Hey folks, creating mind-blowing new paradigms is hard work so we're taking some time off from posting to recharge. In the meantime you can search the archives, catagories, and Best of LFP for some summertime stimulation.
Earlier this month 21 percussionists performed John Luther Adams' Inuksuit on the UC Berkeley campus, kicking off Ojai North at Cal Performances. The performance took place in the bucolic Faculty Grove, a beautiful open space surrounded by redwoods and magnificent coast live oaks.
The San Francisco Opera is mounting their first-ever production of Nixon in China this month and the Mercury News just published a great interview of Adam's by music critic Richard Scheinin. In it Adams talks a lot about Nixon and opera, working with Peter Sellars, and how he's been searching for a subject for a new opera for the past several years. It's a great read; here's a photo from the SF Opera dress rehearsal and an excerpt.
Adams: You know, I conducted "Nixon" at the Met last year, and in many ways really became re-acquainted with it. And I just love the libretto. I love every moment in it. I can't believe there are still people who complain about it being arch or dense or incomprehensible. I think it's just fantastic. Alice caught the tone of the Chinese and the official Communist utterances. She caught the Middle-American tone of the U.S. politicians.
My review of the recent all-Harrison show at BAM/PFA is up at NewMusicBox, and there are some extra tidbits about the performance of a long-lost piano piece and Old Granddad, the gamelan used in the performance. Special thanks to pianist Sarah Cahill and Dr. Leta Miller of UCSC for their help.
It was a great concert and all of Lou's works were wonderfully performed, but the most amazing - AMAZING - thing for me was how unbelieveably fantastic the gamelan sounded. The recordings I've heard don't even come close to capturing the ravishing tone colors that Lou and Bill's handmade instruments produce. Perhaps it was the just intonation tuning combined with a particularly live space, but they had a depth and resonance that I have rarely experienced (think Vienna-Phil-strings special). If you have the oppurtunity to hear Old Granddad live I can't recommend enough that you do so. It will change your ears.
I've been listening to a lot of Lou Harrision this past week in preparation for the all-Harrision show in Berkeley tomorrow night at BAM/PFA, and have really enjoyed exploring La Koro Sutro and Varied Trio. (Bonus: I also discovered John Luther Adams' For Lou Harrison, which is fantastically beautiful - I call Bay Area dibs in 2017!)
My new article for NewMusicBox - Great Expectations: The Challenge of New Music in New Spaces - is up. Please feel free to share your thoughts and critiques because I think this is a really interesting discussion. I only wish more bookers had responded to interview requests so that I could have provided a more comprehensive picture of this issue from their perspective.
The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra announced its 2012-2013 season yesterday and it's both radical and traditional. It's rad in the sense that the four subscription concerts are pretty cool combinations of composers - Dylan Mattingly, Ligeti, Schumann, for example - and each one contains a world premiere commission. Traditional in that three of the four follow (but tweak) the overture-concerto-symphony format. Instead of standard openers, new works and Ives'The Unanswered Question (the anti-overture) kick things off. On the fourth concert, a new Stuckey song cycle is followed by Bruckner 4; the short/long formula you often see with hour+ long works.
I think these programs are really exciting, mainly because of the groups of composers, but also because of the daring concerti - mad props there. By using the traditional overture-concerto-symphony format Music Director Joana Carneiro seems to be hedging her bets, shrewdly creating a lot of buzz with commissions, but not tweaking the concert experience too much. Three out of the four concerts are anchored by 19th-century Germanic standard rep, after all, and the Rachmaninoff is hardly a risky choice either. It would be nice to see the new works be the big ones on the program. Even so, it's exciting stuff.
London's Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has a history of featuring orchestra members in promo campaigns to emphasize that "not all orchestras are the same." This year they decided to feature members of their audience with "strong looks" to point out that not all audiences are the same either. The resulting digital brochure and related videos are available online with more publicity to follow for this innovative orchestra.
In Thomas Deneuville's review of the Brooklyn Phil's recent Brooklyn Village he asks "At which point does deserved pride turn into navel gazing?" I also have mixed feelings about this program. On one hand I think it's the kind of innovative, community-specific programming that every orchestra should engage in, but on the other it seems a bit too contrived, too twee - a program too self conscious in its all-encompassing coolness and eclecticism. It's a small quibble, though. On the whole I think Pierson is creating really innovative programs.
Unlike Deneuville, I am not concerned with the Brooklyn Phil becoming less global. I think very few ensembles can and should be global ones for the simple reason that national or global trends might not be best for audiences in your hometown. The Oakland East Bay Symphony's programming is a prime example of this. Like the Brooklyn Phil they are reaching out to the many cultural groups that live here, but on the other hand they're certainly not performing Kreayshawn transcriptions.
I read some interesting articles this week about musical entrepreneurship and wanted to share them. I don't think any of them are going to blow your mind, but they do contain good ideas and moreover seem to represent the profusion of creative thinking about funding and promotion occurring in much of the music biz.
Top 5 Signs Pop Music Looks Like Classical - Not every item on this list works, but it does point out how enterprising musicians are using small-scale patronage instead of large record contracts to fund albums. For 20 bucks anyone can be a Rasumovsky, sort of. I previously wrote about this here.
An interesting little survey--not so much for the subtle raising of pitch across the century (save for the period instrument ensembles), but for how differently two E-flat major chords can be balanced, shaped, punctuated, etc:
"For most people, sharing and remixing with attribution and no commercial intent is instinctually a-okay..... What happens when — and this is inevitable — a generation completely comfortable with remix culture becomes a majority of the electorate, instead of the fringe youth?"
A few months ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to write an article for NewMusicBox about the SF new music scene. For the next few weeks I dutifly pounded the pavement (and Bay Bridge), met a lot of very cool folks, and heard some fantastic new music. The article, published last week (link below), centered around the remarkable Magik*Magik Orchestra, then branched out from there in a 6 Degrees from Kevin Bacon kind of way to explore the musical endeavors of several young musicians. It's a snapshop of a very cool scene.
Special thanks goes out to Annie Phillips, who put me in contact with many of the musicians interviewed, and to Magik*Magik, Nonsemble 6, and the guys at The Living Earth Show for allowing me to attend their rehearsals.
The Living Earth Show in their fuzzy-walled rehearsal cave.
NYC's Q2 is commemorating Ives' birthday by offering a free download - today only! - of Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa's recording of Ives' Violin Sonata No. 4 'Children's Day at Camp Meeting. Great performance.
Tonight at the State Theater in Modesto, California: Opera Remix, from Townsend Opera. You can read all about it on the Remix webpage, but this event is a major foray into the real world for the Loose Filter philosophy (disclosure: I'm Creative Consultant for this project with the opera company...so any similarities are not coincidental at all).
Here's a clip from the reading rehearsal last night with orchestra only, playing Jonathan Newman's setting of Here Comes the Sun:
Enjoy a couple more rehearsal clips here (of Summertime and Baba O'Riley) from a playlist that includes gems from Mozart, Puccini, Gershwin, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Pink Floyd, and more. Keep an eye on the Opera Remix website if this catches your interest, there will be much more video of the event itself posted there soon!
I'll also soon be posting here, in installments, a user-friendly version of the research paper that started things rolling on this extremely innovative project from a wonderful regional opera company. Stay tuned.
Jonah Lehrer writes about how emotional decision-making may be better than rational decision-making when faced with complex choices.
While there is an extensive literature on the potential wisdom of human emotion, it’s only in the last few years that researchers have demonstrated that the emotional system (aka Type 1 thinking) might excel at complex decisions, or those involving lots of variables. If true, this would suggest that the unconscious is better suited for difficult cognitive tasks than the conscious brain, that the very thought process we’ve long disregarded as irrational and impulsive might actually be “smarter” than reasoned deliberation.
Interesting email this morning from Gregory Ruffer, a conductor and doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Dear Conductors Guild Member:
I am a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, where I am completing my dissertation research under the advisment of Dr. Hal Abeles. The working title of my dissertation is, "The Sinister Conductor: Preceptions and Practices of University Conducting Instructors Toward Left-Handed Students."
One portion of my research involves surveying conductors about their work with left-handed people. I would be most appreciative if you could take 15 minutes of your time to complete my survey. Your input will assure that the data in my dissertation is representative of the largest possible population. Please click on this link to complete the survey:http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/left-handed-conductor-training.
Really thought-provoking post from Nico Muhly on the difficulty many composers have acquiring recordings of their own works, and how having access to those recordings can be an extremely valuable learning experience. The discussion continues in the comment thread, and it is worth a read.
I remember a composer actually having to email me and ask me to return promo CD because he didn't have permission from the orchestra that performed one of the pieces to distribute it.
People often ask what music I prefer to hear. I enjoy the absence of music more than any other, or you could say silence. I enjoy whatever ambient sounds there are to hear. What I like is that they aren't saying anything. They just do what it is they are. I listen, no matter in what else I happen to be engaged. Experience. Not knowing what will happen next.
In April 2006 I conducted Frank Zappa's Be-Bop Tango with the Meadows Wind Ensemble at my alma mater, SMU. I was already a big Zappa fan, but my respect and admiration for his music only deepened as I delved into the score.
Stuart's great essay describes how the needs and nature of our classical music institutions, and not our audiences or the music itself, have come to disproportionately and unconsciously influence thinking in the field. He suggests reframing the discussion and posits that the wind band is an ideal medium to do so.
I must confess that the contradiction, composing and not composing, has haunted me for a long time. Do you know the story of my relationship with psychoanalysis? It's short. It must have been around 1945. I was disturbed. Some friends advised me to seek an analyst. All the psychoanalyst was able to tell me was that thanks to him I was going to be able to produce more music, tons of music! I never went back.
In 2007 Stuart and I recorded a podcast with the outstanding young composer Mason Bates. He talkes, among other things, about how he came to combine classical and electronic idioms, the role of texture in electronica, the similarities between DJs and church organists, and how audiences and musicians responded to his first electroacoustic works.
Stuart and I have been blogging on this site for over 5 years now, and I think we've produced some pretty good stuff. With five years of content, though, it's easy for older posts to get buried in the archives. We recently installed a search function on the front page (right under Recent Posts) to make it a bit easier to sift through older entries, and you can read posts by catagory as well, but even then some of our best work might remain unfamiliar to our newer readers.
With that in mind we've decided that instead of simply going dark for the next few weeks as we take a break to travel, hike, lay about, and prepare for the fall, we will repost some of our favorite entries. Think of it as The Loose Filter Project's greatest hits. Enjoy!
QUESTION: To repeat the question I asked a moment ago: don't you ever feel betrayed by different performances of the same piece?
J.C.: I am going to tell you a story. One day, around 1940, a musician, a pianist, phoned me to say that he was coming from South America, where he had played The Perilous Night, and he wanted me to hear it. He wanted to know what I thought about it, no matter what the cost. So, I went to his studio, and he banged out a Perilous Night that was perfectly horrible! At that moment, I would have preferred never to have written The Perilous Night! In the years that followed, when pianists came to me while my works were not yet published, I advised them especially not to play The Perilous Night. And then, by chance, in the course of a tour in the southern United States - it was at a university, I believe - another pianist said to me: 'I play your Perilous Night, and I would like you to hear it.' I replied that I did not want to. He insisted. I ended up letting myself be convinced, and I followed him to his piano. I listened. It was marvelous.
John Adams talks about Son of Chamber Symphony via the London Sinfonietta's YouTube page. As a bonus, here's Stuart's great Listening Guide to Adams' original Chamber Symphony, one of Loose Filter's all-time most popular posts.
Gustavo Dudamel conducted some very cool programs with the LA Phil as part of its recent Brahms Unbound festival. I've always found it difficult to build really compelling programs around Brahms' symphonies because they are so thematically, harmonically, rhythmically, and texturally rich that not many works are both different enough to compliment them and strong enough stand on their own. The Dude does a nice job, though. Here are two concerts that I think worked particularly well.
In a previous post I talked about the filter bubble I've created for myself in terms of my classical music world view, and resolved to search out other voices that would add to a mostly one-sided discussion. It's been tough because there aren't many folks outside the classical music world writing about it, but here are a few interesting perspectives.
MetaFilter- classical music is not a big discussion topic on the blue, but a few posts have generated some great discussions and sobering perspectives. For example, from this thread:
Great orchestra sounds incredible, and is an experience not to be missed; no doubt. But am I sad that a member of the orchestra gets paid only $40k for their part time work doing something that they love, which is about what the average full time American makes? Not exactly. Is it right to think that Joe Cellist is a truly fundamental piece of any given local music scene? No. - felix
Until recently most of my regular music reading tended to skew towards the East Coast. Many of my favorite bloggers, journalists, and musicians are based in New York, and it is, of course, the epicenter for innovative new music happenings, so it is completely understandable that happenings in other parts of the country aren't on their radar. With that in mind, I'm sharing some great sources for West Coast arts news.
My favorite is the Los Angeles Times' fantastic arts blog Culture Monster. It covers everything from architecture and graffiti to the LA Phil and the Hollywood Bowl. Recent posts included an interview with David Lang and a profile of Eric Whitacre.
I don't see why a professor should have to teach his students what he already knows, or what he knows how to do. This is all the more true for teaching music. Since the professor knows how to do what he knows how to do, since he's already supposed to know the discipline he's teaching, that ought to be enough! There's no reason at all for the students to follow the same path. They shouldn't repeat, they should invent something else.
The Artful Manager had an interesting post in which he shared some points of view that questioned the assumption that stealing (or giving your stuff away for free) is bad for business (previously). He linked to a couple of studies that suggest that sales of knock-off designer handbags can lead to sales of the actual item. For some people, it turns out, possession of the fake or pirated item can actually lead to a desire for the real deal. For example, author Neil Gaiman discovered that access to pirated copies of his work seemed to boost sales, and convinced his publisher to conduct an experiment testing the idea.
What I appreciate about Varèse is obviously his freedom in choosing timbre. He, along with Henry Cowell, has very greatly contributed to getting us used to the idea of a limitless tonal universe. No matter how refined Schoenberg's timbres may be, they hardly ever get away from the number twelve . . . While with Varèse, whatever his 'organizational' notions may have been, you feel that everything is possible.
Nevertheless, there is still in Varèse a prejudice towards controlling sounds or noises. He tries to bend sounds to his will, to his imagination. And that is what very quickly bothered us. We knew that he wouldn't let sounds be entirely free. What we were looking for was in a way more humble: sounds, quite simply. Sounds, pure and simple.
Another U.S. orchestra has shut down, meaning we've lost FOUR this season: Honolulu, New Mexico, Syracuse, and now Bellevue (WA). As well, Louisville and Philadelphia have filed for bankruptcy protection. Lebrecht gives the story here.
As regular readers of this site know, our position is that the basic problem remains relatively uncomplicated to understand: the potential American listeners that orchestras need to reach simply are not interested in what they are offering. It could be different specific things: programming, modes of presentation, ticket prices, competition, etc., but it seems that many American orchestras somehow think that if they can just preserve what audience they have through the recession or whatever, things will spring back to normal eventually. This does not acknowledge that the larger culture has changed and is changing in fundamental ways to which artists must adapt if their work is to resonate with listeners.
Matthew Guerrieri recaps the Rethink Music conference at the Berklee College of Music (via NewMusicBox). The conference aimed to bring together "all sides and viewpoints on the subjects of creativity, commerce, and policy to engage in critical dialogue examining the business and rights challenges facing the music industry." But, as Guerrieri writes, the viewpoints of emerging artists and established players on those subjects couldn't be more divergent.
[T]here was, for example, Del Bryant, the president and CEO of BMI, opining on Tuesday morning that "giving things away for free" was "not building the business," while the Canadian band Metric and their voluble manager, Matt Drouin, related on Tuesday afternoon how they built their business by giving things away for free. There was Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, insisting that lawsuits against file-sharing end users had "clearly [indicated] to the public at large what was legal and what was not," a day after the singer/songwriter Bleu had matter-of-factly said, "I don't think there's any way to go back to monetizing music."