Dallas, Texas and the surrounding area is a God-forsaken hellscape, and is likely as close to a prison as I’ll ever get. Consequently my eyes have constantly been on the lookout for diversions on the weekends, and one such diversion is the potential allure of the Houston Symphony, a scant 3 or 4 hours away. According to my internet research, they are performing Mahler’s massive Symphony no. 2 this weekend, at least in part because it is the end of Hans Graf’s reign as Music Director. What better way to celebrate one’s tenure than with the “this is a death but we’ll all be resurrected” vibe that isn’t self-indulgent in any way? Continue reading
Things have finally settled down from the insanity of April, and with that the desire to write something, anything, returns, at least somewhat. Of course, I’m doing this from a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, listening to headphones and simultaneously trying to remember and forget the things learned this week, which is doing nothing for whatever passes for a “creative process.” Right now, I’m just cycling through bits of music that I really like, a playlist which looks strange and is admittedly an out-of-context affront to the composers’ intentions. Then again, perhaps Strauss and Barber would feel good about themselves if they knew that I was gaining some combination of motivation, satisfaction, and solace from random excerpts of the shit they wrote.
Driving down here I did an experiment that I entitled “Will Bruckner and Sibelius Symphonies Make Me Hate Texas Less?” and I have to say, the results are encouraging. The contention that classical music, even raucous classical music, is something to be experienced in a moment of contemplation or repose is something that I think I officially don’t agree with. It was fun as hell to roll the windows down (or at least push a button to make them go down) and crank up the finale of Bruckner 8 or Sibelius 2 – no less fun than cranking up The Black Keys or Radiohead or Geto Boys or The Mills Brothers.
I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t give a fuck about the conventions associated with classical music, and I probably realized this all along, but it really hit me somewhere in the vacuous wasteland that natives call Oklahoma. By the way, I’m from Kansas City! Tangent: I’m listening to the “Wo ist er…” bit from Salome, and I have to say, this cover photo of Birgit Nilsson is freaking me out.
She looks like a drag queen version of Brendan Gleeson taking a shit in the middle of a Moroccan restaurant, which is actually less fucked up than Salome now that I think about it. Anyway, I just want to say definitively, on the record and for the record, that classical music, while capable of generating tidal waves of emotion and requiring serious concentration to fully appreciate, can also just be a hell of a way to cruise the Interstate Highway System.
Also, I’m still here. Thanks for sticking around.
Be advised: I still live. New job and new house, though, so I’m dead inside. Stay tuned for something at some point and thank you for your patience.
My love for Richard Strauss is well-documented in these parts. I’m on record somewhere sometime in saying that he composed with the greatest ease of anyone who ever lived – more than even Mozart, the most common answer given when the “who’s the most naturally gifted?” question arises. Strauss has an innate ability to make music sound absolutely bad ass that towers over everyone around him, and while this is not necessarily to suggest that it means he is the greatest composer or the most meaningful or the composer we’ll turn to in our darkest hours for solace or whatever the fuck else we laud Beethoven and Bach for, we’ve gotta take Strauss for who he was, and that’s someone so unimaginably skilled that it literally and truly boggles the mind. Continue reading
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, in large part because we’re in the process of buying a house and I’m theoretically in the final stages of getting a job. Regardless, I’ve also been watching more sports lately, in no small part because my beloved Golden State Warriors are in danger of making the playoffs for only the second time in my adult life. A couple weeks ago the Dubs were playing in Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, and the site of some of basketball’s greatest performances (Kobe going for 61, MJ for 55, Lebron for 52) in the history of the game. Stephen Curry scored 54 points, more than half the team’s total, and put on a fucking clinic from long range, making 11 of 13 three-pointers.
What I loved most about the game was the crescendoing sense of doom from the Knicks fans in attendance as Curry got hotter and hotter, hitting an ever-increasing assortment of crazy shots. Enjoy the crowd noise. The gasps, oohs, aahs, and shouts are a beautiful collection of what happens in transcendent moments, with 20,000 people united in witnessing something great. THIS is why we love anything great: sports, movies, music, art, whatever. When a single idea, be it a perfect symphony like Brahms 4 or a basketball sharpshooter finding the zone like none other, captures the imaginations of so many different kinds of people, it demonstrates the sheer power of the Platonic, intangible thing known as greatness and its effect on us all.
Bluebeard’s Castle is cool as shit, man. It’s such a great story, and the music is unbe-fucking-lievable. Bartok wasn’t actually supposed to write it – Bela Balasz, the librettist, had a roommate who also composed named Zoltan Kodaly – but thank God he (being Bartok) did. It’s possibly the raddest thing he ever did, a score overrun with ideas and colors and intrigue. The story is pretty simple: boy meets girl, boy brings girl home, boy is rich and has sweet castle that could use a little light, boy sure has a lot of closed doors in here, boy has some secrets that he would prefer you not ask about, boy relents and shows you everything one door at a time, girl is rewarded with jewelry. Lots of jewelry. Continue reading
Wolfgang Sawallisch died Friday at the age of 89. I confess to have been working under the assumption that he had died years ago. Because conducting is often something that people at the highest levels do until they’re extremely fucking old (or extremely fucking dead in some cases), it’s unusual to think of a world-class maestro “retiring” to the Bavarian Alps and just chilling and playing piano and shit. But that’s exactly what Sawallisch did – his last major gig was with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which ended in 2003 and he retired “officially” in 2006 – something that, as I reflect upon that unbelievably relaxed cardigan/tie combo and wry smile, seems totally reasonable, ill health or otherwise. Continue reading