Fact-Checking Is Still Hard

“Tripp is a perfectly acceptable name.” Only, that’s not true. I can’t go around making these things up; they’ll come back and bite me on the ass, one of these days. Or worse, if I say these things in public media, over time, they might become culturally true (the phenomenon where a falsity is reiterated enough times it becomes true). Hence, some unfortunate people are named Tripp. (Poor little guy)

It works the same way for information about music. If you’ve stuck with DR for while, you might recall an anecdote about my uncle: He bought a recording of Wozzeck, liked it, then asked me what was twelve-tone about it, because, contrary to what he heard, it was pretty. Where did he receive the information that twelve-tone music is ugly? Hmmm...

My gripe today is rather small, but the same principle applies. And we need to set the record straight.

Gyorgy Ligeti wrote his Horn Trio in 1982 after a five-year silence following his opera Le Grand Macabre, a breakthrough that led to a series of concertos over the next decade.

Bzzzt! Wrong.


For the record:

(And I’ll be generous and give Lawrence 1992, just because it looks prettier [1982-1992], even though that’s eleven years.)

Ligeti wrote exactly one concerto in those eleven years—the Piano Concerto. THAT’S ALL—one concerto, not a series of concerti. He started the Violin Concerto in 1989, but didn’t finish it until 1993. His Hamburg Concerto, for horn, was written in 1999 and subsequently revised in 2002.

On the other end of the spectrum (before 1982), Ligeti wrote:

1. Romanian Concerto, for orchestra (1951)
2. Cello Concerto (1966)
3. Chamber Concerto (1970)
4. Double Concerto, for flute and oboe (1972)

Oh, and in those five years of silence: Scenes and Interludes from Le Grande Macabre (for four soloists, chorus and orchestra), Hungarian Rock (harpsichord), Passacaglia ungherese (harpsichord), and Hommage a Hilding Rosenberg (violin and cello).


Other than that, the review is pretty alright.

(A link to the Detritus Hall, where one can find Ligeti's Hamburg Concerto)


Now Hiring: Editor (no experience necessary)

Apparently, Beethoven would be proud that the Fry Street Quartet stopped playing his quartets:

Found, here, at the Salt Lake Tribune.


Ha Ha! Men Hate the Arts!

Goodness gracious. Seriously? This?

Here's a list of things most guys would rather do than sit through The Nutcracker: Watch football, drink beer, mow the lawn, go fishing, ask for directions, watch Sleepless in Seattle, eat glass and run naked through the lion exhibit at the zoo while smeared in barbecue sauce.

So, so witty. Barbecue sauce! Ha!

But, try as we might, many of us will, in fact, be sitting through The Nutcracker sometime over the next few weeks (if we haven't already). So, wipe off that barbecue sauce and man up - here are a few reasons to actually look forward to the experience.

Man up!? Dude! Tell me more!

Those dancers are serious athletes:


Assuming you see a production with trained dancers, take a minute to consider how hard it is to do what they're doing. Ballerinas train their whole lives to develop the strength to stand on tiptoe like that, and if Reggie Williams could jump like those Chinese dancers in the second act, the Jaguars wouldn't be in the mess they're in.

Ah, your sports metaphor totally makes me feel okay to see ballet. Whew! That was a close one.

If, on the other hand, you've been dragged to your niece's fourth-grade production, you're on your own, pal.

1) Your niece's fourth-grade production of anything is going to be cute and awful.

2) Thanks for calling me pal, pal.

The story is totally psychedelic, dude:

Dude! Pal! Chief! Boss! STOP IT!

This little girl, Clara, gets a nutcracker doll for Christmas. (Who gives a kid a nutcracker anyway?) She falls asleep and dreams it comes to life and battles this man-size mouse. Then she and the nutcracker guy visit the Kingdom of Sweets where the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them to a show put on by dancing tea, hot chocolate, peppermint sticks and flowers in tutus.

Thanks for the synopsis. It's totally like not the most famous ballet, ever, dude, pal.

There's some serious violence: Not, like, Steven Segal violence.

Dude: how awesome would it be if there was? Or maybe Chuck Norris?

Fuck yeah!

Then Segal would never wear a leotard.

Your lack of comma confuses me. You seem to mean: in the event of...Segal would never wear a leotard. In the event of what?

There's a battle scene between the mouse army and the nutcracker army and a nasty one-on-one fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

Appeals to dudes! And pals!

You might actually recognize some of the music:

Get the fuck out.

The tunes in The Nutcracker are pretty much inescapable. You hear them in Publix.

I don't know what that is. [Google] Oh, Jacksonville super market chain. Fair enough.

In commercials.

Friskies Cat Food, anyone?

In your wife's car when she makes you take it in for an oil change.

Ha ha! Women are incapable of doing that.

And there's good reason for that. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a rock star of his day, a regular Axl Rose of 19th-century Russia.


Analogy is both the cognitive process of transferring information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target), and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process. In a narrower sense, analogy is an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular, as opposed to deduction, induction, and abduction, where at least one of the premises or the conclusion is general. [via wikipedia]

You're doing it wrong.

He wrote operas, symphonies, ballets, chamber music, piano music and some of the earliest forms of grunge.

What the fuck?

Well, not that last one.

Oh. Ha ha! Good one.

But still, in an era dominated by a group of composers known as The Five, he was a rebel, an outsider who was, reputedly, quite fond of vodka (which might explain the whole dancing peppermint stick thing).

You...what? Seriously?

You can score big points with your lady friend:

Ha ha! Men only go to ballets to get laid. Good times.

As the couple is dancing near the end of the show, lean over and comment on how the pas de deux they're performing is far superior to anything on this season's Dancing With the Stars.

Fuck me running. [Ed note: I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a knitting needle than watch Dancing with the Stars. Also, dude, pal, don't capitalize prepositions.]

Did we mention the ballerinas in tutus? Enough said.

Ha ha ! Women are objects!


Christmas Cheers!

As our gift to all nine of our dear readers, I’ve linked an exemplary review of Handel's Messiah, by Anne Midgette of the Washington Post.

She dislikes the Messiah’s commoditization; she has meaningful and informative things to say about the performance; she even acknowledges that her gripes are kinda petty. But most importantly, she doesn't say anything stupid!

Well done!

Oh, and one more gift: Christmas Disco provided by Esther of Stax o' Wax!

Oh, Crap. They Killed All The Editors in Dallas, Too

Quickie post, y'all, but this:

When American think about 20th-century British music

Wow. Did Dallas abolish plural nouns? You bastards!


The Critic's Paradox (Epitaph)

Here’s an example of what I have come to see as the critic's paradox.

With its mix of vigor, wit and stark introspection, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor can handle a variety of approaches.

No shit, Sherlock! In fact, I would posit that, aside from tape pieces (just as an easy example), music is indeed amenable to interpretation by performers—this is what performers do: they interpret.

But, the preceding is just an empty, poetic smokescreen acting as a transition toward:

...there should be surely be [sic] more edge beyond an uncomplicated bonhomie.

“Surely” surely is the equivalent of screaming louder to sound smart. “Should be” should be axed. Is this a critique of pianist Emanuel Ax’s interpretation? Or is it the author’s personal preference, stated without an attempt to understand why Ax is playing the piece in a particular manner?

If the latter, then the author is disallowing Ax an interpretive voice. In other words, “Ax is just doing it wrong.” Therefore, he couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say.

And if you want some complicated bonhomie, I suggest dating your editor.

This lack was most palpable in the Largo -- arguably, Beethoven's most beautiful concerto slow movement -- where after a rushed phrasing of the yielding main theme, the soloist seemed content to glide on the music's graceful surface without exploring its expressive depths. [no explanation follows]

1) Who argues which Beethoven concerto slow movement is the most beautiful? That’s lame and not worth my time.

2) How would the author know if Ax was trying to explore “its expressive depths” if he doesn’t allow him an interpretive voice, if there’s a better, not different, way to do things?

Just saying. This sounds like it was written by a stodgy, old curmudgeon, unwilling to open his mind to new, different possibilities.

On the other hand, to critique is to have a bias. Enter paradox.


Christmas Eureka!

Sometimes, it’s the simplest mathematical statement that’s the most profound. So, without further ado, I give you Stephen Hawking’s most recent discovery:

Holiday concerts abound at this time of year.

Finally, Nobel, here you come!


Mini Take Home Quiz, #1: All-Brahms


Take Home Quiz, #1: All-Brahms (50 pts. possible)

Part I. Multiple choice (5 pts. each)

Given the following quotes, correctly identify the person(s), thing(s) being described. (Circle one)

1. In the opening "Tragic" Overture, ______ led a well-paced performance of exuberant intensity, drawing a richly textured sound from the strings, especially the dusky violas.

a) Virginia Allen
b) JoAnn Falletta
c) Marin Alsop
d) Who knows? That could describe anyone.

2. [In the Violin Concerto] ______ managed the feat of communicating equally well with the audience and the orchestra.

a) Leila Josefowicz
b) Nikolaj Znaider
c) Scholmo Mintz
d) Again, who knows?

3. ______ once observed that the work is "a concerto for violin against orchestra -- and the violin wins."

a) Bronislaw Huberman
b) Leopold Auer
c) Joseph Joachim
d) Instead of saying “someone,” which the author did, it sure would’ve been nice to waste one extra word to cite the source.

4. Yet [the violinist’s] ______ became an integral part of his muscular interpretation.

a) sweating
b) cackling
c) grunting
d) any gerund will do

Part II. True or False (5 pts. each)

Indicate whether or not the following statements are True or False. (circle one)

5. Los Angeles has many nicknames. “Southland” is one of them.

True/ False

6. The opening sections of Brahms’ Violin Concerto summon the genial ghost of Fritz Kriesler.

True /False

7. An overly searching account of Brahms’ First Symphony, with its constantly shifting landscapes of darkness and light, can easily turn fussy and overblown.

True /False

8. If one conducts the “Tragic” Overture and the First Symphony from memory, then it is wise to utilize a score for the Violin Concerto.


Part III. Fill In the Blank (5 pts. each)

9. And though [the conductor’s] concentrated attention on [the] soloist occasionally made [his/her] reading sound a bit too ______, the orchestra's momentum never flagged.

10. An overly ______ account of [the First Symphony] [...]can easily turn fussy and overblown.

Extra Credit:

Name the person in the photograph.

Answers: (1) C: Marin Alsop; (2) B: Nikolaj Znaider; (3) A: Bronislaw Huberman (only after a bit of research); (4) D: any gerund will do (the author actually used, “striving”); (5) True—according to the Los Angeles Almanac, “it is commonly used by Los Angeles radio and television media to refer to their broadcast market...”; (6) True—according only to the author; (7) False, because that’s just stupid; (8) Trick question—the answer is: “how can one make that judgment from the audience?”; (9) Careful—we all know that too much concentrated attention tends to screw with momentum; (10) Searching—I gave you the answer in #7; and it’s still stupid (if you got this question wrong, you fail); (Extra Credit) a young Bronislaw Huberman.


Blackberry Cobbler

(Abstruseness follows)

If I were to open a post with a brief explanation about my beat-up, 10 year-old Honda Civic, about its 30+ miles to the gallon, about its next scheduled tune up, which is sure to cost me more than the car is worth, or the fact that collision insurance costs more than my rent, you might think: Hmmm, what the hell does this have to do with music?

Well, my friends (that’s for you Sator), it might not explicitly have anything to do with music, but it has everything to do with the latest Mark Swed lead-in.

When General Motors called to ask about my "Slob service," I didn’t take it personally. Still, as a longtime Saab loyalist, I can’t say that I’m overjoyed that my tax dollars are needed to bail out the bunglers in Detroit who took over the once imaginative Swedish make a few years ago and have systematically devalued it.

That’s scarily analogous to the forgotten introduction of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Honest Abe: On the way here, our train made a stop in a small town outside of Philadelphia. It was just long enough to catch a bite to eat at the local inn, where we had a nice roasted chicken, served to us by the owner’s wife. She was affable and, by and by, urged us to try her famous blackberry cobbler. Unfortunately for her, as a child I had a very bad experience with several blackberry bushes, which rendered the thought of eating the cobbler less than desirable.

I no longer expect to drive a new Saab on the road to a better future. I do, however, insist on a better future, like the one I saw at the EXPO Center on Saturday morning. The American dream exists if we want it and if we are not so stupid that we throw away all our money on the things that don’t work rather than fund the things that work brilliantly.

Honest Abe: Yet, the innkeeper’s wife was so polite and good-natured, I couldn’t help thinking that this is what makes America the number one-best country. If by trying her cobbler I can symbolically lift this nation toward unity, toward singular motivation, then burying the dead today fortifies my belief that no one monument is greater than one country’s enduring ideals.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground.

Real work was done, and some real Beethoven was the reward.

Honest Abe: Uh, maybe we can hallow this ground, after all.


'Tis the Season for East Indian Giving

The question you should be asking yourself right now is not “Do I want to see the Kansas City Ballet’s scrumptious production of "The Nutcracker?”

Ah, ‘tis the sugar plum season. And, apparaently, it’s also the season for quotation marks to go awry. (I’ll let Lisa Jo Sagolla of the KC Star correct this for herself)

But, the questions I’m asking myself today are whether or not I can afford my house, send my kids to college, buy next weeks’ groceries. Stuff like that.

So, do I want to see the scrumptious Nutcracker? Probably n...

Of course you do.

But, but...

It’s a holiday treat that children adore and all but the most Scrooge-like among us value as a time-honored, family-entertainment tradition.

By “Scrooge-like,” do you mean “tight wad?” Is this an advertisement or a review?

Your dilemma is to decide how many performances of "The Nutcracker" time will allow you to attend.

Or, for $19.98 plus tax, I could find myself an awesome DVD of the Nutcracker, then watch it as many times I very damn well please, and in front of my ultra-deluxe fireplace in my soon-to-be foreclosed house. (Not that I’m advocating this; it’s just that the cheapest seat to the KC Ballet is $20, which means it’ll cost at least $40 for a parent and a kid to sit in the balcony, which is approximately .3 miles from the stage.)

Fine. Advertisement it is. Lisa Jo, close the deal and let’s be done with this.

The Kansas City Ballet enjoys an abundance of riches when it comes to talented dancers who can perform the ballet’s exciting array of featured roles. Wisely, the company’s artistic director William Whitener has double- and in some cases triple-cast virtually all the solo parts. If you really want to appreciate all this production has to offer, seeing the show just once is hardly enough. At the opening matinee on Saturday afternoon, the stand-out performances were Nadia Iozzo’s gorgeous interpretation of the sensual Arabian Dance, Deanna Doyle’s dynamic portrayal of Dewdrop, and the exquisitely polished corps de ballet work by the women’s ensemble in both the Waltz of the Flowers and the Snowflakes scene.

Sounds like it could be really—what was it?—“scrumptious.”

Also noteworthy was Angelina Sansone as the stately Snow Queen. The lanky dancer made elegant use of her head, neck, and upper body to form stunning classical lines.

Okay, I’m sold. Let’s head on down to the Music Hall, shall we! How much, again?

If only she had been able to find her center on her pirouettes. Sansone has a habit of dropping her chin as she begins to turn which compromises her aristocratic allure and probably doesn’t help her pirouetting.


While Michael Eaton needed to be a bit more percussive in his rendition of the challenging Chinese Dance...

While Lisa Jo needs to ease off, if she wants me to buy a ticket or two.

...the production’s only significant weak link was Lisa Choules’s portrayal of the Sugar Plum Fairy. A stiff, brittle-looking dancer with a jerky jump, she brought a lovely delicacy yet complete lack of clarity to the choreography. Her dancing is pretty, but makes no visceral impact. She seems to relinquish her muscular tensions just before she hits the endpoints of her positions, so her body shapes don’t fully register and no energy is projected out beyond her body.

I thought, for a half-second, that I might want to go to this at least once, if not twice. But, now...

Man, this is getting ugly.

Set to the famous Tchaikovsky score, played live by the Kansas City Ballet Orchestra under the expert direction of Ramona Pansegrau, the ballet’s uneven choreography, created by artistic director emeritus Todd Bolender, needs a bit of freshening up.

Uh, come to think of it, I’d rather spend my money elsew...

What’s that? You’re not finished?

While the enchanting second-act variations are first-rate, much of the movement performed by the children during the first-act party scene is too slow, simplistic, and predictable to be dramatically engaging.

Not even the kids are spared. Heartless. Just heartless.

The kids’ leisurely, pedestrian moves are placed squarely on each steady beat of the music, making even the tiniest of the dancers’ rhythmic errors glaringly obvious.

So, is it still a moral obligation to see this more than once, because I’d go if it was? But, it doesn’t sound all that good, so...

Figure 1. Actual nutcracker used in ballet

The attempts at physical comedy by the battle scene’s troupe of fat, effeminate mice fail to tickle, frighten, or entertain. Their actions descend too often into movement clichés that beg for more imaginative choreographic re-invention.

I could just watch a marathon of A Christmas Story, that’s sort of a tradition these days.


Merry Carol Burnett Show

For those of you thinking about taking your kids to a holiday pops concert (read: variety show), you might think about purchasing a flask.

Don't be alarmed by what sounds like a giant vacuum cleaner turned on during the Seattle Symphony Orchestra's lovely rendition of "White Christmas."

Thanks, Tom Keogh of the Seattle Times, but I won’t be alarmed; I’ll be mildly tipsy.

What seemed initially like a terrible gaffe in an otherwise wonderful opening night of "Holiday POPS with Marvin Hamlisch" [...] turned out to be a cue to the audience to look up and see something unexpected.

A vacuum cleaner on the ceiling?

Snowflakes were falling from on high...

On high? Ugh.

...in Benaroya Hall, thanks to some unseen if unfortunately noisy machine.

Awesome. A loud machine spewing snowflakes (or shaved ice) on my head, inside a concert hall. How delightful. (I know the kids love that sort of thing, but, man alive, that’s why concerts take place inside, right? That’s why you give your The North Face, B McMurdo Parka to the nice coat-check person.)

Hamlisch, the symphony's principal pops conductor, expressed such a strong wish during the show that snow would hit Seattle, he...?

1. Evoked the name of Brittney Spears.
2. Made it snow in the concert hall.
3. Played a video of a local meteorologist predicting the weather.


...he actually played a video of meteorologist Steve Pool predicting the likelihood of a winter wonderland around here.

That’s not to say he didn’t evoke Brittney Spears’ name.


A drinking game for adults: take a sip from your flask every time something non-musical happens, e.g., snow, videos of meteorologists, etc.

Warning: make sure you have a designated driver.


But more about Brittney later.

Wish fulfillment was something of a theme for "Holiday Pops," beginning with a lively visit from St. Nick [...].

Take note: wish AND fulfillment.

Mugging and wisecracking his way through the audience, Santa promised a few of the many children in attendance they would get what they want for Christmas.

First, take a sip from your flask.

Second, “mugging” took me by surprise—I had to look it up—because that’s not the ordinary meaning. Though, it’s still fun to imagine Santa hitting people with his sack, taking their wallets, then calling them names.

Finally, and most importantly, Santa is not fulfilling wishes. He’s setting up possible disappointment, as our temporarily confused author even indicates:

(Note to parents: yikes!)


Kids are central to "Holiday Pops," but the irrepressible Hamlisch has something for everyone.

Kids don’t repress Hamlisch?!

At one point, Hamlisch randomly told a joke about his cardiologist's sneaky plan for averting a lawsuit.


Congratulating the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Northwest Boychoir and composer Samuel Jones on their Grammy nomination for "The Shoe Bird" audio book, Hamlisch had some advice.

"If you're up against Britney Spears," he said, "write your concession speech now. But I'm voting for you."

Sip. Sip. Sip.

You know, aside from that minor “wish fulfillment” gaffe, the review was pretty alright. It’s an extraordinary task to make these pops concerts sound...well, anything other than a reason to drink, and heavily.


Heroic Acts of Uploadery

We’ve probably all heard of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, to be conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas (known acronymously as MTT). YouTubers can download Tan Dun’s new score, videotape themselves playing it, and upload their videos in the hopes that their performance will be one of the 150 accepted, which will then be superimposed onto the other videos culminating in one, gigantic collage. Meh. Could be interesting, I suppose.

Though, there’s something unusually ripe about all this hubbub.

To quote Anne Midgette:

The idea, launched by two YouTube employees at an offsite retreat about a year ago, is being greeted enthusiastically by the classical music world, which Tim Lee, one of the project's initiators, tactfully described as "hungry for innovation."

See, there’s being innovative, and then there’s...

Well, there’s the title of the piece:

"Internet Symphony No. 1: Eroica"

There’s YouTubing, then there’s...

...heroic YouTubing?

Even if the title isn’t supposed to reflect this new-fangled symphonic process, it’s quite the presumptuous, baggage-heavy, maybe even cocky, reference to one of the (emphasized: THE) most important symphonies ever, ever. Beethoven’s Eroica was trés innovative. It almost single-handedly ruined music, evermore.

This begs the question: How does Mr. Dun exhibit an heroic brand of music or innovation worthy of the name?

Speaking by video feed from London, Tan Dun said his piece attempts to connect "ancient and modern...”

Not original.

“East and West..."

So he’s rewriting his previous work?

...with actual [music] quotes...

As opposed to...? Original music quotes?

...with actual quotes ranging from a snippet of Beethoven's "Eroica..."

Heroic snippet!™ Get yours today and shipping is free!! For a limited time only. See store for details.

...to rhythmic footprints of Tchaikovsky to percussion effects that echo the street noise of today's global environment.

It’s no walk in der Wald, anymore, given today’s global environment! (enter Beethovenian urban/pastoral pun here)

Like I said, it could be interesting. There are plenty of supporters, for what that’s worth. (enter empty rhetoric here)

I just don't think it sends out a good forward-looking, classical-music-can-be-innovative-too message; it seems facile and terribly out of touch with organic properties/functions of the internet.


Christmas Detritus

Ugh. Sorry for this, but it cannot go without comment.

Make a Joyful Noise

This is not...strictly...classical. But I cannot let it pass.

You can learn a lot about people from their Christmas music collections.

Christ. This is a tired, tired postmodern meme.

You can learn a lot about people by the car they drive!

Know what? I got my car from my parents because it was...free. I suppose my 1994 Dodge Caravan totally represents me. Because it is random. It could be anything that my parents happened to have owned. It tells you...nothing.

I had a professor that said that your ringtone on your cellphone tells a lot about you.

I have a realtor friend that opines that your shoes are the biggest tell about who you are.

I like to wear socks and Birkenstocks. Or do I?

Your aunt and her Celine Dion. Your grandpa and his Bing Crosby. Your brother and his hipster-lounge remixes. Your nephew and his punk rock. Your uncle and his Barbra Streisand. Your mom and her Three Tenors.

This is all crap. Stereotypes are lazy. Lazy, lazy writing. Sorry, dude. Ain't buying it.

The music we listen to at Christmas is a reflection of our childhoods, our traditions, our lives, our histories and our music taste in general.

So... to sum up, our taste in music reflects our...taste in music?

Player, please.

I got your xmas music right here.