Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thoughts On Complaints Choir Completion

(this will probably be the very last post at this blog's URL. We are currently moving things. Blogging will resume shortly on the Voices of Washington homepage:

Well, whatever it is. Phase 1 is now complete. Six months after reconstituting the choir, after the roster of the chorus being a revolving door with three times as many singers asked, cajoled and arm-twisted into occasionally showing up as ever show up week to week, and literally eight times that many being continually arm-twisted to show up to no avail. We have now completed our first project.

I make no bones about its relative lack of quality. Musically, nobody in their right mind could describe this as being in any way an accomplishment to brag about. The intonation problems are painful (to me at least), there was never enough time to properly teach the chorus their parts, and nearly all the instrumentalists we contacted to help us either never responded or cancelled at the last minute (cellist Stephanie Bier being a SHINING exception). All this would have been the case had we waited another three months to try to make it musically better. As so often happens with Murphy's Law: what can go wrong will go wrong. And in this case, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. We had different singers there virtually every time we rehearsed it, the recording equipment was unreliable to the point that it's amazing we even have a recording, every take took three times as long to set up as we hoped, and about five times as long to edit. But we were in every way unbowed, and all the setbacks made us more determined than ever to complete it. There are only two things that matter about this video: it's funny, and it shows that we can complete a project. I think we've succeeded admirably on both fronts.

Let there be no doubt, this long and strange trip of ours has been frustrating to the point of maddening. I wish there were more things I could point to in order to illustrate exactly what I did to make Voices of Washington encounter so many setbacks since the very moment I took over, because at least then there would have been lots of things to learn from. But the truth is that there aren't all that many. Nothing could have prevented all the sudden resignations of friends from the board who said they had the time to help with the administration and then didn't. Nothing can prevent a singer who has too much other stuff in their lives to do from not showing up. Nothing could have prevented people who didn't like the direction in which we were going from leaving us without turning the chorus into a direction we didn't want to go. As Hyman Roth would say, "This is the business we've chosen." And for every wonderful thing you discover about life along the way, there are very ugly truths to be learned too. In the end, it makes for a much more meaningful product. Bad as things have been, they could have been still much worse. In almost everything we did, we had to minimize our setbacks, and a shooting that took three months from inception to completion could easily have taken far longer with the exact same quality of product. I think we're ultimately a much stronger organization for the trials we've undergone. And after last week's rehearsal, I'm much more convinced than ever that we are growing into a blindingly bright future. If we can produce this after everything that's happened, nothing can stop us now. I'm damn proud of this project, and I'm damn proud of everybody who worked on it. And it's only the beginning. DC is about to get a lot more interesting.

Booby Chew...

h/t Clive James...that's right, Clive James.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Plastic Bag aka 'The Motherload'

Plastic Bag
by Ramin Bahrani

Struggling with its immortality, a discarded plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) ventures through the environmentally barren remains of America as it searches for its maker.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quote of the Night: Seder Edition

Jordan: What's the difference between washing your hands and ritually washing them?

Dad: I didn't use soap.

Happy Pesach!: Ten Things I Hate About Commandments

The Critic: UN Talent Show

I'm going heavy on the TV shows lately....I like it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I'd have prefered to celebrate at a faster tempo than Jochum's...but that's what youtube has.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sesame Street: It's Hip To Be A Square

Another candidate for greatest Sesame Street song parody.

h/t Gordon

Tobias as Mary Poppins

Never gets old....Arrested Development would now be in its 7th year. That's as long as the Sopranos was on.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Narrated by Walter Matthau

One female friend once told me that I combine the best qualities of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. I'm not sure I was supposed to be flattered by this, but I really was.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grumpy Robert Hughes

...I <3 Robert Hughes. That is all.

40-part Motet performed by One Man

Yep. All 40 parts of Thomas Tallis's Spem in Alium performed by one guy. I'm impressed, but if you want to hear what this piece can sound like: don't listen to that version. Spem in Alium was written about 440 years ago, requires 40 professional level singers to sing this extraordinarily demanding music a capella. To this day, it is probably the greatest piece of music ever composed by an Englishman (though if Ades is around long enough....). So if you really want to hear how unbelievable this piece can be: listen below....though I've never come across a performance that played this piece slowly enough.

The Best of Joe Biden (part 1 of ?????)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

Jordan (reading blurb): Dr. Harold Tucker has been on the staff of Greater Baltimore Medical Center since 1981. Since February 2010 he has been its chief of medicine and chief of staff, before that he was vice chief since July 2000. He also operates a private gastroenterology practice and has been named one of the top doctors in Baltimore by Baltimorean Magazine.

Dad (interrupting): Does it also say my mother loved him more?

Socially Conscious Ice Cream

In honor of Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry's (which I will be attending shortly after I go to the gym today...) The guys who made this look strangely like 80's young Republicans, but I can't disguise the fact that I find this tastelessly hysterical.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quote of the Week

(Thursday Night, at dinner in a Middle Eastern Restaraunt for my birthday)

Russian-Sounding Waitress: Are you ready to order?

Dad: Where are you from?

Waitress: A small town, you'd have never heard of it.

Dad: Try me.

Waitress: (says name of town)

Dad: You're right. I've never heard of it.

Waitress: It's near Chernobyl.

Dad: Well that explains your healthy glow.

(Jordan, Ethan, Mom and I faint from embarrassment).

Wolfgang Wagner (1919-2010): Why do the good die so young?

Wagner would be 197 this year if he were still alive. His grandson, Wolfgang Wagner, has just died. There isn't much to say about Wolfgang Wagner except that he's a creep in a family of creeps. Whatever one thinks of Wagner, his family is hilariously fucked up. Read about it here. My own relationship to Wagner continues to be not unlike looking at five hour freak shows, at first you can't look away but after a while they get boring.

SNL Census Taker

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Sarah Palin Song

Steve Reich and Janacek would be proud.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mel Gibson in Signs (of Anti-Semitism)

Philip Langridge (1939-2010)

(Langridge doing Comfort Ye from Handel's Messiah with Neville Marriner and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Everything's here...the gorgeous vocal sound, the impeccable English elocution, the unshakable enthusiasm always controlled by the most sensitive musical intelligence.)

My favorite English Tenor (yes, I have a favorite English tenor, I conduct near Brickskellar on Sundays if you want to beat me up) sadly passed away after a very quick battle with cancer. Langridge had all the intelligence of Peter Pears before him and Ian Bostridge after, but without that weird reedy quality generally associate with both of them (it's a bit like listening to Beeker sing opera). Not only was his voice far richer but he was far more versatile - imagine Peter Pears singing Janacek or Ian Bostridge singing Wagner, or for that matter Mark Padmore singing Birtwistle. And still moreso, he seemed indestructable. I watched the Met's broadcast of Hansel and Gretel (one of the few pieces I really hate with an abiding passion) just so I could watch a 70-year-old Langridge play the part of the Witch. Needless to say, at nearly 70, he stole the show - turning the Witch into a veritable Julia Child doppelganger.

(Julia Child eats children...I always thought it would be Martha Stewart)

That someone so vigorous so recently could pass away was shocking. He had just given a 70th birthday concert two months before for which Birtwistle wrote him a new piece. But thankfully Langridge will live on in many wonderful recordings and films, anybody who doesn't get the big deal about classical singing owes it to themselves to look up his performances.

(Kicking Benjamin Britten's ass in his 60's.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Paul Van Dyk and Paavo Jarvi

Not exactly what I think anybody had in mind for the fusion of classical with popular. But there's no shame in trying, and even if this basically looks like some producer said 'what kind of toy can I buy with 2 million euros,' it's a noble sentiment. Kudos to Paavo for trying this.

David Brent Dance

The Smurfs: UNICEF Commercial

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Quote of the Day

Mom (looking at her crossword puzzle): Evan I'm about to do a wash so if you still have any thirty clues from the trip I'll be happy to do them.

Me: Thirty Clues?

Mom: I mean dirty clothes.

Drunk History: Alexander Hamilton

Amazing I haven't put this on yet...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogging resuming now...

Well, back to reality as they say. A weekend in Texas: no internet, no cities for two hours in any direction, no paved roads for 20 minutes, 70 degree weather, clear skies with miles of visibility, fiddling for weddings and campfires, peace and quiet for composing, fireworks, roman candle salutes, dancing, whiskey, napping under the stars, chopping firewood, hiking by the creek, impromptu horahs, 18-ounce steak, and two wonderful friends getting married. In a word: bliss.

Quote of the Day

The sobbing woman in the dark glasses — is she the spirit of the glamorous widow of Camelot?
Haunting people is soooooo not Jackie O
It's a Marilyn thing to do
me: i kind of want to go on this....
not going to lie
Agatha: Me too
It's trashier than the circus, but less trashy than a wax museum

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm fairly sure that the best part of my job is the arranging. Not the arranging itself, I'm barely conscious of feeling anything when I do that, I just scribble it down. But right before the arranging, when I get to sit around finding as many recordings, arrangements and singers as possible to listen to, thinking to myself (I like this harmony, borrow a little here, little there.

Matt Groening and Dan Castellaneta drunk in England

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gershom Scholem on Bob Dylan

In 1978, a young graduate student traveling in India named Daniel Matt wrote to Gershom Scholem, the 80-year-old Professor of Jewish Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The letter discussed his experiences, his ambitious plans to translate the central text of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, and, most of all, about Bob Dylan, who he hoped Scholem might appreciate.

I’m also sending you Bob Dylan Approximately, whose author believes that Dylan draws
on Kabbalistic sources consciously or unconsciously (whatever that means). The thesis
does not hold water ... Be that as it may, the book is still interesting as a collage, and
will give you a hippie’s perspective on Robert Zimmerman (Dylan’s real name).

Scholem replied:

Your detailed account of your travels in the East and your experiences there with several
friends and gurus I read with great interest ... Who was or is Robert Zimmerman, called
Bob Dylan? ... Please let me know if he is a Jew. The Zimmermans divide 50% into Jews
and goyim ... My receptivity to music is, alas, nothing, therefore I forego the pleasure of
listening to “Blonde on Blonde” or even the more seducing “Desire.” The title “Highway 61”
arouses no desire in me. Maybe I am too old for it.

RTWT here

Godzilla Haikus

h/t Malon

Friday, March 5, 2010

Quote of the Night

Bubbie: I go to the flower shop about a half-hour before they sweep and I look for any flowers that have fallen on the floor. Any ones I that find I put into my purse and then I leave...because what I'm doing is shoplifting Evan and if I get caught I might get in trouble....

RIP Bernard Coutaz Playlist

You probably haven't heard of Bernard Coutaz, and you may not have heard of the record label he founded, Harmonia Mundi. But here are some of the musicians whom without Harmonia Mundi may never have enriched us:

Anonymous 4

Les Arts Florissants: William Christie director - Paris's premiere Baroque Opera troupe for thirty years

Collegium Vocale Gent: Phillipe Herreweghe director - The world's preeminent Bach choir for forty a lot of other things well too.

Alfred Deller: the first great modern countertenor.

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir: The world's preeminent choir for Russian Orthodox music and a symbol of religious freedom in the late Soviet era.

Rene Jacobs: Famed countertenor who then turned conductor and revolutionized the world of early opera.

Matthias Goerne: German baritone and lieder specialist whom Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau selected as his 'heir.'

Academy of Ancient Music: Andrew Manze (formerly Christopher Hogwood) director. One of England's most eminent early music bands - as heard on the radio 15 times a day (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is the other 25).

Quote of the Day

me: oh my god
i have to leave DC right now to campaign
Marc: i keep on forgetting that larouchies think that britain leads the conspiracy against us
well, britain and the jews
she wants to impeach obama
me: when the cult sings opera, i tend to forgive certain things
Marc: true
i'll give them that over the teabaggers
the teabaggers listen to ted nugent
the larouchies listen to opera........................ SET TO THE WORDS OF LYNDON LAROUCHE

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Alexander Hamilton Rap

I'm kind of stunned that the first Founding Father Rap is about Hamilton. Franklin was always up with the latest trends and Jefferson was the one always into radical chic. Hamilton was the young fogey of his day. Still, awesome. h/t Reich.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fucked Up Moments in Opera #5 1/2 Cunning Little Vixen (again) by Leos Janacek

Just start watching at around 0:30 and keep watching until 7:00

Funny or Die Presidential Reunion

Poor Phil Hartman...

Fucked Up Moments in Opera #5: The Cunning Little Vixen by Leos Janacek

...Just go to 4:30 and watch....

...The only great opera (so far) to be based on a comic strip...and my pick for greatest of the 20th century.

Monday, March 1, 2010

RIP Wyn Morris (1929-2010)

(The 'Celtic Furtwangler' conducts a reconstruction of Beethoven's unfinished 10th Symphony, yes - there is a tenth..)

The obituaries are kind of shocking, and they read like a cautionary tale for any conductor trying to make it in today's (more) democratic world. Morris was an artist of enormous talent brought down by behavior that in generations past was considered completely acceptable.

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day!