(Hat-tip to Stephen Best)

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We deserve a little fun after Hurricane Irene. Here are radio station WQXR’s choices for the works that present the top ten dysfunctional operatic families:

1. Wagner: The Ring Cycle (1869-76)
2. Bernstein: A Quiet Place (1983-4)
3. Janacek: Jenufa (1904)
4. Strauss: Salome (1905)
5. Verdi: Don Carlo (1867)
6. Handel: Agrippina (1709)
7. Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande (1902)
8. Berg: Lulu (1937)
9. Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia (1833)
10. Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride (1779)

See their reasoning here, and offer your own additions and/or subtractions.

Mozart and Sunblock

August 27, 2011

The journal Medical Problems of Performing Artists has an article positing a Vitamin D deficiency as the cause of Mozart’s early death.

As the authors — “Stefan Pilz (who, if he plays his cards right, will hereafter be known as ‘Vitamin’ Pilz) and William B Grant” — summarize in The Guardian:

Mozart did much of his composing at night, so would have slept during much of the day. At the latitude of Vienna, 48º N, it is impossible to make vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance for about six months of the year. Mozart died on 5 December, 1791, two to three months into the vitamin D winter.

Haste vs Waste

August 14, 2011

Michael Agger sounds like a great guy. But in analyzing the question of how fast writers can/should/must write, he really needs to consider taking his time. Not only his own stuff but some of what he cites could use a little more thinking-through. For example, while he carefully gives a link to one of Christopher Hitchens’s daily feats of productivity, when he comes to Trollope (than whose creative process there is probably no more exhaustively detailed account in existence, thanks to his own writerly tell-all autobiography), he can do no better than quote the late William F. Buckley Jr. (whom he pictures writing in a cab, when the man gave us, in his own autobiographical writings, excruciating details about his requirements to have an available custom-built limousine).

But worse comes with an authority he cites: one who contrasts two creative styles, one supposedly belonging to Beethoven, who is characterized by going immediately to paper to “outline” a composition). This when the basic principle of Beethoven’s way of being is the extensive sketch books in which, for months or years, he would experiment with the basic thematic building-blocks of a future composition before beginning to confect it.

Why do I cite an article as though only to criticize it? Because the subject is of interest, and Mr. Aggers thinking is, too. He might tarry for the facts a bit longer next time, though.

But then there is that deadline.

“Composition”

August 13, 2011

It’s a word that can have many different applications, but they all marshal details in the service of a structure:

The other two videos from the same trip can be seen here.

ACE OF BASE MUST BE STOPPED! And who else? The Library of Congress is currently accepting public nominations for its annual National Recording Registry.

Each year since 2002 the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) and members of the public have nominated recordings to the National Registry. The breadth and depth of nominations received highlights the richness of the nation’s audio legacy and underscores the importance of assuring the long-term preservation of that legacy for future generations.

Recordings so far selected by the Library of Congress include: Sophie Tucker, De La Soul, Loretta Lynn, Bill Cosby, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, the Velvet Underground, Cole Porter and Bing Crosby, among others.

But not voting risks unfortunate choices (i.e. “I saw the sign…” or maybe “Feelings, trying to forget my feelings….”)

To nominate a recording to the Registry, e-mail: recregistry@loc.gov

To learn more about the Registry, go to: http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb

from Cary O’Dell of the Library of Congress, via Mariana Whitmer of the Society for American Music