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What to Wear is Boffo in La La Land

Mark Swed, who is (perhaps wisely) ignoring our attempts to stir up trouble over his incoherent Jefferson Friedman review last week, is wild about the Michael Gordon/Richard Foreman opera What to Wear which is now playing a limited run at REDCAT at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in beautiful downtown L.A..  A couple of snippets:

“What to Wear” — with dazzling, hard-hitting music by Michael Gordon and words, staging, design and equally hard-hitting and dazzling zaniness by Richard Foreman — is being called a rock opera.

It’s not. If it were, rock opera could, after the premiere of this arresting new hour of music theater at REDCAT on Wednesday night, be acknowledged as having finally come of age. 


What to Wear” is scheduled for nine more performances. Ten times that number would be more like it.

Good piece in the Times this morning about the Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriela Montero who is said to be almost singlehandedly reviving the lost art of improvisation–at least in a classical framework.  Montero, who has never studied or played jazz, can apparently take any song she knows suggested at random and immediately turn it into a Bach or Mozart or Antonio Carlos Jobim improvisation, including the other night at Joe’s Pub a blistering take on Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem “I Will Survive.”

There are some samples on her web site but I can’t get the registration thing to work.  Looks like a job for our ace webmaster Super Jeff.

And yes, Andrea, I am showing off my newfound restraint and maturity.


Comment from andrea
Time: September 25, 2006, 10:20 am

yes, jerry, i noticed the super-boobular (as opposed to sub-boobular) cropping of the picture. *polite clapping* i also like your spelling of anthem. we should make it official. and write some womyn’s anthyms. jerry, you can write the text.

Comment from Tom Myron
Time: September 25, 2006, 10:54 am

Nice post Jer old boy, but could we get a bigger pic of that super-hot Venezuelan babe? Right now the damn thing looks like a South American postage stamp! Gracias!

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: September 25, 2006, 11:01 am

I see you got to the misspelled anthem before I did, Andrea, but you\’re right, we should stick with it. Actually, I lifted the picture directly from her web site so no strategic cropping on my part. Tom, you can go to the web site and click on the little picture and see a larger picture. Personally, I love smart, talented women with overbites.  Oops, so much for maturity but Tom started it.

Comment from Rodney Lister
Time: September 25, 2006, 11:37 am

Robert Levin, who’s been improvising in concerts for years, might be a little surprised to find that Ms. Montero is reviving it singlehandedly.

Comment from andrea
Time: September 25, 2006, 12:49 pm

aw come on… overbite? okay, i looked at the website. she so does not have an overbite. she’s just smiling. your upper teeth are supposed to be a little in front of bottom teeth. as someone who’s experienced massive amounts of orthodontistry to correct an overbite (and crooked teeth, and a small mouth — that’s right, a small mouth, i guess technically a narrow jaw…), i have some idea of what i’m talking about. you creepy old men have such weird standards: “ooo, what a hot babe! she’s so perfect! oh… no, wait. doh, she has an overbite.” she’s babelicious; can’t you give her that without pulling some teeth? jeez louise…

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: September 25, 2006, 1:45 pm

No, no. I really like the overbite. And by the way, I have no chin (or three depending on how you look at it) and virtually no jaw. As an ENT doctor, a fellow Appalachian, once said to me: the kind of thing that happens when your grandparents are first cousins. Which, of course, made when wonder how he knew.

Comment from Peter Mueller
Time: September 25, 2006, 2:20 pm

Francois Glorieux whole carreer was based off his ability to take some ditty or another and improvise in the style of _____. Mind you, I don’t think he’s been very active for the past 15 years or so.

Comment from Tom Myron
Time: September 25, 2006, 2:35 pm

I think Adrea and I should perform the picc./timp. duet from Carmina as an encore at the S21 Konzert. The event could double as a ZooMass Wind Ensemble Survivors meeting (speaking of creepy old men.)

Comment from jeff harrington
Time: September 25, 2006, 2:36 pm

Ok, i bit. There’s no podcasts there and 3 audio streams. The form, FWIW, had to be emptied. You can type anything in there, just erase the text in the input fields.

Or even easier here’s what little audio is there at the site:

Italian Concerto:

Beyond Bach:

Toccata in D Minor


Comment from andrea
Time: September 25, 2006, 2:46 pm

aw, bill rowell wasn’t creepy. “i choose this music because you NEED this music, like you need FOOD, and WATER, and SLEEP!!!” (i don’t remember what piece we were playing that prompted that tirade…) i rather like the fellow. or are you talking about the male members of the percussion section of a umass wind ensemble survivors meeting… =)

but, jerry, she doesn’t have an overbite for you to like. say she has nice teeth or something.

back to topic (…topic? what topic?…the venezualan postage stamp is rendering me unable to focus…), frederic rzewski has also long been a proponent of improvising in classical music and has been known to improvise cadenzas to classical concerti, not just improvising in his own works.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: September 25, 2006, 5:02 pm

Andrea wrote: frederic rzewski has … been known to improvise cadenzas to classical concerti, not just improvising in his own works.

I know a few others of these. You know, one of you composers wants to do a new shtick for your signature “oh yeah, they’re the one that does that”: make a “cadenza project”, just creating new, more-relevant cadenzas for all the warhorses. What a way to sneak your own stuff into all these typical concert programs; you only need a sympathetic pianist, the orchestra doesn’t need to learn anything new.

Comment from jeff harrington
Time: September 25, 2006, 5:04 pm

Old. Schnittke’s claim to fame! :)

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: September 25, 2006, 7:08 pm

Nah, from his catalog it looks like Schnittke only did 10 cadenzas, and those only for 6 different works. And all were either Beethoven or Mozart. That leaves a ton of stuff still waiting for something new. I’m talking about someone doing a really thorough and considered series.

Besides, if you consider it just another form like “sonata”, nothing would be wrong with any numbers of composers creating cadenzas for any & all these concertos.

Comment from jeff harrington
Time: September 25, 2006, 8:19 pm

No, my point, was that Schnittke became infamous for his atonal cadenza to the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Before that, he was just another Russian among thousands of Russian composers.

A stylistically diverse cadenza, I imagine, would be harder to get performed than a new piece. Did that Mozart cadenza get you thinking? The one where the performers are rolling their eyes that’s hot in the classical blogosphere?