Enjoy this video and keep an eye out for this young and gifted person in the future.
By JOANNE LIPMAN
Published: In The New York Times on October 12, 2013
CONDOLEEZZA RICE trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.
Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But 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.
The phenomenon extends beyond the math-music association. Strikingly, many high achievers told me music opened up the pathways to creative thinking. And their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously.
Will your school music program turn your kid into a Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (guitar)? Or a Woody Allen (clarinet)? Probably not. These are singular achievers. But the way these and other visionaries I spoke to process music is intriguing. As is the way many of them apply music’s lessons of focus and discipline into new ways of thinking and communicating — even problem solving.
Look carefully and you’ll find musicians at the top of almost any industry. Woody Allen performs weekly with a jazz band. The television broadcaster Paula Zahn (cello) and the NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd (French horn) attended college on music scholarships; NBC’s Andrea Mitchell trained to become a professional violinist. Both Microsoft’s Mr. Allen and the venture capitalist Roger McNamee have rock bands. Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school. Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist and son of a pianist. The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall.
“It’s not a coincidence,” says Mr. Greenspan, who gave up jazz clarinet but still dabbles at the baby grand in his living room. “I can tell you as a statistician, the probability that that is mere chance is extremely small.” The cautious former Fed chief adds, “That’s all that you can judge about the facts. The crucial question is: why does that connection exist?”
Paul Allen offers an answer. He says music “reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.” Mr. Allen began playing the violin at age 7 and switched to the guitar as a teenager. Even in the early days of Microsoft, he would pick up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. The music was the emotional analog to his day job, with each channeling a different type of creative impulse. In both, he says, “something is pushing you to look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way.”
Mr. Todd says there is a connection between years of practice and competition and what he calls the “drive for perfection.” The veteran advertising executive Steve Hayden credits his background as a cellist for his most famous work, the Apple “1984” commercial depicting rebellion against a dictator. “I was thinking of Stravinsky when I came up with that idea,” he says. He adds that his cello performance background helps him work collaboratively: “Ensemble playing trains you, quite literally, to play well with others, to know when to solo and when to follow.”
For many of the high achievers I spoke with, music functions as a “hidden language,” as Mr. Wolfensohn calls it, one that enhances the ability to connect disparate or even contradictory ideas. When he ran the World Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn traveled to more than 100 countries, often taking in local performances (and occasionally joining in on a borrowed cello), which helped him understand “the culture of people, as distinct from their balance sheet.”
It’s in that context that the much-discussed connection between math and music resonates most. Both are at heart modes of expression. Bruce Kovner, the founder of the hedge fund Caxton Associates and chairman of the board of Juilliard, says he sees similarities between his piano playing and investing strategy; as he says, both “relate to pattern recognition, and some people extend these paradigms across different senses.”
Mr. Kovner and the concert pianist Robert Taub both describe a sort of synesthesia — they perceive patterns in a three-dimensional way. Mr. Taub, who gained fame for his Beethoven recordings and has since founded a music software company, MuseAmi, says that when he performs, he can “visualize all of the notes and their interrelationships,” a skill that translates intellectually into making “multiple connections in multiple spheres.”
For others I spoke to, their passion for music is more notable than their talent. Woody Allen told me bluntly, “I’m not an accomplished musician. I get total traction from the fact that I’m in movies.”
Mr. Allen sees music as a diversion, unconnected to his day job. He likens himself to “a weekend tennis player who comes in once a week to play. I don’t have a particularly good ear at all or a particularly good sense of timing. In comedy, I’ve got a good instinct for rhythm. In music, I don’t, really.”
Still, he practices the clarinet at least half an hour every day, because wind players will lose their embouchure (mouth position) if they don’t: “If you want to play at all you have to practice. I have to practice every single day to be as bad as I am.” He performs regularly, even touring internationally with his New Orleans jazz band. “I never thought I would be playing in concert halls of the world to 5,000, 6,000 people,” he says. “I will say, quite unexpectedly, it enriched my life tremendously.”
Music provides balance, explains Mr. Wolfensohn, who began cello lessons as an adult. “You aren’t trying to win any races or be the leader of this or the leader of that. You’re enjoying it because of the satisfaction and joy you get out of music, which is totally unrelated to your professional status.”
For Roger McNamee, whose Elevation Partners is perhaps best known for its early investment in Facebook, “music and technology have converged,” he says. He became expert on Facebook by using it to promote his band, Moonalice, and now is focusing on video by live-streaming its concerts. He says musicians and top professionals share “the almost desperate need to dive deep.” This capacity to obsess seems to unite top performers in music and other fields.
Ms. Zahn remembers spending up to four hours a day “holed up in cramped practice rooms trying to master a phrase” on her cello. Mr. Todd, now 41, recounted in detail the solo audition at age 17 when he got the second-highest mark rather than the highest mark — though he still was principal horn in Florida’s All-State Orchestra.
“I’ve always believed the reason I’ve gotten ahead is by outworking other people,” he says. It’s a skill learned by “playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time,” and it translates into “working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking.” He adds, “There’s nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results.”
That’s an observation worth remembering at a time when music as a serious pursuit — and music education — is in decline in this country.
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.
Joanne Lipman is a co-author, with Melanie Kupchynsky, of the book “Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations.”
A version of this op-ed appears in print on October 13, 2013, on page SR9 of The New York Times of the New York edition with the headline: Is Music the Key to Success?.
at 7:08 AM
October 5, 3013 by ChristyK of the blog Christy’s House full of Chaos:
Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton was sent to me to review a while ago, and my eight year old stole it, read it and hid it on me. Thankfully it has resurfaced and I can do my long-since overdue review.
10. Piano practice is more fun if you pretend that you have to turn evil monsters into harmless pets by resolving the scales.
9. You’ve memorized The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and you want another story about children being called into a magical land to save it.
8. The book explains what a glass harmonica is, something I’ve been curious about since listening to a particular version of the Carnival of the Animals which acknowledged a section that was meant to be played on a glass harmonica being played on a gluckenspiele instead.
7. You need some new creative names for foods, like Bellini Bread or Rossini Rolls.
6. Reading Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton can be a balance reminding us of the importance of music, when we otherwise read way too many novels about math and science.
5. The abundant references to musical concepts, to composers and songs can help normalize the importance of musical knowledge. It encourages a child to say “I’ve heard of that!” It raises the bar for what is seen as normal everyday knowledge.
4 . The book contains a glossary of music terms a child can refer back to.
3. The book provides positive role models. The children within it are struggling with different challenges – wanting to figure out who they are, and what they want in life. They deal with both guilt and forgiveness.
2. The book reinforces the idea of practice, that it takes time and energy to improve one’s skills at an instrument, but at the same time that music is not just about developing technical skill and bored routine.
1.Most importantly: the book is fun. It is well written, reasonably fast paced and has a bit of a surprise at the ending.
The book mentions many different songs, most of which one could find samples of on YouTube. If you read the book outloud with your kids, you can have a musical soundrtrack to go with it.
at 11:23 AM
Photograph by Gordon Welters for The New York Times
By REBECCA SCHMID
Published: In the New York Times October 8, 2013
BERLIN — When Cameron Carpenter first came here, Berlin was covered in snow and looked as if spies might be lurking in the shadows. A year later, in 2010, Mr. Carpenter — the enfant terrible of the concert organ world — moved from the East Village to a loft in what was once a bombed-out neighborhood in the East German side of the city and is now the trendy district of Mitte.
“I was personally attracted to the history of the city,” Mr. Carpenter, 32, recalled recently, as he sat on a vintage couch in his apartment. “It is a very reinventive place, by necessity. As an American and particularly as an artist, I find that very attractive.”
Berlin, with its low-priced real estate and openness to experimentation, is well established as a hotbed of the visual arts. Its growing film and fashion industries have also drawn ambitious agenda-setters from all corners of the world, who have found a welcome atmosphere in which to create and mix with other artists. More recently, it has also developed into an important hub for the classical music world.
The French label Harmonia Mundi will move its German headquarters to Mitte from Heidelberg this month, and over the last four years, Sony and Deutsche Grammophon have set up international offices in Berlin. Major management and public relations firms like Opus 3, Albion Media and Konzertdirektion Schmid have opened branches here. Scores of young composers, not to mention some leading ones, like Olga Neuwirth, Mark Andre and Brett Dean, have made their homes here as well.
While austerity plagues many parts of Europe, the German government continues to support three full-time opera houses and seven orchestras in the capital. Although the Berlin Philharmonic has always been a major draw, institutions in the former Eastern sector — like the Konzerthaus Berlin, now with Ivan Fischer as music director, and the Komische Oper, under the leadership of the stage director Barrie Kosky — each saw a rise in attendance of over 10 percent last season. The Konzerthaus had 156,876 concertgoers, 17,881 more than the year before. The Komische Oper had 18,000 more audience members than in the previous season.
Tourism is an additional boon to the classical music scene, now that Berlin has become one of Europe’s most visited cities. The press office of the Konzerthaus estimates that 27 percent of its audience consists of tourists.
The pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, 56, a champion of contemporary music and founding member of the Ensemble InterContemporain, calls Berlin, culturally and intellectually, “the town par excellence in Europe” right now, not least for its important geopolitical position. Two years ago, he moved here from Paris, where he had lived since his days as a student.
“It is interesting to live in a city that is undergoing permanent changes,” he said in the airy, high-ceilinged apartment he shares with his companion in the quiet district of Schöneberg. “Things are not completely solved. What I find extremely positive is that Berlin carries its history with such a level of cleverness, reflection and sense for justice. I think that’s a big lesson to mankind.”
Just over two decades ago, Berlin was a city incapable of competing with New York, London or Paris as a music center. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and, more recently, with the rise of Germany as a leading economic and cultural force in the European Union, an influx of artists has gradually restored the city’s vibrancy. The movement includes a young generation of Israelis, who, according to the Berlin-based mandolinist Avi Avital, “don’t see the New York of Stern and Perlman anymore, but the Berlin of Rattle and Barenboim.”
The American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, 31, and her new husband, the conductor Rafael Payare, have plans to make the city their European base soon — not least because so many musician and artist friends are flocking here.
“Berlin is what New York was 30 years ago, and I mean that in the best possible sense,” she said by phone from her Manhattan home. “It has all the advantages but without the craziness. Because it’s so affordable, it is much more inclusive, in a way. There is such a sense of discovery and openness.”
Berlin’s rise is not a sudden phenomenon. The conductor Herbert von Karajan played a pioneering role in the recording industry after the war with the Berlin Philharmonic, championing stereophonic and then digital recording technologies. This year Deutsche Grammophon is celebrating a full century of partnership with the orchestra. The city offers a variety of recording spaces, from the up-to-the-minute Teldex studios, which Ms. Weilerstein calls the best in the world, to the unassuming but acoustically strong Jesus-Christus-Kirche and the Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, a former East Berlin broadcasting headquarters where the violinist Daniel Hope recorded his most recent album, “Spheres.”
The president of Sony Masterworks, Bogdan Roscic, said that there has been a “pretty massive output of important recordings” from Berlin that wasn’t there five years ago. Since the company consolidated its core classical activities in Berlin, Sony Classical has signed Lang Lang, Plácido Domingo and Jonas Kaufmann, as well as newcomers like Mr. Carpenter and the pianists Khatia Buniatishvili and Igor Levit.
Berlin’s growth has also inspired Deutsche Grammophon to initiate an outdoor festival next summer, showcasing its younger artists. And in a city where techno can be heard any time of day, the recently established label Panorama has brought together the electronica artist Schiller with Anna Netrebko, Hélène Grimaud and Albrecht Mayer for its first album. Ms. Weilerstein recalled performing Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet with interludes of live D.J. remixes at the alternative arts space Radialsystem last summer. “Only in Berlin could we cross worlds so easily,” she said.
A version of this article appears in print on October 9, 2013, on page C1 of The New York Times of the New York edition with the headline: Musicians, Too, Make Berlin Their Capital.
at 7:45 AM
Be one of the first to experience an exciting new world beyond your wildest imagination! Dr. Fuddle & the Gold Baton has been hailed by critics as “destined to be a classic” and “a literary masterpiece.” Join Dr. Fuddle and his young friends in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure springing from a seemingly unsolvable mystery in a small New England town to Orphea, the land of eternal music and beauty, threatened by an insidious evil force. Tyler and his sister Christina plunge into this perilous journey. Will they and their friends even survive, let alone be able to heroically save Orphea, as foretold by an ancient prophecy? Armed with only their instincts, determination and the guidance of a centuries old music teacher who appears out of thin air? Danger lurks at every turn—and for their only chance of victory they must master magical sacred instruments—and themselves—to reclaim the legendary Gold Baton from the dark. Can harmony vanquish chaos? This page-turning fantasy (with its major motion picture in development) is bound to leave you wanting more!
Go To Amazon.com before October 7th and get your free eBook.
at 6:37 AM
It was a great day Sunday September 8, 2013 at the Steinway Piano Galleries in Atlanta, Georgia to be among the crowd congratulating Dr. Sergio Gallo for becoming the 1600th living Steinway artist and for a superb induction concert!
Dr. Warren Woodruff presented the book Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton to distinguished guest and performers at the Steinway Piano Galleries. The attendees enjoyed the program that consisted of: Piano Quintet in C Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and Quintet in A Major ("The Trout") by Franz Schubert (1795-1828)
Dr. Warren Woodruff presented the book Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton to distinguished guest and performers at the Steinway Piano Galleries. The attendees enjoyed the program that consisted of: Piano Quintet in C Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and Quintet in A Major ("The Trout") by Franz Schubert (1795-1828)
Shown in the photos: (top left) The accompanist to Dr. Gallo were (left to right) Cello: David Starkweather, Violin: Nicolas Favero, Basso: Milton Masciadri, Dr. Woodruff, Viola: Kate Hamilton - (top right) Tommy Edds, Sales Manager of Steinway New York with Dr. Woodruff - (bottom left) Dr.Sergio Gallo with Dr. Woodruff - (bottom right) Christoph Syllaba, President and CEO of Steinway Pianos with Dr. Woodruff.
at 9:13 AM
From Welded Worshipers, a Joyful Pneumatic Noise
Chico MacMurtrie’s Robot Musicians Perform in Brooklyn
Robert Wright for The New York Times
By BENJAMIN PRESTON
Published: September 12, 2013 in The New York Times
CHICO MacMURTRIE, a Brooklyn-based artist, has been building robots for nearly three decades. His creations do not vacuum the house, teach foreign languages to children or try to take over the world; they were designed to play music, mainly syncopated rhythms, and perhaps evoke some thought about humanity.
Most are abstract creatures, from knee high to larger than life size, controlled by a concert of computers, pneumatic actuators and small motors. Though they were all made for different installations around the world, the robots have in common a sort of whimsical darkness, born of the contrast between the brutality of their machinery and the innocence of their awkward movements. One robot, for example, plucks its own stringed body, while others hop around on the floor in a manner not unlike children playing leapfrog.
Now, MacMurtrie has assembled his sizable collection into an orchestra that will perform for the first time on the East Coast, in what Mr. MacMurtrie calls the “Robotic Church.” Three free shows will take place on Sunday, Sept. 22, at 111 Pioneer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Additional concerts are planned for the weekends through Oct. 27. Times are listed on the Robotic Church Facebook page. Seating will be limited, and visitors are asked to make reservations on the Facebook page.
The site is the former Norwegian Seamen’s Church, a 19th-century building that Mr. MacMurtrie has used as the studio for Amorphic Robot Works, the robotic sculpture group he runs, since 2001. Some of the church’s original white plaster walls and trim work remain, leaving hints of the building’s Protestant origins, but the ceiling is a vast dark space with exposed rafters.
Mr. MacMurtrie has repurposed the space for what he calls robotic “masses,” drawing inspiration for the installation’s religious theme from the building’s original use. Its ecclesiastical architecture inspired him to present his mechanical creations in corners and on walls, in front where a preacher would stand and even in the balcony, where they are intended to evoke saints in a chapel.
“The ‘Robotic Church’ is about taking this society of machines that have traveled around the world and putting them into a permanent home,” said Mr. MacMurtrie, a native of Bisbee, Ariz., who made his first robot sculpture in 1987 for an M.F.A. thesis at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Working with his wife, Luise Kaunert — who manages many of his shows — and a small staff, he composes each “mass” by computer. During the concert, more than a dozen robots are programmed to rise up and join in an incremental buildup of sound, creating what Mr. MacMurtrie said he hopes will be a viscerally uplifting experience.
The robots share an organic quality that mimics the human body’s imperfect nature. Many of their faces resemble impressions of a tortured soul, formed from vacuum-molded plastic, melted metal or bent and soldered wires. In spots, cuts and welds parallel the scars and deformities that life can write upon skin and bone.
“As our human society is being taken over by technology, we have to reflect and think about the human condition,” Mr. MacMurtrie said.
The “performers” include Transparent Body, who affects a sort of tap dance on a metal sheet; lights shine from within its plastic body and face. Queeko, a childlike form, stands about a foot tall and plays a drum that sounds like a slightly unbalanced washing machine.
There’s String Body, which has banjo strings in its neck that are plucked by a motor-driven pick.
The arms and legs of String Body contain bass strings that can change pitch with its movement, and across its rib cage are stretched harp strings.
House Player, a human-size robot with a pair of large mallets, plays a giant xylophone whose keys are made from thick planks of wood. One of the more sympathetic characters is Tumbling Man. It weighs in at about 200 pounds and kicks up a row as it tries to stand, but continually falls forward. Its steel feet strike the metal floor of the church with a resounding thud. Its struggle, Mr. MacMurtrie said, is among the most identifiably “human.”
As other robots perform, Rope Climber works its way up a thick rope hanging from the ceiling.
“They’re kind of a tribe of machines that evolved one from another,” Mr. MacMurtrie said. “The pieces themselves were my teachers. Each time I built one, I would learn something for the next step.”
During a visit to his workshop last month, Mr. MacMurtrie, Ms. Kaunert and their team were busy readying the robots’ various MIDI sequences as well as the pneumatic air-supply hoses and computer cables the robots depend on. The group can run the whole show without loud compressor motors switching on mid-performance.
But there was plenty of noise: a cacophony of drumming, thumping, chiming, metallic thuds and atonal string notes, accompanied by the hisses of the pneumatic rams that operate many of the robots’ body parts, creating the show’s complex sonic texture. Two men in a control booth high above the floor work the computers, making the air-dependent machines come alive at the right times.
Mr. MacMurtrie tested out the robots’ credibility as metallic clergy on Aug. 17, when he and his wife held a wedding ceremony for family and friends from the East Coast and Europe. (They had officially tied the knot in December at Brooklyn Borough Hall.) After Ms. Kaunert’s uncle, a retired minister, delivered the blessing, the robots were activated for celebratory drumming.
A version of this article appears in print on September 13, 2013, on page C27 in The New York Times of the New York edition with the headline: From Welded Worshipers, a Joyful Pneumatic Noise.
at 7:02 AM
Fanfare Straining to Be Heard
Published: September 6, 2013 in The New York Times
Benjamin Britten was delighted to have been born on Nov. 22, the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians and church music. That the year of his birth, 1913, was also the centennial of Verdi and Wagner is something Britten never particularly remarked upon in later life.
Yet that coincidence has complicated things for Britten this year, the 100th anniversary of his birth in the town of Lowestoft on the coast of East Anglia in England. Celebrations of the Verdi and Wagner bicentennials have been plentiful around the world and will continue this fall. Inevitably, Britten, the most important figure of 20th-century British music, and, for me, among the handful of 20th-century giants, is being eclipsed by the dynamic duo of Italian and German opera.
England, of course, has been awash in Britten this year. The Britten-Pears Foundation, named for the composer and his lifelong partner, the tenor Peter Pears, has been overseeing a series of international events under theBritten 100 banner. In addition, Britten’s record label, Decca, has just weighed in, literally, with a deluxe, six-pound boxed set of his complete works, containing 65 CDs, a bonus DVD and several booklets of informative program notes.
In cooperation with Britten 100, Carnegie Hall is teaming up with other New York institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New York Philharmonic and Trinity Wall Street, to honor him. Carnegie Hall’s contribution, an extensive and smartly organized series, looks to be a high point of the coming season.
Britten’s landmark opera, “Peter Grimes,” which brought him international renown after its 1945 premiere in London, is the most ambitious offering of the festival. On Nov. 22, David Robertson will conduct the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a concert performance of “Peter Grimes” at Stern Auditorium, starring the tenor Anthony Dean Griffey in what has become his signature role. He brings uninhibited dramatic intensity and a distinctive voice, at once lyrical and powerful, to his portrayal of Grimes, a hulking, isolated fisherman in a small Suffolk coastal village in England, part poetic dreamer, part dangerous misfit. Mr. Griffey sang the role to acclaim in the director John Doyle’s production that the Met introduced in 2008. This summer he again excelled as Grimes in a semi-staged performance of the opera at the Aspen Music Festival.
The Carnegie Hall series begins on Oct. 20 with a program offering Britten’s complete canticles. These five extended vocal works accompanied by various small groups of instruments were written over three decades. Each has a major part for a tenor, the one constant in a diverse set. The texts range from medieval mystery plays to poems by Edith Sitwell and T. S. Eliot. The tenor Ian Bostridge, who has championed these seldom-heard works, will perform them on this program at Zankel Hall, joined by the countertenor Iestyn Davies, the baritone Joshua Hopkins and the pianist Julius Drake. The program includes some Britten arrangements of Purcell songs, ideal companion works.
Three nights later, on Oct. 23, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s under its new principal conductor, Pablo Heras-Casado, performs Britten’s great Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, featuring Mr. Bostridge, a program that includes Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony.
There are also two smaller-scale events of great interest: the dynamic British-basedEndellion String Quartet plays works by Britten and Schubert (Nov. 8 at Weill Recital Hall); the impressive Brooklyn Youth Chorus sings a program called “Britten’s Young Voices” (Nov. 17 at Zankel Hall). And all afternoon on Dec. 14, there will be a “Discovery Day” exploring Britten’s life and works through panels, videos, a lecture and a voice recital.
When Carnegie Hall presents a festival, the goal is to keep events within a relatively concentrated time frame. The Britten celebration spans seven weeks this fall, with one exception: Robert Spano will conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Britten’s wrenchingly beautiful “War Requiem,” with Mr. Griffey among the vocal soloists, but not until April 30. The concert should be worth waiting for.
The institutional partners in Carnegie Hall’s celebration have come up with some enticing programs, especially Trinity Wall Street’s “Celebrating Benjamin Britten,” offering more than 20 concerts from September through December, including choral works, songs and pieces for children.
That Verdi and Wagner continue to loom large over the field of opera is clear from the Met’s programming in this year of three anniversaries. While the company honored Wagner with a major new production of “Parsifal” that opened in February and will celebrate Verdi with a new “Falstaff” in December, Britten is only getting a revival in October. Still, it’s a worthy one, his ingenious adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Tim Albery production that the Met introduced in 1996 and last presented in 2002.
A version of this article appears in print on September 8, 2013, on page AR42 of The New York Times in the New York edition with the headline: Fanfare Straining to Be Heard.
at 9:19 AM
Baroque Embedding, Feet First
Catherine Turocy’s Lessons Unlock Early Music’s Meaning
Ian Douglas for The New York Times
By CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM
Published: The New York Times on September 3, 2013
The strains of softly undulating lute music filled the space in a teaching studio inside Dance New Amsterdam as two rows of dancers, clad in Lycra and cotton exercise wear, closed in on one another and detached again in a graceful motion, then glided through a turn, ornamented with a quick, circular flick of the wrist. We were a group of 18 dancers taking part in a workshop on Baroque dance led by Catherine Turocy, the founder of the New York Baroque Dance Company and one of the leading figures in the historical dance movement of the past 40 years.
Well, there were 17 dancers, and then there was I.
I have no background in ballet, and although I enthusiastically seize any opportunity to dance, I have only limited experience with choreography. More often than not during the three-day workshop, I found myself facing the wrong way after a 180-degree turn, or backed roughly into another dancer. But I had signed up because I was curious to experience the spatial dimension of Baroque music. Much of pre-1800 music is rooted in dance forms that would have been familiar to contemporary listeners. Bach wrote some of his most stirringly expressive music in the form of dances, like the keyboard suites and his Partitas for solo violin, which are full of Sarabandes, Gigues, Passepieds, Gavottes and Bourrées. By learning about Baroque dance, I hoped to unlock the physical dimension encoded in the music.
I am not alone. Ms. Turocy has worked with music students at Juilliard; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Miami. Last year, the chamber orchestra the Knights invited Caroline Copeland, a member of Ms. Turocy’s company, to teach its players.
But the workshop that I stumbled into — and would continue to stumble through, clumsily, over three days — was concerned more with artistic and expressive dance of the 17th and 18th centuries: with the ballet onstage, rather than the social dance of the ballroom. But then, whenever Bach used a dance form, it wasn’t intended as a social diversion, either, and the issues of period performance theory and aesthetics that Ms. Turocy discussed were enlightening at every turn.
Much of Ms. Turocy’s own research centers on two of the most important dancers and choreographers in 18th-century France, Françoise Prévost and her student Marie Sallé. Ms. Turocy led us in a languid Sarabande choreographed by Sallé, in which we were to strive for a gliding motion and sense of skimming the floor that was said to be typical of Sallé’s dancing. It requires a softness in the joints of the foot that is the opposite of the strenuously arched feet of 19th-century ballet and that made me think of the more diffuse attack of gut-stringed period instruments — less precision, more mystery.
Ms. Turocy quoted a contemporary of Sallé’s describing in admiring terms the “unaffected simplicity” and “negligent and broken steps” that made up her personal style. “A Sarabande,” Ms. Turocy said, “often has that quality of arrested motion, of letting a beat go by and then catching it on the next downbeat.” Surely that sort of freedom in a dancer required a reliably regular beat from the musician accompanying her. But I wondered whether there was not room for a similarly calculated freedom in situations where an instrumental soloist plays against a bass line.
Most intriguing to me was the idea of psychology embedded in structure. Drawing on early modern theories of the human body, the movements assigned to different body parts represented different expressive aspects, Ms. Turocy said. “Often there is this equation of fate as the path which is traced by your feet in space, while the upper body communicates how I feel about it — happy, anxious, ashamed,” she said. I began to imagine a musical performance in which the walking bass took on the role of the feet, while the upper voices developed a narrative by either straining against it or playfully ornamenting it.
According to Ms. Turocy, many dance manuals of the period emphasize the primary importance of the figures the dancers draw in space as they move through a work, with one dance master recommending that performers first memorize a piece by walking this blueprint and only then adding the steps, jumps and ornaments. In the dance notation of the time, these outlines have all the symmetry and grace of a manicured French garden. Perhaps in music, too, the harmonic progression holds its own geometric logic that needs to be honored before we consider the virtuosic embellishments above it?
By the end of the workshop, my feet were no closer to mastering the Sarabande than before. But my ears had learned to see Baroque music in a new way.
A version of this article appears in print on September 4, 2013, on page C1 of The New York Times in the New York edition with the headline: Baroque Embedding, Feet First.
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Daniela Liebman taking a master class with Lang Lang in Mexico.
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Benjamin Britten’s Lost Score for ‘Les Sylphides’
A version of this article appears in print on August 28, 2013, on page C1 of The New York Times, the New York edition with the headline: ‘Mystery of the Missing Music’.
By MICHAEL COOPER
Benjamin Britten's lost 1941 arrangement of Chopin piano music for the ballet “Les Sylphides” may have been found. Photograph courtesy of Yana Paskova for The New York Times
SECAUCUS, N.J. — The quest for the lost Benjamin Britten score — an orchestration of Chopin piano music he made in 1941 for the ballet “Les Sylphides” — had moved to a warehouse here.
The composer Benjamin Britten. Photograph courtesy of Erich Auerbach/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images
The searchers combed through the cavernous building, where American Ballet Theater’s sets and boxed-up tutus hibernate between productions. A gryphon-headed boat from “The Sleeping Beauty” was rolled aside, revealing some old steamer trunks labeled “Agnes de Mille” and, perhaps less intriguingly, the minutes of long-concluded board meetings.
“I think it might be in here,” David LaMarche, Ballet Theater’s conductor and music administrator, said as he pulled a clear plastic box off a lower shelf. Soon he and David Carp, the orchestra’s librarian, were rummaging through pages of an uncredited orchestration of “Les Sylphides,” looking for the telltale signs suggesting that it could, indeed, be the instrumental parts of the lost Britten version.
The eureka moment came when they found the second trumpet part. There, right on the top of the page, a set of neat block letters proclaimed: “ARR. BY BENJAMIN BRITTEN.” The part, which matched an unlabeled conductor’s score discovered earlier this summer, suggested that Britten’s long-lost version might have been found.
Now Ballet Theater is waiting for Britten experts to weigh in on the rediscovered score. If it is deemed to be Britten’s — as some who have seen it say appears likely, though not every link in the chain of custody is strong — Ballet Theater plans to use it when the company brings “Les Sylphides” to the David H. Koch Theater this fall, reviving it just in time for Britten’s centenary season.
“We’re very excited,” said Richard Jarman, the general director of the Britten-Pears Foundation, which will examine the score and has offered to recreate any missing parts for Ballet Theater’s orchestra from the recently found conductor’s score. “We just published a catalog of Britten’s works, and ‘Sylphides’ is mentioned as missing. If we can restore this work, I think it would be great.”
The hunt for the lost Britten score, which disappeared a few decades ago, was set in motion by David Vaughan, the dance historian, who fondly recalled seeing Ballet Theater perform “Les Sylphides” to the Britten orchestration in London in the mid-1950s. Several years ago, after Ballet Theater danced “Sylphides” to an arrangement by Roy Douglas, Mr. Vaughan wrote Mr. LaMarche and asked what had become of the Britten version.
His query set off the chain of events that eventually led to Secaucus.
“It’s been an interesting sort of detective story,” said Mr. Vaughan, 89. “There were all these red herrings.”
“Les Sylphides” is an abstract, dreamlike, Romantic ballet set to orchestrations of Chopin piano music that was a basic part of the repertory for much of the 20th century.
It was called “Chopiniana” when Michel Fokine first choreographed it in St. Petersburg, to music orchestrated by Glazunov — a version that has lived on in Russia. Diaghilev renamed it “Les Sylphides” when the Ballets Russes performed it in Paris in 1909, using a new orchestration by several composers, including Stravinsky. Mr.Douglas, a British composer and arranger who once said he had been “disgusted and horrified by the many bad orchestrations of Chopin’s music for the ballet ‘Les Sylphides,’ ” made his own orchestration in 1936, which is now commonly used.
When the hunt for the Britten score began, even its origins were shrouded in mystery.
Some publications suggested, erroneously, that it had been commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein, who had founded the School of American Ballet, and who went on to found New York City Ballet, with George Balanchine. (Around that same time, Kirstein did commission some Rossini orchestrations from Britten for a Balanchine ballet, “Divertimento.”)
That theory was debunked this month when Daisy Pommer, a librarian at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, unearthed the original Jan. 29, 1941, contract, in which Ballet Presentations Inc., which presented Ballet Theater performances in those days, offered Britten $300 for a “Sylphides” orchestration, and all future rights to it.
“It is understood that Mr. Britten will reorchestrate this ballet in accordance with the instructions received at this office the other day and that he will deliver the score on February 8th at the latest,” the contract stated.
The work had its premiere a few days after Britten’s deadline, at a Thursday matinee on Feb. 13. “Specially orchestrated for Ballet Theater by Benjamin BRITTEN,” the program read. A program for the season said that “the sharp, incisive qualities of the music of Mr. Britten corresponded in our opinion to what the music of Chopin required.”
Tracking down the music was not easy. A listed publisher of the orchestration had no record of it when Mr. LaMarche called.“After that came to a dead end, David Vaughan said, ‘Well, would you like to listen to it anyway?’ ” Mr. LaMarche said. “We made a date to get together at the Lincoln Center library, went to the special collections room and we watched a ‘Dance in America’ special from 1978. ‘Les Sylphides,’ at that late date, was still being done with a Benjamin Britten orchestration.”David Carp, left, American Ballet Theater’s orchestra librarian, and the conductor David LaMarche looking for Britten’s version of “Les Sylphides” at the company’s warehouse.
Yana Paskova for The New York Times - Photographer
The library also had an LP of “Les Sylphides,” with the orchestration credited to Britten, recorded by Ballet Theater in the 1950s. The two men listened to it together this summer. “I liked it,” Mr. LaMarche said, noting that it was sparer than the Douglas version, and used less triangle and other percussion.
That afternoon, Mr. LaMarche searched through the company’s scores again. There, next to the Douglas version, he found something curious.
“I’d never noticed before, but next to it was a much smaller score, which I assumed was a Xeroxed copy of the Roy Douglas, just reduced,” he said. “So I opened it, and the engraving was completely different. But there was no credit — arranged by nobody. I opened it up, I looked at it, and since I just had heard the Britten at Lincoln Center, I recognized a few things. I looked at it and said: ‘Well, that’s different. I think that’s what I just heard.’ ”
Armed with the newly found conductor’s score, Mr. LaMarche made plans to search the Secaucus warehouse. There, he found the instrument parts. Only the trumpet part mentioned Britten.
The final chapter of the mystery — with the definitive answer to whodunit? — has yet to be written. Philip Reed, the editor in chief of Britten’s selected letters, said that the composer, who had expressed an interest in locating the lost score later in his life, listened to a copy of an LP that claimed to use his orchestration in the mid-1960s. His verdict raised doubts.
“I have played the record over, and although there are a few passages that might be mine, I am certain that, as it stands, it is not my responsibility,” Britten wrote in a 1966 letter, suggesting that someone else’s score might have been substituted, or substitute passages inserted.
Exactly when the Britten version fell out of use is not clear. Ballet Theater continued to employ a score attributed to him as late as 1978, the date of its televised “Sylphides.” Ormsby Wilkins, Ballet Theater’s music director, said that the company’s programs regularly attributed “Sylphides” to Britten as late as 1972, but credited no one beginning in 1973. Exactly when the troupe stopped using the score, and why, was unclear. But ballet companies are not always purists when it comes to scores, even for canonical ballets: when Mikhail Baryshnikov led Ballet Theater, his “Sylphides” changed one of the Mazurkas to correspond to the Kirov Ballet’s version.
Mr. Jarman, of the Britten-Pears Foundation, said that he enjoyed listening to a version credited to Britten, though it was not instantly recognizable as his work. “It’s very nice — gentle and quite dreamy, and appropriate,” he said. “It’s stylish.”
Mr. Vaughan said he hoped to see Ballet Theater dance again to the Britten version, which he has always preferred. He recalled mentioning it in a review of “Sylphides” in the 1950s.
“I remember that I wrote that it was a ‘tactful orchestration by Benjamin Britten,’ ” he said. “Which I think isn’t actually a bad word to describe it.”