Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday Miscellanea

Can we start with something silly? You bet. This is a photo of Japanese Emperor Hirohito inspecting units of "war tubas" just prior to WWII. No, this is not in preparation for an integral performance of the Mahler symphonies. These odd-looking instruments were for the detection of incoming aircraft as they didn't, quite, have radar yet.


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Igor Levit, one of my favorite pianists, is the winner of the Gilmore Artist award, a cool $300,000. Well-deserved, I'm sure.

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Absurdly, I'm still getting my pop music updates from the Wall Street Journal who have an article on whom they call "the musician who is helping reshape R&B":
SZA (pronounced Sizza) has emerged as a prominent voice among a new generation of female R&B artists that also includes Kehlani, H.E.R. and Kelela. These musicians are fueling the genre’s resurgence, critics say, by appealing to a broader audience with a modern sound that draws on other styles of music while retaining strong R&B roots.
“The fact that she expanded R&B, created a new sound and found success in doing that says a lot, in a mix of everyone trying to follow a certain sound that’s already popular,” says Cam O’Bi, a Grammy-winning producer who worked on SZA’s single “Doves in the Wind.” “She’s trying to get outside of what R&B sounds like typically and go into other genres of music.”
Here is one of her songs, "Love Galore" (which Blogger doesn't want to embed):


Well, I liked what sounded like bass guitar harmonics at the beginning, but once the song gets going it sounds to me pretty much like everything else... The ending appears to be a seriously disturbing example of anti-male hate fantasy though.

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For the last month, with the exception of a post on a Christmas album by Sia, everything at Musicology Now has been about music and sound in the David Lynch reboot of Twin Peaks. I just thought you should know. Plus I'm really stuck for interesting items this week!

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I was thinking about submitting a paper proposal to an upcoming conference in London--following a suggestion by a commentator. As it turned out I decided not to as the cost in terms of time and energy of a trip to London in January did not seem worth it for a 20-minute presentation. Still, I have been curious as to what would transpire. The papers and abstracts are now online so we can have a look and a lot of them look quite interesting. Here is an excerpt from one abstract:
There was a time, not so long ago, when we would strongly encourage undergraduates not to use the first-person pronoun in academic writing. While that was always at best imperfect advice, it was grounded in an idealistic notion that academic scholarship is not, or at least not principally, a matter of personal opinion or conviction but seeks to claim for itself a general validity though the application of the tools of disinterested reason. In 2015, however, the Times Higher Education Supplement published an article entitled “Self-reflective Study: The Rise of ‘Mesearch” (Emma Rees 2015) in which it was argued that it is now “narcissistic to leave out your own experience and to act all-knowing, as though you can stand apart, and that you are not subject to the same forces as those   you   write   about."
I argue that, far from opening up the frontiers of music research to areas formally forbidden, the auto-ethnographic turn in musicology risks not only promoting a view of what musical research is that tends towards solipsism, but perhaps also something much worse, the sotto voce elimination of scholarship’s wider critical potential. Our capacity to posit any notion of generalised musical value risks   dissolving   into   a   sea   of   local   subjectivities.
Amen.

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A frequent topic in the mainstream media has to do with the shortage of women composers (along with conductors). A lot of theories have been proposed for why we don't have more, or at least some, great women composers. Usually these theories propose some version of oppression as the cause. And there certainly seem to be a number of fine women composers now as opposed to historically. But I just ran across something that suggests another possibility. One of the figures in music history that might have become recognized as an important composer was Clara Schumann (née Wieck) who was married to Robert Schumann. If you read the Wikipedia article one fact leaps out at you: during her marriage to Robert which lasted sixteen years, ending with his premature death, she had eight children! Even with the aid of a housekeeper that is an extremely demanding responsibility. Robert Schumann summed the problem up quite clearly:
Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.
A composer needs acres of time to devote to composition. Uninterrupted time! Which, in a household with eight children and a demanding and unstable husband, is not going to happen. The fact that Clara had a very successful career as a concert pianist is remarkable enough.

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My quest to find trivial, shallow, but amusing items for the Friday miscellanea has turned up this:


It's obvious what he was up to: listening to a Wagner opera!

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I think today's miscellanea calls for a performance by Igor Levit to wind things up. This is the Piano Concerto No. 11 in D major by Joseph Haydn with the Bremen Chamber Orchestra, sans conductor:


Maybe I should stop ignoring Haydn's concertos...

2 comments:

Christopher Culver said...

"The ending appears to be a seriously disturbing example of anti-male hate fantasy though."

How so?

Bryan Townsend said...

Check me on this, Christopher: at the end of video, from around the 4' mark to 4:20, she leaves him tied up on the bed, a big fat white woman comes along with some kind of club or weapon and the next thing we see is the blood splashing on the window. How would you interpret that?