Classical Music Buzz > BOOM'S DUNGEON
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And why not?  Although v2  and  p are both irrational real numbers, the former is a lowly algebraic number while the latter is transcendental.  Surely that is enough for v2  to envy and hate its much hyped competitor!

Before you decide that I have completely lost it, let me point out that the above ascription of emotions to numbers is no more imbecilic than ascriptions of emotions to temporally organized pitches (along with durations, timbres, and amplitudes) which constitute a piece of music.  A recent example of this dimwitted psycho-musicology can be found in The Guardian (Sept. 24, 2015) where one Kate Molleson had this to say about the music of the Spanish modernist composer Christobal Halffter (italics mine):
He lived in Spain during the Franco regime and his music burns with the desire for non-violence and human rights.

Why a newspaper that employs competent and perceptive music critics like Tom Service would give space to vacuous babbling of a fucking retard like Ms Molleson is beyond me.  But so long as Ms Molleson continues to receive regular paychecks from The Guardian, I hope she gets to write on other subjects as well.  This way the world may learn that because Isaac Newton was abandoned by his mother at the age of three, his laws of motion burn with the resentment of parental neglect.  Or that because Alan Turing was gay, his mathematical model of computation - the Turing Machine - burns with the desire for handsome young men.

7 months ago | |
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A few days ago I had to give my students a very informal explanation of the notion of logical possibility: an entity or a state of affairs is 'logically possible' if its description does not involve a logical contradiction.  As usual, I started with a trivial example.  I said:

"I'll tell you the beginning of a story - just a couple of sentences - and then I'll stop and ask you if I should continue because you accept the beginning as describing something that is possible.  So, yesterday I was at a garage sale where I saw a coffee table in the shape of a square circle, i.e., the shape that is both a genuine square and an honest-to-goodness circle.  I bought this coffee table and brought it home."

Then I stopped and asked if I should continue.  One student, a cheerful young woman, immediately raised her hand and declared "No!"   "Good," I said encouragingly. "Now tell us why not?"   "Because who on earth would want to buy such a weirdly shaped coffee table!"
7 months ago | |
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According to Einstein's Special Relativity theory, the length of moving objects shrinks in the direction of motion.  The faster a thing moves, the shorter it becomes. 
I suppose this explains why I always have more legroom in my car than in a fucking airplane.?..

7 months ago | |
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There is no such thing as female orgasm.  I've had sex with dozens of women and it never happened.

Few people (especially women) would fail to see the joke in the above argument.  Yet the same faulty logic, which takes subjective experiences as reliable indicators of objective facts, seems to defeat the sense of humor in many music critics faced with evaluating the merits of new music.  Consider, as representative examples, the following excerpts from three different music critics reviewing new or very recent music (italics are mine):
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8 months ago | |
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Music making doesn't get more "authentic" or "historically informed" than this: an orchestral work performed by conductors who knew the composer very well (and were responsible for commissioning the work in question) and by highly skilled musicians fully capable of meeting the composer's demands for instrumental craft.  And of course the instruments played are those the composer himself would expect to hear in a concert hall.  Compared to these credentials, it is hard to see how the allegedly 'historically informed' performances of works from the Baroque and Classical eras could be anything more than wishful thinking of delusional amateurs and egomaniacal charlatans [1] financed and promoted by record labels desperate to find new ways to sell recordings of already numbingly over-played and over-recorded music.

The work in question - Elliott Carter's Symphonia: sum fluxae pretium spei (1993 - 1996) - also happens to be one of the great symphonies of the century, a work whose harmonic richness, rhythmic ingenuity, and (in the outer movements) sunny playfulness offer a seemingly inexhaustible source of intellectual and emotional rewards.  The five live recordings below (all from directly captured high bitrate webcasts) offer remarkably diverse perspectives on the music and, as a result, a proof that the very notion of "authentic" or "historically informed" performances is simply meaningless.[2]   (The last two of these recordings had been available on my blog before, but the old links are now dead and I thought it would be well to make them available again.)

1. Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin (2008 Berlin).  Barenboim, who premiered the first movement of this symphony (Partita) in Chicago, is the only conductor I know who sees a pronounced romantic streak in Carter's music.  (He is right.)  A good example is the hushed episode for strings and woodwinds about 4 minutes into the first movement, which Barenboim infuses with the sensuality of Mahler's Adagietto.

2.  Oliver Knussen and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1998 Manchester).  This is a BBC broadcast recording of the world premiere of the complete symphony. (Knussen's studio recording of this symphony for DG, fine as it is, feels rather lifeless by comparison.)

3.  Ryan Wigglesworth and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (2014).  This performance comes from one of last year's all-Carter concerts in Glasgow.

4.  Jaap van Zweden and Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (2007,  Concertgebouw).

5.  Emilio Pomarico and Deutsche Radio Philharmonie (2009 Berlin).  Perhaps it is a matter of recording balance (or somewhat compressed dynamic range), but Pomarico - who works regularly with such cutting edge bands as Ensemble Modern and Klangforum Wien - conducts the edgiest (perhaps 'hippest' would be apt) performance of this work.

To end on a rather melancholy note, not one of the above performances is by an American orchestra.  I suppose the American idea of patriotism does not go beyond waving a flag and stuffing oneself with hotdogs on the Fourth of July...
[1]  Not long ago I listened to a live broadcast of Christopher Hogwood conducting his 'period instrument' band Academy of Ancient Music in an all-Beethoven concert given in Utrecht in 1996.  The very opening of Beethoven's 2nd symphony - feeble, stuttering, and painfully out of tune - would have been enough to convince anyone that the reputation of this conductor was created and kept on life support in the editing rooms of recording studios.   Taken off this life support even for a single concert, it died a swift death within the first few bars of whatever composition was played first on the program.

[2]   The notion of performing a musical work "in the way the composer himself might have heard it" should have been recognized as sheer lunacy by anyone familiar with unimpeachably authentic yet radically different performances of Mahler's symphonies by the composer's disciples Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer.      
8 months ago | |
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If you will insist that, as a matter of fact, Hitler did not like 12-tone music, you are an over-educated imbecile who clings to a hopelessly outdated notion of truth as somehow rooted in facts.  I suggest you wake up and get acquainted with the modern, de-factualized notion of truth long championed by the sanctimonious and perpetually self-congratulating New York Times - not only in its political coverage (going as far back as its Pulitzer-earning reports of cheerful and happy life in the USSR during Stalin's purges) but also in its music criticism (a, b, c).
     A good example of the latter is Vivien Schweitzer's review of recent concerts of contemporary music at the Tanglewood Festival.  In describing compositional preferences of the featured composers, she had this to say about Elliott Carter:

Some of the featured composers, like Mr. Carter, were partial to the 12-tone method — a system for atonal music invented by Schoenberg in the 1920s involving all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. [1]

As a matter of fact, although Carter appreciated the 12-tone music of the Second Viennese School, he himself did not use the 12-tone method and had expressed a rather dismissive view of the method's aesthetic significance with respect to his own creative goals:

I have found that [the 12-tone method] is apparently inapplicable to what I am trying to do, and is more of a hindrance than a help. [2]

 Of course I do not suggest that Ms Schweitzer was deliberately lying in her review.  With no formal musical training and with only a superficial understanding of musical composition she is simply unqualified to write about serious music, let alone the complex post-War avant-garde music of Carter, Boulez, and Wuorinen.  Which, I would guess, is precisely what makes her such a valuable long-term asset to the New York Times - a sinking outfit desperate to plug its financial leaks by replacing highly competent but costly critics with cheap but incompetent freelancers.
[1]  "Tanglewood's Contemporary Music Fest Milks Many Sources", New York Times, July 26, 2015.
[2]  Elliott Carter, "Shop Talk by an American Composer", in Elliott Carter: Collected Essays and Lectures, J.W. Bernard (ed.), U. of Rochester Press, 1997, p.220.
8 months ago | |
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Here is an excerpt from an Op-Ed piece in the last April issue of Columbia University's daily newpaper:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation.
     [The Multicultural Affairs Board] proposed that the [University] issue a letter to faculty about potential trigger warnings and suggestions for how to support triggered students. ...that there should be a mechanism for students to communicate their concerns to professors anonymously, as well as a mediation mechanism for students who have identity-based disagreements with professors. Finally, the [University] should create a training program for all professors, including faculty and graduate instructors, which will enable them to constructively facilitate conversations that embrace all identities, share best practices, and think critically about how the Core Curriculum is framed for their students.

This expression of Fascist Infantilism, typical of today's American universities, made me wonder how long it will take before Mozart's Don Giovanni is dropped from Music Appreciation courses.  Why would music professors want to jeopardize their jobs by "triggering" survivors of domestic violence with Zerlina's famous aria "Batti, batti":

Beat me, beat me, dear Masetto,
beat your poor Zerlina!
I’ll stand here like a little lamb,
to await your blows.
You can pull out my hair.
Pull out my eyes,
and I’ll still gladly kiss
your dear hands.

Come to think of it, the so-called trigger warnings will have to be slapped on just about every opera in the standard repertoire, which obviously makes this emotionally harmful art form unsuitable for today's college students.

I suspect that many of the same students, who run to the Dean's Office in tears as soon as they encounter the word 'nigger' in a Mark Twain novel or a slight of womanhood in a Renaissance painting, will enthusiastically shake their bodies later in the day to Rihanna's  glorification of kidnapping, torture, and sexual degradation in her new song Bitch better have my money.  Which, of course, is as it should be.  After all, Rihanna is hot (hey, the camera zooms in on her crotch every five seconds!), while Ovid, Caravaggio, and Mozart are boring, stuffy, and offensive relics of the oppressive, patriarchal, white male hegemony.
9 months ago | |
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In the last three decades or so music critics have frequently complained (or at least noted) that the arrival of the jet age and the fall of the Iron Curtain have pretty much erased the distinctly national characteristics of music making.  Musicians and ensembles around the world, we are told, tend to make music in much the same "international" way regardless of whether  they hail from Moscow, Prague, Paris, or New York.

To me the empirical basis of such claims remains elusive.  Recordings of orchestral music from an earlier era suggest that styles of music making depend almost entirely on conductors.  Conductors who were trained within the same geographical borders (e.g., Klemperer, Walter, Furtwangler, Strauss, Karajan) and worked with the same orchestras (e.g., the Vienna or the Berlin Philharmonic) interpreted the same compositions in ways which differed from one another so much as to make the idea of a 'national style of music making' vacuous at best.   And when some of these conductors moved to other countries (e.g., Klemperer to London, Walter to New York) their ways of music making crossed the borders along with them.  The only empirically meaningful difference between performances of, say, a Mozart symphony conducted by Bruno Walter in New York, Vienna, and Paris in the 1950s is that the standards of execution maintained by the French orchestra were abominably low, those of the Vienna orchestra barely adequate, and those of the New York orchestra were at the highest level.

If I'm right, then what is likely to have taken place over the last half century is not the disappearance of the so-called national styles of music making, but simply the world-wide acceptance of uniformly high American standards of execution and instrumental craft - the standards set by such tyrannical conductors as Szell, Reiner, Stokowski, and Toscanini, and by superstar instrumentalists like Heifetz, and Horowitz.  Once these standards had spread around the world via recordings, broadcasts, and tours, it became next to impossible to sell vague metaphysical or poetic justifications for the sloppy ensemble and poor intonation routinely produced by European orchestras under Furtwangler or Knappertsbusch, or for the torrents of wrong notes heard from such old-timers as Schnabel, Cortot and Rubinstein.

But then I might be wrong.  Recently I came across three superbly engineered and impeccably played live broadcast recordings of Mozart's beloved "Dissonance" string quartet (K.465), performed by well-established string quartets from England, France, and Germany.  All three performances took place in the same concert hall within the last four years.  The performances were so strikingly different from one another that I sent these recordings, without any data identifying the performers, to a friend who listens to a lot of chamber music.  I asked her if she could identify the national origins of any of the three quartets (I did tell her which countries were involved) and she nailed the French quartet right away!  I suspect she also could make a good guess about the remaining two quartets, but she refused to stick her neck out on the basis of (what she thinks is) less than compelling evidence.
     Still, one correct identification, made so quickly and so confidently, was enough to leave me with a nagging suspicion that my view concerning the largely illusory nature of national characteristics in music making may be wrong after all.  So I decided to offer these three recordings (with performers identified only as "A", "B", and "C") on my blog to see if the combined intuitions and musical erudition of the blog readers would either vindicate my view or prove it wrong.
10 months ago | |
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Same music (Mozart's symphony No.36, K.425).
Same orchestra (one of the world's best),
Same concert hall.
Same audio engineer.
Same superb quality of recorded sound (directly downloaded streaming source files for high-bitrate webcasts).
And given that the two concerts took place within 20 months of each other, my guess is that most of the orchestral musicians involved are the same as well.

Only the conductors are different.

What better way to kill an hour on a lazy summer day than to check out these two recordings and decide which of the two conductors makes a better case for the music.*
     Needless to say, I'll appreciate if you take a minute to let me know which of the two conductors impressed you more.  (I will reveal the identities of these conductors before my next post.)
*  Not a trivial task for conductors, by the way, since Mozart's symphonies, with two exceptions, need all the help they can get.  Not so much because they are bad (though many of them are), but because the E flat (K.543) and the G minor (K.550) symphonies set such an impossibly high standard of thematic and harmonic invention that the other thirty nine symphonies - including the overrated "Haffner", "Prague", and "Jupiter" - sound downright monotonous by comparison. 
10 months ago | |
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The syntax in this headline from USA TODAY convinced me that in  today's America the words "journalist" and "fucking retard" have become synonymous.  I wonder if such degradation of language in mainstream media is exclusively an American phenomenon...

Texas teen who cop pulled gun on at pool party speaks

10 months ago | |
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