulty understanding how someone could like both popular music and classical music equally. Hewett does discuss popular music, though he seems to constantly dismiss it as much as possible.
2. Formulaic writing. Many passages in the book read as follows: make point, list composers and pieces that demonstrate point, throw in some obscure vocabulary, repeat. Obviously, Hewett has to list some specific pieces to back up his points, but I felt like there were moments when he was listing composers and/or using vocabulary for no other purpose than to show how well-read and intelligent he is. I am fully prepared to admit my being wrong about this - just my impression.
3. A bias towards the ideal of pure music and a real hatred of "expressivity." Let's face it - it's hard (if not impossible) to write music without thinking of something. Personally, I don't believe in pure music but Hewett most obviously does. ("We always have a distant, oblique relation with a piece of classical music, if it's good." (262); "...it is only when people discover how to listen that music can be freed from its subservience to words..." (264)). In particular, you can feel his hatred for film music or anything written to support a text (see pp. 245, 248). Really? What about opera? What about rap and hip-hop, for that matter? Of course, lines have to be drawn, but implying that "expressivity" is bad is simply not a solid enough criterion for determining the value of a work.
4. Uncharitable interpretation of others' writings. You can find a particular example of this on pp. 250-251 where Hewett quotes Robin Holloway. Hewett accuses Holloway of believing that musical development exists independent of history. Yet, the included quote does not seem to say that. My interpretation is that Holloway is simply saying that there is not always only one path forward, though in retrospect it can seem that way. Things could have gone differently - that's it. Yet, Hewett really tears into Holloway on this relatively innocuous statement.
5. The accusation that popular music (and pretty much all other musics other than Western art music) lack "craft." "...what's missing [in popular music] is the element of syntax, the craft, that gives the dialectic something to work on. So all we're left with is authenticity...an attitude all too easily struck by the untalented." That's a pretty broad and bold statement to make about a field that, size-wise, easily dwarfs art music. Is there a lot of junk in pop music? Absolutely. Is there no craft at all? Well...
I feel juvenile and perhaps a bit uncultured listing negative points, but it does feel cathartic to get it down in print. Do any of you feel the same way about these issues? I should say that there are many things I liked about Hewett's book. He has a good mix of serious tone and humor, and he has some really great moments where he tackles complex issues in a frank, objective and conversational style. He is totally correct about the multiplicity of influences we have today, and his discussions of authenticity and the development of modernist music in the 20th century were fascinating. Nevertheless, I find it hard to like the book given some of the large flaws and biases I encountered.
Sorry for the long post!
Here it is, my article on David Noon, composer.
I hope that it meets the high standard already set! Please, you all are super smart, if you have suggestions to improve it, let me know.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Being that I live in Boston, I haven't been able to attend any of the concerts (althought I wanted to), but I have been reading the reviews as they hit the web. I think it is interesting to think about themed festivals, or in a more practical sense for our own performing, themed concerts. Just how loosely can a group of concerts (or pieces) be strung together to maintain a theme? Is it really always just a marketing ploy, or can a thoughtful grouping of concerts/pieces really illuminate our understanding?
NY Times Article
Lincoln Center Festival Page
Also, on a completely unrelated note, I also completed my professional website. Take a look!
I just posted my first official Wikipedia article (it's kind of exciting!). It can be found here. Please give me any feedback or comments you may have. I also informed Voceditenore about the page's existence so we will see what (he/she?) has to say.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I'm planning to add some information on the compositions, like background information etc.
This is what I have so far for my Wikipedia article:
Christian Lauba (Born 1952) is a famous teacher and composer who was born in Sfax, Tunisia. He studied music at the Conservatory of Bordeaux. He won First Prize for composition in the class of Michel Fuste-Lambezat. In 1983 he won the SACEM prize, which is a prestigious music reward. In 1984 he won the Medal of Honor of the City of Bordeaux, and in 1994 he won first prize in the Berlin International Composition Competition. He has taught many master classes in composition and lectured at many universities including: Bowling-Green located in Ohio, Winnipeg located in Canada, and the University of Maryland. He has received a substantial amount of commissions from the French state, several contemporary music ensembles, and all kinds of orchestras. His works have been performed all over the world.  Some may know Christian Lauba also as Jean Matitia.
* The Devil's Rag
* Neuf Etudes for saxophone (Nine etudes for saxophone)
Here's just a few of the established composers that I am "friends" with on the Book-of-Faces:
Ricky Ian Gordon
John Luther Adams
Additionally, I "like" Aaron Jay Kernis and John Adams, and get really interesting feeds from them. I know that this may not be as cool to someone else, but it really makes me happy!
It was a ten year project, and over a half-a-billion dollars was raised for the building. The new wing is spread over four stories and covers ancient american civilizations to contemporary art from the last twenty years. EVERY last piece of it is amazing. I could go on gushing for pages about all of the amazing things I saw, but I won't, I'll just tell you that you should go!
Here's the website in case your want to take a look:
P.S. I will share one thing I learned that had to do with a conversation we had earlier this semester. We briefly had a conversation about the "french" sound of BSO when we were talking about the organ in Symphony Hall. Well, Boston had a french connection long before the BSO was founded.
Around the late 1880s, there were exhibitions of French impressionist paintings in Boston. Several key Boston painters, then traveled to France to study and soak in the movement at its source. Upon their return, they began to create impressionistic paintings of the Boston area, which became all the rage.
The MFA has an incredible collection of these paintings and it is fascinating to see just how much Boston was in love with the french!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
My father is an avid collector of classical recordings and movie soundtracks, so I have been surrounded by the sounds of instrumental music ever since I was a boy. One of the "games" we would play with movie soundtracks was guessing what piece or style the composer was imitating. Doesn't the "Imperial March" from Star Wars somewhat resemble "Mars" from Holst's The Planets? The Superman theme is based on the same octave and fifth structure as Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra. The music describing Tatooine's desert in Star Wars is almost a direct transcription of the opening of Part Two in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
This game can also be played with many "serious" orchestral works as well. The 4th movement of Shostakovich's 9th Symphony sounds a lot like a particular section of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Webern's Passacaglia has moments that resemble the final movement of Mahler's 6th Symphony. Countless pieces invoke strains of Wagnerian harmony, or bear the mark of the composer doing all he/she can to create something decidedly anti-Wagner.
In most cases, so long as the composer employs some art, subtlety and skill in the imitation, my reaction is usually, "Wow, that's cool! It's neat to see how this composer re-used that technique/color/sound in a slightly different way or context." Others who I have discussed this with in casual conversation also seem to have the same reaction. But I feel that this is a reaction which can only be admitted to "off the record" - in the presence of our academic peers and colleagues, we, as musicians (and especially composers), must show more discretion and taste. This taste must be demonstrated by deriding creations such as film scores and anything not purely "original."
I am not saying that every film score, TV commercial, or derivative composition deserves merit. There are certainly many examples of crass, hollow, cliché imitations of older works. But, I believe it is a mistake to dismiss anything not written as "serious, original music" as pastiche (to use a word of Hewett's).
Monday, November 15, 2010
Thank you so much for sending this article. It was an interesting read because of these two paragraphs:
"In 1994 Mr. Eicher coaxed Mr. Garbarek and the Hilliard members, all veterans of multiple ECM sessions, to collaborate in a fusion of Renaissance vocal music with gentle saxophone improvisations. The resulting disc, “Officium,” became a surprise hit. Two more albums followed; the newest, “Officium Novum,” issued in October and the focus of Friday’s event, mixes traditional Armenian songs with selections by Pérotin, Mr. Pärt, Mr. Garbarek and others. The concert reaffirmed the eloquence and taste with which Mr. Garbarek insinuates himself into the Hilliard Ensemble’s keenly focused silken sound. Playing soprano saxophone exclusively, he echoed and elaborated on motifs plucked from one vocal line or another, underscoring the music’s wistful, yearning qualities. "
"In the Armenian songs — mostly arrangements by Gomidas, a revered Armenian priest, composer and musicologist — Mr. Garbarek evoked the nasal sound and expressive bends of the duduk, an Armenian reed instrument. Elsewhere his coolly soulful playing conjured a pastel blues."
I thought it was interesting because many people don't really think about saxophone as a sacred instrument. There is a book that I will show you everyone in class tomorrow entitled The Devil's Horn by Michael Segell. It has a different take on the saxophone which I found interesting that goes along with this article Mr. Jackson sent to my email. This is a great book I read probably about 5 years ago, I will read some passages that I found interesting, and see your reactions to it. Hopefully we will all get a chance to read this article and the book sometime over our breaks.
While investigating about the stream of online resource pertaining to this subject, I came across articles both promising and demising. What I would have guessed, and found to be correct, is that there are orchestral musicians that are being paid on average about 22k per year in certain areas. What I would have not guessed and learned was that this is indeed not the norm. While musicians are not the best payed professionals in the world, they are not the worst. The best symphonies of the country are paying most section players 6 figure salaries if not close to it. I was very amazed by this fact, as the general out look on the salary of a musician is not a particularly pleasant one.
I do realize however that jobs paying as such are very few and far between, however the fact that they even exist gave me some hope. After conducting further research on this matter, I found that on average most full-time symphonies pay their musician somewhere between 40,000 to 60,000 a year. This is not much, but when you consider that even full-time orchestral musicians really only work about 25 hours a week, this not that bad. Most orchestral musicians do not see themselves as more than just that. We are often told of the dream of being a soloist or touring chamber musician and taught by many people who have done just that at conservatories and lose sight of the realistic world. We begin to think that because we are 20 something years old and have not toured around the world or won international competitions we are failures or third-rate musicians, which is far from the case!
Just because we are not the in the 1% population of intentionally recognized classical musicians, does not mean we can not be productive, appreciated and financially stable citizens of the world. Using my personal educational background as reference one can easily see this statement to be true. Having graduated from James Madison University, a widely-respected and top scholarly university of Virginia, I already have gained the credibility to work jobs in fields both related and non-related to music effectively and the ability to climb the professional ladder faster than many of my peers. During my time at JMU I was required to take two years of piano and a Keyboard Proficiency Exam at the end of it all making me a credible piano teacher for beginners. Once I have completed the Master of Music program at Longy, my credibility as many other professions will open. I will have the knowledge to teach alongside piano, violin, viola and even music theory and can do all of these things privately or within an institution.
With a good combination of confidence and marketing skill I can create a profitable lifestyle for myself. I have found that this is just what most musicians are lacking. Very few orchestral musicians actually have bios and even fewer still have a website. What the reason for this is I am sure can vary, but I am also sure that it is probably because most of them don't see themselves as important or good enough to have such things. I certainly felt that way for a very long time and am just now trying to break that habit. If that habit is broken, I gain new access to doors I never even knew existed. Doors of a more well-rounded life, both professionally and financially. A life that I must say I am very attracted to.
Here are a couple of sources I used as I explored this topic:
Berklee School of Music Statistics
Children's Music Workshop - Pros and Cons to a Career in Orchestral Music
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Today is truly a "report from the front" as I am writing to you from Salt Lake City, UT! I took an audition yesterday for the Utah Symphony and will be returning to Boston tomorrow (though not in time for class). In any case, I do have something to share.
It may not look like much, but I have begun assembling the Wiki page for the Juventas New Music Ensemble. For now, I am just doing this as a sub-page under my user name, but I will transfer it to a real Wiki page once it is ready and has enough sources. I would love your feedback regarding the layout, content (what little of it there is), and any suggestions for other categories you think I might need. Does anyone know of any other well-known new music ensembles who have Wiki pages that I might refer to?
Also, I can't figure out how to explain my references with additional text. For example, my first reference appears as the full link "http://www.boston....etc" but I would like to put something before it that says, "Boston Globe, 1 December 2009, etc..." Has anyone figured out how to do this? Professor Jackson?
Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you all next week, or sooner!
Best wishes (from the front),
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
While the Sphinx's Organization goals are important, are they really being realized? According to the Sphinx Organization's website its vision is as follows:
"We envision a world in which
classical music reflects cultural diversity
and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth."
Likewise its mission includes, but is not to limited to "...To administer youth development initiatives in underserved communities through music education..."
I am not sure if everyone in class may have noticed, but while Dr. Jackson and I were speaking of this organization I found myself not in awe of its accomplishments, but instead more removed from it. I realized this fact after class and began to wonder why that might have been my initial reaction to an organization representing something that should at surface level at least be inspiring to me.
While I ruminated my reaction to this, I stumbled upon the reasoning for my reaction. While this is a very strong opinion of mine, I do realize that it is indeed just that. I don't therefore claim anything I am going to state next to be a fact, but rather the candid emotion I feel.
The first thought that comes to mind when I think of Sphinx is the competition it holds annually for Black and Latino string players. This competition is held in two divisions: Jr. and Sr. Division. I have noticed over the years that while every student that has won this competition has been of the racial background designated, they are also of a very fortunate musicial background. For instance, in the past three years within the Sr. division there has not been one alumni of the sphinx competition that is a student outside of the typical famous music schools one would expect every virtuoso to attend. Each Jr. division alumni is typically a student that attends world-renowned musical festivals and have been playing since in incredibly early age. This in no way allows any of the alumni to be defined as "underprivileged" within the culture of the classical world.
I do realize however that this is in the context of competition and so of course only the best of the best will or can be recognized. I decided to take the time to research more into the outreach programs that the Sphinx Organization operate to see if perhaps they truly attempt to reach the underprivileged children or students of the country. Unfortunately, my predictions came true as I saw no sign of an outreach to truly underprivileged children. While the programs are attended for public schools, mainly of urban areas where more minority students reside, the programs also all happen to be within about a 20 mile radius of the major music schools in America where these children most likely already have plenty of opportunity to become involved in the classical music world. Most of the programs are in New York (Julliard camp), Boston (Obvious huge classical scene), Cleveland (CIM camp), etc. This is very disheartening to me because they are not really reaching the students that are truly underprivileged in a cultural sense. Musical-culturally underprivileged kids that are not already surrounded by big music scenes are not even attempted to be reached.
I honestly haven't heard of the Sphinx Organization much earlier than most of you. In fact, I was never even told of its existence until my sophomore year of undergraduate school while I was attending the Encore School for Strings which happens to be based in CIM and which many Curtis Institute students attend! I had not heard of any program pertaining to classical music outside of public school for that matter before college, but not having heard of this program until I reached a certain level of ability on my own is especially frustrating for me. The students who are truly underprivileged culturally are left in the dark to attempt to create what is essentially a miracle - that is a career for themselves in the music world with no real help.
Furthermore, it is frustrating already to have to constantly be reminded that I and the very few students like me or perhaps future students like me that are lacking in such important knowledge until it is practically too late will have to struggle feeling as though they are playing the ultimate game of catch-up because of something that is completely out of their control. While I do realize that breaking into the music world is very difficult for everyone in general, there is a much smaller percentage of people that are attempting to follow their dream with such a big disadvantage and even fewer still that don't even get the opportunity to consider this route as a possible dream, because of the lack of resources around them. To be quite honest this situation creates an emotion even stronger than frustration, but I am compelled to exercise a certain amount of control given the context in which I am discussing this subject.
Here is a link to the organization if you wish to learn more about it yourself: Sphinx's Website
Monday, November 1, 2010
Let me know what all of you think tomorrow, but here are some possible topics that I will do for my Wikipedia assignment:
1.) Christian Lauba - famous composer, teacher, and saxophonist
2.) Saxophone fingerings (surprisingly no fingering charts on how to play the saxophone notes)
3.) Dr. Andrew Boysen - composer/conductor (primarily of wind ensemble music) - worked with Dr. Boysen at UNH in my undergrad, so being in direct contact with him through email might be nice
4.) Doubling - playing more than one instrument (it would be hard to do a conceptual idea of this)
5.) Astor Piazzolla's - Historie du tango (History of the tango) - write about the piece, discuss the movements etc. Surprisingly, a popular piece among flutists/guitarists, and not written about at all on Wikipedia!
The reason I think the saxophone fingerings would be best is because I know what fingerings work. If you didn't believe me as a source, any saxophonist out there that is reading the article can see that I'm truthful in my answers.
There was a lot that Wikipedia had, and there was a lot that Wikipedia didn't have. If you guys have other suggestions of what I should do for my final project let me know- I'm looking forward to this, I can't wait to dive into the world of cyberspace!
I have been doing some work and thinking on Wikipedia. My newly updated user page can be seen here.
I have been struggling a bit to find subjects for new articles, but I have come up with the following ideas (subject to change):
Juventas New Music Ensemble (a Boston-based group)
Lowell House Opera (a Cambridge-based group)
Brass instrument extended technique (listed as an entry that needs creating)
Hand-stopping (a horn technique - the article exists but it needs expanding)
multiple tonguing (an extended brass technique, could tie in to the larger article)
flutter-tongue (article exists, but it needs sources, expansion, and could also tie-in)
I am open to other ideas. If anyone has noticed anything lacking in their Wikipedia travels that you think I might do well to write on, please let me know!
the Einfall (p. 31) - German word for an "idea, notion, thought or incidence."
sui generis (p. 54) - Latin phrase meaning "of its own kind" or "unique."
solipsism (p. 54) - a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing. Also, extreme egocentrism.
untrammeled (p. 54) - "trammeled" means 1) to catch or hold as if in a net, 2) to prevent or impede the free play of. "Untrammeled" is simply the opposite of these definitions, basically meaning unrestrained or free.
ineffability (p. 55) - "ineffable" = 1) incapable of being expressed in words; indescribable; unspeakable, 2) not to be uttered; taboo.
hypertrophy (p. 57) - 1) excessive development of an organ or part, 2) exaggerated growth or complexity.
inchoate (p. 61) - being only partly in existence or operation; imperfectly formed or formulated - formless, incoherent.
insouciantly (p. 62) - "insouciance" = lighthearted unconcern; non-chalance.
plenum (p. 63) - 1) the quality or state of being full, 2) a general assembly of all members, especially of a legislative body.
Ruthenes (p. 64) - a culturally-loaded term broadly referring to East Slavic peoples. A Latin term which refers to the Slavic Orthodox people who lived in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
neurasthenic (p. 68) - "neurasthenia" - a psychological disorder marked especially by easy fatigability and often by lack of motivation, feelings of inadequacy and psychosomatic symptoms - compare Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Hope this expands your vocabularies as it did mine!