Friday, May 27, 2016

A little walk to the Palacio Real

Yesterday I took it easy as I’m still trying to get over jet lag. I don’t know why, but it always seems worse going to Europe than coming back. I was here years ago doing a concert tour with a flute player and we were taking turns driving. Each of us, at different times, usually, would be overcome with drowsiness and switch off driving. We were in Switzerland, just about to enter Italy when Robert, the flute-player, said “I’m getting really sleepy, we should switch over.” There wasn’t immediately a place to pull off and moments later we entered a tunnel in the mountain. I think it was the Durenmatt, which, on the other side of the mountain, comes out in Italy. Alas, this tunnel is about 20 kilometres long, with no pull-offs until you are through. That was a bit of a struggle to stay awake! On the other side, the climate was completely different: suddenly it was the Mediterranean with blue skies where in Switzerland it was a bit cloudy and rainy. That was a lovely tour, by the way, much of it spent playing in northern Italy: Verona, Ferrara, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and most of all, Firenza (Florence).

So yesterday, I rather vedged out (do people still say that?) and just took it easy. Today I am planning to do some walking and try and run down the shop of Jose Ramirez, where I bought my first concert guitar way back in 1974. That was the first reason for coming to Spain back then: to pick up a guitar that I had ordered months before. It is on the Calle de la Paz, which is supposedly just off the Puerta del Sol, though in that part of town the streets are so jammed together it is hard to tell from my map. The music shop Union Musical Española is nearby as well, who published a great deal of Spanish music for guitar.

Yes, I succeeded in finding the Ramirez shop. At first I thought I was going nuts because I didn't recognise anything about the neighbourhood. But, it turns out, when I bought my guitar they were in a different location, on Concepcion Jeronimo and now they are on Calle de la Paz. In any case, here is a photo of the shop:

Click to enlarge
Other places on my list include the Royal Palace which, with 2800 rooms, should take some time! I would also like to do a couple of excursions out of town to Toledo, the first big conquest of the Reconquista, and El Escorial. The latter is a place unique to Spain. It was built by Phillip II during the heyday of Spain’s empire in the 16th century and its construction absorbed a good deal of Spain’s economy for a couple of decades. It is a dark, but impressive, monument to the Counter-Reformation and has, among other features, 42 chapels and 16 courtyards. It began as a mausoleum to Philip’s father, Carlos I and to commemorate the Battle of San Quentin in 1557. Ultimately the project came to include a basilica, a monastery, a seminary and a library. Philip’s instructions to the architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, required that he should aim for “simplicity in the construction, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation.” After a few revolutions and the wholesale re-imagining of the whole social fabric it is hard for us to even entertain the concept of “nobility without arrogance” but for me that makes a place like El Escorial even more interesting.

I think that Felipe VI, the current King of Spain, is the last Bourbon monarch to still sit on a throne. Yes, Spain is now a constitutional monarchy, but its king, along with Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a few other places, is almost the last of the era of monarchy. So today, I did a little walking tour and visited the Palacio Real, built in the 18th century. The king doesn't actually live there these days, but in a smaller palace nearby. The Palacio Real supposedly has 2800 rooms, but the tour only includes a few. Here are some photos.

Part of the eastern facade

The rest of the eastern facade
The courtyard/parade ground looking toward the adjacent cathedral
The grand staircase
and the ceiling of the staircase
After this, you were not allowed to take photos of the rooms. They mostly have ceilings like that, painted by folks like Tiepolo. One room has walls finished in silk with silver thread, another is done completely in the finest porcelain, walls and ceiling. There are 16th century Flemish tapestries all over the place. One room has on display a quartet of instruments by Stradivarius, supposedly the only one in existence. Oh, and if sixty people drop by and you need a table for sixty, they have at least one dining room where that would not be a problem.

What we forget is that during the 16th and much of the 17th century, the King of Spain was the most powerful leader in the world.

For our envoi a good choice would be something by Tomás Luis de Victoria, who enjoyed the patronage of Felipe II and was for 17 years chaplain to the dowager empress at the monastery for the nobility in Madrid, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales.  This is his Salve regina:

Friday Miscellanea

Is this a vision of hell? Keith Blanchard writes in the Wall Street Journal: "The Future of Digital Music...Maybe: One man’s vision of what life will be like when literally every moment of your life gets its own soundtrack." See, my problem is that if all music is, is a soundtrack to your life, then all music is nothing but a soundtrack. And I've always thought that soundtrack music, while it has a valuable place, is really not very important music. But now I see that it is all a satire:
Just the right music will pop up everywhere. You’ll hear a triumphal march after you nail that job interview, a tender love song when you’re apologizing. I imagine it’ll be like living in a musical, where any emotionally charged situation, like old lovers meeting on the street, will start the music flowing, and everyone will drop what they’re doing and start singing and dancing and splashing through puddles. And then, annoyed by all this audible cheerfulness, a pack of emo kids will swarm out of a back alley in a sea of black, accompanied by a dark storm of songs about their pain...
I hope...

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Oh, Kanye, Kanye, Kanye. I don't think I have ever known a musician whose every public utterance makes me want to never, never, never hear a single note of his music: "Kanye West leaves Ellen DeGeneres speechless: 'I'm sorry for the realness' " Me too, Kanye! But I don't think "realness" is the right word. Perhaps, unbelievable moronic narcissistic personality disorder?
"Don't tell me about being likeable. We've got a hundred years here. We're one race, the human race, one civilization. We're a blip in the existence of the universe, and we're constantly trying to pull each other down. Not doing things to help each other. That's my point. It's like I'm shaking talking about it. I know it's daytime TV, but I feel that I can make a difference while I'm here. I feel that I can make things better through my skill set. I'm an artist, and I feel that I can make things better through my skill set. I'm a artist. Five years old, art school. PhD, Art Institute of Chicago."
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And now, for the comic relief portion of our miscellanea today, the poster for that elusive work by Nigel Tufnel (guitarist for Spinal Tap):

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New research by our friends in science suggests that practice is the way to get to Carnegie Hall. The book is titled Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 336 pp., $28.
Much of Peak is devoted to how deliberate practice works, and why more is better. Ericsson’s most famous research involved studying the schedules of violin students at an elite German school. The best—those the instructors said were destined for stardom—spent much more time in solo practice than those likely to become music teachers. Reconstructing their schedules since youth, Ericsson calculated that the best had spent on average 7,410 hours in deliberate practice by age 18, compared with 3,420 for the music education students. This solo practice allowed them to create mental models of their craft. They knew what a piece would sound like before they played it, and that familiarity allowed them to focus on details and nuance.
Now I know what my problem was: I didn't start practicing the classical guitar until I was 21! Be sure to read the comments at the link, because as is often the case, they provide the necessary correctives to the article itself.

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I'm not quite sure of the source of these numbers, but supposedly this is what some of the musical acts performing at the Woodstock rock festival were paid:
Canned Heat – $6,500 The Who – $6,250 (also reported at $11,200 but Variety claimed that number was inaccurate) Richie Havens – $6,000 Arlo Guthrie – $5,000 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – $5,000 Mountain – $2,000 Tim Hardin – $2,000 Joe Cocker – $1,375 Sweetwater – $1,250 John B. Sebastian – $1,000 Melanie – $750 Santana – $750 Sha Na Na – $700
Those are astonishingly small numbers, aren't they. Santana, $750? And look at what pop musicians make these days: Beyoncé over $50 million a year.

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I've always liked trompe-l'oeil, partly because, after a decade living in Montréal, I almost know how to pronounce it. But this is a trompe-l'oeil to end all such: French street artist JR will cover I .M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre with giant photos of the surrounding buildings to make it disappear. The Wall Street Journal has the story here.

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Very short miscellanea this week as, well, I haven't had much chance to gather exciting items. Tomorrow I am going to the opera here in Madrid, a joint production with the Paris Opera of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron. So let's have an excerpt for our envoi today. This is the first part of a German production from 2009.

Wow, what an interesting production. Talk about making the audience part of the action. And how the heck do you put the whole audience on a movable platform?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Excursion to the Prado

I'm still rather jet-lagged: you know the feeling, it always feels like 3 am, but you can't get to sleep? So yesterday I just took the path of least resistance and went to the Prado which is just across the street. Mind you, that street is the Paseo del Prado which is a very grand boulevard indeed:

Click to enlarge
Why do Spanish-speaking countries seem to do more spectacular avenues than English-speaking ones? This is just the treed strip in front of the Prado. Then there are four lanes of traffic, another big strip of park, and another four lanes. It reminds me of the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, but the Paseo del Prado is much wider, I think. Here is an engraving from the 18th century:

I forgot to bring my drone with me, so I wasn't able to take any aerial shots, but here is one of the Museo del Prado from Wikipedia:

Click to enlarge

Yes, it's a YUGE museum. It seems to contain the majority of works ever done by Spanish painters, plus a wide selection of ones by Italian, Dutch and German painters. There is a line-up to get tickets, but not too crazy long:

It took perhaps 20 minutes to get through. I fell into conversation with a Polish fellow who works in London, which passed the time nicely. Once inside, I discovered that no, you can't take photos, even without flash! A bit disappointing. I guess I wasn't expecting that because the last museum I was in, the Museo Soumaya in Mexico City, taking photos was perfectly acceptable. Anyway, I got this shot before they told me not to. This is a 17th century table top made from semi-precious stones:

I have one just like it at home... 8^)

Instead of a handout, they have the names of the painters in their collection engraved in the wall beside the entrance. These are some of the Italians:

After a couple of hours wandering somewhat randomly, I played out and started back. On the way I grabbed some lunch. Let me remind you (and myself), never eat in a restaurant located so as to appeal to the tourist trade. Always find one on a side street. This after paying twice as much for a meal half as good as the one I had yesterday at Terramundi.

And this is the somewhat unprepossessing facade of my hotel (which is really very nice inside):

If I were rich I would be staying at the Ritz, which is next door to the Prado:

So that was my day. Except in the evening I went out to see if Terramundi was open for dinner to discover, that no, it just does lunch. All the restaurants on the street seem the same. The only places open were a couple of bars, which do offer food. Spain is different this way. The big meal is lunch and that is when the restaurants are open. Everything else is a snack and you go to a bar. They offer all sorts of very nice sandwiches and other things. I had a beer, slices of boiled ham with paprika, some very nice bread and a dish of olives.

It seems easy to meet people: just down from me at the bar was a fellow who started a conversation. He was Spanish, but spoke perfect English with a British accent because he went to school there. We had a fascinating discussion about politics and economics and seemed to have fairly similar views. The same with the Polish fellow I talked to earlier. I almost feel at home here!

So that's all for now. Today I hope to actually get some composing done! And here is some music to end with. This is the Ritual Fire Dance from Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujo, Daniel Barenboim at the stick with the Chicago Boys:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jet Lagged...

Going to Europe I always experience jet lag. It is seven hours later here than in central Mexico. So I get on a plane in Mexico City at 1 pm and arrive in Madrid at 7 am the next day after a ten hour flight. But for me, it is midnight. And here I am, wide-awake, after about three short sleeps of a few hours each and it is 3:30 in the morning and still four hours until breakfast in the hotel. This is not a very big hotel, but very modern. It is in Calle Lope de Vega named after the great 16th and 17th writer who was the prolific author of 3000 poems, 500 plays and numerous other works. After Cervantes, he is the most highly-regarded Spanish writer. Every room is named after one of his works. Breakfast is pretty good, a nice buffet of cold cuts, fruit, yoghurt, pastries, breads and so on. There is a coffee machine that automatically dispenses cappuchino, cafe con leche, espresso, cortado, and so on. While not as good as when made manually by a good barista with good, freshly-ground beans, it is quite acceptable.

Just one block away is a good restaurant called Terramundi specialising in Galician cuisine where I had lunch. This is that part of Spain in the extreme northwest, just north of Portugal. Seafood is quite important. Terramundi is an excellent, very European type of restaurant. The maître d'hotel was a characteristic European restauranteur with helpful suggestions. The place was packed with enthusiastic diners. This was around 3:30 pm. One thing about Spain that I recall from before is that restaurants have very precise dining hours. Lunch is between 1 and 4 or so and that is when you go. I had a seafood brochet to start that consisted of two large prawns, a kind of small lobster, two crayfish (I think!) and a squid, all grilled in their shells (not the squid). Really excellent!! This was followed by what I would call pig's knuckle accompanied by a boiled potato and some chorizo. Also excellent. I forget what it was called, but also a Galician specialty. I ended with a cafe con leche. It was in Spain that I learned what coffee is all about. It took me many years, but I finally realised that if I bought a good espresso machine I could have great coffee, at home, every day. I was prepared for Spain to be expensive but this restaurant was actually quite cheap. The meal, two courses, plus a glass of Rioja and coffee, came to 14 euros. I often spend more than that for a high quality lunch in Mexico.

It is hard to put your finger on the exact details, but Europe always has a different feel from North America. They seem to have different car models, for example. I saw a Mercedes sedan yesterday that had subtly different lines and more ornate brake lights from what you usually see. Spain is much more prosperous than Mexico: cleaner streets, better designed buildings, better dressed and educated people and so on. Mind you, over time this may change as the economic growth of Mexico recently has been much greater than in Spain. But Mexico still has a long way to go. Madrid seems to be soccer mad. They are building a huge new training centre for Atlético, one of the two soccer (futbol) teams that rule here, the other being Real Madrid. The papers are full of futbol news and both my driver and the diners at an adjacent table talked incessantly about their teams. Mind you, I think there is a big match coming up.

Since I have all this time when I am up but no-one else is, I reviewed the instructions for my camera, a Fuji Finepix S4800 that I bought last year. It is the first good camera I have ever owned and I will be taking it out today and posting some photos later on. I had to review the settings for turning off the flash as when I go to the museums, they have rules about not using flash inside.

So that's all for now. Let's have some theme music. There is a very famous guitar piece titled "Asturias" by Isaac Albéniz that would do. Asturias is a region of Spain in the northwest immediately adjacent to Galicia. I have previously posted my performance here. Or you can listen to the very fine performance by John Williams:

On My Way

I’m travelling alone this trip—when I was talking to my violinist friend she said, very emphatically, “go by yourself.” I think that she meant because I would have more fun. So here I am, sitting in terminal one at the Mexico City airport with an hour or so to kill before my flight boards and it occurs to me that, as a blogger, I am taking all my readers with me.

I’m going to spend ten days in Madrid, which is a city with a lot of appeal for me. I have lived in many different places in my life. It started by living in a different small town in northern Canada for each of the first six years of my life. Now that’ll scar you! But the multitude of places I have lived boils down to basically five regions:

Northern Alberta and British Columbia: from when I was born to when I was fourteen, due to my father’s work with the railway, we lived in several different small towns (a few hundred people and a couple of grain elevators) before settling down on a small homestead when I was seven

Vancouver Island, specifically Courtenay and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia (this was what really changed my life as, had my mother not had to move there for her work, I likely would have stayed in northern BC and never had any access to nor contact with a number of things that changed my life—those started with attending the University of Victoria, which opened a lot of doors for me)

Spain, Madrid and Alicante: what caused this, the second big dislocation of my life, was my desire to study with a real master of the classical guitar and there simply were no such in Canada in the mid-70s. The only places to go were Spain or England and I had no connection with England. My teacher in Vancouver recommended I study with his teacher in Spain, Maestro José Tomás (as I have mentioned before)

Montréal, Québec: I moved to Montréal in order to finish my first music degree and ended up doing two at McGill University. I chose McGill because I met Michael Strutt, who taught there, at the master class in Alicante. He won second prize in the competition.

And, finally, Mexico. But before then I moved back to Victoria from Montréal, where I taught for a number of years at the Victoria Conservatory and the University of Victoria, then I moved back to Montréal again where I taught at Vanier College and McGill and did all the course work for a doctorate in musicology. But before embarking on the dissertation, I dropped out and moved to Mexico. Suddenly the idea of spending another twenty years in academia just didn’t appeal!

So, looking at those five places, there are two that I have not ever returned to: northern BC and Alberta, and Spain. Perhaps I might revisit the Canadian north at some point, who knows. But I have had the strong desire to return to Spain for a long time. Having spent so much of my life living in so many different places, I find that I need to, as it were, revisit past places as a way of rooting myself, not so much in a place as in the person I was when I lived there. If that makes any sense?

Why Madrid, which I only spent a few days in on two occasions during the year I lived in Spain? Why not Alicante, where I spent most of my time? I was in Alicante solely because Tomás was there and he passed away over a decade ago. There really isn’t anything to go back there for. Madrid on the other hand impressed me greatly and I barely scratched the surface. Madrid is resonant with so much history and art. Within a short walk of my hotel (chosen for that reason) are three world-class art museums: the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bournemisza museum. Together they contain a wealth of great art from the 13th century to now.

I also understand that Madrid has seven or eight thousand restaurants so all that, plus I intend to spend every morning composing, should take up my time nicely.

I will keep you posted!


Later: it was a long flight, ten hours, with a seven hour time difference so by the time I landed in Madrid, it was seven in the morning local time, but midnight for me. Every time I go to book a flight somewhere, I look at the difference in price between tourist/economy class and any of the premium classes and think "it's just not worth it." But every time I am jammed into one of those tiny seats for a long flight and, on deplaning, see the comparative luxury of business class and I think "oh yes, totally worth it." Iberia business class looks really posh: each seat is like a little niche where you can stretch out full length. Lots of room and, one assumes, lots of service.

Anyway, enough for now. I have made it to my hotel, though, since it is eight in the morning, I can't quite check into my room so I am here in the lounge, finishing off this post. Depending on how jet-lagged I am, there will probably be a post tomorrow with my first impressions of Madrid. I can tell you one thing, the new terminal at the airport is very nice, all curvy wood strips for the ceiling.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Who's the Minimalist? Steve Reich or Webern?

I think that this particular meme is fading away naturally, but for the first couple of decades of the careers of both Philip Glass and Steve Reich they were constantly referred to as "minimalists". Reich himself resisted that term, preferring instead to be thought of as someone who wrote "process music", music that consists in the unfolding of a process. If you look up the Wikipedia article titled "Minimal music" you will see the list of composers as including:
In the Western art music tradition the American composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass are credited with being among the first to develop compositional techniques that exploit a minimal approach.
But what does this really mean, "minimal approach"? As the element that seems to stand out most prominently is repetition, wouldn't the style be better called "repetitive music"? But never mind, Reich and Glass were both tarred with the minimal brush for quite a while. As time went on, they both developed their approach to the point that, while certain repetitive elements continue to act as foundational principles, the music has become so much more complex that the term minimal is rarely used to describe their more recent works.

Now let's take a brief look at Anton Webern, whose music is described by Wikipedia in these terms:
Webern's music was the most radical of its milieu in its rigorous and resolute apprehension of twelve-tone technique. His innovations in schematic organization of pitch, rhythm, register, timbre, dynamics, articulation, and melodic contour; his eagerness to redefine imitative contrapuntal techniques such as canon and fugue; and his inclination toward athematicism, abstraction, concision, and lyricism all greatly informed and oriented post-war European, typically serial or avant-garde composers such as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, Henri Pousseur, and György Ligeti.
But, if you listen to some of his music with fresh ears, what do you hear? This is the Lasalle Quartet with all of his String Quartet, op. 28, one of Webern's most admired pieces. Total duration, eight minutes:

And here is the score of the first page:

Most analyses of this piece start with the tone row, which has some unique properties.

For one thing, the first four notes are Bach's musical signature as, in German nomenclature, they spell out BACH. The next segment is the first one inverted and the final one is the first one transposed a minor sixth. A property of the whole row is that the inversion is the same as the retrograde. All this, plus the way that the row is presented in the music has long fascinated theorists. They have also pointed out the extensive use of canon which we can see on page one. The first two notes of the viola are canonically imitated in the first violin and later in the cello and second violin. If you look closely, you will see all sorts of canons.

For comparison, let's pick a highly admired piece by Steve Reich (also, I happen to have the score!), the octet titled "Eight Lines" from 1979/1983. This is the original recording from 1979 by Steve Reich and Musicians:

And here is the first page of that score:

So, which piece is the more "minimal"? It really depends on how you look at it, doesn't it? I have talked about the Steve Reich piece in a number of places on this blog, most recently here. In that post I quote an interesting analysis of the piece in which Brent Heisinger points out various ways in which Reich uses different kinds of canons throughout.

Setting aside contrapuntal techniques like canon, which are used extensively in both pieces, where are the big differences? Pitch, obviously. The Webern is structured to create a constant web of dissonance in which no pitch can be perceived as a tonic. The Reich, on the other hand, basically alternates between C# and D# until about two thirds of the way through, when there is a big shift to A flat. But the most salient difference is rhythm, of course. The Reich piece has a constant pulse that drives the piece throughout. The Webern doesn't.

Going back to the question, due to the sparse, transparent texture of the Webern, one could easily argue that, from a listener's point of view, it is more minimal than the Reich. Odd, isn't it? The Webern has long been regarded as a brilliant example of compositional complexity, but in reality, the piece by Steve Reich has quite a bit of complexity as well.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

The Globe and Mail has a big feature article about trombonist Russ Little's ongoing love for the E-Type Jaguar: "Canadian musician loves his Jaguar E-Type for the sound."
He bought his first E-Type new in 1973. Playing trombone with the band Lighthouse, these truly were Sunny Days, to name one among many hits. He paid cash for the car he’d remembered ogling at O’Donnell-Mackie Motors on Bay Street while studying conducting and composing at the University of Toronto.
Later, he elaborates on his attachment to the V-12 soundtrack. “When the RPM goes up, the frequency and the pitch go up – but the tone doesn’t change,” he says, reaching for his instrument and demonstrating. “The trombone is really the only instrument in the world that’s the same: a perfect simulacrum.”
My dear friend, violinist Paul Kling, also loved Jaguars. I remember going shopping with him when he bought a Jaguar Sovereign. Another friend, the owner of a recording studio in Vancouver where I did a lot of recording also loved Jaguars. His collection included a 1964 E-Type along with a Morgan and a BMW 3.0. Jaguar must be the car of musicians!

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It's tempting to see this as just another attempt of the New York Times to stroke their core readership, but it is actually pretty interesting: "Don’t Let Them Tell You You’re Not at the Center of the Universe." Here, let me quote a bit:
“Where did the Big Bang happen?” I am often asked, as if the expansion of the universe was like a hand grenade going off and the solar system and our Milky Way galaxy were shards sent flying.
The universe didn’t start at a place, it started at a time, namely 13.8 billion years ago, according to the best cosmological data. It’s been expanding ever since — not into space because the universe by definition fills all space already, so much as into time, which as far as we know is open-ended.
This fascinates me because, as a musician, I am basically time-oriented rather than space-oriented.

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We have all wondered whether or how much animals enjoy music, right? Well, wonder no more as Ann Althouse shares with us a clip of a musical moose.

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What's the longest a single musician has played in an orchestra you ask? The answer is seventy-one years--and three months. In February bassist Jane Little of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra made the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest professional tenure with a single orchestra. And May 15th she collapsed onstage during a performance and passed away later in hospital. The article doesn't say, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weren't that nasty double bass solo in the last movement of Beethoven's 9th that was responsible. She was eighty-seven years old. UPDATE: More information has become available. It wasn't Beethoven, it was the encore: “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun.”

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From the Annals of Underpaid Musicians comes this piece from the New Yorker: "Congress's Chancce to be Fair to Musicians."
The music business is at a paradoxical crossroads. Listeners consume more music in more ways and in more places than at any time in history. Many Americans spend their waking hours with buds in their ears: walking down the street, commuting, even when working. This kind of immersion in music was never previously possible. But this abundance has not meant prosperity for the people who make it possible—quite the opposite. The proposed law, while hardly a panacea, offers a small corrective, and a little cash, to the artists who create the sounds for the rest of us.
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 So often these days I see a photo of a fashion model and ask myself "what is she doing holding that trumpet/bassoon/violin?" Then I slap myself and realize, no it is just another up and coming young artist who, by some strange quirk of fate, happens to look like a fashion model. Very odd...

Alison Bolsom, subject of this article in the Guardian

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Further to my post yesterday about the travails of music critic Arthur Kaptainis, there is a very fine discussion in Maclean's magazine by Lev Bratishenko who manages to point out that killing off the critics is a very bad idea indeed. Read the whole thing. Here's a sample:
I don’t think anyone will notice the difference soon, but it will be arts organisations like the COC who will lose most from the absence of critics in the mainstream press. When something is good, or even when it is bad but still worthwhile, we are their most energetic and earnest supporters. Readers can trust us because we don’t owe anybody praise, and if we chose to write about an absurd, niche art it’s because we love it. There’s just no way to fake it. Criticism isn’t just some “content.” However little you pay an arts critic, you’re never buying their passion.
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For our envoi today I offer Music for a Large Ensemble by Steve Reich dating from 1978. This is the original recorded version by Steve Reich and Musicians. There are thirty players in all.