|Happy 99th birthday, El Santo!|
I tried to listen to some more movements of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie last night... but I fell asleep. Clearly, this piece isn't making much of an impression on me. Not like Shostakovitch's Tenth did last week, anyway. And those ondes Martenot parts are about as subtle as a rhino horn up the back side. I'm sure that the instrument sounded novel and exciting in 1949, but now it just sounds... kind of goofy. The problem is that modern listeners have had decades of listening to good and bad synthesizer music, and that's conditioned us. (Well - it has me because I'm a child of the 1970's, the synthesizer's heyday.)
Take another early electronic instrument, the Theramin. When one hears it now one thinks of suspenseful parts in old movies (thanks largely to Miklos Rozsa, who pioneered the instrument in film scores). Or the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" from 1967.
And then there's the Flexitone (not an electronic instrument), which makes a sound much like a musical saw. Aram Khachaturian scored for one in his Piano Concerto - which I greatly enjoy - but nowadays conductors usually forgo the use of this oddball instrument. While it sounds exotic it must also be admitted that it also sounds somewhat intrusive.
The moral of all this being, if you are a composer be careful when introducing new and innovative sounds to the symphony orchestra!
(None of this seems to apply to the Celesta, which produces a tinkling, bell-like sound. When Tchaikovsky was first introduced to it he knew he had to feature it in a piece before Rimsky-Korsakov heard one and scored for it, so he orchestrated his "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" in the Nutcracker ballet for the instrument - and celesta players haven't looked back since. The Berlin Phil often wheels out their Schiedmayer celesta for pieces which call for it, which happens rather often.)
And then we return to... Kraftwerk, whom my son and I saw in concert last month. What are those cunning Germans doing at those plinths and what kind of synthesizers are they using? A partial answer is here.
Oh - wait - the topic at hand is classical concert music, not electronic pop. Sorry.
Changing the subject entirely, my grandsons Gibson and Hudson visited on Wednesday while Dad was managing a Cub Scout Bear Den at church. So we fed them and told stories in the "tent" - the highlight of the week. (My YouTube video is somewhat long at just over seven minutes, but twenty years from now their parents will be very happy I took it.)
Aesop... his stories are over 2,500 years old, but they still fascinate.
That's it for today, then. The weekend forecast is nice... we're planning to go to the Virginia State Fair tomorrow.
Have a great weekend!