Archive for the ‘Found on the Web’Category

1-Bit Symphony

This is brilliant work. I just preordered mine.

Tristan Perich: 1-Bit Symphony (Part 1: Overview) from Tristan Perich on Vimeo.

20

Aug 2010
12:08

Inception: plot point or arcana?

This is kinda neat. One of the main musical gestures in the score of Inception is derived from an actual plot point in the film.

Neat! Cool! I love it!

But is it hearable? I mean, now that it’s been pointed out and delivered via the viral web you can hear it, and SOMEONE must have heard it to first point it out, but would anyone hear it on a first, third, or twentieth listen? And if it’s not hearable, does it even matter as a theatrical gesture?

That could be asked of a many musical ideas. While it might require some amount of indoctrination to follow musical relationships in Mozart or Beethoven, there’s no doubt that those relationships are observable and create some sort of meaning. Can any amount of training make the intricate and technical transformations and relationships of serial music hearable without following along in a heavily marked up score? What about the little games that composers would sometimes play, spelling out names with pitches? There’s no way anyone could hear that.

It seems that there are two flavors of transformation, the transformation that is purely part of the compositional process, part of the mental game the composer plays to create a satisfying piece. It may have meaning to the composer, but it requires some extra-musical information or very careful analysis to be observed. Then there is the transformation that is designed to be followed and tracked by the astute listener, to give meaning and structure to a piece.

In Zimmer’s case with Inception, there may be parts of the score that encourage the listener to hear this relationship between the doom gesture and the Piaf tune, all it would take is one passage that presents one the themes speeding up or slowing down into the other and all would become clear. But without that breadcrumb somewhere in the score, I suspect that under normal listening that relationship would remain unobserved and, therefore, meaningless.

02

Aug 2010
11:08

The OTHER other side of Guitar Hero

When measuring success, if you haven’t yet inspired a YouTube parody, you’re probably an also-ran. When you’re REALLY successful, you become a template for parodying other things. That would make Guitar Hero pretty successful.

The earliest Guitar Hero parody I know of was forwarded to me by the internetally omniscient non-aardvark Curtis Chen (who runs the very worth your time snout.org).  The gag is even funnier if you’re familiar with the More Cowbell skit on SNL.

While not exactly a YouTube parody, the Onion had it’s own take on the Guitar Hero phenomenon with their report of lackluster sales for Sousaphone Hero. I love the idea of 135 virtual sousaphone players competing in Marching Band mode, and any brass player will sympathize with the need to keep the controller’s spit valve drained.

And most recently, we have the world cup edition: Vuvuzela Hero. Well played, sir, well played.

11

Jul 2010
8:07

The other side of Guitar Hero

I wrote last week lamenting how Guitar Hero provides a quick fix that discourages people from actually learning how to play an instrument (although as several friends have pointed out, the new Rock Band 3 that is scheduled to ship this winter includes a real Fender guitar and pro mode that matches ALL the real notes!)

On the other hand, it certainly exposes a generation to music that they may never have paid attention to otherwise, and in such an interactive and engaging way that it actually becomes their music. I’m thrilled that my younger cousins have been exposed to the staples of my college experience Jane’s Addiction, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails, as well as the staples of my high school experience The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones.

But that’s only part of my youth.  What about the rest of my high school experience, The Stravinsky, The Bartok, and The Schoenberg?

While I don’t expect to see a Guitar Hero version of Bartok’s String Quartets or Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex any time soon, why not a Guitar Hero version of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint?

It turns out that the new music supergroup Bang On A Can felt similarly.  As covered on Amanda Ameer’s blog Life’s A Pitch, there are now three Rock Band tracks available so you can play along with the polyrhythmic minimalist supergroup and become a Modern Music Hero.

Yo Shakespere – Michael Gordon

Shadowbang – Evan Ziporyn

Pretty catch stuff,. If only it was notated so you could keep track of the downbeat it would be a lot easier to play. This scrolling note thing is just a pain in the butt.

The mechanism of Rock Band seems to lend itself well to minimalism. Serial work may not be quite as effective. You can only generate so much material out of five-tone rows…

05

Jul 2010
13:07

Tobias Picker starts foodie trend in New York

June 2010 Playbill

Apparently, when Tobias Picker eats, broadway listens.  Mere weeks after Mr. Picker was spotted at a Petaluma Applebee’s, broadway heart-throb Hunter Ryan Herdlicka told Playbill magazine that Applebee’s was the perfect spot to catch a post-show snack.  He even singled out the spinach and artichoke dip!

Maybe the New York Times will send a critic to Taste of Petaluma this year to spot next year’s trends…

18

Jun 2010
13:06

Owen Pallett rocks my world

Owen Pallett‘s new album Heartland is just fantastic. I was introduced to his work by Sequenza21 and after listening to a couple of tracks I made a special trip to Aquarius Records to pay full price for the CD (hooray for supporting artists and local record stores). It was that compelling.

A month later, the album is still gorgeous. Rhythmically complex, richly textured, an intriguing mix of electronica and acoustic instruments, affecting modal melodies. I’m so happy that this music is being made. Just listen to the opening track “Midnight Directives”

[audio:http://musicvstheater.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/01-Midnight-Directives.mp3|titles=01 Midnight Directives]

The snare drum rhythm that kicks in around 0:53 bears more than a passing resemblance to Bjork’s Hunter. After a few listens I became very enamored of the complex pizzicato line at 1:15. Eventually I started searching YouTube to see if there was a video to go along with it. Here’s what I found.

OMG.  Ya see.  I hadn’t realized he was a loop artist. I mean, I remember seeing it mentioned, but hearing the album, the looping aspect of things just didn’t register. The material was too rich, too interesting to just be another looper. Sure, when he’s doing the solo performance bit, the textures aren’t as varied as the fully orchestrated album cuts, but still. He’s completely shattered my previous beliefs about what loop musicians can and can’t do.

I wonder how this piece was conceived. Was it a solo piece first? If that’s the case, than the tape delayed pizzicato line must have been one of the original elements, as opposed to the pretty textural addition that I believed it was after hearing the album track.

If you’re in San Francisco, Owen Pallett is playing at the Independent tomorrow, May 5. Tickets are only $16.  I’m going to try to make it, but I’ve got a rehearsal up in Petaluma that evening. Hopefully I’ll get out in time.

Here’s one more video from Owen Pallett. It feels a wee bit like an underbaked casserole of images and ideas, but it’s still a fun watch. Especially when Alison Pill shows up. Oh my god is she adorable.

04

May 2010
11:05

More #Operaplotting

Instead of working on my own opera I seem to be spending the night trying to summarize other operas in under 130 characters. Hmmm… Maybe in a few years people will be trying to summarize Failing That in under 130 characters. Assuming I’m finished in a few years.

Here’s the latest batch:

La Boheme

“OMG, so, it’s like a remake of ‘Rent’, only they used, like, CLASSICAL music. What a cool idea, right?” Cue facepalm. #operaplot (via GenY)

Turn of the Screw

Mix one part Mary Poppins and one part Sixth Sense. Turn until screwed. #operaplot

The Ring Cycle

How do you summarize an opera with over 130 characters in under 130 characters? Damn you Wagner. #operaplot

Das Rheingold

Something about three girls in a river and a dwarf stealing their gold. Ummm… never made it past the first scene. #operaplot

OK. That’s enough. I need to try to get some “real” work done.

28

Apr 2010
23:04

Operaplot: easily digestible operachunks.

If you’ve been following my tweets, you may have noticed that it’s #operaplot season!

What? You haven’t heard about #operaplot, the brainspurt of that blogging genius over at The Omniscient Mussel? Well, it’s high time you learned.

The rules are simple. Summarize an entire opera in one tweet (ie 140 characters, including the hashtag #operaplot). You have until Friday at midnight to submit up to 25 summaries. Then the whole lot of them will be shipped off to celebrity judge, tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Hopefully he has a good sense of humor.

The winners will be able to choose from a bounty of prizes donated by opera companies around the world, the biggest includes a trip to Ireland!

The entries are coming in fast and furious now, it’s kinda fun to watch them show up on the feed.  There’s a big trend towards writing limericks or couplets. Not really my style, but some of them are cute.

Here are my entries so far:

The Rake’s Progress

Country bumpkin moves to city,dumps Daisy Duke for Uncle Jesse lookalike. If you call that progress,you belong in a nuthouse too. #operaplot

Peter Grimes

What?!? ANOTHER apprentice!? What happened to the last one? OK, ONE more, but then I’m cutting you off. The borough’s talkin. #operaplot

The Consul

Magda:”Baby’s sick, Grandma’s sick, Dad’s missing. HELP!” State:”Take two forms, call back in the AM.” Single Payer:The Opera? #operaplot

Porgy and Bess

SBF iso SBM. Car,mule,legs optional. Happy dust OK. Just broke up w bf,so off to NYC for week. Write 2u l8r. (account deleted) #operaplot

And my personal favorite (hoping to get to Ireland with this one!):

Nixon in China

@kissinger23, new idea for comeback: covertly fund musical with me as the hero. Focus on positive. Can we get Bernstein? #operaplot

See! It’s fun! Go ahead and write some of your own! (Although if you’re starting a twitter account just for this, it may take a few days for your entries to show up in the feed…)

28

Apr 2010
12:04

My Spoon is Too Big! The non-invisible Don Hertzfeldt.

I just got home from the the San Francisco International Film Festival where they awarded animator Don Hertzfeldt their (somewhat cloyingly named) “Persistence of Vision” award. The presentation featured a 90 minute long selection of his works followed by a (too) brief question and answer session.

I had already seen almost all of the films that were screened.  Billy’s Balloon still brings tears to my eyes, even if it does go on for about 45 seconds too long (it’s a student film, what do you expect?). His latest work (Everything Will Be OK, and I Am So Proud Of You, the first two chapters of an eventual trilogy) is vastly more ambitious. Hertzfeldt has proven himself to be much more than a one gag film maker. He’s adapted his surreal, non-sequitor sensibilities to tell aching stories of isolation, regret, and possibly insanity. This is a far cry from the usual Sick and Twisted gross out fare that surrounded his earliest films. The fact that neither of these films received Academy Award nominations is further evidence of the questionable worth of that category.

His short Rejected (which WAS nominated for an Academy Award) features some very non-invisible film making. The first two thirds of the piece are typical of his early work, surreal, a bit shocking, and very funny. But in the last minutes of the piece, we start to see Hertzfeldt develop into a much more serious filmmaker.  The very medium that the characters inhabit starts to turn against them. The paper is torn, crumpled, as the fabric of their existence is threatened. One particularly haunting image is of two stick characters banging at the paper as if it was a window trapping them in. It’s shocking and scary and brilliant.

Hertzfeldt possessed a charmingly awkward stage presence as he discussed his work, occasionally breaking into surreal anecdotes about classmates chopping off bits of their digits in elementary school art class, or being mistaken for Johnny Depp while sneaking into a Monty Python reunion. He discussed how he became an animator (he wanted to do live action, but live action uses more film stock than animation which made it too expensive), past projects (an ill fated feature for a big studio) and future projects (finishing up the trilogy and then possibly a non-studio feature!)

It’s kinda amazing. Don Hertzfeldt has managed to create a living for himself solely by selling DVDs of his self produced animations, ancillary products, and speaking fees. He doesn’t do any commercial work at all (although if Kellogg’s had any integrity whatsoever they’d send him a check for each Pop Tart they sell).  How many animators can say that? How many filmmakers can say that?

24

Apr 2010
3:04

John Adams thinks your piece sucks

John Adams just wrote a very funny blog post about master classes.  I happen to know he just gave one over at the San Francisco Conservatory last week, so the timing of this blog entry is probably not a coincidence.

It’s a little nerve wracking reading through it. How does my string quartet match his description of “eighty percent of all student compositions”?  If you replace his tritone that “expresses life’s eternally unresolved mysteries” with my minor second that expresses the unresolved desire for unity… ummm… gulp.

19

Apr 2010
12:04