In this week’s The New Yorker, Alex Ross tweaks the nation’s flagship orchestra and opera company for their stale repertoire in this newly opened season. Conservative programming at major performing arts presenters is nothing new; but, I think Ross makes a clever connection to another kind of conservatism that lends a bit more bite to an otherwise worn critique.
As the nation contends with its racist and misogynist demons, New York’s leading musical institutions give us canonical pieces by white males, conducted by white males, directed by white males. The Met’s productions this season feature no female composers, no female conductors, and no women directing new stagings. The Philharmonic’s main schedule, at David Geffen Hall, has one female conductor and one female composer.
Alex Ross: The Met and the Philharmonic Look Backward
Very clever post from Chris Bolin on the value of disconnecting, even when you’re engaging with stuff you find through connection. People are neat.
Anne Midgette, following on her review of the new Steve Jobs opera by Mason Bates, compares recent trends in new, big-budget operas to the era of “prestige television”.
… it led to the libretto of an opera called “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” which had its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera on July 22, in which Jobs’s wife, Laurene, sings, “You were never easy./ But once you found your way,/Discovered you were ‘human,’/ We found a way/To connect.”
One of these things is not like the other. In a book or a movie, the lines Laurene sings would be scorned as Hallmark-worthy, romance-novel sentiment: A woman turns the bad boy good. In opera, it seems, we’re willing to tolerate it.
This strikes me as the direct result of opera companies’ focus on past repertoire. The saccharine plot turns in Mozart and the melodrama of Puccini just seem stupid when people are singing about iPhones.
… Opera — which is considered one of the highest forms of art — tends to uphold its formulas, sticking to tropes a century or two old. And opera audiences are willing to hold opera to a different standard — which effectively means that the bar is set a lot lower.
Sometimes, your opera is Two Broke Girls. Sometimes, it’s The Wire.
Anne Midgette: “New opera wants the same appeal as television. If only it could be as smart.”
Philip Rothman at Scoring Notes:
Sibelius 8.6’s new engraving feature is magnetic glissandi lines — lines that snap to both their start and end note, updating their positions if the notes change.
Magnetic glissandi lines are quite intelligent, expanding and contracting to move out of the way of augmentation dots and accidentals. They will even slope in the correct direction between two pitches that share the same space or line.
You’ve got to check out the examples in this post. Two years after the disappointing launch of Sibelius 8, this is the first new feature that has me interested in upgrading from Sibelius 7.5.
I try not to cry wolf about technology things. We can only shut down the Internet so many times. Electronic Frontier Foundation today:
Should President Donald Trump sign S.J. Res. 34 into law, big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent. This breaks with the decades long legal tradition that your communications provider is never allowed to monetize your personal information without asking for your permission first. This will harm our cybersecurity as these companies become giant repositories of personal data.
This wouldn’t be such a big deal if you could switch your ISP to somebody else. However, according to the FCC just last year, the vast majority of US households have only one option for broadband service. This is in addition to the roughly 10% of households with no broadband at all, which disporportionately affects rural areas and tribal lands.
As the EFF points out above, this is also a huge security problem. These companies have not always been great stewards of user data in the past, and they haven’t cared due to the lack of competition. You can’t switch easily like you can on mobile broadband, where competition has driven prices down dramatically just in the last six months. Other companies are using your data as well, like Google. But, you can pretty easily avoid using Gmail if you want to. You can’t choose a company other than your local ISP if you know they have a history of data breeches. Now, they’re going to suck up all that juicy user data and make themselves even bigger targets, with no benefit to consumers and no oversight.
This is bad. Support the EFF. Call your Congresscritter.
Usually, Sibelius Blog is where I go to learn about how to do something awesome in Sibelius with a new plugin, or what I’m missing in Finale, or what’s exciting and new in Dorico or StaffPad. But the one time I spoke with Sibelius Blog’s proprietor Philip Rothman, my compatriot Sam was completely taken by his paper folding machine. Sam and I have spent years learning how to make the software dance in all kinds of twisted ways, so it was the level of care in the final production we found most novel.
Today, Philip posted a fantastic tutorial on folding parts the right way, complete with video and his own fantastic dry humor.
So now if you were wondering how to show your affection this Valentine’s Day holiday, there’s something called a bone folder on my Amazon Wish List.
Pulitzer-winner John Adams, no stranger to operas on controversial subjects in US history, responding to a hypothetical question about an a Donald Trump opera:
The idea of a Trump opera doesnt interest me in the least. First of all, because so much of what he does is theater to begin with. It’s a terrible form of exploitive theater, but there’s no point in trying to make theater about theater. Furthermore, you don’t want to spend time as an artist giving your very best to a person who is a sociopath. He’s not an interesting character, because he has no capacity for empathy. The only empathy that he can extend is to his family, who are just extensions of his own ego, and beyond that, he doesn’t care. Everyone else is someone to be manipulated and controlled.
Trump is so operatic that a man who has won awards for his operas and oratorios feels he cannot add any more opera. Sad.
Gabe Meline: Why John Adams Won’t Write an Opera About President Trump
Yesterday on January 1, lots of people around the world celebrated Public Domain Day along with the new calendar year. The Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain publishes an article on it each year. Each year since they’ve done so, it’s been less celebratory in the U.S. than in other parts of the world.
What is entering the public domain in the United States? Not a single published work. Once again, no published works are entering our public domain this year. Or next year.
When the first copyright law was written in the United States, copyright lasted 14 years, renewable for another 14 years if the author wished. Jefferson or Madison could look at the books written by their contemporaries and confidently expect them to be in the public domain within a decade or two. Now? In the United States, as in much of the world, copyright lasts for the author’s lifetime, plus another 70 years. You might think, therefore, that works whose authors died in 1946 would be freely available on January 1, 2017. Sadly, no. When Congress changed the law, it applied the term extension retrospectively to existing works, and gave all in-copyright works published between 1923 and 1977 a term of 95 years. The result? None of those works will enter the public domain until 2019, and works from 1960, whose arrival we might otherwise be expecting January 1, 2017, will not enter the public domain until 2056.
If you think this is silly and unimportant, allow the scholars at Duke to convince you.
As our way-too-nearly-president would say, sad.
Filmmaker Werner Herzog has been doing a round of interviews in support of his documentary Lo and Behold, which examines the cultural impact of the Internet. In one of the more entertaining moments of these interviews, The Verge’s Emily Yoshida explains Pokémon Go and asks about the cultural impact. Herzog goes full Herzog.
EY: It’s a game where the entire world is mapped and you walk around with the GPS on your phone. You walk around in the real world and can catch these little monsters and collect them. And everybody is playing it.
WH: Does it tell you you’re here at San Vicente, close to Sunset Boulevard?
EY: Yeah, it’s basically like a Google map.
WH: But what does pokémon do at this corner here?
EY: You might be able to catch some. It’s all completely virtual. It’s very simple, but it’s also an overlay of physically based information that now exists on top of the real world.
WH: When two persons in search of a pokémon clash at the corner of Sunset in San Vicente is there violence? Is there murder?
EY: They do fight, virtually.
WH: Physically, do they fight?
WH: Do they bite each other’s hands? Do they punch each other?
EY: The people or the…
WH: Yes, there must be real people if it’s a real encounter with someone else.
The film has been screened at a few festivals after its Sundance premiere, and will be available to us normals 19 Aug., appropriately enough, to buy or rent digitally.
Ivan Hewett writing in The Telegraph about the fetishization of premieres over subsequent performances of still-new works:
The system is geared to produce premieres, not to fund second performances. … Sally Cavender, a long-standing director of Faber Music, bemoans the obsession with first performances. “A premiere is really a lazy and ineffective way of creating an appreciation of new music. You don’t have to programme the other pieces carefully because you don’t know what the new piece will be like. If it turns out to be dud you can just shrug and say ’well, never mind, we did our duty’. Also the audience doesn’t have time to get the sound of the music in their ears, so it’s incredibly wasteful.” Stephen Maddock, Chief Executive of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra agrees, but points to the practical problem. “There are plenty of sources of funding for new pieces, because organisations want the prestige of being associated with a premiere. But there are very few sources of funding for second and third performances.”
Compounding the problem, of course, are that many (most?) orchestral premieres are underprepared. Not because the musicians are bad or don’t care, but because rehearsals are wicked-expensive. You’re paying the same world-class players as you are in a concert, but nobody is buying tickets to the rehearsal. Nobody who hears a half-assed premiere is going to ask about renting the performance materials for a second time around.
Simon Holt, a distinguished composer, points to another problem. “Most premieres are winged after too little rehearsal time and as a consequence we too often only get some kind of passing superficial sense of what a piece is really all about,” he says. [Composer Colin] Matthews puts it more tartly: “Orchestras know they can get away with giving the minimum time to the new piece, because no one yet knows how it’s supposed to go!”
And lastly, this innovative and compelling new project described by Vanessa Reed of the PRS for Music Foundation:
That’s why we’ve launched the Composer Fund, which aims to help composers at mid-career, and a new scheme, Resonate. It’s a database of all orchestral pieces composed by British composers since 1990, and there’s a fund to help orchestras with the costs of performing these pieces.”
Can we have something like this in the U.S. please?