Met Opening

September 22, 2008

Having decided beforehand not to write about tonight’s gala at the Metropolitan Opera, knowing that something so sensational will be sufficiently covered by others, I’m going back on that slightly. When James Levine came out to accept the warm applause motivated partly by his welcome return from cancer surgery, he then turned to the orchestra, there was a big drum-roll as everyone stood, and the National Anthem began. Hearing thousands of opera-goers sing that at a time of national turning-point — of great crisis, even — was very moving, even for one who does not automatically turn himself over to nationalistic sentiment.

In Situ, Ex Situ

September 20, 2008

One of the positive developments I’ve been in a position to observe during recent decades has been the increased attention to context in music-making. This has been true in both performance and scholarship. We are having more and more thoughtful programming outside the strait-jacket that a concert hall can become, and the seminars I attended on music in 18th-century urban Europe with musicologist Barry Brook and sociologist Rolf Meyerson in the ’70s were only the vanguard of a musico-sociological wave to come.
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Hail Columbia*

September 16, 2008

However hard a person tries not to be excessively New York-centric, folks like those at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre sometimes make it difficult. After I descanted last season on the way the Pacifica Quartet was hypnotizing noon audiences with Beethoven, it seems a public duty to remind everyone who might be in the neighborhood during October, January, February, or April that the Daedalus Quartet is taking the torch and running with Haydn, Mozart, and — comparatively newsworthy these days — Mendelssohn quartets.

There is such a thing as a free lunch-time concert.


* Did you know that “Hail Columbia” was used as the national anthem in the United States until 1931, when Congress for the first time decreed an official anthem? Its text is rather more explicit than that of “The Star-Spangled Banner”:
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A Sticky Post

September 13, 2008

You can now sign up to receive a discreet e-mail notification whenever there’s something new on RogerEvansOnline.

Or you can subscribe to the site through your customary reader.

Just go to the About page, scroll down, and click on either the e-mail or reader link.

It’ll be good to be that much more in touch with all those who have been coming here regularly!


De Gustibus

September 11, 2008

Yesterday I encountered a friend who was returning home from a special event. I’m not usually very attentive to people’s clothes, but I noticed her dress and complimented her on it.

“Thanks, but I almost threw it out. The hemline is so last year.”

While there are few things I’m as ignorant about as what constitutes a fashionable skirt length, her remark came back to me later and made me think of what a pity it seemed that a woman in a fine, extremely becoming dress should feel qualms about some arbitrary diktat of transitory fashion. Why should a woman, even a “lady of fashion,” not feel it permissible — yea, preferable — to wear the length that she finds most becoming or comfortable?

I’m old enough to remember when American men were all — I mean all — required to have very short hair. Then, with the arrival of the Beatles, it became the rage to have longer hair. Then shorn locks became the fashion again. Now teen-age boys I know may have tresses anywhere from buzz-cut to shoulder length, as suits them and without self-consciousness — two best friends perhaps going to each extreme. This seems to me the best of all situations.

As you will probably have guessed, this led me to a musical consideration.
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Siblings under the skin? A British study would have it that they are. Are your psychological profile and your musical taste indissolubly linked?

We have become accustomed to the idea of music as a therapeutic device (finally catching up with King David and the ancient Greeks). But could it also become a diagnostic tool for psychology?

Monteverdi the Modern

September 4, 2008

Western culture has had a perennial method of reforming itself, making itself fresh and current: we repeatedly go back to the ancient Greeks. After the music of Renaissance Humanism had flowered into something very complex, certain intellectually-inclined Italians felt a great desire to purify Renaissance music of the luxuriance that had grown up. Hence what was called the secunda prattica. The High Renaissance style was thus thought of as the prima prattica, since the New Learning — as a sign of what C.S. Lewis called the New Ignorance — had thought of its own practice as being the first worth considering. (The Humanists, when they copied an ancient or medieval manuscript — making the emendations they thought proper — had routinely destroyed the manuscript, since their having improved it eliminated, in their view, further need for the source, thus greatly impoverishing our access to the past.) But the new experimenters in musical style were not so arrogant; they had the humility belonging to true explorers. Thus did the fabled Florentine camerata and its fellow travelers in Venice and Rome devise a new manner of singing — imitating their conception of Greek drama — that aimed for a naturalness of declamation and expressivity that went straight for the heart. In the process, they invented opera.
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