14 October 2010

Music Links

Some notable music links from the past couple of weeks.

Colin Eastock,  "What's Wrong with Classical Music?," at 3quarksdaily (4 October).  Worth reading.
His conclusion:
There are those who say that what’s needed is more music education programs, with a classical emphasis, in our schools. I’m certainly not opposed to this, but I fear that such efforts often create an academic aura around classical music that serves to further separate it from the “real world.” (This is the sorry fate that has befallen the art of poetry.) The goal should be to bring classical music back into the everyday lives of everyday people.

Musicians, educators, concert presenters, and all others involved in the promotion of classical music need to take a hard look at the cultural messages that may be undermining their efforts. It’s worth remembering that the division of musical cultures into “high” and “low” – separating the classical from the popular – was largely an invention of the classical music world itself. This kind of thinking has a long history, but it was only in the twentieth century that it coalesced into a rigid ideology of exclusion.

It’s time for classical music to finally get over the idea that it’s not merely different from, but opposed to, other musics: that classical music and no other kind is “timeless,” “universal” and “great.” This, in and of itself, will not solve the problem of getting people to appreciate (or even sit through) a Wagner opera. But it would, at least, bring classical music back into touch with the values of the contemporary world. If classical music today finds itself isolated on the wrong side of a cultural Berlin Wall, it’s a wall that it built itself. We need to demolish that wall, if we are to convince the world at large that classical music should and does have a place in the contemporary world.

The Economist (7 Oct) has a good summary of the current state of the music business: "Having a ball: In the supposedly benighted music business, a lot of things are making money."

The article has nothing whatsoever to say about the state of the classical music business, which is (as Eatock's essay emphasizes) too small to notice.

Philip Ball reports in Nature News (5 Oct) on the meeting The Musical Brain: Arts, Science & the Mind, which took place in London on 2 and 3 October, and took its inspiration from the life of Robert Schumann, whose 200th birthday is this year.  Ball discusses Schumann's (alleged) focal dystonia (from which pianist Leon Fleisher also suffers) and his (alleged) bipolar disorder, as well papers by Katie Overy on the expression of emotion in music and Stefan Koelsch.

An irritating quote:
In any event, Schumann is by no means unique among composers in having wrestled with mental illness: Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein are among others who seem to have done so.
When did it become a "fact" that Mozart suffered from "mental illness"?

Assorted short links:

Roberto Casati has published (5 Oct) a substantive revision of his article "Sound" at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Mark Changizi writes on the interaction in the brain between visual and aural perception, in "The Moving Look of Music: What Your Visual System Thinks Music Is" at Changizi Blog (28 Sep), drawn from his forthcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man.

Lisa Hirsch at Iron Tongue of Midnight has links to all of the reviews you could ever want (and more) of the new Rheingold at the Met.

Just what the world needs: another narcissistic "inheritor" of the mantle of Pavarotti. See Michael White's profile in the NYT of Vittorio Grigolo, who is making his debut at the Met this weekend in a revival of Zeffirelli's production Bohème, after making a smash in his debut in Covent Garden in June.

And wouldn't there be room in Pavarotti's mantle for at least two or three normal-sized tenors....?

A lost flute concerto by Vivaldi was recently discovered in Scotland among the papers of the Marquesses of Lothian; see the story by Severin Carrell in The Guardian (7 Oct).

Musicologist Reinhold Brinkmann, who taught at Harvard from 1985 until 2003, died this past Sunday, 10 October, at the age of 76. See the obituary in the Harvard Gazette; and another by Jens Malte Fischer at the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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  1. When did it become a "fact" that any of those composers suffered from "mental illness," as opposed to general psychological disturbances of various kinds?

    David W. Fenton

  2. Well, yeah. But who cares about those other guys...

    But seriously, what's especially irritating about this is that it appears in one of the very top scientific journals. Yet it is only hearsay.

    And secondary or tertiary hearsay, at that.