Classical Music Buzz > BOOM'S DUNGEON
BOOM'S DUNGEON
Boom
Much of what is in this blog is related (sometimes only tangentially) to art music. Occasionally I use insensitive language in referring to various arrogant or incompetent assholes who managed to get on my nerves. If you're squeamish about such language, then stay away from this blog. To contact me, use boomboomsky at gmail dot com.
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Another post strictly for fluent Russian speakers.
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In an advance article for the upcoming 1995 Proms premiere of Elliott Carter's Adagio tenebroso, the distinguished music critic (and later Carter's librettist) Paul Griffiths wrote:

[Carter] tells the story of how [in 1994], when he was working with Daniel Barenboim on the first performance of his Partita, Barenboim half-jokingly suggested he ought to write a comic opera next, and he half-jokingly said he would ... if Barenboim could get him a commissioning fee of a million dollars.  A little later, Barenboim came back from Europe to report success: Berlin would pay the required sum. (Times of London, 12 September 1995, italics mine)

A million dollars for a 40-minute long avant-garde opera?  I found it hard to believe, but then I recalled having read somewhere that only a couple of years earlier New York's Metropolitan Opera paid $325,000 commission fee to Philip Glass for his opera The Voyage.  And if Glass could get this much for stretching a few triads worth of musical material over three hours of rhythmic monotony, Carter's reported commission fee for What's Next does not seem all that striking.

Still, I wonder if the actual fee paid to Carter by Berlin's Staatsoper Unter den Linden was indeed the sum mentioned in Griffiths' article. 
1 year ago | |
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…I must once for all seriously undertake to rid myself of all the opinions which I had formerly accepted, and commence to build anew from the foundation…
Rene Descartes [1]
…if you do not make a clean sweep of all that you have inherited from the past … and adopt an attitude of fundamental doubt towards all accepted values, … you will never get any further.Pierre Boulez [2]
[My first fully serial composition] was an experiment in what might be called Cartesian doubt: to bring everything into question again, make a clean sweep of one’s heritage and start all over again from scratch.Pierre Boulez [3]
Pierre Boulez had a reputation as a Cartesian, and not just because he was French and in France Descartes inspires the kind of reverence accorded to vodka in Russia or to Jesus in the American South.  From his late twenties to the end of his long life, Boulez repeatedly described his musical theorizing as a Cartesian project of employing radical doubt to challenge every aspect of musical tradition with the aim of rebuilding compositional practice from scratch on the new foundation of integral serialism.[4]       Boulez’s Cartesianism has been duly noted by musicologists, though always in passing and without judgment, the way one mention’s a man’s height or his place of birth.  But why?  Imagine if it had been discovered that Boulez was inspired by, say, Mein Kampf.  Surely musicologists would have taken a close look at the relevant parts of that book, identified all sorts of bad thinking behind the words, and adjusted their assessment of Boulez’s intellect accordingly.  Since deranged tyrants do not have monopoly on bad thinking, my guess is that the free pass given to Boulez’s Cartesianism is due to the common acceptance of Descartes’ reputation as a great thinker.  In light of this reputation, a brief mention of Descartes’ ideas which inspired Boulez is all that needs to be said in the context of a musicological discussion.      The only problem with this way of treating Boulez’s Cartesianism is that, as a philosopher, Descartes was not a great thinker.  Not even a good one.  Which is to say he was pretty bad (though not as bad as some other members of the Great Philosophers Club).  And if Boulez was inspired by bad thinking imported from Descartes’ philosophy, this non-musical blind spot is worth noting for the sake of a more complete (and more realistic) perspective on the man.
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[Elliott Carter] walked out of Orchestra Hall before the [Chicago Symphony's] 1984 performance of his Symphony of Three Orchestras because he objected to the seemingly flippant tone of conductor Leonard Slatkin's spoken introduction.
John von Rhein, "Composer Elliott Carter has chosen a difficult road", Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1992.

I always like to talk about a difficult piece before I perform it. ... I meant no disrespect to Mr. Carter.  Simply because I don't like a particular piece of music doesn't mean I can't lead a performance. I even recorded the Pachelbel canon. 
     ... On the other hand, I still don't like Mr. Carter's symphony. ... I don't hear much in his work at all.  It's just a series of mathematical gestures, piled on with needless complexity.
Conductor Leonard Slatkin speaking to Tim Page in "An American Conductor Succeeds at Home", New York Times, May 20, 1984.


I take it as obvious that Leonard Slatkin's remarks in the above New York Times interview are those of an arrogant asshole with a seriously underdeveloped musical mind and a grotesquely inflated sense of self-importance.  What caught my eye in this interview, however, was not so much Slatkin's display of philistinism and rudeness - he isn't the only baton-waving hack to have insulted Elliott Carter - as his bragging about having performed musical works he actively dislikes. Slatkin's musical masochism made me wonder if, aside from being irrational, it is unethical for a musician to give public performances of music he actively dislikes and which he is not contractually obligated to perform.
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This post is for fluent Russian speakers only. Read more »
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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/97/NBC_News_logo.png

Homeowner Shoots Dead Robber 

Who Answered Craigslist Ad

(January 26, 2016)
When a headline from a major news outfit can be read as telling us that a dead person answered a Craigslist ad with the intention of committing a robbery, perhaps it is time to give up our fetishistic obsession with science and rationality and accept that zombies are real after all.

Then again, perhaps instead we should accept that the retards at NBC are simply incapable of recognizing semantic ambiguities as obvious as this one.  At least not right away.  A couple of days after its initial appearance, the above headline was changed to a saner version which reads "Homeowner fatally shoots robber who... etc."  Alas, the clean-up job wasn't thorough enough, leaving embarrassing traces not only elsewhere on the NBC website, but also in a number of other media outlets (e.g., Chicago Sun-Times) which picked up the original story from NBC.
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I.Caruso was waiting for me at a small public park in Studio City not far from his girlfriend’s house.  Ex-girlfriend’s house, to be precise.  About an hour earlier she threw him out and took away his car keys because she owned the car he had been driving.  The finality of their separation was certified by the ugly bruise on the left side of Caruso’s face.  The bruise was still spreading like a lunar eclipse when he limped to my car from one of the picnic tables near the parking area.     “Frying pan?” I asked after he planted himself in the passenger seat.     “Magazine,” he said.      I took another quick look at his purple cheekbone.  “Must have been Vogue.”     “Didn’t notice,” he sighed, “but the damn thing was thicker than a surfboard.  I really didn’t expect it.  Marina was holding it with both hands, like she was about to open it and read something.  I was in the middle of a sentence when she just swung it with a two-handed grip and whacked me in the face.”     “And the limp?”     “Tripped on something in the hallway.  I was in a hurry.”
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The above image comes from a brief scene in Woody Allen's film Irrational Man (2015), where one of the principal characters gives a piano recital at a small college auditorium.
     Assuming Woody Allen had not become senile by the time he made this film, I can think of only one plausible explanation for what seems to be an embarrassing display of cultural illiteracy by one of America's distinguished filmmakers.  Allen simply liked this particular composition of the scene and decided that viewers who insist that the purpose of a raised piano lid is to project sound toward the audience can go fuck themselves.

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No, not that Milton.  I am giving up on the music of Milton Babbitt.
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A superbly produced HD video of a 2015 concert performance of Elliott Carter's Clarinet Concerto (1996) by Moritz Roelcke and the young musicians of Orchester der Zürcher Hochschule der Künste conducted by the German-based American conductor Jonathan Stockhammer.  The highest 1080p video quality (choose by clicking on "HD" icon) comes with a 256 kbs AAC audio track which sounds vastly more realistic and natural than any of the currently available commercial studio recordings of this concerto.

Usually I find watching performances of serious music a total waste of a sensory modality, but in this case the visual experience enhances (if slightly) the theatrical aspect of Carter's musical design.  Throughout this concerto's seven short movements Carter pairs the soloist with different instrumental groups, and the soloist has to move around the stage (during brief orchestral interludes) to play each movement standing next to the designated instrumental group.
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