Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn

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Should We “Grow Up” in Our Musical Tastes?

08/11/2014

Jan Swafford, author of a new biography of Beethoven, did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit last week. He said something in this Q&A that I find surprising; even insulting. Someone asked “My questions concern your ideas on the future of classical music. [...] how do you see social media playing a role in […]

The great classical music swindle – and why we’re better off now

08/07/2014

“…the recording industry tried to fix in the collective imagination what individual musical works should be, like the totemic masterpieces of the Western canon (or rather, like those pieces of music that were turned into canonised totems, in part by the recording industry): a series of desirable, aspirational cultural and commercial objects, a collection of black-lacquer-magicked things that could be literally possessed by anyone who bought a record of Furtwängler conducting the Ring cycle, or Toscanini conducting Verdi. There was also a broader fixitive effect on the whole shooting match of classical music, which – arguably – was reduced by the heroic stage of the recording era to a library of unchanging, perfected icons instead of a living, breathing, ever-changing cultural practice.”

via The great classical music swindle – and why we're better off now | Music | theguardian.com.

What the article doesn’t discuss is live performances. While I find Glenn Gould’s studio approach interesting, and love his recordings, live recordings are certainly more powerful. I think one can “fetishize” some live recordings as being especially powerful and unique. This is the case with rock and jazz as well: everyone familiar with the music knows that Bill Evans’ 1961 Village Vanguard recordings, or the Grateful Dead’s 8/27/72, 2/13-14/70, or 5/8/77 are masterpieces.

The broad access, which leads to the ability to compare versions is great, but it leads to another problem: that of having lots of different versions of works, and getting lost among them. I confess that this is something that happens to me with some works. But for others, I’m glad I have, say, Richter, Badura-Skoda, Schiff, Uchida, Lewis and Brendel in my collection when I want to listen to some Schubert piano sonatas.

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, New Biography by Jan Swafford

08/05/2014

51mBQbHwtGLI’d not come across a good, thorough biography of Beethoven (at least not currently in print). It’s good to see this huge (1,100 page) book just out by Jan Swafford, whose biography of Charles Ives I found very interesting. I’ve ordered it, and I’m looking forward to dipping into it to learn more about Beethoven and his times; a fascinating man, in a pivotal period for music.

Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon UK.

Crowdfunding R. Andrew Lee’s Music of a Considerable Duration

08/05/2014

R. Andrew Lee is a pianist who records a wide variety of minimalist music for Irritable Hedgehog. Some of the music he records is quite long. There’s Tom Johnson’s An Hour for Piano, which, as its title suggests, lasts an hour. And there’s November, which is just shy of five hours. Lee has launched a […]

Graham Johnson’s Monumental Work on Schubert’s Lieder to Be Released Soon

08/03/2014

Graham Johnson, the pianist behind Hyperion Record’s monumental series of Schubert’s complete lieder, is known for having a lot to say about these songs. His liner notes to the original releases of the series are rich and full of insight. Unfortunately, the current box set doesn’t come with those notes, but just a book of […]

Three of the Best Rock Concert Movies of All Time

07/31/2014

I like using iTunes’ shuffle mode, and every now and then, it pops up something I hadn’t heard in a while, giving me an Aha! moment, reminding me to spin a (virtual) disc that hasn’t been heard recently. Today, the one that set me off was Born Under the Punches, by Talking Heads. Listening to […]

Book Review: Give My Regards to Eight Street, by Morton Feldman

07/31/2014

Composer Morton Feldman was a voluble man, but he didn’t write much down. He taught and gave lectures, but his collected writings fit in this book, Give My Regards to Eight Street (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). At just over 200 pages, it contains articles about art and music, and liner notes and program notes for some […]

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