Speed Kills

September 30, 2011

Courtesy Lowell Liebermann!

Hearing, Seeing, Feeling

September 28, 2011

At the top of this page, this site is dedicated to “Music, Human Letters, and Media.” Every once in a while, I encounter something that pretty much puts me in touch with the basics of all three. Such is this remarkable video:

There are landmarks that we might even forget to look for. When the Boston Symphony begins its new season this weekend, they will have their first female brass player. After 131 years.

We became accustomed to blind prejudice against the sex in Berlin and Vienna, where there was an out-and-out fight to keep two of the world’s premiere orchestras all-male, but there must surely have long been qualified female horn players before young Rachel Childers came along to break one more barrier that, in today’s employment market, is far from being merely symbolic.

Ne Demandez Pas, Ne Dites Pas

September 27, 2011

Much of listening, watching, thrilling New York was turned on its ear last week by the latest iteration of Jean-Baptiste Lully‘s Atys as performed by Les Arts Florissants. For the most part it’s just as well to concentrate on Lully’s art rather than his biography, which had a particularly gruesome ending and was all but ignored (aside from a few grudging sentences in music-history books) until the American William Christie persuaded the French that some of their own music was far better than they knew.

An interesting part of Lully’s biography is the part where, to retain his position as virtual dictator of music in France, the rumors about the Italian-born composer’s liaisons avec les hommes had to be kept under wraps. But the always-invaluable Alex Ross has pointed, via Twitter, to some scurrilous poetry that outed the guy without mercy.

Heresy?

September 26, 2011

Why is this man smiling?

The cellist of eighth blackbird writes:

… we’re living in a time where Pablo Casals, still considered the best cellist who ever lived ever by many, would have struggled to get into an undergraduate conservatory …

Do you agree? Why or why not?

Grey Skies Smilin’ at Me

September 25, 2011

“Don’t you like a rather foggy day in a wood in autumn? You’ll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car.”

Jane said she’d never heard of anyone liking fogs before but she didn’t mind trying. All three got in.

“That’s why Camilla and I got married, ” said Denniston as they drove off. “We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It’s a useful taste if one lives in England.”

“How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?” said Jane. “I don’t think I should ever learn to like rain and snow.”

“It’s the other way around,” said Denniston. “Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children – and the dogs? They know what snow’s made for.”

“I’m sure I hated wet days as a child,” said Jane.

“That’s because the grown-ups kept you in,” said Camilla. “Any child loves rain if allowed to go out and paddle about in it.”

— C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, Chapter 5 “Elasticity” (1946)

Lewis wrote somewhere else that a person who lives in England had better learn not to speak of the sky as merely grey but to distinguish between shades of grey. He thought the infinite varieties of English weather worth noticing and describing in detail and with subtlety. British composers seem not to have needed that advice, since we’re now told that they are twice as likely to have written music with meteorological themes than their foreign counterparts.

On Your Mark!

September 25, 2011

Iain Burnside discusses the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition, and the problem of music competitions in general.

Sensation in Musicology

September 24, 2011

Alex Ross retails the “top ten titles” for papers at this fall’s Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society:

Francesco Dalla Vecchia, “Sopranos Gone Wild: Flashing in Seventeenth-Century Venetian Opera”

Craig Monson, “‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?’ — ‘They Would Claw Each Other’s Flesh If They Could’: Conflicting Conformities in Convent Music”

David Kasunic, “Beethoven in the Background: Music and Fine Dining in Nineteenth-Century France”

Amanda Eubanks Winkler, “High School Musicals: Understanding Seventeenth-Century English Pedagogical Masques”

Rachel Cowgill, “Filling the Void: Theosophy, Modernity, and the Rituals of Armistice Day in the Reception of John Foulds’s A World Requiem”

Jessica Wood, “An Old World Instrument for Cold War Diplomacy: The Touring Harpsichord in 1950s Asia”

Elaine Kelly, “Late Beethoven and Late Socialism in the German Democratic Republic”

John Howland, “Nobrow Pop in the New Millennium?: Nico Muhly and Post-2000 Chamber Pop”

Paula Higgins, “Josquin and the Dormouse: Aesthetic Excess, Masculinity, and Homoeroticism in the Reception of Planxit autem David”

Joseph Auner, “Weighing, Measuring, Embalming Tonality”

It happens that this year is the first time I’ve ever had a paper proposal turned down for the Annual Meeting. Clearly I have not kept up with the times in terms of sexy, provocative titles! (Compare the list above with the title in the illustrated 1986 Journal.)

UPDATE: My notifying the AMS List of Alex Ross’s Top Ten List brought on correspondence that caused him to make an addendum to the Ten.