Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
the daily events and musings of Jim.
It provides an easy way for his friends and family to check in on him,
and serves as a online repository for his random
thoughts, kaleidoscopic flashbacks, and writings on an array of diverse topics.
“Deconstructing Jim” is simply here to
entertain you, but not intended for college credit.
Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
- ► 2011 (10)
- ► 2010 (63)
- ► 2009 (222)
Friday, July 31, 2015
Earlier this week I spent a day in the comfortable surroundings of the Library of Congress Music Division reading room pouring over dozens of letters written between composers that I either know personally or have known in the past. The sample of hand-written and carbon-copied typed communications I accessed were revealing, sometimes technical, occasionally touching, and quite often profound. From a perspective of an eagle's eye looking down, the totality of the LOC collection certainly sheds light upon the far-reaching scope of the inter-connectedness of working composers, the intricate network of their professional and personal associations, and a consistent theme of mutual support seemingly directed towards achieving an elusive yet shared collective objective.
It is my hope that in the future when alien cultural anthropologists travel to earth and study our civilization, that the little green musicologists among them will decipher the LOC Music Division special collections and find a glimmer of hope in the vast body of hard and soft information about American composers so meticulously housed and cared for by that noble institution. They will learn that human composers (particularly from Boston) were not merely obsessed eccentrics working in relative isolation composing music that few of their species could or would understand. These highly intelligent alien researchers will follow the myriad pathways of learning, compassionate sharing of ideas, and the new and radical models of musical hearing that extended out well beyond the printed score and audio recordings of the work they left behind. They will realize (and perhaps comprehend better than us) that beneath the paper trail of a small and elite group of deceased Boston-area composers from the late 20th and early 21st centuries are tangible indications that they did their best to advance and extend the definition of concert music far beyond the status quo of their time.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Aaron CoplandIntermezzo (premiere) James RicciFive Pieces for Piano Roger Sessions
Love Song of Two Pigeons Ursula Mamlok2000 Notes
Ursula MamlokBy the Water's Edge Arth ur KreigerPassacaglia Stefan Wolpe
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Here are just two examples of bothersome trends that have emerged…
2) Another silly fad that humors me is the notion that whatever comes from New York City is representative of the pinnacle of arts and culture. Speaking as a former New Yorker, this is simply a myth. In fact, I’ve discovered there is much talent in the local community, and it is too often over-looked. Frankly, as someone who has attended concert venues all over the world in major cities and local villages, I find that locally-grown vegetables and talent is usually the most nourishing. The risk is that smaller communities have an inclination to be self-conscious and provincial, and as a result over-compensate by importing “big name” talent in the hopes of feeling world-class. I would hope that most communities harbor a sophisticated audience and that they can be trusted to make a distinction between what is simply new and interesting versus what arts-administrators and curators tell them they should like. I don’t care for the recommendations of self-appointed, self-proclaimed, professional cultural-filters. I prefer my arts raw and uncooked.
An example of what I would call a success story is exemplified by a number of seasons recently etched into the noble history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. For the first years in which James Levine was BSO Music Director (starting in 2005), he commissioned works that may have caused heartburn for a few BSO’s artistic administrators. His commissions included challenging but important works by “modernist” composers Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen, and Milton Babbitt, just to name a few. Levine also explored the rich repertory of 20th century works heard less often today, such as a concert version of Schoenberg’s 12-tone opera Moses und Aron. His programming was adventurous and courageous, while at the same time unabashedly challenging for audiences. Yet, his legacy with the BSO and the history that was made during Levine’s tenure is unquestionable. The music he selected wasn’t always popular, but audiences bought tickets, came to Symphony Hall, and they listened.
Another example of an artistic success story stems from the period 1971-77 when Pierre Boulez was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. It is hard to describe the excitement his presence brought to the cultural life of NYC during those years. I witnessed it firsthand. Not only did he challenge his audiences, but he angered and alienated the old-guard establishment – including the classical music critics of the NY Times (e.g. Harold C. Schoenberg). Yet, Boulez forged ahead with an intensity and conviction about his art that we seldom observe today. His impressive legacy with the NY Philharmonic is something that will live on. Time has proved him right, and any misgivings about his programming, empty seats in Philharmonic Hall, or bad concert reviews that occurred during his tenure are now but a mere footnote in history.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
- The introduction is an omaggio to Varèse.
- The middle section is infused with Webern-inspired pointillism.
- The end is Zappa-esque, has a defiant tune you can hum, and builds to a toe-tapping finale intended to invoke a smile.
If you are a musician or director of an ensemble and would like a copy of the music, please let me know! I'll gladly send you a PDF to review.