Why do you ask? No, seriously?

The Sacramento Philharmonic played a piece of new music recently, and Edward Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee wants to know, "to what end?"

What I want to know is, "why do you ask?"

Music Review: Philharmonic program ambitious, imperfect

It was fitting that the piece that opened the Sacramento Philharmonic's latest performance was titled "Chasing Light."

It was fitting that the piece starting the concert was titled "Chasing Light"? I would normally assume that "Chasing Light" was simply abstract imagery, or a poetic turn of phrase. Frankly Ed, I'm not entirely sure that has any concrete meaning.

Apparently not. Let's find out why, shall we.

For it was the chasing of light, namely in the form of capturing it in soulful musical inspiration, that went missing Saturday evening at the Community Center Theater.

Oh. Okay.

figure confused: Huh?

Wait, no. The title, "Chasing Light" was fitting because the chasing of light was missing?

Then, by that logic, shouldn't the title Henry Kissinger's Topless Zombie Goldfish also have been fitting?

But I guess my problem is one of definition. What does chasing light mean?

[Rereads sentence] "Chasing light" means capturing soulful musical inspiration.

Of course!

(Don't worry, I've already updated urbandictionary.com)

So, clearly, we're all familiar with capturing soulful musical inspiration, but how is it therefore "fitting" if that soulful musical stuff wasn't actually part of the concert?

I guess I still don't understand. Can you can elaborate for us?

Although the night would see moments of spirited musicianship,...

I'm assuming "spirited musicianship" doesn't qualify as "soulful musical inspiration" (aka. "chasing light"). Anyways, go on...

...especially during composer Joseph Schwantner's "Chasing Light,"....

It's amazing how Schwantner was able to fittingly name his piece the very thing missing from a concert not programed until after his piece had been written. That's pretty awesome.

...the concert did not do service to the rest of the program,...

Are "concert" and "program" not interchangeable here?

...which included Sergei Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme on Paganini,"...

I have nothing to add here except to say this is a long sentence. I've now interrupted it 4 times.

...and Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 2.


So, this Schwantner piece really seems to be the linchpin of the concert. What's the story here?

The appearance of "Chasing Light," came by way of an unusual commissioning project called "Ford Made In America," financed through the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Co.

Ooh. A commissioning project. Cool. I'm a big fan of those. Why do you say it was unusual?

[Checks the internets...]

This doesn't seem so odd. Are you saying that a car company can't have an appreciation for the arts? (Have you seen the new Ford Fusion?)

Or are you saying that there's no reason to commission new music?

When done, that project, in its second year, will have brought Schwantner's work to 58 regional orchestras in all 50 states. It's an admirable idea.

Admirable? It's a great idea. And kudos to Ford for partnering with Meet the Composer and the League of American Orchestras to make this a reality.

It allows smaller-budget orchestras to commission and perform new works – always a costly endeavor.

Yes, exactly, which is why it's so great when large corporations extend their limited philanthropy dollars to easily overlooked projects like bringing new classical music to smaller communities.

Why do I sense that you have some issue with this?

But the effort does not answer the crucial question: "To what end?"

What?! Why do you ask? No, seriously, what the fuck?

I just told you, and you yourself already explained it...to bring new music to small regional orchestras. Da. Fuck?

I guess I don't understand your question. Is this some sort of philosophical riddle?

figure riddle: If Schwantner's "Chasing Light" is played in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does Edward Ortiz care?

But Mr. Ortiz, I guess you do have a point. What justification is there for this project? I mean, to think that Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 was only played by 28 orchestras in the 2007-2008 season, and they're spending money to spread this piece?! What a fucking crime. I can only imagine where this will lead us as a society.

It begins with small orchestras, like the Sacramento Philharmonic, playing music written in the last 25 years. Then, old people become alienated by all the "weird" music and stop coming the concerts. And before you know it, no one in attendance will care if there's a Mozart Piano Concerto on the concert, or even a Strauss waltz! Then, there will be nothing but new music on the concerts -- or in other words, anarchy. The new music elitistism will then spread to our museums, tearing down Bellini paintings in favor of this:

And the movie theaters will only play films by this guy:

and this guy:

A scary prospect, I know. Just think of the consequences if these people were ever to get involved politics. Goddamn socialists! Er... I mean new music.

But I digress. What were you saying again?

Although "Chasing Light" is a vibrant and descriptive work,...

It's a "descriptive work"? This isn't a third grader's report on the class trip to the zoo. Would you mind tell us what it "described"?

...it was hard to fathom why this piece, as opposed to any other, was chosen for the Ford project.

So your objection is not towards Ford or this project, your existential rumination was specific to this piece.

Yeah, Schwanter...why'd you write this piece? Seriously, what the fuck?

No doubt, the New Hampshire-based Schwantner shows a unique approach to orchestration. The 18-minute "Chasing Light" is a powerful, four-movement work that proceeds boldly and without pause.

"Without pause". How could you doubt the aptness of piece that proceeded without pause?!!

The work begins with a thunderous call from timpani that gives way to a descriptive theme in the strings.

Descriptive? Again? Really?

You are really struggling for compliments aren't you?

Perhaps I can help you out a little:

"The Schwantner is a piece. It both had a beginning and an end. I was impressed with the loudness in some parts, but also with the quiet stuff. Also, there was a flute. All of the notes were written down on paper, and the conductor led the orchestra. But, I couldn't help but wish there was more
molto in the playing. It was without pause." (The "without pause" really is a winner, no need to change that one.)

The work evolves fro
m its tumultuous beginning to a pastoral middle section of great color and emotional weight.

figure emotional weight: Like the Schwanter...metaphorically speaking, of course.

Throughout the work can be found an interesting interplay between strings and woodwinds.

And there was percussion too!

Here conductor Michael Morgan kept the orchestra on a crisp pace.

Here? Is "interesting interplay" a place?

But, at times, it seemed derivative and repetitive.

Define "it" again? Was "it" the "interplay", the "here", the "crisp pace", or just the piece in general?

And, derivative of what? Does derivation mean that it should be left only to the large metropolitan orchestras? And also unworthy of Ford's "Made in America" grant money? Schwantner is American, right?

Next came a warp-speed performance of "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" by pianist Misha Dichter.

Wait a minute. Let's back this thing up. I do have a relatively short attention span, but I remember something about the very existence of this piece being called into question.

It allows smaller-budget orchestras to commission and perform new works – always a costly endeavor. But the effort does not answer the crucial question: "To what end?"

Although "Chasing Light" is a vibrant and descriptive work,
it was hard to fathom why this piece, as opposed to any other, was chosen for the Ford project.

Ring a bell? Did you answer your own query already and I just missed it?

[Rereads review: ...descriptive work...without pause...descriptive...interplay...crisp pace...repetitive...]

Nope. Pretty sure you didn't really answer it. So, seriously, why do you ask?

What exactly is your point? Because it seems that you don't really have one, and you think it's fashionable to cast aspersions onto new classical music. Yes? Maybe?

But, hell, that doesn't even make any sense, because you seem to have liked the piece, at least a little. You did say that it was "descriptive", didn't you? And it does "proceed without pause", right?

Seriously, what the fuck.


Epilogue: Later, Mr. Ortiz, makes one very lame attempt to justify the whole fitting title introduction.

Overbearing performances of this symphony [Sibelius Symphony No. 2] often leave audiences with the impression that Sibelius' orchestrations are heavy-handed and redundant. But one would not have had that impression on Saturday. It would have been the opposite. There was nothing heavy-handed here; rather it was like Sibelius "light."

Ha ha. I was wrong. It all works now.

Plus, puns are awesome.



Sator Arepo said...

"...it was hard to fathom why this piece, as opposed to any other, was chosen for the Ford project."

Couldn't one, obviously, say that about ANY piece?

What a weird review.

Gustav said...

I guess his ultimate point, although he doesn't make it clearly at all, is that the Schwantner didn't feel like anything new which, for a project as ambitious as this one, may be disappointing.

AnthonyS said...

Oh Gus, I think you are being *way* too forgiving here. That fact that he phrases the comment as "this piece / was chosen" seems to imply that he doesn't really understand the commissioning process (since the composer was chosen, not the work). The "to what end?" comment seemed to me more about regional orchestras and new music in general and not solely regarding Schwantner. That is, from his lack of clarification, I feel rather free to speculate that he is implying that regional orchestras have little reason to play or commission newer works.

He should have been a little more descriptive.


Gustav said...

You very well may be correct, AnthonyS. But that sure would be depressing for the Sacramento arts community to have its music critic with such low expectations for the orchestra.

Gustav said...

You very well may be correct, AnthonyS. But that sure would be depressing for the Sacramento arts community to have its music critic with such low expectations for the orchestra.

Gustav said...

Stupid double post!

Fred said...

"A thunderous call from timpani that gives way to a descriptive theme in the strings" and "interplay between strings and woodwinds" aren't terribly convincing examples of "a unique approach to orchestration". A descriptive theme on the timpani or a thunderous call from, say, contrabassoon, viola and amplified turnips would better fit that description.

Let me point out something you skipped over regarding the Rachmaninov. The reviewer mentions that the conductor "did not effect a balanced sound between orchestra and soloist" which made it "difficult to hear Dichter's cadenzas". I may be wrong, but off the top of my head I don't recall any cadenzas in the "Paganini Rhapsody", but that would be a spectacularly unbalanced sound for the orchestra to drown out the pianist when they're not even supposed to be playing.

Empiricus said...

Awwww, smack! Good catch, Fred.

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