Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Music matters: animated 'Rite of Spring' & vintage Gould

Commenting on my post marking the Rite of Spring's centennial this year, Stephen Malinowski pointed DG readers to his astonishing "animated graphical score" for Stravinsky's masterwork. I think it's a stunning achievement that truly brings a new dimension to the piece, giving a bird's eye view from the conductor's podium, so to speak. I'd love to hear your impressions.

To celebrate its 90th anniversary this month, Gramophone is reprinting a series of classic interviews from the archive. Robin Stringer writes here about a 1979 conversation with Glenn Gould.
His love affair with the microphone, which began in his teens, still runs strong. He still stands by his famous prediction that the concert hall is doomed and that the future lies in the recording studio. He has no regrets about abandoning the concert platform: 'it was a very unpleasant period. In the sense of one's responsibility towards the music it was not a difficult decision to take. It was something I did not take very seriously. There never was a time really when I felt that reciprocal thing that Rubinstein talks of. I was never aware of that. It was not a rewarding experience but ultimately an exhausting and futile one.'
We currently have several pages of Gould CDs in the Sony Classics reissues series (and we even have a DVD where you can watch him recording some of his famous Bach interpretations).

10 comments:

  1. The animated graphical scores of the Rite of Spring are colorful, and inventive, but, in my humble opinion, not astonishing. As a musician, I would have a very similar experience just following along on the actual printed score. I will admit that the animation is probably more entertaining to non-sheet-music-readers. I would be interested to find out how it was created and what sort of time investment it was.

    I disagree with Gould's prediction that the concert hall is doomed. The recording studio is, and has been for a while, in full effect, and yet people still love to go out to see live music. I'm not sure if he meant specifically the classical music concert hall, but I think seeing music performed live will always be attractive to a great percentage of the population. As far as I can tell, he's wrong so far! :-)

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    1. The video was created algorithmically from a MIDI file. It took me several months, but that was mostly because of irregularities that are not normally part of my process. Under more typical circumstances, it would take me somewhere between a couple of days and a couple of weeks to do a video like this. This is my 224th video on YouTube, most of which were made in the last two or three years (since I retired and started working on this more), and I'd estimate I spend somewhat less than half my time making videos; so that gives you some idea.

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  2. Everything I've read or heard about Gould leads me to believe that he disliked people en masse and, had he been a writer, would have clung to his attic and declared book tours dead.
    His legend includes a kind of hypochondria. David Dubal, on his Reflections From the Keyboard, told of a phone chat with Mr. Gould that abruptly cut off when Mr. Dubal had the misfortune of sneezing.

    But great geniuses, like great beauties, are to be forgiven all.

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  3. The "animated graphical score," super cool and hypnotic.

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  4. These Gould collections are amazing, the Bach in particular is an absolute marvel. Reading about him feels like detective work... try as we might, we'll never truly know what or who he was. An enigma of a person...

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  5. The animated scores are an impressive achievement but have a video game-like ugliness, somehow, and get awfully crowded when the full orchestra is involved. A more attractive attempt at illustrating (a much different kind of) music is an Israeli woman’s animation of a famous John Coltrane jazz solo, from the tune Giant Steps.

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    1. yes, YES! great animation! this is much more in line with what i was hoping for. less two-dimensional, literally, but more importantly, figuratively.

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    2. "Video-game-like ugliness" --- very good phrase! I'll have to remember that.

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  6. I am reminded of Placido Domingo's stating that he tries to keep his tone "brown".
    With advancing age, that tone seems to have darkened considerably, though he might never really have had the golden ping of a true tenor voice. (Like Gigli, for example, or Pavarotti in his prime).
    But we are blessed to have him, still singing!

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  7. I've been showing my graphical scores to people for nearly thirty years, and a pattern has emerged: about 20% of the people love them, 20% hate them (or don't understand them at all: one women asked "is there some relationship between what I'm hearing and what I'm seeing?"), and the remaining 60% are so-so about them. Fortunately, a lot of classroom teachers of music are in the "love" group, so my videos are getting a lot of use in music history, theory, and appreciation classes: http://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=749798

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