Tag Archives: music

18 Strings of Awesome

Last weekend we went to the exhibit Guitars: Roundups to Rockers at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. There isn’t much point to reviewing an exhibit when you see it on the final weekend, but I will say that it was very interesting. It hadn’t been high on my to-do list, but we decided to go at the last-minute. I wish that we had gone earlier so that I could have persuaded more people to attend.

I was fascinated by the beauty and craftsmanship in the earlier guitars. I had no idea that they were so beautiful or that the shape was so varied. This particular guitar, an 18 string “harp guitar”, was made around the turn of the 20th century. I wish that I had heard someone play this. I imagine that it can produce beautiful music.

18 Strings of Awesome

18 Strings of Awesome

Photo taken with iPhone5 and Camera+. Image edited in Photoshop, with two textures by Kim Klassen: Music Lovin’ and Paperstained Music. Linking to Texture Tuesday at Kim Klassen Cafe.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to stop by on Thursday when I will have an announcement regarding a new feature at Four Deer Oak.

Sunday Quote (2012, Week 45) Plato

Music give a soul to the universe
Wings to the mind,
Flight to the imagination,
And life to everything.

~ Plato

Busker, Washington Square Park, NYC

Conducting: Stop Motion

I found this video as interesting insight into what a conductor does — something that is a mystery to me. What beauty in the movements.

From the NY Times: Demystifying Conducting

Of machines and music and realistic rainbow bridges

Early in my relationship with my husband, I learned that he was a big opera fan, one of those people who will quickly call to mind that the word fan is short for fanatic. This, I thought, was just a bit weird. I had been to an opera once, when I was 19, but it was not something that I was familiar with, nor that I thought I would ever like. But, when we finally did go to an opera together, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, I was, unexpectedly, blown away. The beauty of the music, the full sound of an orchestra, the magical sounds of a trained operatic voice, the color, the sets, the costumes: it is visual and aural treat. I was hooked.

But, there was one thing about opera that I swore that I would never do: attend a Ring Cycle. 4 operas? One of them nearly six hours long? Usually done over the course of a week? Are you kidding? I was adamant that I would never agree to do that. I should have known: never say never.

We’ve been attending, whenever possible, the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series since it started a few years ago. I love have access to world-class opera at our local movie theater. And you get popcorn: beats having to wait until you have the resources and opportunities to go to NYC.

In 2010, the Met began a new Ring Cycle, directed by Robert LePage. As soon as my husband found out it was on the HD schedule, he began talking about it. My heels were still dug in deeply. Finally, I relented and agreed to attend Das Rheingold, the first of the four operas. If I don’t like it, I said repeatedly, I will go sit in a coffee shop until it’s over. But, since the first one is “normal” length, I will give it a try. If I don’t like it, I won’t go to the others.

My verdict, given as the house lights were rising: there was too much time (several months) until the second installment was going to be aired!

Today, we attended Gotterdammerung, the last opera in The Ring Cycle. It was beautiful. I’m not one to cry at the opera, and I didn’t during this one, but I was still amazed at how mesmerizingly beautiful the opera was. I understand how those who are weepers can do so at this opera. Those five hours and 50 minutes flew by. My only complaint was that the theater was a bit too cold. We have tickets in May to see the four Ring operas at the Met over a five-day period. Because of a conflict that will prevent us from being in NYC on the 12th, we’ll have to sell tickets to Gotterdammerung. (If you’re interested in them — or better yet, if you have tickets to the May 3rd performance and want to trade for the May 12th performance — send me a message and let’s make a deal.) I am looking forward to seeing what I can of the cycle again in just a few months.

This production at the Met utilizes not only a new set, but new technology that brings that set to life. Weighing over 45 tons (the stage had to be reinforced), it is a series of planks that move and rotate to create different shapes. The singers perform on and in front of these planks, nicknamed “The Machine”. Images are projected on to the Machine as well. In Das Rheingold, The Machine is the Rhine, where the Rheinmaidens live. Interactive technology was used to create air bubbles in the water, based on how loud the singer sang. The louder the voice, the more bubbles were displayed. At the end of the opera, it is the rainbow bridge that leads to Valhalla, the home of the gods. In Die Walkure, The Machine becomes the rock surrounding by fire where Wotan imprisons Brunhilde. At the end of Gotterdammerung, it once again is the Rhine where the Rheinmaidens sing and swim. In each of the operas, the set is integral to creating the world of the operas even though it changes throughout. Although some were critical of the new set (including some very vocal opera fans at the theaters I saw the performances), I thought that the set was an incredible way to use technology to help portray the story. It isn’t used to add technology into opera for technology’s sake; it is technology used as a mechanism of stage craft.

Some may think that the technology used in this Ring Cycle is just a new-fangled way to change a production and may be more comfortable with the traditional sets used in the past. But, if you claim that the music is timeless, you need to be open to the idea of the sets and costumes, as well as the stylistic considerations of the director, conductor and singers, being changeable. Art is meant to be interpreted and in opera, it is both the producer (the artists) and the receiver (the audience) that are involved in interpreting the work. It doesn’t make sense to use the same sets every time a work is done any more than it makes sense to think that you will get the same thing out of a work of art — or an opera — every time that you see it.

If you want to read more about the stage sets, play the videos at this part of the Met’s Ring microsite (warning: the first one doesn’t appear to work) and read about LePage’s ideas and see pictures of the production at his website.

As we were leaving the theatre after seeing Das Rheingold, I overheard a patron say: I loved the singing, but I don’t know about that set. The Rainbow Bridge wasn’t very realistic. My husband and I have laughed about that when we’ve seen the other three Ring operas. The set isn’t realistic, but then, neither is the plot. In fact, that could be said about nearly every opera. But the point of opera is not meant to be a realistic representation. It’s theater. It’s art. It’s about beauty and emotion and human interactions, which means it is about life.

For those of you who are not opera fans, I’d recommend that you shed any preconceived notions about opera and attend one of the Met’s Live in HD performances in the future. The Ring may not be the best introduction, but there are plenty of other operas that are easy to follow and to understand.

“You are someone else, I am still right here”

Been writing about Alzheimer’s and memory. Something that I might post here, or maybe elsewhere.

Meanwhile, listen to this moving cover by Johnny Cash of Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt.

I wear this crown of shit
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

I think this may be the most fitting description of the crazy mixed-up, kaleidoscopic world of broken memories.

A bit of music nostalgia

Not sure how it started, but some random thread of conversation led my husband and I tonight to listen to several Harry Chapin songs on You Tube. Although we didn’t know each other in the 70’s, we each consider the best concert we’ve ever attended to be one’s by Harry Chapin.

Chances are you were singing along towards the end of that clip, weren’t you?

While playing the clips, I found this studio version of Harry’s daughter singing his song I Wonder What Would Happen to This World

Its got a good beat & you can dance to it

Scene: Dick Clark, any day, the mid-60’s through the mid-70’s. You could have found me watching American Bandstand. I would sit in front of the TV, watching teens dance, observing their actions, studying their clothes, listening to the music, hoping to imbibe whatever it was that made one “cool”, something so unobtainable to me that I didn’t even know how to describe it. I suppose it is still that way: like jazz or pornography, you know it when you see it. But I can’t define it.

Rate-a-record was my favorite part of Bandstand. Two selected kids would listen to a record and then rate it. It was the part I was afraid to leave the room during commercial for fear that I would not return in time.

“Its got a good beat and you can dance to it”.

Yet, Rate-A-Record always disappointed on some level because I did not understand the opinions. In seeking “coolness”, I wanted to have the clues so that I too could rate records and know whether they were good or not, if they were worthy of some unknown-to-me, yet still subscribed to, teenage rating system. “It has a beat….”

I never learned to dance.

Sometimes, I think I feel the same way about performances that I attend. Last night, husband and I went to a chamber music concert. T knows far more about music than I would ever care to know. Yet, I enjoy going to hear music performed. After the first piece, he asked me whether I liked it. He went on to comment about how unusual a portion of the piece was for that type of music — let’s just say it was an adagio, or something like that, because it would have made as much sense if he used the word fettucini. My response could only be some equivalent of “It had a beat and …” I nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders.

At intermission, we stopped to talk to a professor I have known since I was 19. Frequently, we see him at this particular concert series, and we often exchange stories of what musical or theatrical events we have seen recently. Since this was the first concert of the season, it was the first time we had seen Bill since we went to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performances in NYC last summer. “What did you think about the plays?” he asked. “I loved them” was my husband’s exuberant reply. But he quickly followed up with this: “But what do I know? I’m not a critic.”

In many ways, his response was much like mine was to him earlier regarding the violinist. But, whereas I simply said that I couldn’t discuss the music using his critical tools, it seemed to me, in retrospect, that he may have been apologizing for not having the equivalent theatrical and literary tools with which to assess. I could be wrong — we did not discuss it afterwards — but today I’m thinking about how often, as an audience member, it is easy to fall into a trap where we either only give the unsupported “I liked it” or we don’t comment at all because our experience seems less meaningful than that of a “real” critic.

How do you rate something if not on some internal continuum ranging from “Hate it” to “Love it”? I’m not talking about critical analysis but rather viewer — or listener — analysis. How do you talk about books, or theatre, or music, or art if it isn’t on how you respond to it?

I had intended to write about the plays I saw in New York last summer, but each time that I began to write, I felt that I couldn’t describe the experience in appropriate terms. I think what was stopping me was that I felt that I needed to do a critique of the performances. And I lacked the vocabulary and the expertise to do that. Besides, of the seven plays I saw, only two of them were not in their closing weeks. What was the point? It wasn’t as if I would be recommending these to someone who might choose to attend.

But maybe the point should be something else. It isn’t like the critics always review things in ways that are meaningful to me as an audience participant. Before we went to the RSC plays, we read several of the reviews. One that stands out was that King Lear was described as being a pretty good Lear for someone who hadn’t seen it before. What does that mean? Would I expect something different if I had seen Lear three or four times? Lear was the one play in the series I didn’t see. I knew when he returned from the theatre, because we had joked about the review, T would say that it was pretty good…for a beginner. The reality was that he still didn’t know what that reviewer had meant, but he did enjoy the performance. Likewise, I enjoyed the four RSC plays that I saw (Romeo & Juliet, As You Like It, The Winter’s Tale, Julius Ceasar), and although I can tell you which was my least favorite was Julius Ceasar and that Romeo was my favorite — even though as a play I like As You Like It better — I don’t know that I can tell you why in any sort of way that isn’t outside of my experience. Maybe I can tell you something more that “Its got a good beat…” but, like any theatrical performance, it would be up to each person who sees it to know whether she can dance to it.

None but ourselves can free our minds

Been thinking about this song for the past few days. One of my favorite versions:

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind … Marcus Garvey, Nova Scotia, 1937

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear of atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say that’s just part of it:
We got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing
This songs of freedom
‘Cause all I ever have –
Redemption songs.
– Bob Marley

And she was… missing enough to feel alright.

Some days I really miss The Talking Heads.

The song portion of the video is only 3:51, but keep watching.

Are there any musicians doing innovative art like this today? Who are the talking heads of this generation? Please let me know.