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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

What's on the concert program tonight? We're not telling you! Secret symphonies: reimagining the classical concert experience.
Some time ago I went to a great restaurant in Malmö, where my other orchestra, the Malmö Symphony, is based. At this restaurant (called Bloom In The Park, for all you fellow foodies out there) they have a philosophy that you engage with the food, with no expectations. That means, you sit down, you tell them about any allergies you might have, then the meal commences, each plate arrives and they don’t tell you what you are eating. You simply experience the food.
The experience of that meal made me realise that in some way or another we all are pseudo-connoisseurs - by which I mean, many of our experiences in aesthetic, subjective art forms are evaluated - even pre-evaluated - through highly formed expectations and preconceptions. We come to things with well-defined preferences, we don’t usually engage openly and directly with what has been presented.
Now that's a cool idea! And here is the concert. If you don't peek (unfortunately I did) you can have the reimagined concert experience.

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 Alex Ross has a new piece up at The New Yorker: THE PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY’S SAVAGE PRECISION.
After listening to the Pittsburgh Symphony’s recent recording of the Bruckner Ninth Symphony for the tenth or eleventh time, I began planning a trip to Pittsburgh, in the hope of understanding how such a formidable achievement had come about. The playing is, first of all, at a very high technical level; the Pittsburgh musicians can withstand comparisons with their better-paid counterparts in Boston, New York, and Chicago. Yet note-perfect performances are hardly unusual in an age of impeccable conservatory training. What distinguishes this Bruckner Ninth is the rare and disconcerting expressive power of the interpretation. Savagely precise in detail, and almost scarily sublime in cumulative effect, it gives notice that the right orchestra and the right conductor can unleash unsuspected energies in familiar works.
What is nice about this sort of article is the implicit admission that a normal symphony orchestra, with a traditionally trained conductor, playing very mainstream orchestral repertoire, can deliver very fine aesthetic experiences.

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I suppose this sort of thing was inevitable: Classical Music Has a ‘God Status’ Problem.
Over the past year, The Atlantic talked to more than four dozen young musicians about their experiences with classical-music education and sexual misconduct. Their accounts reveal a culture built on hierarchy, critique, and reputation, and show how such a culture can facilitate abuse.
The long article summarizes the training and discipline that classical musicians undergo and then recounts the recent sexual harassment scandals. Unfortunately it is true that there are power dynamics in classical music education. I'm not sure that they can be removed without seriously crippling the process.

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Pianist Peter Serkin just passed away. Here is an appreciation: Peter Serkin, In Real Time
The conventional dime-store Freudian take on Peter Serkin is that he tried to do something different than his father, the legendary Rudolf Serkin. Rudolf was all storm and stress, brilliant, driven, someone who stormed the heavens with the German classics. (If you are allowed only one recording of the Moonlight, Pathetique, and Appassionata sonatas, there’s nothing wrong with acquiring the old Columbia LP by Rudolf Serkin.)
In reaction to the muscular and direct perspective of his father, the son was consciously gentle and wayward — or, at least, so went the dime-store Freudian take.
I had the vinyl disc of his recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto way back in the 70s.

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Here is a rather sobering account of the politicizing of academia: Wokeademia.
I'm working on an economic view of political polarization. One aspect of that project is the extent to which many institutions in our society have become politicized. Today's post is one little data point in that larger story. It tells a little story of how to politicize an institution and silence dissenters.
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There has been a lot of activity lately in employing more women conductors and commissioning women composers: New York Philharmonic Begins Premiering Work of 19 Female Composers
[Nina C. Young] is among 19 composers whose works will have their world premieres as part of the Philharmonic’s Project 19, billed as the largest women-only commissioning initiative, in celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage. Ms. Young’s “Tread softly,” which references a W.B. Yeats poem and thwarted dreams, on Wednesday kicked off the first of six this month. Two more world premieres will follow in May and June, with the other 11 in coming seasons.
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For our envoi, let's listen to Memento Mori for string quartet by Nina C. Young.

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