Jacob Hale Russell writes in the Wall Street Journal about how orchestras are programming contemporary classical music in a bid to rebuild their audience:
Daniel Kellogg, 29 years old, got what he calls his "big break" with a
Philadelphia Orchestra commission commemorating Benjamin Franklin's
300th birthday. The 21-minute piece, "Ben," premiered Nov. 18 with
snippets of the founding father's favorite drinking songs and employing
the glass armonica, a Franklin invention...
To ease audiences into contemporary works, orchestras often program them alongside pieces by the masters...
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra says the average age of subscribers to
its six-year-old MusicNOW series -- devoted to work by living composers
-- was five years younger than for its normal subscription series last
Aren't the second and third points contradictory?
The sidebar recommends some recordings; note the Joan Tower Naxos release doesn't appear to be available on Amazon.
Re-reading Joshua Kosman's review of Doctor Atomic, I disagree about the gestures but his summation is interesting:
In one late scene, the chorus sings about Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, in music lifted unapologetically from Orff's "Carmina Burana," while Sellars assigns them a series of Simon Says gestures that look peculiarly out of place. And after three hours of waiting for the bomb to drop, the audience is surely entitled to a more emphatic rendering than a quiet rumble and a few desultory lighting cues.
But these are quibbles. "Doctor Atomic," whatever its faults, stands as a major addition to the operatic repertory of this new century, the first to be inaugurated with the specter of instant death very much around us.
Via Fred, M., and Lynn. Ok, classical music memes complete with simple html markup don't happen very often so I better jump on this one while I have the chance. Of course, this being aworks, the composer list is skewed -- after all, I don't even care what I think about Havergal Brian...
I saw Electric Miles: A Different Kind of Blue on Sunday. In a word, cool. Why?
It was at the Red Vic Theatre in the Haight in San Francisco; the Haight being ground zero for the 1967 Summer of Love, of course, as well as home of Amoeba Records #2. The Red Vic is a collectivist, anti-corporate repertory movie house, which means non-branded sodas served in environmentally-correct glasses as well as home-made brownies. More importantly, the audience was as racially mixed as any musical event I've been to. All in all, not the typical suburban multiplex experience.
For me, Bitches Brew was a big deal. For a thin white kid from Indiana, hearing it was to step into a different world I suspected was always out there. These days, I can even forgive my college roommates for pouring beer on the album cover.
The film documents what led to the Miles Davis band playing at the Isle of Wight in front of 600,000 white English kids in 1970. The movie tries to make the point Davis' Bitches Brew album was really the apex in jazz popularity, at least for the traditional giants of the music, Kenny G. not withstanding.
Much of the time is spent interviewing former band members. I hate to say it but when did Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell become old and Chick Corea become, er, heavy-set? Or am I just projecting? Next thing you're going to tell me is that Kyle Gann is 50. And in 1970, Dave Holland looked like a twenty-two year old bass player for Spooky Tooth or Foghat.
The interviewees also played brief fragments of music. Drummer Jack DeJohnette was, as always, sublime. He's so smooth it feels like he plays his kit with his hands rather than with drum sticks. At the end, Airto does a solo percussion version of Miles Run the Voodoo DownBitches Brew (?) as an entertaining tribute to Miles and Herbie Hancock plays a tribute on Fender Rhodes electric piano.
In an interview, Miles talks how he likes broken rhythm and melody, which is as good a synoposis as any.
Love or hate him, Stanley Crouch was interviewed about how Miles' foray into electronic music was a disaster. Percussionist James Mtume countered with how that was the equivalent of harpsichordists telling those new pianoforte players they were making a big mistake and they "needed to keep it real."
The film really makes the point Davis was an artist and artists feed off the zeitgeist, in this case, the 1960s-70s consciousness revolution. And so, his journey beyond the straight-laced world of Kind of Blue into an electronic blue was inevitable, if not necessarily better.
The second half of the film is 38 minutes of concert footage of the band playing at the festival. It was a little long but from Davis' second solo through his third, I was floating three feet above my seat. I think it was the groove, not the brownies.
Davis is asked what he is going to play and he says to "call it anything" although apparently it's a continuous mish-mash of music from the album.
Finally, Miles was his usual cool self in the concert footage. He's playing in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands, completely ignoring them, head down, and only acknowledging the other musicians while resting. As the set winds down, he walks away while the band is still playing and starts to pack up. But then in a great moment captured on film, from backstage, Miles makes a sweet little hand gesture to the crowd and you know he knows this was a big deal.
The power chord — a thundering sound created by playing fifths (two notes five notes apart, often with the lower note doubled an octave above) — became a favorite among rock players. Wray claimed because he was too slow to be a whiz on the guitar, he had to invent sounds.
Indeed, armed with a list of hard-to-find CDs from several genres, I
was able to stump the Berkeley floor staff on only one, an obscure
Hungarian recording of the ensemble piece "Coming Together/Attica" by
composer Frederic Rzewski that I've been trying to replace for years.
Can't have my copy, sorry. And earlier this month, I too was at the Berkeley Amoeba and picked up a CD by Talujon Percussion, including an interesting rendition of Coming Together. It's an accented female voice:
I think the combination of age and a greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time...
but the fast-driving piano line is instead performed on something that sounds like synthesized bass although the liner notes indicate all acoustic percussion except for "amplified cardboard tube." Since the text is repeated ad infinitum, the textual interpretation and style is important else monotony results. Birgit Staudt's recitation may not be definitive; still, the underlying accompaniment is clear, precise, and the diversity of percussion compelling.
And just this week in the NY Times, Allan Kozinn reviews the eighth blackbird recording of Rzewski's music, including Coming Together:
They have, for one thing, quickly identified the thread that runs
through Mr. Rzewski's work: an almost organic current of narrative
tension that makes this music pure drama.
I don't take my Amoeba trips for granted but if all goes well, I'll be in the Haight tomorrow for the Bitches Brew movie and in SoCal next year for that minimalism jukebox festival.
Sam Melville again:
There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead, but I feel secure and ready...
Dexter Gordon is in the news, or more specifically, his Manhattan Symphonie CD. It's on the list of DRM-ed recordings being recalled. My copy has no license agreement or install software but unfortunately, I don't have a working turntable so I haven't heard it in awhile. Speaking of Gordon, here's today's "Gordons" playlist:
...an accessible work that remains uncompromising in its
subtle complexity and is a truly coherent meeting of styles. While the album isn't completely consistent,
it achieves at its best moments a totally strange and unheard beauty.