Number 9, Number 9, Number 9…A Symphonic Revolution

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What if there were only nine symphonies? That’s the question CK Dexter Haven over at All is Yar asked himself over the holiday season, while on his way to Santa Barbara wine country. (Ah, the things we ponder while pursuing wine…)

“Nine has been a magical number of sorts for symphonies ever since Beethoven wrote that many and stopped,” CKDH wrote. (There’s also that whole curse of the ninth thing.) So, CKDH proposed making a list of nine he couldn’t live without. His ground rules included:

  • Only one symphony per composer
  • Only symphonies numbered 1-9.  No names either: e.g. Symphonie fantastique, Symphony of Psalms, Symphonic Dances, etc. (Or even Harmonielehre, even though that’s totally a symphony no matter what John Adams says.)
  • No duplicate numbers. In other words, one Sym #1, one Sym #2, one Sym #3, etc.

CKDH called this a “puzzlechallengegame of sorts.” And then he challenged me to come up with my own list.

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My response?

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And “fun/impossible” is exactly what it turned out to be. Nevertheless, I have done it…for now…and I absolutely reserve the right to change any or all of these at any time in the future, because I’m *not* stuck on a desert island, damn it! At least, not yet.

Okay…deep breath. Continue reading

Concert-going for the Affluent: A Takedown

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I’ve been going to classical music concerts for as long as I can remember. At this point in my life, I attend about 40-50 concerts each year. But apparently, I’ve been clapping wrong this whole time.

That is, if Joy Weaver is to believed, I am most definitely applauding incorrectly. How to do it properly is one of a handful of classical music concertgoing tips for the wealthy in Weaver’s latest article for Affluent magazine. (I’d link to the article, but linking encourages clicking, which increases pageviews. Google it if you must.)

Yes, sadly, such a magazine exists. Its mission statement includes the reminder that “money may not buy happiness, but it definitely buys ‘happier,‘” and later goes on to discuss the etymology of the world “luxury.” (Lux = Latin for light, meaning Affluent must naturally be “a beacon of light that helps bring [rich people] more awareness, enjoyment and, hopefully, even more wealth and abundance [of money, time and spirit] then they ever thought possible.”)

Enter Joy Weaver, if that is her real name. An etiquette expert who, as I’ve learned, “frequently appears on Good Morning Texas” and name-drops Zig Ziglar, and who has penned (pen by Tibaldi, no doubt) an article for Affluent entitled: “Symphony Etiquette: Protocol of the Hall.”

It’s nauseating. As someone who has devoted his life to making classical music more accessible to as many people as possible, I couldn’t help but reprint Joy’s article here with a bit of translation/amplification. Continue reading

12 Pieces of Classical Christmas Music in Case You’re Sick of Mariah Carey

santa-hat-on-bassFor what it’s worth, I actually like that Mariah Carey Christmas song. I know I’ll take some heat for that, but whatever, I don’t really care. It’s a well-crafted pop song (if that’s possible), which doesn’t sound dated (it’s nearly 20 years old) like most pop music does after like two weeks.

Side note: Mariah Carey could live off the “All I Want For Christmas is You” royalties alone. It’s impossible to chart worldwide royalty numbers, but it is the best-selling Christmas single of all time (12 million copies) on the best-selling Christmas album of all time (more than 15 million copies), and in Great Britain alone, Carey is projected to rake in close to $750,000 this year for that one song.mariah-carey-money

But if all you want for Christmas is a little more substance in your Christmas music, then this blog’s for you. Below are 12 pieces of classical Christmas music in case you’re sick of Mariah Carey. >

Wagner, According to His Critics

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“One can’t judge Wagner’s opera ‘Lohengrin’ after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend hearing it a second time.” -Gioacchino Rossini

“Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.” -Edgar Wilson Nye, quoted in Mark Twain’s autobiography

“[The Prelude to Tristan und Isolde] reminds one of the old Italian painting of a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on a reel.” -Eduard Hanslick

“Wagner’s music, in spite of all its wondrous skill and power, repels a greater number than it fascinates.” –The Era (newspaper)

“I can’t listen to that much Wagner, ya know? I start to get the urge to conquer Poland.” -Woody Allen, Manhattan Murder Mystery

“I cannot explain very well to myself what they have that distinguishes them from the rest, something arborescent or of the sky, not Wagner, not clouds on wheels; written above an abscess and not out of a cavity, a statement and not a description of heat in the spirit to compensate for pus in the spirit.” -Samuel Beckett

“Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? He contaminates everything he touches – he has made music sick.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

“After the last notes of Götterdämmerung I felt as though I had been let out of prison.” -Peter Tchaikovsky

“I like Wagner’s music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time, without people hearing what one says.” -Oscar Wilde

Postcard from London: Discover Dudamel

Yesterday was a moment several months in the making for the 10 traveling musicians from YOLA (Youth Orchestra LA). It’s why they wrote two essays, gave an interview, and played an audition just for the opportunity to come on this trip to London. Yesterday was the rehearsal and performance of the Discover Dudamel orchestra at the Barbican Centre, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel himself.

Dudamel bounded on stage, a bundle of energy even though he had just come from an interview that went late and had barely had time to grab a snack for lunch. He surveyed the large group of mostly high-school age kids, paused to count the number players in the flute section, “How many?” He asked. “Six flutes? I love this: Venezuelan-style,” referring to the giant orchestras of several hundred he has conducted countless times with El Sistema.

“Okay, let’s play,” Dudamel said quickly, and raised his arms for the downbeat of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture. But there was an impish look in his eye. He turned to the concertmaster and asked, “Romeo and Juliet?” She nodded. “Prokofiev, right?” Dudamel said. “No, Berlioz?” Giggling from the orchestra. “Oh…I remember,” Dudamel said, grinning. “Tchaikovsky.”

Downbeat.

Continue reading

Postcard from London: A Candy Conclave

In addition to the music-making here in London, the LA Phil is hosting a symposium about music education. They’ve put together an orchestra comprised of students from all over Great Britain, plus ten members of the LA Phil’s own Youth Orchestra LA—or YOLA. It’s called the Discover Dudamel Orchestra. Last night, the young musicians met one another for the first time. Later today, they’ll rehearse and perform with Gustavo Dudamel at the Barbican Centre.

So, naturally, the kids had to get to know each other very quickly. And they did so with the help of Skittles. The orchestra gathered in groups of 3-4, they were given a handful of Skittles, and depending on which colors they had, answered different questions about themselves.

Then, it was down to business. Rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet, which they’ll play for Gustavo Dudamel later this afternoon.

They sound pretty damn good, wouldn’t you say? And they can’t wait to meet Gustavo in a couple hours.