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  • richardmitnick 3:20 PM on November 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, , , , , L.A. Philharmonic, , No classical institution in the world rivals the L.A. Phil in breadth of vision   

    From The Rest is Noise: “The Radical Splendor of the L.A. Phil” 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    November 26, 2018 Issue

    1
    Susanna Mälkki, the principal guest conductor, plays a formidable role. Illustration by Mikkel Sommer

    Season of the Century” is the slogan that the Los Angeles Philharmonic is using to tout its centennial season. The phrase is emblazoned on a sign outside Disney Hall and on street banners across the city. The double meaning is apparent: not only is this season intended to celebrate the orchestra’s past hundred years; it aims to make history itself. Ordinarily, such marketing effusions don’t withstand scrutiny, but the L.A. Phil’s 2018-19 season invites superlatives. The ensemble has commissioned pieces from more than fifty composers, ranging from such venerable figures as Philip Glass and Steve Reich to young radicals on the fringes. It is launching a slew of theatrical events and collaborations with pop and jazz artists. It is honoring African-American traditions and exploring the experimental legacy of the Fluxus movement. Gustavo Dudamel, the orchestra’s music director, is leading new works by John Adams and Thomas Adès. Esa-Pekka Salonen, the orchestra’s previous director, is presenting a nine-day Stravinsky festival. Meredith Monk’s opera “ATLAS,” from 1991, will receive a long-awaited revival. And so on. No classical institution in the world rivals the L.A. Phil in breadth of vision.

    Conductor Gustavo Dudamel (Los Angeles Times)

    Esa-Pekka Salonen MulPix.com

    Two months in, the centennial program has already brought three fairly staggering events, any one of which would have counted as the highlight of an ordinary season. First was the première of Andrew Norman’s “Sustain,” a forty-minute, single-movement piece that may become a modern American classic. Dudamel introduced it on a program that included Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Salonen’s “LA Variations.” In an inversion of the usual orchestral priorities, the Norman came last, and elicited the most excitement. In Los Angeles, decades of promotion of living composers have eroded the skepticism that so often greets new music.

    Norman, who is thirty-nine and lives in L.A., made his name as a composer of kinetic, frenetic music that mirrors the distracted habits of the digital age. The outer movements of “Play,” a three-part symphonic work that Dudamel conducted at the Phil in 2016, evoke the ricocheting, try-and-try-again tempo of video games. Having mined that vein enough, Norman slows things down in “Sustain.” The opening pages of the score consist largely of gorgeous smears of string sound, hypnotically gliding from one instrument to the next. These ethereal atmospheres turn hazy and rough, then give way to intertwining vines of melody in the winds. Rapid-fire patterns course through the orchestra, first chattering and then hammering. That energy subsides into near-silence, with strings producing whispers of tone rather than clear pitches. The sequence undergoes a series of repetitions, with deviations, disruptions, and accelerations. The final iteration ends in glorious chaos: the conductor cedes control, the players fall into an ad-libitum frenzy, and percussionists scrape slabs of plywood. The score is punctuated by a kind of signal: two pianos, tuned a quarter tone apart, arpeggiating upward into silence. With that gesture, the piece also ends.

    Norman has always been a deft orchestrator, but in “Sustain” he reveals himself as a magician of the art. He has spent enough time in Disney Hall that he understands its secret resonances: I was often unsure whether I was hearing tones or overtones, pitches or their ghosts. Even the heaviest textures have an immaterial glow—a counterpart to Frank Gehry’s whorling architecture, which Norman has studied closely. Above all, the composer succeeds in maintaining tension and cohesion across a huge span—“one long unbroken musical thought,” as he writes in his notes. It is thrilling to see a composer tackling a big canvas with such confidence and skill. It is no less thrilling to see a composer being given the opportunity to do so. The orchestra performed expertly and fervently under Dudamel’s direction.

    When I returned two weeks later, the L.A. Phil was playing Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet,” again with Dudamel on the podium. His full-throttle, rhythmically vital interpretation would have been enough to hold the attention, but Benjamin Millepied was on hand to choreograph select scenes, working with performers from the L.A. Dance Project. When a large orchestra occupies Disney’s stage, there is little room for dancers. So Millepied had the idea of sending them into spaces elsewhere in the Gehry complex and following them with a video camera. Images were streamed on a screen in the auditorium. Romeo killed Tybalt in the orchestra’s administrative offices, next to a filing cabinet. The Balcony Scene took place in Disney’s outdoor garden. The crypt scenes were set in an industrial-looking room below the stage. Millepied, holding the camera, was effectively dancing with his performers, weaving around them or running after them.

    The choreographer made a point of casting the lead roles in unconventional fashion. Each night, a different pair performed: first, an interracial straight couple; then two women; and, finally, two men. I saw the last duo, Aaron Carr and Mario Gonzalez. The dance scenes were not only dazzling to the eyes but also wrenchingly expressive: balletic moves alternated with naturalistic gestures of ardor or sorrow. As Prokofiev’s love music was reaching its peak, Carr and Gonzalez lay side by side in the garden, looking up into orchid and coral trees. I found myself wishing that more of the score had been choreographed—Millepied will eventually make a full-length film in this style—but the impact was all the greater for being interspersed with purely orchestral surges of passion and lament.

    Come early November, the L.A. Phil was dividing its attention between two radically different presentations: a staging of portions of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” with Sibelius’s incidental music as accompaniment; and John Cage’s “Europeras 1 and 2,” a chance-controlled collage of familiar operatic arias and orchestral parts. The instigator of the latter was Yuval Sharon, the L.A.-based director and the founder of the indie opera company the Industry, which, three years ago, presented the opera “Hopscotch” in locations across the city. The venue for “Europeras,” a co-production of the Industry and the L.A. Phil, was a spacious soundstage at Sony Studios. Sharon and his collaborators repurposed old film props—hand-painted backdrops, B-movie costumes, and the like—to create visual counterpoints to Cage’s operatic kaleidoscope. Thus we saw an Asiatic warrior singing “Non più andrai,” from “The Marriage of Figaro”; an astronaut in a hospital bed belting Wagner’s Song to the Evening Star; and a chef, on skis, essaying “Now the Great Bear and Pleiades,” from “Peter Grimes.”

    The orchestra, meanwhile, tootled unrelated instrumental parts; lighting changed at random; and the backdrops, going up and down on squeaky pulleys, added inapt settings. An excellent cast of singers performed heroically under taxing conditions. Babatunde Akinboboye, for example, gave a secure rendition of the Toreador’s Song while dressed as an infomercial host demonstrating hair-care products. A spirit of joyous absurdity reigned, yet the show had a poignant undertow. Attempting to sing one’s song above the din is a general condition these days.

    Sibelius wrote music for “The Tempest” in the mid-nineteen-twenties, toward the end of his mysteriously abbreviated composing career. The L.A. Phil, under the baton of Susanna Mälkki, its principal guest conductor, gave a brilliant account of the score, but the staging failed to do justice to Sibelius’s mercurially shifting moods, which range from kitschy sweetness to explosions of dissonance. The director was Barry Edelstein, who brought with him actors from the Old Globe theatre in San Diego, and their overmiked voices dominated the sound picture, pushing the orchestra and assisting vocal forces into the background. Still, the production unfolded with the smoothness of a long-running show—this in a week when the orchestra was mounting an equally complex spectacle across town.

    The L.A. Phil’s offbeat ventures are well and good, you sometimes hear people in the classical world mutter, but how’s its Beethoven? Isn’t the programming better than the playing? That put-down is unconvincing: an organization that can bring “Sustain” into the world is more valuable than one that executes yet another hyper-polished Beethoven Seventh. Still, the L.A. Phil has sometimes come up short in mainstream repertory, lagging behind the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, or the best European groups.

    A raft of new players have added depth to the ensemble. Ramón Ortega, who started as principal oboe this season, has a characterful, pungent timbre and arresting phrasing. His Old World style complements the purer, silkier styles of the clarinettist Boris Allakhverdyan and the flutist Denis Bouriakov, both of them recent additions to the ranks. In the brass, Andrew Bain, the principal horn, and Thomas Hooten, the principal trumpet, have solidified a section that was erratic a decade ago. In the strings, Dudamel has pressed for a fuller, richer sound.

    Before “The Tempest,” Mälkki led a virtuosic, vibrant performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. She is best known for her advocacy of new music—she conducted Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin” at the Met in 2016—but she has quietly emerged as a formidable interpreter of the Romantic and early-modern repertory. Last season at the L.A. Phil, she made Strauss’s “Alpine Symphony” sound like a towering masterpiece, which it is not. Her Mahler felt less like a moment-to-moment drama than like a vast landscape undergoing spectacular geological upheavals. The L.A. players’ immersion in new music, far from hindering their work in standard repertory, surely helped them to deliver a fresh account of a familiar score; before intermission, they had given the première of Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, a vista of shimmering desert stillness. If the orchestra has a future, it is here.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

    The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 3:14 PM on November 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, , ,   

    From The Rest is Noise via the New Yorker: “Nico Muhly Escapes Hitchcock with a “Marnie” Opera” 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    November 5, 2018
    Alex Ross

    1
    Illustration by Cynthia Kittler

    “Didone,” “Norma,” “Tosca,” “Salome,” “Elektra,” “Lulu”: the operatic repertory overflows with works that take their title from a doomed female character, one who is made to undergo a kind of ritual sacrifice. It is a pattern that goes far back: the genre began with Daphne turning into a laurel tree and with Eurydice being dragged back to Hades. Even so, opera’s dependence on the female voice had the effect of empowering singers, who attained unusual cultural authority during eras when women were generally consigned to the social periphery.

    Nico Muhly by Samantha West

    Nico Muhly’s new opera, “Marnie,” which was first seen at the English National Opera last year and is now at the Met, extends and revises that troubling history. The work is drawn from two eponymous sources: Winston Graham’s novel, from 1961, and Alfred Hitchcock’s film, from 1964. Marnie is a sociopathic young woman who routinely invents new identities, steals from her employers, and then vanishes. The story is, on its face, a stereotypical male fantasy of female neurosis: the Hitchcock version borders on misogynist hysteria. From this twisted material, Muhly fashions an absorbing, ambiguous, and haunting entertainment.

    The opera, which has a libretto by the British playwright Nicholas Wright, is based more on the novel than on the film, although the icy allure of the Hitchcock style is undoubtedly the reason “Marnie” has arrived at the Met. Graham was a prolific novelist who is best remembered for his “Poldark” series—historical romances that have been adapted by the BBC. His “Marnie” is told in the first person, and delivers its bizarre narrative with unexpected wit and flair. The protagonist at first finds a hardboiled thrill in pulling off her heists, but is eventually forced to confront the familial trauma that is said to drive her: it turns out that her mother fell into prostitution, became pregnant, and killed the baby to avoid shame.

    The most shocking moment in “Marnie”—book, film, and opera alike—is when Mark Rutland, the head of the printing company where Marnie is employed, attempts to rape her. Mark has seen through her latest scam but is in love with her all the same. He blackmails her into marrying him, then forces himself on her when she refuses his advances. In the novel, Marnie is allowed to speak of her “repulsion and horror”; Graham takes no sadistic pleasure in the situation. The same cannot be said of Hitchcock. It was apparently the rape scene that drew the director to the story, and he filmed it in a grotesquely detached, pseudo-artistic manner. The sequence is even more intolerable in light of the testimony of the actress Tippi Hedren, who played Marnie: in a 2016 memoir, she described how Hitchcock had sexually harassed her.

    In the opera, nothing mitigates the horror of Mark’s act. As Marnie fights him off, she asks, “Do you know what I mean when I say ‘No’?” The last word is drawn out in an anguished melisma. She escapes to the bathroom and attempts suicide by slitting her wrists. The orchestra flails and screams along with her. As a composer, Muhly is attracted to glittering sounds, elegantly intertwining lyrical lines, and austere polyphonic textures modelled on Renaissance and Anglican choral music. His uncharacteristic choice here of a harsh, brittle texture indicates that the violation is again being told from Marnie’s point of view.

    Throughout, Muhly’s chief concern is to show the individuation of the protagonist. At the beginning of the opera, Marnie inhabits a male-dominated world in which women are treated as interchangeable objects. An opening scene in a secretarial pool has female employees chanting in unison—“I enclose an invoice for our services,” “I like your nails”—as the orchestra chatters and pulses around them, with high winds predominating. Sustained tones in the lower brass suggest the weight of the male gaze. Marnie has a knack for manipulating the predictable behavior of male colleagues. She is shadowed by a quartet of look-alikes in candy-colored coats, who form a kind of madrigal ensemble, singing in cool tones without vibrato. Ingeniously, they represent both Marnie’s seductiveness and her internal confusion.

    Marnie’s game falls apart when two men become too curious about her: Mark, who is propelled by a murky mixture of aggression and sympathy; and Mark’s brother Terry, who is purely malevolent, seeking to destroy Marnie after she spurns him. Marnie’s own shell begins to crack after memories of her childhood resurface, partly through the mediation of a male psychoanalyst. In the end, though, she experiences an epiphany on her own. She gives herself up to the police, and it is not at all clear that she will go back to Mark when she is released.

    Muhly, who is thirty-seven, burst onto the musical scene a little over a decade ago. There has never been doubt about his prodigious talent, even if he has sometimes been too distracted by his myriad musical loves. “Two Boys” and “Dark Sisters,” his first two operas, offered magical set pieces but suffered from dramatic deficiencies. Parts of Act I of “Marnie” follow the same pattern, lacking momentum. Act II is another matter: Muhly assumes command, filtering the action through his restless lyric voice. The four central characters—Marnie, Mark, Terry, and Marnie’s mother—are beautifully differentiated, with melodic contours and instrumental timbres tailored for each. Marnie’s instrument is the oboe, and the opera’s trajectory is telegraphed in the first bars, where a sustained oboe note is drowned out by a shrill trumpet and by grunts of brass. By the end, as Marnie sings “I’m free!” in upward-vaulting intervals, she is accompanied by an intricate, vital new sonority of piccolos, celesta, harp, and bowed crotales.

    The Met marshalled an élite cast on opening night. Isabel Leonard, as Marnie, used her rich-hued mezzo to trace the character’s complicated layers. The baritone Christopher Maltman was similarly agile as Mark: he brought a vacant, self-involved air to his rapt Act II aria, in which he compares Marnie to a startled deer. The countertenor Iestyn Davies made for a chillingly incisive Terry; Denyce Graves lent a bracing tinge of Tennessee Williams melodrama to the role of Marnie’s mother. Robert Spano presided over a virtuosic orchestral and choral performance. The production, directed by Michael Mayer, is both chic and affecting. Fluid sets and projections, by Julian Crouch and 59 Productions, deftly cover more than twenty changes of scene. The costumes, by Arianne Phillips, play Marnie’s bright colors against a dull-gray background. The intrusion of the four doppelgängers and of a squad of fedora-wearing male dancers suggests that at least half of what we see is taking place in Marnie’s mind.

    What if a woman had taken on the task of composing “Marnie”? The Met has presented only two operas by women in its history: Ethel Smyth’s “Der Wald,” in 1903; and Kaija Saariaho’s “L’Amour de Loin,” in 2016. The company recently signalled that it will begin to correct this dismal record by commissioning operas from Missy Mazzoli and Jeanine Tesori. I was particularly excited to hear of the Mazzoli project—an adaptation of George Saunders’s novel “Lincoln in the Bardo.” Mazzoli is of Muhly’s generation, and has made her name with stories of gnashing Expressionist power. “Breaking the Waves,” her first evening-length opera, buffeted audiences at Opera Philadelphia two seasons ago. “Proving Up,” a smaller-scale but no less disconcerting piece, had its première earlier this year, and was staged in September at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

    Mazzoli’s favorite collaborator is the prolific librettist Royce Vavrek, who has shaken up the timid, backward-looking business of American opera. “Proving Up,” based on a story by Karen Russell, is set on the Nebraska plains in the late nineteenth century, but it is blunt, stark, and devoid of nostalgia. As in “Breaking the Waves,” Mazzoli wrings ferocious intensity from familiar-seeming materials: folkish ballads and wheezing harmonicas are blended into a gorgeously eerie orchestral fabric, one that includes dangling guitars brushed with whisks. Andrew Harris, a young Berlin-based singer with a striking black-toned bass, provided the stuff of nightmares with his turn as a supernatural apparition known as the Sodbuster. The unleashing of Mazzoli’s apocalyptic imagination on the huge Met stage is an occasion eagerly awaited. ♦

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

    The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 2:49 PM on November 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, “Blood on the Tracks”, Bob Dylan,   

    From The Rest is Noise via the New Yorker: “Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks” 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    November 13, 2018
    Alex Ross

    1
    Last month, Columbia issued a collection of early recordings for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks that serves as a document of the elusive album’s competing incarnations. Photograph by Elliott Landy / Magnum

    Bob Dylan 1974 by David Gahr

    In September, 1974, Bob Dylan spent four days in the old Studio A, his favorite recording haunt in Manhattan, and emerged with the greatest, darkest album of his career. It is a ten-song study in romantic devastation, as beautiful as it is bleak, worthy of comparison with Schubert’s Winterreise. Yet the record in question—Blood on the Tracks—has never officially seen the light of day. The Columbia label released an album with that title in January, 1975, but Dylan had reworked five of the songs in last-minute sessions in Minnesota, resulting in a substantial change of tone. Mournfulness and wistfulness gave way to a feisty, festive air. According to Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard, the authors of the book A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of ‘Blood on the Tracks,’ from 2004, Dylan feared a commercial failure. The revised Blood sold extremely well, reaching the top of the Billboard album chart, and it ended talk of Dylan’s creative decline. It was not, however, the masterwork of melancholy that he created in Studio A.

    For decades, the first Blood circulated on a bootleg called the New York Sessions. The compact disc that I picked up in a basement Greenwich Village store had a pleasant overlay of vinyl noise—the result of a transfer from a test pressing. Although several of the tracks have shown up in Columbia’s long-running Bootleg Series, the perennial absence of the full album has made fans wonder whether Dylan is wary of revisiting a turbulent time of his life, when his first marriage, to Sara Lownds, was dissolving. Dylan has denied that Blood is autobiographical; in his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, he suggests that the songs were based on Chekhov. Artists tend to dislike personal readings of their most personal work.

    Last month, Columbia issued More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 14. Available both as a single-disk compilation and as a six-CD “deluxe edition,” it is both more and less than what Dylan obsessives have been tiresomely clamoring for. The logical move would have been to include the entire album in its initial guise. Yet the single disk gives you only two of the test-pressing tracks, alongside some admittedly riveting outtakes. The box set has all of the discarded tracks, but they are scattered through a complete chronological survey of the four days of sessions—five and a half hours of Dylan at the height of his powers. You will have to study the track listings to assemble the original record. The elusiveness of “Blood on the Tracks” has been integral to its allure, and so it remains.

    The Morgan Library, which owns the autograph manuscript of Winterreise, also possesses a five-inch-by-three-inch red spiral notebook in which Dylan wrote down lyrics for Blood on the Tracks. It cost him nineteen cents; presumably it cost the Morgan somewhat more. A hardback book included with Columbia’s “deluxe edition” reproduces forty pages of sketches. Some of them are sung more or less as written on both incarnations of the album:

    He woke up, the room was bare
    He could didn’t see her anywhere
    He told himself he didn’t care,
    pushed the window open wide
    Then felt an emptiness inside
    to which he just could not relate
    Brought on by a Simple Twist of Fate

    Other lyrics never saw the light of day, and are brutally confessional: “Doomed (led) by a heart that wanders astray / Trapped by a brain that I can’t throw away . . . Was it really 12 years ago, well, it seems like just the other day . . . And it’s Breaking me up with only myself to blame.”

    Clichés about heartbreak feeding genius fail to explain the singular potency of “Blood on the Tracks.” The rawness of feeling is certainly there, but it is joined to meticulous craftsmanship in the working-out of words and music. The notebook shows constant, obsessive revision—a sort of perfectionism of disaster. “Idiot Wind,” the extended primal scream at the heart of the album, is seen in drafts so crowded with marginal additions that they are hardly legible. Often Dylan doesn’t cross things out, instead superimposing alternatives:

    The priest wore black on the seventh day and waltzed around on a tilted floor
    stepped all over me
    After you (came down on me) you said you never saw my face before
    did me in
    done
    (After you stepped all over my head, you said ya never wanted to see my face no more)
    I BEG YOUR PARDON MADAM
    (thru the circles round your eyes)
    IDIOT WIND – BLOWIN EVERY TIME YOU MOVE YOUR JAW
    FROM THE GRAND COOLIE DAM TO THE MARDI GRAS
    (blowing thru the hot and dusty skies)

    Such collisions of hallucinatory images and dour realism—the waltzing priest, the marital argument—are common in Dylan’s work, yet here the literary touches seem less an artful device than a form of extreme emphasis. What’s more, the writing process is open-ended: images are shuffled around through successive drafts and, later, through successive takes in the studio. That priest waltzes on a tilted floor; then he waltzes while a building burns; then he sits stone-faced. The wind blows from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras, then to the Capitol.

    The music that Dylan wrote for these lyrics has a chilly, clammy air. His guitar is in open-E tuning, meaning that all six strings of the guitar are tuned to notes of the E-major triad: E, B, E, G#, B, E. As a result, the tonic chord rings rich and bright. But each verse begins with a jarring A-minor chord, which tends to land awkwardly. The middle note easily strays off center, souring the sound. Occasionally, a stray F-sharp bleeds through, adding a Romantic tinge. The unwieldiness of the progression is at one with the fraught atmosphere of the text.

    The emotional violence is troubling. The word “idiot” is flung down twelve times. Some lines are openly assaultive: “One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzing around your eyes, / Blood on your saddle.” Here, Dylan’s original approach makes a substantial difference. He made four complete takes in New York, plus several rehearsals and false starts. Each time, he has only a quiet bass guitar backing him. (A ghostly organ was later overdubbed.) The tempo is slow, the delivery subdued. All this is at odds with the song’s smoldering rage, and the contradiction gets resolved in the final chorus, where Dylan shifts from the second person to the first-person plural: “Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats / Blowing through the letters that we wrote . . . We’re idiots, babe, it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.”

    Many Dylanists will disagree with me—the second Blood has eloquent defenders—but to my ears the later version, recorded with six pick-up musicians in Minnesota, cuts out much of the complexity. Mannerisms overtake the singer’s delivery. “Idiot” becomes “yidiot,” and a goofy pirate yowl periodically intrudes: “I woke up on the roadside, daydreaming about the way things sometimes aaahhhhhrrrre.” (When he does this on one of the New York takes, Tony Brown, the bass player, laughs out loud.) The admission of shared responsibility at the end doesn’t register: you’re carried away by the momentum of the band.

    All through the New York sessions, you hear a persistent downward tug in the voice, a grimace of regret. Even the album’s livelier numbers, such as You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, can be wrenched into the abyss; on one take, the tempo drastically slows, giving an almost tragic tinge to a line like “I’ve only known careless love.” The potential downside is a tendency toward relentlessness: one piece after another in the key of E, spiralling through love and loss. The final album offers more variety. The Minnesota band gives a rollicking energy to the cinematic yarn of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” Arguably, that song suffers under the austere New York style, though I love it anyway.

    Ultimately, the long-running debate over the competing incarnations of “Blood on the Tracks” misses the point of what makes this artist so infinitely interesting, at least for some of us. Jeff Slate, who wrote liner notes for “More Blood, More Tracks,” observes that Dylan’s work is always in flux. The process that is documented on these eighty-seven tracks is not one of looking for the “right” take; it’s the beginning of an endless sequence of variations, which are still unfolding on his Never-Ending Tour. In an article from 1999, I notated some of Dylan’s live revisions of Simple Twist of Fate. The “More Blood” book reproduces alternate lyrics that were written on stationery from the Hotel Drei Könige am Rhein, in Basel. Dylan is still at it. The other night, in Durham, North Carolina, he sang:

    He woke up and she was gone
    He didn’t see nothing but the dawn
    Got out of bed and put his shoes back on
    Then he pushed back the blinds
    Found a note she left behind
    What’d it say? It said you should have met me back in ‘58
    We could have avoided this, ah, little simple twist of fate.

    To assemble the original “Blood on the Tracks” from the eighty-seven takes on More Blood, More Tracks, select tracks 69 (CD 5, No. 3), 71 (CD 5, No. 5), 34 (CD 3, No. 3), 76 (CD 5, No. 10), 48 (CD 4, No. 2), 16 (CD 2, No. 5), 11 (CD 1, No. 11), 59 (CD 4, No. 13), 46 (CD 3, No. 15), and 58 (CD 4, No. 12).

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

    The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 11:56 AM on October 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, Augustin Hadelich’s Bold Violin Explorations, The Detroit Symphony,   

    From Alex Ross via The New Yorker: “Augustin Hadelich’s Bold Violin Explorations” 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    new-yorker-bloc-rea-irvin
    Rea Irvin

    From The New Yorker

    April 9, 2018

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    Performing Britten’s Violin Concerto, Hadelich says, uses up “all my adrenaline.” Illustration by Guido Scarabottolo

    It was, at first glance, an ordinary week in the life of an American orchestra. In late March, the Detroit Symphony gave three performances with the veteran conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste and a younger but well-travelled violinist, Augustin Hadelich. The program followed a familiar template: an opener (Sibelius’s “Pohjola’s Daughter”), a concerto (Britten’s Violin Concerto), and a symphony (Beethoven’s Seventh). Music critics, myself included, often object to this business-as-usual approach. Yet, having spent a couple of days with the orchestra, I wouldn’t call the proceedings routine. Detroit is no ordinary city; it is recovering from a grim past and undergoing a startling transformation. The orchestra, likewise, is rebounding: a bitter strike in 2010 and 2011 had many observers wondering whether it could survive. And Hadelich is a singularly gifted, characterful musician who has a flair for bringing older music into the present tense.

    I met Hadelich for dinner before his first performance of the Britten, which took place the next morning, with a second one slated for that evening. The schedule was challenging for him, not so much technically as emotionally. “This is a great concerto—not a conventional virtuoso piece,” he told me. “The feelings in it are rather dark and complex. It was written at the end of the Spanish Civil War, as a kind of lament. I would say it is evening music—not something you want to wake up and play! So tomorrow will use up all my adrenaline. But I also like the idea of living and breathing Britten’s music all day, really exploring it.”

    Hadelich, who turns thirty-four this month, is of German parentage but was raised on a farm in Tuscany. When he was a teen-ager, he suffered severe burns in a fire, but after a long recovery he was able to resume playing. He has lived in New York since attending Juilliard, and speaks elegant, lightly accented English. I first heard him at Marlboro Music, the summer gathering in Vermont, in 2008, when he was one of many young musicians receiving guidance from Marlboro’s elders. In the past decade, he has entered the upper echelon of the violin world; he has made a vital, intensely musical recording of Paganini’s Caprices, a peak of the repertory, for the Warner Classics label. Yet he still spends much of the year travelling to orchestras across America, revisiting cities where he received early attention: San Diego, Milwaukee, Madison, Fort Worth. “Some of my friends in Europe, or even in New York, are still quite snobby and don’t know how really good these orchestras are,” he said.

    For Hadelich, touring is a rather monastic existence. “Ninety per cent of the time, I’m thinking about the performance, about Britten,” he said. “It’s almost as if I were pretending I’m not in a different city. If I’m not at the rehearsal, I’m at the hotel, practicing and going over notes from past performances. Whenever I play a piece, I make notes about what worked and what I might do differently.” What to eat, and when to eat, are important questions. “If it’s a morning concert, I eat the night before, making sure to get a lot of carbohydrates,” he said, gesturing toward his meal, a plate of spaghetti. “If it’s an evening concert, I have a big lunch. I need food in my system, but it’s not good if I’ve eaten right before I walk onstage.”

    When Hadelich first came on the scene, he was noted for his pinpoint brilliance and for his sweet, cultured, almost old-fashioned tone. It was as if a Golden Age violinist had jumped out of the grooves of a 78-r.p.m. record. In recent years, he has been emphasizing more modern fare: the brooding concertos of Britten and Shostakovich; the avant-virtuoso works of György Ligeti and Thomas Adès. Hadelich told me, “I do not want to be—you say ‘pigeonholed,’ yes? If I have success in a certain city with Beethoven or Sibelius, and I am invited back, I might say, ‘What about Britten?’ Detroit is quite adventurous, and there was no problem with this. Plus”—he gave a knowing smile—“there is Beethoven on the program if anyone is afraid of Britten.

    Orchestra Hall, the Detroit Symphony’s home, is in the Midtown neighborhood, on Woodward Avenue. The hall was built for the orchestra in 1919, and has exceptional acoustics—a near-ideal balance of clarity and warmth. The ensemble had to abandon the hall at the end of the thirties, for financial reasons, at which point the building experienced a second heyday, as the Paradise Theatre, a famous jazz venue. By the seventies, the hall was on the verge of being demolished when Detroit Symphony musicians led a campaign to save and renovate it. In 1989, when the orchestra moved back in, the Cass Corridor, as the immediate area is known, was run-down, depopulated, and crime-ridden. The orchestra now finds itself at the heart of a bustling hipster enclave, with a Whole Foods across the street and a pour-over coffee place up the block.

    Less than a decade ago, the Detroit musicians seemed implacably at odds with the management, which had proposed a thirty-per-cent pay cut. The upbeat temperament of Leonard Slatkin, who has been the orchestra’s music director since 2008, helped heal these internal wounds. He will step down at the end of this season; the search for a successor is ongoing. After the labor crisis, musicians and management found common ground in a mission to reconnect with the city. They anointed themselves the “most accessible orchestra on the planet,” and have gone some ways toward justifying that superlative. Tickets are cheaper than at other orchestras; my press seat, on the left orchestra aisle, would have cost twenty-five dollars. Neighborhood concerts reach into underserved communities. Most strikingly, the Detroit offers free Webcasts of its concerts—an initiative that seems obvious but that few other orchestras have tried. (The Berlin Philharmonic has its Digital Concert Hall service, but access costs a hundred and forty-nine euros a year.) Anne Parsons, the Detroit’s president and C.E.O., told me, “We’ve gone from three thousand viewers on average to around seventy-five hundred—in one case, thirty-five thousand. It’s brought great young musicians to us—they can see what we’re doing. I was sure that, by now, everyone else would be doing it. I’ve stopped wondering and haven’t looked back.”

    Erik Rönmark, the orchestra’s general manager and vice-president, has helped to forge its artistic vision. He is a Swedish-born saxophonist who co-founded the ensemble New Music Detroit. He has pressed for more new music and for a stronger representation of female and nonwhite composers and conductors. The 2018-19 season includes twelve living composers, five of them women; two major symphonic pieces, John Luther Adams’s Become Ocean and Andrew Norman’s Play, are featured. There is no lack of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler, but Detroit’s commitment to new music places it in the vanguard, well ahead of its wealthier counterparts in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Philadelphia.

    Detroit’s resurgence has yet to do much for its arts journalism: I was the only critic in attendance at these concerts. Mark Stryker, the longtime classical and jazz critic of the Detroit Free Press, took a buyout last year, and no one else regularly reviews classical events. This is a sad state of affairs, since the orchestra’s work deserves to be chronicled. More than thirty musicians have joined the ensemble since the strike, regenerating its sound. Wei Yu, the principal cellist, formerly of the New York Philharmonic, filled the hall with mournful beauty at the start of the Sibelius. The Beethoven, under Saraste’s decisive direction, had a gritty punch.

    The main event was, however, Hadelich’s performance of the Britten concerto. Dressed in black with an upturned collar, the violinist looked a bit like a young officer in a period film, about to go off to war. The solo part is ferociously demanding, but not necessarily in a way that conveys fireworks to the audience. “For some reason, Britten decided to throw in every extended technique he could think of,” Hadelich told me. “Double-stops everywhere, double-stop harmonics, lots of octaves, left-hand pizzicato. Parts of the second movement are only borderline playable. At the end of the piece, he seems to want you to stay on the G string even when the line goes extremely high.”

    Over three performances—I saw the first two in the hall, the last on the Webcast—Hadelich plumbed the work’s difficulties and ambiguities, finding subtly different solutions each time. At the morning show, Saraste kept to a fairly strict tempo, limiting Hadelich’s ability to tug at Britten’s free-floating lines; yet the second movement had an anxious, sweaty force. That evening, a more languid atmosphere prevailed in the orchestra, allowing Hadelich to savor the Spanish rhythms that course through the score. To judge from the Webcast, the final rendition was the most polished in the series, but each had its virtues. Hadelich said, “I’m aiming at consistency in technical terms, but, when the music calls for you to be free and rhapsodic, it can’t be the same each night.”

    At all three performances, the ending of the Britten had a darkly enchanting effect. Over thirty-three slow bars, Hadelich and the orchestra attempt to find their way to a hopeful closing chord of D major. Hadelich eventually lands on F-sharp, the clinching note of the D-major triad, but, by the time the orchestra has joined him there, he seems to have lost faith in that note, and keeps falling back to F-natural. Ultimately, he trills between the two notes while winds and brass hold the bare fifth D-A. All fade to silence. It is impossible not to think about the fact that Britten finished the concerto in the summer of 1939, as the world trembled on the edge of catastrophe.

    For an encore, Hadelich performed the Sarabande from Bach’s D-minor Partita. “After such an ending, you couldn’t play, say, Paganini,” he later told me. “The Sarabande is one of the saddest pieces I know, and there is the connection with the key of D.” In this pairing, Bach supplies the resolution that Britten withholds: for now, the major key remains out of reach.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 2:01 PM on October 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, Claude Debussy,   

    From The Rest is Noise: “The Velvet Revolution of Claude Debussy” 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    October 29, 2018
    Alex Ross

    1
    Debussy’s music was startling but not shocking. He led a velvet revolution, overturning the extant order without upheaval.
    Illustration by Carla Berrocal

    Claude Debussy died a century ago, but his music has not grown old. Bound only lightly to the past, it floats in time. As it coalesces, bar by bar, it appears to be improvising itself into being—which is the effect Debussy wanted. After a rehearsal of his orchestral suite “Images,” he said, with satisfaction, “This has the air of not having been written down.” In a conversation with one of his former teachers, he declared, “There is no theory. You merely have to listen. Pleasure is the law.”

    To mark the centenary of Debussy’s death, which fell in March, two handsome boxed sets of his complete works have been issued. They befit a man who treasured pretty things. One, from the Deutsche Grammophon label, is decorated with Jacques-Émile Blanche’s portrait of the composer, in which he assumes an aristocratic, lapel-grasping pose.

    3

    The other, from Warner Classics, displays Hokusai’s woodblock print “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” which, at Debussy’s request, was reproduced on the cover of one of his most celebrated scores, “La Mer.”

    3

    Physical recordings are no longer a fashionable way of listening to music, but you will probably get closer to Debussy if you shut down the Internet and give yourself wholly to his world. The D.G. set has the libretto of his only finished opera, “Pelléas et Mélisande,” and the texts of his large output of songs—necessary resources in approaching an acutely literary composer whom Stéphane Mallarmé and Marcel Proust recognized as an equal.

    It is best to start where Pierre Boulez said modern music was born: with the ethereal first notes of the orchestral tone poem “Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun.’ ” Debussy wrote it between 1892 and 1894, in response to the famous poem by Mallarmé. The score begins with what looks like an uncertain doodle on the part of the composer. A solo flute slithers down from C-sharp to G-natural, then slithers back up; the same figure recurs; then there is a songful turn around the notes of the E-major triad. Yet, in the fourth bar, when more instruments enter—two oboes, two clarinets, a horn, and a rippling harp—they ignore the flute’s offering of E. Instead, they recline into a lovely chord of nowhere, a half-diminished seventh of the type that Wagner placed at the outset of “Tristan und Isolde.” This leads to a lush dominant seventh on B-flat, which ought to resolve to F, but doesn’t. Harmonies distant from one another intermingle in an open space. Most striking is the presence of silence. The B-flat harmonies are framed by bar-long voids. This is sound in repose, listening to its own echo.

    Debussy accomplished something that happens very rarely, and not in every lifetime: he brought a new kind of beauty into the world. In 1894, when “Faun” was first performed, its language was startling but not shocking: it caused no scandal, and was accepted by the public almost at once. Debussy engineered a velvet revolution, overturning the extant order without upheaval. His influence proved to be vast, not only for successive waves of twentieth-century modernists but also in jazz, in popular song, and in Hollywood. When both the severe Boulez and the suave Duke Ellington cite you as a precursor, you have done something singular.

    The music is easy to love but hard to explain. The shelf of books about Debussy is not large, and every scholar who addresses him faces the challenge of analyzing an artist to whom analysis was abhorrent. The latest addition to that shelf is Stephen Walsh’s “Debussy: A Painter in Sound” (Knopf), which places proper emphasis on Debussy’s myriad links to other art forms.

    5

    The composer may have been the first in history to become a fully modern-minded artist, joining a community of writers and painters, borrowing ideas and lending them in turn. Admittedly, before Debussy there was Wagner, whose impact was sufficiently seismic that the term “Wagnerism” had to be coined to describe it. With Wagner, though, the influence tended to go in one direction: outward. Debussy was receptive. He saw, he read, he pondered, and he transformed the ineffable into sound.

    “He was a very, very strange man,” the soprano Mary Garden said. With his piercing eyes and jutting forehead, he could make a rough first impression—like “a proud Calabrian bandit,” according to the pianist Ricardo Viñes. François Lesure, the author of the definitive French-language biography of Debussy, portrays him as “withdrawn, unsociable, taciturn, skittish, susceptible, distant, shy.” He was said to be “catlike and solitary.” He “lived in a kind of haughty misanthropy, behind a rampart of irony.” He had a tendency toward mendacity in his professional and personal relationships. He was conscious enough of his limitations: “Those around me persist in not understanding that I have never been able to live in a real world of people and things.”

    Debussy was born in the Paris suburbs in 1862, to an impoverished family. His father, Manuel, held a string of jobs, including china-shop owner, travelling salesman, and print worker. His mother, Victorine, was a seamstress. In the period of the Paris Commune, in 1871, Manuel served in the revolutionary forces, as a captain, and when the Commune was defeated he spent more than a year in prison. Fortuitously, when Manuel told Charles de Sivry, another inmate, about his son’s musical interests, Sivry mentioned that his mother, Antoinette Mauté, was a pianist. Mauté, a well-connected woman who was said to have studied with Chopin, began teaching the boy, and helped to arrange his admission to the Paris Conservatory, in 1872. Another notable thing about Mauté is that her daughter Mathilde had the misfortune of being married to Paul Verlaine. At the time, that ill-fated couple was living with Mauté, and Arthur Rimbaud, soon to become Verlaine’s lover, was an increasing source of tension. Although Debussy never spoke of meeting either Verlaine or Rimbaud, he must have been at least vaguely aware of the chaos in the household.

    At the conservatory, Debussy was a restless student, exasperating his teachers and fascinating his schoolmates. When confronted with the fundamentals of harmony and form, he asked why any systems were needed. He had little trouble mastering academic exercises, and, after two attempts, he won the Prix de Rome, a traditional stepping stone to a successful compositional career. But in his early vocal pieces, and in his legendarily mesmerizing improvisations at the piano, he jettisoned rules that had been in place for hundreds of years. Familiar chords appeared in unfamiliar sequences. Melodies followed the contours of ancient or exotic scales. Forms dissolved into textures and moods. An academic evaluation accused him of indulging in Impressionism—a label that stuck.

    Perhaps Debussy’s central insight was about the constricting effect of the standard major and minor scales. Why not use the old modes of medieval church music? Or the differently arrayed and tuned scales found in non-Western traditions? Or the whole-tone scale, which divided the octave into equal intervals? Debussy had a particular fondness for the natural harmonic series—the spectrum of overtones that arise from a vibrating string. If you pinch a taut string in the middle, its pitch goes up an octave. If you pinch it at successively smaller fractions, the basic intervals of conventional Western harmony emerge. So far, so good: but what about the notes further out in the series? These are more difficult to assimilate. In the chain of intervals derived from a C, you encounter a tone somewhere near B-flat and another in the vicinity of F-sharp. Debussy favored a mode that has become known as the acoustic scale, which mimics the overtone series by raising the fourth degree (F-sharp) and lowering the seventh (B-flat). That those notes correspond to blue notes helps to explain Debussy’s appeal to jazz musicians.

    Debussy had the prejudices typical of his time, and never thought too deeply about the cultures that he sampled. Nevertheless, he knew to look outside the classical sphere for nourishment. At the Paris Exposition of 1889, he heard a gamelan ensemble, which made Western harmonies sound to him like “empty phantoms of use to clever little children.” Those first measures of “Afternoon of a Faun” capture Debussy’s breadth of vision: first the call of the faun, which feels primal and uncomposed, and then that sumptuous chord on B-flat, which has no need to resolve, because it is complete in itself, a chord of overtones resting on its fundamental.

    Debussy’s rejection of the musical status quo was fuelled by his jealous love of poetry and painting. The most revelatory experience I’ve had with the composer in recent years was not in the concert hall but in a museum: an exhibition entitled “Debussy, Music, and the Arts,” which was mounted at the Musée de l’Orangerie, in Paris, in 2012. To turn from the manuscript of “Faun” to a copy of Mallarmé’s poem, and then to see on the walls a Whistler seascape and Hokusai’s “Great Wave,” was to feel Debussy’s synesthetic kick. For him, music had fallen behind: it had nothing that rivalled free verse in poetry, the drift toward abstraction in painting, and the investigation of mystical spheres that was happening across the arts.

    Poetry spurred Debussy’s earliest breakthroughs. His individual voice materializes in settings of Paul Bourget, Théodore de Banville, Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Mallarmé—poets who ranged from Parnassian classicism to Symbolist esotericism. Like a hunter chasing an elusive quarry, Debussy repeatedly tried to capture the eerie stillness of Verlaine’s “En Sourdine”: “Calm in the half-light / Made by the tall branches, / Let our love be imbued / With deep silence.” As Walsh observes, Debussy’s first attempts, from 1882, are thick with Wagnerian harmony. A version from a decade later is spare and piercing, all excess expunged. Debussy is ready to compose “Afternoon of a Faun,” which arose when Mallarmé asked him to contribute to a theatrical version of his poem. (No production resulted.) “Inert, all burns in this savage hour,” the poem reads, making oblique mention of “him who searches for the la”—the note A. This is the atmosphere of Debussy’s opening, with its charged stasis and its chords of resonance.

    The visual arts proved an equally important fund of inspiration, although the Impressionist label has perpetuated the erroneous notion that Debussy tried to do in music what Monet, Renoir, and Degas did in painting. Those artists were in his field of vision, but the rush of brushwork that defines Impressionist painting—the erasure of the clean line in pursuit of a hazier reality—is alien to Debussy’s crystalline technique. Elusive but never vague, he is closer in spirit to the Symbolist movement, with its vivid evocations of unreal realms, and to the fable-bright world of Les Nabis. He also looked to the Pre-Raphaelites—“La Damoiselle Élue,” a pivotal early cantata, is based on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem “The Blessed Damozel”—and to the semi-abstract seascapes of J. M. W. Turner, which forecast the tumult of “La Mer.”

    The culmination of this first phase of Debussy’s revolution is “Pelléas et Mélisande,” an opera so unlike its predecessors that it effectively inaugurated a new genre of modernist music theatre. A tale of two half-brothers who fall in love with the same mysterious maiden, it is based on the eponymous play by the Belgian Symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck, who had a fin-de-siècle vogue before largely falling out of sight. Maeterlinck is worth revisiting—his elliptical dialogue looks ahead to the work of Samuel Beckett. Debussy, facing the gnomic text of “Pelléas,” made the radical decision to set it line by line, without recourse to a versifying librettist. This had been done before, notably in Russian opera, but Debussy achieved an unprecedented merger of music with an advanced literary aesthetic. In the wake of “Pelléas” came Strauss’s “Salome” and “Elektra,” Berg’s “Wozzeck” and “Lulu,” and Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s “Die Soldaten.”

    “Pelléas” engenders its own world on the first page of the score. In an essay in the new scholarly anthology “Debussy’s Resonance” (University of Rochester Press), Katherine Bergeron indicates how this happens. In the first four bars, bassoons, cellos, and double basses make a stark, columnar sound that conjures the forest in which the drama begins. It is, Bergeron writes, an evocation of “dim antiquity, carving out a fragment of plainsong in stolid half notes.” She continues, “The figure suggests an immense murmur, or an ancient cosmic sigh, whose sheer weight draws it to the bottom of the orchestra. Then it vanishes. A different music takes its place, sounding high in the winds, its bass voice a tritone away. With its more articulate rhythm and brighter timbre, the melody sounds a sort of anxious trill: indecisive, edgy, almost dissonant.” This second motif is associated with Golaud, who ends up killing his half-brother, Pelléas. Golaud, Bergeron observes, seems strikingly disconnected from the forest around him. We hear not only two distinct textures but the gap between them. This defining gesture is painterly at heart: a single stroke of the brush turns the remainder of the canvas into resonant space.

    The première of “Pelléas,” in 1902, established Debussy as the dominant French composer of his time. He became a trend, a “school”: critics spoke of “Debussystes” and “Debussysme.” For a man accustomed to thinking of himself as a loner, the fame was disconcerting. His life was further complicated by personal chaos, largely of his own making. His first marriage, to the fashion model Lilly Texier, fell apart when he began an affair with the singer Emma Bardac. In 1904, Texier attempted suicide; the affair became public, and Debussy lost many friends. He subsequently married Bardac. That relationship, too, was troubled, although it lasted until his death. “An artist is, all in all, a detestable, inward-facing man,” Debussy wrote to Texier in 1904, as if brutal candor somehow excused his behavior.

    In this period, Debussy took up a second career, as a music critic, delivering a stream of prickly, contrarian opinions that seemed almost designed to increase his isolation. Beethoven wrote badly for the piano, he proclaimed: “With a few exceptions, his works should have been allowed to rest.” Wagner was a literary genius but no musician. Gluck was pompous and artificial. There was a method to this crankiness: Debussy was attacking the tendency to worship the past at the expense of the present. In a later interview, he said that he actually admired Beethoven and Wagner, but refused to “admire them uncritically, just because people have told me that they are masters.”

    Debussy struggled to come up with a successor to “Pelléas.” His list of contemplated operas included a setting of Pierre Louÿs’s “Aphrodite”; an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”; and works on topics as various as Siddhartha, Orpheus, the Oresteia, Don Juan, Romeo and Juliet, and Tristan and Yseult (“a subject which has not as yet been treated,” Debussy said, impishly). Not all these ideas were serious; Debussy had a bad habit of seeking advances for projects that he had little intention of completing. He did, however, expend considerable energy on a pair of operas inspired by Edgar Allan Poe: a comedy, based on “The Devil in the Belfry,” and a tragedy, based on “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Enough sketches for the latter exist that the scholar Robert Orledge has been able to make a stylish and often convincing reconstruction, which the Pan Classics label recorded in 2016, alongside a less persuasive version of the “Belfry” material.

    If Debussy’s operatic path remained largely blocked, he found new fluency in the production of instrumental scores: the three sets of “Images” for piano and for orchestra, the two books of Preludes for solo piano, “La Mer,” and the dance score “Jeux.” In this pervasively dazzling body of music, Symbolist gloom gives way to glowing new colors and a fresh rhythmic punch. Popular influences come to the fore: vaudeville tunes, circus marches, cabaret, Iberian dances, ragtime.

    While exploring the D.G. Debussy box, the richer of the two collections, I found myself fixated on Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s casually immaculate rendering of “Reflets dans l’Eau,” from the first book of “Images.” Michelangeli’s recording of “Images,” made in 1971, is rightly regarded as one of the greatest piano records ever made. “Reflets” begins with eight bars confined to the key of D-flat major, or, more precisely, to the scale associated with that key. Chords drawn from those seven notes lounge indolently across the keyboard. In the ninth bar, though, the work goes gorgeously haywire. Extraneous notes invade the inner voices, even as a D-flattish upper line is maintained. Pinprick dissonances disrupt the sense of a tonal center, and the music collapses into harmonic limbo, in the form of a rolled chord of fourths. This is Debussyan atonality, which predates Schoenberg’s and is very different in spirit: not a lunge into the unknown but a walk on the wild side. We stroll back home with a descending string of chords that defy brief description: sevenths of various kinds, diminished sevenths, dominant sevenths, and what, in jazz, is called the minor major seventh. Michelangeli, who admired the jazz pianist Bill Evans and was admired by Evans in turn, plays this whole stretch of music as if he were hunched over a piano in a smoke-filled club, at one in the morning, sometime during the Eisenhower Administration. Two bars later, we are back in D-flat—an even more restricted version of it, on the ancient pentatonic scale. Some kind of bending of the musical space-time continuum has occurred, and we are only sixteen bars in.

    Debussy is often stereotyped as an artist of motionless atmospheres, but he was a radical in rhythm as well as in harmony. I’ve also become mildly obsessed by a few bars in the propulsive final movement of “La Mer,” entitled “Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea,” which is structured around successive iterations of a simple theme of narrow falling intervals: A to G-sharp, A-sharp to G-sharp. As in “Afternoon of a Faun,” an idea remains largely fixed while the context around it undergoes kaleidoscopic changes. First the theme sounds in the winds, over rapidly pulsing lower strings; then it hovers in an ambience of luminous calm; then it takes on an impassioned, quasi-Romantic character in the violins.

    The fourth iteration never fails to make me want to leap from my chair. The downward-sighing theme is back in the winds, but it floats above a multilayered texture in which rhythms and accents are landing every which way: scurrying triplets in the strings, horns sounding on the fourth beat of the bar, piercing grace notes in the piccolo, and a curious oompah section comprised of timpani, cymbals, and bass drum. Most of the instruments are dancing to the side of the beat. The net result of all this layering is an irresistible sense of buoyancy. Particularly striking is a galloping pattern in the strings—four rapid hoofbeats endlessly recurring. Debussy liked the work of the British painter and illustrator Walter Crane, and I wonder whether “La Mer” might have something to do with Crane’s 1892 painting “Neptune’s Horses,” in which phantom beasts materialize from a cresting wave.

    The D.G. box includes two performances of “La Mer”: one with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, under Leonard Bernstein, and one with the Berlin Philharmonic, under Herbert von Karajan. Both make an impressive noise at the climaxes, although they fall prey to an aggrandizing tendency noted by the scholar Simon Trezise, in a book-length study of “La Mer.” Since Toscanini, Trezise argues, conductors have made “La Mer” an “orchestral showpiece of the first order,” rather than a complexly layered conception in which foreground and background merge. Trezise rightly draws attention to pioneering recordings by the Italian conductor Piero Coppola, in which the strings are restrained in favor of pungent winds. That leanness and a vibrancy of color reëmerge in a 2012 rendition of “La Mer” by Jos van Immerseel and the ensemble Anima Eterna Brugge, which uses instruments from Debussy’s era.

    Still, I cherish most the various recordings made by Boulez, who dedicated himself to banishing all sentimental mists from Debussy’s music, thereby exposing its modernity. Regrettably, Boulez’s 1995 reading with the Cleveland Orchestra is missing from the D.G. box, but the set does include his staggeringly precise account of “Jeux.” In the finale of “La Mer,” Boulez’s meticulous attention to rhythmic subtleties redoubles the music’s kinetic energy. When he led the New York Philharmonic in “La Mer” in 1992—his final appearance with that ensemble—the waves broke on the ears with cold, lashing force.

    In 1913, Debussy arrived at the inevitable moment when he no longer occupied the vanguard. That year, the Ballets Russes unleashed Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Debussy marvelled at Stravinsky’s invention, but felt uneasy about his younger colleague’s ruthless brilliance. “Primitive music with all modern conveniences” was his wry comment on the “Rite.” The advent of full-on atonality in the music of Schoenberg and his pupils left Debussy cold. He loved the strange but not the harsh.

    As Europe devolved into barbarism in the early years of the First World War, Debussy adopted a decorous, formally controlled style that looked back to the aristocratic poise of the French Baroque. With this unexpected swerve, he was following the advice he gave to his stepson, to “distrust the path that your ideas make you take.” As Walsh points out, Debussy’s self-distrust considerably slowed his productivity, as he tested “every chord and chord sequence, every rhythm, every colour for their precise effect.”

    In the summer of 1915, Debussy embarked on a cycle of six sonatas for different groups of instruments—a telling gesture, since up to this point he had largely ignored the received forms of classical tradition. In a burst of creativity, he completed two of them in a matter of weeks: the Cello Sonata and the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp. A Violin Sonata followed. He considered these works a “secret homage” to French soldiers fallen in battle. In a patriotic mood, he signed them “Claude Debussy, French musician.” They forecast the West’s turn toward neoclassicism in the postwar period, not least in Stravinsky’s ever-evolving, fashion-setting œuvre. Yet Debussy avoided intellectual irony or self-consciousness. He saw himself as restoring the beauty that had been destroyed in the war.

    The Harmonia Mundi label has added to the welcome flood of Debussy on disk with its own Centenary Edition, and one of its finest offerings is a survey of those three sonatas.

    5

    Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov play the Violin Sonata; Jean-Guihen Queyras and Javier Perianes undertake the Cello Sonata; and the flutist Magali Mosnier, the violist Antoine Tamestit, and the harpist Xavier de Maistre give a pristine performance of the sonata dedicated to their instruments. That piece is sometimes so sparing in its application of notes to the page that it hardly seems to exist. The score contains such indications as “dying away” and “as delicately as possible.” This is music suffused with pale light; each terse, tender phrase seems aware of its own impermanence.

    Debussy had found a new path—beyond Symbolism, beyond modernism. One can only wonder what might have followed, for his life came to a grim end. In 1915, he was given a diagnosis of rectal cancer and underwent an operation that had limited success. His final years were horrible. He suffered from incontinence and stopped leaving the house. He died as German forces were shelling Paris. Afterward, his twelve-year-old daughter, called Chouchou, wrote a heartbreaking letter to her half-brother: “I saw him again one last time in that horrible box—He looked happy, oh so happy.” Chouchou died the following year, of diphtheria—a fate of which Debussy, blessedly, had no inkling. She may have been the only person he ever loved without reserve.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

    The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 2:53 PM on August 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, Don't miss it.   

    From The Rest is Noise: Alex Ross 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    Alex has alot of good material here. Don’t miss it.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

    The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
  • richardmitnick 1:36 PM on August 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "1989- the number", Alex Ross-The Rest Is Noise, , The Bernstein Files   

    The Rest Is Noise: Alex Ross- “Bernstein v. Nixon” and “1989, the number” 

    From The Rest is Noise

    Alex Ross, by E.H Jan 17th 2013

    Alex Ross: The Bernstein Files

    1
    Leonard Bernstein

    By Alex Ross

    April 13, 2009

    From the moment Leonard Bernstein arrived on the national scene, with his sensational New York Philharmonic début, in 1943, he was the golden boy of music, among the most widely adored figures in either the classical or the popular world. Now that “West Side Story” is again giving snap to Broadway, Bernstein’s reputation seems more secure than ever. For most of his lifetime, however, this iconic American musician engendered sharp controversy, and his adamantine leftist politics jeopardized his career in ways that have yet to be fully explored.

    See the full article

    “1989, the number”

    2

    In my state-of-new-music essay in this week’s issue of The New Yorker, I had originally intended to discuss several recent books on early-twenty-first-century composition. In the end, I chose to concentrate on Tim Rutherford-Johnson’s Music After the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture Since 1989. But I’d like to mention various others that have informed my listening and thinking. Jennie Gottschalk’s Experimental Music Since 1970 has quickly established itself as an essential text, mapping the vibrancy of experimentalism in the post-Cage age. David Metzer’s Musical Modernism at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century focuses on established, quasi-canonical figures like Ferneyhough, Lachenmann, Sciarrino, Kurtág, and Saariaho.

    See the full article here.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century is a voyage into the labyrinth of modern music, which remains an obscure world for most people. While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences. At the same time, its influence can be felt everywhere. Atonal chords crop up in jazz. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalism has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward.

    The Rest Is Noise shows why twentieth-century composers felt compelled to create a famously bewildering variety of sounds, from the purest beauty to the purest noise. It tells of a remarkable array of maverick personalities who resisted the cult of the classical past, struggled against the indifference of a wide public, and defied the will of dictators. Whether they have charmed audiences with sweet sounds or battered them with dissonance, composers have always been exuberantly of the present, defying the stereotype of classical music as a dying art. The narrative goes from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of dramatic new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, riots, and friendships forged and broken. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.

    John Schaefer


    For new music by living composers

    newsounds.org from New York Public Radio


    https://www.wnyc.org/
    93.9FM
    https://www.wqxr.org/
    105.9FM
    http://www.thegreenespace.org/

    For great Jazz

    88.3FM http://wbgo.org/

    WPRB 103.3FM

    Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
    Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
    Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
    Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm


    Please visit The Jazz Loft Project based on the work of Sam Stephenson
    Please visit The Jazz Loft Radio project from New York Public Radio

     
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