Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ann Arbor, Spring of 2008

It has become that time of evening the semester when people sit on there porches, but really ought to be sitting inside with their laptops writing.

The weather this weekend has been unproductivemaking. And I am pleased. And while papers are nearing deadlines and losing interest, and grading grows increasingly tiresome, I turn to springtime frolicking. (On the upside, I've been on a power-reading kick ever since starting Michael Broyles's book on American mavericks, which proved inspirational and has sent me looking at things for dissertation readings, research projects, and the like. That's something to commend myself on.)

This weekend, the frolicking took the route of reading outside in the sun and overloads of concerts.

Friday: Brad Mehldau trio. They're amazing, and there's something about live performances of great jazz that make it come alive, the leave you wanting to savor every little moment and gesture, note every interaction, and marvel at the rarity of the experience that only comes that once. The highlight was a painstakingly, hauntingly soft performance of My Ship, though I also liked an untitled one that seemed to start off like John Adams, minimalist gestures, pulsing harmonies in arresting rhythms, and growing into a broader statement by the end. Followed by a party at which I ran into 3 people who went to my undergrad.

Saturday: Detroit Symphony (ticket gotten last minute at Brad Mehldau from a friend). Berlioz Roman Carnival, super-snappy, and the effervescent Mendelssohn Italian Symphony in the first half. I was also pleased that the first movement of the Mendelssohn got a healthy round of applause. It's buoyant enough to merit it, and the orchestra gave it not just energy but attitude. Most memorable though was the UM band joining the orchestra for John Corigliano's Circus Maximus, a jubilant (and by jubilant I mean INCREDIBLY LOUD) work for musicians on stage, in the audience, in the aisles, and a marching band thrown in for good measure. The loud parts are pure visceral energy, but the quieter moments are also quite exquisite to balance. The first night music episode evokes a desert, with evocative coyote howls in the french horns, but also the low brass and sparse bells and piano texture hovering above it is just as powerful as the loudest parts, creating a mood of vast darkness and delicate infinity. The work is concertgoing to the extreme, sheer theatricality excess, at times savage and others radiant. No middle ground here, only the sublime extremities. I came back to an experimental music concert which was hilarious, but sometimes quite moving to my surprise.

Sunday: Pops. I love the pops here. They may not hit the right notes always, but they completely sweep you into the concert experience, from the conductors dueling on light sabers to the sheer aural pleasure of music from the James Bond films, I was never less than entertained and happy to be right where I was.

Today: Daniel Bernard Romain attended class and gave a fantastic lecture to the students on making a career in music. Throw in some shimmering examples of virtuoso violin playing, a recital that included Debussy's Baudelaire songs and Dichterliebe, and the game, and you have yourself an excellent reason to put off grading until tomorrow.


  • How did the DSO crowd react to the Corigliano? It seems like the kind of piece that ought to bring the house down, even for something a lot gnarlier than what you usually find on the second half of an orchestra concert.

    I heard it performed at Carnegie Hall a couple years ago when the University of Texas wind ensemble brought it to NYC. Pretty wild.

    By Blogger Jack, At April 8, 2008 at 10:55 AM  

  • The crowd liked it. No huge ovation, but lengthy applause and during the piece people were moving and engaging with the sounds around them. When the marching band entered, everyone up in the upper parts was trying to lean over to see them. It's fun to watch a concert hall become like a sporting event.

    Apparently, though, audience members walked out on Thursday. I wonder if it was the volume that hurt their ears or the music.

    By Blogger Dan B., At April 10, 2008 at 10:50 AM  

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