Recent Musical Experiences

This past week and a half has been incredibly rich and satisfying musically:

Lutoslawski – Symphony No.3
A week ago from Friday, I attended the University of Berkeley Symphony’s concert, a performance of Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 3 (I had to leave at intermission and did not check out Beethoven’s third symphony). I had my reservations about the performance before attending as I thought the piece might be difficult to pull off, but conductor David Milnes and the orchestra gave a very satisfying performance.

(I was fortunate enough to see the New York Philharmonic perform the piece a few years ago and had an incredible experience at that performance. I feel very lucky to have been able to hear this piece live twice now. =) )

Eugene Onegin
A week ago Sunday, I attended the San Francisco Opera’s final performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Lisa had been doing the pre-opera talks for this opera and I had helped put together the tape of audio examples she used, but besides the discussions I had with her and the audio examples, I had not listened to the opera in entirety or seen it before. The performance was absolutely satisfying, both for getting to hear and see this wonderful piece, as well as the wonderful performance of it by the fine cast. The performer who sung Lensky, Piotr Beczala, really stood out amongst that ensemble for me, just an absolutely fantastic voice. The rest of the ensemble were all very talented and there wasn’t a single performer that didn’t do their part justice I felt. The on-stage interaction between the performers was really the best I had seen and really drew me into the production. (I was quite glad Lisa had the score to the piece that she had used for her opera talks as I was able to take a look at the score later… =) )

(I wasn’t very much into opera until Lisa and I were dating, and when we first went to the opera I thought it was fun but wasn’t quite what I was looking for in a musical experience. Over time, though, I’ve found myself enjoying opera quite a bit, and although it still isn’t what I am looking for in creating my own music, I find it a very enjoyable experience.)

Wendy Carlos – Secrets of Synthesis
I’ve become quite a fan of Wendy Carlos lately, and although we have very different paths and goals in music, I find that there’s something very wonderful about the sound of her music. I hadn’t known about this CD as I hadn’t seen it in the stores before, but once I read about it online I was able to order it from Amazon.

What a neat CD! Listening to it is what I’d imagine a lecture by her would be like: she talks about her techniques of her music-making as well as the ideas behind it, intersperses that with many musical examples to illustrate her points, and weaves in many personal stories and experiences with the technologies she used. I enjoyed listening the CD very much and found it bubbling up ideas in my mind.

Jason Thomas mentioned on the Csound mailing list an interview with Wendy Carlos on the American Mavericks website, a site that I guess was made a couple of years ago but one I had not known about. The interview there is really fantastic, and there’s a quite a lot of other interviews and resources on many of the composers which I enjoy.

Morton Feldman – Violin and String Quartet
Along with the Wendy Carlos CD I had purchased a recording of Morton Feldman’s Violin and String Quartet. My friend Will and I were chatting over AIM about Feldman and were going through Amazon at the time and I had noticed this piece which I had never heard and had not heard much about. Unable to find it at Tower Records, I ended up ordering it online.


The recording quality could be a bit better (I found the levels a bit low), but that’s fine as the piece is absolutely beautiful and played wonderfully. I think I’ll need many more listenings to this recording before I can really get to know the piece, but I’m looking forward to it. =)

Anne Sofie von Otter – Home for Christmas Concert
This past Thursday Lisa and I attended a performance by Anne Sofie von Otter at Herbst Theatre, a concert entitled “Home For Christmas”. I’ve been quite a fan of Anne Sofie von Otter from her recordings and was looking very forward to hearing her live.

The concert was of many different Christmas songs from different traditions, with her singing in English, Swedish, Dutch, and German. She was accompanied by a band of performers (I think that would adequately describe the group) who were all quite good. It was my first time hearing a nykelharpa live (I have samples on an early music sample cd I purchased) and was quite impressed with both the instrument and the performer.

The mood of the concert was light and rather joyous, the dialog between pieces humorous, and overall a very fun concert. Anne Sofie von Otter’s voice was quite amazing, and the many different types of music she performed–from classical, to folk, to popular–really demonstrated the versatility of her singing. (What a lovely voice!)

During the performance I often thought about how enjoyable it is to perform with other people, viewing the performers on stage as just a group of friends who got together to create music and enjoy themselves and share with the audience their music-making.

Bohlen-Pierce Scale
I’ve gotten quite into tuning systems lately, something that I have been wanting to study for quite some time but was always put on the side as other interests were made priorities. The past few weeks, after the excitement of finishing On the Sensations of Tone, I found myself deeply drawn to studying scales and exploring them. The study of these scales has been enjoyable, and though compositionally I haven’t created anything in that time, I feel like these scale studies will become very much a part of where I am going musically.

Of the scales I’ve gotten to experiment with so far, I’ve found that the Bohlen-Pierce Scale to be very appealing to me right now, and the one I’ve been working with most. I find it’s got a lovely sound and rich harmony and very much in line with the warmer character of music I’ve been interested in creating. I will probably spend most of today working on getting to know the scale better as well as sketching out ideas for a new piece.


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