Empty Tanks

Jonathan Bellman

Fair warning: it seems that your faithful correspondents at Dial M have been sufficiently powdered by their semester that we’re both just crawling for the finish line at this point. As I think I mentioned, it may be karmic payback in my case—a deserved pounding after the sabbatical. All I know is that my brain feels as if it has flatlined.

Two random links, then. Following the Corigliano discussion, a reader forwarded this Golijov article from the April 4 Times Online, which discusses his attraction to popular music and the way he incorporates it in his concert works.

(Note how none of the terms work: “classical music” is perhaps the worst, though we all use it, but “cultivated” and “art” and “concert” music also fail. What’s Jethro Tull? Dance music? Do the zillions of dollars of studio magic on high-end pop albums somehow not qualify as “cultivation”?)

Also: a nice Berlioz article by Peter Bloom on From Beyond the Stave. One of the most fascinating things about Berlioz is that he is a poor fit for any given generalization: Romantic, contemporary compositional style, healthy human psychology and behavior…yet he stands as the paradigmatic Romantic in virtually every music appreciation textbook. In my History of Instruments and Instrumental Practice class we recently watched John Eliot Gardiner’s reading of the Symphonie Fantastique with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, which is a splendid thing—not only does one hear the full bestiary of instruments in Berlioz’s original version (including serpent, ophicleide, natural trumpets etc.) but also the attention to details of performance practice: not the absence of string vibrato but the use of wide varieties of it, and straight tone also, the play of wind timbres and dynamic nuances that the original instruments permit, and so on.

Apropos a new Berlioz symposium published but Boydell and Brewer/University of Rochester Press, Bloom talks about Berlioz studies since the 1980s. No opium needed to enjoy.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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2 Responses to Empty Tanks

  1. David Cavlovic says:

    One could argue that Berlioz, and Ravel as well, were more musical architects than composers.

  2. eba says:

    Your trouble with terms not working, Jonathan, reminds me of the oft-mis-attributed saying: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”

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