The tendency to associate classical music with murderous insanity is a curious neurosis of the American pop-cultural psyche.
The part that matters most to me:
I am writing a book called “Wagnerism: Art in the Shadow of Music”
The greatest audience comment ever recorded is, I think, a remark overheard at a performance of Ernst Krenek’s Second Piano Concerto at the Boston Symphony in 1938. A Boston matriarch responded to Krenek’s twelve-tone discourse by saying, ‘Conditions in Europe must be dreadful.’
He chose a way of death guaranteed to bring down a hailstorm of prying analytical chatter far in excess of anything he had experienced while he was alive. This is the paradoxical allure of suicide: to leave the chattering world behind and yet to stage-manage the exit so that one is talked about in the right way.
Alex Ross on tour with Radiohead. I like this bit from Nigel Godrich on Radiohead’s ongoing effort to figure out their sound and musical directions. At one point,
People stopped talking to one another. ‘Insanity’ is the word. In the end, I think the debate was redundant, because the band ultimately kept doing what it has always done—zigzagging between extremes. Whenever we really did try to impose an aesthetic from the outside—the aesthetic being, say, electronic—it would fail. All the drama was just a form of procrastination.
I read an interview with Tom Waits, around the time of his album “Rain Dogs,” in which he talked about how you come to a point on an instrument where you have to stop playing it and find another instrument that you don’t know what you’re doing with. Part of songwriting is having that naïve excitement about not quite realizing why you’re getting off on it, because you haven’t had time to pull it apart yet. Songwriting relies on not pulling things apart: the best ideas are the simple ideas.
Familiar music is a convenient crutch, but, in the end, it covers emotions in a plastic sheen. Unfamiliar music gives the sense that something new is happening before our eyes and ears.
Sorry about the couple photo-less posts in a row, but you have to hear this: Alex Ross’s “Top Ten Glissandos.”
For maximum effect, press all the buttons in quick succession.
(via Unquiet Thoughts)
This is delightful. Might I also suggest The Beatles’ A Day In the Life?
via alex ross
I stumbled on a couple music reading lists on Amazon. Daniel Levitin suggests 11 books to read on music. Songwriters on Songwriting could be good and I’m especially curious about The Art of Practicing.
And Alex Ross wrote a top twenty guide for 20th-century music, both books and recordings. I’m curious about John Cage’s Silence and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.
Stevens’ grandeur is an inch away from absurdity, if not in the thick of it. This is by intention. He liked to deflate solemnity with silliness. His humor is his least noticed attribute, probably because it is so widespread. Even his titles—“The Revolutionists Stop for Orangeade,” “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”—undercut their own pomposity. Sometimes I think Stevens was a collegiate prankster who never gave away the joke he played on literature.