Preparing for a whirlwind cross-country weekend -- to a conference in Florida and back again within 48 hours or so, no doubt to feel on my return as though I had yet to depart -- is as good an excuse as any to post a few otherwise unrelated links:
- I have added a pair of new or newish weblogs to the lists at the left. Each is focused on music, art, culture, etc., in Los Angeles and environs, and each approaches the subject with a touch more focus and serious commitment than I bring to bear.
- Out West Arts first came to my attention at the beginning of the month with a post on unexpected tension and violence in the concert hall:
Since then OWA proprietor Brian has attended the 3-night version of the LA Philharmonic Tristan Project, his reactions moving from awestruck speechlessness through quoting a prototypically outré Peter Sellars program note before subsiding in a more voluble but no less awestruck final assessment.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen classical music produce this reaction. Last year I saw a fist-fight break out in the same hall in a crowd overwhelmed with brotherhood after hearing Beethoven’s Ninth (also with Salonen) and two years ago I saw a man threaten to kill another over a slight the latter had made to the former’s wife in the lobby of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion during the intermission of Der Rosenkavalier, of all things. Maybe a dwindling audience for classical music isn't such a bad thing if we can just select who specifically gets dwindled in the transaction.
- I have the full-opera version of the Project on my own agenda for next Tuesday, and will no doubt post reactions here as part of my recovery regimen. Meantime, I've been doing my homework by reading up on Tristan in Ernest Newman's classic text on The Wagner Operas. It surprises me that this is the first time I have actually read that book, as my parents have had a copy on their bookshelf for literally as long as I can remember.
NPR's All Things Considered did a story on The Tristan Project last week. I did not hear it, but the online version of the piece includes teensy-tiny streamable excerpts from Bill Viola's accompanying videos.
- FineArtsLA.com is a freshly launched project of "freelance writer and arch-dilettante Christian M. Chensvold," who is also a participant in Dandyism.net, a site devoted to precisely that.
In the brief existence of FALA.com, the high point is unquestionably the long, salty interview with music critic Alan Rich, formerly of both Time and Newsweek (when High Art was still in their portfolio) --
AR: I was the last classical writer for Newsweek. In 1987 I was in Houston covering the world premiere of John Adams’ 'Nixon in China.' I filed my story, and got a phone call an hour later: They were killing it for a Bruce Springsteen feature.
-- and now of the LA Weekly. Mr. Rich is at least as put out as I am over the excessive quantities of Puccini being programmed by LA Opera.
- John Crowley was already thinking about fictional ends of the world just in time for the writer's passing to give him cause to point up the artfulness of Kurt Vonnegut at his best:
I still insist students read 'Cat's Cradle' if they want to find out how to shape a story that is in effect over when it starts -- how to arrange the elements of a story that even its narrator knows the ending of. . . . It was in a Vonnegut book that I first read that great humanist/atheist/ dunnoist paradox I live by: The universe is a safe with a combination lock, and the combination of the lock is locked inside the safe.
- For your more folksy freaksy listening pleasure, via the POPTONES MP3 BLOG, the opening track from Relatively Clean Rivers, described by the Record Geek weblog as
A loose-limbed sublimity prevails:
A very California record, this is full of lots of wide open spaces, jangly acoustic-guitar folk-rock tapestries, twangy, reverbed, Garcia-like electric leads, reedy vocal harmonies, and extended songs that achieve a stoned, dreamy feel.... I've read that only 500 copies were originally made and [leader Phil] Pearlman 'distributed' many of those just by discreetly depositing them around college campuses and record stores unannounced.
- Relatively Clean Rivers - Easy Ride [MP3 link]
From the same source, for those who prefer the ridiculous to the sublime, might I recommend erstwhile gentleman's gentleman and Winnie-the-Pooh narrator Sebastian Cabot's recitation of "Like a Rolling Stone"? How did that feel, Mr. Zimmerman?
Whatever your tastes, enjoy your week's end.