A new year’s resolution with help from the hipster bastards over at tumblr

Frightened of the old ones

The link above is to a blog that I’m going to attempt in 2014. The title of the blog comes, like the title of this blog, from a quote issued by an important musician. In this case it’s John Cage: “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

The idea behind the new outpost is quite simple. It’s my hope to listen to a piece of music every single day in 2014 that is “new” to me. In some cases this will mean music written within the last year. In others it may be something that was written 400 years ago that I just don’t know. My intention is to just to listen and post a stray thought or two about what I heard and thought about it. Why tumblr? Hell if I know. Why not I guess.  Continue reading

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The train, the fog, and the Bruckner: Chicago, part 2

Distinguished as fuck

Distinguished as fuck

Now that you’ve already been bored to tears by part 1 of my Chicago adventure, let’s get on to the part where there was actually music involved. As I said previously, in spite of my unflinching love of Bruckner’s music, I had literally never heard any of it live before, which is kinda insane when I really think about it. Truth is, there is still a relatively decent-sized subset of conductors who either don’t get Bruckner (and therefore avoid programming him) or think his music sucks (and therefore avoid programming him). Even so, it’s a bit surprising I hadn’t run into a live Bruckner performance by accident. Needless to say, considering the fact that I had been waiting, consciously or otherwise, for 15 years since I first discovered the man’s music, my expectations were through the roof, atmosphere, and a good chunk of the galaxy going into last Saturday night. Continue reading

The train, the fog, and the Bruckner: Chicago, part 1

In the relatively immediate aftermath of my breakup earlier this year, I somehow decided that I was going to do “something nice for myself,” and this “something nice for myself” eventually turned into a trip to Chicago to see the symphony perform Bruckner, theoretically crossing two things off the bucket list that I don’t have. I booked myself a room at the moderately swanky Hilton Chicago, got expensive tickets to the symphony, and bought Amtrak tickets because taking the train is fun (and in no way because of my not-actually-debilitating fear of flying). Friday morning I checked a third thing off of what is now a pretty sad retroactive bucket list and took the train out of Union Station in Kansas City. It was not nearly as cool as it seemed in my head. Continue reading

The Heartbreak Kid: Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert had syphilis. Or maybe he did not. If he did, he got it from a male prostitute. Unless he did not. Officially he died of typhoid fever, but he had symptoms of mercury poisoning. Mercury would have been a common treatment for syphilis at that time. And you could probably get it from prostitutes, male or female. Syphilis, of course, eventually makes you lose your shit and descend into something resembling madness, but perhaps that madness also gives you an insight into things that the rest of us who aren’t banging whores could never know. I’m not sure if there’s any better explanation for the last 5 years or so of Franz Schubert’s compositional life. He went from being a dude who wrote catchy songs, some lovely piano and chamber music, and some Haydn-ish orchestral music to the guy who wrote quite possibly the deepest and most heartbreakingly tragic music in human history. Continue reading

On fishes and ponds and Beethoven symphonies and shit

David and GoliathI’m a pretty big fan of Malcolm Gladwell books. They get me to look at things with a different perspective and consider possibilities that I perhaps wouldn’t have considered on my own. His most recent work, David and Goliath, examines the idea of the underdog and how things we think are disadvantages aren’t always so. So far I would say it’s significantly less interesting than Outliers, but in fairness Outliers is probably one of the five best things I’ve ever read. The most recent chapter I finished dealt with the idea of being a little fish in a big pond versus being a big fish in a little pond, centrally focused on the difference between going to a prestigious university as opposed to a state school or small college. I won’t spoil the details (they’re well worth a look), but the chapter suggests that being at the top of a smaller pond is actually more advantageous than being buried somewhere in the middle of the larger pond, and it got me thinking about essentially the same questions as it relates to postsecondary music education. Continue reading