Sunday, January 31, 2010

listen to that


Alex has announced that Listen to This, his new book, is dropping in late September. I can assure you that it will be quite excellent, and I personally guarantee that all the facts have been suitably checked. If not, I am in some trouble. The book chronicles music in all its forms, from Cavalli through Brahms to Radiohead and Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, no Lady GaGa. Spoiler alert: in a brilliant M. Night Shyamalan twist, in the end Alex reveals that classical music was dead the entire time.

I'm no John Corigliano fan, but I am a bitter Howard Shore enemy. Apparently Corigliano wrote the soundtrack for the new Mel Gibson movie but his score was rejected and replaced by Shore's. It looks like Corigliano tried to write some intelligent, sensitive music, but:
"[Warner Bros.] had a very different idea of what the film should be. With Mel Gibson starring, they wanted it to be more of an action film. So they filmed more violent scenes, and wanted a score to match the macho image they wanted to create for their star. If I had been asked to score a Mel Gibson action film, I would have refused it – not because it isn’t a perfectly valid idea, but because it is wrong for me. On the other hand, this happens all the time. Howard Shore – whose music replaced mine -had exactly the same thing happen to his score for King Kong, which he’d composed, recorded, and had replaced by James Newton Howard’s music. It just hadn’t happened to me before."
This is a bit hard to stomach, and gives me another great reason not to see Edge of Darkness. Read the rest of the interview here (h/t Matthew Guerrieri)

Classical music may not be dead, but it looks like record sales are. According to Anne Midgette, Hilary Hahn's latest album debuted at #1 on the Billboard classical charts--but even after a lot of buzz and a Conan appearance during the Late Night Wars it still only sold about 1,000 copies. I think that at this point the Billboard charts are essentially irrelevant. I spent a lot of time last summer looking at old issues of Billboard and their articles on classical sales (they're all available on Google Books) and it was consistently depressing. Most of the articles written after 1960 or so were anecdotal about classical record stores shutting down or overall declines of sales. They basically proclaimed the death of classical recording once a month for forty years. Recording limps on, but I'm not sure if Billboard needs to have a part in it.

And, finally, the New York Times has noticed classical saxophone. I only wish it hadn't been Vivien Schweitzer, my least favorite Times music critic. A couple small criticisms: Schweitzer mentions Strauss as a "master orchestrator," which is usually the case, except his saxophone writing is pretty terrible (she should have mentioned Berg). And it would have been wise to write that Timothy McCallister, one of the greatest saxophonists performing today, was brought in specially by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the awesome sax part in John Adams' new City Noir. Those of us hoping for more mainstream recognition of classical saxophone will continue to wait for an all-encompassing piece.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding recording.
    First, I think recordings of classical music should never take precedence over live performance but should simply be a way for people to become familiar with a work.
    Second, the Billboard system just doesn't work as a measure of classical recordings because the audience has such a different mentality. There's no rush to buy recordings; there's no need to be in possession of what's "hot". Classical music is built on delayed gratifications; we'll buy it when we damn well please.