Five marginally-connected thoughts on Sergei Prokofiev

If this wasn't an ill-conceived press photo at the time it was taken, it surely set the stage for those that came generations later.

If this wasn’t an ill-conceived press photo at the time it was taken, it surely set the stage for those that came generations later.

On Saturday night the first words out of my mouth after the final note of the excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev’s epic ballet Romeo and Juliet had sounded were “Jesus Christ.” Guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto had led our fine local band through a concert that was, to me, a tale of two halves. The opening half was OK – a decent performance of Silvestre Revueltas’ Redes suite and a pleasant though perhaps character-deficient reading of the beautiful Concierto de Aranjuez – but the return from intermission brought with it a deadly combination of music and players that were made for each other. Prieto’s conducting was straightforward and wonderfully uncomplicated, the band’s greatest strengths were highlighted, and, most importantly, Prokofiev is really good at music.

It’s that last one that got me thinking as the rest of the weekend wore on. It had been awhile since I had listened to Prokofiev, and it had been even longer since I had heard his music in concert (in fact, it was probably the concert here a few years ago when Gil Shaham played the second concerto). As I was reminded of just how much of a bad ass he is, I thought it might be appropriate to share the five recurring thoughts that have been kicking around the infinite void that is my brain. Continue reading

Something to listen to: CCEE CCGG CCBB CCGG. Always.

Presented with only one note and one comment. Note: This is the 4th in a series of 7 operas called “Perfect Lives” by Robert Ashley. The rest can probably be found on YouTube with some digging. Comment: if there’s one thing I can count on in this world, it’s Dave McIntire introducing me to something I had no idea existed and providing enough insight to make me seek out more information. Last night he showed me this, and needless to say I found it fascinating. It’s pretty weird, but the narration is really something (Dave had a copy of the text, which was awesome to see in print), and the piano playing is great to a point approaching unbelievability. Thanks for the heads up as always, Dave.

Ashley died on March 3. May he rest in peace in a place where they actually DO serve wine in half pints.

Something cool you might have missed: The birth of American choral writing


Before America was America it was a bunch of English colonies, and there wasn’t anything uniquely American about it to speak of prior to the revolution. Hell, they called the bulk of it New England, which gets points for honesty if not creativity. It had to have been a pretty exciting time for those who were there. 120 years after their first foray into the New World, the British settlers had successfully established a society on land that was definitely never inhabited prior to the Mayflower, I swear (citation needed). These were heady times filled with people working at trades, going to church, banging out children, and definitely doing all of your own manual labor without any outside help from, say, Africa (citation needed).

It was the famous Patriots (a word which has unfortunately lost all meaning today) that we all learned about in school that first began sowing the seeds of American Nationalism in the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence. Ben Franklin, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the rest of the gang all deserve their fair share of the credit (and blame) for the burgeoning republic that ultimately became a reality, but as much credit as belongs to the political heroes of the day belongs to the cultural heroes as well. Men like Thomas Paine, John Singleton Copley, and Ben Franklin again (seriously, Ben Franklin is the shit) slowly began establishing the elements of a unique cultural heritage that would come to full flower in the 20th century. Continue reading

10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 1

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony no. 3 ‘Eroica’, mvt. 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven

The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk might have the greatest claim to the double whammy of being ahead of their time and shining a light on a future that in hindsight seemed inevitable. Fast forward 110 years from their famous jaunt through the not-exactly-skies-but certainly-off-the-ground and we now live in a world where passenger planes filled with beds, alcohol, and unceasing danger fly around the world at all times of every day and unmanned aircraft called, with menacing casualness, “drones,” may or may not blow people up on the ground below (spoiler alert: REDACTED). The notion of giant mechanical beasts roaming the blue yonder probably seemed like a novelty in the 1860’s, pretty far-fetched considering the circumstances at the turn of the century, and the perfect tool for man to rain holy fucking hell on his fellow man by the 1940’s. The Wright Brothers greatest invention was not so much technological as it was ideological.  Continue reading