Cher Public

Truth, force

Critic Ann Binlot draws some perhaps rather obvious parallels between Satyagraha and the Occupy Wall Street movement in a brief feature on ARTINFO.

  • bassoprofundo

    well, usually those of you who lean to the left here on Parterre excuse the intellectual lightweights among your ranks, as long as they espouse the same philosophy. but even you guys have to admit this is really boring and crappy writing. for her, sleep-inducing serialism is actually “hypnotic melody,” and she apparently is an historical linguist as well, as she noted the nuances in the “thought provoking Sanskrit libretto.” oh, and she used the word “juxtapose”! that’s original!

    less of her, more of Zachary Woolfe, please.

    • ianw2

      There isn’t any serialism in Satya. Do you mean minimalism?

      • bassoprofundo

        yes! it’s 4:45 in the morning here and I was/am listening to Il prigioniero. A pity I lumped Glass in with Dallapiccola; he doesn’t deserve it.

        a.k.a., I should make sure I’m totally lucid before calling other people idiots.

    • brooklynpunk


      I agree that poorly-wriiten, simplistic “analogies”-( which this was) whether they come from the the “right” or “left”- are cringe-inducing, indeed!

      However--I’d like for you to point out who here rabidly “excuses” such stuff, on the ” left -leaning” side of the fence—eh?-- that was a rather sloppy cheap-shot, it seems, on your part……

      ( slightly OT..but-- I was just kvetching to some friends against Frank Bruni’s columns in the Sunday NYTimes- which although well-intentioned- and possibly left of center leaning- are so horribly written that they give me a migrane trying to get through them--BRING BACK FRANK RICH NOW…LOL!!!)

      • bassoprofundo

        who rabidly excuses such stuff? well… pretty much everyone on Parterre is a flaming liberal, in my experience. so, um, everyone.

        there was someone who made some conservative comments a while back, can’t remember who, his sojourn here was short lived. although if I remember correctly, it wasn’t due to his conservatism as much as it was to his more-intellectual-than-thou and assholish demeanor.

        • bobsnsane

          “[T]here was someone who made some conservative comments a while back, can’t remember who, his sojourn here was short lived. although if I remember correctly, it wasn’t due to his conservatism as much as it was to his more-intellectual-than-thou and assholish demeanor.”

          Hmmmmm. Gee, I wonder who that might be?

          • brooklynpunk


            ….I think it’s actually those friggin Carmelite Sisters, who are always Dialoguing….

            Who do ya think THEY voted for..?--lol!

          • BP: I agree those Carmelites are pretty fundamentalist in their attitude. No bleeding heart liberals, they!

          • m. croche

            My understanding is that La Cieca put her (dainty) foot down and insisted that the Old Believers make the sign of the cross with three fingers, not two. They not only left, they immolated themselves.

          • Just remember BABs. Juxtapositions don’t kill people; people kill people!

    • m. croche

      Ann Binlot’s piece is indeed written at a junior-high level, but I can’t say that basso’s response is any more sophisticated.

      Btw, “serialist” isn’t a very good term to apply to Il Prigionero. Dallapiccola would have used the term “dodecafonica” -- “twelve-tone” therefore would be more appropriate. “Serialist” has been conventionally used to describe music of the 50s and later (i.e. Nono) which serializes multiple musical dimensions (dynamics, rhythm etc.). There used to be some writers who carelessly fused the two concepts into one, but I’m sure someone so intellectually-scrupulous as bassoprofondo would want avoid such sloppiness.

      • bassoprofundo

        well, first of all, I don’t purport to be a journalist worthy of having my views published. if I were, I’d make sure I had something of substance to say, and not water down musical criticism to the likes of what Ann Binlot put forth in her essay/article/whatever you call it.

        secondly, if you’re aiming to set the record straight, you’d probably want to spell “Prigioniero” correctly (it’s not “prigionero”). In any event, you’re not correct in your substantive characterization of the opera, either. you’re being intellectually disingenuous to suggest that these periods and styles began on a certain date and ended on a certain date. there is indeed a serialist approach in his composition of the opera (just take a listen to the so-called aria “sull’ocean,” a really clear-cut example in fact of twelve-tone serialism), and I very much question whether or not you’ve actually listened to opera if you suggest otherwise (I wouldn’t question whether or not you’ve seen it since, well, it’s never performed…). Keep in mind that these historical periods of composition, particularly during the 20th century, are often fluid, and it would be as absurd to disregard Prigioniero as non-serialist merely because it falls outside of your “timeline” as it would to call Stravinsky a purely classical composer based on only having heard his first symphony.

        sleep well! and no snark intended whatsoever—I’m happy that Dallapiccola gets discussed at all, no matter what disagreements we may or may not have!

        • bassoprofundo

          ahhhhhh Stravinsky, of course I meant Prokofiev. Okay; 6:30 AM. memory slowly fading.

          all other comments re: Dallapiccola still stand.

          nice thread. too bad Ann Binlot contributed so little to it.

        • m. croche

          Basso, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that sleep-deprivation is responsible for some of this buffoonery. If you’re going to write “I very much question whether or not you’ve actually listened to opera if you suggest otherwise” , then we might as well just tell each other to fuck off. (Fwiw, my shelves contain about a dozen scores by Dallapiccola, a decent-though-not-exhaustive selection of recordings and, as chance would have it, photocopies of his correspondence with the rather interesting Wladimir Vogel, who as you must surely know, was an important compositional contact of Dallapiccola’s during the 40s and afterwards.) Like you, I admire the opera, and am glad to see that it’s being paired more often with Bluebeard’s Castle.

          I’ll also chalk up your inability to read what I wrote to the late hour. My criteria for dinstinguishing serialism and twelve-tone composition were not strictly chronological. Review the part where I wrote about the serial treatment of multiple dimensions. There are excellent historical reasons for maintaining this distinction -- you can start with Boulez’s “Schoenberg est mort” to get an idea how total-serialization represents a conceptually distinct approach to music from twelve-tone composition (particularly of Dallapiccola’s variety!) Twelve-tone composers might be said, by and large, to represent an allegiance to tradition -- a tradition realized through different means. Serial composers wanted to thoroughly renovate the idea of music and of musical compositions, to remove audible traces to a musical heritage many in the post-war environment felt they had no allegiance to. Dallapiccola in the 1940s falls squarely in the first camp. To choose another Italian example, some of Nono’s work falls into the latter category. Sure, you can lump everybody together under a blanket term of “serialism”, as some sloppy writers chose to do, but it’s not terribly helpful.

          As to what you wrote about Ann Binlot -- I was unfair in my initial assessment. Unfair to Binlot, that is. It is, for example, singularly witless to call Glass “sleep-inducing” while at the same time complaining about the lack of originality displayed by the use of the word “juxtapose.” When you can’t even write at the junior-high level in a critique, it’s probably time to stop and ask yourself what you’re doing.

          • bassoprofundo

            I know very little of Vogel other than references to those he taught, and I knew nothing of his connections to Dallapiccola. I stand by my other points, though, will respond tomorrow. we disagree less than it appears. Prigioniero/Bluebeard is indeed a wonderful pairing. not sure why the Met paired/s it with Erwartung other than for the soprano--Prigioniero = much more compelling drama IMO, and would be much easier to find baritones who can handle the role (thought they would likely not be able to take on the Bartok in the same night). that’s neither here nor there. more to come, dear sir, more to come.

          • m. croche

            “I know very little of Vogel other than references to those he taught, and I knew nothing of his connections to Dallapiccola.”

            Vogel seemed more important back then than he perhaps seems nowadays. Nonetheless, not only did his sonorous style of tonal-ish twelve-tone composition serve (along with Berg’s) for Dallapiccola as a useful indicator that twelve-tone composition could interact intriguingly with traditional harmonies, but his 2-part epic oratorio Thyl Claes was based on the same source material as the Italian composer’s somewhat later Prigioniero: Charles de Coster’s “La Légende et les aventures héroïques, joyeuses et glorieuses d’Ulenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak au Pays de Flandres et ailleurs.” From the late 30s onwards, Vogel had settled in Ticino, living off the kindness of Aline Valangin and her husband, and had opportunity there for exchange with Italians and Italian expatriates.

            Vogel has been poorly served by the record industry (to my knowledge, we still await a recording of the 2nd part of Thyl Claes, and other major works such as the Violin Concerto are presented only in butchered form), so I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing this history. On the other hand, if you’re going to suggest that I’m a poser (and not merely mistaken), you should be well-informed on the subject in question.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            I was always taught that ‘serial’ refers to music where there is a serial approach to the pitches only. Anything which also uses serialism for the other factors is called ‘absolute serialism’. It strikes me that it could be just as unhelpful to use serialism to mean absolute serialism when far more composers have used it as a treatment for pitches alone than those who have used it to tackle all respects.

            I saw Il Prigioniero paired with Pierrot Lunaire in Paris a few years back. Very powerful actually, and gave us a jolly good look at Nikitin’s tattoos. Chris Merritt and, if I remember rightly (not necessarily the case) Rosalind Plowright completed the cast.

          • m. croche

            Cocky, it seems to me you were taught a simplification that might work well enough for classroom instruction, but makes for poor history.

            Nobody before 1945 used the term “serialism” to describe their music. Before that, you had “method with composing using twelve tones related only to one another”, “Zwölftontechnik”, “Zwölftonmusik”, “musica dodecafonica”, “la technique de la musique a douze sons” and their variants. After the rise of “serialism” (“musique sérielle”, “Serielle Musik”) in the 1950s, some historians used it as am anachronistic catch-all to embrace both Schoenberg and Boulez. That’s sloppy terminology, it seems to me -- especially when you consider the competing aesthetic stances implied by the two sets of terms.

            Dallapiccola himself used the term “dodecafoni(c)a” -- heck, in 1949 he helped organize the Primo congresso internazionale di musica dodecafonica in Locarno, Italy (not joking). Dallapiccola’s own usage, as well as the usage of his contemporaries, should -- it seems to me -- be the dispositive point.

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Jolly good, thanks. I mean there was of course a bit more to it than that, since it was at one of the best universities in the country and everything, but I take your point- it sounds as if they were using the term ‘serialism’ to describe music written before the word ‘serial’ had been coined to describe the compositional approach. It is, however, normal in this country to use the term serial to describe 12 tone music where the only thing serial about it is the arrangement of the pitches- composers and academics of my acquaintance do so as a matter of course when referring to Schoenberg, Berg and Webern for starters. You seem to think it appropriate only to describe serialism in it’s most evolved state- Boulez’s Structures and Stockhausen’s Kreuzspiel, etc.

          • m. croche

            Yes, I suppose perhaps the English have worked out a system that they seem happy with, even if it rests on the basis of some questionable historical assumptions (anacrhonisms, concepts of serialism “evolving” to Structures, Kreuzspiel etc. -- lots of twelve-tone composers thought the rigors of multi-dimensional serialism were ludicrous and didn’t see the development as any sort of “evolution” at all -- more like a hijacking).

            The best rule of thumb I can come up with is that the countries that actually experienced twelve-tone composition in the 20s-40s (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, some spots in South America) find the “twelve-tone”/”serial” distinction useful and do not confuse the two, whereas those countries who absorbed it later (principally England and perhaps France) seem content to merge the two sets of ideas as a single entity. (For example, Krzysztof Baculewski’s “polska tworczosc kompozytorska 1945-1984” devotes separate sections to Dodekafonia and Serializm -- which no linguistic slippage between the two.) The Russian scholars also seem to follow the German/Italian/Polish distinction as well -- though I suspect they have their own agenda for doing so. There may be a few Americans who still employ the “English” usage of calling everything serialism, but I would guess that nowadays virtually all American academics police the “twelve-tone”/”serial” divide quite strictly. Paul Griffiths may enjoy lumping the two together, but worldwide I think this is a minority phenomenon.

          • m. croche

            At this point I pause to reflect that this was a thread initially devoted to Philip Glass.

            I am an undisciplined commenter.

          • Camille

            Most esteemed monsieur croche:

            Your discourse above I found extremely interesting as I have always considered serialism as a post WWII development. I have informed my husband to give it a glance over as well as I know he will find you comments helpful and interesting.

            You see, about a dozen years ago or so, I got an itch in my little bel canto brain to attend a screening of Schoenberg’s “Von heute auf morgen” (just for laffs!!) at Tully Hall. As I edged toward my assigned seat I noticed it would be right next to an older man, who was surrounded by three or four much younger men. There and then began my love affair with Milton Babbitt, Mr. “I-don’t- care-if-you- listen”, Himself.

            As the film commenced I noticed Mr. Babbitt’s head down onto his chest and schlumping into his chair. At times he closed his eyes, then opened, then nodded or shook his head slightly from side to side. At first I thought he was taking a catnap or having a senior moment. Ach, nein! His head would come right back up and he’d look at the screen. Watching him was as much fun or lots more, to tell the truth, than the film of VHaufM.

            After it was over, I sort of bumped into him again outside Tully. I gathered together my courage and asked him the, by then, obvious…
            “Aren’t you…?”
            I guess he did not get many blonde women asking after him, and he was only too delighted to answer my questions, namely, “What WERE you reacting to in Schoenberg’s music?”. He shook his head no, and went on to say something which I can no longer unfortunately fully recall, but the gist of which was that he thought old Arnie got a lot wrong, or that he was somehow mistaken in some of his conclusions, at least in this work. I wish I could remember the specific details, I do remember that he was not happy with the results.

            Perhaps it is better he speak for himself: the following is an excerpt from an interview for the “American Mavericks” series, conjunct with SF Symphony, from some time ago:


            Tell me how you got to your compositional style. I mean, how you got to…

            MB: By studying the scores of Schoenberg, a certain amount of Webern, a certain amount of Berg, and a lot of other composers who have been forgotten. Krenek was one who came here and became a very good friend of mine. I got to know Ernst Krenek extremely well. When he came here he was looking for a job, then he taught at Vassar for a couple of years and spent time in New York. I kept seeing him after that, even though he ended up at Palm Springs. Poor fellow. I got to know so many European composers thanks to Roger Sessions. Roger had lived in Europe up until Hitler came to power, then he came back here. He had been in Europe for at least 10 years, it may have been more. He knew all the European musicians. When they came here, the first person they looked up was Roger Sessions, not only because they had known him in Europe, but because he spoke all their languages. So then Roger would often call me up and say he was going to have lunch with so and so—I mean Otto Klemperer, for example—and would I like to come along. And I do understand German, so that made it easier, because most of the peoples’ obviously native language was German. I got to know any number of people this way. Arthur Schnabel became a very great friend. Krenek was a particularly good one… this is a story about Krenek : Krenek was a devout Catholic. It is important to realize that, because people don’t realize how many Catholics and others came here as refugees, too. Krenek had, as you know, a tremendous success in Europe. He had written Jonny spielt auf, which was the most successful opera ever written. I think it was in 120 opera houses, but when they brought it to the Met it didn’t succeed very well. Then he came to this country, and I met him the day he landed. I had Chistmas dinner with him at the Sessions. In Europe at that time he had denounced all of his 12-tone stuff after Schoenberg, denounced it all as mathematical, all the usual clichés. Then he began what is called a neo-romantic period. He imitated Schubert. He finished Schubert, as a matter of fact; he finished/completed a Schubert sonata and wrote a song cycle that was obviously modeled after a Schubert song cycle. Then suddenly he wrote a book called Neue Musik. That the first book ever written on the 12-tone system. He became devoted. He was devout no matter what he did. He became a devout 12-tone composer, and then he came here and, you know, worked within that. He wrote the first book in English on 12-tone music called 12-Tone Counterpoint.

            And so you were composing… [Now], what’s the difference between serial music and 12-tone?

            MB: Well, the point is that not all serial music is 12-tone, although 12-tone does usually imply that it’s also serial. Serial simply means that the piece derives in some fundamental way from a series of pitches that are altered, rather than from simply a collection of pitches, as would be true in tonal music. It’s as simple as that. And the degree to which [the series is] pervasive throughout the piece and acts at constantly varying distances from the surface of the piece, depends on the individual piece. Of course, that’s part of the compositional characteristic of the piece. All it means is that the pitch collection used is the same 12-pitch classes of the usual chromatic scale. People hear 12 and think mathematics; well really, it’s the same 12 that Bach and Mozart used. Of course, it’s usual, to quantify the frequency continuum that we’ve been listening to all our lives. It’s not…the 12 has no particular connotation there, except to remind you that it is chromatic in some sense. It simply has to do with what was basically and fundamentally—and I don’t want to minimize it—a new conception of musical structure that gradually evolved the music of Arnold Schoenberg. His music evolved not by word, but by musical deed, by a succession of works, the works that are sometimes called atonal. Most of us would’ve rather called them something else, something that seems to imply there are no tones at all… The connotations of “atonal” were so, so, what can I say, misleading, that we found other words for them. For example, critics of the visual arts had a term, “auto telic,” to indicate that paintings are not supposed to represent anything beyond the painting itself; they simply have to do with masses of color and lines. And so, I think “auto morphic” is a very good term for music of that kind. It creates a structure within itself.

            [Schoenberg] went on from those pieces, which are some of the most mysterious pieces ever written. Some obvious ones are Advartunk and Yacob Suhar, which he never finished, or the Open Bisnon or the Five Pieces for Orchard of the Opus 16. He went on from that to the first real 12-tone piece, which was the Wind Quintet, and we all grabbed copies of that as soon as we could get them. It was very hard to get music. Remember where we are now; we’ve gotten in to the 1930’s. Though the piece was written in the 1920’s, you know, we didn’t see it written down for a long time; we simply studied scores, we seldom heard the music, it was very profound.

            So there we were. And there I was in Princeton. I was teaching there for four years before the war came, and then I was sent to Washington to spend a few years doing what, I cannot reveal. Then, by one of these incredible accidents of the military or government or we not know what, I was sent back to Princeton to teach mathematics. There was a moment in the war when people were being called back from the Battle of the Bulge to teach mathematics; it was the highest priority undertaking because there was radar, there was sonar, there were all these things and there were these kids who didn’t have enough math to learn how to do it. Even MIT graduates had to be retrained, because they didn’t know how to use a slide rule. So I did that at Princeton—it was by accident that it was Princeton, I’ll never know how it became Princeton, again, because it had nothing to do with my music department or anything else, it was in the mathematics department, until well, after the end of the war and that’s… That was a time that I could write no music; there was no I felt that there was no hope. I did do some thinking, though, and when the war came to an end, rather than try to sit down and compose again—because I was very decomposed—I went down to Jackson, back home, and wrote a rather notorious thesis which was called, The Function of the Said Structure in the 12-Tone System. You want to hear about that?

            Yes. Let’s hear about that.

            Well, that’s quite a tale



            Mr. Babbitt died this past January. I’ll never walk across Lincoln Center Plaza and spot him again. I shall always conserve a fond memory of the subsequent times I bumped into him and had a chat. He always remembered me. The odd thing was to me that such a brilliant man never was condescending toward a little woman asking what must have been obvious questions. He was always a kind, courtly and genteel Southern gentleman.

            I wager he liked blondes.

          • ianw2

            Croche, you know that sometimes I want to vacation in your brain, but I think the definition of ‘serialism’ as a casual synonym for dodecaphony is apt.

            Whilst it may not be scientific enough for an Oxford Journal article, to use serialism as an all-encompassing term like nationalism (Rimsky K and Bartok would be surprised to find themselves bedfellows)I find is acceptable as an easy shorthand as it immediately conveys a sense of what you’re dealing with. Bit like if someone says “I bought a new coat”, its generally acceptable, whereas really the fashion nerd in me goes “coat? do you mean pea/trench/duffel or some kind of pleats please number that you assembled from a paper serviette?”

            Dodecaphony is a form of serialism and serialism can include dodecaphony, which is good enough for me if I’m not writing a paper on Nono.

          • m. croche

            I’ll try to keep this short, since the further this goes on, the number of people interested in it approaches zero:

            1) Camille, thanks for the memories! Von Heute auf Morgen is one of those train-wrecks of an opera you can’t avert your eyes from. It’s exhibit A for the case that Schoenberg’s literary taste was wildly unreliable. Babbitt, who really knew popular music very well, was likely appalled by Schoeneberg’s “modern lifestyle” libretto and attempts to speak dodecaphonic demotic. I don’t find his pronouncements on serial/12-tone all that germane here, since he exemplifies exactly the type of poaching move (“Schoenberg is a forerunner to me”) characteristic of some in his generation that might be described as doing history in reverse. There’d be much more to say, but unless folks really want to hear it, I’ll stop there.

            2) Ianw: Dallapiccola gave us a word for what he thought he was doing -- why not simply use it? I find the resistance to this notion peculiar.

            My impression from some folks here is that if they were brought up to call Schoenberg’s music “serialism”, then that is their default mode and any deviation from that seems unnecessarily fussy. I have a different take on the matter: the purpose of a university education is not to pass on knowledge, but to encourage you to question the knowledge you already think you possess. I’d argue that it’s quite important to think carefully about these “common terms” that come tripping out of our mouths because sloppy usage can lead to sloppy thinking. Words obscure just as much as they clarify. (I’ll admit I’m a curmudgeon on many other commonly-abused historical terms, too, like “medieval”, “Renaissance”, “Baroque”, “Classical”, “Romantic” and “Modern”.) There may be this idiosyncratic Anglo-insular tradition of dodecaphonic/serial lumping, but it’s long been jettisoned in many other places, and for good reason.

            As to Bartok and Rimsky-Korsakov being bedfellows because of “nationalism” -- well, you don’t want 1500 words from me reacting to that … :-)

          • ianw2

            Croche- I don’t seem to have the same fear of casual shorthand that you do! At Darmstadt or IRCAM they probably are very strict, but I figure that 90% of the time the shorthand is acceptable (I mean, how far do you break it down? A keen layman may use ‘avant-garde’ willy-nilly when they should be using, say ‘spectralism’). And the composer’s word for what they do counts for naught- Debussy outright rejected ‘impressionism’ but that hasn’t made much of an impact in the way people- both lay and professional- talk about his music.

          • m. croche

            Heya ianw: I find the assertion “a composer’s words count for naught” bizarre. A composer’s words are not necessarily the last word. They might be irrelevant, they might demonstrate blind spots or even be intentionally misleading. But I can’t understand choosing to disregard them utterly based on an abstract principle. And absent that categorical rejection of a composer’s self-understanding, it’s still not clear to me why you would reject Dallapiccola’s usage. (I won’t rehash arguments I made earlier which suggested why this usage is significant.)

            I would agree with Debussy, too. “Impressionism”, as applied to his music, is an excrescence -- a sad attempt to appropriate the prestige of art history for music history. Sure, you can find the term in a lot of dumb music guides, but I’m not sure what that demonstrates other than the fact that people write and read dumb music guides.

          • ianw2

            Oh I agree that Debussy’s self-evaluation of symbolist over impressionist is valid (as I’m sure he would be gratified to know, I being an anonymous internet comment), but I also think that there is validity in over-riding the composer’s self-evaluation if the wrong term has a greater currency. I would, for example, take issue with someone like Alex Ross describing Debussy as impressionist (which he doesn’t), but I wouldn’t generally protest the usage of the term, Debussy’s opinion be damned.

            I think the difference here is you prefer to fight the good fight against the tide, whereas I prefer to ride the wave :)

    • I’m not sure what part of “perhaps rather obvious” and “brief” made you think I was praising Ms. Binlot as a stylist.

      And if conservative voices are ever squelched on parterre, moderation is applied to them for the same reasons it is applied to anyone else: their comments show a pattern of personal attack, ongoing off-topic ranting and lack of entertainment value. One of parterre’s most prominent “liberal” voices was in fact moderated a few weeks ago for exactly those reasons, though you may not have noticed because he was almost immediately reinstated when he got back to writing on-topic and with insight.

      Just now you might have addressed the ideas expressed in the Binlot piece instead of complaining about her “boring and crappy” writing, though on the other hand, I would have to have missed the delicious irony of your choosing two such vague and hackneyed adjectives to critique someone’s writing style.

      I’m not sure why you object to “juxtaposed.” Do you have a single word handy that better suggests how the material is structured? The reference to “a thought-provoking Sanskrit libretto” should probably have prompted an editor’s query, but a lot of online journalism (for that matter journalism in general) these days is pretty lightly edited. It should also be kept in mind that given the limitations of word count and the expected level of knowledge of her readers, Binlot may not have seen her way clear to explain at length how Constance deJong filleted the Bhagavad Gita for stray phrases thematically apposite to the various dramatic situations of the work.

      I have some sympathy here, as a specialist writer producing brief pieces for a general audience, I sometimes have to agonize over using a word that doesn’t quite mean what I wish it would, but is the only term that is both brief and widely understandable that fits in context. When a writer has the luxury of writing only for himself or for an audience of his peers, he can indulge in a whole paragraph narrowly defining a shade of meaning that the mainstream writer must try to suggest in only a word or two.

    • mrmyster

      Well, Profondo, if you are bothered by intellectual lightweights
      (haw!), why do you want more of Mr Z. Woolfe? His defense
      of regieoper will someday be taught at Yale as an example
      of cultural knownothingness!!
      Remember, you heard it here first!

      • brooklynpunk

        Mr. Myster:

        Because Mr. Woolfe occassionally might write in an admiring manner concerning productions that -YOU- might not care for ( whether you have actually SEEN those productions YOURSELF is a whole other can of worms best left untouched,eh?)-makes HIM culturally bereft?

        OY VEY!

        Very interesting…and very telling, in terms of your own cultural “sophistication”, no?

  • bobsnsane

    Basso -- you write that “the few conservatives who dared comment were attacked and/or officially muted by La Cieca.”

    That is simply not true.

    Perhaps you “should make sure [you’re] totally lucid before” you write anything here. It’s easier -- and more fun for all of us that way.

  • oedipe

    Could someone enlighten me, please?

    Several posters on Parterre, presumably opera lovers who have had extensive exposure to opera, have expressed the opinion that Philip Glass’ music is offputting. To my ear, it represents some of the most accessible opera music written in the last few decades, an attempt to mend the broken connection to the “popular opera” tradition of the 19th century. I mean, we are not talking here about Boulez, or Xenakis, or the “spectralists”, or the like. So, what is it that turns some opera lovers off: they don’t like the libretto(s), the music doesn’t sound familiar, and if so, unfamiliar compared to what? In more general terms, what are the barriers to accepting new opera music among the larger -though educated- public?

    • armerjacquino

      I don’t think you can rule out the plain old reactionary. I can’t remember the last time a new (in some cases not yet written) opera was mentioned on here without a chorus of voices on here about how awful it was likely to be.

      Obviously that’s not a majority view, but just as with singers, there is a vociferous minority on parterre of the ‘if it’s not old, it’s no good’ persuasion.

      Having said that, I’d have to say I find Glass dull as an opera composer. I think some of his film music is stunning, but in the opera house I think he’s always a bit… Robert Wilson.

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      Oedipe, perhaps we have differing ideas around what “accessible” means. In a way, Glass’ music is accessible because you don’t have to know anything about trills or leitmotifs or the musical languages of the 18th-19th century as you do witht he more popular operas. But I would suggest that even when one lacks a musicians understanding of musical knowledge the more accessible opera hits communicate their emotional content in more universal and direct terms than Glass’ work. The emotionalism in Glass comes from the full effect of sitting and marinating in those repeating interval juices. The emotionalism in Traviata is evident the first time you hear Violetta talk about a love profound and mysterious and the melodic line communicates that to anyone with little need for translation. Glass doesn’t work with sentimentality is what I’m trying to say, and that makes his music less accessible.

    • m. croche

      I think it depends on which period of Philip Glass you’re talking about. While the works from the 70s use familiar harmonies, Glass’ treatment of them makes certain demands on the audiences. A good portion of this work requires attention to perceive and appreciate small differences. I also find that it takes a certain amount of musical sophistication to appreciate the tonal, harmonic or melodic ambiguities or tensions in a repeated Glass phrase and to consider how those ambiguities and intimations are recalculated when ever-so-slightly altered.

      Starting in the 1980s, Glass introduced a stronger element of lyricism into his work and I think his style became increasingly approachable, increasingly assimilable to the listening habits of a conventional concert-going and light-rock-consuming public. But I think it’s fair to call Satyagraha a rather severe work musically and to say that its dramatic structure is close enough to ritual to make it difficult going for the casual operagoer. I’m pretty sure that some of the difficulties some listeners might have with Satyagraha are significantly reduced when it comes to later operas like Galileo or Appomattox.