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, September 26, 2006

Allow me to Introduce

SoHo the Dog, a.k.a. Matthew Guerrieri, a composer I met (briefly, in Boston, doubt he'd remember) whose blog I have been enjoying for some time. His Eight Setances About Classical Music I Never Want to Hear Again is hysterical, urgent, and we all ought to listen. Thanks to Molly at NewMusicBox for passing this one along. It can now sit happily on the Web shelf alongside Rakowski's infamous Butt Sticks.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Con Moltissimo Brio

For those who have not yet ventured onto YourTube, this is your moment. Maniac violinist Giles Apap (who, full disclosure, was the first serious musician ever to play a piece of mine, teach me about writing for the violin) plays a cadenza to end all cadenzas, Mozart and then some. The faces of the orchestra in the background are priceless. Watch it. Run don't walk.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Things That Go Bump in the Country

As a lifelong insomniac, I have the same problem most with the disease do: I tend to do anything to make myself not sleep. I would venture to say that insomniacs try to frighten themselves more than non-insomniacs, perhaps because they have a little extra time on their hands? Or is it that soothing activities in those furtive late-night hours make little sense. Either way, where some watch horror movies, others read mystery novels, I dip into politics between the hours of 2 and 4 am, lately reading book that have, quite frankly, scared the bejesus out of me.

In keeping with my habit of renegging on self-made promises, I suppose I join the ranks of liberal bloggers who are frightened about the way things are going. 9-11 being five years ago, we have moments to survey the damage we've done as a country, and it has been ghastly, creepy, and beyond the pale--a quiet pale, sadly. Guided by new books authored by two of my heroes--Frank Rich (of the New York Times who wrote The Greatest Story ever Sold and Lewis Lapham (formerly of Harpers) who compiled the best of his columns into Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration--I now manage, in the wee hours, to frighten myself into something of a dither, high dudgeon, a tizzy as they say.

Both of these books are nothing short of brilliant, not simply for their insights (though they both have them to spare) but the new information I gathered: for example, through Rich's book I learned of an elite group of Beltway cronies, the likes of Cheney and Condeleeza, the White House Iraq Group--or WHIG for short. The obviousness and irony of their name is hardly lost on me: it is more like something out of Thomas Pynchon, in a nightmare moment emblematic of dystopian decay, and yet this is real, this is really happening!. While Lapham is more than happy to bash Bush in the most deservedly sardonic tone (high flown as he is, when he is at his best), Rich is more even handed, laying out his case in a clear and obviously fact-checked way, gently guiding the reader to the facts: that none of this is funny, but that it certainly is good theatre. The irony of Rich's former job and his current one being not at all dissimilar was also not lost on me. The "Butcher of Broadway" is perhaps the only one who could sort this morass so plainly, and I continue to count on him to do so. His pulling back of the curtain is masterful, a tour de force not only of reportage but also of understanding and presenting. Both of these books, erudite, careful, well-mannered, and startlingly accurate, should be required reading.

But I encourage you, from one who knows, not to read them late at night, not unless you want to have nightmares, to fear not terrorists but our own voters, and the troupe of evildoers they twice damn near elected.

Monday, September 18, 2006

In Memoriam Bronwyn Dodson

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the passing of one of my dearest friends, Bronwyn Dodson. We knew each other for four years, and her life was cut painfully short at the age of 22 in an automobile accident. She was among the most beautiful and talented souls I ever had the pleasure to have met, and to her I dedicated several works of mine. She, to me, was always best summed up in the poem "The Queen" by Neruda, which I set (in translation, something I never do) as the first of five songs in her honor (though I altered the tense of some of the words, changing "are"s to "were"s because she was no longer).

Bronwyn, I miss you daily, but especially on this day. Five years ago, which marked the decade of your passing, I neglected to commemorate you because the world had, a week before, dealt me a confusing blow and you got lost in the fog of war. This year, today, I think about you and smile: I miss your antics, drunken and otherwise; I miss our until-the-dawn phone conversations (those dorm room epiphanies one can only have at the age of 21); and I miss knowing what you would have become. Far too young, far too soon. I have no words...

"The Queen"

I have named you queen
There were taller ones than you, taller.
There were purer ones than you, purer.
There were lovelier ones than you, lovelier.

But you are the queen.

When you walk through the streets
no one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
at the carpet of red gold
that you tread as you pass,
the nonexistent carpet

And when you appear
all the river sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.

Only you and I,
only you and I, my love,
listen to it.

--Pablo Neruda, from The Captain's Verses

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


There will be a momentum, momentum will be gathered. Houses will begat jobs, jobs will begat houses.--President Designate George W. Bush in Biloxi

Monday, September 04, 2006

I Cannot Agree More...

Kyle Gann heartily endorses the rarest of books on the scrupulously over-documented Stravinsky, The Appolonian Clockwork, which is being re-issued by Amsterdam University Press this month. As is often the case, I cannot agree more with his assesment: this is an important book, one I devoured several times as a grad student, one whose scope and quirk and blurred edges became an inspiration to me as a way a composer could write effectively about music (to the chagrin of future editors no doubt). There are a lot of spectacular books on music, but this one--along with (and again I agree with Kyle) much Rosen, and I'd throw in a few others--is as brave as it is wise, as funny as it is profound. And, as an added bonus, if you like the music of Andriessen, it gives you insight into his special musical soul.

So click here and buy it!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Impressive--and Score One For the Bloggers!

This fascinating articlein the Times is all about Pandora.com, a music "DNA" site--they call it a "genome project"-- which functions a lot like the "...those who bought this also bought..." function on amazon.com. Plug in your favorite song, and it will tell you others you might dig based on certain characteristics: is the guitar distorted? Is there a string section? etc. This, to me, is internet use at its highest--and it's making music giants nervous because, after wireless internet hits the street and the cars, no longer will people be told what to listen to. It does violence to radio payola, the idea of a swayable critic (as opposed to a passionate voulenteer) and the power of shock and awe advertising to sell a record. I for one approve, but it's not going to be an easy switch as the big corporations will have to turn up the volume on their promotions and their sexy visuals alike to even make a dent of an impact. We can look forward to a nude Jessica Simpson slathering down a can of Pepsi.