Category Archives: Music









(Tim Page’s article appeared in The New York Review of Books, 10/27.)

There are certain creative figures whose mature works are almost tangential to their enduring artistic influence. Marcel Duchamp falls into this group, as does Andy Warhol. And so, certainly, does John Cage (1912–1992). He opened doors—floodgates, really—and dissolved definitions; if most of his own compositions now seem less interesting than the ramifications of his ideas, there can be little doubt that his oceanic spirit changed the topography.

It is fitting, perhaps, that the son of a Los Angeles inventor should have attracted initial public attention with his own homemade instrument—the “prepared piano,” a standard-issue piano transfigured with the help of nut bolts, screws, erasers, rubber bands, and other material placed between its strings. Described so dryly, the idea calls to mind some sort of Dada stunt (“C’mon kids, let’s see what we can squeeze into this piano!”), but the resulting sound was specific, exotic, and euphonious, a percussion orchestra in a box.

A 1943 concert at the Museum of Modern Art made Cage famous—and controversial. “About forty kinds of instruments were employed, ranging from thunder sheets and a ‘string piano’ to cowbells, flower pots and even an audio-frequency generator,” Noel Straus reported in The New York Times. “But practically all the ‘music’ produced by the various combinations of them had an inescapable resemblance to the meaningless sounds made by children amusing themselves by banging on tin pans and other resonant kitchen utensils.”

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Photo: University of Utah




(Olga Svistunova’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 9/16.)

The Bolshoi’s new season will see Anna Netrebko and Dmitri Hvorostovsky perform in the theater’s own productions for the first time, while the opera premieres include David Alden’s staging of Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd” with the English National Opera.

The Bolshoi Theater has announced the premieres and guest star performers that will grace its new season – including “debuts” at the theater for two of opera’s greatest names.

The parade of opera premieres at the Bolshoi Theater will open on Oct. 16 with Manon Lescaut on the Historic Stage. The Puccini opera will be staged by director Adolf Shapiro. The conductor's stand will be taken by Italian maestro Jader Bignamini, while the title part will be performed by Anna Netrebko.

It is the first time that she will take part in one of the theater’s productions, so for the famous diva it will be a kind of debut at the Bolshoi, said general director Vladimir Urin, adding that such "debuts" are also planned for other opera stars in the upcoming season.



(Keith Caulfield’s article appeared on Billboard; via the Drudge Report and Pam Green.)

The icon extends her record as the woman with the most No. 1 albums in chart history.

Barbra Streisand achieves her 11th No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, as her latest release, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, enters atop the list.

Her newest leader extends her record for the most No. 1 albums among women, and ties her with Bruce Springsteen for the third-most among all acts. The only artists with more No. 1s are The Beatles, with a record 19 chart-toppers, andJay Z, with 13.

Among women, Streisand outpaces Madonna, the runner-up with eight Billboard 200 No. 1s.

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(Alex Ross’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 4/4.)

Last year, the British critic Philip Clark had a provocative response to the perennial question of how to save classical music from its so-called image problem—the perception that it is stuffy, élitist, and irrelevant. He declared, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with classical music. It cannot pretend to be anything other than it is. And perhaps it’s the wider cultural environment . . . that has a problem.”

I don’t accept Clark’s entire argument. Certain of classical music’s difficulties are self-created: ossified concert norms, brain-dead programming, a pervasive fear of the new. Yet his principal point holds. Endless chatter about the need to reinvent the art is symptomatic of a deep-seated hostility toward fundamental features of the concert experience: the extended duration of works, the complexity of their construction, the attention they demand. There is no shame in the fact that classical music has trouble adapting to a marketplace dominated by celebrity worship and by the winner-take-all economy for which celebrity serves as a seductive symbol.



(Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/30; via the Drudge Report.)

The Unesco Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger is a melancholy document, charting the 3,000 or so languages that experts predict will vanish by the end of this century. For the most part, ethnographers and linguists are helpless in the face of the gradual erasure of collective memory that goes along with this loss of linguistic diversity.

Time to call in the composers?

A growing number of them are turning their attention to languages that are extinct, endangered or particular to tiny groups of speakers in far-flung places with the aim of weaving these enigmatic utterances into musical works that celebrate, memorialize or mourn the languages and the cultures that gave birth to them. On Saturday, April 9, at the Cologne Opera in Germany, the Australian composer Liza Lim unveils her opera “Tree of Codes,” which includes snippets of a Turkish whistling language from a small mountain village. On her most recent album, “The Stone People,” the pianist Lisa Moore sings and plays Martin Bresnick’s hypnotic “Ishi’s Song,” a setting of a chant by the last member of the Yahi, who died in 1916.



(Niall Byrne’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 9/3.)

Bleeding Heart Pigeons
Friday, Body & Soul Main Stage, 11pm

A young Limerick band who despite the major label backing, are resisting the path to a larger audience, and are instead exploring an artistic side of indie-rock that has lead to them addressing the Columbine school shootings and abstract theories. Teen artistic angst.

Booka Brass Band
Friday, Other Voices, 5pm

We know from the frequency of visits from New Orleans-style brass bands to these shores that the Irish can't get enough of the stuff. So the rise of Booka Brass, seven native Dubliners playing original music and covers of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ and Jason Derulo’s ‘Talk Dirty’ is an easy sell and a perfect festival act.

See also: Stomptown Brass at Body & Soul: Earthship stage, Saturday.

Friday, Body & Soul main stage – 5.15pm
Saturday, Little Big Tent – 2:30pm

There's always been a small niche Irish audience interested in the kinds of “urban” music popular in the UK like garage, bass music and dubstep. Even rarer are singers who are familiar with such scenes and who mine them for their own music. Wicklow singer and violinist Joni, along with her production partner Richie Kaboogie, have concocted an underground electronic style, inspired by Burial and Paul Woolford.

Saturday, Other Voices, 4pm

Galway lady Maria Somerville makes slow, moving music with the barest of instruments and the most delicate of touch. But if you want to experience her music, you'll have to see her live, as she's proceeding with caution on the recording front. Make the effort and you'll be rewarded with music that draws from folk, soul and electronic music.

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