Creeping-Hyphen Menace Reaches Columbus

Figure 1: "There are places in America where creeping hyphenation is already taking hold!"

Season opener nicely balances familiar and not
Barbara Zuck, Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/2010

There is a specter haunting American arts journalism: the specter of unnecessary punctuation.

The ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus capped a big weekend for the performing arts tonight with a superb season-opener at its home, the Southern Theatre.

"Season opener" is a compound noun, and not adjectivally modifying...anything. Why the hyphen? The poorly constructed title of the article gets it right, for once.

Music Director Timothy Russell accomplished what he has done so many times before: assemble a wonderful program that...

He accomplished...assemble? Say, that is an accomplishment! You know, in the rarefied air of avant-garde subject-verb agreement circles.

Music Director Timothy Russell accomplished what he has done so many times before: assemble a wonderful program that balanced the familiar with the "not-so" and starred a brilliant guest artist, American cellist Zuill Bailey.

The "not-so"? Is an orphaned modifier somehow worthy of quotes, or just a random punctuation attractor [er, punctuation-attractor?]?

A recent chamber-orchestra arrangement of the well-known Mussorgsky piano work Pictures at an Exhibition opened.

Yikes. Why not hyphenate "piano-work" as well? Also, and not for nothing, that is some textbook passive voice right there. The Mussorgsky "opened," did it?

This version was created...


...by a member of a renowned Brazilian musical family - Clarice Assad, sister of the well-known guitar duo, the Assad Brothers.

Why use an m-dash to do an m-dash's job when the hyphen is sitting right there on your keyboard, staring you in the face? Or when a comma would do just fine? A colon, even, would be a good candidate; but no. The Creeping Hyphen Menace is trying to subvert the very principles established by our English-speaking founding fathers!

Clarice Assad's arrangement brims with clever instrumental combinations, interesting solo-instrument choices and a sense of humor.

Solo-instrument? Sure! Why not "instrumental-combinations" and "sense-of-humor" as well? Yeah, I guess that'd be too obvious.

Those who know the piece well might have found themselves chuckling at various moments, as well as marveling at the colors created by the particular instrumental hues Assad selected.

Might have. Might not, though. I guess. Is this a speculation based on personal experience, or a projection about how one who knew the Mussorgsky may have reacted?

Safer not to alienate anyone. I mean: who knows that piece, anyway?

No hyphens in that sentence, anyway. But maybe we're being lulled into a false sense of security?

ProMusica reprised Prokofiev's marvelous
Symphony No. 1 (Classical), a charming and melodic work that is among the composer's best-known creations.

See? The hyphens are pretending to be well-behaved and normalized. That's how they getcha.

Was Prokofiev having fun at music-history's expense - or merely enjoying himself creatively?

Okay. My fears were justified.

"Music-history"? And another use of a hyphen where a comma would do, or an m-dash would be appropriate? Barely noticed, did you? Man, these hyphens are playing the long game. They're willing to wait us out.

Also, the entire premise of this sentence is...unintelligible. I don't know what "enjoying himself creatively" means (it sounds like a euphemism for individualistic onanism) , nor do I know why it's differentiated from "having fun at music-history's [sic] expense."

Perhaps both.


Oh, wait. No I don't.

ProMusica had a good time as well, most notably in the heavy-footed "gavotte."

Oh, well, as long as they had a good time. Playing a "gavotte." Which is...a movement from the Prokofiev? Yes, it is (III: Gavotta non troppo allegro), but you wouldn't know that unless you already knew it.

Bailey, a native of Virginia with an exotic appearance onstage, joined the orchestra for the closer, the
Concerto No. 1 for Violoncello and Orchestra by Shostakovich.
Figure 2: The exotic appearance of Zuill Bailey.

Playing a magnificent 1693 Gofriller cello that once belonged to the Budapest Quartet's Mischa Schneider, Bailey sounded as facile as a violinist...

One doesn't expect a professional soloist playing anything other than a violin, or perhaps a piano, to demonstrate any agility on their instrument.

...while simultaneously delivering a powerful and sonorous tone quality no matter the range of the score.

This awkward sentence could have, mind you, been further garbled by substitution "score-range." So there's that.

The Shostakovich No. 1 may not be regarded as your typical instrumental showpiece.

It may not? (Although I don't see why.)

Bailey may have changed a few minds last night with his virtuoso rendition.

He may have? What does this double-speculation-as-possible-contradiction construction achieve?

Many of Columbus' major arts groups offered performances this weekend. ProMusica's concert was the stand-out in the crowd.

Figure 3: "Oh, I see. Then everything is wrapped up in a neat little package!"


Gustav said...

I find this whole review far-fetched. This is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill, heavy-handed report from a well-heeled, rank-and-file critic and her goody-two-shoes newspaper on a cul-de-sac in a topsy-turvy world. As a card-carrying reporter, she needs to do an about-face and go-for-broke in a free-for-all, whiz-bang, skinny-dipping, put-up-or-shut-up review.

Point-blank booby-trap hocus-pocus, that's what I say.

Sarah said...

Thank-you. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Also, Clarice Assad is the DAUGHTER of Sergio Assad (of the famous duo), not their sister!

Anonymous said...

This is what-we-get from government-education.

Great "write-up" SA!