Wednesday, August 10, 2016

CrackCritic's Apologia

I, CrackCritic, would like to apologize to my readers for the long silence, but despondencies on the many levels that seemed to mirror that of my scene, city, country and world, proved paralyzing. I would like to restrict myself to describing only the musical ones. Ah, if only the reason could be simply deafness.

These past ten months I have heard too much that was glib - a Turangulîla that substituted dynanism for passion; a Pierrot presented without conductor on three rehearsals, and the Brahms Piano Quartets postured by over-inflection. I was discouraged to hear programs that seemed designed by marketers deriving ideas from focus groups.

(An exception was the Orchestra of St. Luke's Carnegie concert conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado featuring the superb pianist Javier Perianes in an all-Spanish program, which was spectacular.)  

 In contrast, a friend took me to hear some world and experimental music that, in their commitment to wrench the depths of feeling and understanding put most of the classical concerts to shame.

With their respective bands, the Armenian violinist Ara Malikian played his Middle-European tunes as divinely as David Krakauer relished his clarinet with an unquenchable furor. It is telling that, though trained traditionally, in their present careers classical music plays a diminished role.

On another hand, classical cellist Christine Walevska played three short pieces for a May memorial service, and if I had questioned my sanity as to be incapable of enjoying the music I have cherished for a lifetime, she proved me wrong. Dazzling, encompassing seemingly every human emotion in a ten-minute set, her playing was timeless. It is burned into the memory because it touched the soul.

Why doesn't everyone aspire to such heights? Why do so many things sound small and pat, or blustered and empty, busy, but not brilliant? Perhaps it is the consumerism of the bankrupt, or a reflection of the banal corporate culture that surrounds us.  
Music schools are financially pressured to produce winners and design questionable programs to impress donors at the expense of their student's development. The young are more afraid then ever of life after school in a field that becomes more competitive by the year, with dwindling opportunities. It hurts to see the stars from the conservatories scrounge for Suzuki work in the boroughs.

So, it is to be hoped (!) that this long gestation of our pessimism has shifted my center of gravity; it has certainly affected my priorities. A brief campaign on our subway system has this bit of word magic: "Be part of the solution, not the pollution". 

To move forward, I propose posting reviews from the last season in a series called "Cleaning Out the Closet"; rebuttals of the worst reviews, and appreciations of the best; noting what is great in our city's organizations, big and small. Or perhaps peeking into the arcana of musicology (one exciting newfound article is called Disintegrating Dominant Prolongation: A New Look at the Deceptive Cadence, or, as I call it: Dude's New Slow Burns for Your Lyin' Stealin' Cheatin' Ho*; surveys of composers one has never heard of, those known but not listened to, those one would hope never to hear again; personal anecdotes; flights of fancy; and finally, even glimpses into the pop world. Jump-starting it all presently, a report from CrackCritic’s presence at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, led by the great violinist James Ehnes.

Though I vowed to limit myself to topics musical, I do feel compelled to say my dis-ease with music has manifested in a decline of health physical, mental and professional. Working as an accompanist has become unsustainable after 40 years. If anyone feels amused or intrigued enough by my writing, a contribution to my Patreon account would be greatly appreciated.

And now, let's dance.


* in Russian, a deceptive cadence is called a 'feminine' cadence. 

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