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December 24, 2012


Haven't seen it, but musicals are fine by me.

In fact, if real life would break into musical numbers (the ad hoc -- can't remember the real name -- movement in public places is great and needs to be more fully developed to include dance) on a regular basis, reality would be going in the right direction.

One (meaning me) can imagine the response to the Connecticut catastrophe as a musical and the blog threads here as the libretto.

Songs would include "I Didn't Say That", and "Not Again", "Bretty Don't Get Your Gun", "Shut up, I Shoot You", "I'm A Lover, Not A Target", with a moving acapella number for Sebastian, standing under a single spotlight, singing the sleeper hit of the season, "Be Reasonable", and later in the show he'll appear again doing a soft shoe while crooning, "People Who Have Facts Are The Most Informed People In The World".

Slart will have a short number wearing little more than spats while firing off a nail gun with an innocent look on his face: "Were You Talking To Me? ('Cause If You Were)"

Brett will appear throughout in a pivotal role, loosely based on the Audrey II character from "The Little Shop Of Horrors". His big number will be "Feed Me!" (Insert smiley face, here).

His second number, cut from the show, was "Cite This!", because it included nudity, and we can't have nudity in a musical about violence.

Doc Science will bring out her Adele-voice and sing "I'm Going to Wash That Man (Not Out Of My Hair, But Because He Stinks And Could Use The Bath")

There will be a character of indeterminate gender doing a kind of muffled rap number in different voices from inside a gunny sack, like John and Yoko, butit will turn out to be three performers, not one, somehow.

I'm working up a kind of Donald O'Conner number complete with pratfalls and acrobatic moves with the working title of "Don't Just be Silly, Be Sillier.", which upon inspection, will have deeper meanings embedded in its lyrics, or so he seems to think.

The entire cast will appear in a street scene under Russell's second-story window for a number called "What Russell Said", set to some counter-intuitive martial cadences with a lengthy drum solo by the man himself.

A rousing ensemble finaler of competitive face-off dancing and solo trade-offs with guest lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, called "I Suppose You Think?" will bring the house down.

We open next week, kids.

Oh, and McKT, more thigh, please.

Phil, watch the vibrato.

Alright, everyone (and I mean everyone has a part), let's run through it one more time.

lj, count it off.

Uh one, uh two.

Countme (out!), please, no, I've seen this movie before.

Oh, right, but you'll go see the three-part "The Hobbit" production and its two prequels and seven sequels?


Just remember to give me a non-singing part. Otherwise there may be fatalities as the audience rushes for the exits. (Not to mention the pain and suffering of the cast during filming.)

lj: "It is, I suppose, a great musical tradition, going back to the comsumptive Mimi singing her last aria with her dying breath in La Boheme, to have the music not reflect the physical condition."

The relationship between the music and the subject and/or text has a long and rich history, unsurprisingly. Schumann would have called (e.g.) uplifting music accompanying a funereal text "ironic." Many "close readings" of music begin by interrogating this relationship, which is fertile ground for interpretation.

I suggest that you look past Mimi - the last several books of Monteverdi madrigals are rich with textual-musical oppositions and alignments; it might be fair to say that he's expressly playing with this dynamic.

(Re-reading what I wrote above: I'm not trying to be pedantic, only recommending that the origins of this dichotomy are further-flung than you suggest.)

As far as [lj:] "if I could find a way to better play my horn in tune, I'd take it in a new york second." -- may I recommend something with valves? A nice euphonium, perhaps? I assure you that every slide position correlates nicely to a fingering!

Interesting point, bob. I tend to think of "realism" entering in music with early romanticism (Beethoven's Eroica is as good a starting point as any) and didn't really consider the textual-musical opposition as part of the same thing, but it could very well be.

About tuning, ha! I play the french horn, so I've got valves, my lip and my hand in the bell. What I want is a button on the record machine so I wouldn't have to worry about it as much!

I've always been baffled by the hand-in-bell backwards-facing left-hand-valve horn.

I think of the Eroica more as the "birth" (not really of course) of subjectivism, not realism, in [Western tonal] music. And I love the 3rd as much as the next geek, but it sure has become the touchstone for the birth of "[Western] music" writ large, which I find problematic - as a "proof" of the superiority of Western music/art/culture.

Anyway. Merry Christmas!

Well, interesting, that. The horn descended from hunting horns, and to make them less raucous, when they were brought inside and made a part of the orchestra, rather than having the bell up, they brought the bell down. When they did that, they discovered that they could actually play a scale, rather than just the open harmonics, by a careful combination of stopped, semi stopped and open notes. That's why it is the right hand in the bell. So all those orchestral horn parts, up till you get to chromaticism, are actually for valveless horns and because the right hand, not the left, is controlling the pitch, that's why the horn has the valves on the left hand.

This is Barry Tuckwell explaining it on youtube, the explanation starts at 2:30 and goes a bit into the next video here


Yeah, I get the development - it just seems like it's been adapted (valves added instead of changing crooks, etc.) so many times that the hand-in-the-bell backwards-facing wrong-hand part is outmoded and should be developed so as not to be, you know, anachronistic. (Mostly I just love to hassle horn players about it; back at the conservatory I would approach undergraduate horn players after their recitals and tell them very seriously that they had their hand in the bell the entire time). I do admit it's a unique sound (grudgingly).

Don't get me started on transposing instruments, either. Sheesh. Are ledger lines that hard to read?

I fail to understand how someone who went to a conservatory could be boring ;^) Apologies for telling you stuff you already knew!

Nym is ironic, and no apologies necessary. It's all about the dialogue, I enjoy the thoughtful music posts.

Wonder if Threepenny Opera will ever get a half-decent treatment on the Silver Screen. Probably not, although the message is truer than ever.

This is getting a bit over-heated.

I propose a compromise:

Each may possess a flute in the home, as long as it it kept disassembled and in a locked case.

Further, one horn per person for snipe hunting, stored under lock and key at the brass armory.

But we'll have no more of this 76 trombones and 110 big honking cornets right behind, or close at hand, or wherever they are, unless it's a government parade.

And, Brett, stop waving around that double-bell euphonium this instant.

Someone, probably me, is going to get hurt.

If you want to go tootling and blatting in your yard from time to time, that's one thing, but who do you think you are -- John Philip Sousa?

It's not like you're going to waltz into a right-wing think tank, thinking (the first time that activity took place within those walls) of staging a coup, and traipsing back out la-di-da with eight million bucks under your belt for the trouble.

Yes, yes, we know, the kids in school could use a violin to make their lethal music.

The next thing you'll be telling us is that a guy could just as well beat someone to death in a Texas church with an electric guitar (capable of firing off 32nd notes, with double humbuckers, whammy bar and Marshall stacks).

Texas is not the rest of the country.

from http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/freedomworks-tea-party-group-nearly-falls-apart-in-fight-between-old-and-new-guard/2012/12/25/dd095b68-4545-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a horn at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The horn-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

and this

“This was two weeks after there had been a horn playing thing at the Family Research Council,” said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “So when a man with a horn who didn’t identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.’ ”

We horn players get that a lot. Also, see this


Dicks and guns, dicks and guns, men with horns, just as Doc Science put it together.

And money extortion, like a walking base line theme underneath all of it.

The Republican Party are the Travelers.

One could speculate, and I expect I will in the coming weeks, on what could AND should have happened at the FreedomSucks office if there had been MORE weapons on hand, given all of the hard-a*s talk from that party of violent tough guys who have infested the country since 1980.

We bury little kids, and let these ilk live.

Happy New Year.

The Dick Armey thing is just mind-bogglingly bizarre, to me.

Saw Les Miz with my wife last night. Not my usual thing, she was surprised I was willing to go / interested in going, but we'd heard really good things about it so off we went.

It's really more of an opera than a musical - virtually all of the dialogue is sung. The production is, I thought, really good.

For me, personally, the way that really large issues are sentimentalized when they are turned into popular entertainment kind of robs them of their power. Yes, I'm one of those guys.

I will add that, IMO, Anne Hathaway broke through that caveat with a performance that was amazingly raw and emotionally naked. If she held anything back, I'm not sure it would have fit on the screen. Well done, again IMO.

I suspected, and my wife with her fine-tuned classical vocalist ears confirmed, that no auto-tuning was used. The voices were presented in all of their innate beauty and/or limitations. Which, I thought, worked well, dramatically. They seemed to be of a piece with the characters.

(I spent almost 45 minutes crafting a comment, after my wife and I saw Les Miz today - then the ether ate it. Here goes again.)

I agree with much of what has been said about the movie - comparing, as others have, the film with the stage production (twice for me in London, first with the original cast: Colm Wilkinson, Patty Lupone, etc.). It works, with the following caveats.

First, as Russell said, it is an opera. (We also go to "The Met Live In HD" broadcasts, so the similarity is striking.) That means it's about the music, and about people singing in public in what would otherwise be non-musical situations, and not being heard or heeded by other people standing right next to them. It's NOT realism, and never can be. If you don't like the music, don't go; fine, we can accept that. If you don't like the "unrealism," don't go; ditto. But if you still decide to go, for heaven's sake, don't review it! (Certain film critics apparently did not get this memo.)

Second, they chose for the movie mostly actors who can sing, rather than singers who can act, and I think this was mostly the right choice, since excellent microphones can compensate for lack of stage-singing power. Anne Hathaway was magnificent; Oscar nominee at least. Hugh Jackman was very good (we saw/heard him sing Curly in "Oklahoma" once - he's at home on stage); not the all time best tenor, as "Bring Him Home" will suggest, when compared with the best of the best, but he can act up a storm.

Eddie Redmayne was for me the real musical surprise (or would have been if someone hadn't spoiled the surprise by telling me): light, lyrical, musically sensitive. Eponine was fine; Cosette (and little Cosette), Gavroche, and the Thenardiers were all OK, for pretty high values of "OK." (I was somewhat disappointed in "Master of the House," but that's because the director decided this was the occasion for flash visual business, showing all the naughtiness they got up to at the inn; you're so busy trying to figure out what they're stealing you lose track of the witty lyrics.)

Colm Wilkinson was - Colm, albeit more than quarter of a century older. No longer, perhaps, the Voice of God, but certainly the Voice of His Representative on Earth.

My caveat lies with regard to Russell Crowe, whose lack of real vocal power as Javert made him fall short, IMHO, of the real potential of the part. I don't remember who played Javert in either stage production, but I do remember the voice, so full - even when not singing forte - that it felt limitless and irresistible, like Javert's commitment to his version of The Law. It could be as loud as needed; it could go on forever; it was inhuman. And Crowe's vocal limitations - though he is tuneful enough, the richness is just not there - make the character more limited, human. This actually works in the later scenes, when his frailty is beginning to show, but not so much in the early stages, where he represents seemingly inexorable fate. (Who ever would have thought that a critique of Russell Crowe would be that he wasn't menacing enough?!)

I just heard one new song - Valjean to young Cosette in the carriage leaving the inn - which was eminently forgettable.

The physical setting was outstanding - there are ways movies have of depicting, say, early 19th-century France that are beyond the capabilities of even the most ingenious stage production. (And Les Miz was certainly ingenious!) They didn't mess with the text or Hollywoodize the events any more than Hugo and the French composer/lyriciest had already done. (I feared that someone might decide it needed to be THE French Revolution - which more audiences have heard of than the 1832 uprising - and set it there, with a cameo somewhere for the young Napoleon!)

In short, if you like heavy romanticism and opera (but I repeat myself) go. You'll enjoy it, and if you're at all like me, you'll be crying before the end.

If you don't, sorry. Try The Hobbit.

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