29 November 2012

Thinking of a new piece

I could see the title driving the three movements:

1. Eritis sicut Deus...
2. ...scientes bonum...
3. ...et malum.

I think I must keep the Organ Sonata simple to a degree. I made a point to write a challenging organ work, in the Toccata, a piece which has in effect gone nowhere.

In fact, Mark Engelhardt (whom I originally had in mind when writing the piece) considered (yet again) preparing the Toccata for his recital this past fall, but (I am paraphrasing here) it was again just too much effort.

If an organist asked me to write a heavens-storming organ sonata, I'd lay to like a butcher. (And the fact is, I wrote the Viola Sonata at such a high technical level, because Dana pretty much invited me to, and we both agreed upon that goal for the piece.) If I were to write such an organ sonata, it might never get performed; not that this means I should never write such a piece, but there's no reason for that to be a priority this year.

So I take the cue both from the contemporary pieces which Mark did select for his program (written by organists in both cases), and from the few pieces of mine which Paul Cienniwa has (flatteringly) kept in his ready repertoire . . . and in this instance, I shall write on the model of the "church sonata," three movements of modest scale and only mid-throttle technique, which can either serve easily to interleave a sacred service, or be fairly readily folded into a recital.

Mysterious Mountains

Meseems that the inherent danger in a thematic Hovhaness CD, centering on mountains, is the risk of playing into the hand of the It all sounds the same, doesn't it? block. As a consequence, in order to do the composer some modicum of justice, I never listen to this CD in its entirety, but visit it for a single work now and again. Without wishing to seem to put Hovhaness on any par with Monet, one could argue that in any of the French master's great series — the Cathedral at Rouen, the bridge in his Japanese garden, e.g. — it's just the same painting, done two dozen times.

So, viz. Hovhaness, perhaps I am trending towards agnosticism. Maybe half his catalogue is the same piece, written 175 times. Or, maybe there is actual value added in the many shades of a handful of musical packets. I'll listen a while yet, ere I feel at all obliged to find any ruling.

27 November 2012

Whoop de doo

Another fooferaw over an artist painting a “crucifixion” canvas depicting a current celebrity.
Let’s say for the sake of discussion that the painting really is rubbish.  The people who are protesting, were they born yesterday?  Welcome to a herd of kneejerk rabble, happy to live into the observation that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.  Their protests are the best publicity which a (we are saying for the sake of argument) talentless, unimaginative, unknown artist could wish for.
I don’t actually remember the protests which greeted Monty Python’s Life of Brian (which, A. is a brilliantly funny movie, and B. even Christians will tell you, is not blasphemous) here in the states.  But the protests, the press events, the placards, all contributed to the film’s initial commercial success.  (Its artistic quality merits that success, but let that slide at present.)  It was far better advertising than the Pythons themselves might have arranged for their own film.
The film of The Last Temptation of Christ.  A photography exhibit including the image of a crucifix immersed in what we were invited to regard as urine.  An “icon” of the Savior done in elephant manure.  The artistic article being protested varies widely in actual cultural merit, but in every case, the protests serve as publicity.  And in the case of those bits of “art” which are of no particular cultural value, the protests themselves are money in the charlatan artist’s bank account.  “Look,” the artist says to those institutions which fund artistic endeavor, “these protests show that my work is Vital, Meaningful, Important!”
You unthinking nitwits, expressing pointless outrage over a meaningless picture:  the unimaginative artist is only half the problem. You, the mass of enablers:  you are equal partners in the sham.
And for every unimaginative, talentless hack whom your protests accord fame and recognition, there are ten genuinely talented artists whose work has nothing to do with controversy, and who will die, unrecognized. Because your orchestrated outrage is enriching the pot-stirrers.

25 November 2012

Gleaming proboscis

Memo to Rudolph, Reindeer Red of Nose: Being a permanent fixture on late-November US radio is not at all the same as going down in history.

Revisiting Tusk, Episode 4

I close my eyes softly. ’Tis a line sweet enow. But if there’s another way to close one’s eyne, I’ve not mastered it.