After some careful (read hasty) thought about our neon pear and grape themed blog, we finally decided to look after your eyes' health. If y'all have any further suggestions concerning what we might be able to improve (other than our maturity levels), please feel free to comment or drop us an email.

We DO intend to continue posting while these renovations happen, so check back often. Other than that, just please be patient while we update our archives.

And a fuzzy photo of composer Wolfgang Rihm either napping or in the throes of exultation.

What Does It Mean?

All apologies, but indignation follows. I don't blame Mallary Jean Tenore, it's not her fault. The problem is the...I guess...symptoms of decline of music/arts in this country.

Although the Texas Ballet Theater received a long-term $500,000 pledge Thursday morning, it is still planning to use recorded music for the 2008-09 season.

Mohtherfucker, what?

I found this perusing the news. You got...half a million dollars and are firing all your...musicians?

The dance company's decision, which is part of its emergency efforts to conserve funds and raise at least $2 million by mid-September, came as a surprise to the Dallas Opera Orchestra and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Both orchestras were scheduled to perform live music for dance performances.

I bet it came as a fucking surprise. All of those people who play instruments for a living were, I reckon, fucking surprised!

"We're going to have to work with them to see what this means," said Jennifer Schuder, director of marketing at the Dallas Opera Orchestra.

What does it mean!? Seriously? I can tell you what it means, dumbshit. It means hardworking, underpaid musicians are out of a gig.

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra leaders did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Well, it's hardly their fault.

Using recorded music instead of paying both orchestras for live music is a necessary step toward helping the company raise $500,000 in cash and an additional $1.5 million in pledges within the next three weeks, said Margo McCann, the dance company's interim managing director.

The $500,000 pledge that the company received Thursday is to be paid over the next five years. Ms. McCann declined to name the donor.

Is this what we've come to? (Or: to what we've come?) Your ballet company gets a huge grant and you decide to go with recorded music?

Shit, people.

Strike That. Reverse It.

Suddenly, the lobby silence was broken by the loud clatter of hurried footsteps dashing up the stairs from the hall’s subterranean sound-proofed rehearsal studios. I looked up to see the woman in the flesh, looking exceedingly fit in her body-hugging blue jeans.

With such sexy, smoldering hot looks, no wonder she landed on People magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Most Beautiful People.” I could not help but remember a French boy’s description of her when I was in Paris a few years back: “She eez zee Franch Tyra Banks!”

Rousing from my reveries, I stammered out, “Uh...I’m Empiricus. Do we...uh...have an interview?” Her face lit up into a supernova smile as she affirmed, “Of course!” We were soon walking together...


Now for the real one about baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, written by
Cheryl North of the Oakland Tribune.

Suddenly, the Zellerbach lobby silence was broken by the loud clatter of hurried footsteps dashing up the stairs from the hall's subterranean sound-proofed rehearsal studios. I looked up to see the man in the flesh, looking exceedingly fit in his body-hugging blue jeans.

With such sexy, smoldering good looks, no wonder he landed on People magazine's list of the "World's 50 Most Beautiful People." I could not help but remember a Russian girl's description of him when I was in Moscow a few years back: "He is the Russian Elvees Prezley!"

Rousing from my reveries, I stammered out, "Uh "... I'm Cheryl. Do we "... uh "... have an interview?" [sic] His face lit up into a supernova smile as he affirmed, "Of course!" We were soon walking together across the street to his Opera House dressing room, during which stroll, in impressive, gentlemanly fashion, he adjusted his long-limbed pace to my slower one. When we arrived, he gestured for me to take the room's single upholstered chair while he pulled up a hard-backed one for himself.

I don’t know what gets me more, the blatant
sexualization, the insulting imitation of a Russian girl, or saying the King's name in vain.


Lark Hunting

Let’s go. I’m all ears.

[Vaughn Williams’] death was symbolic of another death: that of contemporary classical music as a mainstream cultural activity.


In Vaughan Williams's day, the premiere of a new work of music was a significant event. No one would be considered culturally aware unless they were au fait [sic] with the new Vaughan Williams symphony.

Can’t argue with you there.

Today, any averagely informed person has read the latest fiction and seen the buzz films and theatre. But new music - serious rather than pop or rock - is a cult pursuit among a tiny proportion of the already small minority who are interested in culture.


Classical music took a wrong turn in the period after the death of Vaughan Williams.

I couldn’t agree more.

The ruination of music as part of mainstream culture came largely because of subsidy. Composers stopped writing for their public and wrote instead for the small clique that was responsible for commissioning pieces.


The cultural commissars were obsessed with theories of music that held that melody was no longer a legitimate tool and only atonal music was appropriate to the age.

Kill the pig! Cut her throat! Spill her blood!

Their dominance of the subsidy racket meant that not only were composers freed from any obligation to secure an audience for their music, but they were pilloried and starved of funds also if they did attempt to do that.

Serves them right!

Vaughan Williams was the last composer to speak directly to a wide audience...

You lost me.



Keyboard Stroke?

Edward Ortiz is at it again, this time reviewing a new disc by pianist Simone Dinnerstein. And, as usual, a couple of things caught my eye as, well, awkward, to say the least.

First, there’s the unsubstantiated adverb and adjective.

On Beethoven's piano sonata Op. 110, Dinnerstein powerfully connects with some of Beethoven's forward-looking ideas.

What exactly are those “forward-looking ideas?” How does one powerfully connect with said ideas? Who knows? Not me. “When typing, I powerfully connect with Henry Mill’s forward-looking ideas.” I bet you don’t know who Henry Mill is. Anyway, moving on.

Second, there’s the vagueness.

To do so, she honors the telling pauses in the first and second movements, and fronts the hyperkinetic moments throughout.

WTF, my friends? WTF? You all know me by now, so I don’t have to go into it. Let’s just agree that it’s humorously terrible, shall we? Good.

Okay, we have some vacuous language. What of it? Is it post-worthy? Meh. Not sure. I debated it’s merits for a spell, while listening to, guess what, Beethoven’s Opus 110. And wouldn’t you believe it, something sounded awkward, too! It’s just that I couldn’t pinpoint the problem.

Later on in my eventful day, I hopped on over to the Wall Street Journal, where there was, fortuitously enough, another review of the same disc, this time by Barbara Jepson.

The final movement of Beethoven's transcendent Sonata No. 32 in C Minor (Opus 111) is a series of variations on a 16-bar theme presented in its stately opening.

Are you fucking kidding me? Our Eddie-boy got the piece mixed up; it’s opus 111, not opus 110!

What gets me is that, unless he was using the number pad on his keyboard--it's possible, but very key stroke inefficient--1 and 0 are nowhere near each other, meaning three things. Either he thought the piece was, indeed, opus 110—which doesn’t have any pauses in order to be telling—or he didn’t bother to check which piece he actually heard—which could be considered terribly unprofessional (I’m not suggesting this is what actually happened)—or he doesn’t know his Beethoven (How is that even possible?). Which one is the real answer?

All I know is that even the editor didn’t catch the fuck up. So, I guess the editor fucked up, too.

Guilty on One Charge of Puffery and One Charge of Lying under Oath

Let it be said that when you write something like this:

Never let it be said that S.F. Classical Music Examiner goes in for puff pieces.

...I’ll assume the opposite.

Now, to be clear, the Wictionary dictionary, as do all of the other dictionaries, defines “puff piece” as...

A journalistic form of puffery; an article or story of exaggerated praise that often ignores or downplays opposing viewpoints of evidence to the contrary.

The San Francisco Classical Music Examiner? Never going in for puff pieces? Yeah right!

Modern critics typically speak of traditional programming as focusing on those "basic 50 pieces", to paraphrase Virgil Thomson.

That is, if Virgil Thompson is a modern critic: he died in 1989, but stopped writing critiques for the New York Herald Tribune in 1954 [1951?]).

Nobody denies that those works continue to deserve an honored place on concert programs; they're classics for a reason. But what, exactly, constitutes "innovation"?

You see where he’s going with this? He’s going to define “innovation,” then he’s going to “insert ensemble here.” But first, a misstep.

More often than not, "innovative" is little more than a code word for "programming contemporary music." As such, ensembles boasting of their "innovative" programs have little to brag about, really...

But, no. That’s wrong. They brag about being innovative, because most ensembles don’t regularly play new music. The opposite used to be the case, as our author pointed out earlier. However, it’s no longer true. So bragging about being innovative is only comparative to their contemporaries, dummy.

So what can we identify as real innovation in the early 21st century?

Those gigantic, meaty italics are all Scott Fogelsong’s, not mine.

I propose San Francisco's New Century Chamber Orchestra as an exemplar of the modern ensemble that avoids both dry rot and cliché, while at the same time recognizes that innovation cannot thrive without a solid foundation.

Wikipedia offers this definition of puffery:

Puffery as a legal term refers to promotional statements and claims that express subjective rather than objective views, such that no reasonable person would take literally.

But I digress, Scott. How are they innovative, again?

[...] the New Century [Chamber Orchestra] enjoys a perspective that recognizes the worth of the traditional canon, yet enriches that repertory by reaching out and over those arbitrary boundaries between contemporary, traditional, classical, world, and popular music.

So, schlocky eclecticism equals innovative?

So, for example, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (standard rep if ever there were) will be paired with Bernard Herrmann's famed score for Psycho for the May 2009 program of night music, called "Shadows and Light", while a December program partners Bach with holiday music from around the globe.

But that sounds like my high school orchestra and chorus—challenge the kids to expand their horizons and give the parents something to enjoy.

As Monroe [the NCCO executive director] puts it: "they are coming to be challenged, and they are also coming to be pleased."

Just in case you forgot, dear reader, we’re talking about unsubstantiated praise. The NNCO is being praised for being “real” innovators, while my high school music program was just as daring. Italics mine.

All of this marvelous creative thinking doesn't guarantee the NCCO a slam-dunk, alas.

And they’re not all that creative, either.

For one thing, our economy is running a bit shakily at present. For another, the New Century isn't the only imaginative ensemble in this Bay Area of ours, a place with a long-standing tradition of subverting tradition.

So they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, innovative. Go figure.

But I, for one, will be astonished if this forthcoming season turns out to be anything less than a grand success.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someday Wikipedia has an entry for “puffer,” one who engages in puffery, with a picture of Scott Fogelsong in the upper right-hand corner.


Dammit, One More Amusement

So the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is going through some tough contract negotiations and, surprise, the piss poor economy is a big factor.

A report a year ago by think tank Rand foreshadowed that such pressures may only grow in a region where two of the biggest funders of arts -- the government and foundations -- are being pulled in other directions, putting more of the burden to raise money from a populace whose numbers have been shrinking.

Wow. And all by themselves. Good work, think tankers! Maybe next year you’ll be promoted to the third grade, where you’ll get to use paintbrushes instead of your fingers!

Show and Tell: One More Non-Item

Either I don’t get out as much as I should, so to speak, or my computer is a raging Anglophobe. Yet somehow, today I managed to find myself on the U.K.’s MusicalCriticism.com, a relatively new site (established in 2007) devoted to the kind of in depth reviews that many of our American newspapers can ill-afford. Most of the authors are youngish academians who don’t shy from explaining the tough to explain.

Unlimited by space, this is a sample of what you get:

Composers Ruth Crawford Seeger and John Adams created works with unusual musical structures. For Crawford Seeger, it was to take dynamics as the basis for her Andante for Strings, while John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine is a minimalist piece focusing on repetitive and modulating rhythms. Composed fifty years apart, they both have a historical American connection through their composers' shared nationality, yet each piece displays a different intellectual aspect of American music.

Author Mary Robb seems to like American classical music more than Americans. How refreshing! And no disparaging remarks about atonality! Yeah!

Anyway, I thought I’d give ‘em a shout out and their very own spot on our blogroll. You should check them out. They’re different and good.


Several Non-Item Items

First, one of the best ever Google searches to find the Detritus Review:

"on this day a famousest trill take place"

And one of those searches that occasionally lets us know exactly how mature we sound:

"fuck underwear"

I hope they both found what they were looking for.

Finally, a fun picture of György Ligeti to look at:

Wolf! Wolf!

As one might surmise, this is sort of a follow-up to my previous post, Goldilocks—I want to drive the point into the ground even further and, since I’m in the driver’s seat, you’ll just have to sit back and take it.

If you aren’t privy to the original Goldilocks, I suggest you take a gander. But if you’re lazy like me, here’s the synopsis: I try to equate bloated language with crying wolf. It sounds fantastic but loses its effectiveness over time. It’s hyperbole, exaggeration, not real. So, I wonder whether or not this disproportionate language might be the culprit behind the negative perception of classical music. I suggest that it’s really no one’s fault, it’s the language we inherited. And no one is immune: composers, critics, musicologists, theorists, laymen, performers, superheroes, etc. I also give you three kaleidoscopic images and ask you to imagine them joyfully weaving in and out of each other. Great fun.

So here we are a couple of days later and the first thing I randomly come across—just making the daily rounds—is this nice article by Scott Cantrell.

FWSO preps for Mahler symphonies

Sweet. Perfect for demonstrating my point. I think that anything Mahler is already so bloated that we might want to start spelling his name with a few extra letters (Mawhlerr?). Besides, y’all know that everything in Texas is bigger. And bigger is, incontrovertibly, better!

The instrumental forces required for the Second Symphony are truly heroic...

I read that Odysseus once employed seventy lyres just to take a shit. That’s one heroic shit, folks! But tales of truly heroic instrumentations don’t stop there. Achilles wasn’t actually killed by an arrow. Instead, he accidentally choked on four bone flutes. Neil Armstrong refused to leave Earth’s atmosphere without his sixteen euphoniums. The beaches at Normandy were stormed by 150,000 soldiers armed with nothing but oboes and bassoons. And Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold at Ticonderoga? They lulled the British to sleep by playing 21,000 autoharps. Mawhlerr? Pffft. He used some extra brass and winds for his symphonies.

And this is the first picture that comes up when I Google Image “truly heroic.”



Just in case you forgot the nursery story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the moral is, “Don’t fuck with other people’s belongings or they’ll kill you.” In a more modern version, Grandpa Joe and Charlie sully Willy Wonka’s sterile Fizzy Lifting Drink room, causing, presumably, a halt in production and research. Thus, Charlie forfeits any forthcoming prizes and looks like an asshole in the process.

Well, similarly, critical language is far from perfect (i.e., hot/cold porridge), so don’t mess with the cinnamon (spices) right away, or the Detritus Review will kill you, or lambaste you, or make you take a bath, or refuse to have Oompa-Loompas sing you a parting song—I forget which.

Well, it was a very hot night — the hottest this summer — so maybe that's why I felt like...

a) a melting popsicle.
b) a plump portabella on the grill.
c) a temperature-sensitive Goldilocks tasting her three bowls of porridge.


The first try, Vitezslav Novák's Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in D minor, was too hot.

Is hot inherently bad? I know some very astute Riftia pachyptila who would argue the opposite.

Novák piles on the Eastern European folk-angst, much in the manner of his compatriots Dvorák (who was far better at it)...

That’s hard thing to substantiate: Novák’s folk-angst is lesser than Dvorák’s. Though, I’m still not sure that constitutes a “hot” piece.

...and Smetana, whose Trio in G minor was performed to a standing ovation the Wednesday night prior.

Now, the Smetana, on the other hand, definitely sounds “hot.” Right? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t “hot,” when used to describe a piece or performance, usually a positive thing?

What a weird construction, so far. Not receiving a standing ovation and having less folk-angst means “hot.”

In fact, Novák's Trio sounds like a lesser version of Smetana's — a resemblance that was further underscored by two of the players being the same, violinist Scott Yoo and pianist Andrew Armstrong.

See? Talking about music is already a difficult thing. Why mess it up with a lame simile?

“The players being the same?” That could just about mean anything. Or nothing. Nothing sounds cold to me. It also sounds like a lack of vocabulary. But whatever.

The second try, Beethoven's Quintet in C Major, was too cold — at least for the first half.

This ought to be good.

Violinists Erin Keefe and Joseph Lin, violists Che-Yen Chen and Richard O'Neill, and cellist Amit Peled seemed to be keeping the music at arm's length during the first and second movements, being careful but never really coalescing in spirit. Fortunately, Beethoven's intellectualizing falls away in the rollicking third movement, and the players began to have more fun.

I have heard, roundabout, that intellectualism is cold. So, in some strange intuitive world, one where reason has been long abandoned in favor of feelings that have no descriptors, the “cold” simile is apt.

What I find untenable, is that Beethoven’s Quintet was described as “too cold,” when the thrid movement was, according to the normal usage of “hot,” hot. Combine the three movements and you get what? That’s right! Tepid!

Tepid is not cold, nor hot.

...after [the opening of the finale], all the players seemed to come alive, joyfully weaving in and out of each other in kaleidoscopic patterns.

Here’s three pictures of kaleidoscopic patterns. I’ll leave it to you to imagine them weaving in and out of each other joyfully.

That must mean, OMG, that the last piece was juuuust riiiiight. Right?

The piece that was just right — Brahms' Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in B Major — is such a ravishingly gorgeous work that it seems impossible to play badly.

Reflexive translation: Goldilocks borrows someone else’s porridge without asking.


The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Aside from the rather threadbare simile between the concert and Goldilocks, Sumi Hahn wrote a nice review. Only, the language Sumi used was lazily appropriated from almost every review ever. It was over-inflated to the point where it lost its effectiveness.

Case in point:

Brahms' Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano in B Major [...] is such a ravishingly gorgeous work that it seems impossible to play badly.

Any lawyers out there? It’s my guess that this statement would not hold up in a court of law. It’s pure exaggeration. Hyperbole. It says nothing about the piece. It just inflates it like a balloon.

From the languid opening caress of the piano and cello...


...the hushed cathedral majesty of the Adagio...


...and the anxiously attractive finale, this piece swells with the very best kind of Romantic fervor.

Instead of wasting time with the Goldilocks simile, it might have been in Sumi’s best interest to explain what the best kind of romanticism might look like, then prove it without the gaudy descriptors. That would be interesting, to me. And informative. Also, if done well, it could have been just as colorful.

The point being, poetry got in the way of the tasks at hand: reviewing, appraising and describing. Not that there isn’t room for style; it can be done. Just check out the handful of critics we don’t review here.

[...] the music bloomed rapturously on that hot night.

The review ballooned rapturously, too. Is this a concert or an orgasm?

That memory might be enough to keep me going until next summer's festival.

Obviously, I’m not going to take this literally. But, since Sumi isn’t talking about the number of calories in fast food, I don’t believe it. Not in the least. Look. If you, someone who loves music, can go an entire year without listening to another piece, going to another concert or simply humming a tune other than what you heard at this particular festival’s concert and still be musically satisfied, then damn, it must have been that good. Unfortunately, no, you can’t. And no, it wasn’t.

So I’ll just call it gross exaggeration.

I mean, I can understand the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts” sort of Gestalt, but I’ve never understood the “whole being three-hundred and sixty-five times greater than one of its parts, which happened to be the only part that I really liked, because I went through an entire Goldilocks simile to arrive at this conclusion” type of unnecessarily grandiose overstatement. Barf.

Look. Based on the review, this is what I could expect if I were to go to a repeat performance of this concert:

1) A concert “studded with star turns.”
2) Lots of “luster.”
3) “A ravishingly gorgeous work that [...] seems impossible to play badly.
4) A “languid opening caress of the piano and cello.”
5) Some “hushed cathedral majesty.”
6) An “anxiously attractive finale.”
7) “The very best kind of Romantic fervor.”
8) “Music [blooming] rapturously.
9) And a memory that “might be enough to keep me going until next summer's festival.”

Really. If these concerts are all so goddamned, unbelievably good—better than multiple orgasms while feasting on chocolate-dipped fried chicken with an I.V. of fifteen year-old Laphroaig—then why haven’t more people caught on by now? Because they’re only concerts, for crying out loud! And if they’re only concerts, then why must the language always, always suggest so much luxuriant and rich other-worldly experiences?

Won’t it always be a disappointment for the reader who then goes to see and hear these pieces/concerts/performers?

Here’s some food for thought:

A shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains.

The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep"; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.

There is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.

Call me skeptical, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the whole “elitist” or “anti-elitist” problem (or call it whatever you want—our culture’s negative perception of classical music) stems from this kind of disproportionate language that’s been floating around for ages. In a time that arguably has been breaking-down hierarchies of all kinds, our description of classical music is dependent upon these very cries of “Wolf!” because that’s all we know. But still, they’re only concerts and it’s only music, after all.



Well, it has been a spell since we checked in with Scott Cantrell of the Dallas Morning News. In a thoughtful article utilizing actual timings, he puts forth a sort of analysis of speeds of performances of the various movements of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. The following is only an excerpt, the rest is here.

For the most part, Mr. van Zweden's pacing is above reproach.

Well hedged. Let's go ahead and assume we're going to reproach it, then.

But I'm not entirely convinced by tempos in the first and forth movements.

Tempos? Tempi? Tempe? Stadiums? Stadia? Latin? English? Oh, who cares.

But two of the four movements, I guess, counts as "the most part". (Obviously the tempi change inter-movement in Mahler, and I am just...well, you know.)

The first is marked "Funeral March: With measured step. Strict. Like a cortege." Mr. van Zweeden, like Leonard Bernstein in his 1963 New York Philharmonic recording, interprets the opening section at between 58 and 60 beats per minute-- around the speed of a clock's second hand.

You...are telling me...that 60 bpm... is "around" the speed of a clock's second hand?



I...you...you don't have to be a conductor, or a musician, or a fifth grader, to know that...there are 60 seconds in a minute.

In other breaking news from Dallas: Rain falls from the sky!

Oh, sorry, one last thing.

But, interestingly, there's a 1905 piano-roll [sic?] recording of Mahler himself [redundant--Ed.] playing the movement--yes, on the piano--and he starts at a considerably brisker 72 beats per minute.

A piano-roll [sic?]...played on...the piano? No freaking way! Hey, did you know that a minute has 60 seconds?


With More Americana

Ever heard of John Antes?

He’s an early American composer—very early. Born in 1740, he was a composer, a watchmaker, inventor, instrument maker, missionary, officer of the Moravian Church and all-around good guy. Believed to be the first native-born composer of chamber music, he was also a world traveler, spending most of his life abroad. He found himself in Egypt, Greece and Germany, before settling in England. It is believed that Franz Joseph Haydn was one of his pals, on the island. He also had a cool nom de plume, “Giovanni A-T-S Dilletante Americano.”

But here’s the thing: John Antes never wrote music in America, always abroad. In fact, he wrote his first chamber music in Egypt. So, the more you know...

Anyway, today I caught Victor Carr Jr., another one of the boys over at ClassicsToday.com, reviewing a disc with one of John Antes’ String Trios—the disc is called: American Voices.

On it you’ll find:

John Antes – Trio in D minor (1780)
George Gershwin – Lullaby (1919)
Samuel Barber – Quartet for Strings (1936)
Ruth Crawford Seeger – String Quartet (1931)
Leonard Bernstein – Clarinet Sonata (1939)
Joan Tower – A Gift (2007)

Here’s what he has to say about the Antes:

Antes was trained in Germany, so his music not surprisingly is in the style of Haydn and Mozart (don't expect any "Yankee Doodle" here), and this trio is a well crafted, tuneful, and satisfying piece.

Okay. That’s pretty positive. The Gershwin:

The program leapfrogs over the 19th century [...] to land at Gershwin's haunting Lullaby for String Quartet, played here with an affecting tenderness.

Trite, but positive. Barber?

Here the power and passion of the music comes through even in its original four-strings version.

And Ruth:

The concert shifts abruptly toward modernism with Ruth Crawford Seeger's String Quartet, a prickly and complex work that lies stylistically at the midpoint between Bartók and Elliott Carter.

Hilarious! “Mozart lies stylistically at the midpoint between Bach and Beethoven.” M’kay. I'm not sure what he's trying to say, there.

Either way, “prickly and complex” are both rather neutral descriptors, neither good nor bad, tempered even.

So how about Lenny?

Seeing Bernstein's name could give the impression of impending tuneful relief from Seeger's gnarly atonality...

I take that back. He’s happy that he might get some relief from the Ruth. His impression of Ruth is, thus, not positive. (that’s fine; it’s an opinion)

...but actually the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano catches Bernstein in his "serious music" mode, and you'd be hard pressed to recognize the composer of West Side Story and Chichester Psalms in this angular but very well constructed music.

Weird, but positive. It seems that precisely what he didn’t like about the Ruth, he was able to ignore in the Lenny.

Whatever. How ‘bout Joan?

Finally, we arrive at the 21st century with Joan Tower's A Gift, for piano, flute, clarinet, bassoon, and horn, written in the composer's usual darkly dramatic style. The brooding of Memories leads to the agitation of A Song, followed by the mournful With Feeling. Though there's nothing remotely toe-tapping about the concluding To Dance With, it does end the work with a stimulating display of nervous energy.

A very positive, two thumbs up. Sounds great.

So what's my problem, today?

Overall, this is a very interesting program, but one that could have been made more lively, and certainly more representative of America, by including one of the many pieces for string quartet by, say, William Grant Still.

Exactly! One would be hard-pressed to call Antes’ music American, since he wrote all of it in the old world. Right? Wrong.

There's a certain trendiness in the selection of the more modern pieces that perhaps shows a lack of imagination.

Huh? It’s trendy to program newer music? As I see it, only one of the pieces was written in the past 70 years, and it got a glowing review. What’s wrong with that? If we’re talking, however, about newer pieces on this disc that didn’t receive a positive review, we can cross-out Lenny, Sam and Georgie.

That leaves us with Ruth, the only negative on the disc. Translation: Ruth Crawford is not representative of America.

Saying that takes some big, fucking balls.


Between the Lines, Some Useless Information

In Monday’s Living Here (?) section of the Sacramento Bee, I was asked a question of the highest philosophical order, a question of such depth that the great Lando Calrissian (respectable administrator of Cloud City) couldn’t answer it, let alone comprehend.

Can you name any of Mozart's worthy peers?

What's that? Can I name any of Mozart’s worthy peers, you say? Well, yes. Yes, I can. There’s...

Johann Gottlieb Graun (1702–1771)
Johann Ernst Eberlin (1702–1762)
Gioseffo Hectore Fiocco (1703–1741)
Georg Andreas Sorge (1703–1778)
Karl Heinrich Graun (1704–1759)
Jose Antonio Carlos de Seixas (1704–1742)
Frantisek Antonin Ignac Tuma (1704–1774)
Nicholas Chédeville (1705–1782)
Giovanni Gualberto Brunetti (1706–1787)
Giovanni Battista Martini (1706–1784)
Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785)
Pietro Domenico Paradisi|Paradies (1707–1791)
Michel Corrette (1707–1795)
Georg Czarth (1708–1774)
Pasquale Cafaro (1708–1787)
Egidio Romualdo Duni (1708–1775)
Johann Adolf Scheibe (1708–1776)
Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708–1763)
Christoph Schaffrath (1709–1763)
Paolo Salulini (1709–1780)
Charles Avison (1709–1770)
Franz (Frantisek) Benda (1709–1786)
Franz Xaver Richter (1709–1789)
Jean-Noel Hamal (1709–1778)
Domenico Alberti (1710–1746)
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710–1736)
Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778)
Joseph Marie Clément Abaco|dall’Abaco (1710–1805)
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710–1784)
Domènec Terradellas (1711–1751)
William Boyce (1711–1779)
Ignaz Holzbauer (1711–1783)
Jean-Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville (1711–1772)
John Hebden (1712–1765)
Sayat Nova (1712–1795)
John Stanley (1712–1786)
Friedrich II der Grosse (the Great) (1712–1786)
Jan Benda (1713–1752)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713–1780)
Pedro António Avondano (1714–1782)
Gottfried August Homilius (1714–1785)
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788)
Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714–1787)
Nicoló Jommelli (1714–1774)
Jacques Duphly (1715–1789)
Georg Christoph Wagenseil (1715–1777)
James Nares (1715–1783)
Girolamo Abos (1715–1760)
Mathias Georg Monn|Man (1717–1750)
Jan Václav (Johann) Stamitz|Stamic (1717–1757)
Jean-Baptiste Quentin (1718–1750)
Leopold August Abel (1718–1794)
Ferdinand Zellbell (der Jüngere) (1719–1780)
Leopold Mozart (1719–1787)
Domenico Porretti (1720–1783)
Johan Nicolaas Lentz (1720–1782)
Johann Schobert (1720–1767)
Posh Spice (1720-1767)
Wolf Blitzer (1720-1788)
Just Checking to See If (1720-1769)
If You’re Still Reading (1720-1800)
Johann Friedrich Agricola (1720–1774)
Maria Teresa Agnesi Pinottini (1720–1795)
Carlo Antonio Campioni (1720–1788)
Pieter Hellendaal (1721–1799)
Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721–1783)
Johann Ernst Bach (1722–1777)
Pietro Nardini (1722–1793)
Nardini Is My Favorite Name (1722-1788)
Schobert is My Second Favorite (1722-1777)
Jiři Antonin Benda (1722–1795)
Christian Ernst Graaf|Graf (1723–1804)
Anna Amalia von Preußen (1723–1787)
Karl Friedrich Abel (1723–1787)
Maria Antonia Walpurga|Walpurgis (1724–1780)
Ignaz (Ignace) Vitzthumb (1724–1816)
Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724–1808)
Gioseffo Ferdinando Bertoni (1725–1813)
François-André Philidor (1725–1795)
Johann George Tromlitz (1725–1805)
Charles Burney (1726–1814)
Henri Hardouin (1727–1808)
Johann Wilhelm Hertel (1727–1789)
Claude-Benigne Balbastre (1727–1799)
Armand-Louis Couperin (1727–1789)
Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727–1756)
Tommaso Traetta (1727–1779)
Pasquale Anfossi (1727–1797)
Nicoló Piccinni (1728–1800)
Johann Gottfried Müthel (1728–1788)
Franz Xaver Pokorny (1728–1794)
Johann Adam Hiller (1728–1804)
And Now a Wonderfully Musical Name (1728-1791)
Pellegrino Tomeoni (1729–1816)
Florian Leopold Gaßmann (1729–1774)
Anton Cajetan Adlgasser (1729–1777)
Pieter van Maldere (1729–1768)
Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (1729–1817)
Giuseppe Sarti (1729–1802)
Padre Antonio Soler (1729–1783)
And Now a Not So Musical Name (1729-1789)
Leontzi Honauer (1730–1790)
Antonio Maria Gaspare Sacchini (1730–1786)
Capel Bond (1730–1790)
For All Your Bail Bond Needs (1731-1797)
Gaetano Pugnani (1731–1798)
Frantisek Xaver Dušek (1731–1799)
(Johann) Christian Cannabich (1731–1798)
Johann Christian Kittel (1732–1809)
František (Franz) Xaver Brixi (1732–1771)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732–1795)
Thomas Linley (the elder) (1733–1795)
Anton Filtz|Fils|Filts (1733–1760)
Benjamin Cooke (1734–1793)
Luka Sorkočević (1734–1789)
François-Joseph Gossec (1734–1829)
Franz Ignaz Beck (1734–1809)
Johann Ernst Altenburg (1734–1801)
Giovanni Mane Giornovichi|Ivan Jarnovick (1735–1804)
Johann Gottfried Eckard (1735–1809)
Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782)
Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736–1809)
Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch (1736–1800)
Jean-François Tapray (1737–1819)
Josef Myslivecek (1737–1781)
Michael Haydn (1737–1806)
Constantin Reindl (1738–1799)
Leopold Hofmann (1738–1793)
Jan Evangelista Antonin Kozeluh (1738–1814)
Johann Baptist Vanhal (1739–1813)
Friedrich Wilhelm Rust (1739–1796)
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739–1799)
Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816)
Henri-Joseph Riegel|Rigel (1741–1799)
André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741–1813)
Johann André (1741–1799)
Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741–1801)
Vaclav (Wenzel) Pichl (1741–1805)
Jerónimo Francisco Lima (1741–1822)
Anton Zimmermann (1741–1781)
(father) Roman(us) Hoffstetter|Hofstetter (1742–1815)
Luigi Boccherini (1743–1805)
Francesco Petrini (1744–1819)
There’s a Lot of Names (1744-1823)
I Know (1744-1801)
But I Don’t Want You To Miss Any (1744-1818)
Because They All Wrote Good Music (1744-1798)
João Pedro de Almeida Mota (1744–1817)
But Really I Bet Mr. Ortiz’s Question (1744-1210)
Is Only Hypophora (1744-1789)
A Stupid Rhetorical Device (1744-1806)
That Gets Things Moving (1744-1801)
By Asking a Question (1744-1779)
Either Way It’s (1744-1790)
Pretty Lame If You Ask Me (1744-1822)
Marianne Anna Martinez (1744–1812)
Besides What Possible Relevance Could (1745-1830)
This Have In Any Discussion (1745-1811)
Concerning a New Disc Of A (1745-1823)
Lesser Known Composer (1745-1808)
That’s What the Review’s About (1745-1789)
By the Way (1745-1803)
Georg (Jiři) Druschetzky|Druzecky (1745–1819)
Jan Václav Knéžek (1745–1806)
João de Sousa Carvalho (1745–1798)
Johann Baptist Krumpholz (1745–1790)
Carl Stamitz (1745–1801)
Giuseppe Giordani (1745–1798)
Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799)
Ivan Evstaf’evich Khandoshkin (1746–1804)
James Hook (1746–1827)
Argh! Shiver Me Timbers and Such (1746-1821)
William Billings (1746–1800)
(Louis) Joseph (Marie) Quesnel (1746–1809)
Johann Wilhelm Hässler (1747–1822)
Johann Abraham Peter Schulz (1747–1800)
Leopold Kozeluh (1747–1818)
Theodor Freiherr von Schacht (1748–1823)
Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748–1798)
Francesco Azopardi (1748–1809)
Jean-Frédéric (Johan-Fredreric) Edelmann (1749–1794)
Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801)
Antonio Rosetti|Rossetti|Rősler|Rössler|Rosety (1750–1792)
Names Used Under the Witness Protection Program (1750-1820)
Jean-Balthasar Tricklir (1750–1813)
Daniel Gottlob Türk (1750–1813)
Antonio Salieri (1750–1825)
Why Does It Seem Like (1750-1831)
Every Time Salieri Is Mentioned (1750-1811)
It’s Always In Reference To (1750-1795)
That Movie About Mozart? (1750-1808)
Hasn’t Anyone Ever Heard His Music (1750-1749)
It’s Quite Good (1750-1820)
Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel (1750–1817)
Dmitri Stepanovich Bortniansky (1752–1825)
José Maurício (1752–1815)
Muzio Clementi (1752–1832)
Nicola Antonio Zingarelli (1752–1837)
Ludwig August Lebrun (1752–1790)
Justin Heinrich Knecht|Knechtl (1752–1817)
Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752–1814)
Pedro Étienne Solère (1753–1817)
Nicolas-Marie Dalayrac (1753–1809)
Jean-Baptiste Bréval (1753–1823)
Johann Baptist Schenk (1753–1836)
Michel Yost (1754–1786)
Vicente Martín y Soler (1754–1806)
Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754–1812)
Mateo Pérez de Albéniz (1755–1831)
Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755–1824)
Federigo Fiorillo (1755–1823)
Antonio Capuzzi (1755–1818)
I Know Him (1755-1812)
He Owns a Pizzeria (1755-1810)
In Queens and Has Been Known (1755-1829)
To Associate With a Certain (1755-1804)
Fast Eddie (1755-1817)
Christian Kalkbrenner (1755–1806)
Johann Christoph Vogel (1756–1788)
Thomas Linley (the younger) (1756–1778)
Joseph Martin Kraus (1756–1792)
Pavel (Paul) Vranický|Wranitzky (1756–1808)
Alessandro Rolla (1757–1841)
Ignaz Josef Pleyel (1757–1831)
António Leal Moreira (1758–1819)
Karl Friedrich Zelter (1758–1832)
François Devienne (1759–1803)
Jacques(-Christian-Michel) Widerkehr (1759–1823)
Franz Vinzenz Krommer|Křamer (1759–1831)
Franz Christoph Neubauer (1760–1795)
Nicolas Rozé (1760–1823)
For A Good Time Call Joshua Kosman (510-555-5555)
Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg (1760–1802)
Jan Ladislav Dušek|Dussek|Dusík (1760–1812)
Jean-François Le Sueur|Lesueur (1760–1837)
Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842)
Evstigney Ipatovich Fomin (1761–1800)
Johann Christian Ludwig Abeille (1761–1838)
Antonín (Anton) Vranický|Wranitzky (1761–1820)
Feliks Janiewicz (1762–1848)
Marcos Antonio Portugal (1762–1830)
Franz Wilhelm Tausch (1762–1817)
Adalbert (Vojtech) Gyrowetz|Jirovec (1763–1850)
Franz Danzi (1763–1826)
Étienne-Nicolas Méhul (1763–1817)
Anton Eberl (1765–1807)
Jan Jakub Ryba (1765–1815)
John Addison (1766–1844)
Samuel Wesley (1766–1837)
Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766–1831)
Seriously Though ((1766-1812)
This Opening Question Begs Another (1766-1820)
How Many Composers Can Edward Name? (1767-1819)
If He Can't Come Up With (1767-1831)
Joseph Haydn You Know (1767-1840)
Off the Top of His Head (1767-1822)
In Like Two Seconds...? (1767-1841)
José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767–1830)
I Mean I Could Have Named (1767-1855)
A Couple Dozen of These Guys (1767-1841)
But Then Again, I'm Supposed to (1767-1810)
Know More Than the Average Person Right? (1767-1847)
Andreas Jakob Romberg (1767–1821)
Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Schwencke (1767–1822)
Bernhard Heinrich Romberg (1767–1841)
Johann Georg Heinrich Back(h)ofen (1768–1839)
Carolus Antonius (Antoine) Fodor (1768–1846)
Louis-Emmanuel Jadin (1768–1853)
(Jean Baptiste) Edouard Du Puy (1770–1822)
João José Baldi (1770–1816)
Ferdinando Carulli (1770–1841)
Johann Christian Heinrich Rinck (1770–1846)
Anton Reicha (1770–1836)
Max Keller (1770–1855)
Friedrich Witt (1770–1836)
Peter Hansel (1770–1831)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

...to name a few.

So, those were some of Mozart’s near-contemporaries and worthy peers. Pray tell, then, why would you like to know, Mr. Ortiz, sir?

For most, the only name that comes to mind is composer Antonio Salieri.

Aw shit. I knew it.

And this is only because of Salieri's appearance as a major character in the Oscar-winning film "Amadeus."

I wish that movie was never made.

Um, Haydn, perhaps? No. He’s not a composer that comes to mind as a worthy peer of Mozart’s? To you, Ed, maybe.

But talent was not scarce in Mozart's time.

You think? Good work.


Obscure Music Reviewed!

Apparently there was once a composer named Beethoven. Apparently he wrote some pretty good music! Apparently no one knows this. Let’s check in with Jeanne Claire Van Ryzin of the Austin American Statesman!

Beethoven’s Ninth a joy to hear

Shouts of "bravo" and a rousing standing ovation topped off Austin Symphony Orchestra's presentation of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 Friday night at the Long Center, the first of two sold-out concerts the orchestra performed over the weekend.

What an amazingly progressive choice of programming. Avant-garde, even.

True, orchestra music director Peter Bay and the orchestra might have made their official Long Center debut in April, but Friday's concert had the festive feel of a true premiere.

I hate those fake premieres. I mean premières. Wait, what?

Bay started the evening with a pleasant playing of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony — a short, melodic happy symphony.

I think you missed a comma, there. (Or maybe a hyphen? Melodic-happy?) But, whatever. Because most symphonies aren’t melodic at all!

The drama was delivered after intermission when Bay and company attacked the Ninth.

I’m sure everyone there was fidgeting through the 8th, all like, “Goddammit! When is the drama going to be delivered?!”

Much is required of an orchestra and chorus to shape Beethoven's intense last symphony. And it started with verve and emotion, with Bay clearly


extracting rich color from the orchestra

Clearly extracting...color?

— a considerable effort given the stormy first movement and the brisk, forceful and energetic second movement.

Um. What piece is this again? Oh, Beethoven’s 9th? Oh, okay. I think I’ve heard that once or twice.

Bay and the musicians are still clearly


experimenting with the subtle of acoustics

The “subtle of acoustics”? Really?

of the Long Center's Dell Hall. Beethoven's sweeping Ninth Symphony proved a test.

What test did it prove?

There's still some tweaking needed, evidenced in the third movement where the direction of the orchestra sounded unresolved in its focus.

The direction...was unresolved...in its focus? What? What does that even mean?

But the orchestra pulled it together for the final movement, when a 175-member choir, under the direction of Kenny Sheppard, assembled to sing what's become commonly known as the "Ode to Joy" chorus.

Oh, that Beethoven’s 9th! The one with the “Ode to Joy”? Now it all makes sense. Thanks.



Ah, New York City, where you can go to contemporary music concerts on…barges?

Floating, Personalizing, and Performing

Everyone knows about the three B’s of classical music: Bach,
Beethoven and Brahms.

Here is a list of classical composers whose last names start with “B”. But that’s not the point. Chiding a well-known pithy truism is the point, Well, actually, that’s not the point either.

The pianist David Holzman, speaking from the Bargemusic stage before his recital on Friday night, introduced a new wrinkle with three A’s: austere, abstract and academic.

Oh, here we go again with the modernist-hating again. Wait, I thought Mr. Holzman was a specialist in the contemporary piano repertory?

Mr. Holzman, a specialist in the contemporary piano repertory and a congenial commentator, brought up those qualities to debunk them.

Ah, pity poor Sator Arepo; his straw man has been set up and knocked down before he could even get there. Well played, Steve Smith of the New York Times.

True, his program was chock full of challenging works by some of the 20th century’s more formidable musical thinkers, including Roger Sessions, Ralph Shapey, Stefan Wolpe and the now ubiquitous Elliott Carter. But Mr. Holzman’s intent was to humanize these figures and to provide an entry point for comprehending their music.

Awesome. Slightly subjective, perhaps, but awesome.

The first half of the program was largely devoted to works by Sessions and Shapey, whose music is also paired on the Holzman CD issued in December by Bridge. He spoke of Sessions’s patrician upbringing and personal melancholy and of Shapey’s rebellious contempt for polite society.

Ah, Shapey, the consummate curmudgeon. And..?

The music supported his comments. Sessions’s lean, muscular Piano Sonata No. 1, a Neo-Classical work from 1930, was tonal and even jazzy at times. But its melodies were usually limited to solitary lines with little counterpoint: a sign of isolation, Mr. Holzman said. In Shapey’s “Mutations” (1956) and “Mutations II” (1966), flinty, atonal kernels were objects of cool, obsessive scrutiny from varying angles.

First: “flinty”?

Second: This is a great way to (at least) give listeners who are perhaps [read: probably] unfamiliar with the rep to get some leg up on a way to try to understand the music.

In his comments Mr. Holzman also made a connection between Sessions’s piece and Mr. Carter’s Piano Sonata (1946), which opened the second half of the program. Mr. Carter considers Sessions to have been a major influence. But in place of his mentor’s melancholy, Mr. Carter offers an exuberant optimism, maybe even a cocky flexing of newly honed muscles. Mr. Holzman’s account was not spotless. But a few missed notes during the work’s most agitated passages were a small price to pay for playing so full of blood, steel and unshakable conviction.

Again, a noble pursuit. Sorry so little snark. I really liked the article and the concept. Last but not least:

In Pozzi Escot’s Sonatina No. 5 (“For Hobie,” 2006), serene bell tones alternated with manic outbursts of Ivesian cacophony.

Yay! Pozzi Escot!


[Edit] This post, in fact, was composed by Sator Arepo (if you couldn't tell already), which may account for the unfamiliarity with barge music. See: Alvin Curran.]

This is Dirty

Even if Jesus was the visiting soloist, I don’t think he would have received a more “glowing” (wink, wink) review. I mean, it’s only a fucking concert, for Simon Morely and David Friend’s sakes!

Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman, who makes his home in Chicago, almost pleads with you to watch him.

Let me guess, he takes off an item of clothing after each phrase. No. No. That would be more like a dare.

During extended measures of rest, he sways with eyes closed to the orchestra as he ponders re-entry.

I was close. And the rest of you should get your minds out of the gutter.

When he arrives at a fermata, he bends back like Jimmy Page holding out a pulsating sustain on a Telecaster.

Envious, anyone? (Empiricus, get your mind out of the gutter.)

(Not a Telecaster. Photo by Richard E. Aaron/rockpix.com)

[He] attacked the challenging concerto not from the standpoint of a virtuoso but of a probing artist.

Ah. Artists probe, virtuosos...play their instruments well. Why do I feel like I’m watching a scrambled TV channel?

I know! Because imagery is a bitch and, when done poorly, I can read it like this.

Coming soon: Artists who quote this stuff on their resumes, then probe like Jimmy Page after pondering re-entry.


We Know You. You Love Music. You also Love to Buy Shit

You’ll probably never see my comments on a newspaper’s website, attached to an article. Primarily, it’s because I like cussing. But also, if you can make your way here, we can discuss the topic ad nauseam. Ah, the virtues of blogging! So I’d like to take this opportunity to comment on, rather than destroy, an article by Philadelphia Inquirer’s Peter Dorbin.

I stumbled on this a few days ago:

Orchestra marketing membership flexibility

In it, Peter outlines a new marketing plan offered by the Philadelphia Orchestra to increase ticket sales. Go figure. Here’s the problem:

In the 1987-88 season, 83 percent of the Philadelphia Orchestra's listeners were subscribers.

Last season the number dropped to 62 percent.

Single-ticket sales have increased at the same time, somewhat. But the reason this trend spells trouble is that ha
ving buyers who commit to six, nine or 12 concerts at a time is extremely cost-efficient.

To sell $300 in seats to a single-ticket buyer, the orchestra spends about $75 in marketing, advertising, postage, printing and other expenses.

Netting a new subscriber who spends $300 for tickets costs the orchestra $90.

But getting a current subscriber to renew shows why the orchestra clings to the subscriber model. Renewals are really cheap, costing the orchestra about $18 to $27.

Fuck. The question is, then, what do they do about it?

The new program is called eZseat. Once you're a member, you can buy a ticket at a 25 percent discount at almost any time - from an hour before a concert to nine months before curtain.

Okay. So its like all those little candies and razors strategically placed at the checkout register of your grocery store: you know, impulse buys. Only, you have to pay a little in advance for the opportunity to buy them at a discount.

Different membership levels carry different benefits. A $50 annual membership allows access to orchestra-level seats in Verizon Hall; $75 for both first-tier box and orchestra-level seats.

Now it’s time for an arithmetic lesson! Yeah!

Okay, it’s nearly impossible to find the prices for single tickets on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s website, so, after some rummaging around, I found their subscription brochure (PDF). There I was told that 1) They Know I Love Music and 2) for premium seats—1st tier and orchestra level tickets—a subscription would save me $77.75 per ticket. Then I picked out a nice subscription package, the six-concert Masterworks series, which would cost $466.50. Add $77.75 per concert and that's the price of all six concerts if I wanted to buy them individually: $933! Yuck. Divide by six and viola! Single concert tickets without a subscription discount would cost me $155.50 each. So, by buying the subscription I’d save 50% = $77.75 per subscription ticket after a $77.75 discount!

Back over at eZseat, I’d spend $75 for the opportunity to buy premium seats at any time at a discount of 25% off the price of individual ticket prices. So, if individual ticket prices are $155.50, I’d save $38.88 (roughly) per ticket. Thus, each ticket under the eZseat discount would cost me $116.62.


This means that I’d have to buy tickets to two concerts (roughly) to pay for my eZseat subscription: $38.88 x 2 = $77.76.

=> 2 x $116.62 (the discounted eZseat ticket price) + $75 (eZseat subscription price) = $308.24 for two concerts, which is nearly equal to two tickets ($155.50 x 2 = $311) at full, non-subscription price. So, my savings by purchasing eZseat privileges take effect only after I attend two concerts at regular price.

Thus, if I were to purchase tickets to the additional four concerts at the eZseat price, I’d save 25% off those tickets. This comes to $116.62 x 4, which equals $466. 50, the same price as I would have payed for a regular subscription package. Only, instead of six concerts at at half-off, I’m getting two, plus four regular priced tickets; or if you prefer, that's one free ticket for the price of five regular priced tickets!

That means an eZseat "subscription" plus six concerts costs me $308.24 + $466.50 = roughly $755, or an extra $308 over the price of a regular subscription and only $178 cheaper than if I bought the tickets individually.

Not such a hot deal is it?

The eZseat program was crafted in large part by orchestra marketing chief J. Edward Cambron as a response to increasing resistance to the old subscription model.

"We were looking for how to find a new way to get people to go regularly, as if they were subscribers, but not have the problems subscriptions have, because subscriptions are not the future," Cambron said.

This is batshit crazy people. Subscriptions are the better deal. The only cool thing about eZseat is that there is flexibility—you get to chose which concerts you go to.

But between you and me, every concert is the same. And a Tchaik-Tchaik here and a Rach-Rach there. Here a Tchaik. There a Rach. Everywhere an oink-oink. Old MacDonald had a farm...

It seems strange, perhaps, that in a town known for its sports-loserdom, that more people wouldn’t want to go to the symphony, where it’s a win-win every time.

"They want to go when they want to go, and you risk people not going because they either don't feel like they belong or can't get the kind of access to concerts they want. This program gives them a guarantee in a way."

"Surprise, Honey!"

"Wow, thanks. I always wanted diarrhea." (cover by: Ninja Freaks)

But having it your way comes at a higher price. Buyer beware!

Perhaps, the old-school subscription-phobia is not the problem. Commenter Constant Reader adds her/his two cents:

I think that the orchestra is obliquely noting the major problem: the concerts are now just over-supplied commodies [sic]. When the supply of a commodity--whether SUVs, last-season's clothes, or unsold bread--outstrips supply, the easy solution is to cut price to a point where purchase becomes desirable. A more difficult solution would be to remove the stigma of commodity. That comes from either dramatic improvement in the product's perceived value: from scarcity, exceptional quality or both. Put simply, the Philadelphia Orchestra performs far more often than demand in 2008 dictates. The supply far outstrips demand. The concerts are rarely special events, and the customer realizes this. The real response should be to consider reducing the number of concerts, and perhaps the length of orchestra's season. As for the canard about a 52-week season being essential to quality, consider that in the glory days of Stokowski the orchestra performed for a half-year or less.

Mmmmm. Saturated fats. You can have it your way, right away!


Bzzzt! Thanks for Playing

Hypothetical situation:

Imagine that you’re going to a concert. However, you’re not going alone. You’re taking an old friend (I picture Samuel L. Jackson). The thing is, you want to have some fun. You decide that you’re not going to tell your friend where you’re taking him—it’ll be a surprise. So you blindfold him. Even after you arrive and sit down in your seats, the blindfold remains fixed.


...lute music!

McFarlane demonstrated great technical facility on his 18-stringed instrument, and his swift five-finger plucking would have created the illusion of several more musicians onstage...

In other words, your friend with the blindfold would have thought there was more than one musician. That’s how good this guy was.

...were it not for the lute's delicate timbre.

Naturally, without a blindfold, you would have been able to see that there was only one player. Sam L., on the other hand, would have been able to figure it out, because he could hear the timbre was delicate. You know, unlike the crude timbre of three lutes.

Um, yeah. (winces, inhales) I don’t know about that. Maybe I'm terribly nitpicky, but I would have guessed it was an auditory spatial location thing, not an auditory spectra recognition thing. So...

Bzzzt! Thanks for playing.


Phoning It In, But Not Literally

Remember, way back in June, when music critic Ramiro Burr of the San Antonio Express-News was caught, er, accused of using a ghost writer for about one-hundred stories and columns? Well yeah, he was literally phoning it in. Yet, out of the blue, apparently, for no reason, like a rising fog over yesterday’s battlefield, or a translucent typist suddenly appearing from underneath a rotting oak desk, there’s an “urban myth” that says critics write reviews they don’t actually attend. Go figure. This perception exists, sort of, maybe, sometimes, perhaps in urban settings, where there are more people to potentially disagree with their critic.

This negative perception is so prevalent that Portland’s Christopher Hyde feels compelled to dispel the myth.

Letters that disagree with the evaluation of a performance, or detect errors in its description, almost invariably ask the question: Was the reviewer actually there?


Well, yes, I was there, even when I earnestly wished to be somewhere else.























(What? The gag was obligatory, right?)

Okay. Now, while I’ve previously accused critics of phoning it in, I hope I’ve never been taken literally. Usually, I’m just highlighting overused phrases or words which are completely devoid of meaning. Let's make that clear.

However, to say that you sometimes don’t want to be reviewing something you aren’t particularly pleased with is absurd. How can you truly appreciate a fine Brunello di Montalcino without first gagging on some two-buck Chuck? Or Chernowin without Esa-Pekka? I would say there is always something valuable and interesting to be learned from bad performances. A sort of Yin and Yang thing, if not Karma. Besides, it's Portland not Bayreuth, after all.

Anyway, I’m glad you stayed, Chris, otherwise you’d be literally phoning it in, lending credence to the myth you’re trying to dispel. Hooray for ethics!

Oh, and be careful with the concealed weapons thing.


Oh No He Didn't

After a beautifully written piece on Elliott Carter at Tanglewood, Jeremy Eichler of the Boston Globe takes the usual low road by painting Elliott as a difficult, senile centenarian.

When Carter took his bows from the stage, aided only by a cane, he was beaming.

"These pieces of music," he said in a public interview, "if they spoke English instead of notes, they would be very grateful."

I mean, he could have omitted it. Instead, there it is in plain view for everyone to see. Because, as we all know, pieces can’t speak—they’re just black dots, after all. Sheesh.

You should read the article.

And a happy three-hundredth post to us!


[Edit 8/8/8]

I neglected to mention Soho the Dog's awesome eight-part series, Magna Carter, on the same very subject. In fact, it came first. And it's better. Well, it's more in depth and not all "I wrote this for the Globe and I have glasses so it must be good and there are a lot of big words in it. So there." You should check out Magna Carter. Good job Matthew.


Cultured New York

If ever there was an argument to be made for drawing a line between modern music and “classical,” it’s this. Take it away New York!

But that first Webern set [...] drew a smattering of polite applause and a resounding boo.

Good gosh. Music written way back in 1924, which has stuck around for one reason or another (mostly because some think it’s really good), is still being booed, in New York, when it interferes with their precious Mozart. How gauche.

Titles Describe Things

For me, it’s hard to imagine the I Have a Dream speech without King’s charismatic intonation. Just picture one of your favorite celebrities (I’m thinking Samuel L. Jackson) walking up to a podium, staring blankly at a carefully placed cue card. Then he/she begins to read:

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

It just wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t have the same je ne sais quois. And this was Derrida’s point: that speech, directly from the mouth of the thinker, is more immediate and closer to the intended meaning than appropriated speech (e.g. quotations, replications, etc.). Lilt is important, in this sense. But, when speeches are written down, there is no way to inflect the words in the way the author intended or, at least, there is no way of knowing what is the correct inflection. Subtle meanings embedded in timbre, pitch, timing, and accents are obscured when written down.


Case in point:

The world knows violinist Pinchas Zukerman as a colorful musician. But he is a colorful talker, too. Buffalo found that out four years ago when Zukerman appeared on the Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series –a set of five intimate concerts that take place at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

How’s this little anecdote going to play out?

“We picked up Pinchas Zukerman at the airport, and he came off his private jet with his cape swirling,” says Phil Rehard, one of the Tick series’ organizers.

Just for your information, people, this is a cape-free zone. We will not tolerate capes of any kind.

Sorry. Had to get that out of the way. Let’s continue with the anecdote, shall we?

“He kept saying, ‘What the #@($* is this –this church? What the @#$(*&?’”

Holy crapper at a concert, Batman! Pinchas sounds like a total prima donna. “This church will never do; it only has three-hundred seats. I, the famous Zuckerman, require at least one-thousand, you brainless mother ^#*ers!” That’s how I read it, anyway. Is there any other way? He’s painted as a total dick, with a cape.

It’s pretty hard to misinterpret that.

Rehard loved the earthy enthusiasm that Zukerman, who returned to Buffalo later that year to perform for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2004 season-opening gala, exhibited for the Tick series. “He was into it in a big way,” he laughs.


That was how he expressed his enthusiasm? “What the fuck is this-this church? What the fuck?”

If Samuel L. Jackson said it, then maybe.


Guess! That! Piece!

Announcer: From the Detritus Review, here in beautiful sunny Burbank, California, this is (audience shouting) Guess! That! Piece! That’s right folks! It’s once again time for everyone’s favorite musical quiz show, brought to you by Blogger and the San Jose Mercury News, it’s (audience) Guess! That! Piece!

Chuck Dribble: Thanks for joining us again. I think we have a really great show lined up for you tonight. But we have a lot to do, so let’s get going.

Last time, our contestant was unable to correctly identify Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. Let’s see if today’s competitor can do better. Shall we?

Lets welcome our guest to (audience) Guess! That! Piece! Welcome, Empiricus. It says here on my card that you’ve had some previous musical training.

Empiricus: That’s right! In addition to being a professional counterpoint student, I've also been known to whip out the old clawhammer banjo on occasion.

CD: Well, that’s pretty impressive. But I have a feeling that you might run into some trouble with today’s selection. I hope you can put those big brains to use. Are you ready?

E: Ready!

CD: This is how to play: I will give you three phrases or sentences that describe a particular piece of music. All you have to do is (audience) Guess! That! Piece! The sooner you can identify the piece, the better the prize. Do you understand?

E: I do.

CD: Then, let’s begin to (audience) Guess! That! Piece!

Clue One:

...it's regal and reflective, but not overly so.

E: You’re right, Chuck. This one seems pretty hard. But, I have to say that, given the two adjectives, I might be able to narrow it down. “Regal and reflective,” to me, suggests something that is perhaps austere. So given my giant wealth of knowledge, I think that this phrase might describe...a minuet. A classical-period minuet, maybe. Unfortunately, I can’t guess the piece, just yet. I think I need some more information.

CD: Very good reasoning, Empiricus. Your brain indeed seems to be working. Since you couldn’t identify the piece after the first clue, let’s see if you can get closer with the next one...

...after this commercial break.


CD: We’re back! And today’s contestant, Empiricus, is about receive the second of three clues. After the first, he wasn’t able to identify the piece but thought it might be a minuet. Let’s see if he can get closer with the second clue and (audience) Guess! That! Piece!

Okay, Empiricus. The first clue was tricky, but you were able to get some information out of it. That’s encouraging. Are you ready for the second clue?

E: I sure am, Chuck.

CD: Here you go. Good luck.

Number Two:

You can imagine it being played as backdrop to libations in a Viennese beer garden.

E: Hmmm, Chuck. From what I remember of Viennese beer gardens, there wasn’t any classical music. But then again, I wasn’t listening to much of anything anyway, if you get my drift.

(audience laughs)

So, you see, it doesn’t follow that the Viennese beer gardens are regal and reflective. But then again, if the sentence is just an image, as I suspect it is, I’d guess that it revealed the location and disposition of the composer. So...well...

CD: I’m going to need an answer.

E: As I see it, the answer could be any minuet by any composer from or associated with Vienna. They all liked their beer. So, Chuck, I really don’t know.

CD: Any guesses?

E: Uh...Haydn, Symphony No. 27.

CD: Sorry, Empiricus, that is wrong. It is not Haydn’s Symphony No. 27. But you still have one more clue to go. And if you get it correct, you can still win a lovely prize...

...after these messages.


CD: Hello again. Thanks for rejoining us. Well, we’ve come to the most critical juncture on Guess! That! Piece! Today’s contestant, Empiricus, will be given one final clue. If he is able to guess the piece, he will win a nifty prize. If he is unable to guess the piece, he will go home empty-handed.

Are you ready, Empiricus?

E: I’m getting closer, so one more clue ought to do the trick. I’m definitely ready, Chuck.

CD: Good luck. You’ll have two minutes to answer after I give this clue.

Number Three:

Best was the sixth movement, in which the ensemble set up a slow, droning flutter-coo, with [the oboist], a sensational player, soaring overhead with butterfly wings.

E: Wow, Chuck. That’s a mouthful... Okay. There are some new things that are very important. And they might be of some help to me.

The piece has at least six movements, which is an ideal setting in which to find a minuet. Perhaps it’s part of a suite or a partita. So that’s good. I’ll stick with that. Now, I’ve never come across something that could be described as a “slow, droning flutter-coo” before. I mean, “droning” and “flutter” don’t work, do they? Can something drone and flutter-coo at the same time? I don’t even know what flutter-coo is. It’s probably a poetic reference, or something.

Huh. Suite or partita by a Viennese composer who liked beer... You know, Chuck, it would be really helpful to know the whole instrumentation. All I have is one oboist. And since there are few, if any, pieces that are scored for solo oboe, by a classical Viennese composer, the piece must surely have more instruments. Perhaps a wind quintet. Ooh! Maybe a serenade or a divertimento. An opera? Well...I’m thinking Mozart, Chuck.

CD: Think it over a little more, Empiricus. You’ve got less than a minute left.

E: Mozart what? That’s the question. ‘Cause, I remember that Mozart wrote about 104 pieces called “minuet,” and that doesn’t include those inserted into symphonies and sonatas and such. I’m at a loss, Chuck. This is incredibly difficult.

CD: I need an answer.

E: Mozart’s...wind ensemble...

CD: Can you be more specific?

E: Oh. Uh...winds, winds...they’re often B-flat instruments. How about B-flat, Chuck?

CD: I need a title.

E: Um..um...how about Divertimenti? Mozart’s Divertimenti for winds in B-flat.

CD: Is that your answer?

E: Sure, Chuck.

CD: You are...

...going to have to wait for the answer after this short break.


CD: And...we’re back. Moment of truth, Empiricus. You answered Mozart’s Divertimenti for winds in B-flat. Is that right?

E: Yes, I suppose.

CD: Well, Empiricus. Your answer is...


Knock, knock.

E: Who’s there?

CD: A serenade.

E: A serenade who?

CD: A serenade is the correct answer. In fact it’s Mozart’s Grand Partita, also known as the Serenade in B-flat, K.361. Although you didn’t win, Empiricus, good job Richard Scheinin! The description was apt.

Well, that’s all the time we have today at (audience) Guess! That! Piece! Please be sure to join us next time, when another contestant gets an opportunity to win some nifty prizes at (audience) Guess! That! Piece! Goodnight.


(husband turns off TV)

Husband: That wasn’t a very funny episode.

Wife: That’s because it was a compliment.

H: Oh. (pauses) Those boys over at the Detritus Review are...peculiar.


Composer of the Day!

Today’s Composer of the Day is Ollie Wilson.

(b. 1951)

Ollie Wilson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He did not travel far for his higher education, attending Springfield College (home of the Basketball Hall of Fame). There he played wide receiver for the Springfield footballers, graduating in 1973. He later went on to coach in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. Most notably, he was the running back coach for the San Diego Chargers from 1997-2001, where he tutored a young LaDainian Tomlinson, who went on to break numerous team records as a rookie. In late January, Ollie was reinstated as the running back coach for the Chargers, where he can be found today. (photo from Ghetty Images)

Lately though, mostly here at the Detritus Review, Ollie has been the center of some controversy. In the wake of the Cleveland Orchestra’s push to program more new music, American composers, like Ollie, seem to have been snubbed. Don Rosenberg notes:

Orchestras have a duty to perform music by composers of many nations and styles. An American orchestra should pay more than passing attention to its own country's composers, including such established and rising figures as William Bolcom, John Harbison, Nico Muhly and Ollie Wilson.

While Ollie continues to coach the Chargers, his music...


Aww fuck! (sigh) Way to go Rosenberg. Pfft. Thanks for your eagle-eyes, anonymous.


Today’s Composer of the Day is actually Olly Wilson!

(b. 1937)

Olly Wilson is a composer, not a football coach. And he was not born in Massachusetts, but in St. Louis, Missouri.

More than just a composer, Olly is a double bassist, pianist and musicologist. He has a wealth of experience as a jazz and orchestral musician. He has also worked extensively with electronic media. Notably, as a musicologist, he spent time in West Africa studying indigenous music culminating in a number of published articles about African and African American music.

He has received degrees in music from Washington University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Iowa, where he studied with Robert Kelley, Robert Wykes and Philip Bezanson. He taught at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1965-1970. But, he mainly taught at U.C. Berkeley from 1970-2002, where he is now professor emeritus.

His music has been played around the world, commissioned by such prominent ensembles as the N.Y. Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He’s garnered numerous awards and distinctions, including being elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard his music and there isn’t much on the interwebs to help out in this department. But from all accounts, his music is extraordinary. No doubt, his music is influenced by his work with jazz, African, African American and European musics. Last year, Joshua Kosman interviewed the recently retired:

Q: What is involved for you in negotiating between these different musical traditions?

A: It reflects the idea that W.E.B. Dubois wrote about in 1902, of "double consciousness." He suggested that African Americans have a consciousness of the broader world of which they're part and also of the inner world of African American life, and one is constantly moving through those worlds. They're not warring, they're integrated, but it's complicated by official racism that exists in the society.

Now, if you're studying music seriously, you're essentially studying European music. That has changed somewhat in the last 30 or 40 years -- we're aware now of a wider world out there -- but the first learned tradition is still a European one. And if you're involved in a musical tradition with its roots in a different ethnicity, then you're dealing back and forth. You have to know who and where you are at all times.

Even though I haven’t heard his music, I whole-heartedly advocate it. You should definitely seek out and listen to his music. And if you’re the Cleveland Orchestra, you should program his music. And if you’re from the Cleveland Pain Dealer, you should correctly spell his name.