Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Doctor is Out - and I'm back (?)

So, now that The Doctor is behind me, it's time to see about reviving this poor blog. I recently read the following advice to bloggers from ArtsJournal's Douglas McLennan: "Mostly, though, I tell them that the way to get the biggest audience is to post as often as possible and to be consistent about it. If you post every day and then suddenly skip a week, you lose most of your readership. But you can post once a month and if you're consistent, you'll capture a set of readers. The big numbers though, go to bloggers who post often." Eeeek! It feels like he's pointing straight at me - except that, of course, he will never have heard of my blog and I tend to substitute "two weeks" for "skip a week." But, I really shouldn't get started back by blogging about blogging.

On the other hand, life is still too busy to put together something long and organized. How about long and disorganized?

For anyone who may be wondering, the shows went well and seemed to be successful in all the important ways. My arms didn't fall off, in spite of my 'once-every-three-years' conducting schedule. The students did well. We had good crowds. I'd like to attribute the good crowds to my innovative little production website, but it never got as much attention as I'd hoped it would. I still believe it's a pretty cool site, and that it suggests a potentially unintimidating way to introduce a work to an audience, but maybe the karaoke idea is too kooky, or maybe just not enough people ever saw it. (Or maybe it was just badly done.)

There is a danger with such a site of making people feel like they need to do "homework" before going out to be entertained. It's really a Catch-22: on the one hand, I want to acknowledge that opera is enough outside of the common experience that some pre-show preparatory experiences could be useful; on the other hand, this idea might suggest to people that enjoying an opera is work, and who wants to work at being entertained? At any rate, I think our good-sized audiences had more to do with the social-networking wonders of Facebook than they did with my animated singalongs, but I'm far from having set my last axe dancing.

It is, of course, a letdown to find myself in post-show mode. The last few weeks were round-the-clock experiences, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Besides, a big upcoming event always provides a good way to avoid doing more mundane things like cleaning my office, grading, mowing the lawn, practicing the piano, eating. The good news is, I can always find a way to keep putting most of those things off.

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of going out with the wife for an evening of chamber music - piano quartets specifically. We read both Mozart piano quartets and the Brahms C Minor piano quartet, which is one of my favorite-ever pieces. However, the Brahms really felt like a bit of a grind since we were all sightreading and it's quite dense. On the other hand, the Mozart quartets were sheer delight, and a good reminder of why I became a musician in the first place. They are such merry little pieces, with surprises and deft touches around every corner - and they also reminded me of how much such music (unlike the Brahms) is probably at its best in this sort of social, low-pressure, sight-reading situation. I'm sure I'd prefer an evening of sightreading these pieces to hearing some slick group of professionals perform them. So, part of me wants to go into more detail about what makes the music so great, but the wiser and lazier part of me is satisfied for now to think happily about the experience without too much actual thinking about it.

The other enjoyable diversion of the week came about quite unexpectedly. I was asked to help out creating a quick-fix interim soundtrack for a little documentary video. I'd rather not give any more precise details, but it has been a fascinating experience. In this case, I'm not composing anything, but rather looking for available music that suits the video well. (Copyright isn't really an issue, because the version I'm helping with won't be sold and will probably just be shown once or twice in non-commercial settings.) So many interesting questions arise about how music functions - aside from the whole music-as-background issue, which doesn't really bother me at all, there's the sleight-of-hand ways in which music can create a context through a viewer's built-in associations about that music, regardless of what the music may have been intended to do. It also makes me challenge my own ideas about taste, etc. when considering what will work best for an intended audience. It's a kind of experience that I think every music student should have - maybe even more important than memorizing the K. numbers for all the Mozart piano concerti. (Which is good, because all those K numbers are starting to run together for me.)

Setting up that last little hyperlink reminds me that it's time to do some MMhousekeeping. There are many multimedia creations that haven't made it into the Multimedia Musing Machine yet, for example. So, that should give me something to get back into the blogging game, not to mention a thousand posts that I've written quite eloquently - in my imagination. Let's see, I still want to tackle the music appreciation question that came up here. I had all the answers a few weeks ago - I wonder if I still do. I also will likely have some more post-Doctoral musing to do, including some thoughts about our paperless programs and the laptop that almost let me down. But for now, back to grading . . . or whatever else I can come up with.

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