music, Uncategorized

If I could just try that again?

His declared intention is to be an egoless conductor, a seemingly implausible goal in a profession not known for self-effacement, and perhaps an undesirable one. Orchestral players like and need strong leadership. How do you lead without a sense of self?

You do it, Mr. Davis said, as we shared a sofa in his handsome but not lavishly appointed Georgian terrace house in London, by sharing the performance rather than imposing it. “What players want,” he said, “is to feel they can play well: not told what to do, but offered possibilities.”

When I suggested that he was making it sound like social work, he disagreed.

“There’s nothing cozy about this,” he said. “They’re on that platform clinging to their chairs with tension, on a knife edge. And it’s certainly not about making everyone your friend. It’s about giving players the freedom to concentrate on what matters, which isn’t me with the baton. I’m of no account. It’s the music.”

Watching Mr. Davis in rehearsal is to see his argument in action. Quiet, benign, his gestures small but eloquent, he barely talks except about the music. When things go awry, no matter who is responsible, he smiles and asks, “If I could just try that again?”

– Michael White’s article on conductor Colin Davis, “A Maestro Reflects on a Life of Batons and Knitting Needles,” NYT.

Addendum: you may deduce, correctly, from this article’s presence on this blog and no “Via ArtsJournal” or other such citation, that I have caved and paid for an electronic-only subscription. God, it’s good to be able to read the entire Arts section again. I don’t know how I held out this long.

dance, music, musicals

I have often asked myself

what the point is of having visions of choreography every time I hear a musical theater song (or any kind of music that takes me to a theatrical place) if I am cut off from the prospect of realizing that choreography.

It is only recently, perhaps in the last six months or so, since working with Single Carrot on the one hand, with the Parallel Octave spoken choruses on the other, and writing poems that I am pleased with on a third, that I have some kind of an answer.

It is not possible for me to realize all the movements I imagine. Far from it. All I can do is realize some of them, and leave behind me traces that will infect the minds of other people with similar desires. What can’t be cured must be shared. What can’t be caged must be contagious. Something like that.

I defy you to listen to this (Druha Trava, “Brazos Bottom,” from Czechmate):

and not be beset with a desire for dancers. Personally, I like to imagine twins on Hoverboards, surfing the air over Malibu Canyon, but it’s your music video.

Baltimore, music

the spirit of Frank Zappa

“Rocker Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore but gained greater popular acclaim in Europe than in the United States. On Sunday, devout European fans of the late musician brought his mustachioed likeness back home in the form of a bronze bust.

Several hundred fans gathered on a sweltering afternoon as city officials dedicated the bust of the ponytailed rocker outside an east Baltimore library. The bust is a replica of another in a public square in Vilnius, Lithuania, and was donated to the city by Zappa enthusiasts in the small Baltic nation.

“The spirit of Frank Zappa is alive and well in Baltimore,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.”

Yahoo! article. Via.

Baltimore, music, the chorus, theater

keep your knickers on, it’s only a bloody play

Good, good ||8ve session yesterday: we worked on Dylan Thomas and revisited some Donne and Stevens. Piano and soprano saxophone. The energy of the group, yesterday, was much more about having the text function as one musical element in a sea of musical elements–a direction I don’t always go in, myself, but it was good to be pushed there. I think the results were wonderful. I left the session feeling really exhilarated.

After, went to JoeSquared on North Avenue and saw Second N8ture, a funk group (wonderful slow-paced cover of “Let’s Get It On”), and a horn-driven ensemble called the Chris Pumphrey Sextet. Their warmup reminded me of the experimental horn music Beth and I saw in Chicago, once upon a time — the three clarinetists in an art gallery, with everyone sitting around intently listening, and run after run after run of notes blurring together. But the actual set, once it started, was more traditional and programmatic — is that the right word? It had a lot of narrative elements, to my ear.. I liked them both. It’s good to be hearing more music.

Second N8ture plays at JoeSquared every second Saturday.

I also reread THE REAL THING (Stoppard) yesterday, which is what the title’s from. It’s Annie screaming at her producer into the phone, from a scene I directed for a class in high school. Scene 11. The first scene, I believe, I ever directed. With ED. I’m pretty sure. There are funny notes in my script, blocking and pacing notes. On the first page, someone has written (+ William Shakespeare) under the author’s name, (I think that was ED) and on the last page, “Kronk and Zadok Memorial Day,” after the oddly-named soldiers that Annie’s playwright lover is writing a bad television show about. (That was F.) The book is wrinkled and beat-up with weeks of rehearsal. It looks like what it is.

music, theater, Uncategorized


Concert was great on Friday, and I went to two panel sessions and a play for the New Russian Drama conference at Towson yesterday. More panels and plays today. I’ve been taking lots of notes and will put a more detailed report up here when it’s over.

My graduate classes are finished: all that remains in the semester is grading and studying for the final in an undergraduate music theory course I’ve been unofficially auditing. Not nothing, but considerably less something.

gradschool, music, theater, Uncategorized


Thursday: Last class of the spring IFP section, followed by more of the Levis paper, followed by the end-of-first-year department conversations, followed by rehearsal for the Choral Society concert tomorrow, followed by more of the Levis paper.

Concert info:
Love and Madness: Choral Society Spring Concert
Come out to the Choral Society’s free spring concert, Love and Madness, on Friday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. Concert held at First English Lutheran Church, on the corner of North Charles and 39th. Featuring works by Brahms, Schumann, and Britten. (The Britten’s text is Christopher “For I Will Consider My Cat Geoffry” Smart’s Jubilate Agno.)

Tonight is our department party, followed by the concert, followed by the department after-party.

Finally, this weekend I am attending a conference on new Russian drama, to be held at Towson, at which I’m going to see a number of East Coast friends who I haven’t seen since the trip to Poland last year. I’m really happy to be able to go.

a propos of nothing, music

the later I leave it

Rehearsal last night for Choral Society at the Lutheran church north of campus. Echoes are the lighting systems of live vocals. Suddenly, our volume is more than adequate. We are singing Britten, Brahms, and Schumann, with soloists.

I have also been reading Ellie Harrison’s Tea Blog. One sentence in response to each cup of tea for three years. Click “random.” For example: “There is no way I’d pay 10 Euros for 2 cheese rolls,” from May 7, 2007. Also: “The later I leave it the less worthwhile it’ll be going to the studio today,” from February 10, 2007. It’s a great stalling device.

After Harrison finished Tea Blog, a book came out about this and other projects of hers that involved large amounts of data, called Confessions of a Recovering Data Collector (she also did projects involving tracking food eaten and miles traveled.)

Still working on Levis paper.

music, poetry, the chorus


Good meeting on Saturday. Choruses (poems) spoken, music played. I have notes from it. I was going to put them up here as a rehearsal report of sorts. Good intentions. But we’re going to meet again next week. I am looking forward to this project generating sound files, to having something that can be played to explain itself.

Apart from that, a lot of discussion about whether a flawed interpretation of a great text matters — whether the text’s greatness transcends the interpretation. It does, I suppose. It must.

Also heard M. Doty read at the BMA. He mentioned a sense of discomfort whenever he hears his poems set to music. I can see why. Of what he read, I didn’t hear any with a choral component. But there are many poems with that sort of public and dramatic structure — many, many poems — that are suitable.

Also, would he not be as uncomfortable if the poem was not “set” to music? Not pinned, as it were, to the notes? If the principle of improvisation were present? I am preaching to my own choir. Obviously, I think that would be different.

music, theater

there are giants in the sky

The two readings of BWBS have now both happened. Amazing how two shows makes a run. We got to have both the opening-night and the closing-night energies, out of just two events. Some audience members at the talkback last night said some nice things about the juxtaposition of words and music, and how verse takes to music and vice versa, that made me feel that our work was worth it. A well deserved something-like-a-break coming up?

…Little more than a glance
Is enough to show
You just how small you are.

– Sondheim, “There Are Giants In The Sky,” INTO THE WOODS

When I think of it, which is always — okay. When I do more than think of it, I would like to write something about the Sondheim quote that gets requoted everywhere, the one that says that words when set to music must necessarily be simpler so they can be understood. I don’t entirely agree with it.