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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Full of Shit: or, 'Poo Poo Poo Poo Poopageno'

You know, I keep saying THAT IS THE STUPIDEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD more and more often these days, and yet it's true every time. The cottage industry that has sprung up around the thoroughly debunked Mozart Effect keeps reaching lower and lower lows; it has finally, literally, reached the sewer. Reports BBC Music,

A pioneering German sewage plant is piping Mozart opera to waste-eating microbes in a bid to increase their efficiency and lower costs. Initial tests at the centre in Treuenbrietzen, south-west of Berlin, suggest that the music stimulates the microbes, encouraging a faster breakdown of biomass.
Right! No, sure! Of course! This is totally real science. They probably had control groups of shit-eating microbes listening to Soler and Cimarosa before they came to the conclusion that Mozart was the most effective at optimizing the breakdown of shit.
But why do the microbes respond so well? Stucki believes the answer is simple: ‘Mozart managed to transpose universal laws of nature into his music. It has an effect on people of every age and background. So why not on microbes? After all, they’re living organisms just like us’.
Yup! Universal laws of nature. In the music. That is completely, scientifically true. Microbes, living in water, eating shit, with no ears, respond to Mozart the same way you and I do.

Hey, classical record labels, are you gonna cash in on this, or what??? Here, I even designed the cover for you:
YOU'RE WELCOME. This one's free.

Love,
Daniel Stephen Johnson
Head Marketing Consultant

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lives of the Great Composers: John Adams' Librettist Calls Him a Dickhead

There is an interesting and somewhat problematic interview with John Adams up at the Guardian. It's one of those articles that tells you a lot more about the author than its subject. Just f'rinstance, here is the part that really gets me:

During the Vietnam war, he dodged the draft, dosing himself with caffeine and over-the-counter drugs to ensure that he failed the medical. Yet 30 years later, when asked by the New York Philharmonic to compose a 9/11 elegy, he succumbed to what he acknowledged was his "civic duty". Has the coyote been collared and tethered?
Because I guess going off to kill and/or die in a distant jungle is basically the same as accepting a commission from the New York Phil? In terms of doing your civic duty?

So weird. The article is full of stuff like that! This passage is also kind of confusing—
Alice Goodman, who wrote the text for of [sic] Nixon in China, is now an ordained minister of the Church of England, dispensing piety to her flock in the shires; holy orders did not restrain her from denouncing Adams as a "dickhead" when their opera was performed in Brussels.
I guess this is technically true? But kind of misleading. "Holy orders did not restrain" Alice Goodman (litotes?) because she was not an ordained minister at the time—in fact, I think she was Jewish. Also, he says "their opera," but the opera in question wasn't Nixon in China, as this passage seems to imply, but The Death of Klinghoffer, their second collaboration. Also, she didn't actually "denounce" him as a dickhead, since "denounce" implies a public statement, and actually it went something like this, according to Goodman at least (quoted by Rupert Christiansen in Thomas May's indispensable John Adams Reader, p. 253):
Anyway I'm very happy I read this article because it reminds me that I Was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky, Adams' foray into… light opera? popular song?… is coming to London! And the cast sounds great! Even if this production flops, it should be fascinating; the candid dissection of the original Ceiling/Sky productions was one of my favorite parts of Adams' memoirs. But maybe it will be a smashing success! History will judge! Here is some video to whet y'alls appetites: and there are more videos + info here. I would like a FULL REPORT, please, from anybody in London.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

And While We're on the Subject

of late–20th century coloratura arias sung by totalitarian sopranos caught on videotape, here's a clip of Barbara Hannigan singing Gepopo's first aria from Le Grand Macabre at the NY Phil the other day:(If you haven't read my review yet, you should! It's here.) Note that this video is kind of really well shot? I wonder if it will be broadcast! Or even, maybe, just maybe, just possibly, released commercially…? Okay okay maybe not. [UPDATE: Alas no.] Anyway, you can hear it on the radio or online this Thursday, and it's gonna be available for purchase on iTunes soon. Oh hey and here's a pdf of the whole libretto, courtesy of the NY Times (thank you, manou!).

Here's another video of that performance, from the same NY Phil page.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Is It Okay if I Write a Post About Nixon in China–Related News that Doesn't Make a Joke about How "News Has a Kind of Mystery"? Okay Cool

So one reason a lot of us were really excited when we heard that Nixon in China was going to play the Met, because that meant the possibility of an HD broadcast, because that meant the possibility of a video recording, and Peter Sellarses production of Nixon in China is one of the best things he ever did! But then we found out that it was not on the HD schedule and we all cried, softly, into our signed copies of the I Was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky libretto. BUT NOW IT IS ON THE HD SCHEDULE, HOORAY, THAT IS SO AMAZING!!! Even if there is no recording, it means that anybody who hasn't sent away for a bootleg DVD of the old Great Performances broadcast (complete with Walter Cronkite commentary) will finally get to see what the opera is supposed to look like, on the BIG SCREEN, deliciously filmed and amplified. Did I mention I AM SO EXCITEDDDDDD

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two Reviews

I tweeted these links, but didn't blog them:

Here's my review of the new Timo Andres CD. I made some really odd choices in formatting this review, which understandably got taken out in editing, but which would've changed the tone or even the sense just slightly: for one thing, I hate short, one-sentence paragraphs, so the last paragraph originally read,

Fortunately, now that we’re all jaded citizens of the 21st century, we’ve all heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony enough and never need to hear it again. Just kidding, no we haven’t. Hear the New Haven Symphony play it (right after the Eighth Symphony) on May 13 at Woolsey Hall or May 15 at Fairfield University—it’s why we’re alive.
And this sentence became slightly different when the Mark Trail–like weirdness of my italics was corrected:
A generation (or two) has passed, the battle is over and the Andres/Adams camp has won — and is there anything more tiresome than the pose of rebellion?
Emphasis on POSE. I love rebellion! It's the pose that's tiresome.

And then, here's my review of György Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre at the New York Phil. I should have mentioned in the first paragraph, when I mentioned how "self-righteous" I was at twenty, "dropping the…Grand Macabre I’d just bought at Tower Records into my CD player," I would not have dreamed that ten years later I'd be reviewing a production for Parterre Box. I was planning to review this for my own blog, but then I scored a pair of press tickets and decided that I therefore ought to review it for a publication that people actually read. If you're a Ligeti fan, I hope you'll click through—I tried to make the review as thorough and meaty as I could.