Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reports of Our Death...

Bravo to Alan Kozinn for writing this encouraging article about the actual situation viz. The Death of Classical Music. It's encouraging to know that there's a critic who is not looking around him wondering why all the plants in his particular terrarium are dying, one who not only does not long for some vanished good-old-days era but appropriately sends condolences to those who do.

We live, and will continue to grow. By the time we get to Woodstock, we'll be half a million strong...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another Load of Shit from the National Review

Curse the Times for giving this deeply stupid list, a citation of the National Review's idea of conservative song, any space in their paper--let alone in the arts section. According to those geniuses out there, liberals are all abortion fans (as opposed to supporters of choice), lovers of mini-mall-style city planning, fans of Stalinist communism, and loathe small towns, families, and Alabama--all those good things that proper conservatives love. So this proves what, that rock and rollers aren't always revolutionaries? And come on, if you read, some of the explanations are so completely misread that you wonder how this list was assigned. David Bowie, singing about kissing at the Berlin Wall in "Heroes," is suddenly some conservative? Dylan, author of what could be the "...theme song for the Bush Doctrine" because he wrote ""He destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad / The bombs were meant for him / He was supposed to feel bad / He's the neighborhood bully," when our president designate never destroyed any bomb factory because there was none? And of course, only a conservative rock song would have something in Latin, like U2's "Gloria." And why not apply "Won't be Fooled Again" not just to conservatives, but to all the disallusioned souls out there--and this might well describe the plight of many conservatives now, but this hardly qualifies the song as being inherently Republican, just universal. Seriously, with so much great art going on and so little coverage, every word matters, and this utter twaddle gets pride of place? Please click only if you have a strong stomach.

And as for revolutions, alas, we're being run by a revolutionary government stronger than any protest march or peace rally. And that side has no rock and rollers screaming on its behalf--so the National Review has to de-facto recruit them?

Pardon my spleen, but in this age--when this particular administration is falling down from corruption, ineptness, fatall incuriosity, and thousands of murders, touching a 29% approval rating--I hate to see anything they don't own co-opted for their cause. Who would want to hitch their wagon to this particular star, let alone to have it inadvertandly hitched by ruthless warmongers?


It's official, MTV's Digital Music Service Urge.com (for which I am the classical music "informer") has gone live. If you have a PC, you can check out all sorts of music and content to download, stream, purchase, read, roll around in, etc. (and I have to say, their classical selection is not as shabby as you might belive from such a place--all thanks to the good graces of my ed., whose passion and limitless enthusiasm for spreading this gospel abounds in spades). If you have a Mac, sorry, it ain't compatible.

But do go look, it's my fascinating dayjob now!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Threepenny Opera

Without reservation I have to say I immensely enjoyed the Roundabout Theater Company's production of The Threepenny Opera, enjoying what it did offer rather than, as many critics have, projecting my own wishes onto what it ought to have offered. Yes, I do agree with Ben Brantley (a rare occurrence) that both Cyndi Lauper and Jim Dale, remarkable performers to be sure were underused, but is that the fault of the production or of the play? Ms. Lauper (admittedly a crush of mine from the days when she just wanted to have fun) was delightfully callow and brash, while Mr. Dale is quite simply one of the most phenomenal performers out there--his "arias" in the second act are worth the (hefty) price of admission. And while Nellie McKay is not the deftest singer on Broadway, her winsome, feckless characterization of Polly had me entranced for every moment she graced the stage. She was easy to love, easy to fear, and fantastically bland (though not really), no doubt what Brecht intended. She allowed herself to be felt up in her soiled wedding gown without batting a lashy eye, and her love of MacHeath never gave you the sense of a woman trapped but rather a false innocent on the take. Bravo indeed.

Wallace Shawn's "update" was, to me, a translation rooted in wishful thinking: even in Weimar Germany, Brecht and Weill no doubt had to tone down their language and direct attacks; in post-9/11 midtown Manhattan, anything goes, and Mr. Shawn, that delightfully wicked presence on our stage and screen, ran with it. The costumes and direction, by Issac Mizrahi and Scott Elliot respectively, while not exactly gritty, made glamour and perversion into a palpable theatrical commodity, and made all involved as beautiful as possible.

And all I can say about Alan Cummings is that this was the role he was born to play. Many want their MacHeath's slicker and more charming, somewhere between the emcee in Cabaret and 007 (Sting played it, as did Raoul Julia), but not me. I prefer degraded, dangerous, and bristling with perversions, all of which describe this outrageous portrayal. One for the ages: Brecht and Weill are no doubt giggling in their graves. Or are they crying? After all, their problems are ours, more so, and terror should strike everyone who sees this play. Plus ca change, I suppose...

Yes, it happens at Studio 54, so the very sight is freighted with that locale's demimonde cache history, but can one not rise above the glitz and see the show for what it was: a scorching, sadly still-relevant social mockery. They simply do not make 'em like that any more, and I left weepy over that exact fact.

This one is not for the faint of heart: how much bristling, in 2006, was there in the crown when Mr. Cummings forcibly kissed both women and men? Come on, where have you people been? Perhaps you will agree more with the audience member seated behind me, who, at the beginning of the intermission, growled "We should have seen that nice Wedding Singer."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Triumphant Return of a Hero

I missed your wisdom Mr. Rich. Welcome back.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Darwin Opera

Thanks to poet-scholar-novelist-librettist-genius Ernest Hilbert for this hysterical article about the brazen secularity of opera.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Not So Impressive

Almost done with Edward Said's posthumous concatenation On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain, which, for my money, is an attempt to explain how the approaching of death is the only way to truly get to the heart of the aesthetic matter. I will not go on and on about his scathing indictment of The Ghosts of Versailles for being too recherche (he praises Der Rosenkavelier for the exact same thing, except that Strauss did it as his pals, the Nazis, were pillaging Europe so his Autumnal rediscovery of Mozart is a yearning for earlier simpler times as the bombs fell. Did Corigliano and Hoffmann need a war to make their less-than-gentile look back less tawdry?) but I will go on about his praising Adorno with the faintest of damnation at another time.

I guess I bristle at the entire excercise: it's the Leisure of the Theory Class, an uninvolved observer criticizing from on high anything that is not German or Italian Cinema. What does it really say? I don't disparage critics--I actually have read more academic literary criticism than is probably healthy--but when it comes to the outsider's opinion on matters musical, they tend to get a little cutely haughty, which drives me crazy. At least literary critics have to be competent (if not at times thorny) writers; what do these elevated music critics need to have in the way of musical capacity before they are able to comment so brutally ex cathedra?

More to come when I am finished, for those who are interested, but I wish sometimes academics (or so-called public intellectuals) would hum a new and slightly more expansive tune.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Today's front page photo in the Times online is about an organ composition by John Cage. Does anyone know if this is a first, an experimental composer netting top billing like this?