Footnotes

I’ve said before that the comments are often the most stimulating part of this blog. That’s especially been true in the 19 posts (so far)  in response to my “Miniatures?” post, which itself was a response to a comment. Together, all this is a terrific discussion of the artistic merits of pop music, as opposed (or not opposed) to classical. Read it!

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In an earlier post, I asked whether any classical music organizations buy carbon offsets, to undo (or at least make a gesture toward undoing) the environmental effect of their acitivites, especially touring. A few pop bands do that. I don’t have any answer yet from the American Symphony Orchestra League, whose publicist I’d queried, but I’ve learned that Wolf Trap (the performing arts park outside Washington, DC) does have an environmental program. In fact, if I’d kept up with my highly esteemed fellow blogger Andrew Taylor, I would have known this long ago, since he  blogged about it.

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Here’s a personal environmental report (if I’m going to criticize others, I should be honest about myself). Since I live in two places, New York City and the country, I put lots of carbon into the world driving back and forth. My composing, too, has more environmental impact than it once had. Back before notation software, I wrote music with paper, pencil, and a piano. Now I do with with a computer and electric keyboards. I’m not alone here.

Despite the environmental cost — which I bet most of my colleagues don’t think about, just as I hadn’t, before a week or so ago — most classical composers now work this way.

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Since my hedgehog post was popular, here’s another hedgehog website, quite a thorough and delightful one. If you love animals, don’t miss the hedgehog stories, complete with all the hedgehog photos anyone could ever want.

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When I described the end of Donizetti’s opera Maria di Rohan (scroll to the end of the post this links to), I added a link to a recording, so everyone could hear what I think is (in purely musical terms) the most abrupt and shocking ending of any classical piece I know. (Read my post to see why I think that.) But I messed the link up. Now I’ve fixed it. So if you want to hear live performance of this unique conclusion (with Renato Bruson and Renata Scotto, and Gianandrea Gavezzeni conducting), here it is.

(A small caveat about this recording. It’s heavily cut. In my post, I talked about a trio in B flat, followed by a scene for soprano and baritone in D, ending with a jarring return to B flat by way of dominant harmony in D that resolves, thunderously, to B flat instead of D major. This performance cuts most of the soprano-baritone scene, rushing to the conclusion and, I’d guess, making it less of a surprise. I’ve only posted the very end, though, so the cut doesn’t affect what you hear.)

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Comments

  1. says

    Greg, It may be my lack of a more cultivated ear, but I don’t really find that ending anymore shocking or brutal than Rigoletto or the ending of the first act of Walkure.

    I may have overstated my case. I meant something very particular, a purely musical detail, not overall brutality or shock. I agree that the ending of Rigoletto is devastating (or ought to be, if the singers and staging know how to bring it off). But the musical means Verdi used are entirely conventional. I don’t mean that it’s not terrific music, but that nothing happens that you wouldn’t find in a first-year harmony textbook.

    Die Walkure, the first-act ending, goes a little more far afield. I doubt that many harmony students are taught to end pieces with quite that chord progression.

    But the progression in the Donizetti opera is really a shocker, harmony textbook-wise. Leaving out the plagal cadences at the very end (which essentially are nothing more than yelling), the final structural progression is V to a very loud and very unexpected flat VI. Whether or not this makes the ending of the opera more brutal than Rigoletto (or Salome, which Bob Judd cited as a comparison), it’s certainly not something I’ve ever seen anywhere else. And definitely nothing your harmony teacher would let you write.