Essays before a Review

Just quoth it.

So there it is. May I start out by saying that I don’t usually go to concerts, despite often playing in them.

This usually occurs because of commitments when something I want to go to is on, typically rehearsals (especially at night) or because the inane music interests me less than Dances with Wolves does to “The Didn’t Like Dances with Wolves Society”. But today was one of the rare encounters which happened to coincide with a recent bout of frustration over the lack of music reviews provided for emerging musicians. Nevermore! There were three forces at play here:

1: Enjoying the concert and wanting to articulate it.

2: Wanting to write a review because it should be done more (and personally wanting/needing reviews myself!)

3: The continual background question as to what I could write my next blag about.

So gather ’round. Where I come from the music criticism scene, at least for classical music represented in major media coverage, provides a written snapshot of its immediate musical surroundings with the same accuracy that a sea pig (see very much below) could give you in a self portrait. While the latter lacks eyes, practical appendages, and has all the intelligence of the sea cucumber that it is, the critics in question correspond to the simile with mindless, generic and bland reviews on only the largest whale carcasses symphony orchestra events. They generally fawn over the program, merely describing the composition in flowerful language (Yes I just made a word).

Artemis and the fawn.

Here’s just a small selection of actual quotes from these critics.

“the whispered opening of cellos and woodwind through the intensity of strings and brass” 

“[the pianist’s] cadenza after the main orchestral theme spanned four octaves with impressive ease, moving to a beautiful duet with clarinet.”

“The restless strings exquisitely built from pianissimo to forte, while the languid opening of the romance confidently showed the piano leading the orchestra, giving way to ferocious playing in the final rondo.”

In fact, I could (and did) basically copy and paste any sentence at random from any review to prove the point. I was surprised that I couldn’t find any mild reproaches, though they do occasionally crop up. But otherwise it’s something to make the [Ives Quote] Old Ladybirds of Both Sexes, henceby referred to as OLBOBS or Olbobs, break into that crackled anthem of “oh isn’t that just loverly!”

They also excrete alkaloid toxins.

One could easily write about a concert they didn’t attend using the observable formula above (yet articulated below):

The 1.[evocative adjective] 2.[compositional feature/instrument]3.[happened/did something + floral praise] 4.[joining words]5. [something else]6.[happened/did something + floral praise] 7.[Repeat 4-7 as desired]

Hence enabling the churning out of unimaginative-yet-nice-sounding crap like:

The utterly crystalline flute melodies soared above the underlying brass sonorities with delicate precision, eventually descending to be taken over by the beautifully crafted oboe duet that brought the main theme back with brilliant aplomb.

Furthermore, if you had even a passing knowledge, or at least skimmed through a work on the youtube, you could make quite an effective and convincing review of this loathsome calibre just by noting what played where a few times. How it was actually played doesn’t matter in the slightest. The audience that it relates most to is only there as they believe that because the music is Classical it is already sublime, and your typical Olbobs look forward greatly to getting a dose of poetic validation to justify their Emperors-New-Clothes-Style-Orgasm in (and probably on) the following day’s paper.

NB: I have never used the word aplomb before.

So, here we are, towards the end of this post. I decided early on that I would reserve the actual review for another time (soon) so as to not defile it with this preceding rant in case it was ever found useful and it thus could be taken more seriously. Time for pictures!

Perfect Cadence.