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Itâ€™s already into the 5th week of five weeks of Greenwood. I was up to my eyebrows for a week or two before the start of camp finishing a piece for this summer. Every year an orchestra piece is commissioned for the final concert (through a fund named for Nathan Gottschalk, a former conductor at the camp), and this year I was the commissionee. I didnâ€™t do anything except my usual duties during the first week since I was finishing the piece, and during the second week since I was copying it. Fortunately by the beginning of the third week it was all finished. All that nose to the grindstone stuff (which, of course, I could have avoided had I finished the piece earlierâ€“which somehow I just wasnâ€™t able to do) has given me a slightly weird sense of the rate at which things have gone. Itâ€™s hard to believe that in less than a week itâ€™ll all be over.
Over the course of the camp Iâ€™ve coached performances of the first movement of the Faure Second Piano Quintet (a favorite piece of mine), the first movement of Beethoven Op. 18, #3 (ditto), the first movement of the Mendelssohn Octet, Duel Movement for String Quartet by Philip Grange (a British friend of mine whoâ€™s a wonderful composer, and whose music everybody should know), the first movement of the Mendelssohn Op. 12 Quartet, Detour, a piece by me for ten players, and, last week, the first two movements of the Sibelius Quartet and the last movement of Harold Shaperoâ€™s String Quartet. All of that has been fun, and I think all of it has gone well.
My piece, which is called Lucky This Point (A Summer Night) is for double winds and horns, piano, crotales, glockenspiel, two tam tams, suspended cymbal, and strings, is, by my standards fairly bigâ€“about 12 Â½ minutes long. The percussion has been an almost continual headache (finding a player and getting the instruments) and causes me to think on the truth of something I often tell my students: If you write for some kind of unusual instrument youâ€™re likely to end up moving it.
Fred Cohen, the usual conductor, had to withdraw from the camp at the end of the first week owing to a family medical emergency. As itâ€™s turned out Julian Kuerti, who is currently assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony is conducting the concert. Julian is a former Greenwood camper and counselor, who was one of the players in the piece which was my first association with Greenwood (I have been trying to remember exactly when this wasâ€“I think it was 1991). He just recently subbed for the ill James Levine who had to withdraw from Tanglewood due to medical problems (a really wonderful concert on July 13th) , and now heâ€™s subbing for Fred Cohen at Greenwood.
So far there has been one read through and one rehearsal. By the end of the first actual rehearsal it was sounding quite a bit like I had imagined and hope that it would. There a rehearsal today with all the percussion (the stands for the tam tams wouldnâ€™t fit into my car, so we had to do a sort of Rube Goldberg thing with stands for chairs and chains from the local hardware store (Cummington supply, should anybody every have any hardware needs in Cummington), which really began to sound awfully good. (It makes me feel as though all the trouble with the percussion was worth it). Thereâ€™s one more rehearsal, so I feel very hopeful. The performance, incidentally, is on Sunday, August 3 at 3:00pm. Anybody who happens to be in the neighborhood is invited and welcomedâ€“admission is free.
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I’ve been reading The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby lately. It’s not much fun to read. I suppose it’s too much to ask that a serious discussion of the intellectual and political state of the nation should read like P.G. Whodehouse, but one can alway hope. The basic contention, that there’s an inherent strain of anti-intellectualism in America, and that it’s riding particularly high at the moment, and that there was a certain admirable, attractive, and desirable quality about a certain kind of American way of life in the mid-century that she describes as being middle-brow, I don’t have any disagreement with, but I feel that Jacoby loads the case almost as much as she points out that the people she’s excoriating do, and I’m not particularly happy with what seems to me to be her rather school-marmish attitude about things.
I noticed that she speaks of a survey done recently that show that half the people in the country don’t read a book in a year. What was striking to me about this was that in “The Obscurity of the Poet” from Poetry and The Age by Randall Jarrell, dating from around 1953, he makes reference to a survey that showed that half the people in the country don’t read a book a year. (Unlike Jacoby, he’s quite funny about it: “…I picture to myself that reader–non-reader, rather; one man out of every two–and I reflect, with shame: ‘Our poems are too hard for him.’ But so, too, are Treasure Island, Peter Rabbit, pornographic novels–any book, whatsoever. The authors of the world have been engaged in a sort of conspiracy to drive this American away from books; have, in 77 million out of 166 million cases, succeeded. A sort of dream-situation often occurs to me in which I call to this imaginary figure, ‘Why don’t you read books?’ –and he always answers, after looking at me steadily for a long time: ‘Huh?’). (It would be churlish, I suppose, to point out to Ms. Jacoby that Jarrell’s survey is from exactly the time that she looks back to so fondly.) I suppose that given the fact that every thing else in the US and the world have declined and got much worse, the fact that that percentage of people who never read a book has remained constant is a kind of progress. (My guess is that that survey is an urban myth, much as one that Barbara Bush was fond of citing about problems facing schools in the fifties (chewing gum, talking in class) as opposed to more recently (teenage pregnancy and guns in school).)
Music, surprisingly, is included in Jacoby’s ken. She is predictably annoyed at the idea that The Beatles might be considered in the same mental breath as Beethoven–it’s resistance to the idea of aesthetic hierarchy. (I have to say I couldn’t make much sense of the quote from Allan Kozinn that she ridicules). I was surprised and annoyed, though, at: ‘Christopher Ricks, a professor of humanities at Boston University and the Oxford Professor of Poetry, compared Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay,” in which said lady is told to extend herself across a “big brass bed,” to John Donne’s elegy, “To His Mistress Going to Bed.” (Ricks, who is a truly distinguished scholar of real [my emphasis] English poetry, inexplicably ignores Dylan’s role in confusing the distinction between “lie” and “lay” for boomers who came of age under the spell of this song.) Jacoby goes to say that she longs for Dwight MacDonald to give Rick’s Dylan’s Vision of Sin, which she describes as “an unreadable 517-page tome”, the skewering it deserves. I’m not sure she shouldn’t watch her back lest somebody give her a skewering.
In any case, I’ve found myself thinking about it since I read it, and even though I run the risk of exposing myself as a boomer deluded and grammatically mislead by Dylan, I really wonder if it’s so far-fetched that one might compare Dylan’s lyrics to Donne. I’m quite sure that his lyrics are at least as good as poetry as the texts in Dowland and Campion, and probably in Machaut–Dufay, too. Although I hesitate to suggest that the music is as good as Dowland’s (or Machaut or Dufay), I’m pretty sure it’s at least as good as Campion. The first part seems to me to be just silly, but there’s something really preposterous about complaining about Dylan’s grammar in that case, and even more so in asserting that it’s the cause of boomer faulty grammar in general, for a number of reasons, including the date of the song (1969), by which time most boomers were already well down the road of their grammatical road to ruin. I certainly was. Bob Dylan is not at all responsible for my not knowing when to use that rather than which.
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I’m just about to start loading my car to move out to Greenwood for the next five weeks. Greenwood is a music camp in Cummington, in Western Massachusetts, mainly devoted to chamber music (although all the kids play in the orchestra and they all sing in the chorus, both of which perform every week on the Saturday night concerts along with all the chamber music groups.) It’s hard to say exactly what it is about the piece that makes it as wonderful and magical as it is, but it is. Even though it’s sort or trite to say so, people who have been there as kids (or as faculty) feel some kind of common bond, and they tend to stay in touch with each other throughout their lives. I was there first for a week in 1992, or 1991, I think… I wrote a ‘cello quintet which was played; I’m still in contact with four of the five kids who played the piece. The Chiara Quartet has been in residence since last summer; two of them are former campers.
This summer is Greenwood’s 75th anniversary, and there are various celebratory things happening, including a concert on July 6 by the Chiara and Joel Krosnick (another alum) featuring the Schubert Quintet. Peter Westergaard, also a former camper, from the 40’s, has written a flute quartet which will be played by students sometime during the summer. There’s a piece commissioned for the orchestra every year; this year the composer is Geoff Hudson. I’m not sure what else might be done. (I’ve been thinking maybe Irving Fine Quartet, maybe Shostakovich 7th, maybe Copland Sextet, but who knows…In a way it doesn’t matter.)
The concerts start a week from tomorrow. They start at 7:30 and go on for a long time. They’re pretty wonderful. The kids are incredibly good, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an audience anywhere else that listens so intently, with such concentration and interest. If anybody’s going to be in the neighborhood, they’re worth going to hear.
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Shostakovich–String Quartet No. 7
Irving Fine–String Quartet
Britten–Death In Venice–Act II
Music of Philip Grange–
The Kingdom of Bones
Diptych for oboe and harp
Concerto for Solo Clarinet Radical and Symphonic Wind Band
(This is a Cameo disc–2061–Philip Grange is a terrific composer who teaches
a the University of Manchester and whose music should be a lot better known in the US–everywhere, actually)
Ellington–Jumpin’Pumkins, John Henry’s Wife, Blue Serge, Jump for Joy (from Classics 837)
Lister–Sleeping In Air (Sometimes you want to remember that you exist)
The Beetles–Sgt. Pepper
Peter Maxwell Davies–Piano Trio
Then I was able to find ACT–in Knoxville)
I arrived yesterday at about 5:00CST–Good thing. I’ve o.d.ed for a little while
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Every year in June I drive from Somerville, Ma. to Rainsville, Ala. to see my father, returning via Nashville to see my brother and his family. By the end of the school year, the idea of sitting in a car for two days there (and two days back) and listening to lots of music is appealing. (I also look forward to seeing my family, of course). I set out this morning early and got to Charlottesville, Virginia, one of my favorite places, after about twelve hours of driving. During most of that time I was listening to music:
Burt Bacharach–At This Time (The last time I was at the Tower Records in Harvard Square, when very little was left, all of it drastically marked down, I ran across this. I’m sort of a fan, and I was curious, and I figured that at that price I might as well see what it was like. I listened to it as well–all of it. I don’t feel that I’ll ever have to do it again. It’s no I Say Little Prayer For You or I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, or much of anything, in fact. It’s pretty bad. But now I know, and I had the time anyway. I begin to think that I was sorry I hadn’t bought a copy of the re-release on psclassics of the cast recording of Promises, Promises because I would much rather have been listening to it.)
Samamidon–But the Chicken Proved Falsehearted. (Great!)
Tschaikovsky–Serenade for Strings
The Beach Boys–Pet Sounds
Irving Fine–String Quartet
Joshua Rifkin–The Baroque Beetles Book (The person who sold me gas at the service area of the New Jersey Tunrpike liked this) (I do too)
Harold Rome–Pins and Needles (Songs from the union–meaning socialist–review put on by members of the Ladies Garment Workers for a long run sometime in the 30’s. This is a recording–a 25th anniversary recording–featuring Barbara Streisand, who’s great in the thing’s she does. It includes such wonderful songs as It’s Better With A Union Man, Sing Me a Song with Social Significance, Nobody Makes a Pass at Me, Status Quo, and One Big Union For Two.)
Benjamin Britten–Death in Venice–Act One. (I think this is Britten’s best opera. It’s so beautiful and wonderful! I especially like the way the scenes flow seamlessly one into another, the uncanny realistic effects–such as the imitation of the motor of the boat that takes Aschenbach to Venice–and the orchestration which is so beautiful, and so transparent and etherial–it just sort of hangs in the air like some kind of mirage or hallucination–and at the same time, or rather at certain times, so powerful and full, but always so colorful. I’m a little suprised that no more is made gnerally of the fact that Britten writes twelve-tone music to represent the sterility of Aschenbach’s work.)
Nico Muhly–The Only Tune.
By that time I started trying to find All Things Considered–without much luck for a long time-I always have trouble finding NPR stations in northern Virginia–so I guess I was listening to an indeterminat composition consisting mainly of white noise.
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Carolyn Brown was a dancer in Merce Cunningham’s Dance Company for twenty years from its very beginning at Black Mountain College in 1953; for a lot of those years she was also married to Earle Brown. She has recently published a memoir that time, which is called Chance and Curcumstance, and I’ve been reading it (and re-reading it) lately. At one point in the book she writes, “If one insists on putting one’s heroes on pedestals, it’s probably best never to meet them.” Even knowing the truth of that statement, she manages to write about Cunningham and Cage, who are clearly her heroes, and who are certainly the focus of the book, in a way that is at the same time clear-sighted as to their personal qualities, both attractive and less so, understanding as to the philosophical intentions of their work, and not just affectionate, but, unfailingly, downright loving about them as people.
Cage has become a sort of monumental icon, and one tends to think of him as some sort of serene celibate zen monk, with an endearing laugh, wearing denim trousers and blue work shirts, and observing a strict macrobiotic diet, without thinking that maybe he wasn’t always like that. Since I don’t think I’d ever seen any reference to their relationship in print, I was momentarily startled to read at one point early on in the book, “It was during these five days of intimate proximity that I first heard John speak about his feelings for Merce, about the sexual passion that Merce the dancer, who he likened to a Greek god, aroused in him.” One can agree with the very next sentence, “Because their public behavior was so circumspect, I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that theirs was a sexual relationship.” It is equally surprising to read about Cage as a person who cooked steaks for the Cunningham Dance Company (“America’s Best-Fed Dance Company!” as they liked to think about themselves), and religiously had his first drink of the day (bourbon, beer, or wine, at various times), or whose uniform was “sober black suits, business shirts, black shoes, and black stockings. Only his ties were a bit peculiar–short dark knit oddities that looked as though they’d been chewed off by a chipmunk.”
Brown studied philosophy in college and is very insightful and articulate about Cage’s philosophical intentions. She is also clear about the moments when there was a tension between the ideas he espoused and the realities of his life, (When, in 1954, due to the building’s being scheduled for demolition, he lost a beloved apartment, he was not at all amused to have Brown, innocently, remind him of his constantly proclaimed goal of non-attachment), and she understands the connection between his evangelical zeal for his philosophical and musical ideas and his early plan to be a Methodist minister. (I think this highlights one of Cage’s central struggles as a composer: he was SUCH a composer, but he was continually trying–for philosophical reasons–to escape his composerness.) Her observations on Cage’s influence on Cunningham and Rauschenberg, who was for many years the company’s resident designer, lighting director, and, later, artistic adviser, and theirs on him, as well as the differences, due to the inherent differences of the different media, in their individual artistic realizations of their common aesthetic goals, are, to say the least, interesting. More substantively, the story that Brown tells makes one realize that Cage’s early work and musical developments were as tied to dance, as were those of Stravinsky. For the years that the book covers and beyond Cage was the music director of the Cunningham Company, and performed and toured with them consistently.
I’m always interested when performers talk about technique–how they work at obtaining and maintaining control of the instrument so they can do whatever it is they’re trying to do expressively (There’s an Auden poem that starts: “You need not see what someone is doing/to know if it is his vocation,/you have only to watch his eyes…”). I’m particularly impressed when singers talk about it, since their instrument is their body. But if it’s a dancer….whose instrument is all of her body, and she’s continually fighting to maintain control of it, but also continually fighting the body itself, which is continually deteriorating, and continually THINKING about it, it’s especially fascinating. Especially if the person who’s talking/writing about it is so smart and so adept at expressing what’s on her mind. There’s a place in the book which has stayed with me strongly: after the end of first complete season, at the Theatre de Lys in 1954, she saw Cunningham sitting, “dispirited and hollowed-eyed” in his dressing room, saying, “My jump is gone. I’ll never be able to jump again as I used to.” (Cunningham was 35 at the time.)
The most appealing thing about the book is that it points out that all those people–Cage, Cunningham, both of the Browns, Rauschenberg, Johns, Remy Charlip, David Tutor, and all the rest–as opposed to the way we (I, anyway) had come to think of them as ageless, but old, were young and were completely delighted with the idea that they were doing new things (this is something that separates the Americans from their contemporary Europeans, incidentally–they were not so concerned with the zero hour sense of having to start all over again to salvage a world that had been ruined by a failed civilization–they were just getting off on the fun and excitement of it) and completely in love with what they were doing and with each other, and the fact that, at least for a time, their art and their lives were inseparable. Of course, as they got older, and more successful–in a worldly sense, anyway—, and better off financially, all that changed.
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There have been a number of posting in different places lately about teaching composition. On Dec. 21 on the New Music Box, Randy Nordschow asked what was it that teachers taught. Kyle Gann recently, but regularly, more or less says that they can only be nasty brainwashers (that maybe is an exageration which might be considered a completely distortion of what he really had said, of course), only trying to produce Kleinmasters. David Toub, in about every one of those cases, regularly makes his point that you can’t teach people to write music. I’ve thought about this some over the years, anyway, reflecting on my own history, but since I do a fair amount of teaching composition, mostly to pre-college students, I’m often thinking about it. And finally I’ve been moved to put in my two cents, in a rambling sort of way.
First of all, I have to say, that I, as a teacher, have no interest in teaching people to write music that’s like what I write, or in any particularly styel, and I have to say that, judging from my own experience, good teachers don’t. I’d go so far to say that the sign of a good teacher is that his/her students’ music isn’t like his/hers. For one thing it would seem to be self evident that there’s nothing to be gained for anybody in trying to make people write music that they don’t like or want to hear.
I guess it’s true that you can’t teach people to write music. However, I think you can teach people a lot about how to think about writing music, by which I mean considering what it is they’re trying to do, coming up with as clear an idea of it as possible, and then seeing how they can most clearly and convincingly do whatever it is they’re trying to do. I find that the question I most often ask students is “What does this piece do?” (When Birtwistle was teaching at Harvard recently, I gather that he would often ask students a variant of that question: “What is the piece?”) With new students there’s a more or less standard dialog which happens almost without fail—the student then says, “What do you mean?” and I say, “What do you think I mean?,” and we move on from there. I usually say I mean anything they have in mind: how many sections are there, which are the most important places, why does it end the way it does, or for that matter when it does, how did they decide when the piece was over, etc. Basically I’m trying to get them to be as conscious as they can be about what they’re doing. I don’t often tell them that such and such a note or a chord is “bad,” although if they’re trying to write a certainly kind of music, then certain kind of things which I’d consider grammatical or maybe syntactical come up for discussion. Often times something that a student is doing brings to mind some piece, and we’ll look at that to see how someone else has dealt with a similar situation.
Generally it I think anything goes with what a student wants to do. I try to get students to listen to a lot of music and lots of different kinds of music. I remember a while ago, when Cage was at Harvard, he did an interview with Richard Dyer in The Globe, in which he said, “Most composers write what they hear, but what they hear is just what they’ve heard.” (He then went on to say, “I don’t hear anything.”). I think the first part of his statement is true. So I think if a student thinks he doesn’t like, say, Schoenberg or Babbitt, he should know what what he thinks he doesn’t like sounds like, at least. (And maybe what it is he doesn’t like about it.) With pre-college students it’s not surprising that they haven’t heard a lot of music, but in my experience not just undergraduates, but graduate students, don’t have any idea about a number of composers who’ve meant a lot to me: the list would include not only the usual suspects, but also Virgil Thomson, Percy Grainger, Ruth Crawford, Arthur Berger, Feldman, Machaut, Purcell, Monteverdi, Duke Ellington, or Captain Beefheart. Often times the music they know by composers whose music they think they like (like Copland–how many know Music for the Theater, the Short Symphony, the Piano Variations, the Piano Sonata, or the Violin Sonata, for instance) is just a little slice of what that composer wrote. Students generally start by doing something that’s imitative of something they’ve heard and liked anyway, so it would seem that the more they’ve heard, the more things they’re likely to have something strike their fancy and get them started on something.
I also think a teacher should lead a student through the whole process, writing a piece, producing it in a way that clearly conveys their intentions (and that means that if they’ve got some reason for not writing many or any dynamics–if it really doesn’t change or for some reason it really doesn’t matter–not putting them in, but knowing that that’s the case, and that they’ll be asked about it anyway) (I have to say that, once again, in my experience, usually it’s a matter of their not really thinking about it or not knowing how to go about deciding about it–not that it’s intentional–same goes for articulations.), getting a piece rehearsed and played, and then thinking about how what they wrote compares with what they meant to write or thought they were writing, and then going on to the next piece, where the whole process starts again, but with more and more control (for lack of a better word) over things. A teacher might be useful for either keeping a student going, trying to keep them from being discouraged at it, or, in some cases, for slowing them down. Writing a lot of music is generally, I think a good thing, but it is possible for a student to write too much.
Whereas any style seems fine, I usually try to discourage certain things–usually when a student say he wants to write a fugue, he/she doesn’t have any idea of what that really means, and getting into it usually leads to just getting bogged down. It doesn’t often happen, but I have had kids show up telling me that they want to write twelve-tone music. It doesn’t seem to me to be a good idea unless one has a really good idea of what you’re trying to do and why that’s the best way of doing it, and usually they don’t.
I suppose if the process is successfull, a student might well not quite realize that it was going on.
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They have refined the means of distruction,
abstract science almost visibly shining,
it is so highly polished. Immaterial weapons
no one could ever hold in their hands
streak across darkness, across great distances,
threading through mazes to arrive
at targets that are concepts—
But one ancient certainty
means blood, spilling from living bodies,
means severed limbs, blindness, terror,
means grief, agony, orphans, starvation,
prolonged misery, prolonged resentment and hatred and guilt,
means all of these multiplied, multiplied,
means death, death, death, and death
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For the last two and a half weeks, while I’ve been occupied with desparately trying to keep up with all the my work that I could, while learning far more that I ever hoped or wanted to know about plastic surgery on jury duty, I’ve also been reading about Varese–Malcolm MacDonald’s book and Edgard Varese: Composer, Sound Sculptor, Visionary, a sort of coffee-table scholarly catalog of a big exhibition of Varese material owned by the Sacher Foundation.
The book reprints the letter that Frank Zappa, at the age of 16, wrote to Varese. Zappa had already made contact with Varese by calling him up, but he was on the east coast–Baltimore, in fact–and was hoping to visit the master. Unfortunately for music history, Varese was just about to leave for Holland and the meeting never took place. The letter is really rich and wonderful. My favorite bits are, first of all, the statement that “I have been composing for two years now, utilizing a strict twelve-tone technique, producing effects that are reminiscent of Anton Webern,” and, most, “I became more and more interested in you and your music. I began to go to the library and take out books on modern music, to learn all I could about Edgard Varese. It got to be my best subject (your life) and I began to writing my reports and term papers on you at school. At one time when my history teacher asked us to write about an American that has really done something for the U.S.A. I wrote on you and the Pan American Composers League [sic] and the New Symphony. I failed. The teacher had never heard of you and said I made the whole thing up. Silly but true. That was in my Sophomore year at school.”
I was also really interested to see, in a letter from Ligeti, who was writing to ask Varese to write a letter supporting his effort to emigrate to the United States (a letter which Varese never answered, apparently), the statement, “…I published a textbook of classical harmony and a book of examples and analysis of classical harmony (both are used in the Budapest Music Academy and other music schools in Hungary).” I had never heard anything about a textbook on classical harmony by Ligeti. It would be something really worth looking at. I wonder if anybody knows anything about it. Even if it’s in Hungarian, the examples would be really interesting.
I hadn’t previously known much, or anything, about Varese’s life, and I’ve been struck that he seemed to have know just about everybody of any importance in music in the first two thirds of the twentieth century and lots of other people basides. It occurred to me that one could make a variant of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon featuring Varese. Except it wouldn’t take all that many degrees. With Varese as the only link one could connect Busoni with Zappa, Widor with Earle Brown, or von Hofmannsthal with Henry Miller. With one more link one could connect Chalipan with either Frank Sinatra or Captain Beefheart. Also with one additional link, one could connect von Hofmannsthal with Adam West (an idea whose silliness for some reason tickles me quite a bit–for that matter connecting Varese with Adam West is silly enough).
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I’m not particularly plugged into things, so it may not mean anything that I haven’t seen any mention of the recent reissue, after thirty something years, of The Baroque Beatles Book, Joshua Rifkin’s arrangements of early Beatles’s songs not just in Baroque style, but as Baroque pieces. (I was told a story by somebody that at the time he did it Rifkin was a student at Princetone working with Arthur Mendel. According to the story he showed Mendel one of the arrangements, saying that it was some lost Bach piece he’d discovered; apparently Mendel’s suspicion was not aroused.)
It was done so Electra/Nonesuch could capture some of the Christmas Market in 1965; it worked, I guess. Not too long after The Baroque Beatles Book, Rifkin did the arrangements for two records of Judy Collins.
I first tried to get a copy of this a few years ago when I was teaching music history in a high school. I thought it might be interesting to the kids and give them some sort of way into Bach. I’m not teaching music history in high school anymore, and I now realize that, since most of the songs are early and not so well know by teenagers these days, it wouldn’t have worked, anyway. (As the Monty Python sketch says, “This is where my claim falls down.”) I’ve been enjoying listening to it alot, anyway. I particularly like the arrangements of Ticket to Ride, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and Eight Days a Week. It’s all really pretty brilliantly done and really nice to listen to. It makes one regret that Rifkin didn’t do more of it, or, for that matter, that he didn’t write more music in general. It’s too bad that in those days such undertakings were not taken so seriously; that attitude probably militating against his doing more. When I was first a student at Brandeis, Rifkin was on the faculty and he seemed to be (not that I had much truck with him, so I don’t really know) not at all anxious to aknowledge much, or any, of that kind of activity, including his recordings of Scott Joplin. Once during that time he announced that he would do a talk on The Beatles. I wasn’t able to go, but a friend of mine did. The talk was strictly analytical and Rifkin illustrated at the piano. My friend said that he kept thinking that there was something a little funny about how Rifkin was playing the songs; he finally realized that it because he was correcting all the parallel fifths. Knowing this disc puts that story in a different light for me somehow.
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