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Smatterings!

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Smatterings!

Which is just another word for miscellanea. I don't have any sizable topics ready to go, though a big one on the Chaconne is brewing. So here are a few random observations:

Just finished the first chapter of the Oxford History of Western Music volume on the 19th century and Taruskin does a wonderful job of showing how German bias in musicology has led us to consistently undervalue the wonderful opera creations of not only Rossini, but also Bellini and Donizetti. He goes into all the details of how the opera buffa forms and conventions were expanded and later applied to opera seria in order to create the iconic romantic opera that burgeoned throughout the century. Here is a great example by Donizetti from Lucia di Lammermoor sung by the brilliant Anna Netrebko: 


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Over on Netflix I discovered a charming tv series called YouMeHer. I am long used to science fiction series like Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Galactica being shot in Vancouver to the point that one comes to expect that every alien planet looks a lot like the Fraser Valley, but this show is a romantic comedy. Ironically, it leans very heavily on its ostensible setting in Portland, Oregon with every section prefaced by brief establishing shots of typical Portland scenes. But nope, shot in Vancouver with a largely Canadian cast. One of the minor characters even had a major role in Battlestar Galactica. The early seasons are pretty good largely due to good comedic writing and a transcendentally beautiful lead actress born in my old home town of Victoria. Another interesting irony is that despite the story revolving around fashionably progressive Portland culture and the three central characters forming a "throuple" or romantic threesome, the underlying moral themes are rather conservative.


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I am re-reading a book I first read in the late 70s: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the title of which spawned a whole bunch of mediocre imitators. I first stumbled across it in a friend's library and read the whole book in one night instead of sleeping. It is a unique book, a genuinely unique book as few books are. It is a philosophical thriller replete with all sorts of tips about motorcycle maintenance which explains its uniqueness. It is also, in my opinion, one of the few books from that time (1974) that has not become dated. The Amazon reviews are interesting because people seem to either love or hate it. It somehow manages to approach some of the most abstract problems in philosophy (Kant's a priori for example) and discuss them in down to earth ways that no-one else has ever managed. I get a great deal more out of the book now than I did when I first read it. He seems to have anticipated the great cultural gulf we are currently experiencing in North America.

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And finally, a note about institutions that has some universal application. In my teaching career spent at a conservatory, a two year CEGEP (community college in Quebec) and two universities, I have noticed a trend that seems to afflict music departments. They are often founded by outstanding musicians but as time goes on, the musical musicians are less and less interested in the mechanics of administration and governance and their positions are slowly taken over by people who are interested in those things, by careerists and opportunists in other words. There are entire cities in Canada (and possibly the US as well) where all the institutions have been taken over by these sorts of people (who tend to hire those of similar bent) which frankly sours the whole endeavour to the point where students can't wait to escape. Some institutions, and I won't name them, seem immune to this trend and I'm not sure why. Perhaps if there is a critical mass of real musicians large enough it can resist the appointment of the other kind.

But I want to expand this observation: I think it is actually true of many institutions in society at large. This has been discussed by people in the field of public choice theory: agents in public institutions tend to act in their own interest with lots of predictable consequences.

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But let's end with some music to clear the palate. Here is yet another cantata from the J. S. Bachstiftung: Cantata BWV 66 "Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen" (Rejoice, all ye spirits)




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