The Rambler :: blog

Monday, June 27, 2005

Some more blogs to look out for 

The concert music blogosphere continues to grow; time, then, for a few shout-outs.

A Piece of Monologue by SimonT belongs to the Blogs on stage collection of theatre-ish blogs. Simon posts frequently on a variety of opera, theatre and concert performances - mostly in London.

Two Ears declares itself "One commoner's attempts to get to grips with the high art of classical music", written by Neil in Glasgow. Neil gets bonus points for his Messiaen enthusiasm ;-)

I Am Sitting in a Room, by Jason Hibbard, has been linking to me for ages but I don't think I've yet returned the favour, so here I belatedly am.

The Emerald Orpheus covers the Seattle classical scene, focusing on Early and Baroque music concerts; its writer Richard admits he's "not naturally drawn" to 20th-century music, so I'm glad he finds something here.

Well-Tempered Blog is a rich source of regular linkage - particularly for piano-related webbery.

Jeremy Denk is a pianist, Geraldine McGreevy a soprano, as is Anne-Carolyn... In fact there are more performer blogs than I can possibly keep up with; check this this post on Anne-Carolyn's The Concert for further routes into the network.

That'll do for now...


Next month I shall once again be assaulting London ears with my demolition of the Baroque repertoire from the third oboe desk. Details are below; all are welcome.


Saturday 9 July, 7.30pm
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, Holborn Viaduct [map]

Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Flutes in C
Bach Brandenburg concerto no. 1 in F
Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat

£6 in advance, £8 on the door
Email me at tim.johnson77 AT btopenworld.com if you want advance tickets.

Bach's orchestra in Leipzig, the Collegium, gave two types of concert - ordinaire and extraordinaire. The latter, after which our group is named, was very much along the lines of the forthcoming performance: namely a paid concert, often in a church, by a chamber orchestra performing concerti - and sometimes also cantatas - by Bach and his contemporaries. This group, whose inaugural concert took place in 2001, is formed from students and graduates of both music and medicine as a non-profit-making ensemble, with the aim of bringing alive some of the great works of the 18th century repertoire. We do hope you can join us for our concert on 9 July.

Friday, June 24, 2005

What do you mean? 

You know how it is when you travel around on public transport and keep bumping into the same posters, and after a while you start to analyse them far, far beyond anything they can possibly sustain? Well, one of these that has been bugging me recently has been Oasis's poster for their new album, Don't Believe the Truth. Not for its intrinsic content as an image - actually, refreshingly for Oasis-related imagery, its not pretending to be a modern-day The Ambassodors, overloaded with allegory - but for that stupid, vapid title. In the space of four words, it sets up a grandstanding slogan, at the same time as exposing it as utterly, stupidly empty. And it struck me that this is at the core of everything that is dull and dreary and dumb about Oasis: an unerring ability to reduce powerful signifiers (the imperative 'don't', ideas of belief and 'the truth') and reduce them to farts drifting in space. This isn't just simple, populist writing for the sake of a catchy line, this is studied emptiness.

It seems I'm not alone in this horror, and the good John Harris of the Guardian has even devoted a lengthy article today about the vacuousness of the modern rock lyric. Go and have read.

UK Creative Industries Discussion Forum 

The new Creative Industries Minister for Great Britain, James Purnell has been busy recently. His recent speech to the IPPR is bound to make plenty of waves. It's full of wince-worthy lines like "Britain is arguably the world’s most creative nation. ... At the time of writing, Coldplay is the number one album on the i-Tunes store in the US" and "a Webby, the prestigious Oscars of the Internet world", painting a picture of world in which the web is something that happens to other (possibly strange) people, and Coldporridge symbolise the best of British creativity.

Oh, and if you're eating, push that plate away. "We want to return to the ideas behind Cool Britannia." *shudder*

But actually there are some serious issues behind all this, which I will no doubt mull over in future postings. Not least of which is the fact that this is the launch of a national debate on the arts in Britain, and their relationship to both industry and education. Among other things, Purnell is setting up a study into the value of setting up a music council (probably good), which will "work with the government on key issues such as piracy and regulation" (boo!). There was also a further promise to "modernise" copyright and IP protection. Obviously your expectations of this will depend entirely on whether you are a modern industrial megolith* or a modern artist or consumer.

Anyway, the main thing to headline here is the setting up of an online discussion forum in which Purnell invites views on how to build on the success of our (ugh) 'Creative Industries'. To participate, send an email to ciforum AT culture.gsi.gov.uk; someone will get back to you with a password, and away you go. Although I suspect many of the posts will be from arts industry heavyweights, I'll be earwigging nonetheless. Of particular interest will be the thread on Copyright in Recordings, something that the Sunday Times devoted an article to a couple of weeks ago in a trail for Purnell's speech (although in the end he didn't make any specific reference to the issue). Purnell's provisional line - although he is testing the industry waters on this - is that the copyright in valuable 60s recordings is essential for the industry to support new talent.

This does beg the enormous question, then how did the 60s boom happen? On the copyright in piano rag sheet music? I don't think there's any doubt that the major players will be delighted with the opportunity to extend their copyrights from 50 years to 90+. If you owned the Beatles back catalogue, wouldn't you be? However, most musicians probably agree that over-zealous copyright and IP regulation stagnates the industry. Jazz or hip hop, to name but two genres, would not have come about if everyone took the batten-down-the-hatches route the industry advocates. And don't try to tell me that the industry would rather none of those records had been made...

Oh, you've all heard my views on this stuff before. The forum is about more than just music copyright, but it will be interesting to see how it develops as a reflection of what actually bugs consumers and industry alike. Stay posted.

*Is it oxymoronic to call the RIAA, BPI et al modern?

Friday, June 17, 2005

British Postgraduate Musicology: Volume 7 

It's been announced to most of the musicology mailing lists, but I'll announce it here too - volume 7 of British Postgraduate Musicology is, finally, online. That's the first complete issue of anything I've edited, and although very satisfying in the end, I wasn't prepared for how frustrating a process it could be. But, it's done, and Done is Good after all. Contents are:

Me: Editorial
Yifat Fellner Simpson: The popular herculana in sixteenth-century Venetian text and music
Graham Griffiths: Fingering as compositional process: Stravinsky's Sonata sketchbook revisited
Kenneth Smith: Erotic Discourse in Scriabin's Fourth Sonata
Carla Whalen: Abject Tonality in Twelve-Tone Music

Details about BPM may be found here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Now, Now We Are Met... 

...and Humours Agree.

It is hereby announced that an extremely rare opportunity to hear your host singing* is staggering its way onto a radio near you. Yes, those wise people at Radio 3 have seen fit to broadcast an hour of live drinking and filthy jokes masquerading as a programme about catches and glees, featuring prominent contributions from the Merrie Fellowes Catch Club. This is run by a very good friend of mine and includes quite a few London cathdral singers. Needless to say, I am one of its least distinguished members. We get together about every 6 months, hire a room at the George Inn on Borough High Street and sing 17th century drinking songs over beers and a table of fine cheese. I can only apologise if you've ever been unfortunate enough to come looking for a quiet Sunday evening pint in Borough and run into us, as it is not a pretty sound.

The programme - which also features songs by far less amateurish groups than us - is on this Saturday at 1pm, Radio 3, and will be on Listen Again via Radio 3's homepage for a week after that.

*in the loosest possible definition.

I see that my Warsaw Autumn posts are getting a bunch of hits thanks to a link from this Polish forum (dzien dobry!); this is very nice, although reading the first post I gather it's about funny foreign interpretations of Warsaw, so I hope I've not grievously offended anyone. I'm afraid my Polish skills gave out before I could read the whole thing properly...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cheap gag 

Emailed to me by a friend:

Now that it has been revealed that there is no Mozart effect, some speculation on what might happen if we tried other composers instead....

LISZT EFFECT: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important.

BRUCKNER EFFECT: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity.

WAGNER EFFECT: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.

MAHLER EFFECT: Child continually screams - at great length and volume - that he's dying.

SCHOENBERG EFFECT: Child never repeats a word until he's used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.

BABBITT EFFECT: Child gibbers nonsense all the time. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child doesn't care because all his playmates think he's cool.

IVES EFFECT: the child develops a remarkable ability to carry on several separate conversations at once.

GLASS EFFECT: the child tends to repeat himself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

STRAVINSKY EFFECT: the child is prone to savage, guttural and profane outbursts that often lead to fighting and pandemonium in the preschool.

BRAHMS EFFECT: the child is able to speak beautifully as long as his sentences contain a multiple of three words (3, 6, 9, 12, etc). However, his sentences containing 4 or 8 words are strangely uninspired.

And finally, the CAGE EFFECT - the child says nothing for 4 minutes, 22 seconds. Preferred by 9 out of 10 teachers.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Hungary to Subsidize Pop, Jazz, Folk Bands 

Interesting news from Hungary: plans to offer government subsidies to pop, rock, folk and jazz musicians. A lot of the money will go to clubs and broadcasters who support Hungarian music, but some will go towards the international promotion of acts as well as funds to help amateur bands get into the recording studio.

Link spotted at Sequenza21, where there are some interesting comments too. Personally, I don't agree with David Salvage that this is necessarily a bad thing. For one thing, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the pop/rock music industry (via lobbyists like the RIAA) does not receive at least tacit government support in the US and UK. Hell, Blair invites them in for photoshoots at his home. Secondly, as Ian Moss, in his comments, observes, these are Hungarian musicians, "most of whom, last time I checked, weren't exactly tearing up the international scene"; history has shown that often the most successful music (as in, most successful in the US and Western Europe) to come from Eastern Europe has benefitted from massive, state-funded, promotion (witness Poland in the 1960s). The fact that Hungarian music is not tearing up the scene is due to a combination of factors (language being not the least of these), but some proper funding investment can't hurt. Also, let's not forget that it is the artists themselves who have asked for this. I take Salvage's point that "pop music thrives on the transgressive", but the two examples he gives (Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson) are big assets to government-friendly corporations. As, indeed, is Eminem. Those transgressions make shedloads of money, and thus a lot of tax, and thus are government-friendly. Transgression within limits is always government sanctioned - true transgression never is of course, but by definition it's unpreventable. Hungarian music will be fine.

Filmic interlude 

Super busy getting BPM out. I could rant for hours about over-protective publishers, but it would be dull, and possibly libellous. So instead, let me just observe that if I wasn't already excited about the director of one of my favourite ever films making the prequel to another of my favourite ever films, then here comes Yancey to tell me that it's gonna be everything I'd hoped and more. Hurrah!

Plus: unless you live in a sensory deprevation chamber on Mars, you'll know that Sin City is a bit hot. Let me tell you, when you get your tickets, make sure you book yourself a seat for the next day's screening. You'll want it.

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