Studying in Munich, as I wrote earlier, was an opportunity to be "shook up" and break out of nasty old habits, like those which kept me back from trying those high culture things, i.e. visiting art museums and attending orchestral performances. Back in the States, I was holding back from them, waiting to take a class or read a book or something which would prepare me to more fully appreciate them when I finally got around to it all. Screw that in Munich. The city has two freaking opera houses, three orchestras, four world-class art museums and a not inconsiderable number of galleries and live music venues. My next chance at these was not going to come for years, and I was not going to waste an opportunity like that. Thus I ended up at one of the Bavarian State Orchestra's chamber concerts.
Interestingly enough, the Mozart piece which opened the evening, Quintet for piano and winds K. 452, was my least favorite. It was pretty, yes, but there was no excitement, no spirit to it. Movie reviewers attack superior actors by saying they "phoned in their performance." That is what this quintet felt like, Mozart phoned it in. The next two, Franz Danzi's Wind Quintet Op. 56, No. 2 in G-minor and Paul Taffanel's Wind Quintet, were easily my favorites. Danzi's brought to mind a stroll through the fields and Taffanel's hinted of a love story. The final piece, Sextet in Adaptation for Piano and Wind Quintet (sorry but the Internet fails me on this one) by Bohuslav Martinu was a strange one to me, employing on an off-putting dissonance, all the harsher in comparison to the more unified sets which preceded it.
And those are my thoughts on the performance. For a concert that clocked over two hours, that is not a tremendous amount of writing, especially what I have pulled off much more for shorter movies with much less acclaim surrounding them, but this is what it is: a beginning. At some point, if I want to make progress, I really ought to read some music theory and the like, but for now, I am content to reflect on that music I hear, to search out new stuff and try to understand it in my own situation.
Where this gets interesting is the minor controversy, which erupted yesterday and revolves on a review my friend Aaron Brown recently posted to his blog Fifty-Two Tuesdays. In brief, for those who do not care to click the link and come to their own conclusions first, Aaron reviewed the Get Set Go album Sunshine, Joy & Happiness: A Tragic Tale of Death, Despair, and Other Silly Nonsense. About a week later, Eric Summer, the band's viola player, gave a scathing point-by-point response, boiling tar scathing. Summer's rage can be divided into two camps: rants against against grammatical errors, which really smack of hypocrisy when Summer is confronted with a spelling mistake of his own and sarcastically replies that his own credibility is now shot, and raves that Aaron lacks the musical understanding to comprehend the complexity of Get Set Go's music.
"What qualifies one to be a reviewer?" is the question that finally arises from all this. For better or worse, I just reviewed a concert which I bloody well know that I lack the education to properly do, but is a degree in music necessary before one can offer a respone? I have heard some question the role of the movie critic because their experiences and very profession cause them to approach movies completely differently than most Americans and thus leave the theater with wildly different opinions. On this point, maybe what we need, and the Internet is certainly the avenue for more than enough of this already, is a greater opportunity for the non-professional critic to offer their response to art, one that can actually claim to speak for the layman. I would also like to offer one other suggestion. Only one other because this is a topic worthy of its own post. While I am not yet sure whether the ideal of a review or criticism should be to confront the art on its own terms, it should not be out of the question for a review to be approached on its own terms, as well. I was not looking to do anymore than share my simple response to it and give myself a foundation to begin a greater exploration of music. Would it be right for Mozart or Martinu to come back from the dead and bash me for my one-sentence declarations on their works?
Kudos, though, to Aaron for getting someone to pay attention and responding with a measure of tact. And fie on Summer for responding so childishly. Actually, a child would probably respond better. More like an emo teenager, one who whines that no one understands him.
2 years ago