Monday, April 27, 2009
Today marks the debut of the MMmusing podcast, known for now as the MMmusecast. I'm quite lucky that my first guest is not only an amazing musician, but also a thoroughly polished and engaging speaker; she is pianist Mia Chung, a colleague of mine on the music faculty at Gordon College. As illustrated in the little Venn diagram that opens the video below, there are pianists and there are pianists. Anyone who's willing to take on Brahms' monumental second piano concerto is worthy of attention in my book, so when I realized Mia was in final prep for an upcoming performance with the Gordon Symphony Orchestra, I thought it would be fun to sit down and chat with her about it. And it was fun. You can listen by downloading this mp3 file. You can also watch a graphically enhanced version via the YouTube videos below or via iTunes.
The interview was completely unrehearsed and proceeded spontaneously through various topics, but it occurred to me that, for all the talking we do about music, it might be nice to hear some of that music as well; so, while the interview itself is virtually unedited (two very tiny trims), I've dubbed in audio samples where appropriate (and sometimes maybe where not appropriate, as I tend to get carried away). To that, in the video versions, I've added various still images, including a wide variety of excerpts from the score of the concerto. If you're new to the piece and planning to come hear it on Saturday, this should provide a nice introduction both to the musical ideas and to the emotional/narrative world of this music.
It's been said that some people have "a face for radio." Well, I have a speaking voice that might be considered best suited for newspaper work, but I've come to enjoy several different podcasts as ways of getting through my daily commutes, so I couldn't resist giving the genre a try. Hopefully if I do more of these, I'll do better at projecting my own voice; fortunately, Mia comes through quite clearly and has lots of interesting and insightful things to say both about the Brahms concerto itself, and about the pianistic challenges involved in playing it. I'll have more to say about this experience in the days ahead, but for now I'll let the speaking speak for itself.
Miss Mussel's Twitter Opera Plot contest is back, this time with an astounding number of opera companies participating as potential prize-givers. Submissions were to be accepted starting at 9am this morning, but I ended up crafting mine late last week. I decided to jump right in and submit all six as a batch right out of the starting gate, even though the contest is open until next Sunday. Perhaps a better strategy would have been to send them in at the last minute, but I'm not a patient person.
So, since the point of doing it this way is to keep me from twittering away my work day, I'll say no more, other than to reprint my submissions here. (NOTE: Two of them are slightly contracted versions of entries from the previous round of the contest, back when I didn't realize the 140-character limit needed to include the 10-character tag, #operaplot.) Of course, you can also view my submissions by my following me on Twitter.
Oh, and the first-ever MMmusing podcast debuts later today! Check back soon...
6 Operas in 130 Characters or Less
UPDATE: I'm now up to 10. (10's the limit, by rule.)
Cad kills Commendatore. Conquests cataloged, courts country cutie. Cry creates chaos. Cast Commendatore comeback cues comeuppance.
4 Bohemians: Performer sings for supper. Poet authors romance. Painter brushes with ex. Philosopher thinks coat sale. (Girl dies)
Someone must die. Tenor, denied soprano, steps up. Executioner can't hack it, gives up soprano; skirts death by wooing contralto.
Count wishes he Susanna had; wife=sad, servant=mad, a mezzo plays a lusty lad. Switcheroo exposes cad, finale he admits he's bad.
Susannah bathes, Elders see,
blame her; Blitch says fervently
Repent, but sins against her, so
he's killed by her protective bro.
Lumberjack still beating his wife. She ID's him as doctor who must be beaten to practice. Thus thrashed, he's hailed as a genius.
Dante writes that Gianni Schicchi robs a clan by being sneaky. He wills himself a big estate; his daughter's song is also great.Whoops, I'm now up to 11. (10's the limit, by rule.) I'm retracting the lumberjack one as an entry. (I just posted that in a lame effort to drum up interest in "my" opera.)
Life is happiness, Candide; Cunegonde's all you need. She'll get raped & die a bit, but survive & gaily glit. Enough? Grow stuff.
How's the fishing? Not good 4 Grimes; worse 4 his help. He wants 2 marry Ellen, but ends up with the best character: the Sea.
Marie is a French GI Jane/Mom says the girl is insane/2 fall 4 the tenor/but he's sure 2 win'er /He sings 9 hi C's with no strain!
Wedding Day: Boss wants bride. Old bag wants me. Page just wants it. Send letter. Dress up page. Find mom in bag. It works out!Disaster! Miss Mussel has removed the 10-entry limit. And on top of that, people started submitting limericks. (You can see I'd already caught the bug with entry #10.) So, here's a few more from yours truly. Must stop...soon.
A prince's fiancé is kept w/in a harem so expect 2 see him try 2 re-collect her, posing as an architect. Joseph votes:2many notes [NOTE: must pronounce fiancé with 3 syllables, stress on the final. Also, this one's not a limerick.]
Her HS days done, tender Laurie/is doing a life inventory/when Martin and Top/just happen to stop/and inevitably alter her story.
Ms Todd & Laetitia r silly/as women can b, as they really/think each has a chance/with Bob & his pants/arousing an aria STEAL ME
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Actually, I think charting quirky likes and dislikes is an interesting way to find out about people. I've never been a fan of most kinds of "mixer" games, but we once hosted a church small group meeting at our house when we began informally going around the room to learn everyone's favorite movie/TV show/music. It turned out to be a great way to learn about people and to get all sorts of discussions going. It's always fun to mystify people by declaring that The Purple Rose of Cairo is the best movie of all time.
Anyway, I thought I'd see if I could get some Twitter discussion going by posting some of my plus/minus thoughts there, but they attracted zero interest. So, I might as well recycle this information here. A few explanatory notes. First, I believe this list says more about me than the composers listed. I continue to find Haydn less compelling than many respectable and insightful people, and I'm happy to admit that the failing is mine. I also would gladly admit that he's a very fine composer, and I really enjoy some of his works - the point of this system is to document the disconnect I feel vs. what I perceive to be his overall reputation.
Another way of saying this is that it would be fine if I encountered much less Haydn than I do. On the other hand, I'm not sure I could ever get too much of Poulenc or Scriabin, two admired composers who, nevertheless, don't have thrones as high up on Olympus as I think they should. Thus, they could get my highest + scores, coming in at +3 each. Notice that many of the standard "greats" get zeros; I adore Beethoven and find his music indispensable in my life, but that hardly makes me unique. Same for Mozart; there are times when I'd be tempted to give him a +1, but then I fall asleep listening to one of Sarastro's arias, and I figure his reputation is just about right.
I don't know if it's really possible to be a +1 for Bach either - there are probably some people who are even more fanatical than I am, but still, it's possible that he gets as many as four works on my all-time Top Ten, so +1 feels right. Note that these ratings don't necessarily mean I think a plus composer is better than one with a zero or a minus. I don't know that I'd say Schumann is better than Chopin, but everyone seems to adore Chopin, whereas Schumann always attracts a certain amount of criticism, even if his achievements are considerably more wide-ranging than Chopin's. I'd rate them as about equal on the overall Olympian scale, but Schumann's music probably tears me up more inside. (By the way, that's a blog post of its own. When I was in college, Brahms was definitely the most important composer to me, and Schumann struck me as somewhat bizarre - now, I still love Brahms, but Schumann hits deeper.)
So, here's a starter plus/minus scale. Notice the ever controversial Wagner comes in at a break-even zero, which might be the oddest score here. The truth is, probably most composers would float around the zero mark, so, to some degree, this is just a way to say that I really love Poulenc and Scriabin - and I'm a bit mystified by Haydn and Verdi.
Please don't hate me or think of less me. Hey, I've forgiven Terry Teachout for dissing Brahms' Requiem. We are who we are, but maybe, just maybe, Haydn will some day make it up to -4.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The Old Maid and the Thief, Scene 1Miss Todd and Miss Pinkerton talk over tea;Each is sad to be old and still absent a he.Laetitia comes in to announce there's a vis'tor.Miss Todd and Laetitia are thrilled it's a Mister.Dr. Miracle, The Omelette QuartetA resourceful young man makes an omelette as partof an opera-like plan to secure his sweetheart.Later on in the plot, to her parents' surprise,it's revealed that this chef thing was just a disguise.Susannah, Act II: Scenes 1-2 Carlisle FloydAn innocent bath seen by Elders has meantthat Susannah's been shunned, told she has to repent.Sam consoles her, but leaves. Later, at the revival,she's preached at by Blitch when he notes her arrival.INTERMISSIONHansel and Gretel, Act II: Scenes 1-2Gretel sings to a mushroom while Hansel picks berries,but the coming of night makes them slowly awarethat they're lost in the woods. Enter Sandman, who ferriesthem off to their dreams, though they first say a prayer.Dido and Aeneas, Act II: Scene 2 – Act IIIAeneas and Dido are all set to marry,attendants are singing when storm clouds are spied;as all haste away, an imposterous fairygives Aeneas false news that he must leave his bride.While sailors prepare, witches plot their destruction,which delights them no end, having also foreseenthat the mistreated Dido will end the productionby lamenting and dying, a heartbroken queen.The Tender Land, 2nd half of Act ITwo drifters, out looking for work, are quite gladwhen they come 'cross a girl, a wide-eyed high school grad.Though Grandpa and Ma both express some misgiving,soon they all join in singing "The Promise of Living."