Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And the Classical Grammy Nominees Are...

It's that time of year again - in addition to being the end of another year's NaNoWriMo Challenge - when the Music Industry announces the nominations for the Grammy Awards which will announce its winners on Feb. 12th, 2012, at 8pm ET on CBS.

And buried in the hubbub are some classical music nominees, too.

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These were the only categories I could find posted at their web-site. Not sure what happened to Chamber Music or Cross-Over - and they seem to have combined "Instrumental Performer Without Orchestra" and "Instrumental Performer With Orchestra" into one category, this year. Hmmm...

UPDATE: According to this announcement made in April 2011, the Grammys have decided to eliminate or combine several categories, affecting primarily classical and jazz divisions. Chamber Music nominations will now fall under "Small Ensembles" and solo albums will now compete with concerto soloists in the same "Instrumental Performer" category.

Classical music is little served by the Grammy Awards - winners, much less nominees, are rarely mentioned when publications across the country report on the Grammys (talk about the 1%...) unless you're checking the New York Times. Classical musicians are now served even less by the attention the Grammy Awards focus on the recording industry. That's a shame.
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70. Best Orchestral Performance

Bowen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

Andrew Davis, conductor (BBC Philharmonic)

Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)
[Deutsche Grammaphon]

Haydn: Symphonies 104, 88 & 101

Nicholas McGegan, conductor (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra)
[Philharmonia Baroque Productions]

Henze: Symphonies Nos. 3-5

Marek Janowski, conductor (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin)

Martinu: The 6 Symphonies

Jirí Belohlávek, conductor (BBC Symphony Orchestra)
[Onyx Classics]
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

71. Best Opera Recording

Adams: Doctor Atomic

Alan Gilbert, conductor; Meredith Arwady, Sasha Cooke, Richard Paul Fink, Gerald Finley, Thomas Glenn & Eric Owens; Jay David Saks, producer (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
[Sony Classical]

Britten: Billy Budd

Mark Elder, conductor; John Mark Ainsley, Phillip Ens, Jacques Imbrailo, Darren Jeffery, Iain Paterson & Matthew Rose; James Whitbourn, producer (London Philharmonic Orchestra; Glyndebourne Chorus)
[Opus Arte]

Rautavaara: Kaivos

Hannu Lintu, conductor; Jaakko Kortekangas, Hannu Niemelä, Johanna Rusanen-Kartano & Mati Turi; Seppo Siirala, producer (Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra; Kaivos Chorus)

Verdi: La Traviata

Antonio Pappano, conductor; Joseph Calleja, Renée Fleming & Thomas Hampson; James Whitbourn, producer (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Royal Opera Chorus)
[Opus Arte]

Vivaldi: Ercole Sul Termodonte

Fabio Biondi, conductor; Romina Basso, Patrizia Ciofi, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Vivica Genaux, Philippe Jaroussky, Topi Lehtipuu & Rolando Villazón; Daniel Zalay, producer (Europa Galante; Coro Da Camera Santa Cecilia Di Borgo San Lorenzo)
[Virgin Classics]
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

72. Best Choral Performance

Beyond All Mortal Dreams - American A Cappella

Stephen Layton, conductor (Choir Of Trinity College Cambridge)
[Hyperion Records]

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; James K. Bass, chorus master (Justin Blackwell, Scott Allen Jarrett, Paul Max Tipton & Teresa Wakim; Professional Choral Institute & Seraphic Fire)
[Seraphic Fire Media]


Kjetil Almenning, conductor (Nidaros String Quartet; Ensemble 96)
[2L (Lindberg Lyd)]

Light & Gold

Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King's Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers)

The Natural World Of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen

Paul Hillier, conductor (Ars Nova Copenhagen)
[Dacapo Records]
= = = = = = = = = = = = = 

73. Best Small Ensemble Performance

Frank: Hilos

Gabriela Lena Frank; ALIAS Chamber Ensemble

The Kingdoms Of Castille

Richard Savino, conductor; El Mundo
[Sono Luminus]

Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide

Rinde Eckert & Steven Mackey; Eighth Blackbird
[Cedille Records]

A Seraphic Fire Christmas

Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; Seraphic Fire
[Seraphic Fire Media]

Sound The Bells!

The Bay Brass
[Harmonia Mundi]
= = = = = = = = = = = = = 

74. Best Classical Instrumental Solo

Chinese Recorder Concertos - East Meets West

Lan Shui, conductor; Michala Petri (Copenhagen Philharmonic)
[OUR Recordings]

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18; Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini

Yuja Wang (Claudio Abbado; Mahler Chamber Orchestra)
[Deutsche Grammaphon]

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Leif Ove Andsnes (Antonio Pappano; London Symphony Orchestra)
[EMI Classics]

Schwantner: Concerto For Percussion & Orchestra

Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Christopher Lamb (Nashville Symphony)
Track from: Schwantner: Chasing Light…

Winging It - Piano Music Of John Corigliano

Ursula Oppens
[Cedille Records]
= = = = = = = = = = = = = 

75. Best Classical Vocal Solo

Diva Divo

Joyce DiDonato (Kazushi Ono; Orchestre De L'Opéra National De Lyon; Choeur De L'Opéra National De Lyon)
[Virgin Classics]

Grieg/Thommessen: Veslemøy Synsk

Marianne Beate Kielland (Nils Anders Mortensen)
[2L (Lindberg Lyd)]

Handel: Cleopatra

Natalie Dessay (Emmanuelle Haïm; Le Concert D'Astrée)
[Virgin Classics]

Purcell: O Solitude

Andreas Scholl (Stefano Montanari; Christophe Dumaux; Accademia Bizantina)

Three Baroque Tenors

Ian Bostridge (Bernard Labadie; Mark Bennett, Andrew Clarke, Sophie Daneman, Alberto Grazzi, Jonathan Gunthorpe, Benjamin Hulett & Madeline Shaw; The English Concert)
[EMI Classics]
= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

76. Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Aldridge, Robert: Elmer Gantry

Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein

Crumb, George: The Ghosts Of Alhambra

George Crumb
Track from: Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 15
[Bridge Records, Inc.]

Friedman, Jefferson: String Quartet No. 3

Jefferson Friedman
Track from: Jefferson Friedman: Quartets
[New Amsterdam Records]

Mackey, Steven: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide

Steven Mackey
[Cedille Records]

Ruders, Poul: Piano Concerto No. 2

Poul Ruders
Track from: Music Of Poul Ruders, Vol. 6
[Bridge Records, Inc.]
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

68. Best Engineered Album, Classical

Aldridge: Elmer Gantry

Byeong-Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

Glazunov: Complete Concertos

Richard King, engineer (José Serebrier, Alexey Serov, Wen-Sinn Yang, Alexander Romanovsky, Rachel Barton Pine, Marc Chisson & Russian National Orchestra)
[Warner Classics]

Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide

Tom Lazarus & Bill Maylone, engineers; Joe Lambert, mastering engineer (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird)
[Cedille Records]

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Arne Akselberg, engineer (Leif Ove Andsnes, Antonio Pappano & London Symphony Orchestra)
[EMI Classics]

Weinberg: Symphony No. 3 & Suite No. 4 From 'The Golden Key'

Torbjörn Samuelsson, engineer (Thord Svedlund & Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra)
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

69. Producer Of The Year, Classical

Blanton Alspaugh

• Aldridge: Elmer Gantry (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
• Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas (Peter Takács) • Osterfield: Rocky Streams (Paul Osterfield, Todd Waldecker & Various Artists)

Manfred Eicher

• Bach: Concertos & Sinfonias For Oboe; Ich Hatte Viel Bekümmernis (Heinz Holliger, Eric Höbarth & Camerata Bern)
• Hymns & Prayers (Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica) • Manto & Madrigals (Thomas Zehetmair & Ruth Killius) • Songs Of Ascension (Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, Todd Reynolds Quartet, The M6 & Montclair State University Singers) • Tchaikovsky/Kissine: Piano Trios (Gidon Kremer, Giedre Dirvanauskaite & Khatia Buniatishvili) • A Worcester Ladymass (Trio Mediaeval)

David Frost

• Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live (Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass)
• Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird) • Prayers & Alleluias (Kenneth Dake) • Sharon Isbin & Friends - Guitar Passions (Sharon Isbin & Various Artists)

Peter Rutenberg

• Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (Patrick Dupré Quigley, James K. Bass, Seraphic Fire & Professional Choral Institute)
• The Vanishing Nordic Chorale (Philip Spray & Musik Ekklesia)

Judith Sherman

• Adams: Son Of Chamber Symphony; String Quartet (John Adams, St. Lawrence String Quartet & International Contemporary Ensemble)
• Capricho Latino (Rachel Barton Pine) • 85th Birthday Celebration (Claude Frank) • Insects & Paper Airplanes - Chamber Music Of Lawrence Dillon (Daedalus Quartet & Benjamin Hochman) • Midnight Frolic - The Broadway Theater Music Of Louis A. Hirsch (Rick Benjamin & Paragon Ragtime Orchestra) • Notable Women - Trios By Today's Female Composers (Lincoln Trio) • The Soviet Experience, Vol. 1 - String Quartets By Dmitri Shostakovich & His Contemporaries (Pacifica Quartet) • Speak! (Anthony De Mare) • State Of The Art - The American Brass Quintet At 50 (The American Brass Quintet) • Steve Reich: WTC 9/11; Mallet Quartet; Dance Patterns (Kronos Quartet, Steve Reich Musicians & So Percussion) • Winging It - Piano Music Of John Corigliano (Ursula Oppens)
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Check back in February 2012 and we'll find out who the winners are!

- Dick Strawser

NaNoWriMo 2011: It's Official

Yes, I am an author - or so they tell me over at NaNoWriMo where November is "National Novel Writing Month." Every November, they hold their 50,000-word challenge, urging everybody anywhere who has always wanted to write a novel to "git 'er done" (in the American parlance) - or at least to get 50,000 words of 'er done (or, more realistically, of a first draft done).
This year - my fourth NaNoWriMo adventure - I decided to do a complete rewrite of a novel, one of my music appreciation thrillers, I'd started with NaNoWriMo 2009 mainly because I liked the title and some of the characters' names - the plot, not so much. In fact, that original "Lost Chord" was a direct parody of Dan Brown's latest opus, The Lost Symbol and this time around I wanted to remove all parodiness from my latest music appreciation thriller. (You can read about last year's novel, The Doomsday Symphony, here. My earlier parody of Brown's The DaVinci Code can be read in its entirety, here.)

While certain characters remain more-or-less the same - like the villain Tr'iTone and one of his disguises, Dr. Iobba Dhabbodhú, or the Director of Security for the International Composers Alliance Yoda Leahy-Hu, and the beautiful LauraLynn Harty (though I did change her hair color) not to mention other characters like V.C. D'Arcy, ICA Agents Kaye Gelida Manina and Wanda Menveaux or Barry Scarpia - new ones have been added, like Fictitia LaMouche (an on-line journalist whose original name is Felicity Lychpit), teachers like Emilio Fabbro and Dudley Böhm, or the singers Rita Pagliaccio and Cora diLetto (a little more complicated, it's a line from Cherubino's aria, 'Voi che sapete' - at 2:18 into this clip with Joyce DiDonato, you can hear 'Ch’ora è diletto,' this moment of pleasure) and while I'm stealing names from opera arias, let's not forget the yet-to-be-introduced Porgia Moore and Barbra Seville.

I'm also expanding a few walk-on roles from the original, like Garth Widor (an agent of one of the villains, N. Ron Steele, the evil CEO of SHMRG), Peter Moonbeam (a Native-American version of Pierrot Lunaire) and turning Phil Harmon (formerly chief of security for Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall) into Samuel Schäufel (as in shovel), a German version of Sam Spade, the detective from The Maltese Falcon. You see, the biggest change in the setting is moving it from Lincoln Center to (mostly) the Schweinwald Festival in Bavaria (where there actually is a Schweinwald - which means "Hogwood" and I chose it because, back in the 19th Century, there could be a [purely fictional] legendary music school there which could be a kind of musical Hogwarts) and that's where a search is on for something... with clues to be found on a headless Mozart porcelain doll, standing on a map of Malta (why it's referred to as The Maltese Mozart) which was discovered on the site of the old Falkenstein Farm, not far from the even older, possibly haunted Castle Schweinwald.

Then, too, part of the novel's new opening is set in an artist's colony called Benninghurst where the Director, something of a fund-raising wizard, is a guy from Australia named Sidney Drummoyne (Drummoyne is actually a suburb of Sydney). The resident nurse is named Anna Miszklysczewska whom everybody calls Annie M and the house mascot is a little dog named Poco. Stylistic arguments about musical aesthetics involve three composers: serialist Luke van Rhiarden (an anagram of Thomas Mann's Adrian Leverkühn in Doktor Faustus) is accused of lacking a heart while Seth Mazrif (whose names are anagrams for New Age artists [John] Tesh and Zamfir) is accused of lacking a brain. Lionel Roth, a bundle of insecurities who actually becomes a major character, lacks the courage of his own convictions but is peripherally involved in the gruesome murder of composer Robertson Sullivan whose opera, Faustus, Inc. (a corporate version of the Faust legend where Mephistopheles is a CEO named Arachne Webb) will be premiered at the Schweinwald Festival except the recently completed score has just been stolen which means... &c &c

Now, Robertson Sullivan's cousin LauraLynn Harty is descended from the composer Harrison Harty who had studied at Schweinwald in 1880 along with Mahler, Ethel Smyth and Hans Rott. (Harrison, a little-known cousin of Irish composer Hamilton Harty, emigrated to the USA where he became a professor of composition at the Jones School of Music in Indiana.) Late in his life, he married Penelope Pintscher, daughter of the Chicago railroad tycoon, Glutius Pintscher. Penny and Harrison have twin sons, Cuthbert and Norbert (a.k.a. "The Berts") who, after their parents' deaths, are raised by Penny's sister, Nicola Deimler and thus inherit considerable industrial wealth and connections. Norbert's sons are Oliver Costello and Stanley Abbott Harty. Cuthbert's daughters are Catherine (who marries Richard Shaw, becoming Katie Shaw, and their son is Bernard who marries Pashmina) and Mabel (who marries Gilbert N. Sullivan and has a son, Robertson).

Incidentally, LauraLynn’s mother would be Lucille Lewes, her aunt Ethel Clarke, the widow of Uncle Stan (but of course Lucy and Ethel always dreamt of forming a comedy team called Lewes & Clarke). Then there’s Geraldine who marries cousin Martin Lewes, dean of the local college, hence they’re Dean Martin and Gerrie Lewes.

Oh, there are a few other things I've kept: the elevator ride at the Washington Monument, the Night at the Opera parody using the Barber of Seville (also the state room scene transferred to a backstage dressing room), and the "Hu's on First" scene. (You'll have to scroll down for all of these: none of them begin "at the top".)

Did I mention this is a comic music appreciation thriller?

Well, at any rate, 53,473 words of the thoroughly revised (as in "starting-over-from-scratch-almost") version of The Lost Chord are done, but the novel is far from over.

The game, as they say, is afoot!

- Dick Strawser

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Those Nasty New Music Guys...

A champion of the traditional style complained that modern composers wrote only in the newest forms and neglected the tried-and-true forms of the past and used a multiplicity of awkward rhythms and imperfect rhythmic subdivisions of the beat rather than adhering to “the proper use of perfection.” They also indulged in “broken rhythms” and capricious (even lascivious) movement rather than confining themselves, like past masters, to a more modest restrained movement. Some of these new compositions relied on the repetition of such complicated rhythmic patterns often overlapping with similarly repeated melodic patterns to create something so complex, it seemed more mathematical than anything close to the proper attributes music is to instill in the listener (which is why some religious leaders also came out against this new musical style).

It would appear, judging from his comments and those of his colleagues, these modern composers were nothing but a menace – if not to society, at least to the quality of fine art.

So when do you think this stylistic disagreement originates from?

Given the mathematical patterns, perhaps you’re thinking of Arnold Schoenberg and his concept of ‘serialism’ – generally dismissed as more math than music – where patterns of twelve notes (a “row”) could be repeated and manipulated ad infinitum or the next generation of serialists like Boulez and Messiaen who, bored with just serializing pitches, also serialized rhythms and even dynamics.

But since it’s primarily about rhythm and “movement” (in this sense, rhythmic motion rather than the divisions of a larger piece into individual movements), you might think it stems from the complex rhythms of the early 20th Century – Stravinsky and Bartok with their complicated, constantly changing meters, or even the Russian composers of the late-19th Century like Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky who sometimes used meters like 5/4 or 7/8 which they found in East European folk music.

Or maybe it’s between the adherents of Brahms with his legacy from the Symphonic Age of Beethoven who were opposed to the Music of the Future championed by the followers of Liszt and Wagner whose sense of rhythm and harmonic passion (certainly far too emotional for decent people) was certainly more complicated and more “lascivious” than anything composed in previous generations. And it wasn’t just their music – Wagner composing Tristan und Isolde, about a man falling love with another man’s wife, himself fell in love with Cosima, the wife of his conductor-friend Hans von Bülow (and the daughter of Liszt). (And let’s not get into the sordid details of their private lives!) How immoral was that? And the music that went with it… It was enough to make decent people shudder.

Brahms, hearing new works from the next generation composed by twenty-somethings like Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, worried about the cesspool that music was rapidly becoming.

Could it go back further? There were, after all, famous stylistic “wars” during the 18th and 19th Centuries, too.

Actually, the first paragraph is a summary of the argument you could read in Jacques de Liège’s monumental work “Musical Speculation” or, more accurately “The Mirror of Music,” Speculum musicae in which he complained greatly about the followers of Philippe de Vitry.

This was written around 1324, give or take a year.

The problem centered around the development of a more detailed rhythmic notation – as opposed to the older ambiguities of the notation in Gregorian chant – which permitted such complexities as rhythms of LONG-short LONG-short LONG-short LONG (in 6/8, the quarter+eighth note pattern) rather than the traditional SHORT-looong, SHORT-looong, SHORT-looong LONG (in 6/8, the eighth+quarter note pattern).

The idea of bringing greater variety to musical rhythms is something that was going on in 1279 but composers of that generation preferred, perhaps diplomatically, to use both patterns and consider both of them “good.” But Philippe de Vitry (see right) preferred to place the “long note” at the front (giving it a certain lilt – the ‘lascivious’ movement his critics referred to) and to ignore the old-fashioned pattern completely.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, there was the introduction of duple time – perfection was based on threes (the Trinity being the model) and to do something in two or four (like our modern march) was to embrace imperfection and deny the Trinity! (Why would you do that?!)

Plus, they wrote only motets and cantilenas (long, melodious solo songs) usually about love, and ignored the tried-and-true forms like the Mass, organum (taking a segment of Gregorian chant and superimposing over it one or two newly composed parts) or the stately conductus (a kind of processional motet).

Even Pope John XXII issued a Papal Bull (in a sense different from the modern slang use of the word ‘bull’) around 1325 not against the theory of this new style but against the practical results of the new art, concerned mostly about the impact it would have on the sanctity of the music sung in the church service, especially considering the tranquility generated by the perfection of plainsong (what we consider Gregorian chant). This new music, with these new and complex rhythms was agitated by so many short notes and disturbed by “hockets” (a rhythmic device with a short rest in one part allowing a note in another part to fill in the missing part – and yes, perhaps it’s the source of our word “hiccup”) and that the use of plainsong (or chant) in these new-fangled compositions was rendered unrecognizable by being (disrespectfully) subjected to such complicated rhythmic devices.

The upholders of tradition called their music Ars Antiqua (also Ars Veterum, Traditional Art), based on the proud history of French music going back to about 1160.

Those who broke away from the traditions of the past, like Philippe de Vitry, called their music Ars Nova or The New Art.

And yet, today, these arguments – and examples of music from both these styles – seem so old and foreign to us, unfamiliar, perhaps even pointless to us today, with our modern technology and cool new techniques and attitudes about listening to music.

If Columbus hadn’t dared to reach India by sailing west, would the world still be flat? Or if Galileo never guessed the Earth was not the Center of the Universe, would men have ever landed on the Moon?

Well… maybe…

- Dick Strawser

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Music for Thanksgiving

When thinking about music for Thanksgiving Day, my ear immediately starts hearing this scene from Aaron Copland's opera, The Tender Land. Here is the quintet, "The Promise of Living," from a 2010 production by the Berkeley Opera Company, sung Paul Cheak, Lee Steward, Amy Foote, Malin Fritz, Paul Murray; conducted by Philip Kuttner and directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer. (Video projection, videography and editing by Jeremy Knight).

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

The promise of living, the promise of growing
Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year I’ve known this field
And know all the work that makes them yield.
Are you ready to lend a hand?
We’re ready to work, we’re ready to lend a hand.
By working together we’ll bring in the harvest,
the blessings of harvest.

We plow plant each row with seeds of grain,
And Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a hand, by lending an arm
Bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine,
Give thanks there was rain,
Give thanks we are here to deliver the grain.

O let us be joyful, O let us be grateful to the Lord for his blessing.

The promise of ending in right understanding
Is peace in our hearts, peace with our neighbor.
The promise of living, the promise of growing,
The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

-- from the libretto by Horace Everett.
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Wishing everybody a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving Day.
- Dick Strawser

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Right and the Left of the Brain

Technically, the concept existed long before the scientific explanation came about: after all, gravity wasn’t invented when an apple hit Isaac Newton on the head in 1665 (so the story goes). The idea that people had a “dual nature” in the way they thought should have come as no surprise, but it wasn’t until 1968 when psychobiologist Roger W. Sperry published his innovative studies that verbal, analytic thinking was located mainly in the left hemisphere of the brain, and that visual, perceptual thinking was located mainly in the right. Sperry won a Nobel Prize in 1981.

In the old days, regardless of what century it was written in, music could be “classical” or “romantic” referring to the general style – “classical” being leaner textures, more logical, perhaps intellectually oriented and essentially clean; “romantic” meant denser textures, vaguer in terms of formal and harmonic clarity, more dramatic or emotional and, perhaps, “messy.” In this sense a composer in the late-18th Century writing in a dramatic emotional style could be “romantic” during the “Classical” period – think all those “Sturm und Drang” symphonies, or the D Minor Piano Concerto or G Minor symphonies of Mozart. And Mendelssohn, in some respects, could be a “classical” Romantic composer – sharing bits of both styles.

This stylistic dichotomy could also be referred to as “Apollonian” (classical) or “Dionysian” (romantic), going back to the Ancient Greeks (whether they used the distinction themselves or not) – Apollo, the god of such things as architecture (which would be logical, formalistic) and Dionysus or Bacchus, who gave men wine which of course has done little for logic and clarity for millennia…

These days, we mostly use the idea of “Left-brain” and “Right-brain.” And this is basically the gist of Sperry’s work.

While going through some books in a not-that-old box still left unpacked from the last move, I came across a copy of Betty EdwardsDrawing on the Right Side of the Brain (A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence) which was first published in 1979, making it one of the first books to apply this new scientific thinking and applying it to art. My edition was a paperback issued in 1989.

It’s not that I was interested in the art of drawing, but the concept seemed intriguing to me, wondering if it could be applied to musical creativity. I had been reading several books about “creativity” in general which seemed to focus on scientific creativity – the discovery of new theories or the invention of new contraptions – but rarely on musical creativity and then when they did, it often descended into what I would have thought was obvious and very shallow, compared to the in-depth, technical comprehension these authors found in the scientists and mathematicians.

It wasn’t until years later it dawned on me – d’oh! – that scientists understand the scientific mind but are completely lost when it comes to the artistic mind because (for them) it lacks the familiarity and the objectivity scientists need to exist.

The whole premise of scientific research is to “prove” something. Scientist A comes up with a new theory. In order for it to be “proved,” Scientist B has to be able to replicate it and come up with the same results.

If Composer A comes up with ideas about a musical composition, it is highly unlikely Composer B is going to come up with anything close to the same composition! In fact, even if Composer A tries it again, using the same concepts or ideas, his or her realization of them will no doubt result in a different composition even though it’s by the same composer. Oh, there may be similarities, but the artist is always looking for different ways to treat the same ideas whereas the scientist is always hoping for the same.

Yes, you can joke that Antonio Vivaldi wrote 600 concertos that sound like one concerto 600 times but that’s only because, to the untrained listener, the few that we know have a certain stylistic sameness. But like snowflakes, no two of them are the same.

And many listeners who are not musicians themselves can’t quite understand what performers mean when they say “every performance [of the same piece] is different.” Perhaps it’s not different from thinking the river you’re looking at is always the same because the water that flows by is made up of different molecules and so on.

Language also gives us problems in adapting to even the most obvious differences: what comes to mind when you see the word “river”? Is it the great Mississippi River or the Susquehanna River (which, at Harrisburg, is about a mile wide) or the Fenton River which I used to step across in the woods outside the University of Connecticut because it’s barely two feet across (“and you call this a river!” I used to tell my friends there in disbelief). But I digress, kind of…

The world, of course, is designed for people who are right handed. This discrimination is evident even in the words chosen to describe “right” and “left.” In Latin, the word for “right” is dexter from which we get dexterity (skill) (not to overlook the irony of a popular serial killer being named ‘Dexter’). The Latin word for “left,” on the other hand, is sinister from which we get… well, sinister (evil, ominous).

Even in French, the word for “left” is gauche from which we get gauche or gawky, awkward, tacky or sociably unacceptable; “right” is droit from which we get adroit (capable).

In old English, the word “left” comes from the Anglo-Saxon stem lyft meaning weak or worthless, “right” from reht or straight, just and ultimately (by way of the German recht) the word correct.

Enough? (Do we even need to get into politics?)

The duality in the world is also obvious: for example, light/dark, feminine/masculine, positive/negative, winter/summer and intellect/emotion, not to mention the more recent concept of digital/analog.

Ms. Edwards points out (p.38) the ‘L-Mode’ and the ‘R-Mode’ which she differentiates in the letters’ fonts: the L is bold, blocked and basic; the R is like script, full of curlicues and whimsy.

These two modes she describes with basic characteristics:

The L-Mode is foursquare, upright, sensible, direct, true, hard-edged, plain and forceful.

The R-Mode is curvy, flexible, playful, unexpected, diagonal, fanciful -- and she also includes the word “complex.”

Here is a paraphrase of her chart on p.40 which compares similar concepts and how they are applied on the Left-Brain or Right-Brain duality:

L-Mode is verbal, using words to name, describe, define.

R-Mode is non-verbal, focused more on awareness of things but minimal connection with words.

L-Mode is analytic, figuring things out step-by-step and part-by-art.
R-Mode is synthetic, putting things together to form wholes.

L-Mode is symbolic, using a symbol to stand for something (the drawing of an eye can substitute for the word eye; the + sign stands for the process of addition)

R-Mode is concrete, relating to things as they are, at the present moment.

L-Mode is abstract, taking out a small bit of information and using it represent the whole thing.

R-Mode is analogic, seeking likenesses between things; understanding metaphoric relationships.

(I think this might be more easily expressed as abstract, seeing the parts (for instance, data) whereas analogic would see the whole as the sum of the parts first – in other words, L-Mode would see the details, and R-Mode would see the “big picture”).

L-Mode is temporal, keeping track of time, sequencing one thing after another (in order)
R-Mode is non-temporal, without a sense of time (unaware of the passing of time, taking things out-of-order or at random)

L-Mode is rational, drawing conclusions based on reason and facts.
R-Mode is non-rational (I would prefer irrational), not requiring a basis of reason or facts (to reach a conclusion), willingness to suspend judgment.

L-Mode is digital, using numbers as in counting. 
R-Mode is spatial, seeing where things are in relation to other things and how parts go together to form a whole.

L-Mode is logical, drawing conclusions based on logic (rational), one thing following another in logical order, for example, like a mathematical theorem or a well-stated argument.
R-Mode is intuitive, making leaps of insight, often on incomplete patterns, hunches, feelings or visual images.

L-Mode is linear, thinking in terms of linked (successive) ideas, one thought flowing directly into another, often leading to a convergent conclusion (obvious)

R-Mode is holistic, seeing whole things all at once, perceiving the overall patterns and structures, often leading to divergent conclusions (not easily explainable but sensed)

Though she implies it within her chart, I would add at least one other : L-Mode is studied, applying rules that are learned to a given situation.

R-Mode is spontaneous, not paying attention to learned rules in varying degrees (being free with them; breaking them on purpose; ignoring them).

I might also add the easy confusion between the two in trying to memorize logically by thinking intuitively – Left-brained can be Logical but also Rational, applying Reason; while Right-brained can be… uhm… well, so much for mnemonics…

If you have to think about which is your right hand and which is your left (especially if you’re an actor and you have to think the opposite of normal when you’re on the stage because what is yourright is not the audience’s right…), you’ll probably have problems telling the two apart. That means you’re right-brained, first of all.

Add to that the seeming conundrum of the left-side of the brain controlling the right side of the body and vice-versa, meaning… uhm… well, let’s not get into that now, shall we?

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A few observations.

Musicians have long called the study of the language of music, “theory.”

“Theory” in science means something that is not yet or cannot be proven.

And yet any music theory teacher drums into you these rules about intervals and chords and how they work together and grades you on any infraction of these rules as if they are facts-carved-in-stone.

But like any language, you learn the rules and then you figure out how to break them. But first you must know what makes them work. Then you can bend or break them to your will IF you have something to replace them with.

(Ah, there’s a grammatical rule I’ve just broken: “never end a sentence with a preposition” or as one of my teachers once put, slyly, “a preposition is something you never end a sentence with.”)

Sometimes we break rules because it sounds more “natural” and sticking to the rules sounds too “formal.” For instance, if you’re talking to children, you’re not going to be speaking in King James English (speakest thou not in the olde biblical style from the 1600s) or in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Likewise, if you’re going to compose a fugue (one of the most intellectual procedures in music), you probably don’t want to write in the style of, say, Britney Spears (there is a wonderful parody on-line of a guy who demonstrates how to write a fugue using a Britney Spears song – in the end, however, it sounds more like an old-fashioned fugue than it does a Britney Spears song, but still…)

Aaron Copland once wrote that a composer hears a new piece whole in a flash – the problem is then writing it down fast enough to get it down on paper.

This is what we call “inspiration.”

Since I could never do that, I figured, “well, I guess I’m not a composer.”

The thing is, that’s how Aaron Copland may compose, but it’s not how, say, Elliott Carter composes. Carter usually begins with a different kind of problem – usually one inherent in the instruments he’s writing for, or a more formal or even mathematical problem: something that requires a solution. For him, the inspiration comes later, usually in the different possible solutions that he can come up with and which ones prove to be the most productive in creating further solutions.

Copland’s approach is very spontaneous – Right-Brained.

Carter’s approach is more detail oriented, logical, painstakingly worked out – in other words, Left-Brained.

In the biblical story of Moses (left), he calls upon his brother Aaron (right) to speak for him. I’m not sure there’s a specific reason why – perhaps Moses stammered or Aaron had a more pleasing voice. Or maybe Moses, being the mystical conduit between God and Man, could not speak to the everyday situation, he needed Aaron to mediate for him, to interpret what he said (or what God said through him) so that ordinary people could understand it. In any sense, we get the idea that (Charlton Heston aside), Moses was the Idea Man and Aaron was the Big Picture Man, the Communicator – the Salesman.

Remember, it is Aaron who is forced by the doubters waiting for Moses to come down from Mt. Sinai, to give them a concrete image they can believe in – hence, the Golden Calf. The Right-brain is image-oriented, the Left-brain is abstract, idea-oriented.

When Arnold Schoenberg set the story of Moses as in opera (Moses und Aron which he left incomplete), he approached their roles in a very unique way. Not only did he differentiate the two brothers by making Moses a baritone and Aaron a tenor, he specified that Aaron should be a lyric (not a dramatic) tenor and that Moses does not actually sing but speaks in a form of declamation which is half-sung and half-spoken. Moses cannot approach song – Aaron turns Moses’ ideas into song.

Here is the first confrontation between the two brothers (ignore the picture):
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At 5:30, Moses sings the only line he actually sings in the entire opera (at least, that part Schoenberg completed): "Purify your thinking," he warns his brother, "free it from worthless things. Let it be righteous. No other reward is given your offerings." (The libretto, by Schoenberg himself, in a translation by Allen Forte for the SONY recording conducted by Boulez.)

While the second act concludes with Moses sinking to the ground in despair - "O word, thou word, that I lack!" - the text of the final act which Schoenberg wrote but never set to music is another, more dramatic confrontation between Moses and Aron, a trial in which Aron, a prisoner, is then set free and once set free, falls down dead. Moses' final words: "But in the Wasteland you shall be invincible and shall achieve the goal: unity with God."

By the way, Schoenberg’s method of composing with 12 pitches (which came to be known as serialism, one of the most abstract, intellectual ways to compose in the 20th Century) is extremely Left-Brained, so much that many listeners (and performers, as well) cannot hear any emotion in the music – to them, it has no heart, it’s all brain.

The problem is, not looking back far enough beyond the fact Schoenberg’s music doesn’t sound like “familiar” 19th Century music, Schoenberg came up with a system of organizing pitches (“theory”) that is a substitute, in a way, for the system we call “tonality” which was in use since about 1600, which can be just as systematic and rule-oriented and abused by untalented composers as serial music has been. But I digress.

I would like to point out, though, that when Schoenberg called his opera Moses und Aron, it wasn’t that Aron was the German form of Aaron (which is what most people suppose) and it’s not even that, in this form, it would be 12 letters (analogous to the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale or the basis of his 12-tone rows) – it was that it would not be thirteen letters. For all his logical left-brained rational intellectuality, Schoenberg was a triskaidekaphobe: he had a fear of the Number 13! How right-brained is that?!

Which brings me to one last point for this post: very few people would be completely 100% Left-Brained or 100% Right-Brained. There are lots of tests on-line you can take to see how you fare – the questions may seem odd: when you think your way through a problem, do you like to sit or lie down? I usually skew Left but there’s a good percentage of Right in my scores and that seems to work out in my personality as well as my composing and writing. My scores will be very different if I answer as I might have when I was specifically younger - or respond as a composer or writer as opposed to my personal life. Oddly, my personal life would be more Right-brained and my artistic life would be more Left-brained, a dichotomy that I sometimes find unsettling. But that’s something for another future post.

One of my favorite quotes these days is from a composer usually considered a “difficult” composer, Roger Sessions, who said,

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"Every composer whose music seems difficult to grasp is, as long as the difficulty persists, suspected or accused of composing with his brain rather than his heart -- as if the one could function without the other."
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It is not a question of whether we’re Right-brained or Left-brained but whether we can make a unity out of these internal factions each of us has in ourselves so we can communicate in some way with other people who have possibly very different internal factions.

These internal factions are what make us different from one another. It is what makes us who we are and why people react differently to the same piece of music.

It might explain why certain people identify with certain types of music – for instance, why a Right-brained Person could love Wagner but find Brahms tedious. Or why a Left-brained Person could enjoy Mozart but feel uncomfortable when listening to Berlioz.

Anyway, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it…

- Dick Strawser

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Debussy by the Sea

This weekend, the Harrisburg Symphony, conducted by Stuart Malina, performs Claude Debussy’s La Mer, three symphonic studies depicting the sea at various times of the day.

The program also includes other evocative works by Alan Hovhaness - his Mysterious Mountain - and Samuel Barber's nostalgic setting of life in Knoxville: Summer of 1915, plus Maurice Ravel's exotic Shéhérazade, tales from the 1001 Arabian Nights (don't worry, there are only three tales).

The S.S. Malina sets sail Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm from the Forum in downtown Harrisburg, with a pre-concert talk given by Assistant Conductor Tara Simoncic an hour before each departure.

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Visiting the wild coasts of French Brittany in his youth, the novelist Marcel Proust wrote of the sea at his mythical Balbec:

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[With the radiant sun upon the waves] that leapt up one behind the other like jumpers on a trampoline… the snowy crests of its emerald green waves, here and there polished and translucent, which with a placid violence and a leonine frown, to which the sun added a faceless smile, allowed their crumbling slopes to topple down at last, [one morning it was a] transparent, vaporous bluish distance, like the glaciers that one sees in the background of the Tuscan Primitives. On other mornings… the sun laughed upon a water of a green as tender as that preserved in Alpine pastures… less by the moisture of the soil than by the liquid mobility of the light… It is above all the light, the light that displaces and situates the undulations of the sea, [with the sun’s] tremulous golden shaft scorching the seas topaz-yellow, fermenting it, turning it pale and milky like beer, frothy like milk… as if some god were shifting it to and fro by moving a mirror in the sky. [I was] impatient to know what Sea it was playing that morning by the shore, for none of these Seas ever stayed with us longer than a day. The next day there would be another, which sometimes resembled its predecessor. I never saw the same one twice.
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Proust was not the only author ever to be captivated by the limitless and changeable sea, nor was Debussy the only composer to come under its spell, but Proust, writing of his experiences with the sea along the English Channel coast in the 1880s, seems like a reasonable introduction to the music Debussy composed, having spent some of that time along the English Channel coast in 1904 (for the record, Proust’s Balbec – in reality, Cabourg – is south of the Siene; Debussy’s Pourville, near Dieppe, is north of it.

Debussy composed his musical portrait of the sea between 1903 and 1905 (he may have started some sketches in 1902). He began working on it in the town of Bichain which is actually far inland, perhaps a hundred miles southeast of Paris toward Switzerland, in the historic region of Burgundy. But much of the time he was working on it, he was staying in Pourville (see photograph of Debussy taken that summer in Pourville, though not looking out toward the sea).

Finishing it March, 1905, he spends the month of August on the English side of the Channel, at Eastbourne, and on August 7th he is correcting the publisher’s proofs in advance of the October premiere in Paris.

La Mer may be the longest orchestral work by Debussy, the closest thing we have to a symphony by him, but a symphony in all its Germanic essence would be antithetical to Debussy’s aesthetic. He subtitled it “Three Symphonic Sketches for Orchestra,” a suite, basically, the symphonic in this case referring less to the extended ‘development’ of ideas usually associated with a symphony.

The first movement is entitled “From dawn to mid-day on the sea,” and the final movement is the “Dialogue of the wind and the sea.” These are comparable to the substantial outer movements one might find in a symphony. The middle movement is a light, scherzo-like movement, almost a waltz, entitled “Play of the waves.”

But Debussy is not concerned about themes and developments and modulations and harmonic schemes like Beethoven would be – even though most of the material evolves out of the primal intervals – the perfect 5th – that open the work, a kind of reverse-Beethoven’s 9th, in a way, but just as cosmic (or, perhaps, oceanic).

As marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson noted, like the sea itself, the surface of Debussy's music hints at the brooding mystery of its depths, and ultimately the profound enigma of life itself – after all, mankind carries the primordial salt of the sea in our blood.

Here is Riccardo Muti conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in this 1994 video recording. (The work is complete in one clip.)

(please ignore the fact the poster from Japan refers to it as La Mar...)

Debussy was a very visually oriented composer. Many of his works are small musical miniatures with evocative titles – think of “Claire de Lune” (Moonlight) or “Girl with the Flaxen Hair.” In fact, there are series of short works simply called “Images.” His studio was full of prints of paintings or those postcard-like souvenirs one might find at a museum – images which, given the vagueness of his harmonic style and almost anti-melodic approach to sound earned him the title “Impressionist.”

Usually, we tend to think of “Impressionism” in painting as soft and flexible, playing more with light than substance. This is easy to induce musically by the use of non-traditional scales, especially the whole-tone scale which has no harmonic function we associate with tonality, especially the strong functions of chord progressions like the dominant to the tonic resolution that gives it a satisfying, structural coherence. In several works by Debussy – think Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun or, again, “Claire de Lune” – the harmonic vagueness is matched by softer dynamics and even though there are climaxes, they are almost understated.

This is not the style in La Mer. This is at times very muscular music even though it may lack the harmonic bite some feel longer forms need to create forward motion. “Motion” here is like the motion of the sea, as Proust described it in the quote from “In Search of Lost Time” at the beginning of this post, vibrant and colorful – above all, colorful. This is not the French equivalent, sitting on the beach looking out across the sand, of the English pastoral school derided as the “Cow-Looking-Over-the-Fence” school of music.

In fact, Debussy would probably have had little patience with this "soft" approach to music: as a music critic, a career he followed briefly in the few years before he composed La Mer, he reviewed a work by Frederick Delius (usually considered an English Impressionist) as "very sweet, very pale - music to soothe convalescents in well-to-do neighborhoods."

And La Mer is anything but soft, sweet or pale.

Debussy may focus less on melody as he is on the “tracery and ornamenting” of a line much in the way Bach, that most German of composers, might have done, with a grace and suppleness both melodically and harmonically of his beloved Chopin (his first piano teacher was a big fan if not officially a student of Chopin’s). Debussy was just as influenced by the stylization of nature as seen in the landscape prints from Japan, particularly Hokusai whose “The Hollow of the Wave off Kanagawa” which he had in his studio and which adorned the first printed edition of Debussy’s score. But he was also influenced by the “infinite arabesques” and complex counterpoint of the Javanese gamelan, a unique and exotic sound-world he first heard in 1889 at the Universal Exposition in Paris.

Other influences, perhaps surprisingly, come from Russian composers at a time when Russian music was little known in Western Europe, especially Mussorgsky and his opera, Boris Godunoff, especially his spontaneity and freedom from traditional academic formulas (which caused many to consider Mussorgsky untrained or untrainable and even led his friends, like Rimsky-Korsakoff, to “clean up” many of his scores). He described these as “successive minute touches mysteriously linked together by means of an instinctive clairvoyance.”

In one of those serendipitous moments in music history, I love pointing out the one degree of separation between Tchaikovsky and Debussy – Nadezhda von Meck was a wealthy widow who was not only Tchaikovsky’s generous patron and musical confidant, she hired some musicians to form a piano trio when she visited Paris and traveled with them, taking them back to Moscow for two years where they lived in her house and played music for her and her friends. The pianist – whose additional responsibilities involved playing piano duets with her and giving her daughters lessons – was Claude Debussy.

He was 18.

While in Moscow, young Debussy would have been exposed to a great deal of Russian music, no doubt, though I’ve never read anything he has said about, for instance, seeing Boris Godunoff. Still, knowing that Mussorgsky’s opera didn’t make it to Paris until Diaghilev’s Russian Season in 1908, how else can you explain so many “revolutionary” concepts heard in Debussy’s opera, Pelleas et Melsiande which he began work on certainly by 1892 and which was premiered in 1902?

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Here is a chronological time-line of events in Debussy’s life during the time he was composing La Mer.

Some biographical background, first: Debussy married a poor seamstress named Rosalie (“Lily”) Texier in 1899, after having had a series of mistresses. Only five years later, in 1904, Debussy was already living with Emma Bardac, the wife of a wealthy banker who had earlier had an affair with Gabriel Fauré and whose daughter, Helene, was the inspiration for Fauré’s “Dolly Suite.”

But life sometimes gets messy and Lily did not take well to the idea of a divorce. In fact, in October of 1904, Lily attempted suicide by shooting herself in the stomach, and as the details became public, most of Debussy’s friends withdrew from him. In fact, much of the reaction against La Mer when it was premiered a year later had as much to do with the public’s distaste for the scandal as it did with its confusion over the music.

All of this, of course, is going on in the “background” while Debussy is composing La Mer (or is it the other way around?).

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In June, Debussy writes his last article as a music critic and in July signs a contract with the publisher Durand for a set of Images for piano, including three pieces for two pianos which, in 1908, becomes the Images pour orchestre.

Between July 10th and October 1st, Debussy stays at Bichain (in Bourgogne, about a hundred miles southeast of Paris), his third visit there. During this holiday, he begins work on La Mer and completes the piano pieces Estampes and works on preparing the full score of Pelleas et Melisande for publication (the opera was premiered in April, 1902).

October 14th, he signs a contract with Durand for a second opera, Diable dans le beffroi (The Devil in the Belfry), inspired by a story by Edgar Allan Poe which he thinks he will finish in May, 1905 (he never does).

November 15th, his “Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun’” (completed in 1894) is programmed on two separate concerts in Paris.


On January 9th, Ricardo Viñes premieres Estampes and on the 16th, Debussy accompanies a singer in the first performance of two songs, including one called La Mer.

During April and May, Debussy composes his “Two Dances for Chromatic Harp and Orchestra,” the Danse sacrée and the Danse profane.

Between August and mid-October, Debussy and his mistress Emma Bardac (the wife of a wealthy banker) stay in cognito at the Grand Hotel in Jersey, then goes on to Pourville on the Normandy Coast (see photo), working on La Mer and correcting proofs for the publication of Masques and Fêtes galantes, also reworks L’Isle joyeuse.

On the 13th of October, Debussy’s wife, Lily, attempts to commit suicide by shooting herself in the stomach. The news appears in the papers on November 4th and many of Debussy’s friends withdraw from him.


On March 5th, 1905, he completes the first draft of the score of La Mer and it will be published in July, made available to the public in November with its brightly colored cover after the Japanese artist, Hokusai (see photo).

On May 4th, Emma Bardac divorces her husband Sigismond; she is a few weeks pregnant.

In June, Debussy publishes Suite bergamasque for piano with its famous slow movement, Claire de lune. The work was composed in 1890 but Debussy did not finish it for publication until this time.

On July 17th, Debussy signs an exclusive contract with his new publisher, Durand and is also placed under a court injunction to pay Lily a month income of 400 francs (which will be paid through his publisher).

From the end of July through the end of August, Debussy and Emma Bardac stay in Eastbourne, England, spending a few days in London before returning to Paris.

On August 2nd, the Civil Court pronounces the divorce of Claude and Lily Debussy. He figures he has, perhaps, two friends left.

On August 7th, he is correcting the first proofs of La Mer

On October 15th, La Mer is premiered at Concerts lamoureux with conductor Camille Chevillard. Debussy complains that the orchestra is under-rehearsed and the conductor is more fit to tame wild beasts than conduct musicians. The next performance, on October 22nd, is better received.

On October 30th, Emma Bardac gives birth to Debussy’s daughter, Claude-Emma, always known as “Chouchou”.

--- Dick Strawser
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The quotation from Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, now usually more accurately translated as In Search of Lost Time, is from the second of seven volumes, ”Within a Budding Grove” or ”In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”, in the chapter “Place-Names: The Place,” translated by Scott-Moncrief and Kilmartin, published by Random House

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting ready to Experience the JACK Quartet

It's a busy month, here at Dr. Dick Plaza, deep into my fourth NaNoWriMo Challenge - more on that later - but I just wanted to take a moment to point out some activity over at my Market Square Concerts Blog where I've been posting about the impending performance by the JACK Quartet.

The concert is Saturday (the 12th) at 8pm and it's in uptown Harrisburg at the Temple Ohev Sholom (it's on Front Street just below Seneca). And I'll be doing a pre-concert talk beginning at 7:15pm so please consider dropping in for that, too.

For more information, check out these posts:
Part 1 - JACK comes to town
Part 2 - An introduction to three composers on the program: Philip Glass, Caleb Burhans and the Odd Man Out, Guillaume Machaut
Part 3 - An introduction to Iannis Xenakis but more a consideration of listening to unfamiliar (and especially new) music, going back to the days when Brahms and Mozart were "new" and "challenging."

By the way, I'm so excited - Elliott Carter's 103rd Birthday is on a Sunday this year! December 11th - mark your calendars, now! (Here's a post about last year's birthday.)

- Dick Strawser