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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

Via Marginal Revolution we learn that Art Garfunkle has been keeping a record of what he has been reading since 1968. Looking at the list for recent years I am abashed. And I thought I was a reader!

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The Canadian Music Centre (CMC) has authorised an indigenous panel to permit or ban use of indigenous material in new compositions.

Composers have contacted us in alarm.

Read the new censorship rule:

The Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) serves at arm’s length from the CMC on matters related to cultural appropriation and misuse of Indigenous songs, story, and culture. The IAC is a group of Indigenous folks from across Canada with a broad range of expertise in music, curation, museology, performance, and repatriation. Its mandate is to provide recommendations to CMC for appropriately redressing instances of misuse in compositions on an ongoing, case-by-case basis.

This work is made possible with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and Canadian Heritage to support thinking about these issues in a large-scale policy basis. It is a major priority for the CMC to work with Indigenous leaders “to examine and search for resolutions to the use of Indigenous Song and Story in the works of Canadian Composition past, present and future; [to establish] protocols for composers and performers when composing and performing works influenced or based on Indigenous materials” (Goal #1, current 2019-2024 Strategic Plan). Having been part of the cause of injury, CMC has to be part of the healing and the solution and take leadership in the healing.

I believe that my Four Pieces for Violin and Guitar are now archived at the CMC. One of them uses an Irish folk tune. Which is not a censorable item. YET! The idea that the Canadian government, through some sort of advisory council, has the right or mandate to tell composers what materials they are and are not allowed to use is just one small instance of appalling governmental overreach. The others are much worse, but we notice this one because it affects musical creativity. The question arises does this policy just affect things like what is available in the CMC and what is funded by the Canada Council? But as classical music is more and more funded by government, that would still result in a blanket ban on the use of indigenous music by composers. Reading this, wouldn't any composer worth their salt immediately start writing a piece satirizing policies like this in the most blatant way?

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Ludwigvan has something to say about Music and the Quest for Innovation.

Composers and new music groups make innovation their raison d’être. Their marketing paraphernalia is replete with language suggesting excellence and innovation. The publicity material of the well-known Sydney-based Ensemble Offspring informs us the ensemble is “dedicated to the performance of innovative new music” and “pursues an agenda of directly shaping the music of our future”. 

These groups may indeed be performing the most innovative composers. But what is also emerging is a much more heightened gravitational pull of music to money. This has meant that for composers to survive they’ve become much more fiercely competitive.

They woo contemporary performing ensembles, hoping for commissions. And they spend excessive amounts of time filling out funding applications and writing up reports at the conclusion of projects, no doubt explaining they were successful in the innovative stakes. 

But it seems that even the composer who does not care what the masses think has exhausted the repertoire of possibility for the new. This is due, in part, to the heightened relationship of music with money and to the intensified competition this sets up among individuals. It seems that nowadays so-called “innovative” composers are searching for ways to out-innovate their competition.

These are just a few quotes from an interesting essay by Sally Macarthur that raises a lot of different questions and issues. 

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Wenatchee the Hatchet commemorates guitar composer Angelo Gilardino on his blog by posting a clip devoted to his Sonata Mediterranea:

I am only familiar with a tiny part of this prolific composer's output, a lot of which was written after I retired as a concert artist. But I have played his etudes with pleasure for years. His writing for guitar is always utterly idiomatic, something less common than you would think.

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Over at the Violin Channel, Maxim Vengerov talks about the value of storytelling in teaching music:

Instrumental music is without words, and usually, there is not a specific image or association suggested by the composer. However, this does not mean the music is abstract or remote; it is up to us as performers to discover and communicate the story behind it.

The beauty is that there can be different stories, different interpretations. This is what keeps the music alive. As performers, we try to faithfully follow the composer's wishes, but we also bring our own heart and soul to every performance. We can think of ourselves as a window illuminating the painting of an old master - every window will refract light slightly differently, bringing into relief different subtleties in the work.

The only guitar maestro that used this method that I know of was Oscar Ghiglia--and each time he worked on a particular piece with a different student he would tell a different story. But the purpose was always to activate the student's engagement with the music, to get beyond the notes to the expression.

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Now let's have some envois! First up, just for the heck of it, a young Hélène Grimaud playing the Piano Concerto No. 4 by Beethoven:

Arthur Rubinstein playing the Nocturne Op. 55, No. 1 by Chopin:

We seem to be developing a French theme here (Chopin lived most of his life in Paris) so let's end with harpist Héloïse de Jenlis playing the Two Arabesques by Debussy:

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