Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mambo Magic

There's justifiable raving all over the place about this video of Venezuela's amazing youth orchestra playing the Mambo from West Side Story.

I don't mean this in a negative way at all, but there's no question that the visuals (colors, smiles, dancing, cello-twirling) are a significant part of the experience. It's quite different than watching this next version (which I'm assuming is from the main body of the concert, with the video above being a delirious encore):

I'm not going to try to do a note-by-note analysis of the two performances, which are certainly different in more ways than just the visuals noted above. Still, it's instructive how different they are in effect. I know about the story of the orchestra when I'm watching version #2, but when watching version #1, I KNOW about the orchestra much more viscerally- everything about their story comes to life. (Of course, the Mambo lends itself to that; I assume their performance of Shostakovich 10 was less visually arresting, but I'm sure an audience would still hear it differently knowing who these kids are.)

By the way,
since I'm still waiting for my Hatto Sonnets to catch fire, I was excited to see that a new article on that fascinating story has just been published; sadly, the new article doesn't shed much new light on anything. (The question I still want answered is who "planted" the iTunes connection into iTunes; it's pretty clear that iTunes didn't figure out where those Liszt etudes came from, especially since they came from multiple sources. It's much more likely that someone "in the know" plugged this info into the iTunes database, but this is almost never discussed.) In addition to rehashing all the established facts of the tale, we get the same wide-eyed astonishment as before about lack of critical objectivity:

Do you experience “King Lear”, or Robert Stephens’ or Paul Schofield’s Lear? It is a paradox that these masterpieces come mostly vividly to life bent through the prism of an almighty interpretative ego. And therein lies the trap. Although our knowledge of the performer enhances our aesthetic experience, it inevitably distorts our critical judgment.

It's only a "distortion" of critical judgment if we have an unrealistic expectation about what critical judgment should be. I've written about this too many times before to go over it again now, but suffice it to say that I don't know how one could watch the first video above and not "hear" the visuals as part of the aural experience.


Andrys said...

"Although our knowledge of the performer enhances our aesthetic experience, it inevitably distorts our critical judgment."

Hamelin had the Hattofied Godowsky-Chopin CD, and although 10 cuts were taken from his own CD, of material not playable (or recorded) by many, he never guessed. Minor stretching or shrinking would still result in the waveform matches showing main characteristics of pianistic approach.

If he didn't notice, why should a critic, unless doing a comparative review. No one would know his own interpretation or ideas better than the pianist. But the mix (with Grante) would throw people off.

Hamelin did note that she did the same misreading of one note-combo as Grante but then thought no more about it.

A lot of the hyperbole was due to the essential part of the hoax -- that it was one person who was doing 'all that.' If it had been only one pianist, it would have been quite something all right.

Andrys said...

I agree with you re the likely iTunes setup. I've long linked to an early thread about that very thing (the 'Artist' field saying "Laszlo Simon" while the Label had "Concert Artists" as an entry and in an older entry yet).

That talk was renewed in the last two weeks at though I haven't linked to the latest one yet because google groups is now slow to show some of the threads lately , but you can find the older ones here:

Not important but intriguing...