Only the good parts

Maybe you’ve avoided Wagner operas – and, in particular, the Ring cycle – because the plots seem silly and the singers plant themselves in the middle of the stage and sing steadily without moving much for extraordinarily long periods of time. What if someone put together all the exciting and moving bits in one piece? It would be like kicking the record player so the the needle jumped to the good parts. That’s what I saw tonight at Carnegie Hall, with the NY Philharmonic’s performance of Lorin Maazel’s The Ring…

Freedom to Connect — remarks today.

Many thanks to David Isenberg for inviting me to speak today.  Here is a copy of my notes for today’s talk. Life is short, so I have put on the screen an image of a clock whose hands are close to midnight. It’s always good to have a sense of urgency, both in movies and in talks like this one.  And to face the big questions. Here’s one::  What makes a life significant?:  There’s an essay by William James with this title that I look back to.  James says that…

Vertical integration and Bartók

Someone recently handed me a CD of a piano transcription of Bartók‘s Concerto for Orchestra. (The recording, by Gyorgy Sandor, is available through Amazon.) Sandor himself completed the transcription after Bartók’s death — he was a friend of Bartók’s and a champion of his music. I listened to the recording last night and it was splendid – revelatory, spare, motoric, all-Bartók. The same person who handed me the CD asked me today why the piano transcription isn’t more famous. I had less than no idea (see viola jokes) and so…

Interlude

One of the many good things about having a voice of my own on this page is that I can break patterns of my own making. It’s time for a music post. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours remembering my life before there was email and before I had heard of the internet.  I’ve been lucky over the last three weeks to play chamber music in four very different semi-public contexts, and the third of these events was last night.  Probably stemming from Somewhere In Time (a very romantic…

Musicophilia

That’s the name of a worthwhile new book by Oliver Sacks. Do you hear music in your mind, even when you don’t choose to? I do, all the time, and so does Dr. Sacks. He’s wondering why: I see my room, my furniture every day, but they do not re-present themselves as ‘pictures in the mind.’ Nor do I hear imaginary dog barks or traffic noises in the background of my mind, or smell aromas of imaginary meals cooking, even through I am exposed to such perceptions every day. I…

Two great loves

The Internet may be killing the pop CD, but it’s helping classical music. I’ll be forever grateful to oboist and impresario James Roe for cluing me in – Alex Ross has a wonderful blog. He’s the music critic of the New Yorker, and to be linked to on his blog is like getting a nod from BoingBoing. Bigger than big. Huge. I think I discovered pianist Jeremy Denk‘s blog, Think Denk, on my own, but maybe James should get credit for that, too. It’s splendid. Here’s an excerpt from this…

Context

Thanks to Fred von Lohmann for pointing to this post from Ian Rogers of Yahoo!. Cheap and great music is better than free and lousy, context is everything, and the recording industry has missed all possible online boats for the last eight years. That’s Rogers’s message. First the labels sued Napster instead of selling their content to their users in the format the users wanted: MP3 files that any device can use. In 1999, Rogers thought that was dumb. “Make it easy, I wrote, and convenience will beat free.” Then…

The ham band

When I was in high school I remember going with a group to play a concert in an Elks lodge. The room was dusky and the building was a little broken down. There was a giant sign in the room where we played that read, “Keep America Strong. Ask A Young Man To Become An Elk.” The people there were boisterous and kindly. Well, I think I’ve found the home of the telecommunications-Elks. It’s amateur radio. The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual is full of folksy, boisterous, exclamation-point-studded advice. You…

Pause

Here’s a vignette for you: When [Jacqueline du Pré] was six years old, the story goes, she went into her first competition as a cellist, and she was seen running down the corridor carrying her cello above her head, with a huge grin of excitement on her face. A custodian, noting what he took to be relief on the little girl’s face, said, “I see you’ve just had your chance to perform!” And Jackie answered, excitedly, “No, no, I’m just about to!”

Artistry

Fifteen minutes before the film was supposed to start tonight, a slight trim man in a madras shirt bounded towards the front of the theater. I’d noticed the organ keyboard facing the audience before he came in, and I’d idly thought about people sitting through silent movies accompanied by virtuosos staring up at the screen. But then this guy came flying down the aisle and sat down on the bench, his back to the ten or so people scattered around the theater. It took him a long time to get…