Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lives of the Great Composers: Alma Mahler Poses Nude

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

...And Again

You're welcome! I have just discovered that the long-out-of-print Julie Andrews/Moondog collaboration, Tell It Again, went quietly back into print just a few months after I blogged about it here. Sepia Records has remastered it and bundled it with a helping of other early Andrews on a collection entitled, natch, Once Upon a Time, available wherever fine nostalgia CDs are sold. I'll just go ahead and assume that I personally provided the impetus for the remastering and re-release of this album, all within a three-month period. I'm incredibly powerful in the music industry. Still no word on a score or recording of Moondog's 36-part canon, "Well, Well Dukel," a.k.a. Symphony #40. But hopefully now that I've mentioned it again this too will magically come to pass.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Catching Up

Skip the next two paragraphs. They are boring. In fact, feel free to skip this whole post. The next one will be better. Today I'll just talk really fast and get a lot of stuff over with at once. So I haven't written anything for this blog in ages and that's for a lot of reasons but mostly I just haven't gotten very excited about anything. Things I did get worked up about but neeeever quite got around to blogging included Nico Muhly's Merkin Hall concert a month ago, the one I was talking about here, and the super-fun afterparty, which was actually just the gang from Nico's show crashing the New Amsterdam Records afterparty, because Corey Dargel and William Brittelle's record-release show (for Brittelle's high-concept new-music rock-opera Mohair Time Warp project) was exactly the same night and Bedroom Community & New Amsterdam Recordses are BFF, so it was a veritable who's who of whatnot, starring such boldface names as Valgeir Sigurðsson! Nadia Sirota! Judd Greenstein! Missy Mazzoli! Caleb Burhans! Corey Dargel (obviously)! and though I didn't get to talk to Corey Dargel I did get a chance to talk to Darcy James Argue, whose blog I have always admired but usually can't really say anything intelligent about because I know next to nothing about jazz music, but I'm trying, I promise I am, and finally I broke down and as you can see added him to my super-exclusive blogroll because he is one of so few people actually talking sense about new music nowadays, and also he was totally adorable in person. There was also someone there who looked exactly like Scott Johnson but I didn't want to ask him if he was Scott Johnson because if he wasn't I would have felt extremely stupid. That said, all of you need to buy the Tzadik reissue of John Somebody if you haven't already. The whole crowd was very cool, and in fact I will one-up Anne-Carolyn Bird's announcement that New Amsterdam Records dot com is her new Facebook for professional networking and say that I intend to do all of my networking, professional, social, and sexual, at New Amsterdam Records dot com, and I suggest they retool the site accordingly. Not only would a new-music dating website fill a major niche, it would prevent confused listeners from wasting google queries like this one. (A: No.) My biggest celebrity sighting of the evening though was at the intermission of the concert, where I saw (was it him? it WAS!) my boyhood hero, the rock star whose music has meant more to me than he could possibly ever know, Mister DAVID BYRNE. Like I get starstruck pretty easily, I'll admit but when I lived in New York I could handle running into Lou Reed and Jim Jarmusch &c. pretty well, but there was DAVID BYRNE, who not only did I buy his Talking Heads records and solo records but I like watched and rewatched True Stories to the point where I am still regurgitating snippets of disjointed dialogue at my friends. Like the song says, it's a scientific lifestyle! He was hanging out in the lobby, apparently by himself, like he was just a dude. I wanted to run up to him and thank him for all the joy he'd given me; however, not only was I not sure it was him at first, but I quickly realized that if I were David Byrne I would carry around a thing of pepper spray at all times for the sole purpose of incapacitating people who felt the irrational need to run up and express how important I had been to them when they were in college. So I walked past him without looking at him directly and instead pretended to be reading a poster on the far wall, hoping to make celebrity ID based on peripheral vision alone, but when I looked at the poster closely I realized that there were about ten words printed it and I couldn't pretend to be reading it for very long, so I looked around like I was searching for something while I figured out my next plan, and then a nice usher lady came up and asked if she could help me. Oh, ah, no, thank you. (But it was totally him.) The other thing I kind of wanted to blog recently was the death of another one of my heroes, Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg is famous for taking garbage and accidents and turning them into art; what's far more important, though, is that he made it into art that was a pleasure to see, while still retaining that strange energy of accidental, garbage beauty. Like that famous erased DeKooning—even when he destroyed a work of art, it came out looking great. His work was mysterious and passionate and inimitable and oh-so-often imitated. But like jazz or dance, visual art is something I know almost nothing about—fortunately the Times got somebody to write an appreciation who does know what he's talking about when it comes to visual art, namely... David Byrne. Please read that link. I don't have much to add, except to wince whenever people use the word "deconstruct" this way, and then to quote Donald Barthelme, who describes what is, honestly, not my favorite Rauschenberg, in a way that I think is a useful description of what a Rauschenberg achieves. Here's the piece in question, and here's what Barthelme says (Not-Knowing, p. 19):
We can ... wonder for a moment why the goat girdled with its tire is somehow a magical object, rather than, say, only a dumb idea. Harold Rosenberg speaks of the contemporary artwork as "anxious," as wondering: Am I a masterpiece or simply a pile of junk? ... What precisely is it in the coming together of goat and tire that is magical? It's not the surprise of seeing the goat attired, although that's part of it. One might say, for example, that the tirecontests the goat, contradicts the goat, as a mode of being, even that the tire reproaches the goat, in some sense. One the simplest punning leve, the goat is tired. Or that the unfortunate tire has been caught by the goat, which has been fishing in the Hudson—goats eat anything, as everyone knows—or that the goat is being consumed by the tire; it's outside, after all, mechanization takes command. Or that the goateed goat is protesting the fatigue of its friend, the tire, by wearing it as a sort of STRIKE button. Or that two contrasting models of infinity are being presented, tires and goats both being infinitely reproducible, the first depending on the good fortunes of the B. F. Goodrich company and the second upon the copulatory enthusiasm of goats—parallel production lines suddenly met. And so on. What is magical about the object is that it at once invites and resists interpretation. Its artistic worth is measurable by the degree to which it remains, after interpretation, vital—no interpretation or cardiopulmonary push-pull can exhaust or empty it.

In other words, it's like that Speaking in Tongues collage Byrne talks about in his appreciation, with the images dividing and multiplying and obscuring each other and complementing each other, but it happens with meanings as well as pictures. (This vast network of subtexts of course undergirds all of Byrne's work, too.) You can waste a long, long spray of words describing what their relationships are and still never describe the thing itself, and forget about articulating the sheer visual beauty I was going on about before. Something huge and great and wonderful left the world forever two weeks ago today.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

When Pigs Fly

Guardian typo-spotter jonanamary has posted the following (original story here):
As for the Last Night of the Proms, for all my avid Proms attendance over the years, I have never been. I have never wanted to go, either - all those silly hats, claxons and streamers are not my thing; but I do not see the night as just a jingoistic celebration of Britain. It is a party, a communal revel that makes a tremendous amount of people very, very happy. Open it up to other styles - a Bollywood dance number, a garage anthem chased by Jerusalem and The Lard Ascending. Why not?

Why not, indeed! Dear composers, you have a title, now write the piece.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Lighter Side of Staff Cuts

My New Year's Resolution just got a lot easier to keep. Best comment is here, from Paul of OperaBlog:
I’m guessing his buyout package consisted of a box of Ring-Dings and bus fare to Hoboken.

Tee hee.


Monday, May 12, 2008

She Did It Again

From Lully and Vivaldi to Rachmaninov and Henze, a Dutch site cataloguing examples of the La Folia ground (with an obsessive fervor worthy of the form) lists a Britney Spears song among them. And look, it's true! Click here for proof. I'll let somebody ProToolsier than I put together the inevitable Britney Spears/Andrew Manze mashup.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Special Mother's Day Message

This year, I said it with music!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Line of the Day

Officious, Middle-Aged Man: "Excuse me, I'm looking for a recording of Dvořák's Third World Symphony."


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Whoa Wait a Minute!

After all my razzin' yesterday I forgot to remind everybody to go hear Nico's concert at Merkin Hall, this Thursday (May 8) at 8 p.m. His new material is very, very strong; honestly, I think his forthcoming CD, Mothertongue, stands head and shoulders above his previous effort, and you know how much I liked that one. Buy tickets here.


You Don't Say

"The music is for me even to this day compositionally instrument remained imagination, and sometimes I use it to automatic acoustic minute, direct Handzucken take on the keys. In the grip, the blow is picturesque energy, also drawing momentum. The direct override those findings with the timbre is absurd involuntary core through. Thus, the piano sound as mine to orchestral sound tower, or it leads me in the sound area, which I nervlich ertaste.” – Wolfgang Rihm
promotional copy from the Qualiton Imports website

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Monday, May 5, 2008

You Loved the Etude, NOW Try the Wallet

The opportunity to ruthlessly mock one's smarter, more successful friends comes along so rarely that I could not pass this up. I've been linked to Braithwaite Wallets, Inc., a deliciously pretentious designer of men's accessories that accompanies each of their two wallet designs with a self-serious, J. Peterman-style anecdote and a return policy that promises, "IF YOUR BRAITHWAITE DOESN'T ENHANCE YOUR LIFESTYLE" within thirty days, they will literally send someone to your home to pluck the wallet from your undeserving fingers. So here's the story behind their model, RAPTURED:
Walking down the street, he was reeling inside after the performance he had just seen. He didn’t typically listen to “concert music”, but this was unlike anything he had ever heard. The solitary piano player, the music that seemed broken and disjointed, the strange and beautiful harmony was still stirring within him. With his legs carrying him without concern for direction, he was happy to be alone in this moment to reflect on what he had experienced[.] Watching the strangers that passed by him, his swirling thoughts began to focus and take shape. The seeds of a grand idea, still vague but overwhelming, had been slowly cultivated by the unfamiliar music that unlocked his imagination. A new desire to turn his feeling into a plan, into action, drove his thoughts, as well as his legs, faster and faster. Finally relenting from his brisk pace, he looked up to see a café, a well-lit beacon within the darkened street, a space to calm his unharnessed visions. Once inside, he now wished he could put his ideas into words, that he could share them with someone else. His mind was distant, his body on auto-pilot. He approached the counter and ordered without glancing at the barista. After the steaming drink was set down, he reached into his coat, pulled out his wallet, removed a bill, and told the cashier to keep the change. “Nice wallet.” Looking up, he saw a woman admiring his Braithwaite. “Thanks.” “You look a little distracted.” As he cautiously began to explain the thoughts that had been overrunning him, she interrupted, surprised to find someone echoing her own enveloping ideas. He smiled as he listened to her recent insights, gladdened to find this new connection: a sense of harmonious collaboration uniting the two as they talked into the night.

At the top of the page is an embedded player, offering the wallet's "THEME: 'A Hudson Cycle' by Nico Muhly."


Sorry, it's actually a terrifically beautiful wallet, as you can see, and I guess I can even see some connections between it and Nico's music. Minimalist texture, baroque flourish—even the asymmetrical pockets suggest Hudson Cycle's undulating polyrhythms—but can you imagine the accessories that might be inspired by the music of other composers? (Yes, I am segueing into a "bit" now.)

Grandma exhaled uneasily and then was silent. Dropping the syringe back into my purse, I signed her name on the new will with CHEATING LYING STEALING, the David Lang fountain pen.


"You seem uneasy, was it something I said?" Of course not—but I couldn't tell her it was my Arvo Pärt luxury hairshirt!

Or maybe,

As the klezmer clarinet slipped into a tango rhythm, the dark stranger lowered the brim of her Osvaldo Golijov-brand urban sombrero.
Or simply,

His eyes widened. 'Please, no,' he would have gasped, if not for the gag. "Anything but the Zorn!"

I think this could work!

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ian Buruma on Tan Dun

I hope everybody is reading this NY Times Magazine piece, which manages to celebrate its subject without buying into the hype, and criticize him without buying into the backlash. The first sentence:
In Stockholm last fall, walking past a McDonald’s, Tan Dun turned to me and said: “Some 20 years ago, I was still planting rice in China. And now I’m conducting orchestras in all the great concert houses of the world: La Scala, the Met, the Berlin Philharmonic. I still can’t believe it.”

That might even be too neat—retelling Tan's brilliant success story, a rise from rice paddies to the Berlin Phil, while the Golden Arches lurk in the background. Can the musical sort of globalization have a double edge, too? The politics of Tan Dan's music are as complicated as his music is beautiful, and he deserves a profile this incisive and nuanced.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Victrola, Hola, Hola, Eh, Eh, Eh

Hey, what are you doing after work tonight? Really? Jesus, that sounds boring! Instead of that, why don't you go hear Victrola at the Stone, John Zorn's groovy New York experimental venue? Victrola is a new "bandsemble" starring composer Missy Mazzoli (I've mentioned her here before), and the pieces on their myspace are kind of gorgeous. 8 p.m., $10 at the door, corner of 2nd & C! Go there.

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