I was at a concert: contemporary sandwich edition

 

This picture came from a site called foreclosurelistings.com. Kansas City everybody!

This picture came from a site called foreclosurelistings.com. Kansas City you guys!

It’s a tried and true formula to stuff the music of our time down the throats of reluctant concertgoers by sticking it in the middle of musical Wonder bread. A tag line like “come for the security of dudes like Liszt and Tschaikovsky, please for the love of God stay for this thing that you’ve never heard before!” might be snarkier than what’s warranted, but it would at least be straightforward and honest. It’s a pity, frankly, because it’s a tremendous joy to hear music written by human beings who remain among the breathing. We’re all set in our ways and we all have favorites and comfort zones and all that, but hearing something genuinely “new” to your ears is loads of fun, even if the work fails to move you. We bear the same responsibility as those patrons in Vienna whose job it was to distinguish between Beethoven and, say, Louis Spohr, and that SHOULD be one of the best parts about hearing live music.

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Something different: Glacier Don

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I’m fortunate enough to know a small handful of people who actually make good music for people like myself to listen to and write about. Most of the time these people are classical musicians like my friends Ken or Dave or Andy, but not this time. Pictured above is the cover to a mixtape that you can download completely free, no strings attached y’all by tremendously gifted rapper and hell of a nice guy Glacier Don. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen. Continue reading

10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 8

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Symphony in C, mvt. 2 by Georges Bizet

Like Richard Strauss, Georges Bizet isn’t regarded as much of a symphonist. In fact, Bizet isn’t regarded as much of an orchestral composer in general. His most popular “orchestral” works are the suites he culled from his most famous opera and his most famous incidental music, and his two major “mature” orchestral works, the Roma Symphony and the Patrie Overture are both pretty meh.

All the more ironic, then, that his most popular orchestral work is the one he a) never heard in his lifetime and b) didn’t give a shit about – dude wrote like a trillion letters and never mentioned the piece once. It didn’t receive its premiere until 1935 when Bizet biographer Douglas Parker ran it by Felix Weingartner. Why this is the case is anybody’s guess: is it because Bizet thought it was too derivative of his teacher Gounod’s Symphony in D? Is it because he figured he could grab some stuff from it and drop it in other works like he did with “De mon amie” from The Pearl Fishers? Is it because he just thought it sucked? It doesn’t really matter at this point. Continue reading

10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 9

 

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Symphonia Domestica, finale by Richard Strauss

You may not have suspected that Richard Strauss would place on a list like this, considering he’s known for tone poems. In fact, most commentators tend to describe both of Strauss’ mature symphonies as tone poems anyway, which may be 10% true, but both Eine Alpensinfonie and Symphonia Domestica are symphonies, admittedly with unique structures and approaches. Domestica in particular is symphonically constructed, whatever that may mean, with the movements connecting thematically and motivically with the sublime effortlessness that is synonymous with Strauss. Continue reading

10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 10

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Symphony no. 2 “Mysterious Mountain”, mvt. 3 by Alan Hovhaness

Mysterious Mountain is one of the absolute apexes of twentieth-century music. In a way it seems like the musical equivalent of hipsters who like PBR and shitty hats, damn near dripping in what you’d like to think is irony for things like “tonal harmony” and “Baroque form.” But perhaps more than any composer not named Anton Bruckner, Hovhaness was a genuinely spiritual man whose compositions ultimately manifest the simple worship of life, nature, and beauty. Continue reading

…and sometimes your purpose, well, it finds you.

A week or so ago I was signing on to the blog to write something and I caught a glimpse of the top search results for that day. Topping the list was “ten best symphony movements.” Now, that is exactly the type of search that I would assume might lead people to this space, what with the endless rankings of arbitrary musical entities that comprise a good deal of the material here. But I had never actually written anything breaking down the ten best symphony movements. Why? Because it’s not only beyond pointless to separate a single movement from the work it is a part of, it’s also impossibly difficult to whittle a list down to just ten movements out of the entire symphonic repertoire.

And then I re-read that last sentence I just wrote and said to myself, “if ever there was something that you, in all your inane glory, are qualified to do, it’s plumb the depths of the symphony and make this list a reality.” I can’t stress enough how utterly insane this is: what’s the point of the first movement of Beethoven 5 without movements two through four to codify the ideas into coherent greatness? But the more I think about it, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun and the chances of me listening to a shitload of great music in the process of creating this list are unequivocally 100%. If ever this blog had a calling, this is it. Continue reading

Alien invasion overtures concert: practical solutions for the salvation of humankind

Let’s be real, this blog doesn’t generate a lot of comments from anyone other than my family and friends, which is fine because my family and friends have good shit to say, as evidenced by the comments they left. The truth of the matter is, for all the requests for audience participation (all two of them), I was just gonna pick who I thought was the best anyway, so it really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things I suppose. With that in mind, I present my choice for Earth’s musical champion in the Great Intergalactic Overture Battle 2013 and the program order as I see it: Continue reading