4/16/09

Your Iatrophobia Is Showing

Subtle is thy hand, for a serialist shall’nt love receive. Amidst a tasteful amount of gushing over some waltz by Strauss Junior and a Bruckner symphony, this:

[Berg’s Violin Concerto] explores the variety of emotion available to 12-tone compositions...

Subtle, indeed. Did you catch Tennessean critic Jonathan Neufeld’s slight jab, suggesting that there’s a limitation to the variety of emotion inherent in the 12-tone technique?

While it is not conclusive that the above is anti-serialist, there’s this one, which refers to the Laura Turner Hall’s fantastic acoustics for Bruckner’s music:

The same could not be said of the intensely expressive but intricately detailed Berg Violin Concerto. [italics mine]

Expressive BUT intricately detailed? Not sure what Jonathan’s going for—we’ve seen over and over serial music panned for its complexities. So it makes sense to think that Jonathan is implicating Berg’s intricate details as the main culprit, derailing what was otherwise a perfect acoustic display.

On the other hand, a wet hall might not be the perfect condition for the concerto. In my experience, this hasn’t been a problem. So I’ll leave that one in the air.

However, this might prove conclusive:

Berg's orchestration conspired to keep violinist James Ehnes from being heard as clearly as he might have been in a drier, more clinical, hall.

Oh, I get it! So, the orchestration ruined the performance.

See, it couldn’t have been the performer:

Nevertheless, he drew a pure, sweet and full tone, especially in the upper registers, that was a genuine pleasure to hear.

It couldn’t have been the new hall’s acoustics—Bruckner shines there:

Bruckner's huge sonorities and broad-brush Wagnerian drama, along with exposed but clear and full-voiced wind ensembles, come off extremely well in the richly toned Laura Turner Concert Hall.

So it must have been Berg’s orchestration, which requires a drier (don’t forget, serialism is erroneously synonymous with dry), more clinical hall (read: a sterilized operating room), because, as we all know, serialism is emotionally unavailable even if it is intensely expressive.

Like dermatological surgeons.














Graph 1. A place for skin graphs and serialism
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3 comments:

Sator Arepo said...

Any post that makes me look a word up is a good post. Nice find. Serialism sure does suck! (It sucks so hard... [how hard sucks it?] ...it sucks so hard that Blogger doesn't even think it's a word!

mike said...

this is a rather poor critique of what i consider a decent review, but i'll address your criticisms in order.
--his claim is 1, that there is a variety of emotion available to 12-tone technique and 2, that this piece explores this variety. to state that this variety of emotion entails an ontological limit of possibilities of emotion may or may not be true, but to interpret it as a snide jab is silly and simply projects your own bias.
--his intention in "intensively expressive BUT intricately detailed" is quite clear to me. hes comparing it to Bruckner 7, which is NOT intricately detailed. thus, a wet hall is not ideal for the Berg. to imply, as you do, that this is some sort of back-handed critique of serialism is incoherent.
--if you read what he writes, that berg's orchestration "conspired" to keep the violinist from being heard, you'll see that your conclusion that it couldnt have been the performer does not follow. a conspiracy involves more than one person, and the tacit implication is that someone else (the performer) was in on it. i.e. are not mutually exclusive, as you claim they are.
--your comment regarding his compliment of Ehnes' tone is simply incoherent. a hall can "only" sound good for bruckner??
--his last comment could be read as a criticism of a hall that only accomodates huge, Wagner-esque brush strokes and washes over pieces of more intricate detail (like Berg).
so to interpret this whole review as some sort of coded attack on serialism is absurd. more absurd, perhaps, is the eagerness in your overall project to tear sentences from their context and still find ways to misappropriate them through logical errors, simple mis-readings, and the projection of strange biases. perhaps you should publish one of your own reviews some day, so we can be graced with the unmatched critical accuity of your ear.

cereal_music said...

Welcome to the review, Mike!

I agree monthy original reviews by the detrituses would be a nice (and needed) addition to this blog.