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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

The world's top two earning musicians this year are Taylor Swift, number one at $185 million and Kanye West, number two at $150 million. This has to be the golden age of music, right?

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Every now and then you can catch one of those retro tv shows out in an anachronism they are not likely to be themselves aware of. I've been watching Mindhunter lately, which is quite an interesting show. It is set in the late 1970s and as far as I can tell, there are no anachronisms in the cars, sets, fashions, etc. However in one early episode a character uses the phrase "to beg the question" in a way that shows that the show was written in the last couple of years. I am old enough to remember when people used to know the meaning of phrases like "to beg the question" and "to coin a phrase." But in the last ten or twenty years, this has all gone away and you almost never hear them used correctly. "To beg the question" refers to the logical fallacy that occurs when the premiss of the argument assumes the conclusion. But in recent years it has come to mean "to pose the question" which seems more common sense, even though wrong. Similarly, the phrase "to coin a phrase" meant to invent a new expression, but recently it has come to mean "to repeat a stereotypical sentiment." Ceteris paribus, I prefer the original meanings.

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Norman Lebrecht has a lovely tribute to conductor Mariss Jansons who just passed away this week.
If you were fortunate enough to know Mariss Jansons, you soon became aware that he was one of the kindest men alive and that he had no interest whatsoever in the business of music.
I spent a morning with him once in a deprived area of Pittsburgh, where he devoted as much respect and attention to a classroom of welfare kids as he did to the Vienna Philharmonic in their finest suits. Respect was his watchword. He treated every person as his equal.
I had a ticket to see him conduct at the Salzburg Festival last summer, but sadly, that was a concert he had to cancel and so I saw Yannick Nezét-Séguin instead.

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I found this interesting clip through Slipped Disc--a comparison of three great pianos: Steinway, Fazioli, Bösendorfer.


I have had this long-standing liking for Bösendorfer, based on a recording from long ago and I don't even remember which one! I am totally objective because I don't even play piano. Based on the first round, the Steinway sounds absolutely lovely in all registers, the Fazioli is really dry in the treble and the Bösendorfer is quite nice in the bass, but not as nice as the Steinway in the treble. Your thoughts?

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I used to think the Grawemeyer Award was the best, or at least, the least-bad, composer award because of its multiple stages. It depended on more than the votes of a few cronies. Alas, I'm not sure if this is still the case: LEI LIANG WINS 2020 GRAWEMEYER AWARD FOR CLIMATE CHANGE-INSPIRED PIECE.
Chinese-American composer Lei Liang has won the 2020 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for an orchestral work that evokes the threat posed by climate change and the opportunity it offers for redemption. Boston Modern Orchestra Project commissioned the winning piece, A Thousand Mountains, a Million Streams, which premiered in 2018 in Boston’s Jordan Hall with Gil Rose conducting. 
“The world we live in today is dangerous,” explained Liang. “Our very existence is threatened by global warming, which is causing violent disruptions to the living things on our planet and being made worse by human irresponsibility. When creating the work, I wanted to convey the importance of preserving our landscapes, both physically and spiritually, to sustain a place where we and our children can belong.”
AGH! Sorry, that expostulation was solely for the well-massaged clichéed sentiments, not for the music itself, which I hope is a lot more creative. And no, our existence is not in the slightest threatened by global warming, which only exists in speculative computer models. Annual deaths in the US from falling down the stairs: 1,300. Annual deaths from global warming: 0. Ban stairs! Or, alternatively, my next piece is going to be a meditation on the danger of going down stairs.

I eagerly await your outraged comments!

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Professional violinist Joanna Maurer recently played on the film scores of both the comic book-inspired drama Joker and the holiday comedy Noelle. She did the same work, for equally prominent companies.
But the New York-based musician says she'll earn 75 per cent less for Noelle simply because it was released on Disney Plus, the new video-streaming service that launched on Nov. 14 and has already garnered more than 10 million subscribers.
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Working-class libraries and archives, the writings of autodidacts and the annals of adult education reveal a dynamic tradition of working-class access to the ancient Greeks and Romans, not only through language study but through translations and visual culture. Classical materials have been present in the identity construction and psychological experience of substantial groups of working-class Britons. Dissenting academies, Nonconformist Sunday schools and Methodist preacher-training initiatives all encouraged those who attended them to read widely in ancient history, ideas and rhetorical handbooks. Classical topics were included on the curricula of Mutual Improvement Societies, adult schools, Mechanics’ Institutes, university extension schemes, the Workers’ Educational Association, trade unions and the early Labour Colleges. These initiatives did much to counter the sluggish legislative response to workers’ demands for education: it was not until the Elementary Education Acts of 1870 and 1880 that even rudimentary instruction in literacy and numeracy, let alone access to classical culture, became universally and freely available to children under 13.
The whole article is worth reading for its detailed discussion. I came from a very lower middle class background. Both my parents never rose above Grade 8 in formal education. But I was always attracted to libraries and serious writing both fiction and non-fiction and never felt anything else other than encouragement my whole life in educational institutions. So you can imagine with what horror I regard the current attempts to ban authors because they are dead while males, to "de-colonize" literature, to ban every manifestation of Western Civilization that does not meet "woke" standards.

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For our envoi today, let's listen to some of the Lei Liang piece. It is in many separate clips on YouTube. Here are the first three (and of course, Blogger won't embed):




I don't know about you, but I listened to several of these mini-sections and it reminded me a lot of Messiaen with extra Asian influence, but with more threat and less joy.


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