mm490: Blast from the Past! No. 47 – Classical music, redux

September 5, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Events, continue to conspire, making it unacceptably late to start a fresh project, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th[1]

Blast from the Past!

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

From last fall, and always in season, especially since it’s back to school time for millions, originally posted November 5, 2007, and titled “mm185: Time for a classical music post.”

MUDGE’S Musings

We’ll do this a bit differently today. Slate.com has an interesting dialog going on jazz and classical music, and what people listen to.

So, go read it (perhaps even taking in some of the Fray) and come back for MUDGE’s take.

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

Alex Ross and Ben Ratliff discuss jazz, classical and pop – Slate.com

I grew up in a house where classical music was heard everywhere, on the radio, on records, on the piano in the living room. We were taken to concerts in the rarified atmosphere of a cathedral of the arts.

So I listen to classical music most of the time. Not all of the time: Constant reader will recall the frequent references to Pandora.

In the home my children grew up with, the radio that I controlled always had classical music playing, but, of course, there was more than one radio in the house by this generation, television was much more pervasive, and the piano in the living room (the same one, appropriated rather embarrassingly one remembers ruefully) was largely silent. Piano lessons were attempted, and dropped. Live concerts were usually way beyond the budget.

So those children listen (so far as I can determine; they’ve long since established households of their own) mainly to pop. Indeed, MUDGElet No. 3 is a musician of growing accomplishment, in the modern pop vernacular of drum machines and Pro-Tools.

And so the slice of the cultural pie populated by classical music grows smaller with each generation.

But.

As alluded to in the Slate dialog, there’s more going on here than generational taste.

And as mentioned in at least one of the comments, perhaps our definition of classical music has been allowed to become too narrow.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

mm452: Well, it’s been a long day

July 29, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Well, it’s been a long, been a long, been a long, been a long day.

Moderated a meeting on location first thing this morning, which was routine except for the web conference participation: Ireland, Argentina, Japan, the Netherlands, and most places between. Oh, yes, and one of the speakers was connecting from just outside Rome.

Sometimes I really, really like my job.

This afternoon, performed another one of MUDGE’s rare personal appearances: a training class on-site, rather than behind the protection of a telephone call and a web conference. Fortunately, it was an easy audience, and turned out to be quite well received.

Then, after the usual hour-long commute, broken up today by a succession of phone calls (hands-free, of course), arrived home to make silly faces at the neighbor’s toddler grandson, passing by in this generation’s version of a “Daddy Blue Car.”

And then, after a quick change to leisure clothes, off to the lakefront, for a picnic with close friends, and a free evening concert by the lagoon.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm272: What the devil time is it anyway?

February 1, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

[MUDGE is not especially a popular music fan in the conventional definition, but there are things that stick. Brass and woodwinds stick. And, after all, Chicago is home.]

In more and more parts of the world, time, specifically time zones, have become a political football.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm206: It’s 10:30pm — Do you know where your tap water has been?

November 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

While most of the world frets about the $100/barrel cost of petroleum, another resource shortage has been looming at the outskirts of our attention.

Water.

Our SUVs will grind to a halt without the former.

Life will grind to a halt without the latter.

In many parts of the world the growing shortage [note to self: as a writer, can you live with the contradiction in terms?] of water for agriculture and drinking purposes is already a critical issue. Governments can print money, but the planet’s supply of water is apparently finite, especially the fresh variety.

Which leads us, as in many instances, to California. You’ll remember California, the home of huge redwood forests, spectacular ocean vistas, and once arid deserts now populated by tens of millions of people.

Water is imported into this residential desert from as far away as Colorado, and as the population, and agricultural activity that supports it grows, the potable supply in many cities is insufficient.

Which leads us to today’s story, courtesy as so many are, of the NYTimes.

November 27, 2007

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. — It used to be so final: flush the toilet, and waste be gone.

But on Nov. 30, for millions of people here in Orange County, pulling the lever will be the start of a long, intense process to purify the sewage into drinking water — after a hard scrubbing with filters, screens, chemicals and ultraviolet light and the passage of time underground.

On that Friday, the Orange County Water District will turn on what industry experts say is the world’s largest plant devoted to purifying sewer water to increase drinking water supplies. They and others hope it serves as a model for authorities worldwide facing persistent drought, predicted water shortages and projected growth.

The process, called by proponents “indirect potable water reuse” and “toilet to tap” by the wary, is getting a close look in several cities.

It’s a clever system, actually, not directly sending the output of the reclamation project to the taps.

groundwater

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

From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking – New York Times

Water. We’ve covered it here before. It’s a universal theme.

Anyone remember the amazing Polanski/Nicholson/Huston/Dunaway film “Chinatown“? Its plot driver was the 1930s surreptitious provision of irrigation water for the orange groves of the San Fernando valley, now the northern bedroom suburbs of Los Angeles.

In the past, MUDGE was always grateful for living quite near one of the Great Lakes, a seemingly reliable and endless resource.

That was then. Now, between wrestling with states and cities in the dry West that would love to get hold of some of that lovely stuff, and fending off the likes of Nestlé, largest marketer of bottled water in the world, whose facility in Michigan has begun to deplete bottomless Lake Michigan, our Great Lakes-adjacent location is not looking so comfortable.

So, technology might provide an answer, as it might for so many of civilization’s issues.

One solution that out of desperation has been tried in many parts of the world is desalinization, the conversion of salt water (¾ of the planet’s surface, or so we’re told) to fresh. After all, California (the state in question) has many hundreds of miles of oceanfront. However, desalinization turns out to be frightfully expensive, both in dollar terms, as well as, I was interested to learn, in environmental terms as well.

Impacts of desalination include brine build-up, increased greenhouse gas emissions, destruction of prized coastal areas and reduced emphasis on conservation of rivers and wetlands. Many of the areas of most intensive desalination activity also have a history of damaging natural water resources, particularly groundwater.

Desalination: Option Or Distraction For A Thirsty World?

Okay, so I understand it’s a closed system, this Spaceship Earth we all inhabit. Over the course of eons, water cycles through salt and fresh, and the Groundwater Replenishment System called out above is an attempt to provide some of that cyclic advantage, cosmetically at least.

We’ve long taken fresh potable water for granted in the Western world. Our desert west and its growing crisis is only a harbinger.

Like so many of our bedrock expectations, a planet heading for 9billion humans will seismically shift those watery assumptions.

Cheers!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm185: Time for a classical music post

November 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

We’ll do this a bit differently today. Slate.com has an interesting dialog going on jazz and classical music, and what people listen to.

So, go read it (perhaps even taking in some of the Fray) and come back for MUDGE‘s take.

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

Alex Ross and Ben Ratliff discuss jazz, classical and pop – Slate.com

I grew up in a house where classical music was heard everywhere, on the radio, on records, on the piano in the living room. We were taken to concerts in the rarified atmosphere of a cathedral of the arts.

So I listen to classical music most of the time. Not all of the time: Constant reader will recall the frequent references to Pandora.

In the home my children grew up with, the radio that I controlled always had classical music playing, but, of course, there was more than one radio in the house by this generation, television was much more pervasive, and the piano in the living room (the same one, appropriated rather embarrassingly one remembers ruefully) was largely silent. Piano lessons were attempted, and dropped. Live concerts were usually way beyond the budget.

So those children listen (so far as I can determine; they’ve long since established households of their own) mainly to pop. Indeed, MUDGElet No. 3 is a musician of growing accomplishment, in the modern pop vernacular of drum machines and Pro-Tools.

And so the slice of the cultural pie populated by classical music grows smaller with each generation.

But.

As alluded to in the Slate dialog, there’s more going on here than generational taste.

And as mentioned in at least one of the comments, perhaps our definition of classical music has been allowed to become too narrow.

It is MUDGE‘s contention that for a very large number of years of the 20th Century, composers of classical music stopped writing for their historic audience. And this has to do, one could theorize, with the changed musical food chain.

As someone commented more or less accurately, for many hundreds of years composers had patrons: first, the Catholic church and later, well into the 19th Century, secular sources of funding: royalty and the wealthy.

Times changed, and composers had to find new safe havens, and found them: academia. So composers wrote to suit these new patrons, their fellow academics. And the broad audience was left out.

Schoenberg could be angry at his concert audiences (as noted in the Slate dialog), but his later works, and the works of those he mentored and influenced, seem to have been academic exercises and barely tried, and hardly succeeded, to connect to that audience.

So, no wonder the audience is apparently dwindling. Much as one might love listening to the “Three B’s”, and Mozart and Schumann and Mahler, and Handel and Berlioz, it’s old music, written for the clerics and the princes and the audiences of a time long past.

The most listenable of the composers of the 20th Century: Stravinsky (some), Prokofiev, Shoshtakovich (hmm, Russians); Copland and Gershwin and Bernstein; wrote in the idiom of an earlier time, and thus stretched the audience instead of confronting it. But still, by now, old.

Who is writing serious orchestral music for today’s listener?

A few have been successful. John Adams (who I confess I haven’t much appreciated); Philip Glass (who I do).

But Glass’s example leads to the second point I was about to make: many of his most successful and approachable works are music written for film.

Film producers and directors might almost be considered the successors of the churchly and princely patrons of music of an older age. And yes, at least one of the comments to the Slate story touches on this.

Early filmmakers even drafted European serious composers to add gravitas to their popular art, Korngold being for me the most potent example.

Hitchcock’s suspense would have been much less so without Bernard Herrmann’s scores.

Jerry Goldsmith; John Williams; the master, Ennio Morricone; Philip Glass himself; and recent upstarts like Hans Zimmer, James Horner and Danny Elfman: all wrote or are writing music that was commissioned to meet a specific storytelling purpose, but many of their scores provide wonderful entertainment listened to on disc without the film, and I’m certain entertains surprisingly well in the concert hall, if anyone is so bold as to program it.

Thus, the point. People in the millions are listening to classical music (i.e., music written using a most traditional tool — the symphony orchestra — to help tell a story) daily, only in the form of scores for films, in movie theatres and home theatres and on iPods and laptops.

So classical music hasn’t died, isn’t dead or dying.

It’s just made the journey to the 21st Century in order to reconnect with its audience, if not the academic establishment that held it captive for so many barren years.

And that makes classical music bigger than ever.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE