Monday, June 30, 2008

Christmas in July

IMSLP returns tomorrow! (fingers crossed, knees trembling, mumbling "I do believe in free public domain scores, I do believe in free public domain scores, I do believe in free public domain scores..." )

UPDATE: It bad been announced that the re-opening would be on July 1, but the website is back up and running now. Go see what's there.

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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grand Pause

This will certainly be a slow blogging week since I'm getting two summer classes off the ground and I have a major writing project due early next week. (!!!!) I'll be back in July, and that's not really so far away. In the meantime, you can peruse the always interesting musings of the mysteriously monickered commenter Fusedule Tecil here, here, and here. I'm tempted to jump in more on the soundtrack questions he raises, but alas, the jump will have to wait. Speaking of mysterious monickers, there's a very promising and fairly new blog written by an Osbert Parsely. Worth a look.

And if you want to get a little peek into the kind of insanity that is my family, you could head over to my kid sister's new blog and read in stunning detail about the extraordinary work she did for my daughter's recent "Brady Bunch" birthday party. Here (the intro), here (the cake), and here (the pinata). This sister is perhaps the most creative person I know, and I love that she's not afraid to lavish that creativity on the ephemeral. A Poulenc of the crafting world. Groovy times.

And, since I seem to be in the process of creating my first "link" post (I think bloggers are supposed to do this a lot), let me now point to one of my favorite posts of the year that didn't seem to get as much attention as it deserved: Jeremy Denk's remarkable contribution to Adaptistration's "Take a Friend to Orchestra" month. It captures so much of the complex, paradoxical experience it can be to love music and to love performing music. Everyone should read it - and then go listen to Falstaff.

I'll also point to one of my least favorite articles of the year, this takedown of the "average classical music audience" by Tim Mangan. It's not so much a question of disagreeing with the substance of what he's saying, as feeling that the hostile attitude towards casual listeners is so . . . hostile. I find this a bit with Greg Sandow as well - the sense that audiences who enjoy the "safe" experience of friendly, melodic masterworks are somehow less alive and worth caring about than the hip types who want thrill rides. Even if you believe (as Sandow seems to) that this audience is going to die away, I think anyone who chooses to come to a classical concert (for whatever reason) deserves a little more respect than Mangan shows. But I'm not supposed to be blogging, just linking, so I'll save that for another day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Text, Timing, and Silly Recits

At the end of my last post, I linked to a Family Guy remix that uses animated text to render the dialogue. [UPDATE: Youtube has removed the video, but here's the original scene. OH, and the original is back, at least for now.) I'd never seen anything quite like it, but I now see that there are plenty of other examples of "kinetic typography" out there. Here's Abbott and Costello talkin' baseball. Here's a famous Barack Obama speech, although I confess that his rhetoric does nothing for me. I've written often about how animated visuals can serve as a useful catalyst for listening to music; here we see a kind of animation that lets us see the musical qualities of speech - specifically, the typography gives us another way of appreciating the kind of subtle timing that makes effective speech happen. I particularly like the Family Guy piece because it's not so obviously musical. In both the "Who's on First?" skit and the Obama speech, the rhythm and pacing are already readily apparent.

By the way, I'm not a Family Guy guy (although I am a family guy) - I think my comic/satiric/cynical sensibility is pretty much frozen at mid-90's Seinfeld/Simpsons levels, and besides, I never found the talking baby to be anything but annoying. But I digress - this Family Guy argument about The Godfather is comic gold, and unlike a lot of the kinetic typography I've seen on YouTube, the leaping letters don't so much draw attention to themselves as help show the shape and rhythm of the discussion.

Note that it doesn't reveal the rhythms in a consistent notational way, so it doesn't function like a musical score. And an important point here is that a musical score would be almost pointless - or, put another way, the actors and director don't need a rhythmically precise score to create these complex rhythms, pitches, and timbres. If a writer tried to provide a precisely notated score, the actors would probably mutiny. The timing comes mostly from the gifted performers, although you can be sure an editor helped orchestrate the final product, especially since Seth MacFarlane performs multiple characters.

What's interesting about this to me is that it shows a fundamental challenge with creating effective recitatives in opera. Even though it's common and correct practice for opera singers to follow natural speech inflections more flexibly than what's notated, it's still difficult to create recitative that doesn't sound stilted, at least in English. (The pitches are arguably more problematic than the rhythms.) In other words, I often wonder if dialogue in opera wouldn't be improved by just allowing the characters to speak - and I don't just mean improved in terms of clarity, but also in terms of aesthetic success. Too often, it seems as if a composer is trying to do just what I said the Family Guy writer would never dream of doing. If the actors are sufficiently skilled, they should be able to weave their lines together with more subtlety and flair for timing than any score could suggest.

Of course, that brings up several problems. For one, opera is supposed to be sung throughout. Whatever. Second, composers expect to have much more control over such matters than any screenwriter or playwright would imagine. Silly composers. Third, opera actors might be really bad at acting and feel safer when restricted to the narrow range of options a score provides. That ties into my recent post about improvisation. There, I was taking an improv advocate to task for misrepresenting what it is that classical musicians do since he seemed to suggest there was no imagination allowed when just reciting a score. However, my point was not that we don't need improv training, and it could be argued that dialogue in a musical theater production (opera or other) is an area in which we'd do well to have performers trained to be creatively spontaneous. (Note that I don't mean improvisation of lines - just the sort of natural improvisation of rhythm, pitch, and timbre that is a part of all speech.)

As much as I tend to fall into the traditionalist camp within classical music culture, it will always puzzle me that modern composers have continued to be so intimidated by the opera-must-be-sung-throughout ideal. Let the people speak!

ADDENDUM: Someone might say, "but you haven't given a single example of an ineffective recit." Well, I just didn't feel like going down that road for today (the post is long enough!), but suffice it to say both that there are many cases in opera where the recit writing works well, and there are countless examples where we'd be better off with plain old speech.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Do You See What I Hear?

Since I've been on vacation, I've been doing lots of non-musical things like yardwork, housecleaning, and paying attention to my kids. This has slowed the output of Songs Without Singers, score visualizations, and the like, but I do have another little musical visualization to post about. My daughter and I spent the odd hours of a few different days assembling a Hogwarts castle from Harry Potter building cards she got for her birthday. (Full Disclosure: I've never read any of the HP books, which I suppose makes me a muggle, or some such. However, Daughter of MMmusing is a true fan.) In order to show off our creation to the various Harry fans among her far-flung cousins, I took a few pictures and a little video. (The castle was filmed on location in a thoroughly uninspired setting atop my Steinway. Hey, I'm just glad I can see the top of the piano, which often looks like a remainders table outside a Borders.)

Naturally, we snagged John Williams' lilting little waltz theme to accompany the montage. I'd never even paid any attention to this soundtrack, but it was remarkable to me how the music made the images seem to come to life. In fact, the music inspired some cool visual effects that I'm proud of, and I now wish I'd thought through the camera-work more purposefully - for example, I should have saved a wide-shot of the whole castle for the second statement of the theme, about 48 seconds in. As it happens, that second statement underscores the second pullback of the camera, the swirling strings seeming to lift the perspective upward as the spires and steeples are unveiled in a dizzying manner that exaggerates their height.

I mention this not because I planned it that way, but rather because the video and soundtrack just fell together that way, purely by chance. I love it when this sort of thing happens, because it shows how naturally the mind is conditioned to find meaning where meaning wasn't intended. Here's the other thing I like about this little video creation. As it begins, it's quite obvious that we're looking at a roughly assembled card-castle - windows oddly placed, brick colors not matching, misaligned joints, a few randomly added pieces that should've been removed, etc. However, as the video progresses into a few still pics, it settles on a slightly blurred wide shot that could almost be mistaken for a real castle, partly because the piano surface is less apparent. Then, just as gradually, this virtually realistic image becomes more and more abstract, shifting from three to two dimensions and becoming unreal again, but in a quite different way than we saw at first. A series of impromptu visual effects suggests a magical transformation that seems to lead the cardboard castle off into the world of fantasy, a world in which magic is more real than what looks real.

I know I'm overselling this - and yet, the evocative music really does make me see these images as poetic, certainly much more poetic than they deserve to be given how casually they were produced. At the end of the day, I come away more than anything with an appreciation of Williams' craft - particularly his ability to write suggestively. This and all my other humble video/animation creations also make me excited about how easily anyone can now create interesting motion pictures. Surely we're just at the tip of a whole range of possibilities when you consider how technology that once would've required a whole studio budget is now available to pretty much anyone. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this democratization of the film medium opens up extraordinary new art worlds.

Regular readers here will know that I see enormous potential in using visual imagery as a catalyst for musical understanding. See here, here and, of course, MMtube. Also, check out the cleverly executed text visualization (not my work) of a Family Guy discussion below. (Thanks to Youngest Sister of MMmusing for the link.) Notice how, in the absence of the original animation, the visuals animate and elucidate the dialogue - like subtitles on steroids. [Youtube has removed the video, sadly. Here's the original scene on which it's based.]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fighting Straw with Straw

There's a really stupid series of radio commercials for UPS in which an announcer asks, "what do UPS and basketball have in common?" - the clever answer is that "they have nothing in common," but of course the point is to get basketball fans to be interested in the great shipping services UPS provides. The commercials will probably stop running now that the NBA playoffs are over, but that's not going to stop me from asking, "what do classical music and basketball have in common?" I've been thinking about this for awhile after reading something really odd in the promotional materials for a book called Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians.

First, let me be clear that I think this sounds like a great book. I learned about it in a Greg Sandow dialogue about the need for classical musicians to know more about how to create music. Fair enough - I certainly wish my training had included more emphasis on improv and composition. Still, it's a shame that the book's author, Jeffrey Agrell, feels the need to take the worst possible view of what it is that classical musicians tend to do. The press material breathlessly declares : "Agrell draws a startling analogy with sports that illustrates the absurdity of the traditional approach to classically-oriented music performance."

Here's is Agrell's startling analogy: "Imagine if basketball were played the way we perform music today. The greatest games would be recorded and aspiring players would be required to learn a pro’s every move by reading a description of each move from a written chart. Nothing unplanned or unknown would be allowed to happen. No invention in the moment. No individual expression of ideas. No risking a series of less-than-perfect moves for the sake of imaginative play." Yes, it's a startling analogy - startlingly bad. Since Agrell is apparently a professional horn player, I can only hope he understands that there are many perfectly good reasons to perform from an existing score. The basic fallacy is to think of a score as being substantially the same as a written-out improvisation, just as the acting-out of recorded basketball games would be recreating what had first been unscripted. If that's all composers had to offer us, we'd only want to study and perform scores in order to get ideas for improvising, but obviously a score can be so much more.

It's true that many of the great "classical" works were written by composers for whom improvisational skills were part of basic training; we can further assume that a Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, etc. would often embellish on the spot when performing from scores, but they clearly also valued the advantages of putting musical ideas together in a permanent form. The primary advantages would be the greater structural complexity that planning allows and the sophisticated coordination of ensembles large and small. Not everyone finds these the most important of values, but it's safe to say that they undergird much of the classical music aesthetic. So, maybe the tradition has gone a little overboard in worshipping at the altar of the score - but that doesn't mean the experience of performing from a score involves "no invention in the moment" or "no individual expression of ideas" or "no imaginative play." This I know both from my experience as a performer and encountering all sorts of performers and teachers, both world-class and less than world-class.

This sort of strawman-ing of the classical musical experience is what tends to drive me most crazy about Sandow - I agree with him that there are some dead spots in the classical music culture, but he's prone to exaggerating them and and underestimating what makes it so worthwhile to return again and again to prefabricated musical creations. I've already mentioned this Sandow statement: "The classical music business, as we know it today, is among much else a glorious basking pool. We can love that, if we want, but we shouldn't confuse this with art." I agree with his oft-made point that we need to be much better at communicating about our art, but that needn't involve belitting the kind of aesthetic experience that many of us treasure.

So, I could go on and on reverse strawman-ing Sandow and Agrell and suggesting they understand nothing about art - but that doesn't really further the conversation. I'll be honest and admit that Agrell is really saying it's our method of training that is too much like a basketball reenactment, not the practice of performing from scores. I assume he believes that better improvisers will do a better job reenacting when that's the task at hand. Agreed. I can just say that as someone who watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) every second of the NBA finals, it's just not even close to being the same thing as listening to Bach or Stravinsky. (I'm not saying one thing is better or worse - just that they're completely different.) Bach and Stravinsky have survived because, for many, their works become richer upon multiple rehearings. Notwithstanding the success of ESPN Classic and the like, I can safely say that the best games are never as good on tape as they were live, and there's only a minor novelty interest in reenacting them.

Curiously, while I was working on this post, I discovered via the Omniscient Mussel that The Guardian recently sent a golf correspondent to cover an evening with Yefim Bronfman and the San Francisco Symphony. I can more easily excuse the Guardian's Lawrence Donegan for the unfairness of the following:

My attention remained fixed, tangentially at least, on what was going on inside the concert hall - which is to say I spent most of the night pondering why it is I would much rather have spent it watching sport - any sport. The answer, I think, is this: uncertainty. The essence of sport, and therefore of sports writing, is the unscripted nature of its narrative and the uncertainty of its outcome. Yefim Bronfman is a genius, no doubt, but he didn't write his own script - Brahms did - and the ending hasn't changed in the last 150 years, and won't for another 150. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, writes a new concerto every day, each one better than the last.
Never mind that the progression of the Brahms concerto could hardly have been certain to Mr. Donegan, since he doesn't know the piece. His sense that it was all too certain confirms something that Sandow often talks about - the way that a typical classical concert can feel like a curatorial handling of an aged artifact, especially to the unitiated. We need to work on that, partly by helping people understand that listening to Brahms is not supposed to be the same thing as watching the Celtics and Lakers. Perhaps Donegan can be forgiven for not getting that, but Agrell should know better.

P.S. By the way, being a Boston sports fan these days is starting to lack that feeling of uncertainty. Since 2002 we've had three Super Bowl champs, two World Series winners, and now the Celtics returning to glory. If it hadn't been for that Greek tragedy that played out on Feb. 3 (which I'm still not prepared to discuss), we might well be wondering if losing is actually an option.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Silver Lining

If I had doubted that I was getting old, then the satisfaction I felt readying the following should clue me in: "With the price of a gallon of gasoline having crossed the $4 threshold, teens are deriving less joy from riding around in automobiles." Let's just hope we can get up to $6/gallon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Name Brand Quality

The Celtics once again outclassed the Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA finals, although it got ridiculously scary at the end; of course, the hometown boys now have to play the next three games (assuming all are necessary) in L.A., which changes everything. However, the Boston Globe's ever perceptive Dan Shaughnessy pointed out the "classy edge" that's really going to have Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant on edge: "Keith Lockhart and friends performed the national anthem before Game 2. The Los Angeles arts community no doubt will be hard-pressed to top the Pops." Yeah, I saw the pre-game ceremony in which the ever awkward Mr. Lockhart, draped in a goofily oversized Celtics jersey, provided his expert guidance while about 11-12 mostly brass players negotiated the national anthem. To my ears, it came off as a particularly stiff and uninspired reading, with Lockhart looking dead serious, his gestures punctuated by all sorts of fancy little subdivisions. The truth is, just about any small town in America could have trotted out a little brass band that would have sounded about the same.

Ah, but they wouldn't be the BOSTON POPS, would they? Never mind that this wasn't really the "Boston Pops" in any particularly meaningful sense (no strings!), or that a conductor isn't really needed to lead a small ensemble of professionals through this song, or that THE BOSTON POPS can be used not just to describe the BSO players who fill out most of the primary roster, but also any number of high-quality freelance players in the area. (And Shaughnessy might be surprised to know that Los Angeles has a few high-quality freelance musicians.) The truth is, Lockhart wasn't really needed at all to conduct, he was there to define this little group as THE POPS. He was, to put it simply, a walking and gesticulating brand name label (like a Keebler elf, or Tony the Tiger), there to make us all feel good that Boston has a well-known pops orchestra. One might further suggest that the Boston Pops exists largely to give people a "high art" labeled experience without really having to confront "high art." For example, the most high-profile Pops event is the annual 4th of July concert at which the second-tier Esplanade orchestra spends much of the evening providing a virtually superfluous backing track to some famous pop star.

The all-time silliest example was the 2002 Super Bowl for which the entire Pops orchestra was flown down to New Orleans to "play," except that they were just doing the symphonic equivalent of lip-synching, everything having been prerecorded. However, it obviously meant something to people to have the Pops there, representing themselves. They weren't there to play, they were there to be there, and the same is really true of the group from last night, even though they did happen to play. It's all about the name brand. So, although Lockhart's overly elaborate conducting gestures weren't really needed by the players, they did make sense as a way of reinforcing the name brand - people want to see that this guy's got some real conducting chops. He was conducting much more for the national audience than for his Pops stars.

But the truth is that the "name brand" phenomenon is pervasive in the way just about any kind of music, classical or pop, is received. There are all sorts of reasons to wonder why "new music" can't seem to get a legitimate foothold in the affections of concert-goers, but surely names are a big part of it. I teach at a small liberal arts school, and yet our annual student composer concerts always include several really well-written and interesting pieces; it logically follows that there are thousands of talented composers out there, able to turn out worthwhile music of just about any shape or size, but how do you compete with the name brands of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, etc? By no means am I saying that those composers just get by on name recognition, but I suspect if the average audience member doesn't like or is bored by a Beethoven symphony, the listener will tend towards blaming himself/herself. If the same listener doesn't like or is bored by the music of [INSERT NAME HERE], it's much more natural to put the blame on [RE-INSERT SAME NAME HERE]. This imaginary listener is thus much more likely to give Beethoven a second chance.

This isn't an entirely bad thing, by the way. In fact, it's just a natural part of how culture works in general, but that's a topic for another day.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Putting Your Money Where Your Music Is

First things first: fifteen years ago today I married the best of all possible wives, and, remarkably, she's stayed with me, which makes this a rather important anniversary. My gift to her was to cease blogging for the past 10 days or so. (OK, not really, as evidenced by the fact that I'm blogging on our anniversary - I've just been in post-semester blogging malaise, busying myself with such inspirational tasks as trying to restore some semblance of order to a badly neglected yard, etc.)

Two important musical points to make about this MMmarriage.

1) We met playing music - Dvorak's Dumky Trio at a summer festival. I guess there was a violinist involved as well (actually, he was quite memorable, but that's for another day), but to me the Dumky will always be the most romantic of duets. Music is undoubtedly the catalyst that brought us together and helped us discover how many other things we had/have in common. And here's a quick funny story. Our oldest daughter has heard many times how that violinist was a bit of a party animal who showed up late for just about every rehearsal, thereby forcing his shy pianist and cellist to kill the time waiting by chatting with each other. So, tonight I'm playing our 1989 Bowdoin Summer Music Festival recording of the Dumky Trio for dinner music. As it starts and I mention that it's Mommy and Daddy playing a trio, our three-year old asks who the violinist is. When I mention that the violinist hasn't started yet (because the trio begins with an extended bit for just cello and piano), the eight-year old deadpans, "what, was he late then too?" I don't even think she meant it as a joke, but it made me laugh. Then, after dinner, she further endeared herself to us by asking to play a Mozart trio we've been rehearsing, so the trio thing is coming full circle. Yes, marriage is good.

2) We've decided that our primary gift to each other will be buying a seven-concert subscription to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Now, this may not seem like the most romantic of gifts, but life with three young children means that seven guaranteed dates for the coming year is something to be treasured. Not that we don't love our time with the little ones, but we're not so good at planning evenings out -and if they're not planned, they tend not to happen. So, this is a very exciting prospect, and it gives us a chance to share more musical experiences.

It's also interesting to think about some of the implications of this choice in light of two principal preoccupations of the musical blogosphere: 1) the ever-aging and decaying audience for classical music, and 2) the problematic position of "new music" in the "classical music" world. As for point #1, I guess we are now part of that ever-aging and decaying audience as this is (shamefully, or not) our first serious financial commitment to concert attendance and - much as it pains me to say it - we're no longer part of the coveted under-40 demographic. How about that? We're rookies and we're already over the hill.

Of course, it's possible that we're also an example of why concertgoers are trending older, given that people tend to take longer to get their careers and families going and given that a night out at the symphony, figuring in babysitting, parking, etc. is not a trivial investment. In other words, maybe there is a future audience out there among the twenty- and thirty-somethings, but they just aren't ready for the commitment. I'm sure Greg Sandow has some magical numbers somewhere to debunk that theory, so I'm not gonna push it. Let's just say it'll be nice to feel young at these concerts.

As for the "new music" issue, let's face it, the decision to invest so much time and money into the BSO already says something about our lack of commitment to the "progressive cause." After all, we could have chosen BMOP instead. I haven't exactly hidden the fact here that I'm most tuned into and turned on by the "older stuff" (check out my desert island list), basically the Bach-Stravinsky repertoire that still best defines the classical music world, and I've come to the happy position of being neither proud nor embarrassed by that fact. The "new music" problem is fascinating and infinitely complex and I spend a lot of time trying to sort out why the classical music world is what it is. Still, as interesting as it is to speculate about what the music world should be and what people should want from concerts and the like, it's also worth considering what a middle-of-the-road connoisseur such as I does get and want from music.

The process of choosing to subscribe to the BSO and picking concerts is as good a way as any of seeing where my musical heart is, though the results are hardly surprising. The works I'm most excited about hearing include Beethoven's 7th (my favorite of The Nine), Mahler 6, Shostakovich 9, the Rite of Spring, Mozart's 40 & 41, and, yes, Carmina burana. I'm admittedly less enthused about the Carter horn concerto (although content that it will be framed by Beethoven and Stravinsky), and that's really the only remotely contemporary piece on the series we've chosen.

Here's where Greg Sandow would jump in and accuse me of just wanting to "bask" in music that I love, but as I mentioned in a comment on his blog, I may know all these standard rep works very well, but I haven't had that many chances to hear a world-class orchestra play them. Sandow seems to believe that listeners ought to be seeking out more demanding (unpredictable) experiences that challenge us to think about bigger things and be startled and prodded and whatever. That's fine for those who want it, but when it comes to investing this kind of money and time, I don't mind admitting that I want to go hear music that I'm pretty sure I'll find satisfying. By the way, although Sandow often cites the progressive indie-rock types as being more about "real" and "meaningful" experiences, I think he underestimates how much fans of those worlds are also seeking to bask in the familiar, as well as just enjoying the sense of being locked in culturally. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to be "locked in culturally;" I just happen to enjoy being locked into a different kind of culture that, admittedly, may not be so closely tied to the moment.

But hey, it's my anniversay, I've got 364 other days to ignore my bride while blogging, so maybe I should return my attention to her. Oh, and Celtics-Lakers starts in about an hour. Fortunately she likes watching sports. (Did I mention she's the best of all possible wives?) Ho hum, another local team playing for the championship. I just hope the BSO goes all the way this year.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

from From The Top

I apologized for being a little hard on the From the Top franchise a few weeks back, but then my daughter got a 'birthday' email from the show linking her to this. Never mind that it makes no sense and isn't funny (to me or her), it just confirms that the show is overly intent on seeming cool and hip (neither of which the birthday video are) and, apparently, not interested in reminding us what the show's about. I mean, it is about talented kids playing classical music, right? I'm just sayin'.

P.S. And I am renewing my commitment to blogging by reminding myself it's OK to just post little trifles like this every now and then.