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!”

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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 »

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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.

lhc250x46_thumb2

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 »


mm378: Blast from the Past! No. 20

May 13, 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.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

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

From our early days, originally posted August 31, 2007.

mm123: Classical music II — one more time, with wood

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

So, I was cruising the blogs at BlogExplosion.com and I found this one, courtesy of YouTube, via Subbie.

When I’m all by myself, I seldom LOL. This video, I did laugh out loud.

YouTube: Rachmaninov had big hands

Read the rest of this entry »


mm377: Blast from the Past! No. 19

May 12, 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.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

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

From our early days, originally posted August 30, 2007.

mm122: Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

Did you ever read a novel, a newspaper or magazine article, a blog posting and say: “Wow, I wish I could write like that!”?

I had one of those WIWICWLT! moments the other day, when I encountered this outstanding music review in Slate. And, I don’t usually read music reviews, in Slate, or anywhere else.

Evan Eisenberg absolutely made me want to get out there and buy the music CD described. And believe MUDGE when he tells you that purchasing a classical music CD is probably the least likely act he might have been tempted to commit in these budget constrained times before reading this story.

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mm320: Soothing the savage, etc.

March 17, 2008

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

MUDGE’s Musings

Sunday, actually got off of my lazy — uh, seat, and made the effort to attend a cultural event: a concert in town of our community orchestra.

Over the course of 10 months 11 days of daily posting, yr (justifiably) humble svt has been circumspect about his identity, as well as specific locality.

If one was paying attention, one might find some references in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© to north-eastern Illinois, and especially Chicago, the source of the energy driving this 3rd largest U.S.metropolitan area.

Well, my suburban town is hereby outed.

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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 »


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