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Loose Ends

Alex Ross has a moving tribute to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in this week’s New Yorker.  “She was the most remarkable singer I ever heard,” he writes, and it’s hard to argue with that. 

Speaking of Alex, he’ll be chatting with Mason Bates, Corey Dargel, Nico Muhly, and Joanna Newsom at BargeMusic at 10 pm on October 7 as part of the New Yorker Festival.  Alas, the event seems to be sold-out.

Alan Rich in L.A. Weekly on why he didn’t hang around for Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Hollywood Bowl: 

The night had turned cold; the gin had run low; there are few works I despise more thoroughly, and for a greater number of reasons. Just the thought of this bespectacled, small-minded pedant amusing his Führer by constructing this lurid travesty, assuming the small fragments out of ancient German songbooks and twisting them into beer-hall jabberings as if to reinvent a new musical language, is offensive enough. The ugliness of this vulgar work would offend me even if the text were pure, serene and biblical; it is none of these.

Of Jefferson Friedman’s The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, on the same program, Rich writes:

Young (32) Friedman was on hand; he plans to incorporate his shiny, charming piece into a musical triptych honoring “outsider” artists and their inspirational, shimmering artworks. This one certainly does.

Thanks to Jerry Zinser for passing the Rich item along.  The full review doesn’t seem to be up on the L.A. Weekly web site yet but it should be in a few days.  Meanwhile, read some nice words from Rich about Kyle Gann.

Congrats to Roulette, the experimental music organziation which has moved into shiny new digs at 20 Greene Street in SOHO.   With this new space, Roulette will be expanding activities to include over 100 concerts, sound installations, longer runs of music theater and other large productions such as the “Avant Jazz ­ Still Moving” festival and the annual “Festival of Mixology.” Also, check out the new Roulette Blog for excerpts of its artists’ music, podcasts featuring interviews with the artists and Roulette TV clips, and musical discussion.

Check the Workspace for some news about applying for the Rome Prize.

What I’m Listening to Now



Comment from Alan Theisen
Time: September 23, 2006, 12:22 pm

I don’t dislike Carmina Burana on political grounds.

I dislike it because the music is pure trash.

I can think of few other works that have achieved so many performances and been lauded by musicians around the world despite the fact that the piece itself is the most tiresome, inflated sixty minutes of crash-boom-bang ever composed.

Comment from Tom Myron
Time: September 23, 2006, 1:11 pm

“..the gin had run low…

Reads to me like he’d already had plenty.

Comment from Mell Csicsila
Time: September 23, 2006, 2:35 pm

I begin to suspect if some people don’t like Carmina Burana because so many (unwashed) people like it. Creating a group identity through exclusion. (That joke on South Park about there being two kinds of kids, those who like Animaniacs and those who don’t.) The fact that one can start casting “Nazi sympathiser” around elevates one’s snobbishness to a moral high ground.

Me? I’ve played it half a dozen times. It’s got fun percussion writing. It’s about the only time in a season where an orchestra will hire five percussionists. People like hearing it. There’s something about me that enjoys playing something fun to play that the audience likes to hear. I play a lot of contemporary music including some of “the most tiresome inflated sixty minutes of bleep-bloop-crash.” My experience tells me that performers occasionally enjoy playing something that ‘sounds,’ lays well on the horn, and puts butts in seats. I play way too many beautiful concerts around the region in 1800 seat halls with 500 people in them.

Comment from andrea
Time: September 23, 2006, 2:44 pm

i think i like it because it’s sixty minutes of inflated crash-boom-bang. and his music ed. stuff is interesting, too.

Comment from Tom Myron
Time: September 23, 2006, 3:49 pm

It’s got fun percussion writing.

And how! I’ve played that timpani part many times. It’s right up there with Estancia.

Comment from lawrencedillon
Time: September 23, 2006, 4:29 pm

List of early 20th-century works that have been embraced by general audiences and despised by people who love 20th-century music:

Carmina burana
The Planets


Comment from Alan Theisen
Time: September 23, 2006, 5:15 pm

I dig The Planets.

Well….some of them.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: September 23, 2006, 6:00 pm

To some more-or-less degree — Copland, take your pick: Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Khatchaturian’s Gayne ballet suite, Shostakovich’s Symphony #7, Puccini’s Turandot and Madame Butterfly. (All of which I can listen to OK, though…)

Comment from Henry Holland
Time: September 23, 2006, 6:33 pm

*shudder* Alan Rich *shudder* After reading his stuff in the LA Weekly since he started there, he’s one of those critics that, if he likes something, I run away from it as fast as I can. Wouldn’t trust a thing he wrote.

Oh, you dreary old toad, some of us here are looking forward to The Ring very much. Silly old man.

List of early 20th-century works that have been embraced by general audiences and despised by people who love 20th-century music

Well, let’s see, I just finished listening to a great performance led by Pierre Boulez of Birtwistle’s Earth Dances, so I think I “love 20th-century music”. Still:

Carmina burana: love it, though his early operas Der Klug and Der Mond are better.

Bolero: fantastic, great tune. Heard the Cleveland Orchestra/Welser-Most do it at Disney Hall last year, it killed

The Planets: Jupiter is one of my favorite pieces of music. As part of a “Expose a friend who’s never been to a symphony concert” type thing, I’m taking him to hear the LA Phil do The Planets next year, I can’t wait.

Puccini’s Turandot: great opera that shows that Puccini learned his lessons from going to hear Pierrot Lunaire and other contemporary pieces. Pity he died before finishing it.

Madame Butterfly: so what if it’s popular, it’s a profoundly great opera, one of my favorites (the revised editions, not the original)

I’d add: certain Richard Strauss stuff that’s not Salome and Elektra, like Der Rosenkavalier.

Britten certainly was attacked by “lovers of 20th century music” for being relatively accessible and successful, but I’d put him right below Wagner, Puccini, Mozart and Verdi in the pantheon of Great Opera Composers.

Korngold in general, but especially for his operas, which were hated by the dreary New Objectivity crowd (Weill, Krenek, Hindemith etc.) I can’t think of a bigger endorsement than those sorts not liking something.

Comment from Tom Myron
Time: September 23, 2006, 7:41 pm

Personally I think the level of composerly inspiration exhibited in The Planets is off the charts.

Comment from Rodney Lister
Time: September 23, 2006, 8:51 pm

Well, not all such pieces are created equal. Some are nice, some aren’t.

I really like the Lincoln Portrait and Billy the Kid; I don’t care all that much for Rodeo aside from the Hoedown, and I have to say that over the years, try as I have to like it, most of Appalachian Spring seems pretty boring to me. Aside from Jupiter I don’t really like the Planets all that much, although I really like the St. Paul’s Suite. I think Ravel’s remark about Bolero–it’s being how ever many minutes of orchestration with no music–is about right.

The thing about Carmina Burana is that it’s just so dumb. And unlike Dude Where’s My Car its not so stupid that it’s stupidity become a kind of devine inspiration. The baritone solo with the falsetto is really pretty, though.

Comment from Alan Theisen
Time: September 24, 2006, 9:38 am

“The thing about Carmina Burana is that it’s just so dumb. And unlike Dude Where’s My Car its not so stupid that it’s stupidity become a kind of devine inspiration.”

Exactly, Rodney.

“Personally I think the level of composerly inspiration exhibited in The Planets is off the charts. ”

To this day, it’s hard to top what Holst created in that work.

Comment from lawrencedillon
Time: September 24, 2006, 10:21 am

Great suggestions, but I was really thinking of 20th-century pieces that are popular with people who have no particular interest in Classical music, and are never discussed by people who are thoroughly immersed in it. Another example: Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: September 24, 2006, 10:30 am

There are works that are integrated into popular culture through commercials and films. The first time my nephew, who was about 12 at the time, heard Barber’s Adagio he said “theme from Platoon.” United Airlines use of Rhapsody in Blue over the years is another.

Comment from David Salvage
Time: September 24, 2006, 4:55 pm

Madame Butterfly is like a disappointing date: she’s pretty, but stupid. Now Tosca — there’s a woman.

Comment from zeno
Time: September 25, 2006, 9:36 am

I still don’t think that anyone here has yet gotten very close to the ‘problem’ of Carl Orff and Orff’s own unique vision of Germanic or Aryan “New Simplicity”, and why he has been popular with perhaps the majority of professional conductors, choristers, and singers the past 70 or so years, but not with others [will Percy Grainger’s Aryan pageants soon be enjoying a ‘new wave’ at the Hollywood Bowl under the directorship of nominally Jewish American conductors]; nor what Orff was in fact up to in his pair of operas Der Klug and Der Mond, which I believe are much more complex than just exhibiting a slight anti-authoritarianism. I would think that even slight anti-authoritarianism would have been difficult to achieve at the time, and I think the dating of those two operas to later in the war years is highly important. Did Orff change his stripes after the 1000 Year German Reich’s set-backs at Stalingrad (Volgograd)? Do the libretti to the two shorter operas simply reflect a Germanic marchen anti-establishmentarianism similar to that presented at times in Hofmannstahl’s libretti and plays, or are these texts more overtly and topically political? Perhaps the MET, the New York City Opera, the Los Angeles or San Francisco Operas, or the Washington National Opera could mount the pair of Der Klug and Der Mond, and a scholarly and artistic conference could be held on the works and Orff’s career.


Earlier, I misremembered the date of the passing of Washington, D.C.-based American visionary artist James Hampton as 1968, rather than 1964, which caused the garbling of the meaning of my comment. In fact, James Hamption passed away from cancer a few years before the assasination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He also recorded in his artwork the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, which he experienced somewhat close up, having served in an all-Negro military unit in the Pacific arena. I seem to recall that those August 1945 world events caused him to begin his single artistic project which he would leave unfinished (or finished) 19 years later.

Comment from andrea
Time: September 25, 2006, 10:27 am

will Percy Grainger’s Aryan pageants soon be enjoying a ‘new wave’ at the Hollywood Bowl under the directorship of nominally Jewish American conductors

does grainger get played outside of high-school and college wind ensembles? so, jewish conductors or not, i’m guessing the answer to your question is no. i’ve definitely got a soft-spot in my heart for lincolnshire posy.

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: September 25, 2006, 11:08 am

Not to mention Percy’s extremely kinky sex life.

Comment from andrea
Time: September 25, 2006, 5:01 pm

yeah, well… i thought i’d leave that for you to bring up. =P