domingo, junho 30
The Talmudist from Odessa
borrowed from a friend (Susan Davis Pereira)
After months of negotiation with the authorities, a Talmudist from
Odessa was granted permission to visit Moscow. He boarded the train
and found an empty seat. At the next stop a young man got on and sat
next to him. The scholar looked at the young man and thought: This
fellow doesn't look like a peasant, and if he isn't a peasant he
probably comes from this district. If he comes from this district,
then he must be Jewish because this is, after all, a Jewish district.
On the other hand, if he is a Jew, where could he be going? I'm the
only Jew in our district who has permission to travel to Moscow. Ahh?
But just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and
Jews don't need special permission to go there. But why would he be
going to Samvet?
He's probably going to visit one of the Jewish families there, but
how many Jewish families are there in Samvet? Only two -- the
Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. The Bernsteins are a terrible family,
and a nice-looking fellow like him must be visiting the Steinbergs.
But why is he going?
The Steinbergs have only daughters, so maybe he's their son-in-law.
But if he is, then which daughter did he marry? They say that Sarah
married a nice lawyer from Budapest, and Esther married a businessman
from Zhitomir, so it must be Sarah's husband...which means that his
name is Alexander Cohen, if I'm not mistaken.
But if he comes from Budapest, with all the anti-Semitism they have
there, he must have changed his name. What's the Hungarian equivalent
of Cohen? Kovacs. But if they allowed him to change his name, he must
have some special status. What could it be? A doctorate from the
At this point the scholar turns to the young man and says, "How do
you do, Dr. Kovacs?" "Very well, thank you, sir." answered the
startled passenger. But how is it that you know my name?" "Oh,"
replied the Talmudist, "it was obvious."
quinta-feira, junho 27
REMEMBER me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
quarta-feira, junho 26
A cure for the blues....
Is semen an antidepressant? read about it here.
terça-feira, junho 25
JOY AND PAIN
I was going to write a long post today. But look at the time! I am super tired...So this will be short.
Friday was Júlia's 15th birthday party (for those who don't know, Júlia is my daughter}. She decided to have a big bash, a formal affair, and to make it more fun and less expensive, to share it with a good friend Tatá. The party was a total success, all the girls in long dresses (99% black!) the boys wearing suits and ties. There was a huge table of cold-cuts and cheeses, and fruits beautifully arranged. Two waiters served the drinks, a DJ took care of music and lights. The party was in the garden, tables and chairs all around, full moon in the sky. Around 100 people, very few adults, as it should be. Dancing was over only at 3 in the morning, and cakes were served - delicious! All this was arranged by the two girls, with absolutely no help from the parents (except for the check-signing part, of course!). Nothing was missing from this event - not even the police, called in by neighbors who couldn't sleep (the poor people!!!! I really do see their point). We went to bed at five!
But the next day was sad. The rain that fell non-stop and flooded the garden, washing away all the remnants of decoration, was but an expression of our own grief. We learned that Tatá's mother Sílvia, who had been hospitalized a few days before the party, had passed away in the morning.
I am still happy we had such a gorgeous party. I had talked to Sílvia two weeks ago, she called me to thank me for having helped Tatá choose her gown. II knew she wanted this party to happen, she wanted it very much. I took many pictures of Tatá, radiant in the new dress, and I had hoped her Mom would be able to see them, even though I knew she probably would not be at the party. It was not to be.
We are all very upset.
Last week I went to our college campus bookstore (a misnomer: it is a general store, focusing on apparel, which has a few books for sale as well), and picked up a copy of The Simpsons and Philosophy. Having recently watched the first season on DVD (having avoided it entirely for a dozen years), I enjoyed some intellectualizing on the subject. I read the first quarter of the book on the train ride up to see Brazil beat England.
Last night the Blauenburg Band played at the Hopewell Gazebo, in a park in Hopewell Borough. There was a reasonably good turnout of listeners in lawn chairs, children playing on the playground equipement....Hopewell is an extremely charming and beautiful little village, which has a railroad line going through. The railroad once carried passengers to New York and Philadelphia, and now just carries freight trains which whistle as they pass by. The federal government had plans to send Interstate 95 through the valley,
but amazingly enough there was enough clout to prevent it, so Hopewell has been preserved from change. It's about fifteen miles out from Trenton (in the days of the interurban trolley there was a line which went out from the Battle Monument all the way there), and six miles over the hill from the Trenton to Princeton road. A lovely place. Below is the only photo of Hopewell I could find on the net.
sexta-feira, junho 21
I had a particularly patriotic evening last night. I caught the 11:52 PM train to Manhattan (arrives Penn Station 122 AM) and
caught the 7th ave. subway uptown to the apt. of Susan Davis Pereira and Wanderley Pereira, who had invited friends to watch the Brazil-England match in the Cup quarterfinals. She is a singer and keyboardist, he a drummer and percussionist. I had caught their group last year at the NJPAC in Newark New Jersey (another stop on the NE corridor main line). Also watching the game was Philip Galinsky, a Brazilianist and ethnomusicolgist who studies mangue beat and other Northern Brazilian popular music (and someone who has been a reader and contributor to the Saudadesodbrasil mailingl list. Rounding out the crew was a guitarist (Jeff?) who teaches at Rutgers Newark and an Argentinian neighbor from upstairs. We alternated between the English-language and Spanish-language coverage. Two beautiful goals from Brazil (as well as mistake leading to the one English goal) and a poorly called red card for the phenomnal Ronaldinho Gaucho.
terça-feira, junho 18
Wouldn't he make a great music critic?
Swans sing before they die - 'twere no bad thing
Did certain persons die before they sing.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Spell Checker Poem
Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
The near future will also bring work an on article on the flute and choro in contemporary Rio de Janeiro, which I hope will feature our flutist extraordinaire, Alexandre Bittencourt, as well as other choroes.
Il Divino Serginho
This morning I finished polishing up the article I have been writing on the flute music of nosso Sergio Roberto de Oliveira, and sent it off to the Flutist Quarterly, which I am hoping will approve it for publication. Here's the beginning....
Brazil has one of the most vital traditions of flute music in the world, with the instrument prominent in both popular music and classical music. The musical genre for which Brazil is probably most well-known, the bossa nova, a sophisticated mix of the rhythms of the Afro-Brazilian samba with the harmonies of modern jazz, would be hard to imagine without the flute. The flute’s popularity in Brazil goes back a long way, however, to its use by strolling ensembles of musicians who played the music known as choro, an adaptation of the salon dances of the late nineteenth century (polka, schottisch, waltz, tango, mazurka), in which keyboard originals were arranged for flute, cavaquinho (a relative of the ukelele), guitar, and tambourine. Many of the musicians involved in this genre of music were mulato (that is, of mixed African and European heritage), including Joaquim Callado (1848-1880), Pattapio Silva (1881-1907) and Pixinguinha (1897-1973) (the professional name of Alfredo da Rocha Viana Filho). These musicians were fully aware of the European traditions and techniques of the flute. Choro has an enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the last five years, with many groups of musicians in their twenties and thirties exploring the heritage of the genre and extending it with new compositions. Brazil also preserves a vital folk tradition of flute music in its rural Northeast, with ensembles of pifanos, who play rough wooden folk instruments, accompanied by drums. And last but not least composers of classical music (known as musica erudita, or “erudite music”) have written important contemporary works for the flute, including such leading figures as Cesar Guerra-Peixe and Radames Gnattali.
Composer Sergio Roberto de Oliveira has created a rewarding body of work for the flute over the last decade. Oliveira was born in 1970 and grew up in the middle-class neighborhood of Tijuca. As a composer he began by writing popular songs in the style known as MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira), a pop music that appeals to the middle and upper classes with sophisticated music and lyrics, and carries on some of the traditions of the bossa nova. Later he moved to classical music, studying with Guerra-Peixe and Tato Taborda, and completing a bachelor’s in composition at the University of Rio, where he studied with David Korenchendler. His earliest works were written while a student in the program there. Oliveira studied flute with Laura Ronai in order to write more idiomatically for the instrument.
Sergio and Marcio Conrad
I can be so nice...
This recording has it all: some of the most marvelous music ever written for the violin; beautiful, lively sound take; refreshingly intimate program notes; but more important than any of that, two truly first-class performers. The double CD is a real treasure. Rachel Podger is that rare find, a violinist with the sweetest sound, a flawless intonation, technique so good that it just disappears in the background, a musical instinct that is always awake, and a sense of style which permeates every musical gesture. She can convey exuberant joy or thoughtful sadness, and it all sounds round, and luscious and exciting. The first movement of BWV 1023, for example, with its startling beginning, full of cumulative tension leading to a lyrical reflection, is a feat of simultaneous intellectual understanding and concentrated emotion.
Trevor Pinnock proves here that he deserves the high reputation he enjoys. His accompaniment is always sensible and sensitive, providing a solid ground for Podger’s imaginative castle-building. Jonathan Manson has the almost impossible task of adding to this duo. He not only survives, but actually contributes to the final result, with some very refined and unobtrusive gamba playing. This is chamber music at is best. The dynamic contrasts are surprisingly varied and these performances are the greatest advocates not only for period instruments but also for a whole trend in performance, which calls for poignant leanings on harmonically important notes, freedom within a chosen tempo, carefully suspenseful cadences, more frequent rhythmic inflections and ornamentation that sounds improvised. All of this is done with good taste and wisdom, and the result is that the music sounds moving where it should, energetic where it demands it, without the slightest hint of mustiness or restraint. If you are only going to buy one recording this year, this might be the place to spend your money.
BACH Sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord and Sonatas for Violin and continuo: No. 6 in G, BWV 1019; No. 1 in b, BWV 1014; No. 2 in A, BWV 1015; No. 3 in E, BWV 1016; No. 4 in c, BWV 1017; No. 5 in f, BWV 1018; No. 6 in G, BWV 1019a; Cantabile from No. 6, version 2, BWV 1019a; Continuo Sonata in e, BWV 1023; Continuo Sonata in G, BWV 1021. Rachel Podger (vn); Trevor Pinnock (hpd); with Jonathan Manson (vdg). (period instruments) CHANNEL CCS 14798 9 (2 CDs: 139:23)
Fanfare, 5 – p.136
I can be so mean...
This CD is not bad.
Heavens, what a terrible opening line! Let me try again: this CD is not devoid of qualities. Not much better, is it? But I am just trying to be honest, without being unfair.
Well, maybe I should start by saying that if my criticism sounds too harsh, it is probably because Ms. Ross faces extremely tough competition.
Her playing is correct, technically clean, with satisfactory intonation. Her sound is quite beautiful. So what is wrong, then?
From the very first track one is struck by an almost stifling stillness. Not the stillness born of the missed heartbeat, of suspended breathing, of the fear of breaking the magic. No, it is rather a lack of impulse, a regularity of rhythm and inflection that weights the music down. Part of this feeling is due to the unchanging articulations (very polite, with no rough edges) and overall even dynamics. This homogeneity of sound ends up by blurring the distinction between ornament and structure, transforming long-winded phrases into fragmented sequences of notes. But the problem goes beyond that. The squareness somehow spills over to the emotional scope of the interpretations. There is no amplitude of gesture here, no daring or drama.
The Largo of BWV 1017, for example, one of Bach’s most heart wrenching moments, goes by at a brisk pace, almost allegro. A fitting background music for a day in the shopping center. The harpsichord accompaniment does not help dispel the impression; it is equally non-plussed and well behaved, with little depth of perspective. One misses the solemn approach of S. Kuijken (notwithstanding Gustav Leonhardt’s metallic-sounding harpsichord), the vital energy of Rachel Podger (reviewed in Fanfare, n.5, pg.136), or even the almost sentimental phrasing of Emlyn Ngai (reviewed in Fanfare, n.).
Some may consider the constant legato, the lack of forward drive and dynamic contrast, the emotional restraint a quality, a sign of serenity, control and balance. To me, it is deeply disturbing. If there is one field of art where Mies van der Rohe motto “Less is more” does not apply, it must be that of music performance. As in the present recording, unfortunately, less is less.
BACH Violin sonatas: in E, BWV 1016; in F, BWV 1022 (arr. Unknown); in c, BWV 1017; in g, BWV 1020 (also attributed to C. P. E. Bach); in A, BWV 1015. Jacqueline Ross (vn); David Ponsford (hpd). ASV 228 (70:12)
Fanfare, March/April 2002
domingo, junho 16
General Review of the Sex Situation
Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman's moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?
quarta-feira, junho 12
This is the island on which generations of my ancestors lived in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It's called Cuttyhunk.
terça-feira, junho 11
More on music
In trying to find out what's out there that's not in our indexes, I came upon a classical music monthly published in Spain, complete with ISSN (1576-0464), called Filomusica, which is now up to its 28th monthly issue. The May issue has articles on Schubert, Britten, Part, Quasthoff, Montsalvatge and others. It doesn't seem to have been cataloged by any of our libraries.
Read it here.
More music for the Duo
Last week I met with composer Frances White, who is writing a piece for two baroque flutes and tape (well, these days the pre-recorded part is usually on a CD-R). No performance date set yet....
Here's what she says about her music:
Most of my music is for instruments with tape. I love including tape parts in my music because I love making sounds by hand. When I write for instruments I try to give it the same intimacy and immediacy. In both my tape and instrumental music, for example, I am particularly fond of sustained sounds that change over time in very subtle ways. I think about music in a tactile way, where every sound is a concrete individual; I do not deal in concepts or abstractions. My music is about sound and the transforming experience of sound. My tape parts are sonic spaces in which I ask performers to find their places by listening: by striving for a perfect state of listening. I am interested in sounds that are barely audible, sounds that dwell on the border of existence. These quiet sounds can sometimes engage an audience more profoundly than more "present" sounds. My quiet sounds are nevertheless very intense and require a sustained energy in both playing and listening. My music is very difficult; it requires devotion, concentration, and patience. I find that plain sounds are more expressive, mysterious, and meaningful to me than the more glamorous ones. My sounds are sometimes dark, lack attack and clear definition, and often have no vibrato. My music is generally static and simple, and silence is very important (I do not write a lot of notes). At the same time, my music is expressive--sometimes even romantic, I think--but in a condensed way. Sometimes a melody will consist of just two notes, for example.
One of the indexes covering classical music is called the International Index to Music Periodicals (IIMP). I was disappointed to notice this morning that IIMP has no coverage from any countries in the Americas except for Canada and the USA. It only
covers three titles from Spain (not including Goldberg, published in Pamplona, which both Laura and I write for) and none from Portugual. IIMP says that it indexes the Latin American Music Review (with articles in English, Spanish and Portuguese) from 1996 on, but if you use the "language" search and limit to Portuguese, only three of the articles in this language from LAMR show up. Seems like IIMP needs a little more International in the content.
The last week has brought some different musical activities. On Sunday I went to Montgomery Middle School to play with the Blawenburg Band to a mostly non-listening audience at the annual Strawberry Festival hosted by a local Boy Scout troop.I was one of only three flutists in a somewhat reduced band, so I could hear what I was playing. And the previous Tuesday I went to play Irish session music (on my modern flute) at the Fado Irish Pub in center city Philadelphia. Very nice. Everyone plays by memory or by ear. The ambience is nice and the Guinness is good. I will go again tonight.
And the editor has approved more interviews with David Sanford and Anna Rubin, both of whom I know from their days at Princeton. Anna Rubin wrote two pieces for the Ronai/Moore Duo, which we played at our concerts in Princeton in December 99 and January 2001.