Author Archives: Ravi Narasimhan

Still better than opera

…or musicals.  Sometimes the algorithm gets it right and recommends a good channel.  Canadian pet groomer Vanessa De Prophetis aka Girl With the Dogs posts frequent videos of her clients along with deadpan commentary about the service in progress.  Here she has compiled some of her more promising singers some of whom have La Scala or Broadway in their future.

Youtube Channel: Girl With the Dogs

The pulse of artistic LA is in NYC

From the Sad-but-True department.  Leave it to the NYT to highlight the problems LA theatres face in the aftermath of COVID and bearing the brunt of the ills of the gig economy.  Uber and Lyft skate while tiny arts orgs have to conform to new wage laws while trying to reopen.  Whatever Dr. Soon-Shiong may have done for the LA Times, his inaction on the sacks of filth at his arts and culture desks is unpardonable.

 

Revel in Unrivaled Ravel: The Sitkovetsky Trio and Pavel Hudec

This animation is making the rounds of the classical music world. Pavel Hudec adds gorgeous visuals to a sparkling performance of the spiky 2nd movement of Ravel‘s A minor Piano Trio.  “Journey of the Pantoum” evokes  some highborn traveler from  distant land but, the pantoum is no potentate, panjandrum, or padishah, only a type of poem that informs the piece.

The Sitkovetsky Trio‘s playing is otherworldly.  The video coincided with the release of the album on BIS featuring the full work along with the Saint-Saëns Trio No. 2 in E minor.  It is (surprisingly) available in “hardcopy” as a compact disc or as a digital download  from eClassical.com in high quality formats with PDF liner notes and cover for under $10.

YouTube Channel: Pavel Hudec

 

Los Angeles exists: Who knew?

Oh, yes… this is still here, isn’t it? Well then.

The Atlantic glances a little farther west of the Hudson(*) and asks a transplant intriguingly named Rosecrans Baldwin to take stock of his new city.  He obliges with an excerpt from a forthcoming book assessing Los Angeles as a city-state for this age.

Los Angeles fits the city-state frame well, certainly better than it does a lot of other possibilities—if we update the model a bit. In 2010, Forbes suggested that if the criteria for a place to be considered a city-state were modernized for the 21st century, certain global capitals might qualify thanks to a few key features: a big port to sustain trade; investors from overseas; money laundering; international museums worth visiting; multiple languages spoken in good restaurants serving alcohol; and an ambition to host the World Cup.

If it is from Forbes, it must be true so we get some evidences, quotes from a politician, a novelist, and a final paragraph that ends in the air, leaving one just short of hungry for the book-to-come.  The article does link to a 2010 piece in the same journal, Defending Los Angeles, broaching similar concerns but more engagingly.  That further links to The Tyranny of New York which gets at the gizzards of the problem – how relentless public relations has defined American life, especially its art and culture, to the discharge from the Brooklyn sewers.

(*) Yes, it is a New Yorker cover but an iconic one that sums up the mentality.

Piece of the Action: The crazy engineering of the piano key

Playing the piano is damnably hard. I have accepted that I will never practice consistently or wisely enough to reach my original wildly unrealistic goals of competence and am contenting myself with slow progress and occasional discoveries.   Coaxing a good sound requires talent, coordination, flexibility, and freedom of movement.  There’s nothing that can be done about the first item but occasionally something in the joints unsticks enabling a small improvement in the rest.   I feel kinship with weekend athletes who get that occasional moment of grace amid hours of futility.

One of the many frustrations is pressing a key in the same place with the same pressure five times in a row and hearing no sound two of those times.  The hammer misses the strings by a fraction of a millimeter and flops back with a click and a dull thud.  This makes any kind of phrasing next to impossible for the duffer.  He either settles for good enough or goes nuts trying to adapt as the instrument itself changes with the time of day and the weather.  It never bothers the professionals who figure it out on the fly.

The piano action itself is a bizarre marvel of wood, felt, physics, and prayer.  It is surprising that it works at all and there are eighty eight of the bloody things that have to work consistently.  It is a lot to ask, perhaps too much.  Robert Grijalva of the University of Michigan explains it in painstaking detail  using a model of his own invention.  For those with less time, a Dutch animator posting as Hoe Ishetmoegelijk (hoe is het moegelijk = how is it possible) has a concise summary.

Youtube Channel: Robert Grijalva

Youtube Channel: Hoe Ishetmoegelijk

Walkback of shameless: The future QOP leader speaks

“Nevertheless, she persisted”
“And still, [she’ll] rise”

As did her party, in standing ovation.  Snopes weighs in on the latest media victim from the party of personal responsibility.  The QOP appropriates, corrupts, and weaponizes anything and everything it touches.  The slide continues abetted by the invertebrate from Bakersfield.

 

The America First Playlist: An Inaugural Swing and a Miss

On inauguration day, a large chunk of America unclenched and exhaled for the first time in four wretched, miserable years.  Five if we count the rancid campaign of naked bigotry and full throated lies that preceded and presaged the disaster of 45.

We now have some sanity in the ship of state and can hope that any honeymoon lasts long enough to get people vaccinated, businesses restarted, and the arts out from under hiding.  Even before COVID, anything on the finer side of life was ignored at best and ridiculed at worst under the moron of Mar-a-lago.   Many of us who eagerly awaited 20 January and some sign of support to the better things woke up to surprise and not a little disappointment at the overwhelmingly pop-culture besotted inauguration that actually occurred.  The shark sandwich playlist promised much and delivered nothing.

“Whether you are a country soul, a jazz enthusiast, a hip hop head, a classical sort, or just love that old-time rock and roll, music clarifies, inspires, unites, and heals.”
— Inaugural Committee CEO Tony Allen

Us “classical sorts” got jack shit, not even the ubiquitous OFFS not-him-again Yo-Yo Ma bowsynching to Copland as in 2009 although the equally overexposed Rénëê Fleming was said to have sung at one of the side events.   The rest, excluding Bob Marley, was as America-centered and nobrow as anything the MAGA movement could scrape together, excepting of course getting the performance rights.  The perpetually inept LA Times arts and culture department, or at least one of its representatives, thinks things are looking up.  This schlemiel, a tv critic no less, views the cultural future as the wasteland of the Discovery Channel, Bravo, History, and TLC which at one time actually had some decent programming but which long ago sold out to the perpetually dropping lowest common denominator.  It might get better for the arts but it is more likely that the arts will just get redefined just as science was for ‘The Science Channel.’

What galls about the 46-0 shutout is that the United States does not lack for options.  Copland and Gershwin are overplayed but we have Ives, Joplin, and GottschalkDvorák was inspired in Iowa, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky lived out their lives here (as did Schoenberg but let’s stay within realistic limits).  Hell, John Williams or Peter Schickele could have done something if asked.  And, if all of that is still too off-the-radar, there’s good ol’American John Philip Sousa transcribed by good ol’ American Vladimir Horowitz.  One pianist, one piano – saves on cost and brings everyone to his or her feet.  Regardez from the Hollywood Bowl in 1945.

Youtube Channel: Michael Brown