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High fidelity

I was amused, though not surprised, that some of the comments on my red state/blue state post reflected exactly the kind of factionalism I was talking about in the post. I think my main point is that it's a shame such factionalism exists, in any context.

My musings along these lines grew out of my thoughts on fidelity to the score, and the idea that there are some top-flight musicians whose musical existence centers around mining a score for clues about how it should be played. There are other equally fine musicians whose musical existence focuses on introducing new works to the public, or works that should be known better. (Since my post seems to have been widely misunderstood, let me emphasize that I think both these kinds of musicians are essential to the health of our field.)

Therefore, Byron Janis's thoughtful article in the Wall Street Journal on the question of fidelity to the score seemed to me to be very germane to my line of thinking, even if this may not be immediately apparent to readers.
(read more after the jump)

A final note on red and blue states: it's amusing that some people feel they have to pick one or the other. Note that Riccardo Muti, certainly a leader in the mainstream classical tradition, has embraced Mason Bates and Anna Clyne, two composers in what we've dubbed the alt-classical mode. The divides among listeners, who feel they have to dismiss the whole "alt-classical" thing if they like other kinds of music, evidently don't exist in the music world to the same degree; if Muti's excited by these composers, I'd think most people who liked Muti would think they're worth taking seriously.

There may actually be more factionalism between the "uptown" and "downtown" schools of living composers, though I'd say that, too, is diminishing as the Pulitzers and the establishment become more embracing of the Steve Reichs and David Langs of this world. It is true, though, that the Levine/Barenboim contemporary music axis runs along lines that are more high-church than alt-classical: Carter, Harbison, Thomas.

By Anne Midgette  |  January 7, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  news , random musings  
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Comments

. . . the Levine/Barenboim contemporary music axis runs along lines that are more high-church than alt-classical: Carter, Harbison, Thomas. . .

Who is Thomas? Michael Tilson- or perhaps Thomas Àdes? Surely not Ambrose Thomas!

Carter's music makes for very interesting projects for very gifted musicians like Barenboim or Levine, but Harbison's is a little thin and just doesn't wear well. On the other hand, the "high-church" uptown audiences are often baffled or antagonized by Carter. That said, a friend got a standing ovation from an unabashedly Red-state audience (at the Grand Teton Festival last summer) for her performance of Carter's Cello Sonata. But this piece is already over a half century old!

Posted by: Lutoslawski | January 7, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Augusta Read Thomas, American mid-career composer.

*

Certainly, it’s a grey and inexplicable morning here in Washington., D.C.

What does Ms. Midgette mean by

“Therefore, Byron Janis's thoughtful article in the Wall Street Journal on the question of fidelity to the score seemed to me to be very germane to my line of thinking, even if this may not be immediately apparent to readers.”

And is anyone here going to call out Byron Janis when he writes

“Thinking is creativity's worst enemy.”

Maybe it is to the ‘line of thinking’ of journalist Anne Midgette and her romantic composer/writer husband, Mr Sandow, but certainly not for the vast majority of true artists, scientists, and scholars.

(According to the psychiatrist Silvano Arieti (The Magic Sythesis), creative persons, like schizophrenics, have a greater connection to the psychological ‘primary’ processes; but, unlike the schizophrenic, the creative person is also able to then process these primary sensations or ideations at a higher, more complex level – through trained and experienced thinking -- into rational or logical forms, thereby creating something new.)

*

Paging Michael Dirda …

Posted by: snaketime1 | January 7, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Empathy is an essential asset for a musician. Empathy with the listener who has never heard the piece before, empathy with the listener who does not have much interest in the particular musical style the musician is playing in, e..g. classical. The musician must be able to imagine what their perspective is like and shape the performance with that in mind.

Posted by: kashe | January 7, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Axis.

Red and blue.

What's next?

Mandatory bussing to uptown concerts?

Posted by: ScottRose | January 7, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"Therefore, Byron Janis's thoughtful article in the Wall Street Journal on the question of fidelity to the score seemed to me to be very germane to my line of thinking."
--------------------------

You could have made a better case for yourself by not invoking Mr. Janis's argument for his case which argument is fundamentally flawed in its presentation although not, I think, in its conclusions.

I addressed that flawed argument today in a post on S&F, and offered an alternative argument which can be read here:

http://www.soundsandfury.com/soundsandfury/2010/01/making-a-case-for-interpretive-freedom.html

ACD

Posted by: ACDouglas1 | January 7, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I really didn't read "factionalism" reflected in reader comments as you say you did. Only some earnest responses to a really bizarre, forced attempt to invent categories. Sorry: Uptown-Downtown has already been taken -- done its damage and run its course. The same with East Coast - West Coast. Yes, there is plenty of in-fighting remaining and yes it does spill over into the general audience which is always eager to see blood -- aided and abetted by poseurs from outside. But transplanting all of the remaining grudges in Manhattan south of Houston to the political fantasy land inside the Washington beltway just doesn't make it. It's not even funny -- just destructive.

And what about your readers? Your too-clever-by-half division into red and blue has now associated your peculiar version of the very real sides/preferences in music with Republicans and Democrats. This will come as news to a lot of good folks who, when considering bailouts and health insurance, will now have to ask "What would Beethoven do?" And speaking of religion....

For good measure, you continue to insist on labeling as "high church" what you (hiding behind the skirts of "some people" -- a bad habit you picked up someplace) have obliquely referred to in the past as "icky." Cute.

This religious stamping seems to be a tag-team effort. When I first read your husband's blog his characterization of Bach cantatas as "bog[ged] down in dour Lutheran theology" I shrugged it off. But the exact phrase kept coming up (and plenty others sprinkled throughout his writing). Now every time I hear the Christmas Oratorio or the Magnificat I think, God what dour music. And I'm sure glad I'm not one of those dour Lutherans any more.

But wait, there's more. Back to you, Anne: In the same sentence that you returned to your favorite slur about "high church," you referred to the "Levine/Barenboim contemporary music axis." Wow! One flash-word -- axis -- creating a quadruple slur: religion, ethnicity, music, and fascism all rubbing elbows in the same sentence. Did you mean it this way? I insist on believing it was just a careless mistake. Is the possible meaning I read into it far fetched? Ask an editor, of which, sadly, there seem to be too few to go around at the Post any more.

I've read really good, thoughtful pieces by you, Anne -- and a very few by Greg as well which I agreed with and told him so. You are both SOOOO much better than this.

Posted by: Steve37 | January 7, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

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