Hurricane Katrina aid

lemon_aidMy nephew and some of his friends ran a lemonade stand this weekend. All the proceeds went to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
They called it, naturally enough, Lemon-Aid. Despite the fact that their sign asked for “dontations”, they raised over $400.
I’m really proud of them.
And their parents, too, for teaching them while still so young, that they can make a difference.

Britsh Museum hoax

Graffiti artist and art prankster Banksy, has done it again. This time planting what seemed to be an example of early cave art in the British Museum. Banksy has often made use of the fact that most museums and art galleries are more worried about the attempted removal of works and haven’t given much thought to how to prevent “art” from getting in. He’s managed to get his art into the Tate Gallery in London, as well as the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, the American Museum of Natural History in D. C., and the Louvre in Paris.
This time, the art, a rock really, was hung and had a sign “very similar” to the British Museum’s own signs, which read, in part: “This finely preserved example of primitive art dates from the Post-Catatonic era…” etc.

another Mr. Potato Head

Though I confess I’m not a fan of Star Wars (I like sci-fi, just not space-opera), so I haven’t seen the latest, and thankfully last, Start Wars yet. Despite that, I might not be able to resist this version of Mr. Potato Head, called, naturally, Darth Tater. darth_tater

Muggle Madness

Got my copy of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”. The Barnes and Noble I went to had around 2000 people.
But things went pretty well, I think they were better prepared than last time.

Japanese Robot Trade Show

At last, a solution to that embarrassing problem of men stepping on their partners feet when learning to dance.
robot_dance_partnersI always suspected robots could make tremendous improvements in the quality of our lives. I’m not sure what the Mickey ears are all about though…

New Lyricism

I’ve been thinking about what makes my music part of New Lyricism. Actually, despite what I’ve said everywhere else on this site, I’m not sure that a tonal basis is the main ingredient. For me at least, the main ingredient is the personal, the audience of one. Most often, that audience of one is a performer, but not always. I can’t just sit down and write a piece. Or even write a piece for myself. I have to have someone in mind, someone who’ll be playing it or sitting in the audience that first performance. It’s got to be music that we’ll both like, that exists in some shared aesthetic space between us. Music that neither of us knew was there, yet we both recognize when we hear it.

And afterward, when the performance is over, whether we shake hands backstage, or just catch a glimpse of one another across a sea of faces in the audience, we know something new about one another, something that somehow helps describe who we are as people, and what is important to us. It has much the same feel as a shared joke, or witnessing an act of generosity or heroism; we now know something about that person that we can’t really put into words. Without that, it’s not New or Old or any other kind of Lyricism.


the Goal of Music

Recently, I’ve noticed classical performers who are trying to encourage the audience to applaud whenever they feel like it, between movements, at the end, maybe even during the piece. I understand that motivation – they fear that classical music is viewed as stuffy, dull, overly rigid. They want to encourage more audience participation. They envy the visceral enthusiasm of their rock-star cousins and the vocal enthusiasm of their sports-fan distant relatives.

I’ll admit, the idea of the balcony at the concert hall doing the wave between the 2nd and 3rd movements has a certain appeal. And it would be a thrill to look out past the footlights to see someone in the third row with half their face painted as the black and white of piano keys. But actually applauding or cheering during the piece? As an audience member, I don’t want to miss any of the music; and, when performing, I certainly don’t want to be distracted, however well intentioned or positive it may be.

If you encourage that kind of positive involvement, I think you have to be prepared for the negative as well: boos, hisses, cries of “More pedal !!” or “the next time you look at the score you might want to use your glasses”, etc. seem just as likely to me as the good stuff. Be careful what you wish for; you might get more audience participation than you counted on.

No, I think the real source of stuffy concerts is stuffy programs, i.e. bad music selection or a very un-balanced program, or selections that are so routine that the artists could have phoned-in their performance. It’s a real challenge when the program is very uniform (a performance of the complete Well-Tempered Clavier comes to mind) to keep the music vital and fresh. On the other hand, as an audience member, you should know what to expect going to such a concert.

I have been to concerts where the audience responded after each and every difficult, virtuosic bit (the audience was influenced, I think, by knowing that rather than cancel the concert, the performer went ahead with a 103 temperature). It tended to become a bit circus-like: and now, lightning-fast octaves with triple-somersault.

And the other problem we classical performers have is finding the right level of emotion and self-expression, too much seems like over-acting and detracts from the music, not enough seems dry, dull and impersonal. We tend to emphasize the music and de-emphasize our involvement in making that music happen. So just why did I come to see you perform and not that other guy?

I don’t find classical audiences reticent to express what they are feeling, whether laughter or euphoria. Usually the music is too familiar to surprise. When was the last time you heard a Beethoven Symphony that brought out some feature you didn’t realize was there? The audience may smile in Haydn symphonies, but if they don’t laugh, it’s because they’ve heard the joke before. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very pleasant emotions associated with being reminded of something we already knew, but the contour of those emotions is limited. I believe strong reactions based solely on “performance” without a “content” component are just harder to achieve.

My favorite performances went in the opposite direction. I’ve been very lucky in my life to have been to, not just one, but three different performances that were magical. They bubble up in my memory often. What do I mean by magical? The stars were properly aligned, the audience was in a perfect state of hopeful expectation, the performers were prepared, relaxed and at the top of their game, the music well chosen both for the venue and the performers, on stage the adrenaline was just right so that the artists gave the performance of their lives, and the chosen music had sufficient beauty and depth to benefit from that perfection.

When it was over, can you guess what happened? The audience forgot to clap. That’s right. There was a stunned silence, what seemed a timeless pause in which no one moved, no one dared to break the spell that had been cast over them. And then, slowly, almost reluctantly, as the audience gradually came to its senses and realized what they had just witnessed, the applause started, and that finally broke the spell for everyone and the audience erupted. That, to me, is the bar, the aiming point. That’s what music is about for me: to be so moved that you forget to applaud.

Bill Gates interview

An interview with Bill Gates by CNET where he likens people with concerns about the changes to copyright law to “commies”. Of course, it’s not just Bill’s answer that’s disgusting, but the wording of the question itself “… do you think that intellectual property rights need to be reformed?” This makes it sound as if the law has not undergone any of the changes we’ve seen and that somehow citizens are upset with no provocation.

It is the very nature of the reforms that have been and are being inacted that we are concerned about.

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