Spring is surely in the air.
My newest celebrity crush is the Brahms Intermezzo in A Major, op. 118 no.2. Creating fingerings for this piece is like meeting a person you've long admired for a first date: so much excitement, interest, and anticipation. As I mark the music, I feel like the piece has a story to tell me. . . and that I'm learning that story--slowly, steadily.
Spring is surely in the air.
Please join me for a concert by my friends, flutist Gary Woodward and oboist Catherine Del Russo. They'll perform my wind quintet "Macy loves Rashawn," along with work by the ever-inventive Bevan Manson, on Monday 3 March at 7:30pm in Bird Studio, on the campus of Occidental College. It'd be great to see you there!
Join me tonight on KPFK-FM: 90.7 FM or www.kpfk.org, Pacifica Radio, as we pay musical tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Music of Passion, abundance, fragility, joie de vivre, wonder. Happy Birthday Francis POULENC, born on this day in 1899.
(this photo is from a visit to his grave from May, 2000)
And a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!!
I've been thinking about Elliot Smith in advance of the ten-year anniversary of his death. This is a song I made about him a couple years ago. Here's hoping that his life and work stay with us. Here's hoping that those who struggle with the wonder of this world find a way to stay with it, and choose to stay with it--again and again.
In this insightful op-ed for the New York Times, composer Kristin Kuster takes on the denial and self negation that, for her, too often accompanies classical composition's masculinizing discourse. Kristin is one of the bravest people I know, and a composer whose work changes the air it touches. I'm glad to call her friend.
Once you hear the music of singer/composer Laura Mvula, it cannot be unheard. Once you see her, she cannot be unseen. Laura Mvula queers fading notions of who has the right to be called composer, of who has the goodwill and moral clarity to impart wisdom and be wholly heard. The comparisons to Nina Simone are obvious enough, but there is a generosity to this music--an egalitarianism that both edifies and enlightens. Listen to this.
their sound, a rushing water
to my eyes. My eyes!
If ever you wondered about the educational benefit of homemade internet videos uploaded to sites like Youtube, and the real wonder they can bring to the intersection of disciplines like mathematics and music, look no further than "mathemusician" Victoria Hart, or Vi Hart as she's known online.
Vi Hart's work is impossible to classify. One minute she's drawing elephants to illustrate the sums of infinite series; the next she's turning candied fruit into mobius strips, cutting them into thirds, and making Borromean knots. The videos move pretty quickly, and are always as goofy as they are edifying. The opening sentence of her video on the proper technique for eating candied buttons, for instance, brings unusual academic gravitas to the question: "The topic of candied button eating styles has been covered by Mr. Randall XKCD, but I'd like to expand his categorization to include a few more nerdy styles."
Underneath it all, Vi Hart is a philosopher in discourse with the static ineptitude of standard K-12 math curricula, musical learning, and indeed the very fabric of our imagination. (Many of her videos begin with some variation on the theme of ennui, something like, "so you're me, and you're sitting in math class and you're bored out of your skull by a topic that could be really interesting were it not for the totally boring and uninspired way it is being taught, so you start to doodle.")
Fun, constantly searching, devilishly inquisitive, and with a quick-silver wit, Vi Hart's latest video explores the wonder in early post-tonal theory, crazy geometrical shapes, the self-defeating stupidity of current copyright law in the digital age (a topic close to my heart), and, to quote physicist Brian Cox, "the right laws of physics." Cox continues, "they're beautifully balanced. If the weak force had been a little bit different, then carbon and oxygen wouldn't be stable in the hearts of stars." And, I would add, we wouldn't have the musical variations that end the video below. I've had two of my former students send me this link in as many days, so I had to share it with you.
So thank you, Vi Hart! Find and subscribe to her channel on youtube, and consider supporting the folks like her, whose eclectic thinking isn't "outside the box," but beyond it in the best possible ways.
Ok, so, yesterday, you remember how excited I was to share an astonishing new arrangement of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps with you? You remember how musically compelling I found the work, how ingenious I thought the arrangement was, and how blown away I was by the fact that it was performed from memory, and without a conductor? You remember how I had a bet with my wife that the video would reach a million views by 5/25 of this year? Well yeah, that's not going to happen. Why? Because music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, in a signature move of absolute ineptitude, demanded the video of the performance be pulled from youtube.
The uproar among composers, arrangers, musicians, and music-lovers alike has been swift and unforgiving, with consensus revolving around the question, "What sort of backwards thinking would prompt some clueless executive to act against the interests of classical music in general, and Le Sacre in particular?" The reason for the publisher's move seems to involve, as best as I can tell, a conformity to the letter of the law regarding public dissemination of unlicensed arrangements. My point is that there are many, many ways for B&H to have better handled this.
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of social media knows that momentum counts for a lot in sharing your music online. So even if Eastman Sax Project and B&H get this behind them (which I hope they do), damage has already been done. This snafu represents what so many of us find wholly dysfunctional in the music publishing business. If B&H were in any way forward-thinking, they would recognize that the sort of publicity generated from excitement over this performance cannot be purchased at any price, and encourage the public dissemination of arrangements like this, while working behind the scenes to ensure that the best interests of the composer, their estate, and the company are met. Instead, actions like this show how publishers such as B&H have absolutely no interest working towards the furthering of their composers, or the music under their care. Composer John Mackey notes how countless highschool saxophonists would be set alight with enthusiasm over Stravinsky and The Rite if they could see and hear this arrangement online. It could inspire a whole new generation of musicians to aspire to ESP's quality of performance. Instead, they get static. Pathetic.
Three years ago Eastman bassoonists arranged a medley of Lady Gaga's hit songs and posted it online without incident, garnering a whole new fan base for her, and their ensemble (Breaking Winds). But the minute you arrange and publicize a seminal work by Igor Stravinsky, the publisher pulls the video. REALLY?! So Gaga's publishers get it, but not Stravinsky's?! Unacceptable.
I hope this crap gets resolved soon. I will leave up the link in the nascent hope that this situation is promptly resolved. And if it isn't, than I will still leave up the post, and the link that accompanies it, as a reminder of what could have been were it not for the shortsightedness of a few in power to stymie the interest and amazement that Le Sacre still garners a century after its premiere.
"Wear your mask & practice social distancing. Together, we can defeat Covid 19!"
"Literacy in Music & Arts is one of your vital links to global citizenship!"
"Be sure to support the arts in *your* community!"