Sunday, March 07, 2010

New blog

If you stumbled into this looking for postings on modern classical music, please consider checking out my new blog, Modern Tempo. (It launches in April 2010).

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Plain Dealer reviews Cleveland Chamber Symphony

Cleveland Plain Dealer music critic Donald Rosenberg, recently deposed as the reviewer of the Cleveland Orchestra but apparently still allowed to cover other classical music events, has reviewed Sunday's Cleveland Chamber Symphony concert. There's no reporting in Rosenberg's piece on why the CCS apparently was downsized for Sunday's event.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Randolph Coleman to retire

Randolph Coleman, a composer and longtime professor at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (43 years!) is retiring at the end of the semester, according to this article I spotted in the Oberlin Review, which is apparently the student newspaper. It's a well-done article; I'm not familiar with Coleman's music but apparently he is kind of a recovered modernist.

In the article, he describes having roots in late modernism, then adds, "This was an aesthetic cul-de-sac burdening my generation until the late '60s when the bubble finally exploded. Unfortunately many of us got trapped there, never to evolve even as it became evident to almost everyone that, as a culture, we had moved on."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

My Donald Erb souvenir

I have a ping-pong ball in my bedroom now, one that's covered in bright orange paint. It's my souvenir of today's Cleveland Chamber Symphony concert, held in honor of the late composer Donald Erb at Baldwin-Wallace College.

Erb, who died this year, was a prominent Cleveland composer. The CCS did two of his pieces at today's concert. "The Devil's Quickstep" was a collection of interesting sounds, but I'm afraid my brain had trouble converting them into a recognition of them as music.

The second piece was "Souvenir," and it was the last piece of the program. It was a great deal of fun. The program note for it said it was composed in 1970 "and might be considered an example of one of the 'happenings' of that time, although the piece is far more universal than that." That seems like a fair description. The lights were turned down and what looked like a black light was turned on. Objects that appeared to glow in the dark were deployed. I was sitting in the balcony, and a gentleman in the corner of the front row tossed out big, colorful balloons, then sprayed what appeared to be Silly Putty at the audience below, then threw out a whole box of colored ping pong balls.

I talked to the man after the concert, and he explained, "I'm Donald Erb's son." He told me he had been helping with the performance of the piece since he was a teenager. He pointed out to me other members of the performer's family. As I left the theater, a woman insisted to me that a colored ping-pong ball had been placed in the composer's coffin before he was buried.

Also during today's program, the CCS performed "Compline" by Christopher Rouse, maybe my favorite piece in the concert; I'll try to hunt up a recording. There was also "Tatterdemalion" by Libby Larsen, which I had no opinion on one way or the other, and William Bolcom's chamber music suite, "Orphee-Serenade," which I liked. Bolcom seems to be have written a large amount of enjoyable music; I've yet to hear something I dislike.

The symphony was much smaller than usual; the program listed 14 musicians, and each piece seemed to use fewer than that. I don't know what was going on with that. The program wasn't the same one that had been announced a few months ago.

Update: Composer Jeffrey Quick's thoughts are here.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cleveland Chamber Symphony slates Sunday concert

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Cleveland's top new music ensemble, returns this weekend with a season-opening concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace College. The concert is free and will include music by Christopher Rouse, Libby
Larsen, William Bolcom and noted Cleveland composer Donald Erb, who died earlier this year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Donald Erb dies

Breaking news: Jeffrey Quick has just reported that Cleveland composer Donald Erb has died. (Quick, a composer himself, is president of the Cleveland Composers Guild). More news as it becomes available, Quick says.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Music criticism hits new low

Here's a technique for critiquing performances that Alex Ross probably never thought of: Bring a claw hammer with you and use it to bang out a bad review for musicians you don't like.

The Sandusky Register reported that a Baldwin-Wallace College music graduate and music teacher named Richard Rice armed himself with a hammer before taking on a rock concert in his neighborhood in the small city of Huron, Ohio. "The band was out of tune and loud," Rice explained.

Accounts differ on whether Rice swung the hammer at music equipment and a spectator, depending on whether you believe other people at the scene or the allegedly drunk music critic. Witnesses says he did, although Rice said the hammer was just a prop.

"I had a hammer in my hand," he concedes.