Monday, December 5, 2016

The Diversity Racket

I really wish I didn't have to write posts like this, but if we want to keep music free from politics, then we have to do some pushing back from time to time. I just discovered a website in the UK titled "Arts Professional" that is a focal point for exactly what needs to be resisted. Here is a typical piece: Arts diversity: The quota conversation:
Quotas in the arts failed in the 1980s. But now is the time to champion their reintroduction, across workforce and artistic programming, argues Christy Romer in the fifth in a series of articles.
The thing to remember is that these people never give up. No matter how wrong-headed their policies and principles are, they just keep pushing them until they win. It's a bit like the referenda on joining the European Union: if a nation votes no, they will just keep holding new referenda until they vote yes.

Part of the methodology is to assume the conclusion: diversity must be good because diversity must be good. This is the logical error that used to be known as "begging the question." Let's read how this is presented:
The BBC has quotas on gender, disability, ethnicity and sexuality. Ofcom has quotas for regional output and subtitling. Should arts organisations implement all of the above, including an older person quota and a class quota? Should they be allowed to choose a number of quotas which are most relevant to their region and output? How should they overhaul a workforce to fulfil a quota within a certain timeframe?
I searched the article for an argument stating exactly why quotas were necessary, but all I found was, over and over, statements that quotas are necessary because the "workforce" is not diverse enough. In none of these kinds of articles are attempts made to examine the priorities and goals in any more depth than simply to state the principle that people working in the arts have to reflect the same kind of diversity found in the population as a whole--and they won't even state that principle clearly. The hilarious irony is that the constant cry is for "color-blind casting" but that is precisely what they don't want: what they do want is ethnic quotas!

The thing is that the progressive political wing has an agenda that they never argue for with much clarity, but instead simply assume. Why? Because it is pragmatically useful. Everything they do has the ultimate end of giving more and more power to political actors to control society down to the microscopic level:
In the Theatre Royal’s production of Sherlock Holmes, Cruden said that 36% of the women met and offered jobs were BME, and 18% were disabled. For the men, this was 41% BME and 6% disabled. He added that the final cast included 17% BME and disabled actors, and that the theatre had “quite comfortably” achieved a target of gender-balancing the team on and off stage.
"BME" stands for "black and minority ethnic." This prompts a whole series of questions: do these percentages reflect the actual makeup of society in the nation as a whole? In the urban region? Why should the cast of a theater production of Sherlock Holmes mirror the ethnic makeup of society? Was this ever democratically decided? And speaking of the ethnic makeup of society, was it not the case that the Tony Blair government embarked on a years-long strategy of upping the intake of "BME" immigration to the UK with the specific purpose of making a permanent change in the ethnic makeup of UK society--and did so secretly with no attempt to discern the preferences of the citizens?

Why is it that these kinds of quotas are only applied in areas that are perceived to be desirable, prestige jobs like the arts? If the proportion of BME members in a geographic area receiving social assistance is very high, why are there no attempts made to ensure that a proportionate number of white citizens are included?

It is deeply ironic that the failure of previous attempts at setting quotas in the arts are attributed to "unconscious bias." Viz:
The worry for many is that letting arts organisations set their own diversity targets will simply lead to pledges and good intentions which fail to grapple with unconscious bias. In short, it’ll lead to the failures witnessed in the 1980s.
Given the constant drumbeat of articles like this one, how could anyone with a pulse possibly retain any unconscious bias?

Let us be clear about what is going on here: the agenda of all left-wing organizations is the same: to achieve the maximum possible political control of society. An extremely effective means of doing so is the manipulation of public opinion through identity politics. The argument is always that we are fighting for justice on your behalf. But the "you" is never the nation as a whole, but always some identity group: women, visible minorities (but rarely Chinese or Jewish), people of varying sexual orientation and so on. The categories get smaller and smaller. The crucial lever to achieve acquiescence is the notion of oppression: your group is being oppressed. The oppressors always seem to be middle-aged white males, preferably Christian!

Now, to any objective observer, are middle-aged white Christian males actually and actively oppressing minority groups? They are really not, though this is the perennial bogey man.
"TV is still not very diverse. There might be more noise than in the arts, but I don’t think it’s any more diverse – especially not off screen. The gatekeepers are still overwhelmingly white and male. There have been schemes to place more diverse commissioners in the industry, but they’re normally in assistant positions on short term contracts. There’s a limit to what can be achieved.”
Identity politics assumes a number of logically absurd and fundamentally insulting ideas: members of any sub-group in society always act in the interests of their sub-group, never from higher motives, any member of a sub-group who does not act in the interests exclusively of that group or holds ideas that are not the (assumed) norm for that group is a traitor to his sub-group, and so on. This is why the narrative in the mass media always covers up any divergence from these notions. A black Supreme Court justice who is conservative is simply an anomaly and must be ignored. A black policeman who shoots a white suspect is another anomaly.

You ARE your group identity, nothing more nothing less. This is why so-called "cultural appropriation" is the new bad: a white man cannot play a black role, nor a non-Asian an Asian and so on. The fact that all the female roles in Shakespeare were, in his time, played by boys, is just one of those weird historical things that are best ignored. For the Greater Good.

What is wrong with all this was stated by a US justice a long time ago: if you want to stop discriminating on the basis of race, then stop discriminating on the basis of race. All of these plans for quotas are simply another form of racism. One final example from another article at the site:
Tired of seeing classical music magazines filled with middle-aged white faces, James Fleury proposes four ‘mental makeovers’ that could help increase diversity in the sector. 
 Could the racism be any clearer?

It is hard to find a suitable envoi for this post, so I will simply choose a piece of music based solely on aesthetic quality. From the 2000 Salzburg Festival this is Stravinsky's The Firebird with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev:


UPDATE: Because this is such a polarizing topic, I just wanted to add some practical reasons why I oppose the whole "quota/diversity" approach. For a few decades now it has been the standard practice with a lot of orchestras to hold auditions with the candidates playing behind a screen. This is to prevent any kind of favoritism whatsoever. In the past, a candidate might have been favored because they were the cousin or brother-in-law of the conductor, or someone's friend, but auditioning behind the screen means that the ONLY criteria available to the auditors to judge the candidate was the playing. This also prevents candidates being favored because they are of a particular gender or visible minority. The guiding principle of orchestral auditions is the technical proficiency and aesthetic quality of the playing AND NOTHING ELSE. This is as it should be. All policies advocating quotas go directly against this, which is why I am against them.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Richard Taruskin: Russian Music at Home and Abroad

This book is a new collection of essays on Russian music by the leading musicologist. Taruskin is the author of the five-volume Oxford History of Western Music and has probably forgotten more about music than the rest of us ever knew. He is sometimes accused of being confrontational, but my sense is that he just doesn't have a lot of patience with idiotic points of view.

In an environment where a great deal of silliness is becoming more and more ensconced, Taruskin displays a very clear understanding of what the real job of musicology is: to unearth and understand the facts. Of the three transcendental values of the Good, the True and the Beautiful, a musicologist, or any scholar, has allegiance to only one: the True. How refreshing to hear someone simply state that.

I am a long way from finishing the volume, but as it consists of separate essays, I thought it would be good to talk about a couple of the earlier ones. The title "Suicide Notes, Faked Memoirs, Toasts to Killers" is a particularly characteristic one. The references are to controversies involving three Russian composers, Tchaikovsky (whose name Taruskin insists on spelling Chaikovsky--probably a more correct transliteration, but it still looks wrong to me), Shostakovich and Prokofiev. The controversies are respectively, Tchaikovsky's death and sexual orientation, the book Testimony purporting to be Shostakovich's memoirs as told to Solomon Volkov and the propriety of performing music by Prokofiev written in praise of Stalin.

The bottom line: Tchaikovsky was indeed homosexual and the evidence is clear from many of his and other's correspondence once it had been rescued from Soviet and other censorship, but there is no reason to believe he was so tormented by it that he committed suicide. The book by Volkov is an obvious fraud and has been shown to be so quite decisively. Finally, if you are going to have the poor taste to perform sycophantic tributes to the mass-murderer Joseph Stalin, at least have the courage to translate the text so the audience can be aware. Taruskin spends quite a lot of time excoriating those who present the discredited narratives and sometimes it can seem a bit like an intramural squabble. Still, musicology is about the details and he certainly has lots to share.

Taruskin also takes the time to torpedo another absurd claim, this time by Robert Craft, Stravinsky's long time associate and ghost writer. At a conference towards the end of his, Craft's, life, he tries to claim that around the time of the Rite of Spring and Petrouchka, Stravinsky was bisexual and enjoying romps with other men including Ravel! No-one left alive to dispute this, of course, but Taruskin examines the extremely sparse evidence and concludes: not a chance. While we are on the topic, he also alludes to the definitive dismissal of the idea that Franz Schubert was also homosexual.

One essay is on the topic of "nationalist" versus "non-nationalist" Russian composers and, frankly, I never quite get what the fuss is all about. Being a nationalist Russian composer, or classified as such, means that you are consigned to a special musicological ghetto? Ok. Am I just an "essentialist" for having the sense that Russian music has some distinctive qualities? Taruskin gets so far in the weeds of Russian history that I tend to forget what the point was. He seems to think that excessive attention to Russian composers as Russian nationalists is a kind of dispensable identity politics and in that case, I suppose I agree.

His discussion of Russian opera and its 18th century predecessors is fascinating however.

It is often the breadth of Taruskin's scholarship that attracts. In discussing Russian opera he outlines the three categories of Russian historical thought:

  1. dynastic history as established by Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin, official historiographer appointed by Alexander I
  2. neo-Hegelian statism represented by Sergey Solovyov, rigorously teleological in its praise of the centralized state
  3. a "populist" school, short-lived, whose exponent was Nikolai Kostomarov
I love that he knows all about these guys. If we were to apply these varying historiographical schools to current American politics then we would have the dynastic view represented by both the Clinton and the Bush dynasties, the centralized statism by Barack Obama and the populist school represented by both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Heh!

As with most of Taruskin's writing I find 95% of it both intriguing and convincing. But there is always that 5% that I am skeptical about. In an earlier collection it was the claim that the whole foundation of the Early Music Movement's approach to performance practice was based on the taste for terrace dynamics and brisk, mechanical tempi by modernist composers like Stravinsky. Not among lutenists it wasn't! And I doubt the whole concept.

In this book the claim that caught my attention was that the direction musicology ought to be going (and is in fact going) is away from understanding great composers as individual geniuses and towards  understanding them in terms of the social context and what they were doing in relation to everyone else. Perhaps this is a productive direction for musicologists from a career point of view, but that is likely because they keep running up against the brick wall of individual genius which is why we listen to those great composers and tend to avoid the far more numerous dullards and frauds.

I'm sure that my progress through the book will produce more posts. In the meantime, let's listen to something Russian. This is Evgeny Mravinsky conducting the Leningrad Symphony in a 1957 recording of the Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovsky:


Friday, December 2, 2016

My Ten Favorite Albums of 2016

As I was just saying the other day, I think that the usual lists that people put up at the end of the year don't have a lot of appeal to me. Instead of the top ten recordings I happened to run across this year that happened to have been released this past year, I would rather list the ten recordings I got the most enjoyment and satisfaction out of this year.

Face it, no-one, not even a professional reviewer, can possibly listen to all the recordings that are released each year. You have to be selective. Even more importantly, you are constantly discovering artists and repertoire that were released a long time ago. I have been professionally involved in music for fifty years and I am still constantly discovering music and performances that I was previously unaware of.

So here is my list of the ten recordings I got the most out of this past year. In no particular order.
  1. Sviatoslav Richter, the Carnegie Hall concerts in 1960
  2. Igor Levit, Late Beethoven Sonatas
  3. Igor Levit, Bach Partitas
  4. Igor Levit, Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski (variations)
  5. Grigory Sokolov, Deutsche Grammophon release of Schubert and Beethoven
  6. Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert: Complete Mozart Symphonies
  7. Steve Reich: Tehillim and The Desert Music, Alarm Will Sound
  8. Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert: Haydn Sturm und Drang Symphonies
  9. Steve Reich, Music for Eighteen Musicians, Ensemble Signal
  10. Ravi Shankar, Six Classic Albums
And here are some excerps from YouTube:

Richter at Carnegie Hall in 1960, last movement of the Appassionata Sonata, Beethoven:


Igor Levit, Beethoven, op. 110


Levit, Bach Partita 1, praeludium



Levit, Bach Goldberg Variations theme


Sokolov, an encore from the Schubert/Beethoven album: Rameau, Tendres Plaintes:


Pinnock, Mozart, Symphony No. 25


Reich, Tehillim, Alarm Will Sound


Pinnock, Haydn, Symphony No. 38


Reich, Music for 18 Musicians, Ensemble Signal


Ravi Shankar one album from Six Classic Albums


There, that should keep you amused all weekend!

Friday Miscellanea

Here is a little clip that sums up my approach to psychological problems very neatly:


I think Aristotle recommended something similar.

* * *

The Guardian has been running a series of articles on the great musical centers of Europe. The final one focuses on Berlin:
For a lover of classical music, Berlin is perhaps the most rewarding city in the world. @PositivistDinosaur certainly thinks so. “[It] not only supports its justly celebrated orchestra but three opera houses, all with ticket prices a fraction of those in London, and goodness knows how many other musical venues. This summer, Iréne Theorin was singing Brunnhilde there at the same time that Nina Stemme was singing Isolde 400 metres down the road. Is there any other city where that would have been possible?”
I really need to spend some time in Berlin! I've been there several times with my German in-laws, but, remarkably, never attended any concerts.

* * *

Conlon Nancarrow's house in Mexico City is going to be sold. Alex Ross reports that the hope is that it might be turned into a museum or artist's residency. Mexico City has a wealth of museums including some, such as Frida Kahlo's, that used to be residences.

* * *

I love odd little technical terms like "mondegreens." Mondegreens are popular phrases or song lyrics misheard as something else. When I was a kid I always thought that the last line of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was "and a part of a juniper tree." Sure, that's kind of odd, but the actual words are also pretty odd: "and a partridge in a pear tree." Here is a website that has collected a bunch of amusing mondegreens. I think my favorite is:
The girl with colitis goes by
Which is a mishearing of
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes
from "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

I think that song lyrics are often misheard for two main reasons: the singer is failing to articulate the consonants clearly and second, the pattern of metric stress puts an accent where it would not appear in ordinary speech.

* * *

Ok, this is waaaayyy out there--even for me! This is a concert in Finland in which the Finnish performers are pretending to be Russians pretending to be Americans. It is rather like the Red Army Choir and Band decided to do a homage to the Turtles. Oh, but the backup band? Yep, that's a real Russian military band.


* * *

Jazz critic and music historian Ted Gioia has posted his list of the 100 best albums of 2016. I suspect I know which way they will lean, but never mind. One thing that occurs to me is that there is always a hidden assumption behind these lists and that is that everyone is already perfectly familiar with everything that was released before 2016. Of course that is not true. If I were to post my favorite albums of the year, for example, most of them would be from before 2016--in some cases long before. Right now I am listening to a CD release of a Sviatoslav Richter concert at Carnegie Hall in 1960, an all-Prokofiev program. Back to Ted's list. Here are the first ten:

1  
David Bowie  
Blackstar  
Art Rock

2  
Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane / Matthew Garrision  
In Movement  
Jazz

3  
Hannah Epperson  
Upsweep
Experimental Pop/Chamber Music Fusion

4  
L.A. Salami  
Dancing With Bad Grammar: The Director's Cut  
Wild Genre-Crossing Singer-Songwriter

5    
Young Magic
Still Life
Brooklyn Dream Pop Influenced by Indonesian Music

6  
William Fitzsimmons  
Charleroi: Pittsburgh, Vol. 2  
The Mournful Folk Bard of Pittsburgh

7  
Michael Messer's Mitra  
Call of the Blues  
Hindustani Clasical Music/Traditional Blues Fusion

8  
Ilya Toshinsky  
Red Grass
Bluegrass Banjo Virtuoso from Russia

9  
Nick Ellis  
Daylight Ghosts  
Folk Singer-Songwriter from Liverpool

10  
Lucas Debargue  
Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt, Ravel  
Classical Piano Music

I love the contorted descriptions of the, what, genres? Just what the heck is "Brooklyn Dream Pop Influenced by Indonesian Music"? Is it anything like Queens Logic? I am reminded of when I lived in a small town in Canada and used to buy Downbeat Magazine because it was the only serious music magazine I knew of. I read about all this absolutely fascinating and inspired music. Then, later on, when I got a chance to listen to some of it, I was disappointed to find that it was all jazz. Listening to a few samples from the above list I find that it is the usual jazz and pop gussied up with fancy phony descriptions and astonishingly pretentious videos.

Probably the only one on that list that I might listen to is the last one and wouldn't it be better to stick to Sviatoslav Richter?

* * *

Canadians are punishing drunk drivers with what might be cruel and unusual punishment: on their way to the hoosegow they are going to blast you with Nickelback:
When we catch you, and we will catch you," the department added, "on top of a hefty fine, a criminal charge and a years driving suspension we will also provide you with a bonus gift of playing the office's copy of Nickelback in the cruiser on the way to jail."
What's so bad about Nickelback you ask? Here, judge for yourself:


Well yeah, ok, I'll be really careful not to drink and drive next time I'm in Canada.

* * *

Here is an unusual and interesting perspective on Bob Dylan and "folk music":
We have had first-rate poets: Robert Frost is our national poet, if we must choose. Dylan is a clever satirist, a maker of light verse, a jester who refuses to take us seriously. For that he deserves a modicum of credit (and for his refusal to acknowledge the insufferable stuffed shirts of the Swedish Academy, whom he takes seriously as little as he does his compatriots). To hell with the Swedes, who have always made the mistake of thinking they matter, for daring to instruct us regarding our own literary pantheon. The fact that anyone takes Dylan seriously as a poet is a gauge of our own cultural misery.
* * *

 For our envoi today I doubt we could do better than Sviatoslav Richter playing Prokofiev. This is the Sonata No. 7.


With both this clip and the one of Grigory Sokolov playing the last movement, the Precipitato, there are comments on YouTube saying that it is too slow. One fellow even said that it sounded as if Sokolov was still working on it, didn't have it up to speed yet! Just because some pianists don't understand the difference between "precipitato" and "mindless chaotic mess" doesn't mean that Richter and Sokolov don't know what they are doing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Disinterested in Aesthetics

We live in times so partisan and biased that a major re-think is in order. I confess to being a curmudgeon of a certain vintage, but the upside of that is that I have internalized a set of values that seem to be in abeyance these days. One of these values is that of "disinterestedness." You can be interested in something which has the special connotation of being an advocate. That is, someone with an interest is someone with a dog in the fight. If your family attends one of your recitals they have an interest in seeing you do well. Well, not my family necessarily, they usually just wondered what the heck I was up to, but most families!

On the other hand, you might simply be uninterested, which means that you are indifferent to or unconcerned with something. I am uninterested in most polka music, for example.

But the most interesting category is that of disinterest, which means that you are not influenced by considerations of personal advantage. I think that I picked this up in a thousand different places as, if you go back fifty years or so, this was the benchmark standard of any serious intellectual, scholar or scientist. When I read now that the proportion of Democrats to Republicans in the social sciences is somewhere between 8 to 1 and 44 to 1 I am astonished, not that there is a bias that severe, but that any of these so-called scientists bring their political opinions into their workplace.

One of the places I encountered a laudable disinterest was in a place you might expect to find the contrary: Frederick Copleston's History of Philosophy. Copleston is a Jesuit and the book was originally written for use in seminaries. So you would expect that he would be a strong advocate of, for example, the perennial philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and a severe critic of Karl Marx, among others. But frankly, while he does present Aquinas in a favorable light, he does the same for every philosopher insofar as it is possible. His is the very model of a neutral approach. In this he very much takes after the example of Thomas Aquinas, of course, whose methodology in approaching any question was to present the arguments both for and against as clearly and strongly as possible for it is only in that way that you have a hope of arriving at something close to the truth.

I delight in the fact that our comment section here at the Music Salon sometimes approaches this kind of disinterested debate.

I think that any person who understands the value of disinterestedness welcomes any argument that adds to knowledge and understanding, particularly if it corrects a previously held error or sheds light where previously there was only ignorance.

This kind of view owes a great deal to the Socratic dialogues of Plato, where the pursuit of knowledge and the defeat of ignorance is always the priority.

Mind you, the disinterested stance does not mean you need to give equal weight to every feather-headed vagary and wild-eyed conspiracy theory. But you very much need a policy that when you encounter a point of view that differs widely from your own, that you test, in a neutral manner, the two views against one another. This may at times be difficult, in which case the best policy is to suspend judgement until the support for each view becomes clear.

As is so often the case, the greatest danger to our disinterestedness is pseudo-disinterestedness! That is rather a mouthful, isn't it? What I mean is the kind of moral equivalency that the news media purvey in, for example, all news dealing with the Middle East. Don't assume a moral equivalency where none exists! On the other hand, beware as well of the biased assumption that in an instance of a genuine dispute, such as that surrounding anthropogenic climate change, the truth is 99% on one side.

(Just to give a little background to this, we used to be told that "97% of climate scientists agree on the issue of global warming." Recently I have heard this changed to "99%" and just the other day it had climbed to "99.9%"! Let me refer you to Forbes magazine for a refreshing examination of this claim:
Bottom line: What the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree on is very mild and in no way justifies restricting the energy that billions need.
But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that.
The original 97% figure came from a study by John Cook:
Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” Cook calls this “explicit endorsement with quantification” (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming.
In fact, quite a number of the scientists whose papers were included in the study protested that their view had been miscategorized. So that 97% statistic turns out to be a chimera.)

A great deal of other things we take for granted because we are told over and over that they are true are, simply, lies. And lies told for very "interested" reasons by people with a dog in the fight. You should always be on the lookout for what I call "special pleading", that is, argument with no pretensions to any objectivity whatsoever, but mere propaganda in favor of a particular point of view.

The trick is in being able to distinguish this from genuine advocacy of something without personal motives. I suspect that the key is in discerning the motives: are they clear and unambiguous? For example when I keep saying things like the symphonies of Joseph Haydn are wonderful and you should listen to them, it is because this is what I believe and not because I have partial ownership of a Haydn distributor.

On the other hand pretty much any argument with regards to tax policy, trade policy, government subsidies and so on, needs to be examined with extreme prejudice because it is rare that these sort of things are NOT governed entirely by hidden (or not so hidden) special interests.

Speaking of Joseph Haydn, let's listen to the Trio no. 44 in E major played by Robert Levin, Vera Beths & Anner Bylsma:


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pauline Oliveros has passed away

This year is one of many changes and passings away: this week Fidel Castro and Pauline Oliveros. Alex Ross posts this representative work of hers:


Here is another that he recommends, an early work from 1966:


Is it just me or do all these droney, electronic pieces all sound the same? What is missing from any music primarily about drones and sonorities is rhythm, meter and pulse. The great renovation that Steve Reich and Philip Glass brought to 20th century music was the return of pulse and rhythm to a central place in musical structure. Apart from giving music a form and direction, it also tended to re-connect classical and popular music.

The problem with drones, for me, is that they are formless and floaty. They always sound like the introduction to a bad musical soundtrack of a second-rate science fiction movie. Let's listen to some examples. Brian Eno:


Well, ok, that sounds more like the soundtrack to a movie about Tibetan Buddhism or background music at a yoga retreat. John Luther Adams:


The Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi:


There is something more happening there, but it is still not rhythmic.

I guess my fundamental bias is that music is really always about time: articulated time, time measured with pulse, structured time. Droney music, of whatever variety, is about escaping from time. I reject it as I reject transcendental meditation and "paradise" defined as sitting around gazing at sunsets while sipping chardonnay with an insipid look on your face.

Now, can we please have some rhythm. This is the Symphony no. 59 by Haydn:


Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Our kickoff this week is "Enter Sandman" the tune from Metallica's Black Album, performed on toy instruments by Metallica, Jimmy Fallon and his band The Roots:


It's ok to find that deeply disturbing. Stay tuned, we will have a better version a bit later.

* * *

This is a quite interesting little video by Adam Neely on how classical and non-classical musicians feel rhythm differently:


Mind you, I think that his picking on a single moment by that string bass player might have been a little unfair. We classical musicians can do three against two pretty reliably. In fact, we can even do five against four, though I confess that five against three is pretty tough.

* * *

 Even for musicians, Thanksgiving Dinner is a conversational minefield just waiting for you to take the wrong step. You’ll be passing the yams when you’ll hear yourself say, “Guatemalan Balsa? Now there’s a tonewood. I could wear mittens and make that guitar sound good,” – Boom. Triggered.
* * *

Now here is an interesting example of criticism: David Goldman offers a critique of the use of rhythm in rap by going back to St. Augustine's treatise De Musica and working his way up via Keats and Coleridge:
The kerfuffle over Vice President-elect Mike Pence's run-in with the cast and audience of "Hamilton" provokes me to raise another issue: I won't go to see "Hamilton." I don't like rap in any form, even in the sterile, commercialized version in the popular musical. Poetry elicits powers of mind more intense and elevated than quotidian thought, and it does so by forcing us to think of poetic rhythm at a higher level. By contrast, rap imposes an unchanging sing-song rhythm that does nothing to provoke us to think in this way.
* * *

How about Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini playing "Michelle" by Paul McCartney?


Or is this a clever hoax?

* * *

Let's have a Fine Art Moment. This is "The Bagpipe Lesson" by Henry Ossawa Tanner:

Click to enlarge
* * *

In the annals of stuff we already knew is this Chinese study: New research finds we respond intellectually to classical music and physically to pop music:
‘The sub-cortical reward region was more sensitive to popular, while the cortical region was more sensitive to artistic music,’ reported the study. In addition it was found that ‘cognitive empathy regions’ of the brain responded more favourably to classical, implying a richer and more complicated level of engagement.
‘This study gives clear neuronal evidence supporting the view that artistic music is of intelligence, while popular is of physiology,’ concluded the researchers.
In related news, Beethoven late string quartets are newly discovered to be more aesthetically profound than Beyoncé and pasta should be cooked al dente.

* * *

Developing a theme today, here is Korean gayageum virtuoso Luna with her arrangement of Metallica's "Enter Sandman":


Soembody buy that girl a wah-wah pedal! Isn't this a blatant case of cultural appropriation, though?

* * *

Ok, too much Metallica today! So for our envoi, let's have a Metallica antidote. How about some Emil Gilels? This is the Fantasia in D minor, K 397 by Mozart: