Avant-garde goes Retro
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
3d ago
I recently came back to reading some serious literature after a hiatus. I just re-read Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq. I think this qualifies as a serious contemporary novel, i.e. it features spiritual malaise and social fracture. Though with moments of dark humour, it is rather depressing as most recent serious fiction is. So when I ran across this newish genre of ergodic writing, I was surprised and delighted to find quite a different mood. Picking up the novel "S" by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, once you get it out of its outer sleeve, you are astonished to find what seems to be an old-fas ..read more
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Friday Miscellanea
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
4d ago
I've said a few times that pop music these days is an industrial product, coming out of music factories so here is some evidence for that. First the New York Times: How Big Is Taylor Swift? It's a very long article, impossible to summarize, but it looks as if the Beatles still hold the record for no 1 hits and top 10 hits--and they did it in an amazingly short time. Rick Beato has an interesting take on this: What we learn from that is that behind Taylor Swift is a whole musical production line with a dozen writers, a host of musicians and god only knows how many producers and engineers ..read more
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Ergodic Music
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
1w ago
After all the excesses of the last seventy years, many are suspicious of experiment in the arts. Honestly, there are artists who are not out to bamboozle anyone, but just interested in exploring and going beyond the boundaries of the medium. One interesting example is what is known as "ergodic literature." The term dates from 1997, but it is much older than that. One example familiar to musicians is the Chinese I Ching, a text used for divination and by John Cage to compose music. I read a really interesting text published in in English in 1988 by Milodan Pavić called Dictionary of the Kazars ..read more
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Art and the Market
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
1w ago
Billie Eilish, or as I think of her, the "Slough of Despond," has a new album out. Here is the first track: For some odd reason, I started to wonder if the free marketplace is really the ideal location for the fine arts. Should we be buying and selling fine art as if it were frozen fish sticks? I throw that question out for my commentators. But let's take a brief trip through history for some clues. Also, since I don't know a heck of a lot about the other art forms I am going to focus on music. The classical music traditions of Western Europe had some distant roots in the music theory of An ..read more
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The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
1w ago
 Here is a pretty good piece by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, very well played ..read more
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Some Famous Guitarists
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
1w ago
In most professions it is unethical to comment directly on the competence of one's colleagues. In some it is prohibited by law. Since it has been decades since I retired as a performer, I think it might be safe to offer some thoughts. Plus, I have the qualifications. So here are some personal reflections on a number of famous guitarists. Andrés Segovia is the grandfather and godfather of the classical guitar in the 20th century. His career spanned nearly the whole century, from his first concert in 1909 to his last in 1987. I don't think anyone, even long-lived performers like Arthur Rubinstei ..read more
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Friday Miscellanea
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
1w ago
Music is good for one who is melancholy, bad for one who is mourning, and neither good nor bad to one who is deaf. --Spinoza, Ethics II/208 * * * The top story: Chechnya bans all music deemed too fast or too slow Minister of Culture Musa Dadayev announced the decision to limit all musical, vocal and choreographic compositions to a tempo ranging from 80 to 116 beats per minute (BPM) at a meeting Friday, the Russian state new agency TASS reported. Wow, I think that eliminates everything other than Andantino through Allegretto. So, no more Bruckner. Or tarantellas. * * * Ok, now here is a ..read more
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Today's Listening: Rodrigo
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
1w ago
 Joaquin Rodrigo's Three Spanish Pieces is one of the most challenging sets of works for guitar. Until Julian Bream recorded them, everyone avoided them like the plague, except for the Fandango, which Segovia had recorded. The middle movement, the Passacaglia just looked weird and technically impossible so no-one played it. Then Bream found the right tempo, fairly slow, and did a terrific recording so everyone knew what to do. The last movement, the Zapateado, is just technically fearsome. But the biggest musical challenge has always been the Passacaglia. Here is a fine new recording by I ..read more
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Quid est ergo tempus?
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
2w ago
That's the beginning of the famous Augustine quote about time: Quid est ergo tempus? Si nemo ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio. Which translates as:  What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled. This is to introduce short reviews of two books on time: the phenomenology of Husserl and  Chanas on Dilla Time. These two discussions of time are about as utterly different as imaginable. So I will give a brief account of each followed by what we might learn settin ..read more
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Tribute to Alexander Dunn 1956 - 2024
The Music Salon
by Bryan Townsend
2w ago
Alexander Dunn I don't do obituaries here as a rule, leaving that to Slipped Disc, but I want to honor a fine guitarist and friend. Alex Dunn was an outstanding student of Pepe Romero and we met in Pepe's master class in Salzburg in 1988. He, along with Randy Pile (editor of the guitar music of Joaquin Rodrigo), were private students with Pepe in San Diego. Alex was an excellent guitarist with superior technical and musical skills. He was also an authority on the French guitarist and lutenist Robert de Visée on whom he did his doctoral dissertation. In 1990, when I decided to take lea ..read more
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