10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 3

Jean_Sibelius_1939

Symphony no. 7 by Jean Sibelius

So this is definitely cheating, but whatever; the man himself only made it one movement, and that’s good enough for me. There are easily identifiable “movements” in Sibelius 7, but I guess they’re just sections or something so I’m sticking with this come hell or high water.  Continue reading

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10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 10

Alan_Hovhaness

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

The 2011 Everything But the Music Awards, part 1

Happy New Year!

The official mascot of the 2011 Everything But the Music awards, a teddy bear so fucked up on champagne that he looks like he may have raped and murdered someone last night but can't remember the details

With the new year rapidly approaching, and by rapidly approaching I mean here already, every publication, news program, radio show, and 16-year-old-girl’s diary are presenting their annual “The Year in ______” lists. I wish I had the kind of job where I could make a credible “The Year in Music” list, but I don’t and I’m not entirely sure I ever will. But I can make a “My Year in Music” list and nobody can really say shit about it because the word “my” is right there in the title. What to put in my list? I will likely include discussions of superlative performances and recordings in a mock-awards format in which no actual prizes will be given away or even considered for that matter, with the exception of the sheer prestige of being acknowledged by this blog. Perhaps I will include some random thoughts about things that don’t have anything to do with this year. Most importantly, I will bring a whiff of nostalgia and a smile to my own face thinking back on what was, even as I realize that I continue to march inexorably toward the brittle and cold embrace of death. Anyway, over the next little while, I’ll be presenting the first and quite possibly last annual Everything But the Music Awards in this space. Here we go!

Continue reading

10 Best: Symphonies no. 3

Continuing what has magically turned into a series that I didn’t intend to start, we’re counting down the 10 Best Symphonies no. 3.  The field is more crowded than ever, probably uncomfortably so.  I had a hell of a time sifting through all these amazing works, and some pieces that I really love got left off altogether.  The most interesting trend I noticed in compiling this list was the startling amount of quality Symphonies no. 3 by American composers; it is very clearly a lucky number.  Ives, Copland, Schuman, Rorem, Harris, Bernstein, Cowell, Diamond, Ward, Glass, Hanson, Hovhaness, Mennin, and Sessions all contributed strong entrants to the field (clearly I should have just made a list of Symphonies no. 3 by American dudes).  Which of these made the cut?  Here we go… Continue reading

10 Best: Symphonies no. 5

A few years ago, some friends and I devised an NCAA-style bracket tournament to determine the greatest composer of all-time through a rigorous series of discussions.  The overwhelming majority of humans would likely declare that arguing over who was better/more important between Ravel and Schoenberg is a pointless waste of time.  Just because they’re correct doesn’t mean it still can’t have benefits; talking about music, no matter how unusually, is far from pointless.

It is with that same general spirit in mind that I invite you into my world of randomly ranking things like best symphonies based solely on their number. It probably seems like a ridiculous idea, and it is, but it still gets you thinking about great music, and ultimately that’s good.  Read this and think about it.  Even better, listen to the music and rate for yourself.  Think of me as a cult leader and classical music as the cyanide Kool-Aid.  Do it now. Continue reading

Who is the best Bruckner interpreter of all-time?

Anton Bruckner

You can't drown, you fool. You're immortal.

Things here are slowly settling back to normal, and with that comes the hope that I’ll be able to re-kindle this blog a little bit with the final embers probably already burned out but still kind of a faint orange color.  I do have some pure gasoline, though, so I hold on to the dream.  By the way, the San Francisco Giants are World Series champs.

Somehow over the last few weeks, someone besides every member of the Giants and the guy who stole our shit has managed to be in my consciousness, and that’s Anton Bruckner.  I’ve found myself listening to the symphonies quite a bit recently, although I don’t entirely know why.  I can’t say they necessarily provide comfort in a time of stress, and they don’t really jive with baseball.  I guess it’s just that they’re really awesome. Continue reading