3/2/08

News Flash: Language Has No Meaning

Venerable Houston critic Ward gives us more gems to admire. Clearly, all of the Houston-area editors are still missing. Or something.

Restraint lets Houston Symphony’s Russian music concert soar

The restraint was soaring! Great premise. I bet this is going somewhere awesome.

(subheading) Pianist’s clean skill, conductor’s discipline highlight show marred by curious selections

The show [ed: I think he means concert, but okay] was marred by curious…selections. I can’t wait.

Meat-and-potatoes meals aren't occasions for cooks to go three-star Michelin Guide creative.

In the sentence above, the clause “three-star Michelin Guide creative” is acting as an adverb. This highly fucked-up adverbial clause modifies the verb “to go”. The sense of the sentence, is, I guess, achieved. But that is really bad. Bad!

So, too, with musical programs.

I…what? Imagining a parallel construction:

“Meat-and-potatoes musical programs aren’t occasions for cooks [concert programmers?] to go three-star Michelin Guide creative.”

Jesus. Your assertion is that…orchestral warhorses…should not be spiced up with newer or lesser-known works? Is that it? Because that is stupid. What is your aesthetic basis for this assertion (not to mention your assault on grammar and parallel sentence construction)? Let’s find out!

The core of the Houston Symphony's concert Thursday in Jones Hall was heart-of-the-repertoire Russian music: Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. They elicited vivid playing and interpretations from soloist Stephen Hough and the orchestra.

The core of the concert was heart-of-the-repertoire music. This was ruined for you…because lesser/unknown works were also programmed? You, a professional critic, are distracted by…music? Really? Wow.

Also, I’d like it if you italicized or otherwise set off the titles of the pieces. You know, usage and stuff. Okay?

But as is his habit, and occasional weakness, music director Hans Graf gussied up this simple, sturdy sustenance with oddities that distracted rather than illuminated: three of Ottorino Respighi's set of orchestrations of five Rachmaninoff piano pieces (√Čtudes-tableaux) and John Adams' Tromba lontana.

Hey, thanks for the italics! It really set off the titles effectively. Using words, you have made something clear for the reader! Well done, sir.

But: the “simple, sturdy sustenance” was “gussied up” with distracting music by Respighi and Adams? Your implied construction is “gussied up sustenance”. Is that what you mean? Because that is some nonsense.

These choices had theoretical justification but little practical reason.

That is a strange thing to say. What is the theoretical justification?

Respighi turned Rachmaninoff the mysterious muse into Rachmaninoff the haunt of horror houses.

Your forced alliteration is starting to annoy me. Also: what do you think that sentence means? Because I have no idea.

Adams' piece, commissioned by the Houston Symphony for the Texas sesquicentennial, was just an odd man out with its two solo trumpets and softly repetitive accompaniment.

The piece…was an odd man out? What? Was it more muse or horror house? Or are we talking about theoretical justifications? I’m getting lost here, Ward.

Hough quickly dispelled the distraction of Respighi with his sparkling account of the concerto Rachmaninoff wrote in his late teens.

You were distracted by Respighi, but then Rachmaninoff sparkled, which made everything okay. Awesome.

Back then, the composer was still refining the sumptuous style of melodies and dazzling piano style of his later works but the First Concerto still had plenty to entertain and seduce.

Rachmaninoff…seduced you? No. The Concerto seduced you? How do you do it with a concerto? Sexy and intriguing! Also, thanks for randomly not italicizing titles again. That is spectacularly inconsistent.

Hough's playing at the piano was a joy to hear simply for its basic character. Thursday it was fluid, fleet, clean, utterly at ease. His technical facility made Rachmaninoff's formidable writing seem ordinary, though it actually posed enormous technical challenges.

Dear Sir: Please try not to use “technical” twice in a sentence like this. It is distracting and seductive. Signed, Your Imaginary Editor

With the adroit help of Graf and the orchestra, he sold a lesser work as a piece of brilliant compositional craft. The process was totally enjoyable.

It was enjoyable when...he sold a lesser work...as a piece of brilliant compositional craft. Translation: you enjoy observing fraud? What?

In the Tchaikovsky symphony, which followed Adams' short piece, Graf illustrated how exciting disciplined control can be in a work that can easily get out of hand via a conductor's emotional wallowing.

Submissive control is exciting?! Seductive, even?

For the first three movements, clarity and relative restraint reigned. Tchaikovsky's music had room to breath and the audience could hear its fine details. The orchestra had time to negotiate tricky rhythms without rushing. Soloists had time to savor the succulence of their sometimes bittersweet melodies.

Sorry. Sorry. “Room to breath”? (A noun!) Breathe? ( A verb!) [Aside: it is hilarious that "verb" is a noun.]

For the finale, Graf had so chastened expectations that the orchestra could safely roar through the brilliant music without overplaying or exaggerating. And, at the end, Graf got a moment for "'irony": As the music grew in intensity he tapered his sharp, clean beat to a level of suggestion rather than meaningless display. No flailing was necessary for the audience to sense the excitement at hand.

Why is “irony” in quotes? Either a) someone said it, and you are quoting them, or b) you don’t mean it literally, which is ironic. Or “ironic”. That is some twisted shit. Your ironic, improper use of quotes around the word “irony” is ironic. Wow! Embedded meaning? Or bad writing?

Not that all of the energy came off cleanly. Tuning during a cello section solo in the second movement was badly focused. Some of the string pizzicato playing, or plucking, in the third movement was flabby and unaligned.

But otherwise Graf and the musicians delivered an interpretation that encouraged listeners to think that, just maybe, Tchaikovsky's music doesn't require conductor and orchestra to have left entrails of exertion on the floor to produce an exhilarating performance.

Entrails...exertion…exhilarating. Was that the “theoretical justification” for the programming? I’m lost. Good thing Derrida let me know that language is powerless to communicate meaning.

4 comments:

AnthonyS said...

Ha! This post had me laughing out loud, well done, SA.

Truly egregious writing. How dare John Adams sully "The Museum"!

And, yes, it is funny that "verb" is a noun. A gerund is a verb that functions like a noun, and to gerundify something is to make it thus, "gerundify" being itself a verb that makes verbs into nouns. But apparently "gerundify" isn't a word, so this really isn't all that clever. NB: it appears "gerundial" is an adjective.

Language is fun!

Oh yeah, but meaningless. Find the trace of a gerund...

Empiricus said...

Re: "Meat-and-potatoes meals aren't occasions for cooks to go three-star Michelin Guide creative."

One. The cheapest tickets for the Houston Symphony cost $30. The most expensive: $103.

Two. $30 is one goddamned expensive meal. An $103 dollar meal better come with one f'ing gratifying blowjob followed by a foot massage!

Three. A $30-plus ticket to the symphony better come with music other than what you might find at Denny's, e.g., Rachmaninov. Perhaps Steak Au Poivre, which is usually accompanied by potatoes?

Re: anthonys and your GRE synonym suggestion. Rachmaninov : Moons over my hammy :: John Adams : Steak au poivre.

I have a feeling that "Ground" Chuck Ward thinks that ketchup is too spicy.

Murderface said...

Those are some of the worst sentences ever.

Did Charles Ward originally write this in Bantu and then run it through a buggy translation program? Was he perhaps in the throes of a hemorrhagic stroke as he wrote this? Are we sure that he's alright?

Fucking Hell, I feel like Nice Pete just had his way with the language center of my brain.

Sator Arepo said...

Today's Achewood is indeed powerful terrorfying.