How to to put a cat among pigeons, in classical music, Star Wars and other birds

Reading interviews of Valery Gergiev, a famous conductor, who plays the best orchestras of the world (this position is always interesting : these guys are intense, constantly trying to improve things, and they work with the best musicians – I love their problematics).

He says that each time big orchestras have to play classical classics, like symphonies of Beethoven, he tries different little things, to prevent the bore, to discover things, etc.

This can be pushed very far – the question of interpretation is fascinating. He tells that one day Leonard Bernstein were in Russia in front of young people, an orchestra made of beginners. And it was amazing because he tried many things with them, for example in the pace, for the reasons you are pleased to imagine (to keep the team focused, to try things, to push limits, to impress, to experiment?). Swell!

Turning dials and pulling levers, that’s interesting, and it’s two aspects :

  1. Which lever will you pull or push? Intensity? Complexity? Speed?
  2. How much will you do that? Slightly or risky? Too far? Too shy?

The infinite pleasure of classical music has many sources, but one of them is to compare interpretations. Take Beethoven : gorgeous as Karajan, as one man as Fürtwangler, feline as Kleiber, slow, transparent, baroque?

I’m interested here in this pattern : When something is “too well known” and you have to put the cat among the pigeons.

– we say in French : to throw a cobblestone in the pond, or to shake the coconut tree, does it make sense?

In big mainstream movies like Star Wars or Marvel, you feel they… are aware the problem too.

If you want to maintain something (interest thus money), you have to “increase something”, each time.

  1. A reboot : you redo it (three times for Spiderman)
  2. More vulgarity, peepooing the worst : Deadpool
  3. Bigger : Avengers
  4. Going wildly exuberant : Thor Ragnarok

Relaunching Star Wars was a good source of fun. Read the forums’ comments. The new films are “too respectuous” and “too shy”, or in the last one “too far from the basis”.

Whatever you do, you’ll find millions haters. Creators probably don’t care.

They try things, and that’s fun.

In the last one (The Last Jedi), they did something very smart. Instead of being funnier, or bigger, or wilder, they just sewed maturity in the middle of this mess. They constantly say in the movie : “Hey, fantard, don’t be so serious!”.

Therefore the key of the movie became Luke throwing the saber over his shoulder. Smart move, Luke, thank youuuu!

You can also read :

A Matter of Levers

“Reorganizing from the Night” : Comparing Versions in Classical Music

A little pattern in Star Wars VIII The Last Jedi (Spoilers!)

Thanks for reading!

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“Reorganizing from the Night” : Comparing Versions in Classical Music. #Beethoven 7th #Symphony.

You have this “struggle” in popular music, too. A Rolling Stones song can be listened on vinyl, CD, in some remastered version, on many “live recordings”, some bootlegs. It’s… interesting to compare, right?

In classical music, it’s bigger. It’s like exploring a whole continent, especially with well known composers. Try to compare versions of the Bolero, or the Rite of Spring!

In classical music, the “Best Version” is often the first one, the one you KNOW. You get used to it, and you find the other ones too slow, to different, etc… That is a problem. But sometimes you want to compare. This is an exercise. Give me your hand…

You don’t have to explore the “whole” work. Here, we’ll be comparing the 7th Symphony of Beethoven for a single short one minute moment – the quiet nocturnal break in the 2nd movement – 6:00 here. Listen from 5 to 6 to 7:00, OK?

 

This passage is tricky for conductors, because it’s a brutal shut off in a middle of a pleasant pulsating peace. This is why it’s fun to explore and compare. After five minutes of splendid pulsating music, it goes “suddenly in the quiet” (at 4:58), then “suddenly in the dark” (at 6:00). For me, it’s the most beautiful music ever written by Beethoven, this “less than a minute”, reorganizing from the night…

OK, let’s work. Google can help you. I decided to pick my two bibles, the Gramophone Classical Music Guide and the Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, plus the huge 1001 œuvres classiques. Find yours !

Everybody says Kleiber, Vienna, DG is the best. Try to Google “best recordings beethoven symphony 7”. I added a few YouTube links at the end.

Tool :

What is the lesson here? What do we like in these comparisons? How could we use it in another territory? What for?

Next time, try Mahler’s 2nd. It’s fabulous!

An evening with #beethoven 7th #symphony

17:15 feline, speed changing, trusting the team, delicate, and these subtleties…

21:17 detailed, precise, shy, colored

5:19 drawned, acid, slow, deep emphatic

19:02 Slower, Architectural, nocturnal, uninhabitated

6:01 gorgeous, flexible, pulsating

16:41 look at him, sculpting the sound, alive…

 

 

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

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