I had to learn a bit about WordPress for other reasons, and decided to mess with my own blog to spiff it up a bit. Wish I could get to the CSS for it to change fonts and link colors, but oh well. As it is, I think this will do me nicely for the near future, and possibly longer. I may end up paying for a theme if it will gain me access to the CSS, and allow me to not have “wordpress” in the URL. Honestly though, that doesn’t really bother me.
Clemenza de Tito (Dec1) and Giulio Cesare (Apr27)! With David Daniels! Bicket doing both, too.
So let’s see here. I live near enough to LA to drive up and see the LA Opera, and so far I’ve seen one of theirs. This HD season will make four times I’ve gone to the Met from way over on the west coast. The Met really just seems to do way more than I like, especially Baroque stuff. Rodelinda, plus the mash-up Enchanted Island, and now Mozart and more Haendel. Even the Haendel that the LA Opera did (“Tamerlano”) wasn’t that good in terms of thematic framing; the voices were great, but they just couldn’t seem to handle the idea of a coloratura soprano who didn’t mince or die.
I love the philosophical implications of these operas coming back from the dead and taking over the world, too. Between (I think) 1756 and 1920 or thereabouts, no one performed a single Haendel opera start to finish. Not once. That’s nearly 200 years of obscurity, and here they are back again. It’s inspiring.
I know I could get more traffic by doing it, especially since I tend to make thinky, talky posts that give readers a lot to chew on and respond to (and take issue with).
I’m really not fond of the idea, though. This is for a number of reasons:
- I do not want to blather about making music more than I make music. Ernest Hemingway did not blog about writing books, he wrote them.
- I can get a bit cranky and overstimulated with social contact, and there is a strong chance that I will rip someone for a minor gaffe, which would be really bad.
- I don’t want to feel like anyone is looking over my shoulder or that anyone will have the capacity to nag me about things. I’m a strong believer in the ZipIt school of getting stuff done.
I think I’ll leave them off for the time being, and revisit the idea in the future (read: “pass the buck to myself at a later date”).
The widget refuses to work. It’s really ANNOYING THE HELL OUT OF ME.
ETA: I’ll be damned. Had to do it in IE and not Firefox.
I feel silly about this, but it’s really annoying.
I can’t stand the idea of going from C minor to C# Major. It makes my head cramp.
Why the hell didn’t he go in the proper order? C Major/A minor to G Major/E minor, etc. and around the circle of fifths the rest of the way.
Instead, he goes in freakin alphabetical order. WTF?! Alphabetical order?!
Okay, okay. Chromatic order. Alphabetical order.
Anyway, that’s why I felt like I had to uncross my eyes when I paged through the WTC the first time. Drove me nuts. It still does. I just got those discs of Zhu Xiao-Mei doing both books of the WTC, and I’m fairly certain that I’m going to reorder them so that they go the correct, proper, humane, and godly way instead of this berserker-barbarian order that causes the edges of the universe to creak. I still have to get the sheet music I have bound, too — it’s perfect binding, and I want it spiral. And there is a distinct possibility that I’m going to just trim the binding off and then reorder the freaking pages so that the damned things go in the right order.
I know. But Jesus. Johann, come on. You of all people.
Surrounding something I read in this interview with, yet again, bass player Jeff Schmidt. Quote:
” … I hear a lot of 4 minute plus solo bass pieces, which to my ears anyway, are really 90 seconds of compositional ideas stretched out to fill 4 minutes.”
This is what I previously called “a great idea in a big box full of foam peanuts,” and I think it’s a symptom of musical impatience, and a failure to appreciate the level of difficulty involved in developing a piece.
Basically, that first wash of inspiration — which I’ve had happen to me in almost every piece I’ve ever written, and which results in that initial 90-second burst of brilliance — is probably the best part of the creative process. You’re sitting there noodling, and *whammo* a fantastic idea bursts into your brain almost completely formed like, say …
32 stinking measures of gorgeousness that pour out of
youme in one night …
That will then psyche
youme clean out and take months of vicious work to develop …
youI are left at the end thinking, “Cream of Jesus on toast, I’m not even a musician, am I?”
I think that a lot of musicians think that if that first-burst idea came quickly and pleasantly, that hell, the rest of the process can’t be too hard, right? I mean, I got most of the hard work done in one night! Maybe two weeks, and I’ll have a finished piece. I just have to keep at it until Inspiration Strikes Again!
And I do think that, whether one has had children or been pregnant or not, there may be an expectation among musicians who have certain body parts dedicated to the long, slow process of manufacturing more of their kind, that the entire process of creation is not over with the first burst of fun, to be blunt. If you are even potentially in that position, I think you are aware of the fact that after that first night of hooray, there are going to be several seriously painful months of sore feet, sore back, headaches, cramps, cravings, and stretch marks followed by a final painful push resulting in blood, stitches, and you lying there half-dead thinking, “I AM NEVER GOING THROUGH THAT AGAIN.”
And let me now say what I am not saying, because I know how this will be taken. I am not saying that men can’t do this. Obviously, they are more than capable, given the ability of people like Beethoven, Haendel, Brahms, Mozart, etc. etc. etc. to develop long, complex ideas. But I think there is a possibility that they need to bang their foreheads against it a few times before they recognize it. Whereas with others, they probably just take it for granted that that one glorious moment of yeah! is going to be paid for with several months of pain and discomfort.
And there you will be (on your knees in Vladivostok) thinking NEVER AGAIN, and you’ll hold to it … right until the next great idea comes along with great hair, a sweet smile, and a fabulous butt, and there you are in bed with it again … Now that I think about it, it’s actually the reverse of the old canard about walking from Vladivostok to Paris on your knees, isn’t it? You start out at the champagne celebration dinner in Paris, and by the time you’re done, you’re in Vladivostok in rags with bloody knees. And all you want to do is get the hell back to Paris where there’s champagne.
So I guess every creative endeavor starts out with the fun part, and by the time you’re done, you’re bloody and exhausted one way or another. And if you don’t acknowledge that from the outset, you’re not going to put out all that much that’s good. Even your best ideas will be underdeveloped. If musicians understood this, we’d have fewer and better developed pieces in the world instead of what amounts to shedloads of musical preemies that weren’t kept in the incubator long enough, because someone expected the gestation and birth to be as much fun and take about as long as the conception did.
I’d love to be part of this conversation, but his goddamned comments are broken. Again.
So I’ll just opine here, and maybe he’ll get a pingback. I imagine what I have to say would make him rip his hair out anyway.
Part of his statement here is that, given that he is — to his own ears — redolent of his idols anyway, he experienced a significant amount of why-bother angst. He has settled some of this, if the post is any indication, but I think there’s something else at work here that reminds me of the phenomenon of Beltway Thinking.
That tendency to imagine that the rest of the world is locked in the bit of it that you inhabit, where everyone is soaked in the minutiae of whatever your passion is.
When he says — paraphrased, “Why should I bother? I sound just like Famous Bassist X anyway,” I want to yell back:
“I’m not a bassist! I don’t even know who that other chucklehead is! When I hear a fretless bass, I think ‘hey, that’s like Jeff Schmidt!’”
It’s not just a matter of feeling free to be inspired by someone else. It’s also recognizing that just because you eat, sleep, and breathe your own inspirations doesn’t mean the rest of the world even knows who the hell those people are. (Although I must say that I was thrilled by his mention of my own personal font of inspiration, Gabriela Montero.)
As a pianist, I have no idea who this Jaco dude even is. Schmidt might scream like a little girl if he heard me say that, but it’s true. Meanwhile, I’m fearful of sounding too like the composer Mikhail Glinka, who lots of other people wouldn’t recognize but who is a major inspiration of mine. (George Winston, too — but most people do know who he is.)
At any rate, I found Schmidt’s music by going to YouTube, searching on “Bach prelude,” and clicking through the many and varied instruments on which the famous cello prelude was played. One was a fretless bass, which had a soft, cottony sound that entranced me. That caused me to search on “fretless bass,” and I clicked on Schmidt’s videos for one reason only: he’s left-handed, and I’d just come off of having been hung up on by some idiot chippie who advertised viola lessons because I told her I would play mirrored and she practically peed herself in fear over the phone.
And the first thing I clicked on was his jaw-dropping “Apotheosis.” I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve sent that link to. It still strikes me as one of the great genius-level pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I really could not believe what I was hearing the first time I listened to it.
Michael Manring? Other than the fact that Schmidt plainly idolizes him and in fact dedicated the piece to him (I believe, anyway), I’ve never heard of him. I’ve never heard him, either. Nor whoever this Jaco person is. Like I said, it might make him cringe to hear me go, “Whoozat?” in response to a comment about someone he thinks walks on water, but there you go.
I’m outside the Bass Beltway. Bass weenies are not the only person Schmidt appeals to, but he still seems to feel that the majority of his appeal lies there. There’s a distinct possibility that music weenies in general are his home habitat, but that’s a much bigger space than just bass weenies. I’m not sure he realizes that some classically trained pianist who listens to Journey and Styx, arranges operatic arias meant for guys with no balls for piano, and who has never touched a bass could possibly be enamored of his music, or could even have found it.
I mean, the path by which I found his stuff was random and completely unrelated to the geeked-out details of bass guitars. I simply liked the sound, searched on it, and clicked on his video for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with bass guitars.
I still haven’t searched on Michael Manring, mind you. Again, while I am a music weenie, I’m not a bass weenie.
But I’m still a Jeff Schmidt fan.
And that’s what happens with inspiration. These other people’s inspirations have gone into the past, and they are here in the present. Schmidt found inspiration from them, someone will find it from him, and so on. There’s no single root inspiration from whom we all spring — it’s just a constant wave that absorbs people as it move forward, and then lets them go when it’s finished, and it heads in all directions, and everyone sees it from a different vantage point.
Anyway. I wish his goddamned comments would get straightened out. I got thinky on something else he said a while back, too. That’ll be a post for tomorrow, maybe.
Just thinking some more about this in light of Zoe Keating’s presentation at MIDEM, wherein she talks about the constraints of the classical world and how many players are racing outward to find new methods of expression.
I thought about that in the context of my own instrument, and couldn’t get the same feeling. I think it’s because each instrument has its own cultural “baggage” in some ways, and pianos come with a different type.
It’s never been a surprise to hear a piano supporting non-classical music, for well over a hundred years. They were the means of home music making, and often found in secular settings like taverns, so they were going to be played in support of popular music, including patriotic songs about “the war” (there’s always a war someplace) like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” drinking songs, or popular tunes like “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” They were the Victorian home stereo, so everything was played on them.
Strings have always been much more constrained — especially cellos. Violins and violas had folk and bluegrass, and basses could often support jazz or blues in the popular imagination. Cellos, though? Like double reeds, they were very constrained, in a gilded cage of classical music. A beautiful cage, but still a cage.
Now, they are racing outward to discover new kinds of music to play — and of course, they are classically trained since they have been classical-only for so long, and they are bringing all of that technique to bear on music that hasn’t been approached in that way before.
Pianos, not so much. The idea of rock on a piano surprises no one — Jerry Lee Lewis’s music is about 60 years old nowdays. Classically trained musicians playing pop or rock? Billy Joel, Elton John. Shredder riffs on a piano? Rachmaninoff.
The issue with pianos is that we’ve always been able to play anything on them … but if we did, we were rapidly shown the door and ushered out of the classical world. An example: 50s pop machine Neil Sedaka was trained at Juilliard, and when he opted as an established pop star to take part in the Tchaikovsky competition in the old Soviet Union, he was disqualified and not allowed to perform; as a pop star, he was considered illegitimate. And that attitude prevailed globally in the world of classical music, even in my childhood when my request to my teacher to learn “My Life” was acceded to, while she made quite clear that she wasn’t crazy about this.
So, we could play rock, pop, blues, jazz, church music … anything, really.
But we could not call ourselves classical musicians if we did. There was an exclusion principle at work whereby rock and classical could both exist on a piano, but not at the same time. It’s going away, but it was there for a long, long time, and people my age (and Keating’s age) recall it very clearly.
So while string players are racing out the door to explore the world outside classical music, pianists are used to being shown the door when we investigate those other forms, even though they were widely recognized as having a home on our instrument.
Our revolution lies in bolting ourselves to the floor and not being shown the door, insisting that we will improv, write our own music, make “covers” of classical favorites, and also insisting that we are known as classical musicians in the meantime. Instead of running out the door to explore what’s outside, we are bringing the outside in; many other instrumentalists are doing the same certainly. But it seems to be the majority of a pianist’s revolution.
At least, in this one pianist’s view.
I wrote a piece of music that’s pretty, sounds great, doesn’t murder me to play it … so I get this wild hair to stick a 5-note rolled chord up in the right hand with a stretch of a 10th. It’s in CM. A black key would actually improve things. And I thought that going CM would make things easier. It did. Until I made things harder.