AC Douglas of “Sounds & Fury” is on a roll with three painfully elitist postings all in one day.  It’s been too long since I last debunked him, so let’s take a gander at all three.

1. “The iPod Sensibility Enters The Concert Hall”

Cal Performances, an arts presenter in Berleley, CA, is installing and state-of-the-art amplification system in Zellerbach Hall, which is designed to compensate for the hall’s shortcomings and enable “a uniformly excellent acoustic environment for its wide range of recitals, chamber music, symphonic music, opera, theater, dance, world music and the rest.”  ACD calls this “another victory for pop culture” and “repulsive.”  First, I don’t see what this has to do with “the iPod Sensibility” aside from the fact that both use electricity.  Second, pop culture has nothing to do with it – they’re not talking about replacing classical repertoire with Justin Timberlake.  They’re not even using it to generate a “pop” sound, but rather to make a wider variety of ensembles sound natural in one space to compensate for the fact that concert halls are emphatically one-size-fits-some.  If you’re a sticker for Historically Informed Performance (HIP), the electroacoustic reinforcement isn’t for you – but neither are modern instruments (including steel strings on your violins), or modern concert halls.  Chamber music is called that for a reason, so if you play, say, a Mozart string quartet in, say, Disney Hall, you’re already miles away from historical accuracy, and the amount of reverberation might make the music sound significantly worse than it would in a salon.  Furthermore, the study of concert hall acoustics only got seriously underway in the 20th Century, so modern halls sound better than most of their pre-modern counterparts.  Why is making halls sound better with electronics any different from making them sound better with architecture?  If your goal is HIP, then do what you have to do.  If your goal is to make music sound as good as possible in the space available, electronic reinforcement is a very useful tool.

2.  “Déjà vu All Over Again”

ACD wonders why Alex Ross’s witty mock-analysis of the feline minimalism video reminds him of “any number of “˜rock critics’ (absurd concept!) waxing eloquent in technically detailed, highfalutin “˜elitist’ language over the latest piece of same-as-the-gazillion-pieces-before-it rock crap with the same earnestness as if it were some recently discovered piece by Bach or Mozart or Beethoven or any other of the pantheon of immortals.”  Sigh.  The reason, Mr. D., is that you believe these analyses are only appropriate for “serious” (i.e. classical) music.  Sophisticated analysis sounds silly when applied to things that lack sophistication, and you perceive rock music as similarly insignificant to the katzemusik.  I don’t mind ignorance about rock music, or dislike of rock music for superficial reasons.  Heck, I dislike both Country music and Debussy for superficial reasons (La Pickup Truck Engloutie).  I mind the presumption that ignorance yields valid analyses.  If it all sounds the same to you, that should be your first clue that you aren’t qualified to pass meaningful judgment on it.  Furthermore, I have yet to hear a persuasive argument that classical music is inherently superior to popular music.  I hereby renew the challenge.

3.  “Gee, What A Surprise II”

The study by British scientists Adrian North and David Hargreaves of the correlation between musical taste and other biographical attributes has been mentioned by many people, and ACD now chimes in with a quote noting the correlation between classical music fandom and higher level of education, higher income, and higher consumption of current affairs magazines.  His only comment is “duh,” and it’s true that these results are pretty unsurprising.  Based on his usual attitudes, however, I suspect he means something like “classical music, due to its inherent superiority, appeals more to people who are smart because they’re smart enough to appreciate it, and smart people generally get more education, earn more money, and read current events magazines.”  Maybe I’m wrong about ACD, and sincere apologies if that is the case, but even if I am wrong this analysis deserves debunking as a public service.  Reports of this sort demand great care in the  attribution of causality.  What’s really happening is that taste is very malleable, and is largely determined by socialization.  A major component of our musical taste is our associations of musical style with social groups, so we should be unsurprised to find musical taste correlating with social and economic groupings.  Classical music’s alignment is a product of cultural history, not of the intelligence levels of the current members of the group.

On the other hand, he’s completely right in this analysis of Harry Potter, he has a beautiful prose style, and he obviously like Wagner, so Sounds & Fury isn’t a complete waste of bandwidth.

75 Responses to “. . . Signifying Nothing”
  1. Evan Johnson says:

    I don’t really care about #2 and #3 (in re #2, I think you’re both right), but I do have to say that I consider it a serious problem when, in a live performance situation, sound which was meant to come directly from an instrument does not do so.

    This is my personal bugaboo, maybe, about viscerality and materiality and so on and so forth, the same reason I have next to no interest in computer music, but to me it is like colorizing a film masterfully cinematographed in black and white.

  2. Evan Johnson says:

    Oh, and:

    about popular and classical music: I take a Wittgensteinian approach to that and tend to think that the problem stems from the fact that the same word is used for both phenomena. There’s good and bad in both, of course, but the fact that the two are (in many cases, though obviously not all) fundamentally different activities is too often elided.

  3. Ian Moss says:

    Regarding the “iPod sensibility,” I attended a dance performance at the Joyce Theater on Tuesday in which the soundtrack (composed by Mikel Rouse) was literally handed out to the audience beforehand on iPod Shuffle devices. Audience members were asked to listen to the music on headphones (in Shuffle mode, of course) during the dance. It sounds gimmicky, but actually it was awesome. The choreography had just enough moving elements at all times to guarantee some sort of counterpoint with the music, even if you didn’t push play exactly when they told you to. It was very experiential, kind of like watching a music video or a GAP commercial. Of course, AC Douglas wouldn’t like either of those things since they’re too close to “pop culture” (i.e., real life).

  4. zeno says:

    I would have thought that an “Ipod” sensibility would have more properly referred to the ‘Concert Companions’ that Greg Sandow championed a year or so ago, and was paid by the American Symphony Orchestra League, and some foundation, to promote. I thought then, and continue to believe, that Concert Companions are an atrocious idea. I am free to say so since I will never receive support from the ASOL or be a paid consultant for them. (On the other hand, I have made my peace with tourists wandering world museums listening to audio lectures and Pod-casts, as long as the volume is low. I hate much more private photography in museums of tourists posing next to Van Gogh portraits.)

    I am also strongly against electronic enhancement, whether at the New York State Theater, Avery Fisher Hall, or Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall (which Stravinsky helped inaugurate) — and I do, in fact, recognize major acoustic problems at Zellerbach Hall. But I believe acoustic problems require acoustic remedies, despite often huge costs.

    I was also saddened last Saturday noon when the Meyer Hall at the Smithsonians Freer Gallery of Asian Art, recently rebuilt as an intimate chamber hall, used ‘subtle electronic enhancement’ for their ‘Spirit of Fes Morocco’ Celebration. Apparently the sponsors requested it, but it was unneeded and the banks of speakers in the intimate hall were highly distracting, in my view.

  5. Evan Johnson says:

    Of course, AC Douglas wouldn’t like either of those things since they’re too close to “pop culture” (i.e., real life).

    Well, fine. I have no idea who this A. C. Douglas person is, in any case – but I would like to go on record as emphatically rejecting the idea that the concert experience needs to be, or should be, or could profitably be, nearer to “real life.” Precisely the opposite.

  6. Seth Gordon says:

    Interesting… ACD has added an addendum to his page where he claims that somehow you (Galen) have “made his point” for him. How, I’m not sure, since he doesn’t explain.

    On the other hand, he’s completely right in this analysis of Harry Potter, he has a beautiful prose style, and he obviously like Wagner, so Sounds & Fury isn’t a complete waste of bandwidth.

    Personally, I find his prose style falls into the “trying too hard to impress” category. Really, reading his posts it’s hard not to imagine them performed by some mutant offspring of John Lithgow at his most annoyingly over-the-top and “Comic Book Store Guy” from The Simpsons. ACD’s “clever” barbs are only clever if you’ve never read anything clever. Piss & vinegar meets a thesaurus. Yawn.

    …but I’ve suspected for a bit now that ACD is just a big joke. There’s no picture, no sense of who this person is in their real life or what they do… it smells like a creation, a character designed to expose the ridiculousness of classical snobbery. The ultimate joke being, of course, that there are those who would take this buffoon seriously.

    After all, the full quote is… “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…”

    —————–

    Re: #1 – I absolutely agree. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, don’t ever see a string quartet in a concert hall. In fact, don’t ever listen to music at home. Unless you can get an orchestra into your living room.

    Garth – speakers are “acoustic” and thus are an “acoustic remedy” to an acoustic problem. The term “acoustic” meaning “not electric” is a term only used for instruments. Obviously, guitars were not called “acoustic guitars” before electric guitars came along. They were just guitars. Only when electric guitars ceased to be a novelty did “acoustic” surface in that definition – a convenient marketing term, if a misnomer. It tested better than “unelectric” I guess.

    Concert hall acoustics in a nutshell: the further you are from a sound, the greater discrepancy there is from the source. There are numerous factors – high end sound travels faster than low end, resulting in slight delays between registers. Higher end sound is more directional. Longer distance equals lower volume, and the percieved volume loss can be exponentially different for high/mid/low ranges. All of these things come together, muddling the sound more and more the further away from the source you are.

    Now, the loss of perception is less of a factor the higher the volume. That’s why orchestras (which are inherently loud even when playing “soft”) sound pretty good – or at least acceptable – wherever you sit. But a quartet – that’s a different matter. A cello vs. a violin, at identical decibel levels ten feet away are at significantly different levels at 100 feet. At 200 feet a bowed violin is going to scream through, yet a pizzicato cello will be little more than a rumor. At a certain point, the only thing that can fix that is to change your distance from the source. How do you do that (without shelling out $250 for a pair of seats)? Well, if you were to place a microphone ten feet away… connected to a speaker ten feet away from you… suddenly, you’re only twenty feet away, give or take.

    The other problem with the cheap seats is reverb. Sitting up front, you get the sound the way it was meant to be heard, a proper mix of direct sound and the “hall” sound, after it’s bounced off the back of the room and come back to you. There’s both a time differential – and, just as important – a volume differential due to the distance it’s travelled. The further back you sit, the shorter that delay becomes, and the louder the reverb gets vs. the direct sound. In the balcony, the two are striking you at nearly the same moment, at nearly the same volume – what up front is “lush” is often just “muddy” in the back. How to solve it? Amplification.

    But then there’s the argument that if you’re poor, you shouldn’t hear the show as well as the rich do. Serves you right for being poor.

    Today (since the late 70s / early 80s) we have remarkably accurate, aurally transparant amplification systems. Now, if Cal were installing some cheap crap that “fell off a truck” the second violist’s Uncle Gino hooked them up with a good deal on, I could see worrying. But it sure sounds like they’ve gone all out. If you’re a regular patron at Zellerbach, you should be thankful. And if you’re too stubborn to appreciate it, you should stay home and sulk. You don’t deserve good sound.

  7. Graham Rieper says:

    I occasionally read Sounds and Fury the same way I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh, as an example of an amusing pathology. In both cases, more than a few minutes exposure gives one the creeps. I never got the impression that it was a put-on, rather just a poor bastard raging from behind his curtains on the 23rd floor at the unwashed hordes below.
    As to his fawning idolatry of Mozart and Wagner, I am reminded of Erich Von Stroheim’s great line in La Grande Illusion: “Poor Pindar.”

  8. Evan Johnson says:

    I’m sorry, Seth, but I don’t want to see a string quartet a hundred feet away and have sound coming out of a speaker in an attempt to aurally convince me they’re only twenty feet away. That would be a very uncomfortable experience.

    This isn’t an issue of naivete about how sound travels in a concert hall, trust me. I know all that, and I certainly know what the cheap seats sound like. (Although, of course, all of that is oversimplified – you’re neglecting the effects of a raised stage, for example, and of building and panelling materials.) It’s an issue of why people go to concerts in the first place. And one of the main reasons that I personally go to concerts, when I do (which isn’t all that often), is to know that I am in the same aural space as a musical instrument, that a viscerally physical experience is taking place between myself and the performer and the performer’s instrument.

    So, as soon as you add an amplification system to the mix, as soon as I’m listening to a speaker, no matter how “transparent,” as far as I’m concerned I might as well be at home. I don’t expect you or anyone else to agree with me, but for me this is fundamental – this is what this sort of music is about, it’s part of why it exists, and it’s part of why I’m a composer. I take it very seriously.

  9. Evan Johnson says:

    I should add, also, that a good deal of my own work would be pretty much meaningless if played in a hall with such a system. So maybe I’m just taking it all too personally.

  10. Sometimes it almost seems like asking for lack of amplification and processing is like authentic instruments. Almost a weird cult thing.

    Might as well use physically modelled robotic instruments then and afterwards set them on fire like Survival Research Labs – http://srl.org/
    ;)

  11. andrea says:

    “Interesting… ACD has added an addendum to his page where he claims that somehow you (Galen) have “made his point” for him. How, I’m not sure, since he doesn’t explain.”

    when you’re right, you don’t have to explain anything. galen, do yourself a favor and stop reading such negative, low-conscious drivel. let AC Douglas make himself feel important by himself.

  12. zeno says:

    Seth, acoustics deals with both generation and location of sound in space. Thus, the translation of prime (local) instrumental or vocal music from a acoustically designed (artificial) space to an electronically-modified, acoustically designed space can involve differences in both perceived instrumental or vocal production of musical sound and the perception of that musical sound in space. Many listeners would prefer that Anna Netrebko not sound like a Laurie Anderson clone, nor that Philip II’s famous aria in Verdi’s Don Carlo sound like it was coming from two or more sources in the hall (where the “enhancement” speakers are located).

    My worst acoustical experience was in Lubeck, Germany where an atrocious reverb in the balcony caused me to experience the music drama of most scenes of Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers two times. My hope is now that Lubeck has completed its new conference and recording hall it will turn its attention to an acoustic (non-electronic) rebuilding of its opera house.

    And yes, Seth, I do choose performances based upon the quality of the performance space. I boycotted Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall when the NSO and Washington National Opera temporarily performed there, and I prefer not to attend concerts at Zellerbach Hall, in Berkeley, until the Hall is acoustically improved in a non-”virtual” manner.

  13. david toub says:

    I think that there’s something to be said for chamber music (or any other, for that matter) “unplugged.” A string quartet that is amplified sounds qualitatively different from one that is not. And when the electronic amplification goes awry (as it did in the 80′s at the Avery Fisher Hall premiere of the orchestral version of Tehillim), it’s bad. Very bad.

    But I also think there is much to be said for music that is amplified. Some works sound better in live performance with amplification than without. The reality is that certain instrumental combinations just don’t sound balanced otherwise, since some instruments just can’t compete with louder ones. A marimba or contrabass line could be easily lost in a larger ensemble, for example, but when correctly mixed, holds its own and enhances the music.

    Many works even sound better on digital recording than in a live situation, even ones that are amplified in concert. A lot of Glass serves as a good example—-listening to Music in 12 Parts live and on a mastered recording with multiple takes and overdubs are two very different experiences. So I don’t agree with Evan Johnson that if a (live) performance is amplified, one might as well be home listening to a CD. Both are distinctly different.

  14. Seth Gordon says:

    when you’re right, you don’t have to explain anything.

    Hahahaha! I’m so gonna use that line with my students…

    I never got the impression that it was a put-on, rather just a poor bastard raging from behind his curtains on the 23rd floor at the unwashed hordes below.

    He strikes me more as a first-floor dweller wanking with his curtains open.

    ……

    Really, though – why respond to or debunk anything “ACD” has to say? He doesn’t allow comments on his page – not even moderated ones. Seems to me he doesn’t want responses.

    Or perhaps he’s just being coy.

    ……

    So, as soon as you add an amplification system to the mix, as soon as I’m listening to a speaker, no matter how “transparent,” as far as I’m concerned I might as well be at home. I don’t expect you or anyone else to agree with me,

    I won’t argue with that, actually. You’re absolutely right. I don’t agree with you. ;)

  15. Seth Gordon says:

    Many listeners would prefer that Anna Netrebko not sound like a Laurie Anderson clone, nor that Philip II’s famous aria in Verdi’s Don Carlo sound like it was coming from two or more sources in the hall (where the “enhancement” speakers are located).

    Well, of course. But those are strawmen. If Anna Netrebko sounded like Laurie Anderson on account of being amplified, she’d sound like Laurie Anderson when you listened to her at home. But she doesn’t. Nor would well designed sound cause a chorusing effect on Philip II, not if it was done properly. When you see a movie in a theater, in surround sound with 10+ speakers around you, does it sound like there are ten Bruce Willises in the room? Does it sound like there are two (or more, I don’t know what your set up is like) Philip IIs in your living room when you listen to Don Carlo there? If the speakers are placed poorly, the problem lies with who put them there, and has nothing to do with the general concept of sound reinforcement.

    I do choose performances based upon the quality of the performance space. I boycotted Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall when the NSO and Washington National Opera temporarily performed there and I prefer not to attend concerts at Zellerbach Hall, in Berkeley, until the Hall is acoustically improved in a non-”virtual” manner.

    Okay, be that way.

    I hope you wrote the NSO a strong letter expressing the reason you would not be attending shows at Constitution Hall. Too bad Zellerbach didn’t learn from the NSO’s mistake. Well, when you don’t show up, let ‘em choke on that apple! Perhaps the next hall thinking of “going electric” will know better.

  16. zeno says:

    If the speakers are placed poorly, the problem lies with who put them there

    Umm … Seth, the concert or opera attendee who sits in a corner of an “electro-acoustically enhanced” hall — or next to a wall — close to an enhancement source, is not able to rearrange the speakers. And yes, experienced auditors — especially of classical music — do hear the enhancement sources…

    And I do not listen to my opera videos and DVDs with the television screen several feet in front of me and my two stereo speakers several feet behind me …

    *

    Zellerbach Hall Berkeley is a sculpturally beautiful and subtlely colored hall from the late 1960s, about the same time as the original New York (pre-Avery Fisher) Philharmonic Hall — and is, inside, almost like a Noguchi sculpture. Unfortunately, little thought apparently was given to how the numerous wall recesses would affect sound. According to CAL Performances, many visiting groups prefer to perform in the acoustically superior, but smaller, Hertz Hall, home to the University’s music department (or the nearby First Congregationist Church). This preference of visiting groups causes ticket prices to be higher in Berkeley, than elsewhere, for visiting ensembles.

  17. Walter Ramsey says:

    “Really, though – why respond to or debunk anything “ACD” has to say? He doesn’t allow comments on his page – not even moderated ones. Seems to me he doesn’t want responses.

    Or perhaps he’s just being coy.”

    ACD is quite clever! Of course he wants response to his posts, that is why he doesn’t allow comments. Instead of comments, he gets his posts free publicity and lots of discussion on everybody -else’s- websites. And why shouldn’t he? He makes damn good points. I remember a year or so back his postings on theatre vs film were all the rage across the blogosphere, and nobody could ignore him. This is a vital blogger we are talking about here, one who does more than just post a random opinion on a random web site.
    Anyways, A.Ross doesn’t allow comments either.
    I for one wish ACD would give us a bit more. I have the gut feeling that this amplification is a bad idea, but I couldn’t say why. Some other people posted on how smaller groups tend to sound muddier and muddier the further back you sit. But it doesn’t square with my memories, for instance of hearing Pletnev in solo piano recital in Carnegie, sitting in literally the last row, and hearing every note like he was right in front of me. This profound kind of acoustical understanding can’t be duplicated with eletrical enhancement, and anyways, people who are accustomed to that kind of enhancement get lazy and hardly sound good without it. :)

    Walter Ramsey

  18. Graham Rieper says:

    He’s a reaction factory and a bore.

  19. Seth Gordon says:

    I don’t think there is such a thing as a vital blogger. At least not yet.

    And if there is, I certainly wouldn’t put AC Douglas on the list. Perhaps it seems as if there was a bit of hubbub around him – but really, how much? After all, the “artsy-fartsy” thread below elicited easily as many responses as his film v. theater blog. If everyone who commented below had done it on their own websites, linking back and forth to one another…. well, this artsy-fartsy issue would have seemed quite the to-do.

    Interesting, though, that he’s on opposite sides of the issue in the two cases – he prefers film to live theater, yet is against recorded or broadcast sound vs. “live” sound. Like Graham said…

    ———–

    Garth – having speakers in such a place that audience members could be sitting too close to them would, in fact, be… ready? – poorly placed – exactly what I was talking about. If something’s not done correctly it doesn’t invalidate the basic concept. If your car turned out to be a lemon you wouldn’t switch to horse-and-buggies, would you? You wouldn’t stop taking all headache medicines because one kind gave you a tummyache, would you?

    It’s quite true that in a number of concert halls the systems installed were put in place by people who didn’t know what they were doing, who didn’t know anything about live sound design, or if they did were only familiar with smaller spaces – clubs and whatnot. You can’t just hire the guy from the local Guitar Center to do it. It’s not like setting up a home theater. Sadly, though, a lot of them – particularly smaller, regional ones – did just that. It’s not like most towns have an acoustician around, or even a professional soundperson.

    But…. when a space like Zellerbach Hall uses the phrase “state of the art” – you can probably take them on their word.

    (And I’m still not sure how amplification caused Anna Netrebko to sound like Laurie Anderson…)

    ——–

    I have the gut feeling that this amplification is a bad idea, but I couldn’t say why.

    Exactly. But no one can, because there is no reason. It’s one of those “skeptical for the sake of being skeptical” things – and truth be told, it’s not being skeptical at all, since the first thing one should be skeptical about is anything their “gut” tells them.

    I’m fine with those for whom it’s just how it feels. In that case it’s more of an intimacy issue, and that’s fine. I don’t buy it, since there’s no actual aural reason for it – honestly, building and panelling materials like traditional orchestra shells actually “color” the sound far more than any decent mic or loudspeaker. There’s nothing less “natural” about a sound that’s been picked up by a membrane and transferred to another membrane than there is a sound that’s bounced off a piece of wood where half of it was absorbed before getting to your ears. It’s all just energy being transferred from one place to another. Any “naturalness” ascribed is purely in one’s head.

    It’s like a regressed version of the old argument when CDs first hit the market – that records and magnetic tape had “real” sound on them, and the digital stuff on CDs was only “virtual” – a recreation, at best.

    There’s just a certain type of music fan who resists change – “Musico-conservatives” for lack of a better term. They take on different forms, everything from “those kids today and their blasted ‘rap music’ – if you can even call it music!” to the “Dude, Nirvana were only good before they were famous” crowd. It’s all the same.

  20. OK, I’ll bite. Does anybody really think that a ‘good’ listener couldn’t tell a recording from the real thing?

    When you amplify sound, it has to be recorded, these days, digitally, and then put back together. That process is absolutely destructive. This is not debatable… it’s just a scientific fact.

    Additionally, speaker technology is way beyond reproducing accurately the nuances of both loud and soft sounds. The onsets are totally inaccurate, for one thing.

    I was taught that without extremely hi-res recording technology, that is sampling rates in the hundreds of thousands a second, you just don’t have accurate reproduction of sound.

    Seth’s comments about shells coloring sounds is inane. Sorry… that’s a filter. There’s no post-processing or re-creation of the sound, it’s a complex physical filter to the sound itself – not the recording.

    The act of recording and later reproduction with technology is what is destructive to sound. Frankly, I find this debate kind of surprising as I thought we had a more technologically literate crowd here.

    ;)

    Recording and reproduction are destructive! It’s a mathematically provable fact. And real non-fanatical people can hear the difference. It’s WHY we go to concerts.

  21. A.C. Douglas says:

    Walter Ramsey wrote:

    I for one wish ACD would give us a bit more. I have the gut feeling that this amplification is a bad idea, but I couldn’t say why.

    Perhaps this post will give you some of what you’re looking for, as will Update #2 to my original post on this business linked here by Galen H. Brown.

    ACD

  22. Rama says:

    on this “ipod culture”: this is really not new, but i very much agree that the way that people become used to listening at home effects the way that we listen in the concert hall. which is why we now have the “problem” (or “opportunity” depending how you look at it) of dealing with two completely different mediums: acoustic music and electronic music.

    acoustic music is its own thing. there are all sorts of balancing issues and solutions that depend on an acoustic setting. the solution to building halls for acoustic music is to either build something that works well acoustically (and it can be done) or just build a smaller hall! seriously, i don’t know why we need all of these huge concert halls. a smaller orchestra hall is usually much more engaging.

    but then there is electronic music. i consider anything with sound reenforcement to be electronic (or electro-acoustic). music that comes out of speaker sounds completely different. and so many times i have written music for acoustic situations and then upon listening back to the recording realizing that it just doesn’t work as well on tape (for example doublings become compressed and become less transparent, quiet things loud, etc.). and this has led in new directions.

    for me it’s been an inspiring challenge to try to compose for recording in combination with the subtleties of orchestrating for an acoustic situation. this is not just the result of the “ipod”, but simply of headphones and recordings in general (ca. 1890 – so again, this is not a new debate – stravinksy talks about this stuff back in 1960 or earlier).

    as often stated ad nauseum, this “information age” has given us the vast luxury of being able to hear recordings of many performances which would completely impossible to hear otherwise – see alex ross’ article “the recorded effect” http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/050606crat_atlarge … but the real challenge for us composers is to use and abuse this situation, and with the internet, this is a major new type of “concert hall” with its own virtual acoustic issues and solutions.

    as to the “new” giant halls, that’s a corporate game which in my opinion is not quite the solution that will get them what they want (i.e. $$money$$). these days it’s specialization that will make a real audience (and i mean for real, not a novelty show).

    build a intimate hall with jaw dropping acoustics. then make another hall that is all about taking advantage of electronics. make an ipods that have an unbelievably high sample-rate. really nice headphones … and music that takes advantage of these situations (maybe one maybe the other but consciously). to ignore any of these issues is to be a little naive, to say that amplification is just wrong is, well plain dumb, just as dumb as saying acoustic music isn’t important anymore.

  23. Graham Rieper says:

    Alphonse and Gaston, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, now Walter and AC…

  24. zeno says:

    Seth, I think any further comment would be fruitless here until we learn more about the firm which will be installing Zellerbach Hall’s new “state of the art” electro-acoustic enhancement system which will allow the Hall to be equally a home for symphonic music and chamber music and solo performance art. I can’t find any reference to the firm doing the “state of the art” enhancement. Do you have a reference?

    For those readers not aware of it, here is a link to U.C. Berkeley’s Center for New Music And Audio Technologies. I’d be curious as to whether this on-campus research group is involved in the electronic retrofitting of Zellerbach Hall or whether it is another, perhaps more commercial or experienced, group/firm?

    Berkeley’s CNMAT:

    http://www.cnmat.berkeley.edu/People/

    “We bring scientific and engineering tools and resources to bear on musical problems and issues. Our particular emphasis is new performance technology and performance-related research issues and problems such as real-time synthesis and control.
    In addition to the high standards of scholarship expected from a world-class research University, CNMAT researchers face the additional rigors of multidisciplinary collaborations and the requirement to put working tools into musician’s hands.”
    • Richard Andrews, Associate Director
    • Edmund Campion, Co-Director
    • Adrian Freed, Research Director, Computer Scientist, Electronical Engineer, Guitarist
    • David Wessel, Director, Professor of Music

  25. I’ve been lurking on this thread but work and family obligations have made it hard to contribute. In fairness to ACD, his clarification on “the iPod sensibility” has some sense to it, and pointing out my use of the phrase “sound natural” is a legitimate gotcha moment — I used the wrong word at an important place in my argument. Yes, recorded, produced, engineered music sounds different from live music — I personally like it better in some ways and less well in other ways, but those are issues of personal preference. And yes, the earbuds used by the average iPod listener are an inferior sound source to better headphones and to speakers. And I accept the assertion that as people listen to more and more recorded music and less and less live acousitic music their sense of acoustical norms shifts. A problem? Not for most music, but perhaps for classical music. On the other hand, how much difference in objective acoustic terms is the sound of a good recording from the sound of a good acoustic live performance in a good space versus the sound of an acoustic live performance in an inapropriate space to that performance in a good space? It depends on a variety of factors, but I submit that in many cases the sound of the recording will be more clear, more clean, more revealing of the subtleties of the performance. Similarly, electroacoustic reenforcement in situations where the venue is poorly acoustically suited to the instrumentation can deliver greater clarity and detail — the “artificial” version will be more musically appropriate than the “natural” version. Contra my earlier careless phrasing, no it won’t sound “more natural,” but I think it will sound better. I’m not arguing that amplification is always, or even usually, the way to go — merely that it can fix situations where the “natural” sound is degraded by inapropriate architecture. And sounding “better” is my opinion.

    And ultimately that’s a big part of my point — intelligent people who care about music and about acoustics and about the experience of live performance can disagree about whether amplification would improve or degrade any given performance. If ACD would rather hear the unamplified sound even in acoustically inferior spaces, that’s his right and I can respect him for it. It does offer a certain sense of aesthetic purity. But the fact that I probably would prefer amplification in more situations than most people would should be my right. We have different priorities, both sets of which are musically legitimate. My objection is that he seems to think amplification is a travesty rather than merely an option that he personally prefers to avoid.

  26. zeno says:

    Belated P.S.:

    But…. when a space like Zellerbach Hall uses the phrase “state of the art” – you can probably take them on their word.

    – Seth

    “How effectively is Zellerbach’s electroacoustic architecture system shaping musical sounds? I’ve heard it in operation three times, and the results have been mixed.

    In May, Cal Performances threw itself a 100th- anniversary gala celebration — with a large orchestra, choruses, a string quintet, a dance troupe, some recital-like singing and some singing with wireless microphones — and it sounded great.

    Not long after, I attended an “enhanced” concert by the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra — and the sound was terrible; the strings sounded about 200 miles away.

    Yet just last week, I was back for Mark Morris’ adaptation of Henry Purcell’s “King Arthur,” a collaboration with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. At the time, I didn’t even know the electroacoustic shell was in use; the sound was totally natural, nicely balanced. No problems at all.”

    Music critic Richard Scheinin
    http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/entertainment/music/15729938.htm

  27. Steve Layton says:

    Just as with the performers on stage, there’s a level of skill & sensitivity to sound mixing & reinforcement, that doesn’t stop with the installation and “here’s the manual”. A great violin will never sound great or even good, in the hands of an incompetent player; why would we expect such a complex skill as sound reinforcement to be any different? Any place that’s serious about it has to invest equal care over the “performer” on the other side of the mixer.

  28. Jeff says:

    Well, also, these days, architecture usually trumps good acoustic design. And there’s the natural post-modern tendency to throw tech at anything that is a problem. ‘We’ll fix it in the mix.’ Yet, you can hear a pin drop in the great concert halls.

  29. Seth Gordon says:

    Seth, I think any further comment would be fruitless here until we learn more about the firm which will be installing Zellerbach Hall’s new “state of the art” electro-acoustic enhancement system which will allow the Hall to be equally a home for symphonic music and chamber music and solo performance art. I can’t find any reference to the firm doing the “state of the art” enhancement. Do you have a reference?

    The reference is at the top of this page. Ask Galen where he heard it.

    As to the Who: the new speakers & processors are from Meyer Labs, which is as close to the top of the line as you’ll find. Who is actually installing them I dunno, but the plans look good. More on the new ZH system in a moment, though, as it crosses over with my response to Jeff.

    Regarding speaker placement: if it’s done right, sound reinforcement is coming to you from about the same distance as the original source – the speakers are placed in line with the stage, or a little in front. In some cases you can get away with overheads, but that’s a bit more complicated and IMHO unecessary. When you see a band in a club, the PA speakers aren’t surrounding you – so why would they do that for classical music?

    Now, Jeff…

    If you want to toss around words like “scientifically” and “techonolgically” and whatnot…

    Technologically, there is no “recording” taking place in live sound. Any sound engineer would tell you that’s inane.

    Scientifically, any “filter” colors the sound. Even a plaster wall. Maybe you interpret “color” as “adding to” rather than filtering – in which case, fine, I’ll accept that’s it’s not a perfect word choice. “Alter” better?

    You seem to be coming from a place where you assume live sound is digital, with the talk of sample rates and such. It’s not. 99% of the live sound is still done the old-fashioned way, only the technology has advanced dramatically since Ye Olden Tymes. There are a few places using digital mixers, but those are by far the exceptions – and, for the record, the system at ZH is not one of those 1%. The “state of the art” in live sound is still (and will probably always be) analog.

    And… when digital is used, the sample rates start at 192 kHz… well over the hundred thousand per second you’ve decided is necessary for “real” sounding sound.

    Technologically, I have no idea what the hell “onset” is, and since I’m not a pro (though I’ve done live sound many times and set up many systems) I’m going to consult with one who’s a friend of mine (“pro” as in credits include the Beastie Boys, Living Color, and Bad Brains), who’s conveniently sitting on the couch watching my television thirty feet away from me. Okay… he’s never heard the word “onset” used in reference to speakers (or any gear) before. His guess is it’s some retail term used in hi-fi stores, probably having to do with signal delay, but I’m not so sure since I subscribed to Stereo Review and Audio for many years and I don’t remember hearing the term there in even that context. There’s an “offset” in live sound, but that has to do with DC interference and that doesn’t sound like what you’re talking about.

    If it is delay you’re talking about – then simply put, scientifically, sounds which occur less than 20ms apart from one another are processed as simultaneous by the brain. And being technologically hip, I know the delay between input and output on a straight mic-processor-amp-speaker setup is between 5 and 10ms. It’s of such short time that it’s not even mentioned in the literature – it’s a non-issue. If you’re “hearing” a discrepancy, it’s because you want to. You might as well try to convince people you can “see” individual frames in a movie.

    But that may not be what you were talkng about.

    Speaking of speed, electricity travels faster than sound – that’s not debatable. When sound hits a mic and is converted into electric impulses, it’s going to take less time to reach a given destination than the sound that’s simply coursing through the air. The sound that an orchestra shell amplifies first goes backwards, bounces off the shell, and then rejoins the original sound travelling forward X milliseconds later, reinforcing it. In some cases, this can be in excess of the magic number – 20 ms. Which (in addition to other factors in old halls) can cause a reverb or chorusing effect. An electronic shell will actually deliver that sound faster than a traditional one would, providing better reinforcement and greater clarity. I think the problem some have with the electronic shell is that it’s too “clean” – one expects a certain amount of reverb in a hall. And now, you’re actually hearing – scientifically – a “truer” sound. You can’t handle the truth!

    Which is why – while I agree with Galen on his general point – I disagree that those opposed are making a “musically legitimate” argument. Their argument is purely an attempt to spin intellectually a gut instinct. It’s a psychologically legitimate argument, and I have no issue with someone who says it just doesn’t “feel” right and leaves it at that. Though I doubt most of them could, in a blind test, tell the difference. It’s like a kid suddenly deciding he doesn’t like some meal after he finds out there’s spinach in it.

    What the naysayers miss also is that – acoustic or “electroacoustic” shell – the primary sound they’re listening to is still the direct sound. They’re not “listening to the speakers” any more than they were “listening to the wall behind the orchestra” before. It’s reinforcement, not replacement.

    Why I argue this point (and at such length!) I dunno. I really could care less if “AC Douglas” goes to shows or not. His freakin’ loss.

    ———

    Speaking of ACD…

    Why again does anyone pay attention to him? Particularly S21, since he’s rather not a fan of that “new music” stuff – whichever camp you may fall into, be it minimalist, serialist, what have you… he appears to loathe it all equally. I mean, the man uses “avant-garde” as an insult. Does anything he has to say really have anything to do with what the lot of us do?

    Really, it all strikes me a bit like a hiphop forum debating the merits of Sean Hannity’s opinions on 50 Cent.

    Who is he, anyway? Typical dime-a-dozen cultural conservative wannabe “intellectual” armchair-warrior. Brash for the sake of brashness, I don’t get the impression there’s even any passion behind his opinions. If he’s passionate about anything, it’s about his own writing and his inflated sense of intellectual superiority.

    I mean, I think this blast from ACD’s past sums him up pretty well:

    For my part, and just for the record, it’s [sic] doesn’t bother me in the least that the Administration would lie to the American Public in such a matter as the Iraq war in order to get the Public to go along with and support what was necessary to do. The American Public, like all Publics, is a moron and ignorant of the details, and ought not to be treated as if it were a brain trust in possession of all the pertinent facts.

    Ahh… lovely, ennit? Maybe Hannity wasn’t so far off a comparison…

    Now, I’ll grant you that’s not far removed from some of Ives’ sentiments. But we ignore Ives’ political lunacy because… it’s about his music. ACD has written no music that I know of. Actually, he would probably hate his own music if wrote any, merely for the fact that it was written after 1950 and not by Jay Greenburg.

    And he hated Star Wars. I mean, come on!

    Speaking of things sci-fi, side note to ACD regarding one of his recent rambles: Dude, the whole “talking about yourself in the third person” thing? That’s an affectation taken up by high school kids who go to Star Trek conventions.

    Which, I suppose, you may very well be.

    Spock!

  30. A.C. Douglas says:

    Pop a couple Valium, and settle down, son. You’re overwrought.

    There’s a good fellow.

    ACD

  31. Graham Rieper says:

    “high school kids who go to Star Trek conventions”

    Yes, there is the interesting possibility that ACD is actually, say, about 15 years old. There’s something oddly shallow and malformed about such reactionary drivel. It may be that he (or she or it) simply lacks the insight and subtlety that accrue with age.

  32. Seth, you believe that classical music listeners can’t tell the difference between live sound and sound from a speaker?

    I’m shocked!

    Onset – that’s the initial attack of a sound. And speakers just don’t get it right. Try sampling somebody singing and then try sampling the recording. Oh yeah… there’s a difference. And it’s not just in that imperceptible range you’re talking about. There’s a dynamism to the attacks.

    And so you claim there’s enough smearing going on in a concert hall so that the total effect is not noticeable – that’s your core point?

    You’re really a technocrat eh? Weird, I always thought you were a humanist.

    ;)

  33. zeno says:

    ……………………………….. So Seth, you will agree that an “electroacoustic shell” is different from “multiplex surround sound” or a “home entertainment surround sound system”? [ pace “When you see a movie in a theater, in surround sound with 10+ speakers around you, does it sound like there are ten Bruce Willises in the room.”]

    I am still looking for the reference to Meyers speakers [as well as the name of the firm building the Zellerbach “electro-acoustic shell”, which I can’t find in Galen’s post. I’m wondering whether a distinguished San Francisco company called “Dolby Labs” might, in any way, have been involved in the development of Zellerbach’s “electro-acoustic shell”?]

    Thanks Steve Layton and Jeff Harrington, and others, for your concise comments here, from which I learned something. I am fascinated by this discussion since the use of “electro-acoustic shells” seems to show some promise, according to the San Jose Music critic who experienced it at Berkeley on three occasions. However, I might add that (like critic Richard Sheinen’s experience with the Berkeley Symphony), a performance I heard by the National Symphony of Lou Harrison’s Fourth Symphony, with a bizarrely amplified Al Jarreau and huge banks of speakers, was a disaster. And the performance of John Adams’s El Nino, which I heard in Berlin with Adams in attendance, was marred, in my view, by poor amplification of the acoustic and electro-acoustic instruments and poor sound design (speaker placement). I also wonder where the enhancement speakers would go in halls such as the Berlin Philharmonie or Davies or Disney Hall, if it was felt needed in order to present string quartets or solo recitals?

  34. Seth Gordon says:

    “ACD” -

    “Pop a couple of Valium” – ? Really? Is that the best you can come up with? Oh, snap!

    What, you leave your thesaurus at the Sulu autograph booth?

  35. Evan Johnson says:

    All right, children, settle down.

    Anyway, Seth, you seem to have missed my main point way up there somewhere from before I left town for the weekend:

    I think the problem some have with the electronic shell is that it’s too “clean” – one expects a certain amount of reverb in a hall. And now, you’re actually hearing – scientifically – a “truer” sound. You can’t handle the truth!

    That is not the “truth.” It’s an abstracted truth based on what you would hear if you were hovering in midair above the stage, or wherever the input sources for the speakers are. But you are not. You are a body at a concert, in a building, and hearing sound in that building is (for me) a fundamental – maybe the fundamental – aspect of the concert-going experience. If I’m sitting in the balcony, I want to hear what it sounds like to be sitting in the balcony. Otherwise I’ll go home and slap on the headphones like I usually do.

  36. Seth Gordon says:

    If I’m sitting in the balcony, I want to hear what it sounds like to be sitting in the balcony. Otherwise I’ll go home and slap on the headphones like I usually do.

    That’s fine, as long as you accept that the results may be bad. Most people who pay money to see/hear a performance would actually like it to sound good, and aren’t so forgiving of sucky balcony sound.

    Myself, when I see a show, I am primarily interested – forget primarily, only interested – in the performance. The delivery system is of utterly no concern to me whatsoever, as long as it’s clear and nothing’s blocking my view. I want to hear what the performers are doing with as much clarity as possible, and I think it’s a disservice to them not to try to achieve that by any means necessary. Thankfully most venues pay attention to the market, which is quite progressive on this issue.

    Really, it’s not even a question of accepting sucky balcony sound – it’s getting to the point where, if you’re going to be a stickler about it, you’re simply not going to be able to see live music anymore – at least not in any large settings. I give it about ten, twenty years before nearly every concert hall (let’s call it 90%) has some kind of electronic enhancement in place. There’s still chamber music, though.

    ——-

    Garth – my bad. I misread your last post and thought you were asking about something else, which there was a reference to above. Anyway, answering your actual question – the info is at the Cal Performances website. Tha actual “who” is designing the installation is John Meyer, the namesake of Meyer Sound Labs – a legend in the biz, but since he never made products for the home market (or even the mid-range pro market) he’s never been a semi-household name like a Dolby or a Mackie. But his list of innovations is up there with anyone’s – he’s a pro sound Hall of Famer, no doubt.

    As to the gear itself – like I said, there isn’t much better than Meyer on the market. Their client list includes Carnegie (notorious for it’s pre-2000 “balcony problem” until Meyer’s crew solved it), Albert Hall, the Festhalle, Modesto State… everyone from Metallica to the Three Tenors uses them on tour. It’s the “if you’ve got the money” sound company.

    But… regardless, doesn’t much matter who hung the speakers and mapped the room impulses. It’s silly to prejudge anything without hearing it. And it may be a bit early, yet – I don’t know how long it’s been in place, the site says they’re still waiting on some new processors. Any system that big is going to require a little tweaking at first – it’s like how (good) food critics don’t review a restaurant until it’s been open at least a few months.

    ——–

    Onset – that’s the initial attack of a sound. And speakers just don’t get it right.

    Ahh… that’s what they call “attack” in the trade mags.

    And while it’s true – I’ll grant you – that no speaker / mic can exactly reproduce every single sound, the high end of the market can sure come close. My point is that if you were to, say, set up a soprano in front of a mic and record the sound coming out of her mouth, the sound coming out of a speaker, and finally (isolated as best you could) coming off the shell behind the singer – then look at all three sounds through a spectrograph – the speaker sound would be far closer to the orginal “mouth” sound. That on a purely scientific level, the speaker sound is “better” – now, whether knowing there’s a speaker deadens it for you on an “emotional” level is another matter. In that case, hey, whatever works for ya.

    And I reiterate, it’s reinforcement, not replacement – whether every glottal stop is perfectly clear in the speaker is irrelevant. The primary sound presented to the audience is still the direct voice of the soprano. Nor is it going to get rid of the sound coming off the traditional shell – it’s not like they’re going to chop it up for firewood. The electro-shell is there to buck up the weak parts of the frequency spectrum, to clarify parts that get lost over distance, after having bounced off of things, etc.

    But whatever – I’m done debating it. If y’all stubborn old fuddy-duddies can’t mentally deal with it, stay home. Free country.

  37. Steve Layton says:

    Seth wrote: And I reiterate, it’s reinforcement, not replacement – whether every glottal stop is perfectly clear in the speaker is irrelevant.
    Much like it’s always been on stage for countless unamplified singers anyway ;-) …

  38. Reinforcement my ass. It’s fascism man. Technofascism!!! You must submit to the will of the Borg…

  39. Jordan says:

    Seth, I am behind you %100. People who get all exercised about the importance of keeping amplification out of the concert halls ARE trying to get historically accurate performance – the historical period in question being most of the 20th century. And that’s fine, good even. But those who suggest that electronically reinforced sound is always empirically worse need to reexamine their definitions of “empirical,” “worse,” and “sound.”

    Recording and reproduction are destructive to sound, it’s true (the most sensitive microphone setup will lose *some* information to electrical resistance and whatnot). However, our ears also convert sound into digital signals (a nerve either fires or it doesn’t), which means that much of that sound would be lost anyway. Interestingly enough, a lot of that live performance thrill may actually come ultrasonic stimulation of the eyes… http://www.acoustics.org/press/150th/Lenhardt.html

  40. Jordan says:

    Now, if you want to say that electronic reinforcement is always worse “for ME,” or even “for *some* listeners,” that’s a lot more defensible…

    Evan – you’re entitled to your personal reasons for going to a concert, of course, and your reluctance to impose your personal reasons on the world at large is highly admirable. But I am curious – why is it a meaningful experience for you to sit in a room and know that a performer’s muscle contraction has caused a whole series of levers to swing into action and a hammer to hit a string that has vibrated, compressing the air, and you are experiencing this compression as it exists in the space, but not a meaningful experience if all those things have happened, AND a microphone has transferred the sound to a speaker, which has vibrated, compressing the air, and you are experiencing THAT vibration as it exists in THAT space? I’m sure you do have a reason, I’m just curious what it is. Would it make a difference if the current powering the speaker was created by a guy riding an exercise bike?

  41. Evan Johnson says:

    why is it a meaningful experience for you to sit in a room [...] but not a meaningful experience if all those things have happened, AND a microphone has transferred the sound to a speaker, which has vibrated, compressing the air, and you are experiencing THAT vibration as it exists in THAT space?

    Simple. It’s not the same space. When there is a choice to go see a piece played live or listen to it on record, these days, the main thing the concert experience has going for it is its physical aura. The resulting sound is only “bad” in comparison to the synthetic situation of a recording studio bristling with electronic equipment – which is marvelous for its purpose, but this is not it.

    What if you entered a cavernous old cathedral in some French town and the sound of feet gently striking the stones of the floor were electronically reinforced to enhance your visit. Wouldn’t that be tacky? Wouldn’t that seem contrary to the spirit of the whole enterprise?

    Sounds bounce around, die off, and define a space between me and the instrument, as activated by the performer. This is the entire point. Aren’t our sensory experiences artificial enough?

    Call me a reactionary, prematurely aged fuddy-duddy if you like. You wouldn’t be the first one.

  42. I’m with Evan. Amplification has the tendency not only to change the timbre, but to reduce the sense of space. It often flattens the experience. I believe amplification should be treated as a musical instrument in its own right.

    Amplification has even worse effects in the theatre than in the concert hall. I totally hate it when I see an actor on point A and hear his voice from point B (fifteen foot higher) and it’s not even meant as some special theatrical effect.

  43. See, the main thing is you guys pushing the electronics have never experienced sound in vast spaces. You’re all like just American concert hall poseurs.

    ;)

    Go to Chartres. Listen to a stupid Catholic Mass. Your idea of sound will change immediately.

  44. Steve Layton says:

    But of course, Chartres doesn’t work for everything. And Zellerbach Hall hopefully wasn’t designed to be a Chartres.

    I’m in favor of physically fixing a bad hall; but I’m sure that the expense is what gives everybody nightmares, and makes them hold out for any less-expensive solution. Especially since the architects and engineers already burned them once! All the “expertise”, calculation & modelling… and the place is still a dog!

    And to spread the blame around, the powers-that-be wanted some hall that will work perfectly for everything. The initial demand is already delusional.

  45. DJA says:

    Pop a couple Valium, and settle down, son. You’re overwrought.

    I can assure you, as one of Seth’s meatspace acquaintances, this comment is comedy gold.

    Seth, overwrought? The dude makes Jeff Lebowski seem high-strung by comparison.

  46. Walter Ramsey says:

    Speaking of ACD…

    Why again does anyone pay attention to him? Particularly S21, since he’s rather not a fan of that “new music” stuff – whichever camp you may fall into, be it minimalist, serialist, what have you… he appears to loathe it all equally. I mean, the man uses “avant-garde” as an insult. Does anything he has to say really have anything to do with what the lot of us do?”

    People pay attention because he’s got striking ideas, and a striking way of presenting them. Beyond the highly developed ability to piss off he obviously has integrity and a coherent message which informs all his posts. He’s vital because he is the blogger everyone loves to hate.
    And he does have something to say to contemporary composers if you can get past the prickly but undeniably entertaining style.

    “Really, it all strikes me a bit like a hiphop forum debating the merits of Sean Hannity’s opinions on 50 Cent.

    Who is he, anyway? Typical dime-a-dozen cultural conservative wannabe “intellectual” armchair-warrior. Brash for the sake of brashness, I don’t get the impression there’s even any passion behind his opinions. If he’s passionate about anything, it’s about his own writing and his inflated sense of intellectual superiority.”

    Hmm.. it sounds like you are just trying to put him down here. Why deny him the passion that is undoubtedly there? And I find it impossible to reduce ACD to “typical,” because who else in arts blogs can post something and have it spread like wildfire over blogs ranging in focus from music, architecture, theatre and general aesthetics? And I mean posting something controversial, not some funny link. There are a dime-a-dozen people posting blog opinions that no-one cares a dime about, but ACD is obviously not one of those.

    Walter Ramsey

  47. Graham Rieper says:

    Well, it’s clear you love him, Walter. In fact, maybe you are him.

  48. Rama says:

    wow. lee siegel syndrome? …. that’s interesting … hmm.ahh, i love the theater …

  49. andrea says:

    “And he does have something to say to contemporary composers if you can get past the prickly but undeniably entertaining style.”

    and what is that? we all suck? if he’s got something to say, why doesn’t he just cut the crap, ditch the pricky-entertaining style and tell us straight up? why is it that when mozart, beethoven, brahms, and mahler assimilate the folk music they grew up with it’s genius, but when we do it (yes, rock/pop is our folk music), it’s lousy? why is it that when people take chances and try something new it’s automatically pandering to some lowest common denominator or ruining everything?

  50.