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from Monday, August16th of the year2010.

One of my favorite weird things is the incredibly abbreviated biographies that some venues make for shows.  Usually, an un-named and un-introduced PR department is responsible, and, as a result, you encounter a bunch of really silly shorthand versions of what it is that might actually happen on stage.  Last night’s example, from Hamburg, is pretty amazing:

As you can see, it’s a series of problems.  The first is, of course, the inevitable awkwardness of being defined by those with whom you have worked, which I understand is useful for “contextualizing” music, but in this particular case, each of us could not sound more different than the people who appear after our names in brackets.  Then, there is the strangeness of the abbreviated names (B. Frost being by far the most strange), and the outrageousness of the spelling of Valgeir’s last name.  I feel bad for him, because his is a doubly-nested set of references inside the mistake: Sigurrós is a standard Icelandic name for girls, and, when rendered Sigur Rós, is the name of a very popular Icelandic band.  The ø instead of the ó is itself a confusion over what exactly ð is (when read on signs, people still ask what’s that o with the weird accent?).  So everybody loses.  Then, also, nobody involved is from Sydney, bold and in white at the top of the page.  Who thought that?  Was it a bad google?  Should somebody on our end have asked to have seen this?  Does it matter?  Does anybody care?  Should we even have seen it?

I’m inclined to think that it doesn’t matter, or that it’s one of those things that you need to make not matter.  What’s important is that the show went incredibly well, and it was packed with a really age-diverse crowd.  My favorite was the sixty-something lady sitting at the foot of the stage freaking out with rapture during Ben’s pieces.  I have learned to temper my onstage banter (I do the lion’s share of it; Sam does some of his intros) to sound marginally less rapid-fire especially in places where movies are dubbed into the language of the country (equals better written comprehension of English but less idiomatic conversational English), and last night was especially funny because I don’t think anybody knew what the fuck I was talking about due to sleep deprivation and rather a surfeit of red wine at the wrong time of day.

We played an outrageously late show at the Haldern Pop festival — 2 AM start time!  We played right after The National, whom I adore and played a song with, which was a fun juxtaposition and required only mild running through a mudpile of ecstatic punters and old pizza crusts.  Our festival set is an hour long, so it’s kind of a best-of, and, despite some electrical malfunctions, was a really, really fun and high energy affair.  Just FYI, it’s a Calabrian pizza dude called Roberto who makes a delicious mushroom pie on the festival grounds.

I was up in Iceland for 10 days before coming to Germany, and I managed to get myself half-sick: a sort of lingering, annoying series of day-long variations on flu themes.  Day one: The Sniffles, Day Two: Back of Throat Thing, Day Three: Runny Nose Thing, etc., as a result, I slept a ton, and had delirious, hysterical dreams about lethargic dinner parties, dreams about headaches, dreams about subtle but itchy rashes.  It was kind of great to be so checked out, but I think I really need to stop watching Intervention before bedtime.

Did everybody read or at least process this silly fight online?  Drew McManus summarizes:

If you aren’t aware of what’s going on here’s the 10 second synopsis: Mac Donald wrote an article titled Classical Music’s New Golden Age (meaning now) but Sandow didn’t like what she had to say so he wrote 5,413 words (most of which were entirely unflattering) over five articles to explain why. Shortly thereafter, Mac Donald fired back with a scathing retort…In most online debates, the respective authors are polite and happy to examine differences in opinion but from Sandow’s initial volley, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a good-natured “agree to disagree” dispute. On a simplistic level the argument pits the “prophets of doom” (as coined by Sam Bergman) against those with more of a upbeat outlook, with Sandow spearheading the former and Mac Donald characterizing the latter.

Okay cool.  The whole exchange is “worth reading” or something, although it will probably make you insane.  What’s curious about the whole thing to me is what the next step would be if you agree with one of them or the other.  Like, if you agree with Mac Donald and think that we’re in a golden age, what next?  Write Emmanuel Ax a postcard?  Make out with Jordi Savall?  And if you agree with Sandow, I bet you what you’re meant to do is hire his ass to consult for your organization to save it or put it on the arc.  It kind of sounds like a mob operation to me, but what do I know; I’m living in tha golden age!!!  I guess I think it’s obnoxious of anybody to make these generalizations about the direction of the world.  We’re sliding towards gomorrah, we’re striving for Jerusalem, we’re spinning out of control, we’re becoming post-racial…all this stuff is much more interesting if you, let’s say, tweet it in 140 characters, and then spend 5,000 odd words encouraging specific behavior…?  It’s kind of like those Al Gore lightbulbs; I completely bought the 140-character thesis (“the world is in trouble re: global warming”) and am happy to take any specific action necessary to change it, even if it means installing those ugly-ass bulbs in my bathroom.  What’s kind of cute about the Mac Donald / Sandow argument is the way in which the whole thing is kind of like a lot of new music: nobody particularly likes hearing it, but people sure will argue about it for lack of anything better to do!

We had a few hours off in Berlin yesterday and we ran to the Pergamon Museum, which I love; I saw it with my grandparents as a kid and it’s got an entire Greek temple and a ton of Babylonian things and a hallway of stelae, who doesn’t love a hallway of stelae?  There’s a little exhibit about something that I always find very unsettling, which is historically-informed recreations of Greek statues with their original paint scheme.  This, for some reason, freaks me out, and I should imagine a lot of others: one of the things I love so much about antiquity as it is (or has been) presented is the cool austerity of the greys and beiges.  But:

Aaah!  Also:

There something a little Henrik Vibskov about the whole thing:


  • I think you might have just found Heathcliff Huxtable’s missing sweater stash. At the Pergamon of all places…

  • Always love reading this! But pray tell me Nico, why is B. Frost not listed in the line-up for the Barbican next month? I do hope this is a typo, otherwise this fifty-something lady might seriously freak out at NOT seeing Ben doing his part :O

    Looking so much forward to it! Second attempt, mind you…

  • It’s strangely comforting that they (the Greeks) were able to produce some incredible stuff while being so outwardly tacky. Maybe we are in a sort of renaissance or golden age or whatever the hell we’re supposed to be doing here, despite the fact that almost everything I see on a daily basis is Al-Gore-lightbulb-ugly. I can’t wait for the paint to fall off.

  • make out with jordi savall…definitely.

  • Dear Nico,
    maybe you remember, we met after the Whale Watching Tour concert in Berlin.
    It was great, I’m lucky about this, thanks! You told me about your opera and esp. about the way you’re using (pseudo-/home-made) Gamelan. I will write my final work in musicology about some contemporary composers who are influenced by Gamelan (esp. Balinese). It would be fantastic if I can write also about you and “Two Boys”. Please tell me if you are interested or not. Maybe we could correspond via email or so, if you have time.
    Best wishes,

  • Ah, relieved now – thanks for that!

  • Heather: It’s a Golden Age for New Music!

    Greg: No it isn’t, it’s terrible, and for all the reasons I am now going to tell you about over several days, plus I’m disgusted by you and your ignorance and lots of smart people agree with me, too, if you were better read, you’d agree with me!

    Who would you rather go on vacation with?

  • Actually, MacDonald doesn’t say it’s a golden age for new music — she says it’s a golden age for old music, and assumes that’s same as saying it’s a golden age for classical music in general. That’s one of the areas of contention.

    Also, she apparently really means that it’s a golden age for the supply of old music, and Sandow emphasizes deterioration on the demand side.

    They both have a constricted view of the classical music world, but I think hers is much more constricted. I would summarize their positions as follows: MacDonald says, “I’m getting plenty of what I want,” and Sandow says “Well, you ought to want more.”

  • La verdad es que me sorprendió HOY primero de septiembre conocer y oir éste compositor…Su música tiene influencia a mi parecer de Adams (más como un cumplido, no lo tome a mal) cosa que me encanta! Tuve oportunidad de tocar en estreno en Viena de una Opera de J. Adams A Flowering Tree fué una experiencia extarordinaria…Ojalá le pueda ver y oir su música en vivo…Y también que venga a Venezuela a conocer nuestro Sistema de Orquestas…Mil Felicitaciones por ser tan buen compositor hermosísima, descriptiva y poética su música.