Category Archives: composers

Around the capitol this weekend

Tomorrow afternoon I plan to attend Alex Ross‘ lecture-ish thing at the Texas Book Festival. I may buy his book there and get him to sign it (if he’s doing that). I’ve been looking forward to seeing him; I’ve been reading his blog for over a year now and have been introduced to some great new things through it.

New Pornographers @ ACLThen later in the day, I’ll meander over to Waterloo Park (a short walk from the Capitol) for Fun Fun Fun Fest.

So I’ll be hearing about the formation of modern music – Wagner to Stravinsky to Cage, I expect – and then I’ll get to see Of Montreal, The New P*rnographers, and Explosions in the Sky. That’s a lot of music for one day! I can’t wait.

On Sunday I’ll go back to the music fest to volunteer from 5pm-10pm . . . and I’m taking Monday off. I’ll need a day on my own to power back up.

Note: The photo is of The New P*rnographers at ACL 2006, the last time I saw them.

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thoughts on Beethoven’s 9th

We are going up to our alma mater (yes, we sisters went to the same school that our parents and other relatives went) to sing in a performance of Beethoven’s 9th this weekend. Happy birthday to me!

Leah and I spent over an hour on Saturday trying to follow along with our parts for the Chorale finale. Our voices were strained for a little while afterwards; if you’ve heard it, you know that the soprano part is high like a siren’s call for most of it. The alto part is all over the place. I think Beethoven used the alto part to complete the chords, and didn’t think about the flow of the part at all. Beethoven was pretty much completely deaf when he composed this work, and sure it sounds great to the audience, but OMG, it will kill the singers. And who knows if the symphony really sounds like Beethoven thought it did?

I’m just attempting to get the notes right now . . . the German is another story.

And I laugh now, but I was so dead serious in college about choir. We sang Handel’s Messiah with alumni and as students we thought they weren’t as good as we were. Well, of course they weren’t! At school, we rehearsed at least three afternoons a week and only had eight-ten hours of class a week. If the alums back then were as busy as I am now, I’m surprised they even showed up! I may be up there Saturday night singing made-up German, hoping that the students and other choirmembers will cover me up.

The main reason I’m going up is because I’m on the board of the choir alum association and we are meeting on Saturday. I also thought I’d be able to visit the church I attended in school, but it doesn’t look like that will work out, darn it.

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Heart of Glass

I ended up going to the opera yesterday with my dad. I had forgotten the opera was this weekend, but my other plans fell apart so I could go with Dad. It was an experience.

I went in expecting not to like much at all about the production. I tend not to enjoy Phillip Glass’ works, unless they are film soundtracks (and coincidentally, guess who’s doing the soundtrack for that Catherine Zeta-Jones film I posted about last week? Too bizarre). I must say I was pleasantly surprised in a few respects, but sadly correct about the rest.

What I loved about the ALO’s Waiting for the Barbarians:

  • The stage set was just gorgeous. The backdrop was truly part of the performance. It flew up from out of the floor in some scenes, stayed in front of a couple scenes, and was stepped over in another. It’s the best confluence of a stage set and performance I’ve ever seen before. I’d almost say we got our money’s worth by getting to see that innovative part of the opera.
  • The lighting, like the set, really made the opera. It made the screens of the set vibrant with color, shadowed the chorus, spotlit the magistrate, and more.
  • The singers all had strong voices. I don’t know about the vocal ranges of the males, because all of their parts followed the same melodic pattern (this is minimalism, after all), but the female’s voices were so high and clear. Very nice.
  • Some of the orchestration was actually very lyrical and pretty. I was touched by a couple measures. . . and then it would go back to the minimalistic pattern.

What I didn’t care for so much:

  • Opera singers mimicking s*x in a desert.
  • More of one of the singers than I was prepared to see.
  • The music the chorus was stuck singing; I swear they were singing “ooo-eee, ooo-eee, ooo-eee” at one point.
  • Most of the music.
  • The non-linear structure. I can take it in foreign films, but in opera, I need some semblance of a timeline.

Dad and I left during the intermission; I was getting a headache from the repetitive nature of the composition, and I even started nodding off in a couple parts. I never do that in an opera.

I’m glad I tried it out, but as the woman who walked with us back to the LBJ parking lot said (there were more than a dozen people leaving during the intermission), “I just can’t take too much Phillip Glass.” Exactly.

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The sweetest thing this Christmas

On Christmas Eve, I watched CBS Sunday Morning as I am wont to do. The last story was about “White Christmas”. The story was nice and all, although I pretty much knew most of the facts about how the song came to be such a hit.

The best part was after the story, when Charles Osgood himself sat at a grand piano and sang the holiday song. It was such a surprise, but it was a nice start to the special day. It’s not something you’re likely to see on other news shows, and is part of why I keep watching CBS Sunday Morning.

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Lobet den Hern, alle Heiden

For some reason this morning I felt like listening to a Bach piece I sang in college. I tried googling it, but the problem I had was I couldn’t remember which Bach piece it was. When I sang it in choir, the director made a few of us just say “do do do do” instead of the words. I think this was to punch it up and not drag it down, but the problem with this is that I never got to sing the real words.

Before I had to send an email out to my old choir director to ask him, I remembered the title: “Lobet den Hern” (full title is the title for this post). A CD is being released at homecoming with recordings of past pieces, and I notice that’s not on there. Our choir was very good (I’m not just saying that), but we never totally got that Bach piece. The director was just determined that we would get it – we sang it in choir and then a couple years later in the smaller consort group. Maybe the director was finally satisfied, but in my mind, we never did it full justice.

Update: We also were trying to do it a capella, without the organ backup, so that made it more difficult (especially for the singers that tend to flat). The recording I found on iTunes of the Choir of Kings College has them backed up by an organ (cheaters).

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sentimental fool

I brought some of my CDs to work and am listening to Leonard Bernstein’s “Greatest Hits”. Why does the final choral piece of “Candide” always get me choked up? Is it the harmonic structure? The dynamics of the voices? All they’re singing is, “And make our garden grow. . .” and yet it seems more than that.

I have another CD of “Essential Leonard Bernstein“, which includes his soundtrack for On the Waterfront. I really need to get a CD of him conducting Mahler.

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Silly connotations

It is silly, I know, but when I hear Symphony No. 3 in C-Minor by Saint-Saens, I immediately think of Babe. It is a beautiful piece of Romantic music, and I can’t stop myself from giggling anyway.

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