Saturday, April 28, 2007

John Cage Has a Secret

When teevee was great....

WFMU has up a nice clip of Cage's 1960 appearance on the game show "I've Got A Secret".
He performs "Water Walk" (the "instruments" include a bath tub, several radios, a grand piano, blender, rubber duck, mechanical fish, and more). Check it out !


Got Big Ears?

Check out this website which delivers online ear training.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The sound of now

Mad props are due saxophonist Brian Sacawa, and to Devin Hurd for the write-up.

Full scoop is here.

Looking forward to that Cd.

Growing Pains Part 2

This is too funny. Too true? Check it out at Soho the Dog's blog

Winter in Brazil

Why not? There plenty at the Campos do Jordão International Winter Festival which is billed as the "largest classical music festival in Latin America."

Check it out here

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 and Classical Music

Move over iTunes, here comes

"Amazon has cut a deal with the Universal Music Group to sell that distributor's classical music collection in unprotected MP3 format, according to published reports."

More here

Growing Pains in NY?


The New York Philharmonic, hunting for a successor to its music director, Lorin Maazel , has decided to divide up its leadership by adding the new position of principal conductor, orchestra officials said yesterday.

In a meeting with the musicians, the Philharmonic’s president, Zarin Mehta, said the orchestra would create other new positions, including composer in residence; director for a mini-festival; and artist in residence, probably a soloist.

More here.


The Cleveland International Piano Competition has announced the names of this July's competitors. Details here.


A running list of piano jokes. Some funny... Some.. well... .. amusing. Know a good one? Leave it in the comments.

Q: What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?
A: A flat minor.

Q: What do you get if you run over an army officer with a steam roller?
A: A flat major.

Q: What do you say to an army officer as you're about to run him or her over with a steam roller?
A: Be flat, major.

Q: What do you say after you run an army officer over with a steam roller?
A: See flat major.

Q: What key is "Exploring The Cave With No Flashlight" written in?
A: C sharp or B flat.

Q: What do you get when an army officer puts his nose to the grindstone?
A: A sharp major.

Q: What do you get if you enroll in a liberal arts program and the only subject you do well in is music?
A: A natural major.

Q: What do you use to tie saplings to a piano so the saplings won't blow away?
A: Root position cords.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Baby Got Back - Gilbert and Sullivan Style

Brilliant fun!

Truly Modern Piano?

Check it out

"...The piano case houses two Pioneer DVJ-X1 DVD players, three Marshall LCD monitors and an Edirol V-4 video mxer in place of normal piano keys."

But that's not all ! The best part

"The piano can then be further pimped out in true gangsta fashion with hydraulic legs and top, custom paint jobs and fog or laser spewers."

Read more here

Loads more info and photos here

Piano makers take note.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

U.K.'s Favorite Classical Works

And it's official !

Ralph Vaughan Williams "The Lark Ascending" takes the top spot.

2nd Elgar's Cello Concerto
3rd Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto

Most popular opera? Surprisingly, Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers"

Details here.

The Other Keyboard

Today's fun link is The Boston Typewriter Orchestra

The group describes itself as " a collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire."

Follow the link for pictures, audio samples, and more.

It is a keyboard! You gotta give me that :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

That Other Meme

1. Name an opera you love for the libretto, even though you don't particularly like the music.

The Mother of Us All

2. Name a piece you wish Glenn Gould had played.

Any of the piano sonatas by Roger Sessions

3. If you had to choose: Charles Ives or Carl Ruggles

Carl Ruggles

4. Name a piece you're glad Glenn Gould never played.

The Schubert Sonata in B flat D 960

5. What's your favorite unlikely solo passage in the repertoire?

Not sure unlikely is the word, but I’d go with the tuba in Shostakovich 13

6. What's a Euro-trash high-concept opera production you'd love to see? (No Mortier-haters get to duck this one, either—be creative)

Not a one

7. Name an instance of non-standard concert dress you wish you hadn't seen.

Bathing suits

8. What aging rock-and-roll star do you wish had tried composing large-scale chorus and orchestra works instead of Paul McCartney?

Brian Wilson

9. If you had to choose: Carl Nielsen or Jean Sibelius?

Sibelius. Is this serious?

10. If it was scientifically proven that Beethoven's 9th Symphony caused irreversible brain damage, would you still listen to it?


Who'd Have Thought

Piano smugglers.

" The smugglers are suspected of being instrumental in making tens of millions of yuan selling the contraband, giving the illegal ivory trade a whole new meaning."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bell, Violin, Subway

For all the chatter in the classical music blogosphere about the "experiment" involving Joshua Bell playing at the DC Metro during morning rush, I think it's a non-"classical music" blog that get its absolutely right.

Kevin Drum who blogs for the Washington Monthly says,

"I'm sorry, but this is just idiotic. No one recognized Bell because even famous violinists don't have famous faces. No one cared much about his music because probably no more than five people out of a hundred enjoy classical music at all — and fewer still recognize the difficult pieces he decided to play. What's more, I'd be surprised if as many as one out of a hundred can tell a good violinist from a great one even in good conditions. And despite the claim that the acoustics of the L'Enfant Plaza station were "surprisingly kind," I'm sure they were nothing of the sort.

Plus, of course, IT WAS A METRO STATION. People needed to get to work on time so their bosses wouldn't yell at them. Weingarten mentions this, with appropriately high-toned references to Kant and Hume, but somehow seems to think that, in the end, this really shouldn't matter much. There should have been throngs of culture lovers surrounding Bell anyway. It's as if he normally lives on Mars and dropped by Earth for a few minutes to do some research for a sixth-grade anthropology project

this article was so willfully clueless and hectoring (though in a sad, gentle way, natch) that it set my teeth on edge

True. And sad.

It is a rather strange article. Take this

"We'll go with Kant, because he's obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro"

I like Kant as much as the next nerd, but "Obviously right"?

"He [Kant] took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one's ability to appreciate beauty is related to one's ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America's most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal."

Huh? I'll leave aside a reading of Kant's "Analytic of the Beautiful" for another day.

Oh. Snap.

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Other times it just leaves you speechless.

My heart breaks just looking at the pictures.

In a scene that could have come straight from the 1932 Laurel and Hardy classic The Music Box, the 9ft 6in long Bosendorfer slipped from the clutches of three removal men, rolled off the back of their lorry and plunged 14ft down an embankment.
If you have the stomach for it, read the rest and see the photos here.

Larger photo here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Music in the post-copyright era

EMI drops DRM, then Microsoft (in an about-face) decides it will sell DRM-free music online.

Now comes news that "Bruce Lehman, an original architect of what became the DMCA, is basically admitting that the law has been a failure and hasn't worked out at all as planned."

Of course, he doesn't blame himself for being wrong. He blames the recording industry execs (who certainly do seem to deserve some of the blame). He notes that they never understood the digital world, and had no idea about new distribution technologies. He believes that if they had embraced going digital much earlier, then the DMCA wouldn't be such a disaster.
Read the rest here

The Other Elton

Forget Elton John.

Meet Elton Dog. The canine world's answer to Glenn Gould.

Music. Video. Fan mail. You find it all here

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Meme That Wouldn't Die

Just in case you hadn't heard: "The only dispute about classical recording is whether it is dying or dead. " (Link)

From the same piece there's this:

"Twenty years ago, the giant companies that dominated the classical recording industry were turning out about 700 releases a year. Today, just two are in the business. Production is down to about 100 new discs a year - many in the crossover repertoire that purists would not accept as "classical" at all - and falling."

Alex Ross delivers a badly corrective reality check. Take home point: "The major labels are much smaller than they used to be. But classical recording is bigger than ever." Link

and via the inimitable blog "On An Overgrown Path" comes news of a possible new label from Ireland. "The Contemporary Music Centre is commissioning a report on the feasibility of setting up an Irish recording label and/or download platform for specialist/non-commercial musics." Link

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Lang Lang

Call it hubris, call it the indiscretion of youth, but the pianist's concert the following summer at Ravinia was a disaster, so full of taffy-pull tempos and outrageous interpretative distortions as to constitute vandalism. It took several seasons but slowly, surely, Lang's playing improved. The turning point, for me, was his bracing account of Bartok's Second Piano Concerto with the CSO early in 2005. Not only did he show new musical maturity, but he went easier on the swooning facial expressions and other distracting platform choreography.

More here.

I've never liked Lang Lang's spectacle driven piano playing. So maybe there's hope. But I'm not holding my breath.


Paul Resnikoff on the news that EMI is dumping DRM:

"Ditching DRM is an important move, but ignoring the important role that pricing and simplicity play will probably make this development irrelevant to most consumers. Sure, freedom is great, but more complicated experiences and higher price tags represent a step in the wrong direction." (empahsis mine)

You think?

Bill Evans and Horowitz

Nice to come across this piece on one of my all time favorite pianists. And timely since I've been playing at "Emily" for past few days.

"Bill Evans, on the other hand, resembles in his posture and positioning a Vladimir Horowitz, the Russian-born performer more acclaimed than any other in my lifetime for his pianism. I retain a vivid memory of a televised concert of Horowitz, sitting low, his face close to the keyboard, the weight from his arms and long fingers sufficient of themselves to allow negotiation of notoriously difficult passages—not only with consummate ease but with definitive, clarion tones consistent through each note of a sequence demanding identical pressure from each finger of both hands."

read the rest here.

Hatto and the Bay City Rollers

Satire that makes you go "Oh, my!"

Here is proof that Hatto claimed copyright of lyrics to monster hits like 'Bye Bye Baby', 'Give a Little Love' and the US number one hit single 'Saturday Night'.

"Arista also paid her for being the band's drummer, lead guitar, saxophonist, lead vocals, backing vocals and double bass."

More here

Cage and Cunningham

It's today's must read link.

184 Hours

No not a hitherto unknown work by John Cage. It's the World's longest concert ever. In Japan.

Japanese musicians overcame fatigue and a major earthquake to set the record for the world's longest concert on Saturday, playing 184 hours non-stop in a program that ranged from The Beatles' classics to Japanese traditional harp music. Over 900 musicians aged 6 to 89 took turns performing in the 9-day marathon--with breaks of no more than 5 minutes between acts--at a small railway station in Hikone city, western Japan, according to organizer Kuniko Teramura, 51.


Denis Matsuev: The New Horowitz?

Maybe something along the lines of Cziffra, eh?

Anyhow, this seems to fit in with the previous posts on classical music in Venezuela.

"While he is confident that the Russian tradition of rigorous music training is alive and well, he is less sure that the world prizes classical musicians. Gifted with elastic hands and a great memory, and aware that "crossover" is among the hottest words in the music business, he embraces jazz. A good friend, he often invites less well-known talents to share his stage. It is a quest for relevance and recognition that idols like Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels or Sviatoslav Richter did not face."

Read the rest

Visit Matsuev's webpage here

There are mp3's of his playing here (check out the "Danse Russe" from Petrushka. Very nice).

Lennon's Piano Goes on Tour

Details here.

But it's really the title of the piece that's the kicker.

tasty high jinx in the conservatory

Of your imagination.

Find it all here.

A big note of thanks to "Oboe Insight" for the link.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Saturday in Canada

Mark your calendars and do some good.

Details here.

mas vale tarde que nunca

Back in June of 2005 I posted up a link on the classical music program in Venezuela.

And, lo, some recent coverage for the program appears of recent in the Atlanta Constitution (Beethoven in the Barrios). Jim Palermo of the "Chicago Classical Music" blog writes

"As the debate ranges on about why African American and Latino populations in the US aren’t better represented in our orchestras, and after having read about Venezuela’s flourishing “sistema,” I wonder, can you make any assumptions or correlations?"

Any takers?

An excellent post on the topic from the inimitable blog "On An Overgrown Path" is well-worth revisiting. You'll find it here.