I’m making a mad dash to finish a draft of a piece today so unfortunately (or fortunately) this week’s post will be considerably less long-winded than the last two and a mish-mash of a number of diddlies (footnote: Barnes Boffey).

1) For dorks only: the fundamental pitches of the chord that is sounded in my Chinese chiming/meditation balls are those of whole tone scale beginning on C# with A and D thrown in for fun. I’m not sure if this is standard but it’s a point for us atonalists who claim that dissonance and consonance are a received notion that is historically/culturally limited.

2) According to Ralph Ellison (of Invisible Man fame) the mockingbird is the most likely ‘songbird’ analogue to Charlie Parker (and I imagine to the lineage of altos that he birthed from Coltrane to Ornette to Braxton). Like the mockingbird “his [Parker’s] playing was characterized by velocity, by long-continued successions of notes and phrases, by swoops, bleats, echoes, rapidly repeated bebops – I mean rebopped bebops – by mocking mimicry of other jazzmen’s styles, and by interpolations of motifs from extraneous melodies, all of which added up to a dazzling display of wit, satire, burlesque and pathos. Further, he was as expert at issuing his improvisations from the dense brush as from the extreme treetops of the harmonic landscape.” This is such a great description, listen to some Charlie Parker and see what I mean.

3) In thinking about birds I came across a great quote from Morton Feldman talking about Messiaen (who was obsessed with bird calls and transcribed them and put them in his music etc.): he writes “Messiaen is not an orchestrator. That’s not orchestration you hear, I don’t know what the hell it is. It’s Disney, it’s Disneyland. It’s Technicolor, you know from the forties when it first came out, like a Doris Day movie, those crazy colors, you know how crazy people look in the old Technicolor, that’s Messiaen, just something is wrong someplace.” Tangentially, I think that the compositional interest in birds that bridges from Jazz and the Blues to the avant-garde (especially wind instrument and choral music) and back, stems from a reorientation towards the voice, both the human and broadly. Part of the break down of triadic tonality, is a liberating of individual voices from foreground and background hierarchy and rules of motion. The human or animal voice has an diversity of sound production so profoundly engaging, why cage a beautiful bird?

4) Here’s a question that came up at a concert last night: why don’t we ‘roast’ our composers as much as we do our comedians, celebrities, and political figures? Imagine a concert of music, written by friends of the composer, solely making fun of that composer’s music. The concert was great, but I was thinking how fun it would be to celebrate a composer by making bad exaggerated copies of their music. I’m talking about parody (but not direct like Weird Al, more like a distorted, debilitated, smart-ass send up).
Ashley Simpson is doing that for every good pop star in history...and Madonna’s doing it for herself!
‘till next Sunday,


Nye said...

I think the idea of roasting a composer with satirical composition is brilliant and hilarious but I don't imagine it would be a hit with the Friar's Club let alone network television. (Footnote: Weird Al Yankovic's career status...)

pb said...

what about pbs??!! is that even a network? and maybe weird al was not a good choice, but what about eminem?

Nye said...

Now that Kenneth Tomlinson (AKA McCarthy Jr.) is out, maybe that would make it on the air!