Saturday, December 21, 2013

Which Do You Support: Arts or Ads?

Every time you read a blog post that speaks to you you might consider dropping a dime into a piggybank.  At the end of a month tally up the dimes and send that amount in to support the blogger.

It would be interesting.  I know of a major charity that survived because volunteers painstakingly glued single grains of rice to letters of solicitation, asking that each grain yield a single dollar bill.  It was a lot of work, involving a lot of rice, but the charity benefited hugely from the money and from the public support.

These daily posts are my grains of rice.

See how to respond at

When Expression is Not Expressive

For all that I deplore the effect of recorded music on the phenomenon of live listening, I am grateful that, from time to time, I catch a broadcast of a recording I would never otherwise hear.

One such was a recent airing of Itzhak Perlman playing the "Turkish" violin concerto of Mozart, James Levine conducting.  Technically polished, both orchestra and soloist would fall into the category of excellent, without doubt.  The tone of the violin was uniformly high-strung: rapid vibrato to produce a singing tone throughout.

But it is clear from just listening to the music that it is not about singing tone throughout.  For one thing, in the manner of all Mozart, deceptions abound: leading tones that do not resolve, upward wafts that do not lead in that direction, upbeats that do not prepare the following downbeats.  In order to express these deceptions one would have to lighten up on that singing tone quality and allow some air, some transparency into the sound.

Thinking back, I cannot help but contrast this recording with the Rachel Podger / Gary Cooper recording of a very early Mozart sonata played on period instruments.  To be sure there were obvious differences in approach and in technique; but more than that, the resonant environment of this recording was richly intimate, while in the Perlman it presupposed the clean, non-resonating environment of the well-produced (over-produced?) LP.

Maybe that technique of high-strung vibrato is the only way to pierce the sterility of that style of recording technology.  Who knows?  We do know that tempo decisions in Classical symphonies began to be determined by the minutes available on one side of an old 78rpm side.

We should also be aware that a certain uniformity of technological approach is conducive to overall conformity.  All one has to do is listen to a dozen recordings of a richly detailed Beethoven sonata or concerto to realize how little individuality is out there on those mass-produced pieces of plastic.