Rubscrubbing Smart Neoclassical : Hindemith, Ives, Stravinsky

I’m fond of Classical Music. It’s a perpetual exploration. Comparing the performances. Reading books. Educating my ears.

Today I chose three examples of “Neoclassicism”, three composers of the XXth Century playing with forms from the past. What can we find in this?

 

Hindemith : Mathis der Maler (Matthias the Painter), composed in 1934, evokes a painter from the 16th Century.

 

Ives, Symphony No 1 was composed in 1898-1902.

 

Stravinsky, Apollon Musagète (Apollo) was composed in 1927-28.

 

All pieces are labelled “Neoclassical”. Hindemith evokes a Painter from the 16th Century. Ives synthesizes ideas from “Late Romanticism” (Dvorak or Schubert). Stravinsky composes a ballet music about… Mythology.

What I love here is… where it rubs, where it scrubs.

  1. Melodies come obviously from past forms, but sometimes there are twists and weird torques, delicate or sudden. Simplicity goes into smokes. Then it restructures itself…
  2. Harmonies are the same. From extreme comfort and predictability to sudden changes or toxicologic strange colors invasions. Then, sit back.
  3. Forms, shapes, frames are from the past, but XXth Century prowls. Again, you feel in a normal world, but you are surprised by unusual and unreliable twists, breaks, complete changes of mood, or rhythm. All this, most of the time, with a well-well-well-sorry-I-couldn’t-refrain-myself way. Then it reframes…

 

Yes, dear reader. Have fun, if you like music. Read the wikis. Try to find the common patterns in these three pieces work. Explore other pieces from the composers, you’ll be surprised.

Light a candle. Appreciate the keen baroque style of Stravinsky, the splendid colored veils of Hindemith, the luxurious sunny racing car Americanity of Ives.

But also, find the pattern, our today’s tool. What is Neoclassical? Can you do it in photography, poetry, in pop-rock?

How will you make it? Study the past? How? How will your modernity invade it? Sudden twists and winks, or slow/imprecise secretions? What can it bring to your work? Ideas or real creativity? What does the audience feel? Are you aware of it?

 

Thanks for reading! Keep cool! Bonne journée !

 

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The Casualness Shades of Orchestras

I’m reading a book about orchestras. I liked the pages explaining how different do great orchestras really sound from one another, that’s interesting.

Try this article : World Greatest Orchestras

Cultural differences made me smile. Some American or German musicians hired by French orchestras were disturbed by our… frenchness. Instrumentalists are chatting before rehearsals, par exemple, ohlalaaaaa…

It’s a matter of shades, though. Italian instrumentalists think we are much more rigorous… Makes sense, no ?

In an American orchestra, everybody is on time, all the musicians did their homework, and nobody talks. Not a word. Riccardo Muti, coming from… Italy, was a bit surprised by this American “engine ready” effectiveness and once said to the orchestra : “You know, you can talk !”.

The author tries to be culturally fair. American or German (among others) orchestras are fast and effective, and French orchestras need more rehearsals to prepare a symphony, for example.

He says that the result is great, clean, and pretty much always the same in the United States. They do the job ! In France, orchestras are less like a perfect car and more like a living surprising entity. They do the job too, and sometimes it’s becoming amazing !

Leonard Bernstein always loves French orchestras for this reason : they follow his craziness if he tries something unusual. And… the author says than French instrumentalists are very quiet and attentive when the chief in Giulini or Haitink. Errrr…

Yes, I can link this arcticle to this other one, about following damn rules

So let’s say we can, but we don’t !

After all, the Eiffel Tower has no function, other than a symbol. The Eiffel Tower is uneffective.

I think that in France we just like to do things slightly improperly. Yesss we can cross the road out of the zebras, if there’s no car around. We really do that ! Ohlalala…

Lever : This lever is called “Obey” and has two ways. If something’s boring in your project, because it’s clean and right on the road, pull it here. Try something French. Add wine too.

Josef Krips, a great conductor, once said something like “With half more discipline, the French orchestra would become the best of the world”. Maybe you need half more discipline, then. Pull the lever there. Thank you America !

Day off with #orchestra #pluriel
Day off with #orchestra #pluriel

What does Manon Lescaut want?

Manon Lescaut is an Italian opera composed by G. Puccini in the 1890s, from a French novel named “L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut“.

Act 1 : Des Grieux is a melancholic student, outside, with friends, in France. A coach arrives, bringing Manon, a young woman on her way to convent (forced by her father), and Géronte, an old man who wants to abduct Manon and live with her in Paris. Des Grieux understands what’s happening, falls in love, and Manon and him escape in Géronte’s coach. Voilà !

Act 2 : Curiously, Manon has already left des Grieux and is living a relatively luxurious life with the old Géronte. Etc… Yes, etc !

There’s a huge, gap, an ellipsis, between Act 1 and 2 : what happened to the young couple ? Why did Manon choose Géronte, quitting her young lover ? Money ? Bore ? Stupidity ?

Pappano on Manon’s Music

As a Puccini lover, I watched many versions of this opera. And I found out something, a question appeared :

What does Manon Lescaut want?

So I began to explore books and the web to find out. Kiri Te Kanawa (with a marvellous Placido Domingo as Des Grieux) is a splendid, crystal innocent Manon. She floats onto what life brings to her, like a little cork on the sea. Elsewhere, Astrid Weber plays an upstart woman, mocking secretly and using Des Grieux as a purpose to escape her fate.

These are two very interesting ways to interpret the character. Because you will fill the blank (ellipsis) in VERY different ways !

From this to that, I saw many ways to put Manon to life. Is she a punk ? A feminist ? An idiot ? Does she choose anything ? What do you think ?

Manon and Des Grieux in Act II

Manon is a blurry character. We often don’t understand her. Her behavior is complex, living, changing all the time : she is a weathercock !

In Act I, she’s a sad, frightened country girl sent off to a convent. In Act II, she’s the consort of a wealthy old man, sarcastic and bored. This activity doesn’t address Act III, where she’s in prison for allegedly stealing from that old man, but Act IV finds her experiencing the consequences: wandering helpless, full of regrets, in a vast American desert.

Yes that’s sad ! Yes She’ll die ! Who was Manon Lescaut ?

Libretto in english

 

Tool : Ah c’est tellement passionnant when you don’t have all the keys. When a single glance can change all the story ! Who’s evil ? You don’t know. What if in your work you didn’t give “all the keys” to the audience ? Chop one or two, just to see…

 

Tool : One of the pleasure of Classical Music is to compare versions. You can have days and days of pleasure.

Dial : Another article is needed : “In Love with a Project”. Soon.

 

 

 

Overwhelmed While Trying No To…

Directing The Rite of String (and performing it, je suppose) is a mess.

ONE : it’s complicated.

TWO : it’s a terrible fantastic TRANCE, at times.

There’s a danger here, for the directors. They must direct ! Some of them finish it like devastated with pleasure. Some others try to control themselves : the audience should be extatic, not the Chef d’Orchestre ! Enfin !

The Fifth Movement of the Symphony N°2 “Resurrection” (I’ve read that it was “the most monumental musical work written up to that point“), by Gustav Mahler, is ending by a glorious use of choir.

I took this example because I watched a DVD of this Symphony, directed by Pierre Boulez, and at the end of the end (say, the 4 last minutes), the choir is building something really too much, and you feel the shivering chill of pleasure all along your delighted skin (hell, I’m french, and I do not know really how to say it).

At this moment, I saw this lady crying (cf picture) in the choir – why, maybe because of the music, but who knows ? – and just after the end, while the audience was applausing like crazy, I saw Boulez (did I imagine it ?) completely overwhelmed by emotion.

Dial : Is holding the flood possible/useful ? What about painters ? What about the best DJs ? Do they dance like fools, or do they focus on the perfection they want to bring to the dancers around him ?

Tool : If you create, try to check your stuff in the next morning. It could hurt. Good to you. Creating pleasure, it’s some work, Chief !

Let’s ask to a French poet :

It is impossible for a poet not to contain within himself a critic. Therefore the reader will not be surprised that I consider the poet as the best of all critics.

Charles Baudelaire

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The Boulez Wall (and how to Jump over it)

Pierre Boulez just died, he was a french conductor of importance and a composer of… let’s say avant-garde music. OK : “He does the crazy music”.

Listen to his …explosante-fixe…  – how do you feel about it ?

Some ideas are thumbtacked into our heads : it’s complicated, trop sophistiqué, ridiculous, random snap. Avant-garde. There’s a wall here, and you don’t want to go further.

But what if you dethumbtack, for once ? What happens when in music we go outside of our comfort zone ?

There’s a wall, let’s call it the Boulez Wall. Stay there, in front of the wall, stay on YouTube. Can you say why you don’t like this music ? Are you able to jump over the wall ? No ? OK, try : just listen to the music, the whole thing. Is that sooo terrible ?

You can try to understand many things in fact. Why you don’t like it, of course, but Also… how it is made (Google is your friend). You can explore also some good old questions sur l’Art : does it have to be pleasant or beautiful, or can it be interesting to analyse, too ? Is there a territory (comfort zone) you could spreadwiden ?

Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…explosante-fixe…

You maybe just have to know that the flutes are linked to an electronic device. Go to minute 29 and wait a few seconds, listen to the veils of sounds….

You will probably have to find your own way to appreciate the music (Close your eyes and see things ? Battle against your incompréhension ? Listen with dreaming distance ? Etc). Voilà !

Dial : Here, it’s about the Comfort Zone Dial. In art or life or work, you can just want to stay in this zone. Good. This is a territory, which has boundaries, les frontières. If you go outside of the zone, are you interested or afraid ? Curious, or bored ?

Lever : Choose something you “think” you don’t like. An author, a genre, une période de l’histoire, a movie director. Play. Insist. Or not.

Dethumbtack – I like this word !

#plastic
#plastic

 

 

Kidults don’t like Bartok

OK I’m french. My english is a frenglish, it’s rusty and wobbly, et voilà. Try me, though. I’ll do my best. I promise. If sometimes it’s too bad, just laugh at me or roll your eyes.

I was born in 1966, so when Star Wars was on the screens, I was ten and my father took me by the hand to watch it. “Use the force, Luke”. J’ai adoré ! As a student, later, I spent nights fighting monsters in Quake or Doom. Harry Potter was not born, dommage. I read Stephen King instead…

Now I’m 49, I knowwww, there’s another Star Wars on the screens. I’ll watch it, I promise. But at the same time, well, I’m obsessed these days by the 4th Symphony of Gustav Mahler (the 2nd movement, In gemächliger Bewegung, which is a strange waltz, is fascinating because the violin sounds like some Dmitri Shostakovich), I read the biography of Goliarda Sapienza (I have to buy The Art of Joy – L’Art de la Joie !), and I watch, these days, an old documentary about the Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

I don’t play video games anymore. I didn’t buy any of the 1587 volumes of Walking Dead. Et puis Puccini m’a beaucoup occupé ces derniers temps, vous savez. I feel a bit alone, though. Bientôt ça va me faire culpabiliser. Genre le mec perché dans sa tour…

All men I meet daily seem to be what we call in France “adulescents“. You could call them adulteens ! They are thirty, forty years old, boring as possible, and their culture is nonexistent. They have teens’ culture instead. Blockbusters, but it’s hard to talk about Antonioni or Welles (“Old movies ? No”). Videogames, but don’t tell them about how funny Greta Garbo is in Ninotchka. Walking Dead comics, but no Bartok, too… disturbing. Or Bruckner, you know (ahhhh, le scherzo de la 9ème et ses pizzicati !). What about Vivian Maier ? Hmm ?

Why not, after all ? Super Mario (run and jump !) is probably more exciting than the Fourth of Mahler, and your Lego box of a Tie Fighter is just a little more expensive than this huge stupid Proust book et ses interminables phrases. Pfff…

“L’absence n’est-elle pas, pour qui aime, la plus certaine, la plus efficace, la plus vivace, la plus indestructible, la plus fidèle des présences ?”

Dial : What if they quit, at times, the surface of teeny things ? What if they stop… reacting on what the mainstream market prepare for them ? Que pourrait apporter une part d’autonomie, soudainement ? Who is the guy who can navigate from Tim Burton or Adèle, to Fanny & Alexander or… Bartok ? Mutant ?

La Culture à réaction, or why “Luxury is Insular”…

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Tout gain s’accompagne d’une perte – Every gain involves loss

OK I’m french. My english is a frenglish, it’s rusty and wobbly, et voilà. Try me, though. I’ll do my best. I promise. If sometimes it’s too bad, just laugh at me or roll you eyes.

Every gain involves loss ?

Ça pourrait être : Economy. Or some Levi Strauss. Or Beckett maybe ?

Peut-être…

When I was a student, I read something about Prokofiev. It was before the Internet, so I walked in the city (the mood of the sky ? See picture below – I remember it), entered the library, found a Deutsch Grammophon CD – Ozawa ! – borrowed it and I brought it home.

I read the booklet, and listened to the 2 CDs for two weeks. Many, many times. I explored it. It was precious ! Of course, as a 20 years old young man, I was moved by the Montagues And Capulets strange modulations zigzagguing music.

What about today ? Que se passe-t-il, aujourd’hui ?

A young female student hears that music in a movie, ohhhh ! She just writes “Prokofiev” in YouTube and get 408.000 results. If she’s smart, she tries the Russian way to write it : “Прокофьев“, to get… 42.100 more movies.

See me coming, don’t you ? The whole thing is just here. But… do we focus the same way, when the choice is that big ? No ! No no no, and no. Every gain involves loss. You just wander into the océan of the musique de Prokofiev, et voilà pour vous.

This “dial/lever/tool” text is not about scale of knowledge and the blissfull possibilité to get lost in it. I should write another one, un autre jour.

Dial/Lever/Tool : Observe what you have. Imagine you’re 30 years before. How would it be, then ? What if you put something aside ? What if you close some possibilities ? What if, as a photographer, you get back to film ? If every gain involves loss, what have you lost, then, with the vast “new thing” ? What will you do to recover that ? What if you had to keep 100 books in your shelves.

Is “Every loss involves gain” right ?

And what is the way to link this concept to the Wrong Way Up ?

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