Thursday, June 08, 2006

small town gossip

No, I'm not the only one obsessed with pitch differences. Here's the opening paragraph of an article by Bernard Holland from last weekend's New York Times, "The Ojai Music Festival: Proud to Be Brief, Small and Eccentric":
IN Europe 300 years ago, one town's perfect A might have sounded like a G sharp to musicians just over the mountain; it depended on the tuning of your local church organ. But the bigger and more easily reached a place is, the less distinctive its music becomes. Not too long ago French, German and Russian orchestras sounded different; now they all sound pretty much the same.
The article laments that the Ojai's quirkiness may have gotten smoothed over recently, as it has gained in popularity. It's the same problem whenever a distinctive, special place begins to attract national attention. We all want to visit there, until it's beseiged by tourists, at which point we decide it's gone all crass and commercial - not realizing that people just like us have made it that way!

It seems to me that the trick of managing tourist interest is "taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going," as a Fed chief once said about interest rates. In this respect Charleston does a great job, I think. Spoleto is like a big two-week punch bowl of culture, but afterwards the town quiets down and we all disperse, leaving with pleasant memories of quaint streets and enthralling performances. The whole thing has a travelling circus aspect, and in fact the festival regularly features a circus. Still, one of its great charms is that for three weeks or so this town makes all of us, even the freak sideshow performers, feel like locals.

I haven't written up too many shows here - tonight I'll be playing a repeat performance of Beethoven's 5th, excerpts from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and a love scene from Romeo and Juliet. The Charleston City Paper, the local free weekly whose writers perform their own daunting displays of cultural ingestion and reportage, actually quoted a blog post I wrote here last week. Lindsay Koob, the author of that piece, is a very friendly fellow who also works in the classical room at Millenium Music, the local CD store. We've all learned to be a little careful what we chat about while browsing CDs. Small town gossip travels fast.

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