Wednesday, March 17, 2010

notes on key

In talking about music, it's common for people not just to remark on the general character of a piece, but to relate said character to the particular key the piece is in. This is, I'm convinced, one of those conceited things that trained musicians do to try to say something consequential about the music they're playing when they can't think of anything more substantial.

Friday, March 12, 2010

As ridiculous as South Dakota?

Check out this article from today's NYTimes. Okay, probably not as ridiculous as claiming that astrological factors affect the climate. But obviously it's not enough for conservatives to deny evolution anymore. They're taking aim at every subject! The scariest example here is Christianist revision of US history. Students in TX will now be instructed that America's founders weren't committed to a secular government, but a Christian one. In case you didn't read to the end, the amendments to the curriculum "cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century." Thomas fuckin' Jefferson!

This reminds me of Tim Pawlenty's speech recently at CPAC. Pawlenty, formerly a moderate Republican, had this to say about secularism and the Constitution:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

recital musings

In putting off the two or three assignments I have due tomorrow, I've been instead going over ideas for my upcoming recital (April 10th at Northwestern!). A theme in this blog's short life, if you haven't noticed, is dissatisfaction with the current state of performance practice in the world of "art music." I recently wrote an article all about this for my friend's supposed magazine (ALISSA ARE YOU READING THIS?), but I have no idea if she'll ever publish it. I might have to just post it here eventually.

Anyway, for now, watch this video instead, which was helpfully pointed out to me by my mother. It's a TED talk by conductor Benjamin Zander, who as you'll see, is a charming guy who really likes to listen to himself tell stories. However, to his credit they're pretty good stories. He also believes, as do I, that most people's aversion to "classical" music is more a cultural, societal, or "meta-musical" phenomenon than anything. He takes this idea a bit too far, but his basic point is right: 95% of people (give or take) who grow up in Western culture unconsciously acquire the necessary pitch categories and hierarchies to "understand" (on a basic level) the majority of Western music written between 1700 and 1900, because they naturally acquire the necessary pitch hierarchies from exposure to popular music.

the "al qaeda seven"

In case you haven't been following this story, an organization called "Keep America Safe," headed by such worthy statesmen as Liz Cheney and William Kristol, recently released this gem of an ad insinuating that former attorneys of terror suspects share the values of terrorists. Even for most defenders of the criminal Bush regime the ad goes too far, but then again that might just be because multiple high-ranking members of the Bush administration, including Michael Mukasey and Michael Chertoff, former Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security respectively, fall into the same category as the alleged "al qaeda seven."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

wow, this is ridiculous

In case you missed this, it recently passed the South Dakota House of Representatives. Notice point 2 toward the bottom.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

sad news on torture

For a while now, I've been gearing up to write something about torture and the legacy of the Bush administration, but honestly I don't know where to start. This issue terrifies me for two reasons: I think torturing someone is just about the worst thing you can ever do to him or her, and at the same time torturing people seems to be gaining an enormous amount of political momentum.

Monday, March 8, 2010

back to it

So I realized one of the problems with having a blog is that the more time I go without posting, the more I feel like whatever I post has to be really informative or useful. This was obviously not the point when I set out to do this. For those who missed my first post, it was meant to be entirely self-indulgent from the start. So I'm gonna try to get back to that. As an experiment, I'm going to start posting something every day. We'll see how long this lasts.

Apologies for the busy weeks. I'm not apologizing to you, of course, but to myself. It was really busy, as evidenced by the absurd back-log of reading to do in my google reader...I haven't even finished last week's New Yorker, and another one is probably coming tomorrow! Luckily, it didn't turn out all for nought...[shameless self-promotion alert]....I was preparing for a couple of concerts, and as a result that preparation, or more likely, luck, I'm playing on the radio sometime soon! Here's the link to the station website, which streams through itunes or quicktime or windows media player, etc. etc. I think I'll be playing two nocturnes and the first Scherzo by Chopin.

Unlike classical radio where I hail from (DC), this station doesn't suck (it's non-suckiness is so pronounced that I actually gave them money), so I'm pretty psyched to be playing on it. Shameless promotion aside, if you're actually a music person you should download the itunes link and stream it more often than that one time I'll be on it, as they have lots of interesting stuff. Perhaps I'm tainted by my experience growing up in DC, where classical music on the radio regularly consisted of only three things: Vivaldi, second-class Mozart imitations, and Beethoven's fifth. At the very least, everything fit into those three general categories: "easy-listening," bad, generic music by someone you've heard of, bad music by someone you've never heard of, and pieces you've heard a thousand times.

On WFMT, I regularly hear music that I've never heard, by composers I've never heard of, that is enjoyable on first hearing, and motivates further listening. For instance, a week ago I heard a clarinet quartet. I usually fancy myself at guessing the composer when I hear a good piece of music from the late 18th/early 19th century, but I was flummoxed. It sounded astonishingly Mozartean for a piece I knew wasn't by Mozart. Turns out it was by some Finnish composer named Bernhard Crusell, and I felt really dumb for never having heard of him. Now I know all about him! He's mostly known for clarinet music, but I reckon he should be a bit more famous. I may be ignorant, but if I'd never heard of him, I'm guessing a lot of musicians are in the same boat.

'Til tomorrow!