Friday Miscellanea

Let's start with a story of reunited lovers: Randy Bachman's guitar was stolen 45 years ago in Toronto. He just found it in Tokyo. It is hard to explain to non-guitarists just how deep the relationship between musician and instrument can be. I'm sure the same applies to violinists, cellists and other instrumentalists as well! But as a guitarist, I am more familiar with my instrument. I purchased my guitar in Vancouver in 1983 and have played it ever since--that is through one major repair and one complete restoration of cracks, fret and tuner replacement and complete revarnishing. Oh, and during this time I also had quite a few girlfriends and one marriage! But my guitar is a constant in my life.

Most of Randy Bachman’s guitars – over 400 at last count – are today safe inside the climate-controlled rooms of museums and memorabilia collections. But the guitar he really loves? The one he so cherishes that he would chain it to the toilet of his hotel room at night? Well, that one disappeared 45 years ago from a Toronto-area Holiday Inn, never to resurface again.

That is, until now.

Read the whole thing to learn how he finally managed to recover that special guitar.

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Here is another useful project from The Guardian: The best classical music works of the 21st century. One sterling example that I have heard in a few soundtracks is by Max Richter: "On the Nature of Daylight" from The Blue Notebooks (2004).

It is very reassuring that there is so much good music being written now.

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Jan Swafford weighs in with a really interesting essay on when AI tries to do Beethoven:

Artificial intelligence can mimic art, but it can’t be expressive at it because, other than the definition of the word, it doesn’t know what expressive is. It also doesn’t know what excitement is, because there’s a reason people call excitement “pulse-pounding,” and computers don’t have pulses. When computers set out to do art, they don’t fashion it in a whirl of creative trance inflected by a deadline; they can’t account for the heat or alarming lack of it in the room, sensations in the groin, the failure or success of drawing a foot that looks planted on the ground, the failure or success of creating rhythmic momentum on the page, the bit that’s bullshit and needs to be fixed and the bit that’s really good and you see where it wants to go, the woman or man you just met who excites you and whom you hope to excite, the thought of the idiots who think they can write as well as you, also the bastards who write better than you, what you’re having for dinner or what you had for dinner that’s not agreeing with you, the hairs falling out of your head onto the page, the expense of ink or paint or the rehearsal costs of a symphony orchestra, and so forth and so on, while in your trance you’re trying to conjure out of the air a portrait in words or tones or images of, say, that man or woman who maybe will appreciate you for the effort. Along with all that and maybe above all that, the gnawing and relentless drive to do something really good, this time, for all the above reasons and more, whether it’s trying to convince the woman to love you, or the public or God to love you, and/or to pay the rent, and to show yourself that you can damned well do something at least in the direction of really good in this possibly cursed endeavor that you believe you’ve been born to do, and without which your life is something in the direction of meaningless. 

None of that can be programmed into a computer in any way that means anything. To repeat: The only true, meaningful intelligence is in a body, and likewise the only true and meaningful creativity.

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This will likely depress you, Ted Gioia's 12 Predictions for the Future of Music.

Dead musicians will start by giving tours in concert halls, but as the cost of the technology goes down, they will begin performing everywhere. Holograms of Elvis may make their debut at a pricey Las Vegas casino, but will soon show up at your neighborhood bar. James Brown will sing at the Apollo once more, but eventually take wedding reception and bar mitzvah gigs.

Ok, time to move to a little cabin in the mountains with no Internet. 

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I've long been a fan of Salonen, so this is nice to see: Esa-Pekka Salonen and S.F. Symphony offer an opening night like no other.

To say that a new era at the San Francisco Symphony has begun at Davies Symphony Hall is true as far as it goes. But that doesn’t begin to convey just how transformative an event this was, or how thoroughly Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen has reconceived the strained old traditions of the season opening gala.

In a belated inaugural event on Friday, Oct. 1, delayed for a long painful year by the COVID-19 pandemic, Salonen finally got a chance to show Symphony patrons what his leadership is going to look like. The short version is: like nothing we’ve experienced to date.

The programming for the evening, dubbed “Re-Opening Night,” was fierce and dynamic, without a note of music from the standard repertoire. At the heart of the evening was an expansive stylistic hybrid by Wayne Shorter, melding jazz and orchestral strains and featuring the inimitable Grammy-winning bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding. There were dancers from Alonzo King Lines Ballet, performing on a large thrust stage.

To get a sense of what sounds like an amazing concert, read the whole thing!

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Here is another take on the recent Nigel Kennedy controversy:

 Mocking Kennedy thirty years ago for performing the Berg Violin Concerto wearing vampire make-up and a cloak, the Radio Three controller John Drummond described him as a ‘Liberace for the nineties’. Paganini may be a better comparison: a restless figure of astonishing ability, despised by many critics as a circus performer and accused by others of selling his soul to the devil. Kennedy – who named his son Sark Yves Amadeus Kennedy – seems similarly trapped, a kind of clown maudit with a virtuoso gift for embarrassing nearly everyone nearly all the time. An honest history of this entire reach of stunt music would have to include informed critical appraisal both of Kennedy’s sonic reworkings (shrewd or too obvious?) and of the quality of his improvisation (haunting or merely corny?). But for all his evidently bankable willingness to pick certain fights, such creative decisions are rarely discussed, because all traces of the arcanely musical arguments for them end up smoothly effaced.

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The New York Times has a piece on conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler: A Conductor’s Impossible Legacy

For Hitler, Furtwängler was the supreme exponent of holy German art; it was to the Nazis’ satisfaction that he served — in effect if not in title — as the chief conductor of the Third Reich.
The complications are many. Furtwängler never joined the Nazi party, and after his initial protests over the expulsions of Jewish musicians and the erosion of his artistic control were resolved in the Nazis’ favor in 1935, he found ways to distance himself from the regime, not least over its racial policies. His performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and at the Bayreuth Festival at once served the Reich and gave succor to those who sought to survive it, even oppose it.

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I guess we should have Kennedy's Four Seasons as our first envoi:


 Ok, what the f**k is he wearing? I guess some Salonen would be nice about now. Here is his tone poem Nyx, the Greek goddess of night: