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

Friday, May 30, 2008

An Inconvenient Technique

Alright, I do not know a note of the composer who has been commissioned to make Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth into an opera, but I can only object, sight unseen. The film is there to send an important message, while an opera, I fear, lacks such power, especially in light of the film's success. I wonder what new dimension this will add?

But I of course could be wrong. After all, there have been several operas in recent memory whose ideas I thought would make for bad sung theatre (including Nixon in China and Little Women) and I've been proven wrong. But this commission, while I applaud its progressive nature, seems to make little sense to me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


"This primary election on Tuesday is a game changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward. The entire country -- probably even a lot of the world -- is looking to see what North Carolina decides." -- Hilary Clinton

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Honest Pride

As a decidedly amateur blogger, especially in comparison to my weighty colleagues who write about music full time, and especially as someone whose blogging can be flagging from time to time, I am genuinely honored to be ranked 37 out of ACD's Top 50 Classical Music Blogs. Next year, I aim for at least 32. Watch out Alex! And remember, 37 is better than 38.

Les Adieux

Once again, the world is somewhat lighter with the death of superstar composer Henry Brant at the age of 94. Many excellent obituaries have been posted (see Frank Oteri's extended video chat with the man for a vivid account) but I offer a personal story.

As an undergraduate at the bucolic University of California, Santa Barbara, I sat one day eating a sandwich on the grass (in the middle of January--ahh, Santa Barbara) awaiting the start of my composer's forum. That day we were to be favored with a visit from local hero (or eccentric lunatic, depending on whom you asked) Henry Brant. As a fan of his music, I was very much looking forward to the seminar. As I wait and eat, up bounces a spry old guy in a baseball cap and a hooded sweat-suit, sees me gazing to the door in the music department, and asks me, in a way that can only be described as gravelly: "HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF SURROUND SOUND?"

"Of course," I mutter, youthfully sheepish (and a bit frightened to boot)

"I INVENTED SURROUND SOUND. I. INVENTED. SURROUND. SOUND." He was off, leaving me wishing I'd given him a quarter or half of my sandwich or something, as it seemed he needed it more than I.

But you know the end of this story--I had been confronted by our guest of Honor.

Lately, I've been loving his orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata; back then, I loved Michael Ingham's record of songs by that same composer, with Henry Brant at the piano. But what I've always loved about his music, aside from the obvious spacial considerations that make it so singular and special, is the gruff sense of humor it reveals. Maybe I am biased after my confrontation--this was a gruff sense of humor writ large, in living (mostly) color--but I always thought I could see the smile through the crags, and hear the deep and unabashed romantic through the rigorous modernism. Maverick is an overused word like genius, but t this one-off collision represents my only in-the-flesh encounter with someone deserving of the name.

So Henry, thanks for it all, and I know wherever you are, the sound is as exquisite as can be imagined.

Immigant Trubble

And the wheels on the bus go round and round....