The tendency to associate classical music with murderous insanity is a curious neurosis of the American pop-cultural psyche.
Don’t get me started. Hard out there for a baller.
Up in these mountains, they grow so slowly sometimes they stop growing altogether. They just gather strength.
“There’s a reason so many of Newman’s portraits have become the iconic images of artists such as Stravinsky and Picasso. Entering their space, Newman managed to capture something of these artists’ inner lives.”
Read the Austin American-Statesman’s review of “Arnold Newman: Masterclass.”
Caption: Arnold Newman, Igor Stravinsky, 1945. Contact sheet of four negatives with Newman’s marks and cropping lines.
Beethoven specialists are known as great musicians, great interpreters, whereas Bach specialists tend to be viewed vatically, as mediums. I found myself connecting Casals’s moaning and Gould’s humming—for a composer who is supposed to be pure, we sure enjoy a lot of extraneous noise!—the musical equivalent of speaking in tongues, channeling, a kind of cultish signal, a sonic signature of being on the right occult frequency to communicate with the master.
It was at a concert of lovely old music. After two or three notes of the piano the door was opened of a sudden to the other world. I sped through heaven and saw God at work. I suffered holy pains. I dropped all my defenses and was afraid of nothing in the world. I accepted all things and to all things I gave up my heart. It did not last very long, a quarter of an hour perhaps; but it returned to me in a dream at night, and since, through all the barren days, I caught a glimpse of it now and then.
Bach was ridiculous.
The part that matters most to me:
I am writing a book called “Wagnerism: Art in the Shadow of Music”
Steve Reich’s tape piece “Come Out”, from 1966. When people talk about someone “coming out” this track often shows up in my head, unannounced. Even though it is, obviously, about something very different.
From listening to this track, I learned something about how my mouth makes sounds and my brain turns those sounds into meaning. Say “come out to show them” over and over for a minute and understand the difference between a vowel and a “sh”, and how the “sh” can very easily become a rhythmic device not unlike a hi-hat. And when you say it over and over you can feel how the phrase turns from “words” into “sounds” and you can get a sense of how your brain has been trained to extract meaning from these sounds but can sort of fall asleep on the job, lulled by repetition.
I remember being invited up to NYC or WBAI–before they became so political they were very musical–and being asked to play “Come Out,” and the switchboard lit up like a tree. “Your transformer’s broken and the needle’s stuck in the groove! Will you PLEASE fix it?”
[Bach] says, in effect, yes this is bound to be boring but I am going to be so masterful that you will be in awe and not care even if you will be bored.
Jeremy Denk is a great writer. See also Denk on recording and photos of Glenn Gould during the March 1955 ‘Goldberg’ recording sessions collected by The Selvedge Yard.
In the moment of playing, the logistics of just hitting the notes distract you somewhat from the continuous choices you are making. In the edit you have nothing but choice. And yet you feel helpless, since everything has already been played.
Making things is a better way to spend your time than staring at the wall contemplating what little time you’ve got left.
The concert hall is one of the few places where we become unreachable, where we can switch off our lifelines and surrender to a form that will not let us go for an hour or more.
Catherine Christer Hennix – The Electric Harpsichord . Dang. Great piece of music. (Some say it’s “possibly THE obscure masterpiece of the days of the early American minimalism.”) In a stroke of unintentional genius, I apparently had my playlist such that it segued right into Bach’s Fantasy in A minor, BWV922 on harpsichord. Boom. And apparently I already had a harpsichords tag?
Not even Reich’s music is as exhilaratingly tense as “Doing it to the Death,” or “The Payback.” Reich’s pieces take long, extended journeys; they are exquisite processes which slowly unfold through time, irreversibly. Brown’s best music never takes a journey: it’s either just where it should be, or tantalizingly close to where it should be.
Strangely enough, I think that ”The Payback” has more in common with Tristan und Isolde than it does with Glass or Reich. It’s all about tension and release.
This whole post is straight-up brilliant.