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BOOM'S DUNGEON
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When two or more mathematicians, working collaboratively or independently, make essential contributions to solving a particular mathematical problem, the result is traditionally given a hyphenated name, such as the Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser theorem in dynamical systems theory, or the Fokker-Planck equation in statistical mechanics. 
     I wonder what would have happened to this naming tradition if the German-American mathematician J├╝rgen Moser and the Dutch mathematical physicist Adriaan Fokker had proved the same important theorem.  Just put yourself in the shoes of a mathematics professor who has to announce to his class:
Today we will be discussing  the Moser-Fokker theorem.


7 months ago | |
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In a recent article from The Telegraph, Victoria Scott, a British woman living in Qatar, describes various worthwhile things one can do to feel more at home in that tiny country.  One of such things (italics mine) is to

... watch the Qatar Philharmonic play.
I expect that after Ms Scott gets to live in a few more places around the world, she will suggest for us to

smell the Bolshoi Ballet while in Moscow, listen to Rothko paintings while in Houston, andtaste the pyramids while in Egypt.
In the mean time, congratulations to The Telegraph (founded in 1855) on filling their editorial positions with hopeless cultural retards...


9 months ago | |
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For a woman who plays not a note of contemporary music in her public recitals, what does this publicity photo supposedly promise to those who pay to hear Khatia Buniatishvili play the numbingly familiar works of Liszt, Chopin, and Schumann?  A sensuous massage backstage during the intermission?  A slow striptease to accompany the dying away of final notes in Schumann's Fantasy Op.17?   Or is it simply a desperate attempt to divert everyone's attention from the fact that Khatia has never been able to give a clean execution of a single technically demanding piece in her repertoire (at least not in the dozens of live recordings I've heard before giving up on this pianist)?


9 months ago | |
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Horse gives birth to twin girls

April 12 - Horse owners in Oklahoma celebrate the birth of extremely rare twins, but worry about the health risks. 

*   *   *   *   *

Girls?  When did Reuters begin to employ as writers and editors such hopeless imbeciles?  Not only do they seem ignorant of a perfectly good English word - filly - for a young female horse under the age of four, but they also see nothing wrong with a headline that belongs in a supermarket tabloid like the National Enquirer.

Lest you think I made this up, here is the URL of that Reuters webpage.

10 months ago | |
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Composed in 2004 as a gift for Pierre Boulez on his 80th birthday, Carter's 10-minute long sparkling and playful ensemble piece Reflexions strikes me as his most overt hommage to Haydn's musical humor.  It is impossible to hear the comic contribution from contrabass clarinet (at the limit of the instrument's low register) without recalling the comic bassoon fart in the Andante of Haydn's Symphony No.93.

Recently I was surprised to discover that the best engineered live recording of this piece in my collection has never been offered on this blog.  This performance - with Boulez conducting Ensemble Intercontemporain - took place at the Concertgebouw on February 26, 2005 (only 10 days after the world premiere in Paris).  The sound quality of this directly captured Dutch Radio 256 kbs webcast - especially with respect to dynamic range - is superior to the earlier two performances (Paris, Munich) already available in this blog's collection of Carter's music.


10 months ago | |
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11 months ago | |
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Furtwangler's reputation will never live down this photo op with his patron Adolf Hitler:


Karajan's reputation will be forever tarnished by his Nazi Party ID card:



I hope the eager musical serfs of today's tyrants will pay a similar price:
 

1 year ago | |
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If I were granted only one wish before I die, I would ask to meet the fucking retard(s) responsible for this CD booklet, so as to find out

(1)  which "unforgettable concert" I am supposed to feel present at when listening to this recording, and

(2) which "great occasion" is preserved on a recording spliced from segments taped at muliptle concerts.


1 year ago | |
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Never thought I could enjoy a few minutes of a Paganini concerto so much (and laugh so hard along the way)!



The man in the video is Nicola-Frank Vachon, a French Canadian actor and photographer


1 year ago | |
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Recently I had to do several hours worth of mind-numbing paperwork.  I didn't want to do it in complete silence, but neither did I want to play music interesting enough to undermine my resolve to get through the necessary drudgery.  Which is why I settled on Bruckner.  I figured Buckner's relentlessly diatonic structures, bloated by stupefying repetitiveness (passing for development), would relieve my angst by proving that music can be as boring as the work I had to do.  And since all but two Bruckner recordings in my collection are conducted by Furtwangler, I ended up listening to Furtwangler's take on  five Bruckner symphonies.

It all worked out very well with regards to Bruckner (though, admittedly, not much better than if I were to play Philip Glass' music at a fraction of the normal speed).  But not with regards to Furtwangler and his famous orchestras.  Since I wasn't listening to music as such (once you've heard the movement's opening triad, you've heard pretty much everything Bruckner has to offer for the next 20 minutes or so, with the laendler-derived second theme being as certain as death and taxes), most of what registered in my mind was the orchestral playing.  And this time I was struck by just how ugly the orchestral playing was, primarily from the brass and the woodwinds.  Almost every chorale episode - so crucial to Bruckner's organ-based conception of orchestral sonorities - was badly marred by sour intonation and lack of cohesion (in addition to numerous mangled solo passages from the French horn.)  And too often the strings and the brass/woodwinds could not play together, despite the primitive level of complexity of the music involved. Whether the orchestra under Furtwangler's baton was the vaunted Berlin Philharmonic or the hyped Vienna Philharmonic, the amount of atrocious ensemble playing pouring from my speakers seemed to be roughly the same.

Given the exalted reputation of this conductor and the two orchestras, the natural question to ask is: What the fuck?  Here are some possible excuses I find unconvincing:

1.  Furtwangler's beat was notoriously ambiguous (because he felt that this kind of beat was necessary to produce flowing, organically shaped musical lines.)
     Well, these two orchestras had about 20 years to get used to this beat, and they still played worse in the above recordings than the supposedly inferior La Scala orchestra, which Furtwangler guest-conducted in the 1950 live recording of Wagner's Ring.  (In fact, the even more inferior orchestra of the Italian Radio in Rome somehow managed to be more consistent under Furtwangler's direction in matters of intonation and ensemble.)

2.  The playing of these two orchestras under Furtwangler was affected by the ravages of war.
     So was the playing of the English orchestras.  Yet when Toscanini guest-conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in the Brahms symphonies - only a year after Furtwangler's cringe-inducing amateurish performances of Bruckner's 4th (Vienna PO) and 7th (Berlin PO) in Stuttgart and Cairo respectively - the Philharmonia's playing was vastly superior.

3.  Even great orchestras can have an off night.
     True.  But not this often and in the music they had been playing for decades under the same conductor.  And anyway, a great orchestra is not one which occasionally plays with superlative instrumental craft.  It is one which consistently plays with security and tonal refinement.  Taking these live Bruckner recordings (and quite a few other live recordings of Furtwangler) as random samples from a decade of performances (1942 - 1951), consistency of instrumental craft is certainly not something one would expect from these two orchestras.  (Heard against countless live recordings of Toscanini's NBC Orchestra from the same decade, the Berlin and Vienna orchestras often sound as a bunch of inspired, badly under-rehearsed amateurs.)

I am not surprised that Furtwangler put up with this kind of inconsistent orchestral execution.  As with his good friends Alfred Cortot and Edwin Fischer, Furtwangler's music-making was all about the deep concepts, the big line, the metaphysical grandeur in the music he conducted.  To these musicians, matters of pure technique seem to have been of marginal importance at best.  Which is why I am inclined to hold Furtwangler responsible, at least in part, for the abominable technical lapses I hear in many of his performances.
     But I think the principal reason for such poor orchestral playing is that the two orchestras in question were simply not good, at least at the time when they were playing for Furtwangler.  And I think Furtwangler was aware of this.  I vaguely recall that he once gave a speech at some jubilee celebration of the Vienna orchestra, in which he claimed defensively that American orchestras, although superior in matters of instrumental craft, cannot produce music with the the emotional (spiritual? metaphysical? or some other Schopenhauerian) quality of the Vienna orchestra.
     Oh well...  If sour intonation, poor ensemble, and hollow fortes are signs of spiritual music-making, then who needs the Vienna Philharmonic?  Furtwangler could have gotten this kind of music-making from any semi-professional regional American orchestra.



1 year ago | |
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