Friday, May 28, 2010

i hate blogs: for my darling lisa

I must admit, I'm not a fan of blogging. I don't read other people's blogs, either. Blogs have always seemed rather self-indulgent to me because they are like writing in your diary and expecting other people to be interested in your (usually) half-baked thoughts.

The weather is getting nice outside and it's getting harder and harder to concentrate on work. Programming music in a cohesive order that is season-appropriate is tricky on days like today. BUT today is request day so I am, thankfully, at the beck and call of my wonderful listeners. It's always interesting to see what direction the requests will take. I think people become inspired by other requests and think of something similar to request. It's also nice to speak with my regular callers, when I have the time. Unfortunately, Fridays tend to be very hectic and we don't always get to chat a whole lot.

I am very thankful for my listeners abroad--from Thailand to England. (That's right, Lisa, you aren't my only international listener.) In this technological climate, when it is so easy for people to essentially dj their own shows online with the internets and the podcasts and what have you, it's nice to know that some people like to occasionally tune into good ole MPB--All Things Mississippi. You may have noticed, if you are an especially attentive listener, that we have changed our slogan to "All Things Mississippi" starting this week. Any opinions on that? I quite like it because it clearly indicates our massive effort to produce TONS of local shows and to represent all regions of the state and all of our listeners.

Well...stop reading this and tune into MPB! Cheers, kids 8)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Where's the line?

Alright, maybe it's been a while since I posted a new blog. But let's put that behind us now and move on, yes?

A while ago, I got a voicemail from a listener who was displeased with a particular selection on midday classical. The piece was from Ludovico Einaudi's album Divenire and it featured piano, loops and cello. The listener (who, sadly, did not leave a phone number) said that just because a piece has cello and piano doesn't mean it is classical music. I wish I could have called that listener back because I wanted to ask what makes classical music. I find that question to be endlessly fascinating and probably impossible to answer fully--at least for me.

What do you think? Do the limits of classical music lie in instrumentation? Form? Structure?

Plenty of music we now call "classical" was "popular music" when it was written--or at least based on popular music. So when does it become classical music? Is this a temporal issue? Does a piece have to be a certain age before it becomes classical music if it evokes or includes a popular idiom?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Historic accuracy blah blah blah

My dear fellow music enthusiasts, the time has come to at least murmur a bit about historical accuracy. Conversations on this topic almost always take an unpleasant turn, I must warn you. So please keep your scathing comments to a respectful minimum. When talking about historical accuracy in music, one usually refers to music from the Baroque or Classical eras, before composers were meticulous about notating everything. I'll give you an example of one very famous (in nerdly circles) debate: how many people sang in JS Bach's ensemble? Seems like an easy question, right? If you only knew the scads of essays, angry letters and other pretentious treatises written on the subject. The main scholars in this debate are Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott, both well-respected as musicians and historians. Rifkin says Bach's vocal music should be performed with one singer per part. He also claims that the St. Matthew Passion was originally performed with this complement. The debate exists because actual evidence regarding first "performances" (this is back when sacred music was written for actual sacred services) and personnel lists for St. Thomas, where Bach worked, is sparse and inconsistent. Still, Rifkin and Parrott go around and around on this topic. Granted, it is a noble pursuit to try to discover as much about the music as possible in order to give a thoughtful, respectful performance. But the way I see it, after having read ever so many Rifkin/Parrott essays that grew more and more adolescent in their personal attacks, the whole subject comes down to one question in the end.

Should this piece be performed the way it was originally performed or the way it was intended to be performed by the composer?

This question isn't meant to over simplify the situation at all. After all, how can we always know how a piece was meant to be performed? Still, the question is valid, I think. For the sake of consistency, let's consider Bach. He did not have many musicians at his disposal most of the time. At St. Thomas, he did have a boys choir he got to train, which I'm sure was very useful. Perhaps Bach could only find one good singer to represent each vocal part...does that mean we should perform it as such these days? Anyone who has studied Bach from a performance perspective knows how important textural clarity is to Bach so maybe the Mormon Tabernacle Choir wouldn't be appropriate for a performance of Komm, Jesu, Komm. But couldn't one use a 16-voice ensemble? This is a lot to think about and opinions are constantly changing. It's a bit hard to keep up, really, with all of the scholarly debate.

What do you think? How would you answer the question?

Monday, June 16, 2008

My composer friends

First off, I must give sincere thanks to producer, Ezra Wall for providing me with a delicious afternoon treat today in the form of a chocolate malt. Thanks, Ez!

Earlier this afternoon, I played the only symphony written by Italian-born composer Luigi Cherubini--perhaps a self-indulgent choice. This is because Cherubini is one of my favorites, though just a few short years ago, his name only rung a faint bell in my head. As a graduate student, I was assigned a research project on Cherubini's Requiem. Everyone else in my class was assigned a concept, genre or musical school and I was assigned a piece. One piece. Needless to say, I examined that piece and the composer rather closely. I even got to go to Hill Memorial Library (which looks a lot like I thought Grigott's would look) on LSU campus. Hill Memorial is where all of the rare books are kept. It's an austere building where you have to cram all of your belongings into a locker as soon as you walk in and are only allowed one pencil and a sheet of paper. You also only have three hours to look at your rare book, which, in my case, was a music theory text book written by Cherubini for his students at the Paris Conservatory. It was during this research that I discovered I really like Cherubini...the person, not just his music. It was the first time I felt a sort of connection to a composer outside of a musical experience.

Since then, I've enjoyed wondering about composers' personalities. Would Tchaikovsky and I have gotten along? What sort of mannerisms did Haydn have when telling stories? I imagine Messiaen might doodle on his napkin over lunch. So now I pose the question to you: Which composers do you think you would have gotten along with?

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's got that new blog smell...

Hello Classical Fans! Welcome to my new blog. Think of this as the teacher's edition or supplemental reading for Midday Classical, Modern Classical (which we call ModCL), Symphony at Six and all other musical goings-on at MPB. Sometimes when I'm presenting music on the air, I'll hit on a topic that requires more explanation than time allows. Sometimes I like to have music-inspired daydreams. This blog gives me a chance to explain a lenthy concept, give more historical context, ramble a little bit and maybe even start up a musical conversation with you.

Stay tuned to this blog for more classical music updates and musings!

Hello from Karen's Classical Corner

Greetings and salutations