2/13/08

Counting is Hard for Critics

The following is a little bit of snark that ends with a genuine complaint.

Conductorless! Avoids Danger by Focusing on the Music

I am so glad that Conductorless! is both italicized and punctuated exclamitorily. I am also glad they avoided danger!

It was natural that an orchestra founded by musicians for musicians would get around to trying to fly on its own.

Most orchestras are founded by and/or for…not musicians?

In Conductorless!, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra made its first foray into the rarefied realm of performing an entire program without a conductor. Saturday's performance at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church was a macho first step.

Macho? Really?

Throughout much of the millennium-old history of classical music, pieces involving more than a handful of musicians ended up needing some kind of leader, even if it was as simple as the head of a choir tapping a finger to keep the group together when chanting a psalm. We still encounter that kind of work in, say, a concerto performance directed by the soloist.

The arm-waving, pelvis-thrusting, leaping man we now think necessary on the podium was a latecomer, arriving less than 160 years ago. Certainly a lot of core orchestra repertoire now needs somebody to sort the music out and impose a unified idea.

Pelvis-thrusting?

ROCO got around that by choosing music — and a style of interpretation — that never put the group in real danger.

Danger of…? Thrusting? Not being macho? What's the subtext here?

It opened with a piece of chamber music for eight woodwinds: Decet by Rumanian George Enescu.

Um. It, uh. Decet. For eight woodwinds. Eight? Octet? What?

Decet is for ten. Quartet = four. Quintet = five. And so forth. Up to ten. Which is a decet. For ten woodwinds. You can look it up. I would even venture to say you should have looked it up.

But you did not.

8 comments:

Empiricus said...

Eight woodwinds and TWO page turners.

Empiricus said...

i suppose it could have been eight woodwinds, one page turner and one Jesus.

Sator Arepo said...

I think Mr. Ward unleased a 'tet offensive on me.

AnthonyS said...

Surely you've heard of the five player version of the Stravinsky Octet?

Electric bass, hurdy-gurdy and three basset horns.

... that one was bad. Brahms Fifth Symphony bad.

AnthonyS said...

... oh, and the italicized title with the ! attached gave me vision of the orchestra sporting "jazz hands" as they came on stage.

And while we're at it, the idea that this kind of performance is "macho" is silly. The idea of the authortarian, artistically univisual leader seems macho. Operating by a kind of aesthetic consensus seems to be anti-macho.

McClary would have a fun time with that.

Sator Arepo said...

Yeah. Bring on McClary, for once.

Murderface said...

The woodwindists (woodwinders?) were so macho they only needed eight to play a decet.

OK, no. It is impossible to play woodwind and be macho. Even the sax, which comes the closest to being macho, is still just the retarded cousin of both A) rock bands and B) the brass section.

Not macho, no matter how many parts you play on it, or how few conductors thrust their pelvises at it.

Aaron said...

Maybe they had Rahassan Roland Kirk and his evil twin playing two woodwinds at the same time.

I would pay good money to see that, actually. I might even pay just to see the evil twin.