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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

The news of the week is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music, Navajo composer Raven Chacon: The Pulitzer Prize Winner That Emerged Out of a Time of Quietness

Inspired by the silence of days spent in lockdown, he began writing “Voiceless Mass,” a 16-minute work for ensemble and pipe organ. Chacon, 44, a member of the Navajo Nation who lives in Albuquerque, set out to use the sounds of the organ, accompanied by winds, strings and percussion, to explore themes of power and oppression.

“During the pandemic, we were able to focus on some of the cries of people who were feeling injustices around them,” he said in an interview. “Lockdown was this time of quietness where there was an opportunity for those sounds and cries to emerge.”

We don't seem to have a clip of the piece on YouTube, but there is one for an earlier work, The Journey of the Horizontal People for string quartet:


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And over at substack Ted Gioia tells us about The Guitar as the Instrument of Seducers:

The guitar—as well as its predecessor, the lute—is the instrument of seducers. This isn’t a romantic projection, but based on practical considerations and validated by music history.

As a pianist, I’d like to imagine the keyboard as the most erotically-charged instrument. But that simply isn’t the case. First and foremost, the piano can’t be carried to the place of seduction—a secluded rendezvous, below the balcony of the beloved, the back of the van, the bed chamber, and those other usual spots of lust-ridden assignation.

Yes, portability is one of the chief strengths of the guitar and lute. They are instruments of harmony and accompaniment you can carry anywhere. Have a look at the essay which has lots of illustrations of seductive lutenists.

Ted is really hitting them out of the park this week. Here is another piece on the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's acquisition of a record label in the Netherlands: A New Model for a Music Conservatory

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The Spectator has a bit of aesthetic dissidence: Why I booed Birtwistle.

With the passing of Sir Harrison Birtwistle last month we are witness to a changing of the guard in new classical music. For 70-odd years contemporary music in the West was dominated by a highly exclusive atonal mode of thought that produced works that were hostile to the wider music-loving public and written for a small but highly subsidised cultural circle.

If it was spontaneous when it began, the atonal idiom – meaning a highly dissonant style – quickly ossified into a kind of luxury backwater of music, so obscure it couldn’t even be questioned, yet endlessly backed by public subsidy which the public could nevertheless never challenge. It became an immovable impediment to other musical idioms that might better serve the public and retain an audience in the broader sense.

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 And here is a different kind of aesthetic: A Violin From Hollywood’s Golden Age Aims at an Auction Record.

Music directors and composers sought out Seidel’s warm, rich tone. He was the concertmaster for the Paramount Studio Orchestra and played the violin solos for MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” and David Selznick’s “Intermezzo,” in which a famed violinist (played by Leslie Howard) falls in love with his accompanist (Ingrid Bergman).

“That we largely associate love scenes or depictions of the less fortunate in films — or any scene evoking tears or strong emotions — with the sound of the violin is largely due to Seidel,” Adam Baer, a violinist and journalist, in a 2017 article for The American Scholar. (Baer’s violin teacher studied with Seidel and insisted that his pupils listen to recordings of Seidel performances.)

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 And for those of you curious about the Claude Vivier festival I mentioned last week, here is a follow-up: Claude Vivier weekend review – unruly and utterly distinctive

If those pieces never really transcend their models, then around 1980 all those elements in Vivier’s music fused into an utterly distinctive style. The two pieces that Ilan Volkov conducted in the Sinfonietta’s programme, Zipangu, for 14 strings, and Lonely Child for soprano and orchestra, explore a world of complex harmonies and glowing instrumental colours that clothe the rhythmic unisons of the string piece and support the vocal lines of Lonely Child in a way that is both ritualistic and consoling. Claire Booth was the wonderfully warm soloist in Lonely Child; it’s quite unlike anything else, and Vivier’s best known work for good reason.

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I have to confess that I don't know the work of Harrison Birtwhistle at all! Here is Silbury Air, a piece for chamber orchestra from 1977:

And here is Toscha Seidel playing Chausson's Poème in a live 1945 concert:

And finally Lonely Child by Claude Vivier:

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