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Faster, pussycat! Kill the violist!

First of all, if my kittens don’t stop jumping up on the bathroom counter after I have specifically and repeatedly told them no, I’m going to flay them alive and hang them from my balcony. (Dear Humane Society: I am obviously kidding. Please don’t fire me.) Is this what it’s like to have kids? Only, y’know, cuter?

Second of all:

Q. What’s the difference between the first and last desk of a viola section?

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When the night wind howls and the chimney growls

Standard theremin-heavy creepy music is boring. This Halloween, add atmosphere with a classical playlist instead! Well, I mean, you can use horror movie soundtracks if you want, but keep in mind this will make you exactly like ALL your neighbors. Consider these instead.

  1. Toccata and Fugue in d minor, by J. S. Bach (which goes without saying, but dude, did you know that Bach’s authorship has been challenged?)
  2. Carnival of the Animals, VII “Aquarium,” by Camille Saint-Saens (weird Tim Burtonesque quality is fitting as he used it to open The Nightmare Before Christmas)
  3. Funeral March of a Marionette, by Charles Gounod (if Hitchcock used it…)
  4. “The Ghost’s High Noon” from Ruddigore, by Sir Arthur Sullivan (I’m partial to the King’s Singers version)
  5. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Paul Dukas (can’t tell me the opening measures aren’t foreboding)
  6. I. “Gnomus,” from Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussourgsky
  7. “Grim Grinning Ghosts” as performed by the Swingtips BECAUSE I CAN THE HAUNTED MANSION IS LIKE A RIDE-ON MUSICAL SHUT UP

There. That should terrify the local five year olds well enough. Any other suggestions?

Updated to add:

  • Ed Blonski suggests Mussourgky’s Night on Bald Mountain. To which I say: shoulda thought of that one myself.
  • I DID think of this one myself: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Your favorite movements or all of them — seriously haunting stuff.
  • I thought of another DUH one: Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens. Duh.

All Hallow’s Eve Eve

If you want the BSO to serenade you this week, it will happen on October 30 in Frederick OR IT WON’T HAPPEN AT ALL.

11 am at Frederick (I think): Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead. I’ve never read A Series of Unfortunate Events nor do I care to (I’ve had enough of Edith Wharton-style depression, thank you; House of Mirth my tiny foot). However, this is apparently a dead composer mystery intended for kids, and I DID like The Westing Game. Oh, and there’s a costume contest (go as Schroeder!).

8 pm at Frederick: Brahm’s Double Concerto. Beethoven (yay!), Mozart (boooo), and Brahms (meh). Whatever you’re into. But it’s an excellent opportunity to get to know the musical stylings of individual BSO musicians — lots of solos going down here, and concertmaster Jonathan Carney leads. Personally I find him too emotive in a flaily sort of way, but he’s definitely good.

And who knows? Maybe there’ll be candy.

You look like a monkey, and you smell like one too

Ladies and gentlemen, today Ain’t Baroque is one full year old! I’m at a conference this week and my Halloween post is time-sensitive, so I’ve postponed some of the celebratory new stuff till next week. In the meantime, though, run to the store and buy some cake and ice cream and then feast your eyes on these one-year stats:

  • This is Ain’t Baroque’s 304th post.
  • As of this writing, there have been 301 comments.
  • There have been 13,027 hits.
  • The busiest day so far is August 27, 2010, which garnered 1,126 views (mostly due to a rash of StumbleUpon hits for the day’s post).
  • Not surprisingly therefore, the top referrer is StumbleUpon, followed by Twitter and Alpha Inventions.
  • The top search term that leads people here is “funny kittens.” Look, I don’t know. LOL Friday is powerful.
  • The top post, not including the home page, is “Schooled!” Wouldn’t be my top pick, but whatever floats your collective boat.

So in other words, Ain’t Baroque is still a baby. But for starters, nifty, huh?

(But where is the cake? I was told there would be cake. The cake is a lie!)

An exercise in cruelty

This is so mean. I shouldn’t be endorsing this. But it’s just so… wow.

Here, let me make it better: if this is your orchestra, look what laughter you’ve brought to the music community! As Mr. Bennett says in Pride and Prejudice, “What do we live for but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?” Or something like that.

Ride of the Valkitties

Oh, right. It’s Friday.


Uhhhhh… just kidding!

This is posted on the BSO’s web site.

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan to Replace Midori for BSO Concerts,
October 21-23

Due to a sudden back injury, the BSO regrets to announce that violinist Midori has cancelled her upcoming engagement to perform with the BSO in the concerts on October 21-23, 2010. Conductor Gilbert Varga is still scheduled to lead the program.

Midori expressed her regret, โ€œIโ€™m so disappointed to miss the opportunity to play with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Varga! I have strained my back and have been strongly advised against physical exertion at this time. I greatly appreciate the graciousness and understanding of the BSO, and look forward to re-scheduling our collaboration at the earliest opportunity.โ€

In her place, the BSO is pleased to welcome Russian-Armenian violinist Mikhail Simonyan, who will perform his BSO debut. The program will remain unchanged and features Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto.

View this program

So, yeah. This week’s BSO concert is NOT “Midori Plays Shostakovich.” It is, however, still Shostakovich. And Stravinsky’s PETROUCHKA. But that Midori discount post I made a couple weeks ago isn’t so helpful anymore. Apologies. At least it says she wants to reschedule.

My friend Bekah told me that Midori was also supposed to do a master class at Peabody. Wow, I said, that would SUCK if you thought you’d be playing for Midori and it fell through. No, said Bekah, I’d probably be relieved. If I were playing for Midori, I would puke. To which I said, dude, you would be psyched to PUKE for Midori. You’d be like, Midori-sempai, am I puking loud enough? Do you want me to play with the dynamics? Is my puke the right shade of brown? How fast do you want me to puke? How do I add more vibrato without my throat spasming?

I mean, that’s how you’d react, right? I’m not weird.

Crazy violist drivers! Get off the road!

This week’s viola joke is very unofficial, and is informed by last week’s. To recap:

Q. How does a violist make his car go faster?

A. He takes the Dominoโ€™s Pizza sign off the roof.

After posting this joke, I had the below Twitter conversation with a follower. I won’t include the name lest they for some reason be embarrassed, but if you recognize yourself in this and want to broadcast the pride I believe you should rightly feel, drop me a line!

Them: hi, we’re not violists, can you explain the pizza joke? ๐Ÿ™‚ thx

Me: Ah, yes, the inference being that violists can’t support themselves without a second pizza delivery boy job. ๐Ÿ™‚

Them: thanx – we’ve heard financial frustration jokes but we also wondered if it somehow implied violists were slow drivers.

To which I say: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Hee. Hee. Okay. Getting a hold of myself… NOW.

I like to think that they meant it entirely seriously. Indeed, my amusement depends entirely upon it. So again, if you recognize yourself in the above and you meant that last ironically, don’t tell me — it’s too awesome to ruin it now!

(Incidentally, this is my 300th post. My 200th post was also a viola joke. I’m not sure what my 100th post was, but I’m going to pretend it was a viola joke because I abhor breaking perfectly good patterns.)

Open to interpretation

Found this article on Fast Company and thought it was interesting:

Zenph sound has been working on something that may either offend or amaze musical purists. They’re using artificial intelligence to analyze old recordings that may not be of the best quality, and then build up a model of the exact nuances of the musician’s performance. The model then allows the company to actually recreate the performances as if they were played today, and recorded using today’s high-definition technology.

Essentially, the algorithm captures the individuality in the touch, tempo, and emphasis of the performer, and it’s then delivered to a specially designed robot piano as a high-definition MIDI file. The piano then physically drives the keys in accordance to the MIDI file, creating music almost as if the original artist was at the keyboard. Zenph will be taking the robot pianos on tour which, slightly creepily, will allow audiences to listen to live performances of long-dead performers–Rachmaninov, say, or Thelonious Monk.

Okay. We can easily apply this to composers and musicians (often the same person) and spin off into some hotly-debated concept of, say, creating new works by Bartok. But what this brings to mind for me is the difference between classical music and other genres. To cover my bases, I will say this is not always true, but I think you can leave your pitchforks in the barn if I declare that for the most part classical music is not tied to one performer. It may be commissioned by, premiered by, or even the signature piece of an individual musician or ensemble, but if you want to play some fiendishly hard piano piece by Liszt that he wrote so that he himself could whip it out it to show off, you can do that — and no one’s going to call it a “cover.”

Therefore — if we recreate Candide exactly how Bernstein would have played it himself, is it, in fact, more authentic than if the BSO goes and plays it tomorrow the way Marin Alsop thinks it ought to be interpreted? Why or why not? Don’t forget to show your work!