Music Marketing Madness!

Music Nerd Andy, who keep tabs on the classical scene in St. Louis and environs, passed along an offer from his home team, the St. Louis Symphony, along with this comment:

Why can we sell Mahler tickets at a fraction of retail cost? Because we’re CRAAAAAAZY!!!!!

(I’m sorry to say that this offer went out yesterday, and thus is no longer valid! My apologies to St. Louis area readers! I encourage you to go to the symphony anyway, if you possibly can, whether it’s to hear Mahler, Mussorgsky, or Idina Menzel.)

I have mixed feelings about this kind of marketing in the context of classical music. I know that presenting organizations have to do what they can to attract and retain audiences, and I’m all for coming up with light-hearted and engaging marketing campaigns as an essential part of that. But when you start stealing from your local car dealership’s playbook, it might be time to brew a cup of tea and do a little soul-searching. We have a stodgy, uptight reputation to uphold, after all!

I don’t mean to pick on St. Louis exclusively, of course. For a while now, I’ve felt that every time a music organization employs a cutesy tag line like “Too Hot To Handel” or “Go for Baroque,” they should have to pay a fine, with the proceeds going toward music education in the public schools or something. What’s that you say? Respectable and successful musicians are using those very phrases with impunity? Well, alrighty then – more power to ’em!

Anyway, I’m hardly one to talk. I think I feel an inspiration coming on… I’ve got it: Monster Truck Opera! The curtain opens, a baritone steps onto the stage and sings, “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

In all seriousness – well, almost all –  I must give a tip of the nerd glasses to the SLSO’s publicity genies for including a “More Cowbell!” reference in the campaign, along with this tasty tidbit of music history:

Did you know that preceding Christopher Walken & Will Farrell’s hilarious “More Cowbell” skit on Saturday Night Live, Mahler specifically scored music for the cowbell in his Sixth Symphony to evoke the pastoral imagery of the Alps?

It’s true, you know… and it’s a bit I wish I’d thought of myself!

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Miss Music Nerd is Alive and Well…

…and living in Detroit! Which looks kinda like this right about now:

Detroit Institute of Arts, December 2008
diasnow

Anyhoo, Greetings and Happy 2009, Music Nerds everywhere!

I must apologize for my somewhat extended absence from blogotopia. Have you ever been sucked into the vortex of the holidays and spit out the other side, not really knowing which way was up? That’s kind of how it was for me. In a good way, though — McDoc and I had a lovely holiday — he was even able to get Christmas Day off from work!

Also, I’ve been in an oddly un-verbal frame of mind lately, which is a very unusual state of affairs for me. It might be a result of my foray into the visual arts during the pre-holiday run-up. At any rate, it’s about time to type my way out of it, don’t you think?

As I pondered what to write about in the New Year, I continued to get some visual ideas, though. I was thinking about the unspoken rules of writing about music, and how much fun it is to break them. 😛 In particular, I’ve come across a paradoxical pair of patterns during the course of my musical travels:

  • When you express a strongly critical opinion about a particular piece/genre/composer/etc. you’ll often encounter hyperbolically indignant pushback from those who don’t hear things exactly as you do,

How-some-ever,

  • When you express uncritical, ecstatic, joyful, childlike enthusiasm for a particular musical item, you’ll often be labeled a vapid, milquetoast-y intellectual featherweight, or something to that effect.

I mean, it seems at times like you just can’t win! What’s a passionately opinionated music nerd to do?

Why, wear your passionate opinions like the hard-won badges of honor they are, that’s what! 😀

To that end, and to provide a convenient way for readers to know which wrong side of the bed I happened to get up on on any given day, I’ve created some helpful graphics:

miss-music-curmudgeon

This graphic will alert you that I am about to pop the top on a king-size can of whup-a$$ on what I consider to be a musical travesty of some sort. You may or may not find my smackdown convincing, and you don’t have to agree with me, but don’t expect to be able to change my mind. If I go to the trouble of getting my grouch on, you can rest assured that, my high spirits notwithstanding, I’ve thought it through enough to be quite firm in my stand. Remember, too, that I have my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek most of the time, and if I ever give offense, it’s not deliberate.

On the other end of the spectrum:

miss-music-nerdvana

This graphic will let you know that my world is being thoroughly rocked by a musical gem that I’ve stumbled across, and I’m not ashamed to be all drippy about it. Anyone who might be tempted to rain on my parade is invited to reflect upon the Golden Rule.

I haven’t yet created a graphic for the Middle Path, wherein I show admirable balance and restraint. It’ll happen, I’m sure. Won’t be nearly as much fun, though! 😛

McDoc’s Awesome Birthday Score!

McDoc did good. This morning he presented me with this book, which I hadn’t heard of, but which was actually written, it appears, especially for me.

I mean, it’s a nerdy book about Elvis Costello. Cha-ching! 🙂

The smart money says that I’ll be post more about this as I read it!

Mahler’s 9th, part 3: Getting Gotten

NaBloPoMo Day 22!

You know, I have a confession to make: I thought it would be pretty easy to capture my experience of hearing Mahler’s 9th last Sunday; after all, it hit me like a velvet anvil — something you don’t soon forget! And I didn’t expect my review to become a series — I thought I’d come right home and spill it all in a single spasm of manic elation. But I underestimated the task I had laid out for myself, and what it would take for me to feel I’d done the thing justice.

First of all, it’s the kind of experience that just takes a little time to digest; it’s kind of like you ate the elephant all at once rather than in the recommended way. Second, I got caught up in the back story, which I felt was pretty important, and that delayed getting to the music itself. (It’s hard to know exactly how much background you need to give in order to keep up the appearance of being a Responsible Music Scholar. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about things like that! 😉 ) Third, I really wanted to look at the score while I listened to my CD, and the gods of library logistics decided to toy with me briefly before they allowed me get my hands on the dang thing.

Fourth, I just plain think too much. 😛

So what I now realize is that I would really like to spend weeks on end combing through it, analyzing it, playing bits of it on the piano, and just generally sinking into it like a giant vat of dark chocolate pudding. But I don’t know if y’all would bear with me through all that (if I’m wrong, lemme know!), and anyway, I have a few other things competing for my attention right about now (don’t we all? 😉 ).

Perhaps at some point I’ll work up some kind of detailed analysis that proceeds at a leisurely pace. For now, I’ll simply give my impressions and fleeting thoughts and goofy observations, without attempting to be responsible for all aspects of the piece, including the structure of each movement or the quotations from other works that appear. That info is widely available here on the ‘tubes or in CD liner notes (you should own a recording of this — really, you should), so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Also, this isn’t a proper review in that I’m not really going to critique the performance, except to comment on a couple funny things the conductor did, but that’s fair game, right? I mean, the DSO rocks; ’nuff said.

So here are some things that struck me, blissed out and slightly hypoglycemic as I was. 😉

I started to mention before how Mahler makes the most of every section of the orchestra. And one thing I especially love is when what are called the auxiliary woodwind instruments are given a real workout. Piccolo, English horn, E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet, and — growlingly last, but not least — contrabassoon. All heard prominently, not just used as orchestrational icing. Some of them have enough to do that they don’t double on their respective “regular” instrument, as is often the case: the piccolo player plays piccolo the whole time.

And of course there are several beautiful solos from this group of instruments, but I have just two thoughts for the moment: 1) You don’t hear too many contrabassoon solos — it’s more often used to reinforce the bassline — and as I said yesterday, it’s frickin’ cool! and 2) E-flat clarinet kinda sounds like a regular clarinet after inhaling helium. 😀

Yesterday I mentioned Mahler’s use of short motives and sparse textures, in contrast with his usual soaring lines and rich orchestrations. The second movement doesn’t do the sparse thing so much — it sets forth its waltz and Ländler themes with the continuity and fullness you’d expect. And I was surprised when I noticed that, in contrast to my absolutely rapt attention during the small-building-block passages, I kind of checked out once a straightforward theme got going. I felt like we were covering familiar ground — no need to be so vigilant. Of course, my complacency was misplaced, as Mahler never stays easy or conventional for long.

Oh, that reminds me, here’s funny conductor comment #1: there were a couple of places where a quiet moment gave way to a bright beginning, and when the conductor gave his upbeat to the new section — conducting the louder dynamic as well as beating time — I could hear him inhale, even all the way up in the balcony. This is what I call a “sniff upbeat” — it happens quite often in chamber music, especially when the parts are very syncopated and the players are working hard to fit them together precisely — they sniff the upbeats together to get the downbeats just right! 😀

I’m not knocking the dance-like sections, please understand. I took notes as I sat there in the dark (I’m pretty good at writing without being able to see 🙂 ), and all I wrote about the 3rd movement was: “Rock ‘n’ roll!” 😉

But lest we get too comfortable, this piece features a higher degree of dissonance than Mahler’s other works — he seems to have gotten the memo that tonality was scheduled to dissolve at some unspecified point during that decade. One device he uses several times is to have one chord still sustaining while another, perhaps harmonically distant, chord comes in. The two chords remain recognizable, but the way they combine definitely pushes the envelope, even for late, late Romanticism in all its decadent glory. 😉

Another standard Mahler trick, which I don’t mean to disparage in any way by calling “standard,” is a particular kind of crescendo-to-subito piano progression. The music builds and builds, with one of his patented unwinding melodies, and just when you get to the place where you expect the really big, loud chord, you get a suddenly soft, suspended, sometimes crystalline resolution. It’s like riding a wave from its smallest beginnings, staying with it as it builds and builds and — instead of crashing down with it on the shore, being gently deposited into heaven, the wave having evaporated into a cloud.

At one point it occurred to me that there might exist, in some dank and dour precinct somewhere, an uptight meanie who might want to argue that Mahler’s music is maudlin. And I wondered if I needed to worry about that, or be embarrassed about shamelessly luxuriating in it, in case that meanie were right.

After careful consideration, I concluded that I just don’t care. 😛

A few years ago, I participated in a wonderful 2-week workshop for music theater artists. There were five composers, five lyricists, and five actor/singers. We were grouped together in varying configurations to create new works — I wrote five songs in 10 days! It was crazy, but the results were amazing.

I had a little trouble adjusting, though, because I was still in coursework at UCSD, where the kind of heart-on-your-sleeve sincerity that music theater really demands is, let’s just say, unfashionable. I had to reorient myself to writing tonal music, too, since I had been steeped in modernism for several years by that point. I was afraid that if I wrote down a C-major triad, I would go to hell. 😛 A few other participants in the program were similarly warped, so we helped each other out. By the end of it all, we had adopted this motto:

Dare to be Corny!”

Sometimes you’ve just gotta give yourself permission. 😉

So I’m not going to be embarrassed by how this music gets me. I know that there are certain pieces of music that will evoke their desired emotional response in me even after repeated listenings, even when I know what’s coming. “Sucker!” I think to myself. But, again — don’t care!

(This kind of thing started, for me, with Chopin, way back in my pre-teen piano lesson days. I think now that Chopin is like a gateway drug. One hit of that, and you’ll be snorting Bruckner and Mahler before you know it! Kids, say no to drugs! 😉 )

I’ll wind this down with funny conductor moment #2. The end of the last movement is a long, gradual fadeout — not the kind you’d find on an old pop record, where the chorus just repeats into oblivion for lack of anything better to do, but a sweet and poignant dying away that keeps you in the palm of its hand and on the edge of your seat until it’s done with you. As the final sustained notes finally died away, the conductor held his last pose for a noticeably long time, and the audience waited — I swear I wasn’t the only one holding my breath — for the ending to really sink in and resonate, for the prickling on the back of our necks to run its course — before he “put the piece down.”

It was so different from what you’d expect from the end of a great symphony — the traditional way involves triumphant chords that put several exclamation points on the conclusion of our heroic journey, and the conductor’s final decisive downbeat lets the audience know exactly when to start with the “Bravo!”s. This ending was no less powerful. In that moment of suspension, the audience was no less elated for being silent. And when the conductor finally signaled it was time, the ovation was just as roaring. In fact, the conductor was brought back to the stage three times, which was good because he needed plenty of chances to acknowledge all those soloists! 😉

It’s uncanny that that image from American Beauty came up for me, as I mentioned yesterday. Because I think the end of the monologue that narrates that magical dancing-bag shot perfectly sums up the whole of Mahler’s music, from the tragic to the triumphant to the transcendent:

Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”

It gets me every time.

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    Criticism: Possible Antidotes… and That’s Enough for Now!

    NaBloPoMo Day 16!

    At the end of the third installment in my series of reflections on criticism in musical academia, I left you with a quote from Shakespeare’s Sonnet LXV:

    How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea?”

    I came across this quote the other day in a post about musical responses to great tragedies: “Requiems,” by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker.

    Ross’ understanding of Shakespeare’s question (which, as he mentions, Wallace Stevens cited while writing about World War II) concerns the light-in-the-darkness function that musicians serve in the face of horrific events:

    How, in other words, can artists respond to news that exceeds their most extravagant nightmares?”

    Happily, we can, and do, respond in many ways, some of which he describes: impromptu group singing on the streets of New York in the dark days after both September 11th and the sinking of the Lusitania. Concerts organized in record time to comfort and commemorate. Music as a means to express what people are feeling when they aren’t sure how to express it themselves.

    Ooh, I said a dirty word. Did you miss it? I said “express.” Why is that dirty, you ask? Well, by way of an answer, here’s one more war story from the grad school trenches before I put that topic down for awhile. In certain music-academic circles, it’s considered rather uncouth to talk about music as a “language” that can “express” anything. A discussion about this came up one of my graduate seminars, and the points were made that music doesn’t have syntax as verbal language does; it doesn’t have the same precise powers of description and representation. Therefore, the typical associations we have with it must be culturally constructed.

    Perhaps Igor Stravinsky started it in his 1936 autobiography, by provocatively and infamously stating:

    Music is… essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of nature, etc. If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality. It is simply an additional attribute which, by tacit and inveterate agreement, we have lent it, thrust upon it, as a label, a convention.

    That quote perfectly encapsulates what bothered me about the seminar discussion: the general consensus (at least among those who were speaking up) that the idea of music as a language was quaint and slightly pitiable, since “everyone” knows it really isn’t. Now, there is a subdiscipline of musical scholarship known as music cognition — an interdisciplinary field actually, since it applies methodologies from other fields, such as neuroscience, philosophy, and linguistics, to the study of music. In simpler terms, it addresses what happens in our brains when we’re involved in musical activities.

    And that’s a rich and fascinating field of study, and if I can find the time to catch myself up on some current work in the field, I might be able to report on how it can provide some insight into why music is so powerful for so many of us.

    However. Around the same time as this seminar discussion, I was performing as part of the UCSD Music Library’s‘s outreach program run by my friend Scott Paulson. He and I performed together as the Geisel Library Toy Piano Duo. I played the toy piano — there are many models of toy pianos out there, but the best ones, in my opinion, are the miniature baby grands that will forever conjure in my mind images of Schroeder from Peanuts — and Scott played a variety of full-size, miniature, and novelty instruments, including baritone sax, concertina, nose whistle, and — regular readers may have already guessed — theremin.

    We toured Southern California, performing at libraries, schools, and anywhere else we were asked. Our audiences often consisted of kids, but the adults in attendance seemed to dig us the most. One of our best numbers was an arrangement of “The Swan” from Saint-SaënsCarnival of the Animals, for toy piano and English horn. It was a bit preposterous, me playing the accompaniment to this soaring melody on a tiny piano, seated on a tiny bench on the floor.

    But the thing is, when we played it, people cried. They cried. Now, you can sit around a seminar table all you want, talking about music-as-not-a-language and sniffing at the culturally constructed meanings we learn to associate with it. Come to think of it, it’s not clear to me why cultural constructs are devalued — isn’t that the job of culture, to create and curate the shared meaning of a group? Does that make it less real? Maybe in the lab, but not where the rubber meets the road, in front of an audience.

    So, Stravinsky notwithstanding (great as his music is, he was a bit of a B.S. artist in his words — syntax only takes you so far), when it comes to how music functions for a listener, I think I’ll apply what one of my blogging acquaintances describes as the birders’ rule: “If there is a discrepancy between the book and the bird, believe the bird.”

    As a corollary to Alex Ross’ explication of the Shakespeare quotation I began with, I would add another, more workaday sense: along with helping us cope with extraordinary tragedy, music can also serve as a noble antidote to the petty, grasping, contentious side of human nature that can wear us down bit by bit, like the death of a thousand cuts. I think it’s ironic that when we study music at the highest levels, we seem to become desensitized to the power of its beauty, as we focus so narrowly on our quest to be right about it. We humans certainly have a knack for getting our priorities screwed up! 😛

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    Criticism: It Sucks! (part the third)

    NaBloPoMo Day 13!

    I left off yesterday discussing my utopian vision for a better world. 😉 Or, at least my fervent hope that human interaction isn’t by definition doomed to devolve into nitpicking one-upmanship, and that we just might be capable of more. I have just a few more thoughts on the topic for now.

    If we want to keep from endlessly reenacting primal dominance rituals, first we need to be aware that that’s part of what’s going on. A few handy terms might be helpful in that regard.

    I mentioned the zero sum game before, and I mention it again because a) it’s a particular pet peeve of mine and 2) it dovetails nicely with another concept I want to mention.

    I participate in a few different online discussion sites, where impolite topics like politics and religion are discussed. Time and time again, I’ve seen someone identify a certain idea/cause/topic/issue as something important, and, as reliably as a Swiss train, someone else will pop up and say, “Yeah, but what about this other idea/cause/topic/issue, huh? Why don’t you care about THAT?” Here’s a silly example: Let’s say I decide to volunteer in a soup kitchen, and I see that good things are being done there and I want to spread the word about it, so I start talking about it, and my enthusiasm for it is so great that somebody else can’t stand that so much energy might be going to something outside their control, so they get all huffy and say, “That’s just great, but what are you doing to pressure the auto industry to increase fuel efficiency in cars? Nothing? Just as I thought! You don’t caaaaare!” 😥

    Of course, I DO care about fuel efficiency, and even if I didn’t, that shouldn’t stop my hypothetical compadre from working on the issue. Hunger and fuel economy aren’t engaged in a chess match.

    But I see people acting as if life were a zero sum game quite often, and I think it’s related to what’s called a scarcity mentality. If you’re wondering, by the way, what any of this has to do with music, here we go:

    Another fun activity you get to do in grad school is go to lectures by visiting scholars. The quality of these events varies widely. Sometimes they’re life-changingly great. Sometimes they make me think there must’ve been an epidemic of severe insomnia in the academic world at some point, and these events were devised as part of the treatment plan. One type that comes to mind at the moment is the successful-yet-curmudgeonly éminence grise who comes to share his (or possibly her, but mostly his, in my experience) wisdom with the assembled students, but also to inform us that the field of music is deteriorating, the resources and support for it are drying up, and it’s only gonna get worse. Fantastic news to those of us who have decided to throw ourselves into years of advanced musical training, while those of our friends from undergrad who aren’t masochistic lunatics are out in the working world, contributing the maximum in matchable funds to their 401k plans.

    It’s bollocks, of course. The death of classical music has been reported on repeatedly during the past 100 years or more. (Here’s an in-depth article on the topic by another of my former professors. Aren’t I just the little name-dropper? 😉 ) If classical music took on human form, it would quote Mark Twain. And I find it hard to understand why folks who’ve had long careers, who have found success, would cling to such a “glass half-full — of poison” mentality.

    Or maybe it’s not hard to understand. Maybe they feel the need to defend their slice of the pie from a horde of young upstarts in fashionably-tattered clothing. “I’ve got mine — back off, sonny!” 🙄

    As an aside, I’d like to say something that’s really pretty obvious: these human dynamics I’m talking about are by no means confined to the music world, or to academia. They just take on a particularly high tone there, is all. But since I mentioned online forums, I’d just like to take this moment to say that examples of the “you’ve gotta be wrong so I can be right” dynamic can be found in these virtual communities in almost embarrassing abundance. At one point I had the urge to post an expository essay on the cerulean tint of the celestial regions as seen from the earth during daylight hours, just to see what the opposing arguments would be, and how short a time it would take for them to appear. ‘Twould be worth making popcorn for, I think.

    But at least I could expect some intelligent thought on the subject if I posted in the right place. Sadly, you don’t have to look very far to find rampant idiocy infesting this wonderful series of tubes we call the internets. I mean, I guess it was a good idea to start adding comments sections to every online newspaper and website and youtube video; it’s democracy, right? Free speech! I’m all for it! But do you ever read any of that stuff? I do sometimes, and it’s like spelunking through the underground river of toxic ectoplasm that was discovered to be the source of rudeness among New Yorkers in Ghostbusters II. Every once in awhile you’ll find something insightful, or cleverly funny — as opposed to unintentionally funny. You can sometimes find kernels of corn in cow patties, too, but why would you want to do that kind of search?

    [Note: I know that the above analysis only applies to some sectors of the internet, not all. And I encourage you to comment here, as I know that this particular corner of cyberspace would never descend to that level! 🙂 ]

    When I get fed up with the dark, slimy side of human nature, I tend to ask, along with my buddy Bill,

    How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea?”

    I’ll tackle that in the (blessed!) conclusion to this series! 😀

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    Criticism: It Sucks! (part 2)

    NaBloPoMo Day 12!

    Meeemmmm’ries! 😉

    When I was a fresh-faced, eager young grad student in the first term of my Ph.D. composition program, I took a seminar in the Critical Studies division of my university’s music department. (That’s an updated term for an updated type of musicology, btw.) Even though I wasn’t a musicologist myself, I always believed in being well-rounded and intellectually stimulated. Besides, the seminar topic concerned drawing connections between critical theory and one’s own creative identity, so it seemed to have a practically applicable side for a composer. The reading was tough — I was not accustomed to the writing style prevalent in the field of critical theory — but I knew that the professor was brilliant, not to mention my fellow students, and I enthusiastically looked forward to learning from them.

    Sadly, a rather toxic dynamic developed around the seminar table. Many of the students were already fairly widely-read in the discipline — great, right? maybe they could decipher some of those paragraph-long, syllable-larded sentences that worked so well at curing insomnia in us newbies — the problem was, they weren’t interested so much in illuminating the material itself as they were in making it crystal clear at every class meeting that they knew much more about it than you did. Yes, you. And you, and you, and you over there, too. And woe unto any of you should your opinion differ from that of these budding schoolyard bullies scholars. Some of the lowest points in the course occurred when the critical theory component of the course topic (relatively objective) got its signals crossed with the creative identity part (relatively subjective), resulting in fruitless, apples-to-giraffes pseudo-debates. Only marginally better were moments when the more subjectively-inclined among us shared some meaningful experience formative to our creative identities, to which the response was a resounding

    *crickets*

    So I’m sorry to say that I didn’t learn a whole lot in the course; it’s awfully difficult to learn anything new when so much of your mental energy is devoted to maintaining the illusion that you already know everything. A friend and I instituted a ritual of repairing to a café after each class meeting to process, vent and detox from the latest dysfunctional spectacle, while during the class meetings themselves, we sat in the back snickering and throwing spitballs (well, not really, but we wanted to SO BAD!
    😛 ).

    A few more incidents from the Academic Discourse Hall of Shame:

    • During a discussion of the influence of jazz on film music in a film-scoring class, I watched 2 students bicker (for a minute or two but it felt like an eternity) over the exact release date of Miles Davis‘ seminal record Birth of the Cool — this was in the days before most anyone in the room could have looked up the date by accessing the internet with their cell phone. At the time, I was too shy to say, “Why don’t you take it outside, guys?” so I just sat by rolling my eyes so hard I nearly hurt myself. (For those of you keeping score at home, the release date is June 1950. Don’t say you didn’t learn anything here today! :P)
    • Early in the term during a music history seminar, my fellow students and I took turns presenting ideas-in-progress for research topics. I talked about my interest in settings of the Requiem Mass, particularly the Dies Irae section, and I expressed curiosity about whether the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of various Requiem composers influenced how they set the text. LORD AND HOWDY, my classmates reacted as if I had set up a revival tent and forced them into it with a cattle prod! One smart fella in particular took me to task for failing to apply the Scientific Method to my analysis of the music. At the next class meeting, another joker presented me with a religious tract of the sort that anyone who hangs out on a university campus is liable to be handed, saying, “Here, I thought you’d like this.” Ha ha, very funny. 😡

    • I had a solo cello piece performed on a student concert, and a fellow grad student (and friend, let me just say) explained to me in a sincere, concerned voice that my piece did not contain its own internal critique. That was the first I’d heard that internal critique was something to aspire to; it comes quite naturally to me in life, but one of the reasons I love composing is that, if I’m doing it right, it gives me a welcome vacation from that whole scene. Intra-musical critique? Thanks, but no thanks. I mean, it’s the sort of thing that can be effective if it arises naturally and isn’t taken too seriously. Nothing wrong with poking fun at oneself. But to earnestly seek it out like some sort of musical mortification of the flesh? Come on, the pay already sucks as it is, let’s not rub it in! 😉

    That reminds me: My composition professor Jorge Liderman once said, “You don’t have to put blood into every note.” Words to live by, I believe!

    Anyway… what’s my point here, other than sour grapes, you might ask?

    Well, as I said the other day, the theme I see running through this is a need to be right, made corrosive by a corresponding need for others to be wrong. This may be a bit of behavioral residue left over from the times when being wrong meant getting eaten by saber-tooth tigers. Here’s a revolutionary idea, though: what if you could just be right, without the sharp chiaroscuro contrast of those around you being wrong? What if everyone could just do their own thing and have it be okay? Yeah, you can say I’m a dreamer. I don’t think I’m the only one. But we humans, funny and sad as we are, go around acting like life is a zero sum game. Who says? What if there doesn’t have to be one loser for every winner? Like the song says, “I want a name when I lose.”

    Heh, and it used to be that name was “Nerd.” Look how far we’ve advanced already! 😀

    Just for the heck of it:

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