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.
This. Is. Astonishing.
Le Sacre du Printemps celebrates 100 years of shocking the world at the end of this May, and it's hard to find a more fitting tribute to its lasting contribution to arts and culture than the dedication and musicality of this performance by the Eastman Sax Project, or ESP. Their playing would have been noteworthy enough just considering the ingenuity of the arrangement by saxophonist and ESP member Dannel Espinoza, but this extraordinary effort becomes truly epic when you see that the sax ensemble is playing the entire piece from memory. Are you freakin' KIDDING ME?!
There's something else. You know you're listening to a good performance of an arrangement when the instruments take on the properties--the musical qualities--of the instruments from the original score. Such is the case here, as with the opening of the work, or the English horn and alto flute excerpts from "Ritual Action of the Ancestors" towards the end of the piece.
Many musicians (and music-lovers of all sorts) remember the first time they listened to Igor Stravinsky's musical invocation of pagan Russia for Diaghliev's Ballet Russe. As a teen, I was as frightened as I was compelled by the work; I would never be the same. This arrangement, true to that spirit of grit and intrepid artistry, has also left me changed for the better.
I have a bet with my wife Andrea that their youtube video of the performance will reach a least a million views in two weeks. It certainly deserves to.
next post: thoughts from the Michigan Philharmonic's "Koncert for Kids"!
"Wear your mask & practice social distancing. Together, we can defeat Covid 19!"
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