In Which I Am Clearly Being Baited

It is, really, unthinkable that this could be anything other than a blatant attempt to lure the ol' Detritus Review out of the garage and out for a spin.

Poorly conceived and, however implausibly, perhaps even more badly executed; fact-free and full of ignorant, knee-jerk platitudes about music; written without recourse to copy, style, or content editors?  Clearly a ploy.  There is no way the good people at the San Francisco Examiner; no...wait, who?

Examiner.com launched in April 2008, to provide freelancers across the United States with a platform to share their knowledge and expertise through informative and entertaining content.

Huh.  Well, there's no way that could go wrong.

We have an in-house editorial team that provides guidance and mentorship to the contributors.

Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence.

Our network has grown to over 100,000 contributors, captivating our audience with interesting, entertaining, relevant content on a variety of topics

Sounds like a low-paid freelance crap mill.  I should know; I used to be an editor for one.  Who, one wonders, is behind this paragon of prose generation?

Examiner.com is wholly owned by The Anschutz Corporation, one of the largest sports and entertainment companies in the world

Gosh, I sure hope someone there has opinions about music.

Turns out I'm...no, no.  We're all in luck,

One last plea for classical music
Peter Adams, examiner.com, August 13, 2012

Composers of atonal music haven’t harmed classical music. They have killed it.

Yawn.  I don't like apples, but I don't go around saying "apples have killed fruit."  I suspect that this is because I am not an idiot.

They insisted that the audience was not important, couldn't understand it, or just did not matter.

They did? I mean, this could be referring to the famous article by Babbitt, but it seems more likely that it's just a broad, sweeping generalization.

This was the height of arrogance.

Not like writing freelance articles addressing topics about which you are woefully ignorant!

Even Schoenberg who basically invented atonal music did not much care for it and publicly wondered more than a few times why anyone would want to listen to it.

This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen, and I saw Battleship.

Figure 1: Possibly worse than Transformers.

Also, your prose literally makes me sad.  Also, I am one of the arrogant assholes that likes Schoenberg, and I think I've read just about everything he wrote that's available in English, and I challenge you to back up your assertion with, you know, facts.

Today, has any set of recordings sold as poorly as the complete collection of Schoenberg’s atonal piano music?

This is just raw speculation. It might even be libel. And it's certainly fucking stupid; why would you equate sales with quality?

Figure 2: Far better than that fucktard Schoenberg.

This article is Sarah Palin showing up to a speaking engagement with a Big Gulp, except it's not clear to whom this red meat is being proffered.  Ha ha stupid libtards with your atonal music!

As a teacher in Southern California, he told students in his composition classes that the best way to make a living as a composer was to write jingles and music for advertisements.

This, of course, is no longer true, as movies and television are now much more lucrative avenues.  But that was never the point, was it?

He taught students to write atonal music, but then said don’t do it.

Most of his students, actually, studied traditional counterpoint, harmony, form, and so forth.  And, again, there's not even an ancillary quote to back up this nonsense.  And, yet again, this "mentored" prose is about the same quality as a third-rate quarterback's out routes.

Figure 3: I hate your writing this much.
Too few listened, and audiences are now stuck listening to the same old hash of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and occasionally, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and perhaps when a conductor is feeling adventurous will drag out music by Mendelsohn, Vivaldi, Saint Saens, Schumann, or J. S. Bach or unlistenable collections of atonal sound passed of as music.

Wow.  My apologies to Tim Tebow.  He may be passed of as [sic] a quarterback, but this is fucking dreadful. This sentence might go in The Canon of Fucking Dreadful Sentences. I will henceforth refer to this sentence as "The Shitstain."

Keep an eye open if you go to Classical music concerts. Did the conductor program atonal music? Not if he/she wishes to keep conducting. Audiences will not listen to this music and people will and do walk out if it is programmed. If the conductor wishes to drive the ensemble into bankruptcy he/she will schedule atonal music.

This, meanwhile, is just utter crap. One wonders if the writer has made a survey of recent programs, or, really, ever been to a concert.  For instance, this failing and bankrupt ensemble is directed by this idiot who is completely fired never ever programs atonal music of any kind.

Most concertgoers despise atonal music, and tragically by extension any piece of music composed since about 1950, if not much earlier.

One notes with interest that the writer is himself a composer.

Even Stravinsky is still too strange for some audiences. Atonal music is too intellectual.

Eh, I think I'm just going to go with a big "fuck you" at this point. Why don't you go listen to some nice comfortable drivel and leave the rest of us alone?

In one way, it is like the New York Crossword puzzle.

Yes, the...New York Crossword puzzle. You know what else "it is like?" Proofreading.

It looks interesting on paper once you figure it all out. But both are basically amusing mind games. To carry this analogy to an absurd extreme, consider this...

Yeah, you know what?  Nah.  This is getting long and I'm out of practice.  I'm just going to have to go ahead and cherry pick some of the dumbest things from the remainder of this article.*

*None of them nears the majesty of The Shitstain, but we make do with what we have.

Now, having harangued modern music, let’s put the whole discussion in perspective.

Oh, let's do.  Can we [sic] change to the plural while we're [sic] at it?

Every few hundred years or so, aesthetics change.

This is the single dumbest thing I've read since the last dumbest thing (above), and I read The Fountainhead.

Figure 4: A pile of crap.

How often does someone who has, very clearly, not given any serious thought to style, aesthetics, art, teleology, or philosophy get to generalize like this?  Welcome to examiner.com!
Sometimes this change is subtle. Other times it is more abrupt. The technique of painting of the stultified French academy of the mid-1800s was completely turned on its head with the new painting techniques of the French Impressionist artists. Why did this style evolve? The best guess is that Europe was being introduced to influences from outside of modern Europe. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art vied with contemporary art from Europe’s colonies, and from Asia. Modern recipes for paint allowed artists to paint directly from the tube and not spend hours grinding pigments, and/or mixing chemicals to produce that desired color.

A smattering of actual information is like the sprinkles dressing up the faecal-flavored cupcake that is this worst-informed summary about change in the arts ever.

For music, these same influences combined with a growing awareness of styles from earlier times, and non-European cultures. This produced some of the finest works of the 19th century. Then, the angst caused by the Franco-Prussian war, WWI, and WWII turned Europe inward and made its populous became morose. The majority of Europe was being seriously bombarded with too much highly negative information, and too little time to take it all in or expel it.

Holy crap! Europe was being bombarded with time?

For this reason, historians will describe our time as the Expressionist movement, where beauty was cast out and replaced by negative emotions.

Leaving aside speculation about what historians will call "our" time, I think that one's taken.

To heck with the social graces and common courtesy while we are at it.

 Atonal music is rude, and furthermore worse than Hitler.

Today, a few adventurous composers of classical music are striving to break away from atonal music techniques and rekindle people’s willingness to hear new classical music.

Here one idly speculates that the author is one such composer.  Further, this is hardly a new idea.

Figure 5: Benjamin Britten clutches his pipe at Peter Pears.

However, for many of them, this technique of writing atonal music is a ball and chain that they inherited in college.

Mixed metaphors are a stage in a china shop.

They cannot or will not break free and change their writing style. One of the most difficult things for a composer to do is to write a beautiful melody.

Let alone a coherent screed.

This has always been true, and is why a great melody can make a composer rich.

Asserting that your assertion is universal seems like a great rhetorical strategy...and then you get to junior high school.

With atonal music, beauty is to be shunned as if it were a skunk.

Figure 6: "Dear Mr. President, there are too many states nowadays.
Please eliminate three. I am not a crackpot."
However, audiences have been bludgeoned enough with bad music and will no longer accept the possibility that a composer today can write something worth listening to.

Which is why there are so few composers nowadays, as opposed to, say, more fucking composers than there have ever been in all previous times combined.

Any composer who writes beautiful music is dismissed with some very spicy invectives by snarky music critics.

Have you ever read any music criticism? Somewhere I heard there's an entire blog snarkily dismissing knee-jerk atonality-hating music critics.  (Who are, by the way, legion, if you hadn't noticed.)

Sorry, music critics, but trying to breathe life into a dead skunk is a waste of time, and does not improve its smell. Music critics are as much to blame for the death of new Classical music as the composer, if not more so.

Man, if you replaced "composers" with "progressives" and "atonal music" with "the liberal agenda" you could publish this in Reason.

Figure 7: Propaganda meets drivel; they have a few drinks
and decide to murder intellectual honesty while it sleeps.

Art styles do not change because of a new artist or composer as quickly as styles are created because of new technology. The French Impressionists learned this and changed the art field. The jazz era saw the introduction of new musical instruments like the trumpet, saxophone, and banjo. Popular music quickly devoured these new musical instruments and fully digested them. Classical music composers tried to integrate these instruments but basically failed.

I think I can say without fear of hyperbole that this is the best encapsulation of an argument, ever.

Figure 8: "Well, let's see. First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes. And Prince Charles started wearing all of Lady Di's clothes. I couldn't believe it."
Today, the trumpet has successfully replaced the cornet.

Seriously?  This is like a fake high school science film in The Simpsons.

But to see a classical music concert featuring a saxophone, banjo, or even marimba is just too strange.

Holy fucking hell.  Have you ever been to a new music concert?  The marimba is de rigeur for new composers (right up there with setting "Seven Ways of Looking at a Blackbird").

Other classical music composers have gone underground. To make art that requires all an artist’s emotions and often much of their savings only to have the work panned or ignored by critics is too much for some.

 Yikes. Bitter much?

Others composers simply have sidestepped the critics and have released music in electronic forms only and will not waste their time submitting works to conductors.

Others composers alsos sometimes haves editors, I reckon.

Is there a chance that modern tonal music will give birth to a new form of Classical music? Oh, let us hope that it will.

I don't think, given the available evidence, there is any danger of that, because: context.

Let it be joyous, heartfelt, and meaningful, but not be vapid.

Heh, yeah. What he said. Also: a unicorn that shits rainbows.  Because, you see: it's 2013, and we're most of us not 19th century [white, male] European post-Cartesian Hegelians in emergent Nationalistic and rapidly industrializing nation-states.  But, you know, whatever.

Let it be more than any of the previous styles, but aware of all that have come before, if only to know what to avoid.

Which, ironically, is how we got to atonality, in a manner of speaking.  But do carry on:

By contrast, how many times have you heard someone sing a tone row (atonal equivalent to a melody)?

Um. Many? You don't have YouTube, I guess.

And to hell with that; I've taught people to sing tone rows.  It's fucking easy.  And the pandering at the end there makes me think that your target audience is Idiots Who Already Agree with You.  (I'll see if I can find submission information for Reason.)

You won’t because that was not the goal of the atonal composer.

[Please please please tell me what the "goal of the atonal composer" is!]

The goal of the atonal composer was to alienate, and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. 

I swear to the Invisible Pink Unicorn, that is the best answer of all time.


Hey, did I leave a big "fuck you" up there somewhere?


I'm here for Microwave Cookery

On a “musical thrill-ride” of a concert where “fistfuls of piano notes” were “pitted against [a] full-throttle orchestra” in front of “1,941 concertgoers” and…well, no less than the “interaction of such electrifying sonic events with our senses invigorate(d) and inspire(d), providing sustenance for both body and soul,” the Springfield Symphony Orchestra performed Gershwin (yeah!) and Rachmaninoff (double yeah!!). 

Concert review: Springfield Symphony Orchestra shines with Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto

Clinton Noble Jr., April 14, 2013, The Republican (MassLive.com)

But wait, there's more!

The meat in the expatriate sandwich (as it were)…

I’m not sure Gershwin could be called an expatriate because of, you know, the definition of the word.



...Walter Piston's...

Whoa? Who the fuck is Walter Piston? 

figure Walter Piston:  "I'll give you a TKO from Tokyo!"

...was Walter Piston's Fourth Symphony, penned in 1950 for the centenary of the University of Minnesota, and as American as apple pie.

If it weren't for the pure Rachmaninoffian awesomeness on the second half, I know I'd be long gone.  I've got a connection to the interwebs...let's see what I can find out.  

Well, first, Walter Piston actually lived in France for over 2 years.  I don't know why I care about this expatriate meme, but I just do.

And (b), his symphony is “American as apple pie”?  Because he’s an American?  Does this mean I'm going to like his symphony?  Because, you know, Harry Partch was born in America too.  In fact, his music began a complete rejection of European concert tradition (or so Wikipedia tells me).  What could be more apple pie-ish than that?

I really don't know what to think.  My gut is telling me that this Piston piece is music I've never heard, and therefore awful.  But my brain is confused by your American comment.  America is the greatest country god ever gave man, but on the other hand there's Eric Whitacre.  

 figure gift:  The greatest music god ever gave America.  

Unfamiliar American composer…it just doesn't add up.

Rhodes gave a brief spoken introduction to the piece and played its opening theme, marked “Piacevole,”…

I don't know...'piacevole' doesn't sound very Merican to me.

…or “pleasing” by the composer, before giving a scrupulously rehearsed and deeply expressive reading of the entire work.

Sounds quite punctilious.  But I guess I’m still hung up on this "I've never heard of him" thing.  

“I know when audiences see a composer they don’t recognize on the program, they think ‘Oh, no! what’s this going to be like?’” Rhodes admitted.

Thank you.  That's what I've been trying to say.  Let's just put some Beethoven on this concert and be done with it.

Piston offered nothing scary to the concertgoer, Rhodes further quipped,…

Scary? As in American, or not-American?

figure book: Chapter 1: Don't Write Scary Music

…adding that he doesn't play “scary” pieces because he doesn't like them, either.

Yeah.  Who the fuck likes “scary” pieces?

Light-hearted as that sentiment might seem on the surface, it is a very telling commentary on the excesses of the previous century.

Or the biases of narrow-minded musical midgets.  Wait…was that uncalled for?

Nope, you’re probably right.  Those asshat 20th century composers totally ruined music.  If I don’t recognize the name of the composer (gasp!) then who knows sort of unclean sounds could enter my virginal ears.

Indeed, as Rhodes asserted, works by Piston and other Americans like him, Hanson, Schuman, Thomson, et al., became eclipsed by the music of the intelligentsia and the academic avant garde, and never achieved the recognition that their content and construction merited, because they were perceived as appealing, therefore populist, and second-rate.

Their awesome music was eclipsed by the awful music that no one likes?  How on earth did that happen?

Rhodes and the SSO are shedding long overdue daylight on some terrific music that is as exciting to listen to as it is to play, and their 21st-audience is grateful.

I know there's a lesson here about not judging the music of composers you're unfamiliar with, but...


It's very easy to criticize...And it's fun, too!

Everyone knows that classical music attained perfection in 1873.  It's a scientific fact.  Why people persist in expressing independent thoughts about music after then is beyond me.  

Ken Keaton, Palm Beach Daily News, Feb. 20, 2013

That's too bad.  Unispired programming, less than perfect performances...I wonder who or what might be to blame?

In 1918, Arnold Schoenberg...

Wait.  That Arnold Schoenberg?

...(yes, that Arnold Schoenberg)…


…founded the Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna.

This is true. 

His purpose was to present modern music to small audiences in a chamber setting, and often he or his students would arrange larger orchestral works for a chamber ensemble.

I can see now why you mention Schoenberg's society. Chamber ensembles in chamber settings?  Bor-ing.

He believed that hearing the notes in a more transparent setting would make the music easier to understand.

Okay, that sounds like an interesting premise. So...?

Though Schoenberg is best known for breaking the tonal system…

Well, crap.  I can't afford a new tonal system. 

…by creating a new musical language, his efforts were not limited to the most avant-garde works.

Oh, inherent bias, where would we be without you?


Article loads more fun to read than it must have been to write

Chamber Series puffs up to symphony strength

Naples Daily News, March 5, 2013

In a small, but musical, community a pick up orchestra performed Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.  It's a difficult work for even the most esteemed orchestras, what with its lack of clean, clear solos, spice-less phrasing, and the preponderance of multimeasure notes.
The work is forged from four movements actually praised for their dance attributes,...
I know, pssh...
figure 1:  Beethoven composing a symphony.  And saving the universe from, oh, let's say Juggernaut?
But what does it mean?
...meaning it’s nearly impossible not to shake your head or sway at some point.
That actually sounds true.
The grandly dark second movement even lends itself to headbanging, if you’re channeling ‘80 rock culture.
figure 2: The perfect analogy.
The woodwinds gifted the piece with clean, clear solos, and the flutes shot deliciously peppery phrases into the third movement. Its ubiquitous timpani sounded like loads more fun to play than it must have been.

What's not to like about that description about the otherwise bland, yet arduous 7th symphony.
A dozen violins and about nine of the lower-registers were making lush music, throwing phrases from upper to lower and holding a marathon multimeasure note behind the other sections in the final movement.

In case that was unclear, the lush throwing music is right after the end of the beginning of the middle.

The secondary theme of the Second Movement seemed to pose a few challenges in tone for the violins. Still, this section sailed through the treacherous finale so nimbly and happily the uninitiated would never know this isn’t a standing orchestra with a full schedule.

figure 3: Happily the uninitiated would never know that he's not fingering a real chord.
Sounds like a pretty incredible performance.  And for a pick-up orchestra!  Is there some sort of outrageous claim you can make that will perfectly sum it all up?

We have heard this symphony live three times in the last four seasons — once from the Los Angeles Philharmonic — and this stands with the best of them.

Of course it does.


Do yourself a favor and read the entire article which includes gems like "...and each of its parts deserves to be savored, if only for 10 seconds, in our mental echo chambers."



Observer reviews, articles contained duplicated sentences

Charlotte Observer, 12/18/2012

At first I thought that the paper (or writer) had unintentionally printed the same sentence twice.  You know: in a row.

But no.

A freelance writer who wrote theater reviews and articles for the Observer from 2009 until this month repeated paragraphs from other publications in about a third of the articles she wrote for the Observer.

 Okay, a couple of things:

1) It took three years to figure this out?
2) Who wrote this correction?  No one -- not even "Charlotte Observer Staff" -- is willing to take attribution.
     a) Detritus Review Reader Challenge! Can you rearrange this sentence to be less clear? I don't think I can.
     b) "[A] third" is dreadful. In what writing guide, editorial style sheet, or first-year freshman composition course is "one-third" not merely preferred but mandated as correct?
    c) I would either use "[month] 2009 until this month" or "2009-12" (you can quibble about "2009-2012" if you like, but even though most newspapers are read electronically, AP style still places a premium on column-inches and prefers any truncated form as long as clarity is maintained).

These duplications violate the Observer’s ethical guidelines and contractual agreements with freelancers, which require that writers produce original material.

Look, I'm not out to cast aspersions on this writer, the name of whom I will omit. But let's not be afraid to use the word "plagiarism" when it's appropriate. In fact, one could argue that this is precisely the case for which the use of that particular word is reserved.

In the Observer’s review in April 2012 of “Stomp” at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Belk Theater, 13 of 16 sentences were the same as sentences in a review published in MIT’s The Tech in 2001. Among other reviews with duplicated paragraphs:...

Blah blah blah.

In some cases, the writer repeated a distinctive phrase from another publication; in others she duplicated multiple paragraphs verbatim.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy

At first I was all like Jebus! at least plagiarize from Tommasini or Kosman or someone who knows how to, you know, write sentences and stuff (not that The Tech is terrible, but: come on!).

Figure 1: Kyle: Jimmy, exactly what part of the fishsticks joke did Cartman write?
Jimmy: Well, he didn't actually write... any of it.
Kyle: Let me guess: you came up with the joke, and Cartman sat on the couch eating Twizzlers?
Jimmy: Actually, it was potato chips.

But then I was all like, hey! that's clever, since no one will ever figure it out--it's not like the entire internet is archived and accessible via a full-text sear...oh, wait.

The writer, [redacted-ed.], also repeated paragraphs verbatim in three articles in two Observer-owned magazines, SouthPark Magazine and Lake Norman.

I...wait. SouthPark Magazine?

Coincidence? or an hilarious coincidence?

[The writer] apologized and said the duplicated sentences were unintentional.

"I totally meant to replace the paragraphs I pasted in from other reviews with original material, and simply forgot to do it, repeatedly, over a three-year span. For this I am sorry."

 Figure 2: Perhaps the oversight was due to a wide editorial stance.

In the end, what's important here is that editorial oversight works, albeit sometimes slowly, and-

The similarities in the reviews came to the Observer’s attention through a reader who saw one of Bell’s reviews, searched on the Internet for other reviews of the same show and discovered several duplicated paragraphs. The reader called the Observer last week. That call prompted an examination...[the writer] is no longer writing for any Observer publication.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy

 The Charlotte Observer crowdsourced their editorial oversight?*

*What's more, it's late 2012 and the Blogger spellchecker doesn't know the word "crowdsourced." Isn't this thing run by The Google?

Oh, well done, sirs.  Well done indeed.

Merry Christmas. Please enjoy this topical, holiday-themed pop culture reference that has little or nothing to do with the above.

 Figure 3: John McClane: You throw quite a party. I didn't realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan.
Joseph Takagi : Hey, we're flexible. Pearl Harbor didn't work out so we got you with tape decks.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cp

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/12/18/3732343/observer-reviews-articles-contained.html#storylink=cpy


Expanding the Parameters, or All Antecedents Have Consequences

Holiday classical musical performances beyond the 'Messiah'

David Weininger, Boston Globe, 11/17/2012

Goodness gracious, is it that time already?  Never too early to jump back into the shark-infested waters, as my mom always said.*

*May not be true.

Soon it will be Christmas.

Thank heavens for the Boston Globe.  Talk about news you can use!

What should you listen to?

Should?  Uh...

This is not a simple question.

No shit.  What I "'should'" listen to is, apparently, prescribed by to the condition that "soon it will be Christmas."  That's a whole thing right there.  Perhaps I'm not a nominally Christian white East Coast American male over 55 who gives a shit that it's almost Christmas?

Oh, wait.  This is in a newspaper.  Well, I guess you have to write to your audience.

Figure 1: The all-inclusive target audience

Historically, Christmas...

If I said that I didn't like where this was going, I'd be lying...but only because of who I am and the blog for which I write.  I'm ten kinds of strapped in and prepared for the least-researched sentence ever.

...has been an immensely prolific time for composers, especially (and obviously) for those writing for the Christian church.

I submit that the sense of "historically" being invoked here is not really anything as broad as the word itself suggests.  It seems to me that, here, "historically" means "during the 18th century."

There was actually a relatively short period of time, in a pretty small part of the world, during which most composers were employed by Christian churches.

But, of course, people, places, and times not roughly related to "the last two or three hundred years of European-American history" aren't included in "historically."

But, now, see: perhaps that's exactly what this article is after: breaking the Christmas concert paradigm.

Figure 2: "Now Andy, if you let them take thirty, they'll take thirty-five. If you let them take thirty-five,
they'll take forty. If you let them take forty, they'll take forty-five."

Slow down there, Sator.  You're a little rusty at this.  Don't be so quick to--

But this trove of musical riches is astonishingly easy to lose sight of, even in so artistically sophisticated a place as Boston.

Wow, okay.  I can't imagine that this sort of self-congratulatory onanism is going to live up to my optomistic projection.

Figure 3: The sophistication of Boston's cultural patrons is matched
only by their class and dignity.

It can seem as though holiday offerings are confined to endless renditions of the “Hallelujah” chorus and an all-too-small group of holiday favorites.

Although we're all sick of the Messiah--and I am therefore sympathetic to this sentiment--the contstruction "it can seem" is so unbelievably rhetorically weak that I'm rather put off.  Instead of invoking a familiar sensation, "it can seem" could be used to justify any number of terrible, terrible sentences.  To wit:

"It can seem like your friend's hot daughter really appreciates your attention."


How to break out of this rut?

By continuing to employ a string of weak grammatical constructions?

One strategy is to explore a Christmas distant in time and space from our own,

Figure 4: Does the rabbit-creature have a garrotte made of stars?
...and this is an experience that early music ensembles are especially skilled at providing.

I'm gonna go ahead and write this off as a segue to talking about specific groups in Boston this season, since trying to understand the logic of this sentence in the abstract, as the alternative assumes some kind of non-Euclidian rhetorical space with which I'm not adequately equipped to deal.

Figure 5: If you thought of it, there are already hundreds of images of it.

Two such groups are Boston Camerata, an ensemble of instrumentalists and singers, and the vocal group Blue Heron. This year, the former is presenting “The Brotherhood of the Star: A Hispanic Christmas,” while the latter is offering a sampling of music for Advent, Christmas, and New Year’s from 15th-century France and Burgundy.

I am in favor of both of these groups.  I think it's important to go on the record about that before proceeding.

“There’s a reason we hear ‘Messiah’ and ‘Nutcracker’ every year — because they’re so great,” said Scott Metcalfe, Blue Heron’s music director.

Ha ha yeah that's totally it.  We're not lazy or indoctrinated or forcefed a false nostalgia that poisons our present -- they're just so great!

“But doing these sort of alternative, 15th-century Christmases, there’s no sense that they have a holiday anything like ours.”

Translation: the artistic director of an early music ensemble speculates that, based on available evidence, Christmas in 15th century Burgundy was different than Christmas today.

I guess there IS a reason this is in the newspaper (based on available evidence).

This is Blue Heron’s sixth season of holiday concerts — Metcalfe said that in the group’s early years they skipped it because, ironically, many of the singers could make more money doing “Messiah” performances.

Let's leave alone that "it" seems somehow to refer to "sixth season of holiday concerts" and, instead, focus on how "ironically" is "ironically" [sic] being used incorrectly.

Boston Camerata, by contrast, began doing Christmas concerts in the early 1970s under Joel Cohen, now music director emeritus. (He is also directing “Brotherhood.”) Many have proven to be among the group’s most enduring programs.

Many of...its artistic directors?  Too many antecedents, not enough consequents.  It's what Christmas is all about!

‘For us, there is a desire to pull the curtain open and say, wait a minute, there may be other things out there. Let’s look at them, let’s enjoy them.’ Anne Azéma, the Camerata’s artistic director, said of the impulse behind them: “It came out of a desire to remove oneself from the Christmas routine.”

By putting on a Christmas concert?

By “routine,” she meant “a canon that was developed in the late 19th century in America — a mixture of German-Scandinavian-English music which created this sort of postcard idea of all things that we think now as Christmas.”

Oh.  Well, good, then, within the limited scope of expanding that notion to include slightly more European countries over a slightly longer period of time.

That includes the caroling tradition that’s especially strong in Boston, popular songs about chestnuts and angels, “Messiah,” and other time-honored entries.

Since I have a blog, I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that the only thing I hate more than angels (which are, conveniently for me, imaginary) is people who just fucking love angels.

I'm sorry, you were saying something about Christmas concerts?

“It’s wonderful material,...

Is that a nice way of calling it "not music?"

...some of it at least,


...but it’s become so overfamiliar that its impact is often lost.”

Ding ding ding!

If I was still an academic postmodernist asshole I'd call it "overdetermined" - but I quit being that, so I won't.**

**Technically, I am no longer an academic.

“In a way, caught among all these things, you tend to forget that Christmas has been happening for quite a while,” she continued.

Like basically since Halloween! Every year!

“For us, there is a desire to pull the curtain open and say, wait a minute, there may be other things out there. Let’s look at them, let’s enjoy them.”

First, this the second time in three quotes you've used the "pull the curtain" analogy.  I will refrain from speculating about that.

Second, I like "look at" as a metaphor for "listen to."  If you get too literal you scare away the rubes!

Third, this:

These are, nevertheless, holiday concerts, which means that an audience, no matter how adventurous, is going to want something that resonates with their own experience, even if the music is unfamiliar.

Yeah, this is about where I stopped reading, but only partly because the rationalization-to-description ratio became untenable.

Happy Thanksgiving from your friendly if unreliable bloggers at the Detritus Review.


Jonesing for Sesquicentenniality

Yeah, yeah. We’re busy. We’re busy with all kinds of important things. Since our last public service announcement, we have collectively produced at least eight babies (six others are probable), three ex-wives (Sator does not count the one in Haiti), ruined at least two businesses, wrote three dissertations (two of which are still in the works, or not), and, in our spare time, have been making plans for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. (If anyone has or knows anyone who has property in eastern Idaho and is looking to sell, please feel free to contact us via this site)

Unfortunately, this means that we’ve neglected our duties to the Detritus Review and to our generous sponsors, to whom we are eternally grateful. (ASCAP has yet to send me any checks, so I am especially thankful) But rest assured, dear Detritusites, you have always been in our prayers. Not to say that you can’t take care of yourselves in these distressing times; but, rather, we feel it is our duty to keep the critics in check so you don’t have to. Wasted time falls short of the tree…or something.

So, apologies all around.

And believe you me, I know it feels like a hundred and fifty years since last time; which is why today I feel the need to make up for our…

Wait. What’s that you say? Debussy’s sesquicentennial is this year! O.M.G. [sic] I know; he had a weird, misshapen head. And…what…there are no real plans to celebrate? That’s…what? Okay. Yeah. Yeah. But…oh, good. Whew! There was a piano recital on which the second book of Preludes were…who? Thibaudet? He’s pretty good, if I recall.

He confidently handled Debussy’s structural challenges…

By playing them, one assumes, because they are written that way. That and he is a confident pianist who is playing the piano.

It’s almost as if the very idea of form is something like kryptonite to pianists—could it be that they writhe in pain just at the sight of rounded-binary? Either way, Thibaudet seems to have overcome this stereotypical weakness. Good for him. Otherwise form might’ve hijacked all the oil tankers, thus further impeding the average hog rider’s thirst for freedom.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps structure, here, is synonymous with effect. [Thinks about it]

Nah. That’s crazy!

He confidently handled Debussy’s structural challenges, as in the gradual shifts of tone that give the effect of a mist lifting in the prelude “Terrasse des Audiences du Clair de Lune.”

At least this wasn’t from the New York Times. Can I get a holler!

Well, don’t that just pee down my neck and call it a broomstick with more words!

His textural variety, from twinkle to velvet, was gorgeous in the “Suite Bergamasque” and the three “Estampes.”

See figure 1.

                                                Figure 1. Kepler’s famous Textural scale

And finally, let’s play a game.

As he finished the last swoop up the keyboard in the final selection, “L’Isle Joyeuse”…

Cast your vote now! What happened after the last swoop?

A. Thibaudet played an encore by Chopin, spoiling the birthday celebration.
B. One audience member finally stopped coughing.
C. Leonard Bernstein made an appearance, combed his hair.
D. A lifelong Hells’ Angel member made everyone uncomfortable with piercing irony.

And now for the answer! If you guessed B, one audience member finally fucking stopped coughing, you’d be wrong.

As he finished the last swoop up the keyboard in the final selection, “L’Isle Joyeuse,” a bald, bearded man in a T-shirt sitting near the front burst out of his seat with a whoop, arms in the air as if at a rock concert. You go, dude.

                                                                     Figure Free Bird


Critic Is Large; Contains Multitudes, or "Masters Are Masterful"

Exploring Bartok's Legacy With Plenty of Energy
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 11/1/2011

Let's leave aside (by which I mean: let's don't) that the title editor made the random choice to capitalize one of the prepositions and not the other. In virtually every style format exactly zero percent of prepositions in titles should be thusly treated, but maybe it's some new quirk in Chicago 16 of which I'm not yet aware; because, hey: if you didn't change a bunch of shit, why would you need to issue a new edition? It's not like every editor in the world is basically required to buy one every time you...oh, right.

Figure 1: The University of Chicago, publisher of the aforementioned eponymous ubiquitous style guide. So that's how they fund their insanely wacky devastatingly influential school of economics.

Master is a term applied too loosely in classical music.

This is, unedited [by me: ed.] and verbatim, the opening sentence in this review; no words have been manipulated to make it appear more prominent than it is.

To declare someone a master makes it sound as if an artist had reached some benchmark of skill and insight, and every performance said master gave would automatically be masterly.

I'm not sure that "mastery" necessarily equates to "consistency," but, yes, that word is thrown around pretty casually.

In fact great musicians work constantly and continually challenge themselves.

Wow. Good thing I read the New York Times, because I just popped into existence about 45 seconds ago and thought that great musicians were, generally, incompetent but insanely fucking lucky.

But: fine. Overused designator. Too-oft typed moniker.

Maybe the definition of a master is elusive.

Wow; that's award-winning stuff right there. You think you can find insights like that in the Post?

Figure 2: The Post, winner of the "Miss Congeniality" award in the 2010 Best Partisan Rag Pageant.

But somehow you know one when you hear one, as was clear on Monday night when the pianist Andras Schiff played a recital before a full house of rapt listeners at Carnegie Hall.

Really? Let me get this straight, paraphrase-style:*

"Man, people sure throw "master" around a lot; it's vague to begin with and overuse just makes it kind of meaningless and trite. But man! You should've seen this concert! Dude was a master."

Know what? I got your master right here. Self-proclaimed is the way to go, unless you're going to wait for the Times to come around and, finally, declare you to be such.

Figure 3: True mastery is characterized by subtlety.

Become the ruling body.

*We are aware of all internet traditions.


Thank God! Orchestra Doesn't Play Strauss

Review: ISO's guest artists cast spells with enchanting classics
Jay Harvey, Indianapolis Star, Oct. 15, 2011

I love "guest artists"! And who doesn't love magic.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times...if only classical music would resort to black magic...

Music associated with enchantment begins and ends this weekend's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts, but the way the program's other major work was performed Friday was no less enchanting.

Perfect.  Enchantment associated music, other major works that are enchanting too...and to think some people think orchestra programming has become stale.

But this makes me wonder...what is 'enchanting' music? Google images knows everything, let's ask them!

figure enchanting: Oh, dear God. No!

Jonathan Biss, Bloomington-born and on his way to becoming world-renowned, played the solo part in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat...

Okay, so was this the enchantment asscoiated music, or the enchanting music? I actually thought this would be more obvious. Silly me.

...with an elegance that didn't get too lofty to convey emotional engagement.

It's a tough balancing act, all that elegance muddying up the emotional engagement.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, just leave the elegance at the door. It's just so damn elitist.

His generally crisp, even articulation never overcame his focus on tone, which had a rounded, singing quality even in leaping passage work.

Wait, crisp articulations and rounded, singing tone in the same performance!?  And an elegance that didn't screw up all that emotional stuff? Get the fuck out!

But why, oh why, must two positive attributes of piano-playing (good articulation and focused tone) be mutually exclusive? Thank god for players like Jonathan Biss, who defy the laws of music criticism and are the exception that proves the rule.

I wonder what makes him such a great pianist.

A thoughtful artist with lots of individuality to bring to the classic repertoire, Biss crafted a first-movement cadenza that blended youthful vigor and studied reflection, its resonant climax aided by abundant pedal.

If I've said it once...more youthful vigor and abundant pedal, please!

The slow movement had just enough reserve as its delicate song poured forth,...

Yes...er...uh? Wait...reserved what?

...with the piano's quiet, single-line outburst near the end filling the hall. The consistent brio and polish Biss applied to the finale...

I know, seriously. Someone really should edit those changes into Beethoven's score. I know he's the "greatest composer of all-time", but he really should know better than to leave the brio and polish out of this finale.

I mean, how else is he going to produce an ovation?

...produced a slow-building but insistent ovation...

See. Were they standing?! I sure as heck hope so if they expected to cause a spontaneous (completely unplanned) encore.

...that resulted in an encore: the fifth of Beethoven's Six Bagatelles, op. 126.

If I've said it once...audiences love brio and polish!

figure Brio plaster polish: Who knew.

In the concerto, guest conductor Gilbert Varga kept the balance and coordination of the orchestra keenly matched to the soloist.

I should hope so.

This was no surprise,...

Oh really? Why?

...given the controlled grandeur and sweep of the program-opener: Mozart's Overture to "The Magic Flute."

Of course! If I've said it once, I've said it thousand times. If you can control the grandeur of Die Zauberflöte Overture, then you are more than ready for the balance and coordination of pre-19th century Beethoven.

But that opera, from which they performed just the famous overture, is so unconventional, what possibly could they pair it with on this concert? A conundrum that has plagued orchestras for centuries.

The unconventionality of that opera from Mozart's last year is nothing compared to the bizarre pantomime scenario for which Bela Bartok supplied a bristling score in the early 1920s.

Really? To which bizarre pantomime scenario are you referring?

Friday's concert ended spectacularly with the suite from "The Miraculous Mandarin."

Hmmm...now I'm a classical music lover, and I've heard of Beethoven and Mozart, and I've even seen Amadeus. So I consider myself an expert on The Magic Flute, and that opera has a guy dressed up as a bird. That's pretty crazy.

figure adult man dressed as bird: See. That opera is pretty silly. Wait...is that a...nipple?!

What's this Mandarin guy got?

In the story line, some roughnecks commandeer a young woman as sexual bait, forcing her to lure visitors to a seedy apartment.

I'm pretty sure most of Mozart's opera are about the same thing. Basically.

Two hapless men are ejected for insufficient funds, and then the title character proves too much to handle, in ways the complete score details.

Two men kidnap a woman into sexual slavery, but their plans are thwarted when the their home is foreclosed on?

Banks...always screwing the little guy!

Wait...this story sounds familiar.

Are these two hapless men the Tim Conway and Don Knotts to the Miraculous Mandarin's orphaned kids from The Apple Dumpling Gang?

figure two hapless men: "You know something, Amos? The Lord poured your brains in with a teaspoon, and somebody joggled His arm. I keep trying to tell you we ain't got no lead to throw, and no powder to throw it with. "

The suite is graphic enough so that it would be inaccurate to say the music transcends the sordid plot.

Uh.... Okay, so I totally agree that the music in a ballet should transcend the plot, although I'm certain I have no idea what that means. But how could you even tell if
the music is transcending the plot since you're only hearing the suite (without the whole ballet part)?

Or are you suggesting the music is too accurately depicting the graphic storyline? ...a concept I'm having a difficult time actually visualizing.

Oh bother.

Still, it's one of the milestones of symphonic modernism and received a brilliant performance Friday, with Varga and the ISO conveying every snarling or spooky twist and turn.

Sexual slavery aside, it's still a great piece. But "magic" flutes have nipples.

Obscure, early music by Varga's Hungarian countryman Bartok showcased principal guest concertmaster Alexander Kerr.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times...I love obscure, early music.

The first of "Two Portraits" features a ceaseless, impassioned violin solo that Kerr sustained beautifully.

He sustained the solo? Is this sustained as in maintained, or as in ratified?

The second one is mocking and vehement; it discards the solo violin -- the composer's payback for a love affair gone awry -- in a performance both idiomatic and picturesque.

I like my vehement mockingly picturesque, too!

Wait...what pieces were associated with enchantment?

figure concert: Whoa. Wait a minute, Doc. Are you trying to tell me that my mother has got the hots for me?