In fact, the Goldberg Variations have caused me more misery than any other piece of music in history … How many hours have I spent backstage fretting, knowing that there will be several insufferable know-it-alls in the audience, with their 700 recordings and deeply considered opinions? How many hours have I spent practising those passages where the two hands climb over each other, then turn around (as if revisiting the site of an accident) and head for each other again?
"SHE WANTS THE LISTENING PROCESS TO BE AKIN TO ANY OTHER VERY STRONG EXPERIENCE A PERSON UNDERGOES. “WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MIDST OF A VERY STRONG EXPERIENCE, WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU? IT’S NOT LIKE YOU CAN SAY, ‘OH, I UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING.’ NO, IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT. YOU ACTUALLY STAY ENGAGED WITH IT LONG AFTER IT HAS ENDED, AND THIS IS MY WISH."
David Weiniger profiling composer Chaya Czernowin in the Boston Globe
Interesting profile on Valentina Lisitsa in today’s NYTimes:
"YouTube also presents a challenge to maintaining the unhealthy status quo of perfection in the classical industry. Every tiny flaw can forever be immortalized on video, which in turn can stifle artists from taking risks, resulting in note-perfect boring performances.
There have been many brutal comments posted under Ms. Lisitsa’s own videos about her wrong notes and imperfections. “You get a thick skin,” she said. But she rushes online to stand up for other musicians. She once defended the pianist Mitsuko Uchida from nitpicky YouTube commenters highlighting a microscopic error in one of Ms. Uchida’s live performances.
“Classical musicians behave in the same way as young girls looking at fashion magazines and starving themselves,” Ms. Lisitsa said. “Would-be musicians are starving themselves emotionally and intellectually just to be perfect.”
"What is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?
The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.”
"Consider the qualities these high achievers say music has sharpened: collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas. All are qualities notably absent from public life. Music may not make you a genius, or rich, or even a better person. But it helps train you to think differently, to process different points of view — and most important, to take pleasure in listening."
"In Western Europe, the second world war had provoked a crisis in classical music. The Nazi’s total identification with the great Austro-German tradition of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and, most particularly, Wagner meant that this music felt tainted, misused, impossible. Richard Strauss elegised this tradition in his last few, poignant works including Metamorphosen and Four Last Songs, but the young Karlheinz Stockhausen wanted none of it. His father had died at the Eastern Front, his mentally ill mother had been put to death by the Nazi government and he himself had witnessed horrors as a teenage stretcher-bearer at the front. It is no surprise that he wanted to start from zero and create a new music for the future claiming, for example, that he could not tolerate a steady beat in music because it made him think of the Nazi marching songs that had been played endlessly over the radio."
Researchers at St Andrews University have uncovered evidence that musicians have sharper minds and are able to pick up mistakes and fix them quicker than the rest of the population.
And they believe their findings suggest that learning to play a musical instrument could protect against the decline in mental abilities through age or illness.
The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Neuropsychologia, states that the findings demonstrate the potential for “far-reaching benefits” of musical activity on mental and physical well-being.
The study was led by St Andrews psychologist Dr Ines Jentzsch, who compared the cognitive ability of amateur musicians versus non-musicians in performing simple mental tasks.
She explained that the most striking difference she found lay in the ability of musicians to recognise and correct mistakes.
They also responded faster than those with little or no musical training, with no loss in accuracy.
Dr Jentzsch, a Reader in the university’s School of Psychology and Neuroscience, said that this was perhaps not surprising since musicians learn to be constantly aware of their performance, but to not be overly affected by mistakes.
She said: “Our study shows that even moderate levels of musical activity can benefit brain functioning. Our findings could have important implications as the processes involved are amongst the first to be affected by aging, as well as a number of mental illnesses such as depression.
“The research suggests that musical activity could be used as an effective intervention to slow, stop or even reverse age- or illness-related decline in mental functioning.”
"There are some live performances I would have no problem with people hearing time and time again. Others, I’d prefer they vanish into memory, as music was traditionally meant to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I consider them to be less successful performances. But some performances stand up better to repeated listening than others.
We live in a world where the lines between live and edited music are blurry, to say the least. “Live” CD’s can contain dozens of edits, if not more, and “live” TV broadcasts are often the result of several performances carefully cobbled together. This isn’t because artists are trying to fool their audience into thinking they play better than they do! It’s because music is experienced differently upon repeated listening. And it is a sad reality that if a classical musician plays an out of tune note or fudges a passage in a performance that ends up on YouTube, there’s a strong chance that some sad, anonymous person sitting behind a computer screen will feel the need to point this out with a snarky comment or a “thumbs down.” It’s part of the reason that broadcast fees are paid — if musicians are going to subject themselves to repeated scrutiny of a performance made under uncontrolled circumstances, then a premium must be paid. The question must be raised: how much beauty is lost when performers feel forced by the presence of a microphone, authorized or not, to value precision and consistency over technical risk and momentary inspiration?"
Guys, guys! I just discovered the BBC has this amazing website for their show Desert Island Discs. You can see the musical choices of *all* their past guests. I’ve been completely sucked in — they’ve done everyone you can imagine. Try searching on people who chose the piano as their “luxury item”, and you’ll see!