Anne Beer on Fanny Hensel and Harmful Language

Anne Beer, writing about Fanny Hensel on Shadow of the Courtesan:

And so began a miserable encounter with the language we continue to use when talking about female composers, language that patronises, dismisses, misrepresents, ignores, and always and ever ends up comparing a composer to her male counterparts. The composer becomes, implicitly, a (failed) contestant in a race that they were never invited to join in the first place.

Female composers have had incredibly short shrift through the centuries—at worst during times when young women were encouraged to be musical but not to pursue careers as composers. Beer is doing great work to highlight them.

Things are better now, but not better enough.

“It’s like you bought a CD and the store told you that you had to listen to it 1,000 times, or they will give your money to Nickelback.”

Speaking of streaming, Sharky Laguana has an excoriating indictment of streaming music economics, specifically where your money goes when you listen to a song:

If you subscribe to a subscription music service such as Spotify or Apple Music you probably pay $10 a month. And if you are like most people, you probably do so believing your money goes to the artists you listen to. Unfortunately, you are wrong.

Read the whole thing, and get angry.

George Grella Reviews Streaming Services

George Grella, on The Big City, has an excellent, detailed run-down of the major streaming services and Tidal. His conclusion: Apple Music wins, with Spotify a close second. And Tidal?

Tidal is so sad and so awful, it may be, in terms of who is behind it and the way its been sold, the worst consumer product ever made. It is the the ne plus ultra of the corporate conglomerate record label, with the inflated costs and lack of taste to prove it. Is this Jay-Z’s design, or has he handed it off to managerial types? I can’t decide which is worse.

The piece is mostly good (though I think Grella’s delineation between “music consumers” and “music lovers” is unfair, condescending, and needlessly dichotomous, but that’s for another day). This caught my eye, though:

At least for the musician’s sake, although it is a pittance, everyone should pay for the music they stream.

You could just buy an album.

Griffin Candey on Making New Opera Great

Smart post from Griffin Candey on Fach Yeah Opera Singers:

To be fair, this subject has very few clean answers—too many parties tied up in too many aspects of this process means that no suggestions, no matter how clear-cut, can produce an idyllic version of the new opera process. That being said, many of the improvements must occur, and they must occur soon; if not, the current iterations of new opera will continue to limp (and possibly fall).

I don’t believe anything can truly make art fall (except the fall of civilisation), but the article makes some great points. And while the art itself won’t fall, if everyone’s trying the same bad strategy, many of those individual houses and production companies will fail.

Joan Acocella on stagefright

I almost missed this terrific meditation on Stage Fright by Joan Acocella in the New Yorker from a couple of weeks back. Essential reading (though behind a paywall).

Stagefright has not been heavily studied, which is strange because, as Solovitch tells us, it is common not only among those who make their living on the stage but among the rest of us, too. In 2012, two researchers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Karen Dwyer and Marlina Davidson, administered a survey to eight hundred and fifteen college students, asking them to select their three greatest fears from a list that included, among other things, heights, flying, financial problems, deep water, death, and “speaking before a group.” Speaking before a group beat out all the others, even death.

The Imperative to Change

Chad Reynolds, in a short post On Coldfront Magazine:

I’ve had Glenn Gould’s double disc of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in my car for three years. It never gets old.

I love both Gould’s recordings of the Goldbergs, and listened to them constantly in my early twenties. They’re both so precise and unique, and so totally different from one another, most noticeably in speed.

Gould slowed down his playing a lot in his later recordings, as though he’d begun to enjoy the sound of a lingering note or chord more than its connection to the next, stretching out melodies until they almost snapped. One composer (I forget who, but it may have been Barbara Pentland) described hearing his performance as sounding like an X-ray of her music.

Since reading his interview with Rolling Stone, which I’ve linked a couple of times, I’ve found myself wondering whether the inflection point in his career was having his beloved Chickering piano broken:

[M]y tempi have noticeably slowed down in the last year, because I’m playing on a piano newly rebuilt, which eventually will assume the characteristics that it had before. I hope and pray, but which at the moment has a heavier action. And if you play with a heavier action […] the nature of that action produces the quality of legato which I would frankly like to get rid of—I’d like to get it right back to its nice secco [dry] quality that it had before it fell off a truck. But a new piano with new hammers hitting new strings is going to give you innately more legato. […] The articulation, if you go at it at the tempo you might otherwise have done, is going to be less clean. So the instrument determines it.

I don’t know whether he ever got the piano back to a sound he liked, but the breakage seems to have been the first time he was really forced to slow down his playing. Maybe he grew to like it so much he didn’t feel like speeding up again. It certainly fits the timeline.

(Via the Glenn Gould Foundation)

Kirk McElhearn: Manage classical music in iTunes 12

Writing on Macworld:

iTunes has always been designed for “songs,” and, for the most part, classical music isn’t a song-based genre. Because of this, organizing classical music in iTunes can be a bit complicated. But with a few workarounds, it’s possible to maintain a large classical music library in iTunes. Here’s how.

I’ve long since developed a system for tagging my classical music,[1] but McElhearn’s got some good pointers if your collection is as muddled as it will inevitably be if you don’t apply your own tags.

One other suggestion I’d add: iOS devices don’t like long track names, and some classical music tracks can have very long titles, depending on how you’re sorting them. I have some useful space savers:

  • ♯ and ♭ signs rather than writing out “Sharp” and “Flat”
  • Upper-case letters for Major-key pieces, and lower-case for minor
  • Omit words like “Sonata” if they’re obvious from the album title or somewhere else
  • Sensible punctuation: A colon looks better and is much more efficient than the weird space-hyphen-space that everyone seems to use

So the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata is:

  • No. 14 in c♯, ‘Moonlight’: Adagio sostenuto

rather than the more cumbersome

  • Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, ‘Moonlight’ – Adagio sostenuto

That’s worked reasonably well for me, but it hasn’t been without problems.

  1. Unlike McElhearn, I could never go LastName, FirstName for composers as I find it looks horrible, so I go the long way round. That’s Composer name: Johann Sebastian Bach; sort as: Bach, Johann Sebastian.  ↩

Between the Liner Notes

Since Serial there’s been a surge in new documentary-style podcasts. I’ve written about Meet the Composer (still my favourite) and 99% Invisible before, but new shows keep coming to my attention. The latest is Between the Liner Notes by Matthew Billy, whose first episode explores the invention and development of the reel-to-reel tape player. Worth a listen.

Kirk McElhearn, to people selling music

Kirk McElhearn continues to be the best commentator on iTunes and Apple Music. From his blog:

Many record labels and artists who sell music on the iTunes Store direct their fans and customers to Apple’s store through links on their websites. However, since Apple Music went live, these links no longer work correctly.

Instead of sending someone to the iTunes Store, where they can buy an album, these links redirect to the Apple Music section of iTunes, or of the Music app on iOS (if the user has Apple Music turned on).

I don’t see what Apple has to gain from this. They’re as much better off as the artist if they sell an album.