Monday, January 29, 2007

Ethel the Frog

Sorry there isn't much happening on this ol' blog. Hopefully soon I'll write a few things of note on here. Life has been busy with Spring Semester back in full swing and all. In the mean time, enjoy what is perhaps my favorite Monty Python sketch, "The Piranha Brothers" (parts I and II):

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Greatest Songs of All-Time (A YouTubextravaganza)
John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" as played by a Japanese Robot.
Advice (Well) Not Taken

"If you want to compose, avoid the theater at all costs."

-Gustav Mahler to Alban Berg

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Can't Get Enough of Your Love

The newly elected 6th district Representative of my home state, Michelle Bachmann brings together the lethal combination of being very hot (see above), but also very crazy. Like most Christian Evangelicals, she hates gay people and science. In short, she's idiotic, contemptible, and very hot.
This, though, is just sad. The worst is how she keeps her hand on his shoulder so awkwardly when he goes across the aisle; she barely holds on. And then the smiling and laughing. Being a Congresswoman is fun!

It seems unfair that when I pass strangers on the street, at school or at work, and we look each other in the eye, I am the one who is forced (due to my innate nervousness) to look down. Everyone else has power over me, and I involuntarily give it away each time. This is unfair.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Top This

I feel like posting YouTube clips so deal with it, asshole.
This is so great. A scene from the film Teen Witch (a reply to Michael J. Fox's Teen Wolf for the X-Chromasoned of the species). Be patient for the first 35 seconds and at second 36 you shall be treated to one of the best songs you have ever heard. The rapping is stellar ("I'm hot, you're not."), and the dancing impressive. It's really quite hard to see why the guys in the "Group Home Crew" never caught on in those golden days of Hip-Hop.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Worst. Thing. In. the. World. Ever

I might be late in reaching this conclusion. It's official folks: Slam Poetry, or Spoken Word or whatever you call this bullshit, is the worst thing in the world, ever. This is not Hyperbole. The Crusades, the Holocaust, 9/11 etc. are simply human folly and evil on grand and devestating scales. I've never had any hope for government or religion. We will see many more genocides and terrorist bombings. I do have hope for Art, though.*

*By Art I mean Art Carney.
He's dead?
Fuck. What about Art Bell? Next episode is on the Mothman? I'm there. Thank God.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Sibelius' Kullervo is a giant, craggy mountain. Sibelius never scales its heights again, nor does he care to. From here on out, he will content himself by chipping off clusters of diamonds and tree resin.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Belly of the (Wagner) Beast

I've buckled and decided to take a weekly 3-hour seminar course on Wagner's Ring for 3 credits at the University. It's from my (sometimes unfoundedly) dreaded Cultural Studies department, but I've heard great things about the Professor. And plus, if you are going to locate a composer in the Historical/Political/Philosophical perspective let it be Wagner. For all my tired complaint of Deconscruction and Historicism, ignoring these contexts with Herr Wagner is impossible, and indeed harmful for a full understanding. Surely, I hardly know enough about the music or the man. But until now, I've avoided it like plague (which I do try to avoid).

Monday, January 15, 2007

47, Baby!

What a year 2006 was! I turned 21, I bought some new jeans online and I found out from here that I have the 47th Greatest (? Most-Viewed? Fragrant?) Classical Blog on the Interweb. I will take this as a complete victory as my goal has always been to destroy "NY Opera Fanatic" in any way I can. Since the numerous dead squirrels and death threats I've sent to Mr. Wood and his family have not decreased his blogging abilities, it was a treat to see me one ahead of him. As of tomorrow, my war on Dr. Dick begins. I promise to eschew all jabs at his name, and begin where it hurts. (Your blog titles rarely pun as consistently as mine!)
I am of course joking. Those are all lovely blogs, and I never bought any jeans over the internet.

The list, along with many others who read this site, seem to be confused to who or what the hell I am. To put an end to all the rumors I would like to say once and for all that I am not a fruit bat. I am, in fact, a human being (the confusion with a fruit bat stemming from the fact that I often do lick hawkweed sunflowers for nectar), but am not really a composer. I harbored a desire to be one but have basically scrapped it. I'm 21 years old and an English Major in Minnesota. I am a Sagitarius and like Sugar cookies.

As this picture attests the 47th most popular Classical blogger can attract females, whom many are women:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

January 14, 2006 CE

There are some really beautiful landscapes in the world, but the
human figures in them are poor, and you had not better look at them.
-Arthur Schopenhauer (Parerga and Paralipomena)
mysteries, grandeurs and lurking terrors

Sibelius is a composer so individual that attempting to give an adequate summary of his style and character is impossible. "Finnish nationalism, great symphonist, Finlandia, Valse Triste blah blah blah."
I think the best summary I've seen is this one by James Hepokoski from Grove:

(b Hämeenlinna, 8 Dec 1865; d Järvenpää, 20 Sept 1957). Finnish composer. He was the central figure in creating a Finnish voice in music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His most significant output was orchestral: seven symphonies, one violin concerto, several sets of incidental music and numerous tone poems, often based on incidents taken from the Kalevala, the Finnish-language folk epic. His work is distinguished by startlingly original adaptations of familiar elements: unorthodox treatments of triadic harmony, orchestral colour and musical process and structure. His music evokes a range of characteristic moods and topics, from celebratory nationalism and political struggle to cold despair and separatist isolation; from brooding contemplations of ‘neo-primitive’ musical ideas or slowly transforming sound textures to meditations on the mysteries, grandeurs and occasionally lurking terrors of archetypal folk myths or natural landscapes. A master of symphonic continuity and compressed, ‘logical’ musical structure, he grounded much of his music in his own conception of the Finnish national temperament. Throughout the 20th century Finland regarded him as a national hero and its most renowned artist. Outside Finland, Sibelius's reputation has been volatile, with passionate claims made both by advocates and detractors. The various reactions to his music have provided some of the most ideologically charged moments of 20th-century reception history.

Key points where my italics are added. Sibelius seems to me, like Joyce, a modern mythologist; The hard-drinking, cigar-smoking chanter of the kernel of primal humanity in each of us, in you and I, Boomer Esiason, catcher's mitt-faced B-movie actor Robert Z'Dar.
I think I first understood Sibelius in Northern California, when after a life of cars, skyscrapers and television, found myself in Muir Woods. For a few hours I was the most fervent Neolithic animist pagan. I was frightened by Redwoods and swore that drowsy Pines were whispering to me. I was ready to leave my parents and begin building my tomb of stone slabs and mounds of earth. This was impossible, as my parents wanted to see Napa Valley later the next day.
When I left the woods and was back at the hotel, the Continental Breakfast spoke to me as Tuoni and the overwhelming power of prehistoric Pan-ic that crept through the terseness of the modern utterances all around me was pure Sibelius.

Here's another illuminating paragraph from Hepokowski:

A broader consideration of these later works suggests that their predominant mode of organization is a more thoroughgoing version of the procedure anticipated in such works as Lemminkäinen's Return, the finale of the Third Symphony and the slow movement of the Fourth. Sibelius never gave the procedure a name but, again, it may be called rotational form: varied recyclings of the thematic pattern established in the piece's first rotation. Rotational form produces cumulative meditations – recurrent revisitings of past cycles, transforming and gathering new ideas as they proceed – which may or may not be set in tension with the expectations of sonata expositions, developments and/or recapitulations. Sibelius typically coupled rotational form with the principle of teleological genesis: the gradual awakening of a climactic goal-utterance (telos) – the more fully awakened ‘Being’ of nature – near the end of the piece.

This so called awakening of 'Being', or telos, is a feature that I most fully recognize in the opening movement of the Fifth. As always, Sibelius wastes no time in introducing his material, and the whole goddamn 15 minute thing is based on the first couple bars. What follows is nearly nine minutes of quiet, pulsating oscillations of material that are continually waiting release. As the tension builds unbearably it once reaches a quick false-climax in a series of loud, dissonant brass chords. It's an impasse, and the music returns to purgatory. But from here on out, Sibelius builds one of the greatest sustained arches of tension and release I have ever heard; his material begins to gel, and what seemed before to be aimlessly floating atoms of timpani rolls, furious string ostinatos and craggy wind vociferations are gathered under the together under a flowing and and entreating cello melody that gradually turns fervid and persuasive. A long crescendo calls up the aforementioned loud, dissonant brass chords that on their most crushing dissonance have become the gateway out of purgatory. Here he changes the tonality entirely to make the final chord of the brass the shift in color from dark to light. What was the most dissonant chord thought possible has now become the most euphonious one. Telos.
Sibelius' use of the rotational form and telos are fertile grounds for such drama to take place but musically and abstractly it is nothing but ruthless in its concision. Sibelius allows no unnecessary note, no budge from the architecture. To be able to make such seemingly free and interesting music, music that absolutely has no precursor in such a way is not only the work of a genius, it is the work of a rarefied one.* The forests are full of spirits and gods and mystery, but the forests are full of plants and trees and animals of enormously complex and cohesive structures, leaves, stems, rings, wood, bones, skin, blood, skeletons.

The best performance of it I have heard of this movement is still Colin Davis' with the Boston Symphony. It is difficult to communicate its effect. It's certainly powerful, but my purple prose over-romanticizes it. The famous Sibelius 'coldness' is everywhere and even the releases are a little icy and gnomic. It's like a long, Finnish orgasm.

*Sibelius is a composer who's individuality often makes me laugh for its sheer peculiarity. To end the Allegro moderato of the Fourth like he does is not just strange it is hubris. It's also awfully effective and haunting, as all his best music is.

Jeff's Lament

Take note, Sting. If you are a 'Pop' singer wanting to sing some 'Classical' study Jeff Buckley's rendition of Purcell's Dido's Lament. Ridiculously good voice and range. Dead now, of course. Poor guy.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tears of a Clownsilly's Profiles in American Academia

Gary R. Wilson
(pictured) is an Assistant Professor in the Cultural Studies department at New York University. His research interests include The "Classical" Music Tradition, Psycho-Analysis, Semiotics, Queer Theory and Marxist Post-Colonialism. He wrote his dissertation, Self Hating Jew: Anti-Semitism in the writing for E-flat clarinet in Mahler's Symphonies and Song Cycles, and is currently writing several papers on the Ringtone industry, including "And I need your light...": Post-colonilaity, Desire and Play in Madonna's "Lucky Star" Ringtone.
He teaches several upper-level courses in the department. After the cancellation of 80 year old Professor Jacob Weinstein's Music Theory course following his fatal heart-attack, Robin had the class removed from the Music Requirements in hope of a Theory of music that, according to Wilson, "takes into account the Heteronormativity and play of signs not inherent in fugue and canon". Wilson has created a new Music Theory class with does away with "racists and homophobes" such as Bach and Palestrina, and focuses on current popular music.
He also teaches a composition course which has caused much criticism from collegues in the Department of Music. Critics point out that Wilson does not even hold a degree in Music nor any experience in composition, and in addition cite the recent conflict that erupted when Wilson failed a student for using ostinatos in a single-movement String Quartet. Wilson explained: "Antonio Gramsci once wrote that the Ostinato, a repeated musical figure often in the bass and common to the music of Stravinsky and Bartok, is a Dialectic smokebomb, and he was right.Ostinatos are a discourse of hatred, the repetitious marching of jackboots. Ostinatos lead to the Holocaust."
Whatever the controversy, Wilson has won out and has been elected chair of the Music Department, in addition to Assistant Professor in CS. He begins in the Fall of 2007 with a class on "Post-Lyotardist Hegemonic paradigms in the work of Tupac Shakur."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Greatest Songs of All-Time (YouTube YouTube YouTube)

Earth Wind & Fire-"September"

I've listened to basically nothing but this band the last few days. Since I couldn't find "Reasons" or "Can't Hide Love" (other than this adorable girl singing it), I will go with this goldness.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Me Meme Me

The great Daniel Wolf tagged me for this meme (his answers here) and I will pleasantly comply as I never met a list I didn't like.

Name (1) a book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies,

-Borges' Collected Fictions (translated by Andrew Hurley). Actually this book is almost 20 dollars new, so I usually just let friends borrow my copy. In fact, someone has my copy right now. I'm cheap, but I think that counts.

(2) a piece of music that changed the way you listen to music,

-Sibelius' Fourth Symphony

(3) a film you can watch again and again without fatigue,

-Hoop Dreams

(4) a performer for whom you suspend of all disbelief,

-Keith Jarrett

(5) a work of art you'd like to live with,

-Dürer's Saint Jerome in his Study

(6) a work of fiction which has penetrated your real life,

-Spinoza's Ethics. Philosophy to me is a form of fiction. I don't mean this in any metaphysical or nihilistic way, but Spinoza is near and dear to me and I get as much philosophical meaning from a highly structured and abstract philosophical text that I do from any great art.

(7) a punch line that always makes you laugh.

-"Don't bother Jesus with that shit."

Forward this to three people.

-Hey you three, do this thing.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

For the New Year

2007, What the hell. Let's start this bitch off right! Here's Karajan conducting Beethoven's Ninth. I didn't watch the whole thing, and the camera angles annoy me, as well as the obligatory shots of Karajan doing the whole eyes closed intensity thing; my theory has always been that he was usually just rapt in deciding on the next Rolls Royce he was going to buy. Either way, Enjoy!: