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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

This is probably a book I will have a look at when I get the time: The Death of the Artist: How Creators Are Struggling to Survive in the Age of Billionaires and Big Tech
A deeply researched warning about how the digital economy threatens artists' lives and work—the music, writing, and visual art that sustain our souls and societies—from an award-winning essayist and critic.

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Black repertoire project: Black Music Project Bolsters Case For Shift In Concert Repertoire

Toppin is challenging programmers to think beyond newsreel moments and, as she calls it, “formulaic programming.” 

“We need to stop presenting one movement of Florence Price for Black History Month and giving no time to rehearse it,” she says, “and then spend two weeks on the Beethoven Ninth Symphony that everyone has played for the last 30 years.”

I just have one caveat: the Canadian Music Centre has been fulfilling a similar need for Canadian composers:

The Canadian Music Centre was founded in 1959 by a group of Canadian composers who saw a need to create a repository for Canadian music. It now holds Canada's largest collection of Canadian concert music, and works to promote the music of its Associate Composers in Canada and around the world.

Initially the Centre focused on collecting and cataloguing serious musical works, developing a catalogue of scores, copying and duplicating the music, and making it available for loan, nationally and internationally. The Centre currently has over 18,000 scores and/or works by almost 700 Canadian contemporary composers available through its lending library.[1] It sells more than 900 CD titles featuring the music of its Associate Composers and other Canadian independent recording producers.

Successful results have been limited, however.

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In graduate school I took a seminar on comic opera and, to my great sorrow, chose Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg to write a paper on. I figured that this would be a good way to get to know Wagner better without having to slog through The Ring. Alas and alack! Die Meistersinger is nearly six hours long. And writing a paper involved listening to it multiple times... The New Yorker provides a guide to how to manage that: An Operagoer’s Endurance Test: Matthew Aucoin at “Die Meistersinger”

Once Aucoin had hunkered down in an orchestra seat for “Die Meistersinger” ’s first act, he cautioned, “There’s a kind of opium haze that sets in with Wagner. If I end up keeling over into your shoulder, be warned.” Eighty-five minutes of keelinglessness later, during the first intermission, Aucoin said, “One down, two to go. We’re still at the base of the mountain.” He added, “I’m finding that one part of my brain is registering, Well, that’s a terrible line. But most of me is kind of hooked. It’s that narcotic quality I mentioned. And that’s opera’s ‘thing’: Can you overcome the skepticism that remains present in one part of your brain?”

Read the whole thing!

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Here is a refreshingly different take on an old controversy: The Myth of the Classically Educated Elite.

As Richard Karabel documented in his monumental work The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (2005), the general raising of academic standards at elite universities is almost entirely due to the entrance of Jewish students at the beginning of the 20th century. Because Jewish kids took all this stuff seriously: they actually studied Latin and Greek; they actually studied and absorbed the Classics. In this devotion, they were continuing a process that’s occurred repeatedly throughout history: the children of the bourgeois exploiting brief periods when a Classical education might gain them an advantage in a changing world. 

The simple truth is that, by and large, Americans elites have not been particularly cultured. Neither, despite the hype, were the English gentry. In this, we see a common phenomenon: after 1700, when the supply of literate people expanded, the political class stopped producing nearly so many writers, and writers now tended to come either from the gentry, who were so minor that they were nowhere near the halls of power, or from the upper echelons of tradespeople. For the former, see Henry Fielding or Samuel Johnson; for the latter, see Daniel Defoe or Samuel Richardson.

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For our first envoi, the Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger:

 And here is the Symphony No. 4 by Canadian composer Jacques Hétu:

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