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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

I'm struggling to get a new piece off the ground so, not too many postings this week. Let's start off with a new clip from Rick Beato in which he reviews the ten songs nominated for Song of the Year for the Grammies.


Well, yeah, it is nice to hear some informed criticism. I think that, as in recent movies, the overuse of technology is simply destructive to good aesthetic values. Oh, and songs written by committee.

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I have something of an unusual distinction: I may have the YouTube channel with the least subscribers ever: two (2). I actually didn't set this up. It comes from a compilation album released years ago by a Toronto record company (violating my copyright, by the way). Here is one of the three tracks on the channel, all from the album. This is En los Trigales by Joaquin Rodrigo. Of course, Blogger won't embed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvNNaUXkHp4&list=RDGMEM6ijAnFTG9nX1G-kbWBUCJAVMJvNNaUXkHp4&start_radio=1

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Here's an interesting bit of speculation: Have Any Composers Become Film Directors? The answer, by the way, is "no" but it might happen one day.

In the past, the great orchestral music composers like Beethoven were titans of culture. Today, individuals with skills at complex orchestral music such as John Williams are still much in demand to score films.

Movies are, more or less, the Total Art dreamt of by Wagner. On the other hand, he would have been surprised that the composer is a servant, typically called in late in the process to augment the existing work.

Composing the music for movies is a really good job. Still, it’s paid work rather than being the boss. In contrast, it’s hard to imagine Mozart, Verdi, or Wagner deferring to their librettists or the directors of their operas.

In opera, the composer is The Man. But in movies he is not.

It seems that the person, director, actor, producer, who brought in the money, is the one who calls the shots. Nowadays we have a number of billionaire musicians so I can see one of them getting involved. We already have an example: Kanye West directed his own 34 minute film of Runaway using tracks from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

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Alex Ross is doing a piece on ecological tourism this week, but economist Tyler Cowen had one a few years ago on How to get started with opera:

First I assume we are talking about recorded opera (most opera on DVD bores me, too static, though many swear by it), but of course go live when you can.  My core view is that people "do well" with culture when they feel they are in control, and tune out otherwise.  So pick one area and master it, or at least get intrigued, rather than trying to survey all of opera.  Those "introductory" books are probably counterproductive, if only because they let you know how much ground there is to cover.  Who could possibly master five different recordings of Parsifal?

That's actually pretty good advice and corresponds with my experience. I was a late-comer to opera, at least as a fan. It wasn't until I heard a couple of major European productions that I really got into it.

The Ingmar Bergman film of Magic Flute is perhaps the single most inspiring introduction to opera, even if they are singing in Swedish.  It is cinematic in conception, rather than a mere film of a performance, thus avoiding the DVD problem.

I first saw this in Montreal in Swedish with French sub-titles, but yes, great film of a great opera.

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Of course I agree with this: Classical comeback: the pandemic proves the need to support musicians and orchestras.

However, for all of its darkness, the pandemic has allowed us to reimagine what our musical world could look like if we start from scratch. Throughout the crisis, the industry has begun to construct a new narrative shaped to accommodate great artistic expression for everyone. As we rebuild our society and our economy, I’m convinced, more than ever, that participation in music is part of the solution for national recovery. Participating in musical activity sustains us through the most perplexing and difficult moments of our lives.

I also think that, in order to avoid complaints that this is "elitist" we also rethink music as a component of education. Apart from the usual benefits, it would go a long way to developing a larger audience for classical music.

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But the reality is that the performing arts have sustained and continue to sustain horrific damage as a result of the often arbitrary decisions of government bodies. Canada provides a case study: Arbitrary shutdowns show that most Canadian leaders hold little value in artists.

Anyone dedicated to a career in the arts is a risk-taker used to inconsistent income but the damage COVID has done, particularly in the performing arts, is without precedent; this is the fourth time in two years that arts workers have had to shelve their careers. The federal income supports expired at year’s end and there is no word yet whether they will be reinstated; in December, the federal government did announce the $60-million Canada Performing Arts Workers Resilience Fund for 2022-23 but it will not be available until the spring. Many gig and contract workers have simply switched to other jobs, while newcomers are unlikely to join such precarious fields. Shuttered institutions will survive and return – although the federal payroll subsidy that kept many afloat expired in October – but individual artists will abandon the arts, depriving Canada of their creativity.

We may even want to rethink how much liberty we are willing to give up in the face of the growing technological tools available to governments and administrators and whether they possess the understanding to use them wisely.

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 I think the kindest thing you can say about this aesthetic train-wreck is that it was mercifully brief:

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Here is a light article on composer Caroline Shaw: Caroline Shaw on Writing Classical Music ‘Fan Fiction,’ and Her Top 4 Desert-Island Songs

Because the more you know about Shaw’s work and the trajectory of her career, the more intimidating she seems. She became, at the age of 30, the youngest person to win the Pulitzer prize for music (2013, Partita for Eight Voices). She has filled the decade since winning her Pulitzer by continuing to perform as a violinist and vocalist, all the while composing for orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists, often collaborating as a performer with those for whom she composes—in the classical realm but further afield as well, with such artists as Kanye West, Nas, The National, and at least one member of Arcade Fire. And she has written film scores. And won two Grammys. And even appeared, as herself, in season four of the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle.

I've found myself listening to several pieces for string quartet by Caroline Shaw recently--and enjoying them! So I will probably devote a post to her in the near future.

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For our envois today, let's start with a piece by Caroline Shaw:


 And an excerpt from the Bergman Magic Flute:


Here is a new clip from Wigmore Hall. Ning Feng plays the Gavotte en rondeau from the E major violin partita as an encore to his October recital.





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