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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cat Power

I don't know how many out there know this, but a cat, on an airline, takes precedence over a person. If someone is allergic to peanuts, they will remove them from a flight, but if someone is allergic to cats, they are not only second to the traveling animal (whose owner has paid a $150 fee to have them in the cabin as opposed to the hold) but there is also no way of notifying you that there is a cat on the plane. Now some out there might say "Take a Claritin and quit your whining," but those who say this don't know that there are many kinds of allergies to cats--the sniffy kind, and the kind I have that is directly linked to asthma. I won't die, but I will get horrible bronchitis for six or so weeks.

This, by the way, caused me to miss the first day of my honeymoon. And now it's delayed my trip to Los Angeles to see my family.

So happy holidays, cat lovers--I hope you enjoy how much you've made someone with a chronic health issue suffer. And happy holidays airlines, who simply don't care. Makes you long for the great old days of train travel.

Danny & Louis

Thank you John Corligliano for this. I can't stop watching it. Ah, the old days...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Even the Mac Can Betray

So in keeping with Steve Smith's personal content-loss woes, I wrote a very thoughtful, mixed review of Peter Gay's book Modernism: The Lure of Heresy and then, for some reason, my mac failed me and all was lost.

So let me recap: I liked the book, even forgave a few bad copyediting moments in the music section (i.e. composer and biographer Jan Swafford was referred to as "she," and Cage's revolutionary non-etude was, in fact, 4'3") but was really annoyed at the film section wherein Gay, an amazing scholar, thinker, chronicler, reduced himself to a fan by offering a vast list of all the directors he loved but did not include. Nothing too awful--certainly forgivable--and yet it soured me on the book for some reason...and this was a book I was more than prepared to love.

So this is the truncated version--call it version 2.0.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Atonality

According to Alex Ross, today marks the centenary of Atonality. I am not sure what to make of such an anniversary, with all the post-Schoenberg complications that the system wrought, and the weird, lonely place it put composers--starting with Schoenberg, who titled his explanatory essay about this technique "How One Becomes Lonely." On the one hand, this type of thinking forced composers to certain choices. All had to wrestle with the new math, and some did by willfully ignoring it (I think of Ned Rorem's label "Serial Killers") while others not only embraced it but cranked it up a notch or ten. Depending on who you asked, Schoenberg was a savior, or he was an elephant after whom we are all cleaning up still. His work saved and ruined lives, in a way. I am mixed on the matter, which has always been my personal curse.

But for what it is worth, today is historic for composers. So happy birthday atonality--a hundred years and still controversial.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

An Historic Anniversary for This Guy

December 15, 2007 marks my seventh year officially as a New Yorker. By many accounts, that makes me fully a member of the at large population and not some hopeful arriviste. A hell of a town, in the words of the poet...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Karlheinz Fallout

In going through the many, many posts, obits, articles, etc. about the death of Karlheinz Stockhausen, I keep noticing one thing: that he seems to be the most under-appreciated composer of the 20th century, at least according some of those writing. This baffles me: for years, as a composer, Stockhausen was a force with which to reckon. In my time in school, his name was known as well as Ligeti, Carter, Boulez, Berio, Cage and Messiaen. Exquisite company, I'd say. And those composers are hardly unknowns.

Which leads me to wonder: what defines an "appreciated composer?" Do you have to win prizes (Stockahusen certainly did), have your music played (ditto), written about (ad nauseam), discussed, admired? Do you have to have an impact on the tradition (in which case Philip Glass, who has few imitators, is perhaps the least appreciated composer), have your name in history books, be on the cover of Sgt. Peppter's Lonley Heart's Club Band, have innumerable recordings, draw forth plenty of "he walked among us and we never knew him" articles from the volunteer army of bloggers, get written about in the New York Times? From where I sit, Stockhausen, though not often played on the glamorous orchestral concerts in the United States, was more than appreciated. And regardless of what I do or do not think of the music, his position in the firmament of the tradition has never really been a question.

Like the recent death of Norman Mailer which elicited a stream of articles and memorials about his bellicosity and how he once stabbed his wife--missing the point of his contribution to skate immediately to the more glamorous and eye-catching aspects of this now-departed complicated artist--it seems that the death of Stockhausen has forced him into the mold of under-recognized genius. This is as divisive and glossy as Mailer's love of prizefighters. I think what we ought to do now, once the shock of someone's demise settles in, begin to write not about his place in the at-large music world but about the music.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Another Sad Day

Today saw the passing of two greats--composer Karlheinz Stockhauen and musicologist H. Wiley Hitchcock. Once again, our world is lighter...

Addendum: Kyle Gann's thoughtful post on Hitchcock.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Anne-Carolyn Bird

So allow me to be the last to add The Concert, the blog of one Anne-Carolyn Bird, to my woefully incomplete blogroll. Join her on a guided tour of the life of an opera singer--a life that, according to the poet Lou Reed, is "...certainly frought will many spills and chills." She doubles not only as one of my favorite singers, but also as a fascinating and insightful reader and writer.

More new blogs to come soon; I am feeling back in the blogging saddle (with a long-ago-promised redesign more possible now than before), perhaps because I've not written an article in some time?