In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking
On Wednesday night local notables turned up at Herbst for a conversation hosted by City Arts & Lectures with John Rockwell, Alex Ross and Linda Ronstadt (!). As you might imagine, the crowd was eager to find out how on earth the evening could possibly go. Perhaps some readers here are wondering the same; hence, this special TSR presention:
[A Dramatic Reënactment]
7:58pm. Everyone's looking around, plotting which empty seat they're going to move to as soon as the house lights go down. Mlle XL notices that Joshua Kosman is not sitting on his customary side of the Pacific aisle.
8:03. House lights are dimming... and here they come! Everyone is initially distracted because a third of the audience just got up and scuttled over to a better seat.
8:05. Linda starts by playing her musical samples: Lola Beltrán, Bulgarian women's choir singing a Thracian harvest song, music from Applachia. Everyone on stage puts their head down to listen and nods appreciatively. Linda's remembering what it was like to hear each of those songs for the first time, saying that in each case she was so moved that she almost wanted to throw up. Alex drinks some water.
8:13. Linda memorably describes Pavarotti's voice as like that of a lost child, abandoned by his mother at the side of the road, howling at desolation. Alex drinks some more water.
8:22. Alex says that during college he walked around singing "I Am the Wife of Mao Tse-tung." Omg, he's clearing his throat... Will there be a performance?!?
8:23. Alas. He drinks some water instead.
8:25. Alex plays his musical samples. A particularly dense excerpt from Stockhausen's Gruppen; he's snapping. "Louange" from Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time; he does not snap. He talks about how music registered the trauma of the 20th century. Linda says, "Wow."
8:31. John is complimenting Alex at length on The Rest Is Noise, yet we all start bracing for the big "But" that's obviously coming...
8:33. He's still complimenting; we're still waiting.
8:34. Ah, here we go: "...That said, this is not an objective view of the music of the 20th century. This is Alex's view of the 20th century. Richard Taruskin probably didn't even mention Sibelius!" [Touché, I suppose.]
8:40. Alex, amid a discussion of the value of discussing composers' lives in conjunction with their music: "It's not as simple as, 'Sibelius had bad milk in the morning, therefore he wrote in minor that afternoon.'" [Perhaps composers should add nutritional background along with the date and location at the ends of scores?]
8:47. Did John really just use the phrase "nimbus of metaphor and poetry" to describe classical music criticism?
8:50. John is introducing his musical samples, saying they were chosen as a foil to Alex: "Louie Louie" and The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Linda wonders aloud about the "Louie Louie" lyrics; ¡Ay ay ay ay!.
8:52. John observes that The Rest Is Noise is about classical composition in the 20th century rather than all music of the 20th century. Why not include more overtly popular music, like the "famously primitive 'Louie Louie'"? Alex listens patiently, picks some lint off his sock.
8:55. Alex describes his childhood self as "a classical geek of a pure variety, a somewhat rare case in 20th-century America."
8:58. We're into Q&A. I'm beginning my zone-out procedure, as I generally get pretty upset over the Qs.
9:02. I suddenly hear a voice say, "...blogs by double bassists and artistic administrators." Two people turn around to look at me. I quickly direct my eyes downward and pretend to read my program intently.
9:07. Last question; Alex answers, likening hip hop to Janacek. We all heartily applaud the virtuosity of this argument.
9:10. Linda's band comes on stage for the closing performance of "When Will I Be Loved." John takes the bottom harmony; Alex, the middle.
[UPDATED 10/16: XI. Epilogue / Alex drinking water at Google]