Who Blogs?

June 6, 2009

images I’m a fan of Richard Florida, not just for his ideas but for the ideas of other people that he leads me to. In his brief discussion of the blogger’s personality, he cites an article on creativity that I wish I had read decades ago. Why? Because it explains myself to me in terms that I have never before understood as well as its researcher does. I have a feeling that at least some others who visit here may have a similar experience.

Years ago when I was required to take the Myers-Briggs test, the professionals who gave me my interpretive interview were emphatic that my results were psychologically impossible. On every single trait that the test proposes to illuminate, I scored almost exactly (and in two instances exactly) in the middle. I was told that this was impossible.

Parents and educators might do well to read the Psychology Today article linked above when they find they have one of those puzzling, hard-to-classify kids on their hands.

05rive600 I found it rather endearing when Nicholas Kristof apologized yesterday on Facebook for a grammatical error in his column for Wednesday’s New York Times. My question, though, was: Shouldn’t it be the editors apologizing rather than the madly globe-trotting and cause-championing prolific writer?

So, while Kristof is removing the mote from his eye, I want to complain about the mote (admittedly not quite a beam) in a Times caption-writer’s eye. For some time now, I have been startled to see in that influential paper captions for photos of classical musicians that employ such locutions as “Krystian Zimerman on the piano.” The use of on there I take to be acceptable and idiomatic pop or jazz slang. The hitherto-customary “Krystian Zimerman at the piano” or, perhaps better, “Krystian Zimerman playing the piano” seems to me to represent usage worth maintaining — if only because portraying a much more artistically-healthy relationship between interpreter and instrument.

Today’s edition includes a review of Tim Fain (whom I knew as Timothy but notice that his own Web site now calls him Tim — which I think is fine, a fact that I hope indicates that I’m not just being a prig about classical-music conventions) and the Riverside Symphony. The photo has this caption: “George Rothman leading the Riverside Symphony, with Tim Fain on violin, on Wednesday, in their last program of the season.” Please.

(If you think I’m being just silly about this, feel free to say so, giving me your reason why. I’m willing — even eager — to be talked out of these irritating situations.)

Who Knew?

June 4, 2009

Office choirOffice choirs? The Guardian writes about them as though they are an everyday thing. Is this a trend I’ve been missing?

From time to time I have posted here press releases that were sent to me and which I considered to be of general interest. Here’s one of my own that I wanted to share with you:


“Derek Bermel’s diverse output shows just how many types of music can impact on a contemporary musician, from classical to jazz, from R&B to hip-hop, as well as innumerable folk traditions.” — The Guardian (U.K.)

(Le) Poisson Rouge


Alarm Will Sound


Music of Derek Bermel

Sunday, June 14, 2009
7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

(Le) Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012


This unique evening begins a week-long recording project:

a full-length Derek Bermel album by Alarm Will Sound,

to be released this fall.

Alarm Will Sound is a 20-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of today’s music. They have established a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic virtuosity.

The performances have been described as “equal parts exuberance, nonchalance, and virtuosity” by the Financial Times and as “a triumph of ensemble playing” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times says Alarm Will Sound is “the future of classical music.”

The versatility of Alarm Will Sound allows it to take on music from a wide variety of styles. Its repertoire ranges from European to American works, from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced. The group fosters close relationships with contemporary composers besides Derek Bermel, premiering pieces by Steve Reich, David Lang, Anthony Gatto, Cenk Ergun, Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Stefan Freund, and Wolfgang Rihm. Alarm Will Sound may be heard on three CDs so far.

The most recent release, Acoustica, features arrangements of music by Aphex Twin. This unique project taps the diverse talents within the group, from the many composers who made arrangements of the original electronica tracks, to the experimental approaches developed by the performers. Transforming music written for computerized equipment into live performance is precisely the kind of original, genre-bending challenge Alarm Will Sound actively pursues.

Members of the ensemble began playing together while studying at the Eastman School of Music, and with diverse experience in composition, improvisation, jazz and popular styles, early music, and world musics, they bring intelligence and a sense of adventure to all their performances.

Derek Bermel is described by the Toronto Star as an “eclectic with wide open ears” and by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as “one of America’s finest young composers.” Both as composer and clarinetist, Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. His works draw from a rich variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, folk, and gospel. Hands-on experience with music of cultures around the world has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language.

Currently serving as 2006-09 Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Bermel has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, and Saint Louis Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri String Quartet, Music from China, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Jazz Xchange (U.K.), Figura (Denmark), violinist Midori, electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans, cellist Fred Sherry, and pianists Christopher Taylor and Andy Russo, among others. His many awards include the Alpert Award in the Arts, the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center, the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lili Boulanger Award, commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Meet the Composer, and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.

Last season Bermel performed as soloist alongside Wynton Marsalis in his Migration Series, a work commissioned by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and ACO. He also appeared as clarinet soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in conductor/composer John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons, and as soloist in his own concerto Voices at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. The Philharmonia Orchestra also produced an all-Bermel concert as part of its Music of Today series at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Highlights during this season included the Pittsburgh Symphony’s premiere of The Good Life for chorus and orchestra, and a return to Carnegie Hall for two premieres: a Koussevitzky Commission for ACO conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, and as soloist in the world premiere of Fang Man’s clarinet concerto.

Beginning in Fall 2009, Bermel will serve as composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and as artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Voices, a recently released disc of his orchestral music on the BMOPsound label, received a rave from the New York Times and was hailed as “magnificent” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bermel holds B.A. and D.M.A. degrees from Yale University and the University of Michigan. His main composition teachers were William Albright, Louis Andriessen, William Bolcom, Henri Dutilleux, André Hajdu, and Michael Tenzer, and he studied clarinet with Ben Armato and Keith Wilson. He also studied ethnomusicology and orchestration in Jerusalem with André Hajdu, later traveling to Bulgaria to study Thracian folk style with Nikola Iliev, to Brazil to learn caxixi with Julio Góes, and to Ghana to study Lobi xylophone with Ngmen Baaru. His music is published by Peermusic Classical (North/South America & Asia) and Faber Music (Europe & Australia).


(Le) Poisson Rouge invites you to immerse yourself in a nightlife of true substance and vitality. Bring open mind and drinking shoes.

On the Web:
(Le) Poisson Rouge: http://lepoissonrouge.com/events/view/147
Alarm Will Sound: http://www.alarmwillsound.com
Derek Bermel: http://derekbermel.com

Frederica von Stade

June 1, 2009

Happy birthday to a most remarkable artist.

Antonín Dvořák: “Mesícku na nebi hlubokém” (Silver moon upon the deep dark sky) from Rusalka, Op. 114

Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano; the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa, conductor

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