Classical Music Buzz > BOOM'S DUNGEON
BOOM'S DUNGEON
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Generally I think of tonal art music written in the 21-st century as a musical equivalent of gerontophilia: a compositional intercourse with a terribly aged idiom whose offer of sagging themes, wrinkled harmonies, and arthritic rhythms still arouses some of today's composers. So it was to my immense surprise that the decidedly retrograde music of the Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson (b. 1956) turned out to be quite enjoyable.  To be sure, Martinsson does not make the idiom young and fresh again, but the music seems to project an aural shadow of long gone beauty and charm that is pleasantly nostalgic and occasionally poignant.

Martinsson's composition "A.S. in memoriam" is a highly chromatic homage to Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night".  Schoenberg's familiar 5-note motif is quoted right in the middle of this 15-min long piece for string orchestra.  Another composition, "Forlorn", is a short song cycle for soprano and string orchestra based on poems of Rabindranath Tagore.  The sound world of these songs is far more intimate than that of Zemlinsky's massive, operatic setting of Tagore's poetry in his "Lyric Symphony".
     Both compositions were recorded last Fall during concerts given by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Gordon Nicolic and Bas Wiegers respectively.  The soprano in "Forlon" is Lisette Bollen.

Finally, there is Martinsson's Flute Concerto which is so far the only concerto I know that wraps the flute part in a highly chromatic, richly upholstered, late romantic orchestral sound.  Not the last word in innovation and originality, but perhaps entertaining enough for those occasions when one has to take a break from the flute music of Elliott Carter and Bruno Maderna.  The soloist is Magnus Irving Bagge, with Mats Rondin conducting Malmo Symphony Orchestra.

6 months ago | |
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Somalian pirates kill four Americans

(The Telegraph, Feb. 22, 2011)

Taliban kill seven Afghan police

(Los Angeles Times, Dec. 21, 2014)

New Year rice cakes kill nine in Japan

(BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat, Jan. 5, 2014)
Homicidal rice cakes? Couldn't the imbeciles at BBC News have worded the headline in a saner way, e.g., "9 choke to death in Japan while eating New Year rice cakes"?  Oh well...


6 months ago | |
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Boy, 2, accidentally shoots and kills mom in Idaho Walmart

The Associated Press  Posted: Dec 30, 2014 3:29 PM ET

What a thrill it is to live in a world in which a fatal shooting by a 2-year-old is described by the media as accidental.  Could this act have been intentional?  A revenge for infrequent diaper changes and cheap baby formula?  A cold-blooded publicity stunt to secure a seven-figure book deal for the future memoir "The tot who fucked Jean Piaget and the entire field of Developmental Psychology"?

While the world contemplates the plausibility of such alternatives, I'm sure the retards at AP, BBC, Reuters, and other news outlets are struggling right this very moment to come up with headlines for the first day of the new year.  I feel like being helpful on this New Year's Eve, so how about this one: 

Cheerleader at Bennington College accidentally fellates six members of the basketball team.
6 months ago | |
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To mark the 106th anniversary of Elliott Carter's birth (he was born on December 11, 1908), I have added three live recordings of his chamber music to this blog's slowly growing "audio museum" of Carter's works.
     Recorded on September 25, 2014 at the Muziekgebouw aan't IJ Amsterdam, the works span more than six decades of Carter's career, from the early Cello Sonata (1948), to the middle-period Duo for Violin and Piano (1973), to the very last work, Epigrams for Piano Trio (2012), completed less than three months before his death.
     The musicians are Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Valerie Aimard (cello), and Diego Tosi (violin).

7 months ago | |
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As someone who deeply admires the otherworldly, alien music of Helmut Lachenmann, I was jolted when I recently read an interview with the pianist Rolf Hind in which he said that Lachenmann's favorite composer is ... Ennio Morricone.  (Rolf Hind worked closely with Lachenmann on the composer's piano concerto Ausklang.)

Not that there is anything wrong with liking Ennio Morricone's music.  As far as film music goes, he has supplied some of the most memorable scores in the history of cinema.  Compared to such three-chord musical midgets as Hans Zimmer (or to the fucking retard who won an Oscar last year for using less then three chords in his brain-numbing score for the film Gravity), Morricone is certainly an artistic giant.

Still, I think the greatness of a film score, whether by Morricone, Korngold, or Hermann, is inseparable from its function as a component of the total aesthetic experience of watching a film.  Heard on its own - the way one listens to art music, such as a Mahler symphony or a Carter concerto - a film score immediately sinks under the weight of its severe limitations, imposed on the music by various pragmatic considerations having to do with its functional role in contributing to an overall non-musical aesthetic experience.

So, why on earth would a composer as revolutionary as Lachenmann listen to Morricone's film scores?  What kind of aesthetic rewards does Lachenmann's mind derive from Morricone's triadic harmonies, conventional rhythms, and mostly ordinary (if very skillful) orchestration?

I really can't think of a plausible explanation.  But then I don't know much about Lachenmann the man, so I may be unaware of some biographical reason for his elevation of Morricone to the status of a favorite composer (rather than favorite film composer).  Perhaps this kind of aesthetic weirdness is common among avant-garde composers?  The only other example that comes to mind is Milton Babbitt, who reportedly possessed encyclopaedic knowledge (and immense affection) for Tin Pan Alley songs of the 1920s and 1930s.

In any case, if you are not familiar with Lachenmann's strikingly original music - the music whose gestures, textures, and timbres are light years away from the music of other 20th century modernist composers, let alone from Morricone's film scores - you can acquaint yourself with this composer by listening to his composition Air, music for large orchestra with percussion solo (1968–69), conducted by Ingo Metzmacher and recorded live at the Concertgebouw on April 5, 1997.

8 months ago | |
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The two or three thousand dollars ... I am paid for commissions recompenses my work at the rate of about twenty-five cents an hour.
Elliott Carter, "The Orchestral Composer's Point of View", The Orchestral Composer's Point of View: Essays on Twentieth-Century Music by Those Who Wrote It, R.S. Hines, ed., University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.

The minimum wage in the U.S.A. as of February 1970: $1.45 an hour.
source: Minimum Wage and Maximum Hours Standards Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1988 Report to the Congress under Section 4(d)(1) of the FLSA.

... to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
The Book of Proverbs 22:1


8 months ago | |
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A hatchet-wielding man who attacked two police officers in New York City before he was shot to death was likely “just an angry guy” ...  a police source told ABC News.


And I thought "just an angry guy" is an expression suitable as a tagline for a Robin Williams comedy...




9 months ago | |
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Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen
(Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.)
Ludwig Wittgenstein,  Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung (Tractatus Logico-Philosopicus)


Adding new posts to one's blog is like flossing, in that both activities make sense only if performed with some regularity.  Alas, a blogger cannot expect anything like regularity when it comes to having something worthwhile (interesting, meaningful) to say.  Which is why there are no genuinely Wittgensteinian bloggers.  As soon as they pop into existence, their blogs begin to fade into intervals of silence which stretch asymptotically to infinity, sort of like the ever slower ticking of a clock approaching the event horizon of a black hole.

Good thing I never took Wittgenstein's Tractatus seriously.  This, of course, doesn't make me special since neither did anyone else except for a few plodding souls who made up the so-called Vienna Circle in the late 1920s.  Still, as a blogger I thought it is time I certify my anti-Wittgensteinian stance by adding a post in which I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say.
9 months ago | |
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Three more live (and superbly engineered) recordings by Ran Dank which document previously unavailable to me performances of this remarkable pianist at the 2007 Cleveland International Piano Competition.  (Dank was 25 at the time and was awarded the 4th prize.)  With one exception his playing in these selections shows the already familiar blend of musical intelligence, impeccable technique, and a glowing golden tone.  The exception is Dank's playing of the last four notes in the 3rd bar of the Adagio from Mozart's sonata K.570 (and in the repeats of the opening theme).
     Although in the score (2006 Mozarteum Salzburg edition) these four notes are marked staccato:


some pianists (e.g., Horszowski, 1983 Aldeburgh) all but ignore these markings and do nothing to set these notes apart from the rest of the musical line.  Others (e.g., Barenboim, Arrau) play these notes as very moderately detached, which gives them just a hint of "kinkiness" but no more than that.  Still others (e.g., Uchida) play these notes just short of genuine staccato, which brings that part of the musical line close to sounding annoyingly coy.  Dank, however, plays these three notes staccatissimo (extremely detached) which makes the musical line sound simply freakish (or Gouldian, which is the same thing when it comes to Mozart sonatas).  Having listened to Dank's performance several times already (the playing in the rest of the sonata is beautifully voiced and stylishly phrased without a trace of annoying Mozartean precociousness), I am still jarred by these four notes and may never come to terms with what I hear as a very rare lapse of aesthetic judgment on Dank's part.

Having vented my isolated disappointment, I still think these recordings - which, in addition to Mozart's sonata, include Debussy's Etudes Book 1 and Boulez' Notations (the latter can be compared with Dank's 2009 performance at the Van Cliburn Competition available in the same folder) - are very much worth hearing for the beauty of Dank's musicianship and instrumental craft.

10 months ago | |
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The seemingly unanimous critical praise lavished on this pianist's recitals and recordings year after year often borders on adulation, with the playing typically described as "majestic", "arresting", "compelling", or "engrossing".

The present recording of this pianist is live and unedited, and it documents a part of the pianist's performance at one of the well-known summer music festivals.  The pieces - Bach transcriptions by Busoni, Kempf, and Hess - are technically undemanding (so there is no need to worry about whether the pianist might have had an off night on that occasion), and the quality of recorded sound is superb (which takes away the worry that the pianist's tone may be misrepresented by substandard sonics).

I'm curious to know if the pianophiles who visit this blog will incline to agree with the critical majority after having heard this recording.   Tell me what you think in a comment, and if you happen to recognize the pianist, please keep it to yourself for a little while.  I will reveal the pianist's identity a bit later.


10 months ago | |
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