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London 2012: The bells toll for you
It’s Olympic day! The bells are ringing, people are happy and it just started raining for the first time in a week. There was a lot of bell ringing this morning at 8:12 for Martin Creed’s “Piece 1197: All the Bells.” In 33 minutes, the biggest ringing bell in Europe will signal the start of the Opening Ceremonies.
Esa-Pekka Salonen Carries Olympic Torch
I arrived 45 minutes early and staked out my spot. The dome of St Paul’s and a lovely green tree would make the perfect backdrop for a photograph of Esa-Pekka as he ran by with the torch. What I didn’t count on was the intransigence of late-arriving non-English-speaking photog armed with a giant Nikon standing right in front of me.
Invisible Art
Nothing to see here…….OR IS THERE? (The less mysterious spambait-looking version is: the Hayward Gallery has an exhibition on now of invisible art. I went and I liked it very much. Read all about it, including some thoughts from gallery director Ralph Rugoff, ici)
The Queen: Art & Image
The National Portrait Gallery has an exhibition about the Queen. There are 60 paintings/images/holograms covering the 60 years of her reign. What does the exhibition tell us about art? Not too much. What does it tell us about the Queen? Even less. In the end, all that is really clear is that the Queen’s singular talent is being whomever you wish her to be. Full text and slideshow ...
Universe of Sound
So. The Philharmonia Orchestra has this thing on at the Science Museum in London called Universe of Sound that uses HD video, a couple Microsoft Kinects and copies of orchestral parts to give people an idea of what it’s like be inside an orchestra when it’s playing. It is a revolution, not because of the technology, but because of the attitude.
Chelsea Fringe
A few weeks ago I got to spend a couple days in the sunshine chatting to people about the various gardening projects that made up the inaugural the Chelsea Fringe. The garden-keen amongst you will no doubt be familiar with the Chelsea Flower Show. The Fringe aims to be a complement its more extravagant colleague and highlight projects that are making a difference in their community.
Foster the People
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Mark Foster from Foster the People for Time Out New York. At first listen, Torches is a collection of light indie pop with obligatory hand claps and the occasional laser beam pyew. Listen more carefully and you’ll hear a mille-feuille pastry. “I love countermelodies, I love hooks and melodies that stick in your head,” says Foster.
Ballet Shoes
In the autumn, I had a chance to visit the workshop in East London where Freed make their ballet shoes. The tension between fashion and function, art and craft and high and lowbrow made the visit interesting in all sorts of ways aside from the obvious how-they-do-it. The manager, Gary Brooks, was extremely generous with his time, and I left knowing more about shoes and the shoe business and than ...
Jackie Evancho
Last Sunday I had a piece in the Times about crossover soprano Jackie Evancho. She’s difficult to write about for several reasons, not the least of which being that she’s a child. On the other hand, her parents have decided it’s ok for her to be in the limelight, so it’s only fair that she plays by the same rules as everyone else. In any case, the crux ...
Stephen Merchant
“One of my great frustrations on the tour in England was I was always imagining that there would be gorgeous groupies hanging around outside but most of my groupies are middle-aged guys who work in computing. I shall be intrigued to see the caliber of weirdos that hang out outside the stage door [in LA].
Tori Amos: Night of Hunters
Tori Amos has a new record out on Deutsche Grammophon. Whether this is a good thing or the end of the world as we know it is up to you. From my chair, it’s one of the rare crossover projects that stands on its own as an original work and the more of that sort of thing that’s around, the better. I had the good fortune to chat ...
CBC Radio – from sea to sea to sea
A few weeks ago I had a piece in the LA Times talking about CBC Radio’s 75th anniversary, specifically how it serves as a uniting force in a country of geographical and cultural disparates. Plus, I got to interview the ever-lovely Jian Ghomeshi, so it’s a win all round. It’s 1928, and the Canadian government is in a panic.
Dispatch from the Marketing Department
This week, I had the chance to report on two new things from the world of classical music marketing. First, the Vancouver Opera collaborated with marketing agency Taxi to produce a series of adverts pitching opera as adventurous as gondola bungee jumping or eating lamb fries. And then Naxos was infiltrated by zombies who promptly put their new charges the task of making an album to accompany their imminent ...
Elbow: Interview Extras
The Manchester band Elbow finished its North American tour last night in Los Angeles. I caught up with them in Toronto on Wednesday. I first heard of Elbow when they did a gig with the Hallé Orchestra as part of the Manchester International Festival in 2009. It didn’t occur to me to get a ticket, as I expected it would be another rock band with the orchestra ...
Is music above politics? WikiLeaks says no.
The questions was sparked by the Proms protest incident a couple of weeks ago. The instant reaction from music lovers was that it was. Art should not be sullied by petty mortal squabbles etc. The contemporaneous release of unredacted WikiLeaks cables and a hunch that music and politics have been cosy bedfellows since the beginning led to some idle querying of the WikiLeaks database. Violin and piano appear often, ...
Procession
Sunday afternoon, Miss Mussel found herself wanding around Manchester’s city centre. The weather was glorious, the buskers were out and there were plenty of grass patches upon which Manchester fine citizens were acquiring their orange tinge in a more natural way. While partaking in this activity herself (for cultural immersion reasons only, obviously), Observer and Innocent fruit smoothie in hand, Miss Mussel’s idyll was encroached on by the sound of ...
Beer, BBQ and Mahler
or what happens when orchestras walk the walk when it comes to appealing to young professionals. Miss Mussel has long admired (and used to participate in) the tsoundcheck program, so was quite delighted when a chance to write about it presented itself. “Over the past 15 years, the TSO has had its crises (near-bankruptcy in 1995, labour dispute in 1999 and a unexpected conductor changeover in 2003), but is ...
Symphony Of Science: Ode To The Brain
John Boswell is an economist who likes science, philosophy and music in equal measure. In 2009, he produced his first Symphony of Science video as a part of a project designed to spread the science word via music. The autotune phenomenon (remember Bed Intruder?) is mostly over but Boswell shows what can be done when someone with a bit of music skill gets their hands on the software.
Language Funtimes With T-Rex And Gendered Nouns
Where was T-Rex during French lessons? Grammar dino style is so much cooler than vocabulary lists and red squiggly lines. (to see the comic translated into French, German and Sanskrit, go here and scroll down. For Latin, go here and do likewise.) T-Rex is created by Ryan North, a fellow Canuck.
Thoughts on the Youtube Symphony Orchestra
Miss Mussel has a piece on the Culture Monster blog about the grand finale concert, the gist of which is: Like the final showcase after a week of band camp, when all the parents come to collect their children, Sunday’s concert was all about the players’ experience. The problem is: If you weren’t there it doesn’t really mean anything. [...] What digital projections, sand artists, new compositions, star soloists, a massive budget ...
Opera’s Favourite Love Songs
Last week Miss Mussel asked 8 singers from all sorts of different genres about their favourite love songs. The whole list, complete with videos, is on the LA Times Culture Monster Blog. Here’s what songs the opera singers chose: Thomas Allen – I Heard You Singing by Eric Coates Joyce DiDonato Everywhere by Pink Martini Kiri Te Kanawa – Danny Boy Nathan Gunn – Die Neugierige from Schubert’s Die ...
Plus Ça Change: Charity Muggers And Frisky Teenagers
Here’s part of a piece Miss Mussel had in The Toronto Star last week about what certain Christmas carol lyrics are really talking about. Wassailing: Essentially an excuse for a booze-up, wassailing is a type of Christmas trick-or-treating/extortion. Peasants would turn up on the doorstep of the feudal lord that owned their land and start singing.
Opera Goes Down t’ Pit
The Ensemble Studio from Canadian Opera Company has just completed a 9,068 km education tour through Ontario and Quebec sponsored by globing mining giant Xstrata. View Larger Map In addition to playing schools all throughout Ontario and Quebec, the tour stopped in at Raglan Mine to perform for the workers way, way up north in Quebec.
Friedrich Gulda: Cello Concerto (1980)
Tonight’s Espace Musique radio discovery is Friedrich Gulda’s cello concerto. Beautifully eclectic stylistically and requiring eyebrow-raising technical skillz, this piece is a great antidote for the Dvorak/Boccherini/Schumann/Haydn-fatigued. What other concerto effectively incorporates a drum kit, an acoustic guitar, a delicious horn choir (ok -Dvorak manages that bit) and an ersatz marching band? It turns out that Gulda was quite the character – always exciting to discover.
The Thing About Full Body Scans
is that they are mostly a waste of resources and passengers’ time. Update: Here’s a NY Times OpEd making this point with much more authority. One of Miss Mussel’s other gigs is writing for an aviation security trade mag. The pages are glossy but the adverts are for things like cargo security scanners and anti-terror conferences; something I find simultaneously terrifying and fascinating.
What You Need To Know About Currency Economics In Case Of Zombie Attack
The other day, the website PriceOfTravel.com issued a list of how much a 3-mile cab journey costs in 72 world cities. Interesting enough as a table but it’s more of an indicator of currency exchange rather than actual cost of service relative to the local economy. [FYI to regular readers: This post mentions classical music exactly zero times.
Nunc dimittis
Puffed sleeves! Anne would be so excited. Backstory: Mary & Joseph bring their baby to the synagogue to be consecrated. Simeon, the high priest, had been promised he would see the Messiah before he died. He was very old and it doesn’t take much reading between the line to understand that Simeon is getting tired of waiting.
Trompe d’iPhone
Those of you on the Tweeter or Facebook will have seen these photographs already but it’s worth reposting here simply because Miss Mussel can’t figure out how this happened exactly. There were not tricks and any post-processing was just filters, not image manipulation. This stripes on the plane are shadows, not paint. The propeller tips were painted yellow. The first photographs was taken in landscape, the second in portrait and the third ...
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Interview Extras
Earlier this summer Miss Mussel interviewed French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Here are some of the bits that didn’t make it into the original story. You were a treble for many years as a child. Did your parents get you into singing? “It was actually the other way around. I got my parents into it.
Americano Hand Dancing
This video has been making the rounds on Facebook and after a few run-throughs, it occurred to Miss Mussel that what these two were doing looked a lot like Irish dancing. Turns out she was right. Speakeasy, a WSJ blog has the lowdown on Up & Over It aka Peter Harding and Suzanne Cleary. “Irish dancers learn their choreography with their hands, usually beating on their laps or chests, ...
COC Now In The Standing Room Club
Here’s the text of a piece Miss Mussel wrote for the Toronto Star last week about the Canadian Opera Company’s new standing room. Well, the un-macheted text. A nicely crafted dig at unnecessary panic and the truthiness of Wikipedia [author's assessment] didn’t make the cut along with a few other tidbits. This season, the Canadian Opera Company joins San Francisco, Seattle and The Met in the North American ...
Jackie Evancho And The Ghosts Of Angels* Past
(originally posted on Culture Monster) While you’re waiting to see if Jackie Evancho makes it through to the finals on America’s Got Talent (and Miss Mussel knows you all are), feast your ears on these other pint-sized wonders. Julie Andrews had been singing with her parents on the stage in London for two years before she got her first professional gig at age 12 in a musical revue called Starlight Roof.
The Girl Wonder?
Miss Mussel has a piece in the LA Times today on 10-year old singer Jackie Evancho, who is a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent. The most curious part of the whole story for at this point is the change in her sound from the first AGT audition tape to her appearance on the show three weeks ago.
Les Bibliothécairs S’Amusent
When the students are away, the librarians will play. With, it seems, increasingly excellent production values The crew at Washington University practice their Poker Face(s) From The Harold B. Lee library at Brigham Young University in Utah, ladies and gents, put your hands together for NEEEEEEEWWW SPIIIICE! (there’s also a behind the scenes) Søk and Skriv at the University of Bergen in Norway is: the 2010 winner of the Most Amusing ...
Rufus Wainwright Interview Extras
Reader Matthew reminded Miss Mussel that she promised a few week ago to post the extra bits from her LA Times piece on Rufus Wainwright. Clearly the humidity is causing Ms Mussel’s already scattered brain to file more items than usual in the Abyss. As usual, there is plenty of material to choose from. Here are the bits about Prima Donna, his theory on critics and the final ...
Trude Herr: Genius Beyond Measure
The OM’s foreign correspondent sends these slices of brilliance from Cologne. Trude Herr (auf Deutsch) was a hometown girl, who had a great career as a character actress in German film and as a singer on the Berlin cabaret circuit. Here is Ms Trude in the precursor to Right Said Fred and I’m Too Sexy [a passable Google translation of the lyrics] When I was a baby, sweet and very stupid ...
Rufus Wainwright: The Walking Song
In June, Miss Mussel interviewed Rufus Wainwright for the Los Angeles Times. We chatted a bit about the North American premiere of his opera Prima Donna as well as loads of other classical music stuff. As always, a pile of really great material didn’t make it into the final piece. Once Miss Mussel returns from her cottageland holiday, she will sort through it all and post some ...
New Blogs
Miss Mussel’s feedreader as been getting an especially heavy workout these last few weeks as the number of feeds it corals on a daily basis continues to swell. Here’s what’s been recently added to the fold. Lesson For The Day: There is no paragraph that can’t be improved by animal husbandry metaphors. All links direct to the respective blog’s RSS feed for easing adding.
Widor Toccata From Symphony No.5
It occured to Miss Mussel the other day that the organ is the only instrument that requires specialist footwear. It is also the only instrument where the operator is usually invisible, giving the whole affair a rather intriguing mad professor/Wizard of Oz vibe. No other musician, except perhaps a orchestral conductor, has so much power at their fingertips and no other instrument even comes close to matching the sheer ...
Schubert Mass In G Major D167
Last week our church music tour started off in England with Thomas Tallis and If Ye Love Me. This week, we head to Norway to hear some Schubert as sung by the . The man knew how to write a tune. Even the Credo, traditionally the most boring movement of a mass setting, is lovely. The conductor, Reza Aghamir, clearly has something of considerable import immediately following ...
Proms Picks 2010
After a whirlwind tour last summer, Miss Mussel will sadly be unable to attend any of the Proms in 2010. There is something quite special about the festival although articulating that specialness is rather like trying to pick up the mercury from a broken thermometer: you can plainly see it’s there but every time you think you’ve pinned it down, it squirts out of your fingers. To ...
Photographs Of The Age Of Enlightenment
Over the last month, the OAE has been sharing images from their 2010/11 promotional campaign on their excellent blog. For inspiration, Chris Harrison of Harrison & Co. turned to the lowly gaffer tape. The results, photographed by Eric Richmond, are full of joy with a gossamer overlay of Magrittian wit. You can view the whole series on the OAE blog
‘Friend Of Dorothy’ Fiddle
A friend of a friend ended up buying a violin from Reinhard Goebel, founder of the now defunct Musica Antiqua Köln. When the new owner opened the case, he found that someone had indulged in a delightfully ribald spot of aftermarket accessorizing. Here’s the ‘Friend Of Dorothy’ fiddle in action.
Not Available In Your Area
Miss Mussel can live without Hulu, Pandora, NBC.com, Comedy Central and Spotify (nearly). What she cannot abide is being denied access to the BBC iPlayer. While Miss Mussel resented the shakedown letters that arrived at her televisionless house in Manchester on a regular basis, had a gogglebox existed at 27 School Lane, she would happily have paid.
Want Your Classical(ish) CD/DVD/Book Reviewed?
In our corner of the universe, August is a dead zone. We laze about the garden, rediscover that it is possible read for pleasure and find ourselves unable to live without daily updates on the latest baby zoo animal. Miss Mussel’s contribution to this lolly-gagging is the inaugural 31 Reviews Project. During the regular season, Miss Mussel rarely does CD/DVD/Book reviews mostly because she doesn’t have time.
Un-Unfollow?
Miss Mussel like most things and has, as such, a broad range of tastes. Monster trucks have a certain appeal, for example, as do acrylic paintings, the ballet and chili-flavoured truffles. A long-time resident in the Do-Not-Like column is the music of Wagner. There are some exceptions of course. The Tannhauser Overture was one of first classical pieces Miss Mussel owned and big horn excerpt at ...
Glissando Wars: Counterstrike
Alex Ross has a list of his top ten glisses over at Unquiet Thoughts. Most of them are pretty cool although there is one glaring omission. Ladies and gents, spare a thought for Lassus Trombone. This novelty, composed by Henry Fillmore in 1915, was on one of the $4.99 bargain bin classical discs Miss Mussel bought when she acquired her first hi-fi.
Calculus For Singers
Actually, it’s probably more like actuarial science but never mind. Kim Witman from Wolf Trap Opera is doing guest posts around the intertubes as part of the 2010 season launch announcement. Miss Mussel has been mulling for some time about what exactly it is that makes some musicians successful over others. While the extremes of the scale (talent & hype) are often credited/blamed as the situation requires, the truth ...
Banging Our Heads Against The Wall
Anne Midgette brings news of the truly appalling state of classical music record sales in America. Searching for additional adjectives has proved to be rather futile. All that is coming to mind is shock. Miss Mussel knew it was bad, but this is miles beyond any scenario she could possibly have imagined. If, as Anne reports, the top 25 classical music discs sell a combined total of 5,000 ...
Stalin & Me
Thanks to a video featuring Michael Tilson Thomas and posted by Patty, Miss Mussel has discovered that she and Stalin have something in common. Thankfully, it is not the mustache. While Miss Mussel favours the Chick Corea/Bobby McFerrin version, really anything will do in a pinch. The bigger question is however: does this association mean Miss Mussel is also in some way evil? The ...
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