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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Every possible melody? Doubtful. Musicians Algorithmically Generate Every Possible Melody, Release Them to Public Domain.
To determine the finite nature of melodies, Riehl and Rubin developed an algorithm that recorded every possible 8-note, 12-beat melody combo. This used the same basic tactic some hackers use to guess passwords: Churning through every possible combination of notes until none remained. Riehl says this algorithm works at a rate of 300,000 melodies per second.
Just about every word of that needs explanation. "Finite"? What distinction is that aiming for? Are there "infinite" melodies? And what does "8-note" refer to? They only looked at diatonic melodies without chromaticism? They only looked at octatonic melodies? Where does the "12-beat" come from? This "explanation" sounds like a garbled and misunderstood version of a longer and more complete one.

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This is an interesting, if troubling, post: Classical musicians hunt in tribes.
Composer Ruth Gipps wrote "I have been told that Britten was personally responsible for having the careers of possible rivals ruined if he could", and named Willian Alwyn, William Walton, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells, and Lennox Berkeley as the alleged victims of Aldeburgh tribal warfare. Other examples from the past of classical musicians hunting in packs are the celebrated Glock/Boulez pack which hunted down other fine composers including Robert Simpson, Malcolm Arnold and Edmund Rubbra, and the less celebrated bigots in the BBC who sabotaged the black conductor Rudolph Dunbar's career in the 1940s.
Today classical musicians and those close to them continue to hunt in tribal packs. In fact the hegemony of social media has amplified the role of the tribe: because social networks are agglomerations of communities of common interest - aka as tribes. So in classical music we now have social media hunting packs that are anti-Brexit, pro-CBSO, anti-Domingo, pro-new London concert hall, anti-BBC rationalisation, pro-#metoo vigilantism, etc etc.
I suppose that a traditional justification for this sort of thing might have been the promotion of various "schools of thought." We have seen the Second Viennese School or the Russian Five lending support to one another and don't see anything wrong with that. But if Britten or Boulez was attempting to cripple the careers of rival composers as has been claimed, then surely we would condemn that as mere careerism or factional rivalry. Would claims of theoretical authenticity or something be justification--or would they not even be bothered with? How common is this in the area of the visual arts?

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The coronavirus crisis seems to be leading to some over-reaction:
The Swiss government this morning banned all large events of over 1,000 people until March 15 at the earliest, due to coronavirus fears.
That will include all opera and concert performances.
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Via Slipped Disc I am alerted to a new website for Anne Midgette, late of the Washington Post. He directs us to a post on Plácido Domingo:
Domingo is, indeed, irreplaceable — because the world no longer has a place for this particular kind of artist, who has done so much to help the field and so much to harm it. And it may well be that without him, the field loses some of its patrons, and some of its funding. It may be, indeed, that the institution of opera fundamentally changes — which is something we should all aspire to if we want this intoxicating, bizarre, glorious art form to continue to be vital, now and in the future. Will the fall of Domingo bring about the fall of opera? Those who fear that are forgetting another operatic plot: the idea that  Götterdämmerung is necessary in order that a brave new world can be born.
That is the conclusion; it is worth reading the whole post, which raises a host of questions, some of them about the nature of patronage. I was musing over the role of patronage by the rich and powerful in the career of Arthur Rubinstein and I wonder if replacing it with a regime of nothing but government and foundation grants will not result in a much blander artistic world.

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Here's an odd reflection: when it comes to prestige propaganda, why is it that the Left always seems to do it better? Case in point, Picasso's Guernica, that I saw when I visited the Reina Sofia art museum in Madrid a couple of years ago. This enormous painting, 11 by 25 feet, taking up an entire gallery, is an depiction of man's inhumanity to man (and horses). It is the most famous anti-war painting and depicts the bombing of the Basque village of Guernica in 1937 in the course of the Spanish Civil War. This was shocking because it was the first instance of the aerial bombing of civilians and gained worldwide attention. It resulted in nearly 2,000 casualties. Now of course, the allies in WWII launched many massive bombing raids that resulted in far more civilian casualties--one of the most notorious was the bombing of Dresden late in the war with little strategic justification resulting in the deaths of about 25,000 people, many of them civilians. But we can find examples during the Spanish Civil War of atrocities committed by the Republican left. These are often referred to as the Red Terror.
The violence consisted of the killing of tens of thousands of people (including 6,832 Roman Catholic priests, the vast majority in the summer of 1936 in the wake of the military coup) as well as attacks on the Spanish nobility, industrialists, and conservative politicians as well as the desecration and burning of monasteries and churches.
I think it is safe to say that, in the case of the Spanish Civil War, both sides committed many atrocities. I just want to notice that the Left always seems to have better artistic depiction of the atrocities of the Right. Is that odd?

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Via The Strad, here is something interesting: 12 Ensemble, an innovative, conductorless string ensemble, perform ‘Honey Siren - II. (Full like drips)’ by Oliver Leith taped in the loading dock at the Barbican.


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The Times Literary Supplement has a piece on George Gershwin: Gershwin: The quest for an American sound.
Gershwin died at the age of thirty-eight, in 1937. Yet his music continues to hold a place in the American consciousness. Ever since the premiere of Rhapsody in Blue, his works have been linked to jazz – some even call Porgy and Bess a “jazz opera” because of its African American characters.  Gershwin was not a jazz musician, and the works he composed were not jazz. Nonetheless, after his death, in the hands of musicians including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald, songs such as “I Got Rhythm” served as jumping off points for important jazz movements like Bebop.
All of this is to say that Gershwin’s compositions do not fit easily into a single musical category.  They are shifting entities, whose content, orchestration, performance style and cultural significance continue to change from one generation to the next. This is especially true of the works that engage with African American culture. Gershwin’s depictions of race – be it in masterworks like Rhapsody in Blue and Porgy and Bess, or “blackface” numbers like “Swanee” – are relevant to our understanding of the American soundscape.  Their creation and reception reveal much about the complexities behind Gershwin’s development as a composer, and the continued development of the United States as a nation.
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Yuja Wang caused a stir in a recital in Chicago by playing the pieces in a different order than listed in the program. The Chicago Tribune discusses: Why piano star Yuja Wang’s daring recital raised some hackles.
In fact, Wang went beyond surprising her listeners and startled at least one when she opened the recital. Rather than starting with the earliest pieces, the Bach Toccata in C Minor or Galuppi’s Andante from Sonata No. 5 (both 18th century works), she jolted expectations with a 20th century landmark: Scriabin’s Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major. Because of its ample technical demands, most pianists would have played it later in the program, when their fingers were warmed up. Its revolutionary approach to harmony, structure, rhythm and phrase also suggested that conventional pianists would have placed it much later in the recital, as a culmination of the baroque and romantic idioms that preceded it.
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I don't think we have heard much Scriabin in our envois. So let's remedy that. Here is the Sonata No. 4 in F# minor played by Yuja Wang:




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