Sunday, July 30, 2006

where's the frisch?

The last two weeks I've been delinquent here at hella frisch, but I've made a couple of contributions to the Big Bottom website: Who's your Gary Karr? and Eine Kleine Bassmusik? I'm not quite sure why all my titles seem to end in question marks - maybe I've got a little mannerism going. (?) Anyway, I'm still perfecting the art of double bass journalism. I need to get some work done on my double bass playing as well, though, which is why things here haven't been quite so frisch lately.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

headbutting etiquette

A week after the World Cup Final, soccer fans are still buzzing over Zinedine Zidane's crushing cranial blow to Marco Materazzi's chest. Why would a seasoned competitor like Zidane release his anger so impulsively, prompting his removal from the last game of his career? What could have provoked such a senseless act of violence? Has Materazzi even met Zidane's mother? Both footballers' parents apparently share a love for alliterative names - could they be related?

I don't have answers to any of these questions - but I do believe the world is sorely in need of a comprehensive grammar of head-butting etiquette, and I am ready to begin that conversation here. We need to decide when a violent forehead punch is appropriate conduct, when a sock to the sternum may be overstepping boundaries, and when it's just clearly out of line. I have provided a series of hypothetical situations to consider, and color-coded them to show my own opinions: in red where head-butting may be appropriate, yellow for borderline situations, and blue when you might want to just turn the other cheek. It may be too late now for Zidane, but I hope to spare others the pain and humiliation (as well as penalties) of any future head-butting faux-pas.

A vet calls your dog a bitch.
An Italian calls your mother a whore.
A senior administration official calls your wife a secret CIA operative.

A protester burns your nation's flag.
A Klansman burns a cross on your lawn.
An arsonist burns your house down.

Petty theft.
Grand theft.
Identity theft.

You're fouled but it isn't called.
Your doctor amputates the wrong toe.
You're sent to Guantanamo Bay without a trial.

I'm pretty sure there are countless other principles of headbutting etiquette to explore. Even with just these few examples, though, it's apparent that with a little thought almost any situation can be addressed productively without leveling the other guy. So I would just encourage everyone to think these things through; to pause and consider your options; to use your head, before you use your head.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Thom Yorke on the dodgy circus

I've just been listening to an interview with Thom Yorke, the lead singer of the band Radiohead who just released his own solo album. Yorke's conversational style is occasionally maddening - he says "blah blah blah" a lot, for instance. But one thing he said about playing an unsatisfying tour struck me.

Mostly it was just not interesting. It just got boring, which sounds incredibly selfish, but why would you just carry on playing these tunes? I mean, the trouble was that by the time we had done that record we were so sick of those tunes. And then you're faced with the prospect of having to play them for another year and a half. Which, you know, you've got to do because you've got to let people know what it's about and one of the things that we're good at is playing the tunes and blah blah blah. But there just sort comes a point where you're going through the motions, and as soon as you realize that "I am going through the motions, this is sounding tired," that's it. This is rock and roll, there's no point in you being there. It ceases to be rock and roll and just becomes some sort of dodgy circus.

Most of us have been there I'm sure - just not inspired or motivated. And the recognition that things aren't working sometimes seems only to make them worse. It's a trap we set for ourselves. The only real solution, I think, is to seek out new ideas, new inspiration - new tunes, probably.

Anyway, I know I haven't been writing much here lately, and I want to let you know I'm fine, I just haven't felt inspired to blog about anything much. And I'd rather not turn hella frisch into a dodgy circus. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

one great loss, many links

The Standing Room has collected many tributes, stories, and remembrances of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, as well as a nice photograph by Richard Avedon. I'm only now finding out who she was and realizing what a great musician we've lost. On a Fresh Air interview which aired last evening she tells Terri Gross how she got her break from freelance violist to opera star - a very funny story which takes place in a prison. A 2004 New Yorker profile by Charles Michener, "The Soul Singer", also discusses that transformation:
[Emmanuel Music conductor] Craig Smith, whom she has known since her student days at the Boston Conservatory, in the early nineteen-eighties, told me that he regards her training ... as the key to what makes her so special as a singer. “A viola is a middle voice—it has to be alert to everything around it,” he said recently. “There’s something viola-like about the rich graininess of her singing, about her ability to sound a tone from nothing—there’s no sudden switching on of the voice, no click. And, like most violists, she is also self-effacing: without vanity as a singer. When we first performed the Bach cantatas, she just disappeared as a person.”
That she died without many knowing, at home with her family, seems only in keeping with her humble character. Even so, she is being missed keenly and will be remembered for a long time.

Friday, July 07, 2006

a bass by Gasparo da Salo

This is a picture from Raymond Elgar's book Looking at the Double Bass (1967). To read my commentary on the book, visit the double bass news site Big Bottom. I recently joined that site, reporting on classical bass topics. I never thought I'd call myself a Big Bottom contributor. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

This past March the New World Symphony was to accompany Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, the American mezzo-soprano, in songs by Mahler. Lieberson had to cancel and another singer took her place, a fairly common occurence in the world of operatic performers. However, I was sad to learn that she had died this Monday of breast cancer at age 52. We've surely lost a beautiful voice and a great artist.

NPR's Performance Today
features a recorded performance by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson today. She sings a setting by her husband Peter Lieberson of a poem by Pablo Neruda, which host Fred Child translated:
If your eyes were not the color of the moon
Oh my dearest, I would not love you so.
But when I hold you I hold everything that is,
Everything is alive so that I can be alive;
In your life I see everything that lives.