mm387: Blast from the Past! No. 22

May 22, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 2, 2007, and originally titled “It <is> a serious music trifecta”.

MUDGE’S Musings

Have written comparatively little regarding music, until the past few days. Odd how concepts seem to cluster sometimes.

So, first it was that terrific review of that sublime recording of the Bach Goldberg Variations by Simone Dinnerstein, which recording was even excerpted on our local classical station today during their new releases weekly segment.

Then, found very randomly on someone’s blog, that hysterical (I’ve watched it several times and it makes me laugh each time) goof on the performance of Rachmaninov’s Prelude (“only the hands are small!”).

Later the day I posted that one, we went out to our neighborhood Blockbuster to find holiday weekend fare. Sometimes she picks the movies; sometimes I do. This time she did.

What did lovely spouse (emphatically not the serious music lover in the family; mainly the tolerator of the serious music lover in the family) choose first to listen to that night? Copying Beethoven.

copyingbeethoven

Read the rest of this entry »


mm277: 20th Century classical music is 100 years old – and we haven’t learned to listen to it!

February 6, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

On MUDGE’s recent, grotesquely obnoxiously huge birthday (let us suggest that no candles were placed on the figurative birthday cake, since nobody could figure out how to find a cake large enough to accommodate the grotesquely obnoxiously huge number of candles required), my lovely children gifted me with a book that seems intriguing. The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century by Alex Ross is next up, kids, I promise.

They know (and you might, faithful reader from posts like this one and especially here) of my general interest in serious (classical) music, and my mature years dismay (as a youngster I toyed with appreciating it as kids toy with lots of stuff they ultimately outgrow) with what has happened to it in the past 100 years or so.

Well now I feel especially guilty that I haven’t hit the Ross book yet. The late David Halberstam’s Korean War epic, The Coldest Winter, is currently nibbled at [confound it, this newfangled blogging thing has bitten voraciously into book reading time!], and as it is borrowed from a coworker, has priority.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm217: Potpourri — Romney, alternative energy, Stockhausen

December 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

When MUDGE can’t decide which of several topics he’s most interested in discussing with faithful reader, he doesn’t decide at all (leaving that to The Decider, I suppose); rather, he enters SASB mode:

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We’ve quoted Steve Chapman previously here at Left-Handed Complement (here and here, for example). He’s on the editorial board of our home town paper, the Chicago Tribune, and writes for Reason magazine.

Pretty conservative guy in a very conservative environment. But, left-handed as I am, I find myself agreeing with Chapman surprisingly often.

chitrib

Romney flunks a religious test

Steve Chapman | December 9, 2007

Mitt Romney is worried about religious intolerance. He fears religious and nonreligious people will unite to punish him because of his Mormon faith. He thinks it would be much more in keeping with America’s noblest traditions if Mormons and other believers joined together to punish people of no faith.

On Thursday, Romney showed up at the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas, to announce that even if it costs him the White House, his Mormonism is non-negotiable. That came as a relief to those who suspected he would defuse the issue by undergoing a Methodist baptism.

Like John F. Kennedy, who said in 1960 that the presidency should not be “tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group,” Romney said there should be no religious test for this office. “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” he said.

Chapman continues by illustrating Romney’s misreading of U.S. history and the intent of the authors of this country and its Constitution.

He ignores evidence that the framers thought otherwise. The Constitution they so painstakingly drafted contains not a single mention of the Almighty—unlike the Articles of Confederation, which it replaced. A 1796 treaty, ratified by the Senate and signed by that very same John Adams, stipulated that the U.S. government “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Romney flunks a religious test — chicagotribune.com

Now, as much as MUDGE is likely to cast a vote next November for a Democrat, one imagines that Steve Chapman will not.

However, Mitt Romney apparently will not get his vote:

In the end, though, Romney accomplished what he set out to do in this speech. Henceforth, no one can possibly justify voting against him because he’s a Mormon. Not when he’s provided so many other good reasons.

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nytimes

Efforts to Harvest Ocean’s Energy Open New Debate Front

By WILLIAM YARDLEY | Published: December 8, 2007

NEWPORT, Ore. — Chris Martinson and his fellow fishermen catch crab and shrimp in the same big swell that one day could generate an important part of the Northwest’s energy supply. Wave farms, harvested with high-tech buoys that are being tested here on the Oregon coast, would strain clean, renewable power from the surging sea.

They might make a mess of navigational charts, too.

“I don’t want it in my fishing grounds,” said Mr. Martinson, 40, who docks his 74-foot boat, Libra, here at Yaquina Bay, about 90 miles southwest of Portland. “I don’t want to be worried about driving around someone else’s million-dollar buoy.”

A hot-button topic, alternative energy sources have appeared in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© several times (wind power here, hydro power here).

The concept of using living natural processes (rather than fossilized ones) is intriguing. But, as seen in the wind power story we discussed, even the free wind isn’t free of costs, monetary and environmental. And the same goes for ocean waves.

“Everyone wants that silver bullet,” said Fran Recht of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. “The question is, Is this as benign as everyone wants to say it is?”

Accompanying the NYTimes story was this intriguing graphic:

powerfromthesea

So, will a forest of anchored buoys interfere with fish and migratory marine mammals? How can it not?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Efforts to Harvest Ocean’s Energy Open New Debate Front – New York Times

Turns out that the concept of NIMBY (not in my back yard) is alive and well several miles offshore Oregon in the Pacific Ocean!

People, everything has a cost. At first splash, power generating buoys seems more benign than most traditional or alternative energy sources.

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Say “Karlheinz Stockhausen” to most people, and, depending on your conversation partner’s degree of social etiquette, you’d be met by responses spanning the scale from quizzical stares to a smack in the jaw.

Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt’s interest in serious music has been documented in the space several times (among them: here, here, here and most hilariously, here).

Yes, Karlheinz Stockhausen was a musician, a composer actually, and there was a time in MUDGE‘s young life when I was quite smitten with his ground-breaking compositions.

He died this week.

nytimes

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Influential Composer, Dies at 79

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By PAUL GRIFFITHS |  Published: December 8, 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, an original and influential German composer who began his career as an inventor of new musical systems and ended it making operas to express his spiritual vision of the cosmos, died on Wednesday at his home in Kuerten-Kettenberg, Germany. He was 79.

Stockhausen was a pioneer of electronic music, at a time before Robert Moog made it simple to generate the complex sounds that have, thanks to Moog, become a ubiquitous feature of popular sonic culture. When Stockhausen began to chart a new course in European serious music in the early 50s, electronic music was pieced together, tone by tone, channel by channel, an agonizing arduous process.

At one time, I had recordings of his music from that era, but I hadn’t encountered them for sometime before my vinyl collection was ceded to my musical MUDGElet No. 3.

The classical music radio station in my town (and how many people can say that phrase these days?) never ever played Stockhausen’s music. Of course, they are hard-pressed to play music written after 1950, except that of John Adams, the Gian Carlo Menotti of this generation (i.e., feet anchored more in the 19th century than the 20th or 21st). So it’s been quite some time since I visited Stockhausen’s music.

The obituary in the NYTimes tells us that his later life took a most Wagnerian turn.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Influential Composer, Dies at 79 – New York Times

Anyone interested in the topic of serious electronic music can follow this link to the article in Wikipedia.

So that’s today’s potpourri. We all remain hopeful that MUDGE‘s standard attention span returns real soon now.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm125: It <is> a serious music trifecta!

September 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Have written comparatively little regarding music, until the past few days. Odd how concepts seem to cluster sometimes.

So, first it was that terrific review of that sublime recording of the Bach Goldberg Variations by Simone Dinnerstein, which recording was even excerpted on our local classical station today during their new releases weekly segment.

Then, found very randomly on someone’s blog, that hysterical (I’ve watched it several times and it makes me laugh each time) goof on the performance of Rachmaninov’s Prelude (“only the hands are small!”).

Later the day I posted that one, we went out to our neighborhood Blockbuster to find holiday weekend fare. Sometimes she picks the movies; sometimes I do. This time she did.

What did lovely spouse (emphatically not the serious music lover in the family; mainly the tolerator of the serious music lover in the family) choose first to listen to that night? Copying Beethoven.

copyingbeethoven

It never made much of an impression when it was released last year; just another of the thousands of releases that MUDGE would never venture out to see in a theatre. I guess I read a review or two:

i went to Copying Beethoven expecting, even wanting to like it. Some of it I did like. Immediately, Agnieszka Holland’s usually sure hand is evident in the magnificent opening scene. A closed carriage careens along a muddy road in the 19th century Austrian countryside, past poor trudging women who peer after it as they get out of the way, past fields and woods—past daily life—and beneath wheeling birds whose startled flight matches the passenger’s own urgency. It’s 1827 and young Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), musical copyist and aspiring composer, is rushing to the death-bed of her “Maestro,” the renowned Beethoven (Ed Harris). But more than anything this carriage scene is about the vivid, almost overwhelming awakening of her senses. It’s chilly, and we are roughly thrown about in Anna’s careening coach along with her, catching flashes of sky and branch, nearly smelling the steaming horses, and above all, hearing everything. Every hoof beat, every crow’s call, every squeak of the carriage, every sudden brief lull, pant and rustle—all of it picked out clearly and then mingled with soaring music. Anna Holtz apprehends the world fully just as the man who’s shown it to her lies on the razor’s edge of death. You see, she has just grasped what he has to offer, barely in time to repay his gift by telling him so

Copying Beethoven – Movie Review – Stylus Magazine

Or this one, from London:

When writing this good can meet with indifference from the hand that feeds, it’s all the more galling to see a dog of a script being thrown filet mignon. The glossy Euro-production Copying Beethoven barks, rolls over, and plays dead for two hours. It is a great example of that time-honoured genre, the biopic so silly it plays like a spoof.

Try this: “My God, Beethoven, you’re even deafer than I thought!” says someone about one of the late string quartets.

Or this: “Beethoven mooned me!” complains his put-upon female copyist, Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger). You won’t struggle to guess which sonata he was miming.

Film reviews: Sparkle, Copying Beethoven and more – Telegraph

I have to say, though, that it made a better impression on us, watching at home ($4.29 vs. $18.00 never hurts either). The centerpiece comes in the first hour: the performance, chopped, hashed, sliced and diced as it was arrayed in the film, of the 9th Symphony. It was compelling, not for one looking for an authentic, complete performance (although it was taken from a masterful one), but for the film’s depiction of its emotional affect on the listeners.

There are moments in music that one would love to have a time machine available to go back to. And the first appearance of a massed choir is definitely one. Am I subjective about this? Of course. A lifetime ago, I sang in an amateur chorus (its amateurishness enhanced by my presence, alas).

  • The entry of the chorus for the first time (the fourth number) in Handel’s Messiah: “And the glory of the Lord.”
  • The near-whispering entry of the chorus in the last movement of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony (I’m certain that Beethoven’s 9th was Mahler’s inspiration).
  • And the triumphant entry of the chorus in the 9th itself. You see them there, and even if you know the music, when they enter… there are fewer more sublime moments in life, much less music.

Back to the film. Here’s what one of its writers, Steven Rivele had to say, on a site called Films about Beethoven: Copying Beethoven:

Our film begins in April of 1824 just before the premiere of the 9th Symphony. Beethoven has had a falling out with his copyist, Wolanek, and Schlemmer is desperate to find someone to replace him, to prepare the parts for the premiere. He sends to the Vienna Conservatory for their brightest young composition student, and they send, in return, our fictional heroine, Anna Holtz. (In fact, they sent two young men, but we asked ourselves: What if it had been a woman? This is what enabled us to create a film about the late Beethoven that could actually get financed.) Anna goes to work with Beethoven, helps him prepare for the premier, conducts with him from the wings, and then summons the strength to show him some of her own work. He mocks it, sending her into despair. Later he comes to apologize, and to ask her to help him with the composition of the last string quartets, his legacy to the future of music. In doing so, she learns the deepest meaning of music, and finds the strength to become a composer in her own right. There’s more to it than this, of course, but that’s the gist of it. There is a lot of humor, much soul-searching, a great deal of talk about the meaning of art and the role of musicians, and, of course lots of wonderful music.[…]

…We have had very lively discussions on our forum with regard to authenticity, and Mr.Rivele has explained just how difficult this is to achieve on a limited budget. For example, did the violinists use chin rests? Did the cellos have tailpins? Did the horns have valves? What music would have been played in the taverns?  There can be no doubting Mr.Rivele’s sincerity and desire to present a film covering the last years of Beethoven’s life as accurately as possible, but in order to create a viable project certain artistic licence has had to be taken.

Films about Beethoven: Copying Beethoven – Ludwig van

So, perhaps not the greatest film ever made with a musical subject (Amadeus, definitely an inspiration to the filmmakers, who respond with a similarly gritty depiction of 19th Century Vienna might get my vote), but atmospheric, weirdly (a female copyist?) believable, and often profoundly moving.

Definitely worth the renting. And definitely odd that we should end up watching a film with serious music as its theme. Clustering.

Then, in a rare DVD matinée, this afternoon we watched her next choice, the scenery chewing performances of Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal, which features a characteristically moody music score provided by another long-time favorite of this scribe, Philip Glass.

I have fond memories of driving my little guy to summer camp every day when he was indeed little, five or six years old. All he wanted to hear on the car’s stereo was Glass’ score to Mishima, a film I never saw, because, really, I’m just not that interested in a fanatical Japanese guy who commits hara kiri to make a point, but the music is wonderful.

So, it’s been about serious music for the past several days.

And, BTW, I do consider seriously composed film music serious music. I’d go so far as to say, much of it has more of the qualities that audiences for so-called classical music are starved for: emotional content, a story, tunes.

The Pulitzer-winning college professors who rule the roost in concert halls today (if you can find orchestras that play music written in the last 50 years), present their clangorous, academic, modern for the sake of modernity, scores composed for academic reasons (publish or perish, indeed).

And, naturally, their off-campus audiences stay away.

The film guys: Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, even James Horner and Hans Zimmer, to slight very many others, speak to the audience directly and compellingly. And their best scores are eminently listenable, even if you never see the movie.

Immersed as I’ve lately been in the pop soup of Pandora.com, it reminds me of what I’ve been missing that Cyndi Lauper, Mike Post, Paul McCartney and the like just aren’t providing.

So, that’s the serious if not totally classical music trifecta. It’s been fun. Maybe we’ll do it again.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE