Wednesday, April 28, 2010

soccer, and the mysteries thereof

I had a startling realization today while watching the second leg of the Barcelona-Inter Milan champions league semi-final: Watching soccer is torture.

Okay, I don't mean that literally. Maybe I'm just depressed right now about Barca losing the tie and bouncing out of the Champions League. The game was a microcosm of everything that's wrong with soccer. One team was playing soccer, while the other was engaged in an exercising of time wasting. The refereeing was awful for both sides. Offside calls were missed all over the place. In the end I can't help wonder why I'll repeatedly subject myself to games that are so horribly unpleasant, the results of which have no bearing whatsoever on my day-to-day life.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Redesigning the piano for the 21st century

[warning: ego boost. Sam: skip to paragraph 2]. Sam had his first Northwestern recital last night, a fantastic, virtuosic performance. Hopefully you'll hear more about this from Sam (recordings, even?), but my two cents: the Chopin pieces, particularly the F# major and C minor Nocturnes, were the best I've heard him play Chopin-- exhilarating and tender. The Lieberman was also great fun, and surprisingly beautiful. For some reason, I expected those impromptus to be egocentric, obnoxious, and droopy. But enough about Sam. This is my guest post.

The 400 person (estimated) space was packed to the brim. Well, there were only ~60 of us, but we completely saturated that narrow band of optimal piano-performance enjoyment: the left side of the center aisle, where you can see the performers hands & face without the subpar acoustics & feng shui of the left aisle. I explained this predicament to another of Sam's Yale guests, Adam, a music muggle. "Why don't they just rotate the piano?" he asked. I hopped right up on my high horse, and explained that the cover projects outward and rotating the piano would defeat the entire purpose. But Adam's idea got me thinking and I arrived at an elegant solution (perhaps it was Adam's epiphany, but my post, my story): just angle the keyboard!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

performance practice, contd

The article I mentioned in my last post, which I still can't find online, accuses a lot of serious musicians and music critics of condescending snobbery in their distaste for artists like Tchaikovsky and Horowitz. Richard Taruskin makes many points, (not all well-connected): first, that people dislike Horowitz for his idiosyncratic interpretations that deviate from composers' notations. Second, they dislike Horowitz because his approach was overly audience-oriented, or geared toward "the performance," rather than the music itself, or the composer who wrote the music. Third, that these people are pretentious for putting themselves above their audiences, for claiming not to even care what their listeners think of their interpretations, even while depending on those very same people for their own livelihood.

Monday, April 5, 2010

more on performance practice

So, my recital's really soon! That's really my only excuse for abandoning my efforts to post on this site more often. Here's to redoubling those efforts!

I'm taking an awesome class this quarter (taught by my awesome piano teacher) about performance practice and piano playing. His basic thesis is that modern pianists, at least the most famous ones, as good as they are, don't have distinct playing styles the way pianists did in the early 20th century and before.

For me, this idea rings true, and as my multitudes of loyal readers already know, judging from this post and this one, the idea of distinctive performance is something that I think about a lot. You might even say it keeps me up at night. If true, what are the reasons for this modern lack of individuality, or style?

The first explanation is the modern idea, previously mentioned, that the performer's responsibility is more to a composer, or to a score, than to the music itself, or the audience. How did this idea become so pervasive, and why?