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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

I rather like 89-year-old Clint Eastwood's retirement plan. Last weekend there was a 34 acre fire close to the Warner Brothers lot in Los Angeles and they asked everyone on the lot to evacuate just as a precaution. Clint refused to leave saying he had work to do. And this was a Saturday. His retirement doesn't even involve weekends off!

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Here's the pull-quote: "The digital age has given us two "gifts." The technology used for playback sounds terrible and our recorded music no longer has any monetary value" and here is the article: What the digital age means for my music — and my paycheque.
I had recently come to the conclusion that the record business is more profitable than the film and television business.
I explained that last week I received my royalty statements for a TV series I had created and produced. It cost $1.2 million to make and had been on YouTube for a year. My royalties, for 12 months were — are you sitting down? — .01 cent. Cent. Not even plural. No "S" required. .01 cent!
On the other hand, I got my music statement for our 11th CD recording and for only three months we got the whopping sum of .01 cents. But it was only for three months. You don't need an MBA to see how much more profitable music is!
The situation for the vast majority of working musicians is beyond horrible.

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I was trying to find a good performance of the Symphony No. 7 by Shostakovich the other day and stumbled across this one:


Blogger won't embed but that is Klaus Mäkelä conducting the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra. His conducting style really reminds me of two Russian conductors: Yevgeny Mravinsky and Yuri Temirkanov, both conductors of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

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From Slipped Disc comes the news that Plácido Domingo has been engaged to sing in a Verdi opera at next summer's Salzburg Festival. The comments are nearly all supportive. How interesting and odd that he has been fired from all engagements and employment in North America, but from none in Europe (that I know of). Now there's a cultural divide.

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Also at Slipped Disc is an eloquent essay about how one orchestral couple are leaving their jobs and moving to Italy. You have to read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:
Over my career in American orchestras, I’ve found that the proportion of pops to classical in my orchestra job has vastly shifted. I always knew Pops would be a part of my career, and in the right proportion, I found it engaging and fun. But the proportions are well out of whack, at least for what I am willing to do. Compounding that issue is the fact that the concerts have gotten louder and louder, with seemingly no reasonable solution or end in sight.
Maybe the tipping point was when I had to purchase lawn-mower-guy ear cans to use in addition to my earplugs, or maybe it was the first time I puked in the bushes in front of patrons after a concert from the concussive effects of extended exposure to extreme levels of sound. Or maybe it was just the first time that I realized that I counted down the days until the season was over, instead of what I used to do, count down the days until it began.
Turning my focus to the classical portion of our programming, I realized that something very important was missing. As I grew older and more experienced, I had more ideas and skills, not fewer. At the same time, my opportunity for contributing anything artistic seemed to shrink to zero. I wanted to contribute more than what was deemed appropriate or desirable within the string section of an orchestra. A lot of what I love about being a violinist was not appropriate in an orchestral setting: moving with the music, interacting musically with other players, choosing how to turn a phrase. It hit me like a thunderbolt when I realized that facial expressions are the only thing I have control over.
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Here's something fun for the whole family. A clever fellow has put together a video of Steve Reich's Clapping Music that shows exactly how it is put together. It really is the simplest of musical ideas. Like much of his music from around this time (1972) it is in 6/4, though without a meter shown. The entire composition is a one-measure syncopated rhythm. The two performers clap this rhythm in unison eight times, then one of the performers simply moves one eighth-note ahead and that configuration is repeated eight times. Then one more eighth-note and so on with each configuration repeated eight times until the two performers arrive back at the original alignment which repeats eight times. End. That's it. A beautifully simple and elegant musical idea. Get with someone and try it out. Waaay harder than it looks!


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The Montreal Gazette has an item about an incident with a guest conductor: OSM guest conductor Schiff 'flew off the handle' in rehearsals, musicians say.
The Hungarian-born pianist, who was scheduled to play and conduct in the Maison symphonique on Oct. 23 and 24, ended up performing only before intermission in both concerts. Schiff withdrew from the second half of the program after an acrimonious rehearsal in which OSM sources say he criticized the players unfairly and even accused them of “sabotage.”
The incident resulted in a letter to Le Devoir from the orchestra’s CEO, Madeleine Careau, in which she fiercely defended the professionalism of the players and decreed a policy of “zero tolerance” of the abusive language Schiff is alleged to have used.
Three musicians consulted by the Montreal Gazette said Schiff walked out of the first rehearsal on Oct. 21 after less than an hour of unproductive work on Bartók’s Dance Suite, a score with frequent changes of time signature and tempo. The trigger, according to these sources, was a testy exchange with a brass player who was himself on the verge of making his exit.
“What is the problem?” Schiff is alleged to have asked. “You are my problem,” was the response from this musician, whom no one consulted by the Montreal Gazette was willing to identify.
The Montreal Symphony or Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, to give their French title, do not suffer fools gladly, even if they are great pianists like Sir András Schiff. They have quarreled previously with Charles Dutoit who is a real conductor. Not everyone who stands in front of an orchestra and waves a baton is actually a capable conductor. As a friend of mine used to say, "there are conductors, semiconductors and choral conductors."

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The New Yorker weighs in on the Scorsese controversy: Martin Scorsese’s Radical Attack on Marvel Movies.
Scorsese isn’t inveighing against fantasy but against a system of production that submerges directors’ authority in a network of dictates and decisions issued from the top down—a network in which the director is more of a functionary than a creator.
Scorsese doesn’t so much lament the existence of such a corporatized and impersonal mode of production as decry its dominance. He contends that this system is rooted in “the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption.”
For years I have made similar complaints about pop music. The presentation of the character and imagery of the pop star overshadows the fact that the music itself is a kind of industrial product.

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The obvious choice for an envoi today would be that tricky Dance Suite by Bartók. Here is the very capable Slovak conductor Juraj Valčuha with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra:




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