Thursday, June 26, 2008

Great Discoveries

Although I have inadvertently taken several blogging breaks of a week or longer, I usually seem to end up posting the day after suggesting I'll be on hiatus. The logic here is simple: the point of the average hiatus is that I'm supposed to be working on something else; whenever I'm supposed to be working on "something else," it's highly likely that I'll find something "else else" (like blogging) to do for as long as possible. Yes, I am in favor of crastination.

But seriously, it's worth nothing that Norman Lebrecht, he who so famously derided classical music bloggers and then became a classical music blogger, has just discovered something called YouTube. I'm not sure of the address for this YouTube site, but apparently there are a lot of videos of classical music to be found. Perhaps now that Lebrecht has redeemed the idea of blogging about classical music, he can show us all how to use this mysterious YouTube. Next week, perhaps he'll find a way for us to do searches on the World Wide Web so that I can find an address for YouTube. Or maybe there's some sort of collaborative, self-edited encyclopedia project just waiting to be found by Lebrecht.

In other news, I just discovered something called podcasts. Well, not really - I've been a faithful listener to The Sport's Guy's podcast for some time now, but they happen only every so often. I'm commuting many mornings between 5:30 and 6am when there's not a lot on the radio and I don't always feel like listening to music, so what's an iPod owner to do? For some reason, I'd never really explored the world of classical music podcasts before, but yesterday I stumbled on NPR's Piano Puzzler series. Now, I suppose if I ever listened to public radio I might have already heard of this series, but anyway, these little episodes are a lot of fun. Pianist/composer Bruce Adolphe disguises popular tunes in the style of various composers, and a phone-in contestant gets to try to guess both tune and style.

So, I downloaded a whole batch from iTunes and fired 'em up this morning. Good listening times. My only complaint is that they're so short; I got through five episodes in one commute. Also, although I understand that the format is geared for radio, it would be nice if Adolophe had more time to explain how he puts each creation together. Of the five I've heard so far, I recognized the composer (and, in most cases, a specific work as model) almost right away, but it would still be fun at the end to have him play the original model work back-to-back with his newly tuned version. And, for me at least, finding the tunes can be quite a challenge. It's amazing how much a different context can throw your ears off the scent. Fortunately, the podcast medium makes it easy to go back and listen.
Quite coincidentally, this is now the second time I've broken an announced hiatus with a post inspired by Norman Lebrecht. He's the gift that keeps on giving.

UPDATE: I've since listend to more Piano Puzzlers on my way home from work today. It turns out that, unlike the first five or so I'd listened to in which the contestant guessed right almost right away, the show gets even better when the contestant is stumped - in a couple of cases now, Adolphe has thus had the opportunity to explain more what's going on. Still, there was one instance (I won't give the details away so as not to spoil) where neither the contestant nor the co-host (nor I) had ever heard the tune before, and yet Adolphe never really just played it (or, better yet, sang it) straight through. Maybe I ask too much.

1 comment:

Fusedule Tecil said...


I’m not sure I’d interrupt anything on the basis of anything Norman Lebrecht offers. He is the cynic of all cynics, insufferably self-promoting. He is the embodiment of my favorite William Buckley word:


Definitions abound, but I think Buckley’s is spot on:

Full of sound and fury but lacking in substance.

Lebrecht thrives on being the thorn in everyone’s side. Of course, he is always right, he is always the one with the correct insight, and he cannot be questioned. Like Alan Dershowitz, he is intoxicated with the sound of his own voice so he cannot even hear what he is saying. When he makes a good point, it is obscured with his need to provoke. I gave up reading him years ago, tired of his preening and self-aggrandizement. Now and then, when I come across one of his pieces while looking for something else, I find my opinion validated and I keep on moving.

Sometime I’ll tell you how I REALLY feel about Lebrecht.

Mangan’s article is just silly. Once again, the academy strikes: people who like music that has melody are fools, those who embrace music that makes you “think” are the righteous. This is, what in the days before political correctness, we used to call, “dumb thinking.” He can only survive by making sweeping generalizations. (Huh? People who like Brahms like movies that has graphic violence? Way to discredit your own arguments by spewing nonsense, Timmy.) His assertion that it is only the “moderns” that require the engagement of the heart AND the mind (the stated implication is when you listen to Mozart or Verdi, you simply use your heart) is not elitist. It is just dead wrong, stupid, idiotic, nonsensical and has no basis in reality. I’m glad that on the planet where he lives, everyone is as enlightened as Tim Mangan: a place where everyone has a furrowed brow, thinking deeply, not allowing oneself to crave beauty, where nobody protests against a messed up world by trying to do something that takes the form of a redemptive act.

Don’t punch my ticket for that ride. Thank you very much.

As pathetic as Mangan’s screed is, most of his fawning commentators simply lather it up, “Attaboy, Timmy! Lay it on those fools who don’t want to wake up in the morning to hear Bertwistle.” Like the crowd that followed Forrest Gump on his long walk, they are like zombies, unquestioning, unthinking. They are legion, and they go to sleep at night feeling that they are protecting the world against the Philistines. Little do they remember that both post-Revolution France and post-Revolution Russia required similarly furrowed brows. We know where the French “Temples of Reason” and the Russian gulags led.

Get your rest. The blogosphere is tiring, what with having to spend hours each day finding out what “everyone else” is saying. I spent the day without hearing a note of music. Instead, I observed all of the shades of green I can see in my yard. Nice. Much more interesting than Bertwistle. And I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face, not a furrowed brow. Mangan, on the other hand, is going to sleep trying to figure out how to make somebody angry at him in the morning.

-Fusedule Tecil