This year, I’m even more relieved than last year that I’m not a professional critic assigned to assemble a “top ten” music list for 2013. Instead, here is a year-end offering of highlights from my personal musical journey throughout the year.
August 22 and 23, 2013, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, with John Adams conducting, will premiere Adams’s Saxophone Concerto, with the stupendous Timothy McAllister on saxophone. McAllister spoke with SoundNotion in an entertaining and wide-ranging conversation about the Saxophone Concerto, Adam’s previous piece featuring McAllister, City Noir, as well as “style, artistry and [calling all music nerds and fellow travelers] how a piece can rock even without slap tonguing.” Continue reading →
Melodies appear as inexplicably as a dirty blond in Philip Marlowe’s office.
—Mark Swed, reviewing City Noir
The first time I visited Los Angeles, a friend took me to a favorite taco place, a low-slung building trapped under a freeway labyrinth. Another time, I was part of a Writers Guild negotiations team. In my infirm recollection, nighttime had a feel at once seedy and glamorous: swank hotels cheek by jowl with crumbling stucco buildings, sidewalks empty of walkers, sulfurous street lamps piercing the dark. The city seemed an unnavigable maze, with a culture I couldn’t fathom. Continue reading →
In London right now, a festival is going on that surveys twentieth century music and takes its theme and title from Alex Ross’s excellent book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. Related to the festival, David Nice has written a fascinating post, The Rest is Tonal, which has spawned a lively discussion about, among many things, the “importance of introducing new ideas” (innovation), on the one hand, and the “importance of expression,” on the other. I began by writing a comment on that post, but it became too long for that purpose, so what began as a comment there is now a post of its own here. Continue reading →
Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
And crossed the sea dry-footed.
You too, stranger.
This year in fear and shame,
Next year in virtue and in justice.
—Primo Levi, from Passover
When I first encountered John Adams’s opera, Nixon in China, I had Nixon neatly stored away as disgraced and thoroughly disgraceful. Why anyone would want to glorify him in an opera was incomprehensible to me.