Sundries for 5/26

by pieces of moments

. . .

This afternoon there was the most fantastic storm. I happened to be sitting on a bench under an awning – the closest thing to a rambling front porch that I have at the moment – having some mint chip ice cream while it rolled in and over me. The thunder was perfect. It was the crackling variety, as if the ceiling was really made of glass and straining under the water weight. Or maybe that’s the way it sounds inside of an iceberg when it begins to shatter. Only the addition of sweet tea cooling the palm of my hand could have made it more lovely.

A few things.

  • I’ve been invited to the studio of the fabulous ensemble Eighth Blackbird tomorrow to hear them run through the new Jennifer Hidgon (winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music) piece they will be premiering in June with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (whose fabulous youth orchestra I had the pleasure of getting to know when we recorded them during my tenure at From the Top…you can listen to that broadcast here). I’m really looking forward to the treat of hearing it since I won’t be at the premiere in Atlanta.
  • The erudite Alex Ross was one of a group of honorary degree recipients (others were Quincy Jones, Roger Kellaway, and Karen Tuttle) bestowed by my beloved alma mater, New England Conservatory, this past Sunday. Ross also gave the commencement address to the students. I’m really curious as to what he said. Need to seek out some bootleg audio.
  • Pianist Jeremy Denk (who is one of the most hilariously articulate musicians, heir to pianist Glenn Gould‘s literary legacy) has a delightful little piece on program notes up on his blog just now. As someone who has written plenty of program notes, striving to stay away from the “Program Note Style” to which he refers, I resonated with his musings (as usual).
  • If I were in New York and I were you…I would hightail it over to the New York Philharmonic to hear them perform this. Wow. Ligeti lovers unite!
  • The Associated Press reports that musical artist Björk Guðmundsdóttir and prolific film composer Ennio Morricone have been awarded the 2010 Polar Music Prize, bestowed upon one “pop” and one “classical” artist each year in Sweden (Stig Anderson, manager to ABBA founded the award). This makes me happy on several levels. #1: I’m happy to see Björk officially honored for her imaginative and profound body of work thus far. #2: Morricone composed the film score to Cinema Paradiso and I love that movie. #3: I had a roommate from Sweden and got to know all her Swedish friends and family and found that I really love pickled herring. #4: The Swedish royal family is r-e-a-l-l-y good looking.

{watch their video press release on Björk}

  • The predicament of being dubbed “Overrated” is discussed by Amanda Ameer on her blog. I have to say I agree with her on the point that the “classical” community can’t belly ache about having no place in the popular culture, but then belly ache about two talented young men (Gustavo Dudamel, the 28-year-old conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the 28-year-old composer Nico Muhly) who are bridging that gap between “classical” and popular with undeniable ease, charm, and talent. Regardless if you agree with them all the time or not.
  • Speaking of Dudamel, I recently watched a phenomenal interview with him via the Berlin Philharmonic podcasts to which I am subscribed. It was Dudamel chatting with an old friend of his from Venezuela who is now a member of the BP (it appears most of the podcast interviewers are members of the orchestra – brilliant move). It was tremendously refreshing to hear their voices rise, fall, and overlap with passion as they spoke. “Classical” music needs a return to passion. What’s the point of doing what you’re doing if you aren’t passionate about it? Nothing makes me more nauseated than apathy or taking anything for granted, so it comes as no surprise that when Dudamel said something like, “Do what you’re doing not because you have to – but because you want to…don’t sit and study and say, ‘I have to study,’ but say, ‘I want to study,'” I about jumped up and started applauding. It’s such a privilege to be able to live and breath music and arts. We’re so spoiled to be able to attend school, study what we want (any vocation whether arts or sciences), and choose our life paths – many people in the world NEVER have this option. Some are kids in your own neighborhoods whose families just can’t afford the luxury of higher education. You don’t have to…but if you choose it you should want to. Okay. Dismount soapbox.


In other news, I had a phone conference with a friend and colleague this morning and we are brewing up something new and fun for the “classical” scene here in Chi-town. Watch for more information in the near future. You’ll like it. I promise.