Monthly Archives: November 2012
While orchestras are making changes to keep up with the times, composer Max Richter has revisited one of Vivaldi’s most beloved compositions, The Four Seasons. Richter re-composed the piece and tells NPR about the process:
“As a child, I fell in love with it. It’s beautiful, charming music with a great melody and wonderful colors. Then, later on, as I became more musically aware – literate, studied music and listened to a lot of music – I found it more difficult to love it. We hear it everywhere – when you’re on hold, you hear it in the shopping center, in advertising; it’s everywhere. For me, the record and the project are trying to reclaim the piece, to fall in love with it again.”
I understand Richter’s struggle to continue to enjoy the famous classical works when they are constantly overused. And this phenomenon does not just occur with classical music. Take the song “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. When the song came out, everyone loved it. A few weeks later it was on the radio every fifth song and it was the last song we wanted to hear.
Whether it’s a dubstep remix or a classical re-composition, I always enjoy a new twist on an old theme. I particularly enjoyed Richter’s “Summer,” and even found the music more exciting than the original. Richter’s version starts with the main minor theme that Vivaldi doesn’t introduce until a minute in. Richter begins with full instrumentation and repeats the theme, which gives it a driving intensity. Even with rearranging the order of the piece and varying instrumentation, Richter never loses sight of Vivaldi’s message, which makes the piece quite fascinating.
“What you hope to do is reverse the perception that you’ve been struggling at death’s door. You have to change to a perception that this is a happening place to be.” -Jesse Rosen, League of American Orchestras
Back in September I posted about the troubling financial status of many major orchestras around the country. Since then, there has been little improvement. In fact, Washington’s Spokane Symphony Orchestra’s musicians have gone on strike and the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra canceled all concerts through the end of 2012.
However, two organizations have taken an active stance to change perceptions around performing arts. In doing this, they’ve adopted new business practices, thinking like a corporation while preserving their non-profit values.
Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
This newly formed group is an excellent example of streamlining overhead costs to produce higher quality performances. Dayton Ohio was one home to the Dayton Philharmonic, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Ballet. Now all three organizations operate under one roof.
The merger has led to a necessary restructuring. While some positions have been consolidated, each group maintains a separate artistic director to ensure the preservation of the separate art forms. However, the three entities work together to plan rehearsals and performances so that none conflict. This not only encourages patrons to attend more shows, but it also gives more work to the musicians.
The orchestra members now perform in scheduled orchestra concerts and contribute to the ballet. Dayton orchestra conductor and artistic director Neal Gittleman says, “In a time when almost every other orchestra in the country is telling its musicians that ‘We have less work for you,’ we’re actually, this season, able to offer more work to our musicians than we did last year.”
Colorado Symphony Orchestra
The Colorado Symphony faced similar budget deficits as other orchestras and considered the easy solution of simply lowering musician salaries. Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees Jerry Kern stepped in to renegotiate contracts to provide more work for musicians.
Jesse Rosen says, “They identified as revenue sources a number of communities surrounding Denver where the orchestra had never played before, because the venues were too small. Their contract at the time didn’t allow for them to break the orchestra up into smaller groups, so they changed that in the contract so they can play in smaller groups, and now they’ve opened up a new income stream by sending smaller groups into … as many as 25 different kind of satellite communities with smaller venues. And that always is a sign to funders that you merit their support, because your service to community is growing.”
The contract change also allowed them to restructure evening concerts. The symphony can save on cost by reducing the number of pieces next season requiring large groups of musicians. Instead, they will present smaller chamber ensembles of various instrumentation that appeal to different audiences. Overall the number of concerts will not be reduced, benefiting both the musicians and the organization.
Principal tuba player Stephen Dombrowski looks forward to the changes, anticipating that they will make his playing life more interesting. “I actually look at it as more of an investment in the future, more of a response to what the community wants and needs right now.”
This week, I chose the song “Eat It” in honor of Thanksgiving, and the way many feel after Thanksgiving dinner. Weird Al Yankovic is known for his clever spoofs where he pokes fun of artists by changing the lyrics to popular songs. This one plays off Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” My favorite line is “You better chow down or it’s gonna get cold.” Enjoy those leftovers!
Last year I wrote a post on Veteran’s Day music. This year Strings Music Festival is providing some Veteran’s Day music of our own in conjunction with American Place Theatre’s adaptation of Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried. On Tuesday November 13, actor Billy Lyons and bass player Mark Diamond will bring some of the most poignant war stories to stage.
So what makes a war story?
In the book, O’Brien writes an entire chapter about how to tell a true war story.
“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”
The book is written in the first person from the viewpoint of Tim. A Vietnam veteran himself, O’Brien draws from his own personal experience, but makes it very clear that the book is a novel and not a memoir, autobiography, or other work of non-fiction. None of the characters were real. None of the events happened.
Yet it could have happened. The stories are detailed to the point of belief, written to evoke raw emotions. It’s not uplifting. It’s awful in the most gruesome sense of the word. The story becomes real, not in the sense of true and absolute facts as in names, dates, places, and times, but in the idea of war. We understand death and destruction. We know the waste and the absolute futility of it all. The details make the broad concept of war a reality to those who have never experienced it first hand.
“You can tell a true war story by the way it never seems to end. Not then, not ever.”
The book is a constant commentary of endless stories. One story seems to have a definitive ending. But a few chapters later, the narrative unexpectedly doubles back and adds more details. The stream of consciousness reminds the reader that any average, every day event might trigger a specific memory of a war veteran.
On the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, while we are still in the midst of the Iraq war, it is fitting on this day of commemoration to honor our veterans by stepping into their shoes. The Things They Carried helps us understand and relate to our loved ones who have served across seas. While America may have declared the war over, for the veterans it never seems to end.
The Things They Carried Events
November 12, 6:30pm Library Hall: Interactive drama-in-education discussion of The Things They Carried with seasoned theatre professionals from The American Place Theatre. FREE
November 13, 6:30pm Strings Music Pavilion: A 90-minute theatrical presentation with pre and post show discussions.
Today the newest James Bond movie Skyfall hits the cinemas. Along with the infamous Bond girls, another trademark of the popular film series is the theme song and accompanying introduction graphics. This newest film features Adele who made it to the top of my 2011 female artist list. The music video was released a month ago and after Adele’s success at the Grammy’s the world was anxious for a taste of her next album.
Adele weaves the 007 theme music into Skyfall, managing to retain her musical style while checking all the boxes for a James Bond title songtrack. This song is noticeably darker than some of her others, but the raw emotional content which has brought her so many fans is unchanged. We also get a glimpse of Adele’s new clear voice, which is a result of a new vocal technique to avoid future vocal cord surgeries.