Roach Motel

Like I’ve said numerous times before, ClassicsToday is a fantastic idea—it reviews all sorts of recordings that most newspapers pass up; it’s convenient; it’s relatively navigable; that’s about it. But somewhere, deep in their basement lies a dank, moldy, cracked wall in desperate need of repair. Even when it’s only gently inspected, it crumbles open and, in stereotypical Hollywood fashion, it spews out cockroaches by the thousands, ravenous, mindless, and uneducated in the ways of the tritone.

Chicago-based composer Shulamit Ran offers two large-scale works in a familiar modern style--consistently dissonant and chromatic, and nearly always atonal.

My new favorite catch-phrase: “nearly always atonal.”

It's no secret that a composer who chooses to forgo use of tonality must substitute some other factor to generate expressive variety and momentum.

Detritusites, welcome to the DeVry School of Music! Your online course to criticism success!

She mostly achieves the same kind of ambiguous emotional fog as we hear in hundreds of forgettable atonal works by other forgettable composers.

Okay class! Take your online seats.

Let’s begin by reviewing the music, even though we’re not supposed to review the music.



Anonymous said...

"ambiguous emotional fog"...?

I have no idea what that means (other than that I live my life inside of numerous ambiguous fogs...financial, romantic, etc...). But, why must every piece have an obvious emotional analogue? Could we possibly conceive of music that does more than make us emote? It's such a shallow way to approach music, to think that it all must do and behave in a similar way.

My response would be to Joseph Stevenson would be that the emotional content wasn't ambigious at all. I think it clearly indicates the composer's deep seed estrangement from her 1st cousin (once removed) on her mother's (older) sister's side, most-likely over a dispute during a game of pinochle in which Ran originally claimed a trick with her Trump Marriage, but then decided to replay her cards as part of a double run. Calamity ensued. Anybody who knows anything about music would know that...it's made perfectly clear in the manner in which the crotales double the clarinet obligato (which can only occur after the presentation of invertible counterpoint in the upper strings, otherwise it would suggest the game of Chutes and Ladders) and resolve using a Landini cadence in augmentation while foreshadowing a crab canon. And the high B in the piccolo...how could you hear anything but Shulamit Ran's cousin telling her that Ran's mother makes terrible oatmeal raisin cookies and the whole family has been lying to protect her feelings. I think it's pretty easy to make that out.

Sator Arepo said...

Gustav: Indeed.

Also, atonal music is clearly forgettable, crappy, and bad. Duh.

Also, that picture is not fun to look at.

Empiricus said...

Is it possible to be balanced, amateurs? Is it possible not voice your opinions about shit you've never cared about? Is it possible that you can, for once, read and listen, just once in a while? Is it possible to stop thinking that your opinions are authoritative? Is it possible that we can not find ClassicsToday.com an amusing diversion from more prescient topics? No. Okay, then. Suit yourselves.

Empiricus said...


Aaron said...

I think what months of reading these reviews have shown me is that the people who assign music to be reviewed are doing a lousy job of matching the music with the reviewer. Surely there are intelligent, well-informed writers out there who appreciate "modern" art music - why can't these publications find a couple of them to review that kind of music? It's totally fine if that's not Joe Stevenson's bag, but if he's that hostile to the music, maybe he shouldn't be asked to listen to it.

In short, I blame the publication, not the reviewer.

Murderface said...

Least fun to look at picture ever.


I wonder if there are any arts editors who enjoy modern music or feel qualified to judge a review of modern music on its own merits. My conjecture is that arts editors are conventionally erudite and will wax prosaic on music >100 years old almost automatically, but newer music somehow escapes them. They feel unqualified to judge the intellectual merits of such music, so they hire/sic critics whose views will reflect those of the readership on new music performances.

{The DR stance on the tangled interrelationship is noted, and glazed over here as I am focusing on the top-down nature of reviewing.}

I had another point, but that image is giving me panic flashbacks to when I first saw Creepshow at the age of Too Fucking Young, Like Maybe Seven. What the hell were Troy's parents thinking? They rented us Annie, too.

And people wonder why I loathe musical theater. I don't know which was the greater horror.

Fymen: An anatomical analogue to the hymen which seals the female Madagascar Hissing Cockroach's ovipositor until the first time she lays eggs.