Monday, February 29, 2016

A Harpist Finding Her Way to Jazz

I found this article interesting for many reasons, it is about Harpist Brandee Younger, a classically trained musician transitioning into the Jazz scene. The first point I found interesting was her inspiration for learning Jazz, a magazine article with a feature called "practical news for practical harpists," which talked about an influential jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. I couldn't help but wonder if they were somehow recommending that these musicians start learning jazz style music because it is somehow more practical than than playing classical harp music.
The next part of the article talks about the conservatory she went to, The Hartt School, and how she didn't feel that she belonged there for two main reason, the fact that she did not go to an arts high school and that she was the only black musician for her instrument. At this point I was reminded of our talks about approachability and accessibility in classical music. Basically because she felt so separated from her peers she lost interest in classical music and found jazz more inviting and exciting. I don't think there is any problem with musicians focusing more on a jazz style than a typical classical style, I actually think that using a harp in jazz music sounds like a really awesome idea,  I just hope that for the future of classical music we as musicians can be relatable to all different kinds of people from all different backgrounds. If we seem snooty or un-accepting then there will be no future of classical music as it will seem like it is only for the elite.
Brandee Younger seems to have definitely built a solid reputation for herself and loves what she does, so I am really glad that she wasn't so put off by music that she gave up on it entirely, I just wonder if she would have gotten into that genre if she had felt more like she "belonged" in the classical world.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

In the midst of life we are in death

         “We live between contrasts,” Haas says, “between happiness and unhappiness, between pain and joyful feelings about desire and fulfilling.” Stark polarities are Haas’s thing. When I saw the title of an article called "Finding Beauty in Georg Friedrich Haas's Darkness", it recalled me some memories about this composer. When I first time have listened his masterwork "In vain", I was obsession with changing experiences of time, timbre, diversity pulse, microtonal tuning and dense harmonies. When the music had run through, it transforms the place where I stayed into a place of shuddering mystery. 
           Dark seem to means something to Haas. In an article of his interview, he suggesting that "the way of truth goes through the dark." He is deeply interested in the relationship between light and the aural sense, and so a number of his works have periods of complete darkness. It is a challenge to composer to find a springboard, which could transmitting life's event by emotional, and it's better be real, in other word, "authenticity". What kind of music could arouse one's feelings? This is the question that I keep asking myself every time before I start a new piece. I always become immersed in musical techniques and other parameters of music so that I forgot to focus on the very basic thing of music, like feelings. Nevertheless, every time I looked back and trying to improve my old pieces, it was hard. Each of them had their flaws. The thing is I could not picked up again the feelings of mine during the time I spend with in the process of composed. In this case, I mean, if the flaw is inevitable, I would rather it exist honestly and with feelings. From the article of his interview, he insists that "It is not important to please somebody. It is important to be honest. I am the audience. I am a human being. Those who listen are human beings. So if I can honestly love what I am doing, there will be somebody else who will love it, too." 

See the article, click here

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Classical Music and Social Justice

While researching composers of color to add to my listening assignments for students, in observance of Black History Month, I came across across an interesting article about the Dallas Bach Society's observance of BHM with a concert of music by black composer, Joseph Bologne, better known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges. While I was already familiar with this composer, and had included him in my students' listening assignments, it was certainly a surprise to find a fairly mainstream historically informed ensemble dedicating a concert to his music. I found this to not only be exciting, but also significant for two reasons:

The first is that we often think of pre-20th century classical music as a white art-form. This is partly because, by and large, it is primarily white dominated. As a result, we often relegate "black music" to the fields of jazz, blues, and other styles of music that developed out of these. While it is certainly important to acknowledge the relevance and importance of such styles as jazz and blues, limiting our scope of the contribution of people of color to these areas of music still serves to perpetuate segregation in the arts community. Whether or not it's intentional, the statement we make is basically that classical music is for white, affluent people, but we will allow the black community to participate in serious music by giving them jazz. Dallas Bach Society's concert dedicated to Saint-Georges' music is a step in the direction of acknowledging that there are contributions by people of color in classical music, and they should be celebrated.

The second reason is that this sort of programming allows for the classical music world to find a new level of relevancy. Our class has discussed the decline of classical music, citing accessibility and relevancy as possible factors. Perhaps one way of regaining relevance is by taking strides to make contributions to the realm of social justice. Classical music is no longer a source of entertainment for mainstream America, and it is doubtful that it will ever again compete with current pop moguls. Maybe it's time for classical music to stop seeking to regain this lost ground, and, instead of vying for attention by attempting to entertain, demand attention by using programs such as Dallas Bach Society's to make statements in favor of important, and socially relevant issues, such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Whole programs could be created for the purpose of driving social justice. Concerts could explore issues of gender and sexuality through historically informed performance of cross-gender roles in 17th and 18th century Italian opera; a concert focusing on the music of female composers could be used to draw attention to the ways in which misogyny has shaped modern society; and a plethora of examples can be found of contributions by Latin American, Jewish, Middle Eastern, and Black composers to classical music to show that this is not an art-form solely for the white and affluent. The possibilities for taking classical music in this direction are endless.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Modern stage arrangement with traditional chorus

Modern stage arrangement with traditional chorus
On Thursday night, February 18th, Iván Fischer brought his Budapest Festival Orchestra to Carnegie Hall with the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. Click here
The key feature of the performance is combining modern instruments while with an old-fashioned sound. The stage arrangement is in the current fashion: cellos and violas in the middle and basses in the back; while chorus are dressed in traditional performing costume and can be easily recognized as Central Europeans simply from their color. However, the most attracting part of this chorus is achieved by how they work coherently with the orchestra. They gave up the usage of exactitude of accents, rhythms, and phrases like most chorus normally do but used a more warm and complex sound combination to make ensemble works together.
On the other hand, the conductor Fisher rediscovered the Weber overture. He enhanced the drama of the music by rearranging the stage: split the horns and place them standing in pairs on each side of the orchestra. By doing so, the opening chorale became more deliberate, drawing attention to narrative instead of the music itself. In the performance of Liszt piano concerto, the pianist Marc-André Hamelin was a star. His touch at the keyboard was explosive or silky, depending on the demands of the moment. Hamelin’s ease in playing this piece was not showy, but made the music sing. After intermission, the Prokofiev symphony came off oddly. The orchestra played with substantial energy and power, and handled all the technical challenges.
The most interesting part of the performance is the conductor’s idea of stage arrangement and chorus’s coherence with the orchestra. He innovated the stage performance while jumping out of the tradition of the human sound in the performance. And this is the highlight of the whole performance.

Monday, February 22, 2016

New Music on Vinyl

New Music on Vinyl

This article discusses the current "trendiness" of vinyl and how new music is now being offered on vinyl. The author explains how it is not necessarily a good idea financially, but artistically many composers prefer it in their art making process. He then weighs the pros and cons of vinyl over digital, basically stating that cd's and downloads have the potential to make more money but a record has a certain draw that helps sell new music that other wise wouldn't have the same appeal. He ends the piece with a quote that states composers do what they love regardless of the expense or short term outcome, and many of them have their audience in mind when thinking about what would enhance the listening experience for them. I personally thought of records as more of a novelty in this age, they are really only used to give a vintage vibe or to create a "back in time" atmosphere, but I think it would be really cool if they became a staple again for a way to listen to music. It does add a certain warmth to the sound and if a composer had this in mind for his piece I think it would add to the experience overall.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Deconstruct serialism

  In the weeklong Focus Celebration for Milton Babbit’s centennial. Click here.

  Juilliard Orchestra tried to illustrate the Serialism composition by showing the logical path to Serialism: from Brahms, to music of early Schoenberg, to Stravinsky’s music, and finally to the Babbit’s Piano Concerto No.2.

  Each piece is carefully selected. In Brahms selection, it was the “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,”, one of Brahms’s chorale preludes for organ. The melody is so artfully embellished and braided into the harmonic texture. That sort of disconnection between perception and knowledge — between what you hear and what you’ve been told is there — widens exponentially in Serialism, where the logic and elegance of the composition process so often result in music that sounds confusing and random; later, it chose Schoenberg’s achingly chromatic Five Pieces for Orchestra to illustrate a midway stage in weaning audiences from their dependence on melody; in Stravinsky’s “Variations (Aldous Huxley in Memoriam),” a listener is immersed in a dramatic interplay of wind, strings and syncopations; finally, for Babbit’s piano concerto, audience will experience and understand the “disconnection” between orchestra, individual instruments and piano.

  Serialism is always a headache to students because of its forbidden structure. However, in this serial performance of four composers, Juilliard Orchestra tried to de-structure the Serialism by explaining how Serialism come from: from its originality to its mature form. The historical path or evolution path illustrate the underlying principle of Milton Babbits: why he composed this way and what he wanted to show to the audience by this composition strategy. It is like constructing the skyscraper from the scratch: make you understand the complex concept by showing you the simplest idea where the concept grows from.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Leah Barclay

This week I read an interview with Leah Barclay, who is a modern composer and "sound activist." Like many of the other article I read she experiments with multimedia performances to really give the audience a deep connection with her music. I have noticed that many of the composers today use art to and the space around them to influence and contribute the music, which I believe keeps it fresh for the audience and increases interest in a field that many see as difficult to connect to. One of Leah's goals with her audience is "to teach them to listen to the sounds around them." When asked about her classical background and how it morphed into the "electroacoustic" music she creates, she explains that her surroundings have always been a big inspiration for her and the differences between each place she has traveled to are reflected in the music. She feels deeply connected with nature and hopes to communicate about the environment to her audience. She is currently working on "biosphere landscapes." I appreciate that many artists now are incorporating different types of art into music, and that they are using the sounds from their natural surroundings to influence their writing. Both composers with interviews who I have written about in the blog so far involved either the environment or architecture of the performance space as a part of the pieces, so I wonder if this use of performance mixed with art is going to stay a popular trend. I like that it speaks so directly to the audience and that it gets people excited for new concerts as well as makes it interesting. While I hope not all "classical music" remains in this style, I can see how it is helpful in grabbing an audience and getting more people into the genre.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

At the threshold

Contemporary composers explores new music's obsession with unique, focusing on the way ideas of the sounds are constructed through specific techniques and expanding the music what we have already got. Discovering new music pieces is one of the way to refresh the repertoire, and multiple music types has been offer to wide range audiences.

 The most urgent thing for composers whose music is never had a chance to heard by people is having a platform, in which the young composers could present their talents on music. The concept has raised by The Boston Modern Orchestra Project was meaningful. "A small number of employees, low fixed costs and a more flexible schedule of concerts." This is a relatively fresh model compare with the traditional orchestra. As a young composer, I am glad to see there have manifold projects or organizations about new music are raising up gradually.

For more information about The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, click here

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The blends

Last Friday. It was around 5 pm. I was starving.
I guess the roads could have been worse because it had been snowing heavily since early in the day, and the roads were already slushy. I was not happy to walk outside into the wet snow in the morning. 
But unexpectedly, the snow made the world so beautiful.
I forget my hunger so easily while enjoying walking around.
Nature has the power to make us attractive without reasons.

I feel that music also has the similar power too.
I'm attracted and moved quickly without reasons when meet great musicians or amazing music.

On the same night, I was in Sander's theatre to watch a concert by String quartet, Brooklyn rider, and singer-song writer, Gabriel Kahane, who has positioned himself amongst the vanguard of genre-bending song-writers. The program was quite interesting, the concert covered a range of works influenced by rock, pop and world music. Bridging the old and new, Schubert's string Quartet in A major, op. 29 was also performed, the movements being strategically scattered amongst the modern works, which I found artistically effective, and interesting to observe how the programming paralleled Kahane's musical style, a style in which he demonstrates his ability to combine elements of many different genres. Each genre-element used like spice in a recipe to create his unique sound. For example, in one work he combined electric guitar, singing, and piano as well. All sounds he made, including his warm and soft voice with a hint of sadness, was effective in fitting with the tone of the lyrics, all enhanced by the quartet's shimmering harmonies.

Brooklyn rider played "Bradbury studies for string quartet" composed by Kahane, and based on his song. It involves a plethora of styles, with passages of Schoenberg-like chromaticism, intermingling with phrases of Ivesian humor. This piece left a strong impression on me and I now consider it one of my favorite works. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Music and Fashion

The collaboration of two creative industries, fashion and music, comes as no surprise. Both pop singers and musicians have a significant effect on fashion. By cooperating with brands, even working as guest designer for a season collection, or just establishing his or her own brand, just as the article mentioned that "It is in this avenue that the collaboration between designers, filmmakers, set designers and musicians is newest and most exciting."
In recent years, the most obvious manifestation of the collaborative spirit between fashion and music can be found during Catwalk shows. The collections being accompanied by music is nothing new. In most instances, the designers need to find the perfect music that has the power to convey the aesthetic of his work. Choosing the right music to fit a fashion show is not an easy feat, even a miniature fault could instantly ruin a show or experience for the audiences. Dior, for the modern fashion world, has been concerned not just a luxury but also a rich history and unlimited vitality legend. From the first day of Dior set up in Paris, with the continuous development and expansion by time fly, Dior has not stopped to create innovative works. From Christian Dior himself, Yves Saint Laurent and now John Galliano, this label has never lacked genius. When people hear the name Dior role off the bright red lips of a lady, they automatically think luxury, haute couture, and desire.

Aside from Dior, such a welcome change is effects other brands as well, even for the entire fashion circle, music has effects fashion in different ways and forms. Music almost inspires all of the imagination of human, and represents the different culture from different time period and space. In the mean time, music has brought about the creation of designer, so that fashion has become the epitome of the modern culture. Music and fashion, through the combination of themselves, produced an unique form of art. About the difference between them, I think they have more common ground than the difference, which is the love for beauty and the pursuing of freedom. In fact, the combination of fashion and music, the simplest understanding is that the interpretation of music is not an accurate presentation of the fashion, but rather like a mirror, through the mirror, they saw another their selves.

For more information, click here