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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Mahler, Schoenberg and Finzi by Durham University Orchestral Society @ Durham Cathedral, June 17

(Review by Steve T)
To misquote a famous John, 'before Schoenberg there was nothing'. Just like before Elvis there were men, they just didn't have moving legs, there was music before Schoenberg, it was just the nice, pretty, fluffy type aimed at posh, rich men to conduct along to.
Schoenberg is the composer most associated with atonality, who deliberately set out to make difficult music to challenge the listener, which didn't comply with rules laid down by Bach and Handel and the moon and stars before them. Like the best Jazz, and his peers and followers were influenced by Jazz artists who were in turn influenced by them.
Robert Wyatt, original drummer with prog/jazz/rock band Soft Machine drew a line from Schoenberg, through Cecil Taylor to punk rock so he must have missed the point of Schoenberg and Free Jazz. I know he didn't miss the point of punk rock because there wasn't one; while they were perhaps too clever for their own good, punk rock just wasn't clever at all.  

Part one was the Chamber Orchestra which began with a short, pointless piece by British composer Finzi called Romance. This was followed by Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony no 2 which was written before his conversion but the second movement was significantly re-written after it, so it offered a contrast between early Schoenberg and the later crazy stuff, though, to these untrained ears, it was all pretty crazy.
Part two was the main event with the Symphony Orchestra playing Mahler’s Symphony no 1. Ironically, or maybe not, Mahler is thought to be the first composer to experiment in atonality, but died the following year.
Less cynically and more seriously, much pre C20th tonal classical music is difficult to contemporary ears trained to expect a verse and a chorus, and this was no exception, though long passages were interspersed with moments of real beauty and nothing quite sounds like massed violins, the juxtaposition of  plaissure and jouissance proving irresistible,  and Stravinsky, Miles with Gil, and Zappa were masters of this. 
It sounds idyllic: a lovely evening cooling down after the hottest day of the year so far, a building some consider the finest on planet earth, my loudest, brightest shirt and some of the poshest, cleverest, richest, most successful, most promising and most pretentious people anywhere. In real time, once you've admired the splendid building, watched the few fiddlers elbows you can actually see, it gets boring and, while I'd have stayed, I'm more used to this type of stuff than my way better half and we'd agreed five minutes of Mahler, so the opening movement and five minutes of the second seemed fair enough. 

Steve T.

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