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Friday, June 19th edition              

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this week's featured recording (06.19.20) 

Kyrie from Pianomass
by Marteau

Theoretically this is the part of the first portion of the mass, that ancient Christian ritual which, for the last 2000 years, has insisted that its participants ask forgiveness before their God right out of the box. In actual practice, there seem to be many who do not feel this to be an appropriate expression of their attitude toward life, including the current US president, who, when asked if he asked God for forgiveness, said he didn't think he'd ever done anything that he'd need forgiveness for. For those of us less self-righteousnessly inclined, perhaps, this might be a good week to intone this short prayer: God have mercy, Christ have mercy, God have mercy. Kyrie eleison.    
 This week on the blog:    Friday, June 19, 2020
getting political
This week one fellow went viral for complaining to a member of "Rage Against the Machine" that his music had lost its flavor for him because of the all the "political bs" that was now in it. This stance seemed odd to a number of onlookers, who wondered specifically what machine the former fan thought the group was raging against. Several suggestions followed (the toaster? the oven? the washing machine?). The point being that the group's music had always been political and that apparently the angry consumer hadn't noticed before.

It is a safe bet that when someone complains about an artist's political involvement, what they mean is that it is a political stance they don't agree with. Otherwise, they are not as likely to notice. This week, of course, everyone is embroiled in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, which seems to be this generation's version of the Birmingham church bombing, an incident in which white racism becomes so blatantly ugly that society is temporarily horrified and appears poised to take real action against the unacceptable. I wasn't alive during Birmingham, but the narrative was that it "shocked the conscience of the nation." A few reforms were made, some important laws passed. Then that nation hit the snooze button.

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Respecting Mr. Joplin

Joplin's battle to bring dignity to his person and his art

....What bothered "respectable" America the most about ragtime may have been its infectious rhythm. Any number of religious societies that dotted the landscape in 19th century America seemed to have as one of their chief tenets a rejection of the dance, or anything that resembled it: music that got the toes tapping and the body jiggling was thought to be much too worldly, too physical, too....sinful. But it need not have been the music itself that got ragtime its contemptible reputation. The chief proponents of early ragtime had the misfortune of being poor, wanderers, and black.

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Moszkowski....became known as the "Sunshine Composer." Much of his music is lighter, wittier, and less pretentious than that of his contemporaries, and for much of his life he had a strong following. That following did not include many critics, however, particularly when Moszkowski tried his hand at works like the Symphony or the Concerto; pieces which had become the epitome of length and ambition. Here is some critical 'acclaim' for his Piano Concerto:

"[the themes of the piano concerto] are too slight, its workmanship too facile for a concerto. There is grandeur, there is delicacy, there is abundant cleverness, but more than this is needed in equipment when one composes a piano concerto the first movement of which takes up more than 100 pages of ..score..."

"The concerto...may perhaps be no great work, but it is sure to become popular"

"We do not expect heaven-sent inspirations from Moszkowski, and his latest work does not disappoint"


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He Was Born....

From the earliest days of this website, whenever I would write about composers, I always chose some interesting aspect of their philosophy, their writings, some incident from their lives, or some filter through which we might get a glimpse of them as human beings. With Bach it was something he said about organ playing; with Beethoven, a study of different portraits and the question of image; with Mozart a study of his earliest pieces and a look at how musical logic works by way of a silly game he invented; with Erik Satie, his absurdist writings. This was well before wikipedia and several author sources of biographical information, but there were already plenty of places you could go online to learn about when a composer was born, when they died, and what they wrote that was so important. I didn't see any point in repeating the same thing you could find everywhere else. I wanted my site to be different, not to ask what but to ask why, and how, and get us to think a little about who these people actually were and why it mattered.

So if you wanted to simply find out when a composer was born, and when they died, you might have to look somewhere else.

Somewhere along the way, the listening catalog was born, and with it, over a hundred composers were listed with their dates, which can make the page look a little like a graveyard. Most of the composers represented are dead, after all. And the rest will be...

Some of my teachers had warned me away from beginning essays on persons with the ubiquitous phrase "He was born" on the basis that it was a pretty dull way to begin an essay. It doesn't exactly draw the reader in and make them want to know what you have to say. On the other hand,

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