Is Classical Music Funny? 25 Ideas from SOMETHING I HEARD by Bernard Holland

 

Something I Heard, Bernard Holland, music critic for New York Times, classical music criticism

To order SOMETHING I HEARD, click on the title or cover

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“Holland has a remarkable ability to conjure up the essence of a composer or a piece of music in a few deftly chosen words. He is, I think, an aphorist of unparalleled virtuosity.”
— San Francisco Chronicle

“No one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style…”
— The New Yorker

/Bernard Holland

CRITIC’S CREDENTIALS
The day I put “music critic” after my name people started asking me about music. Before that no one asked my opinion about anything.

ON GLENN GOULD’S “WELL-TEMPER ED CLAVIER.”
He is the most interesting Bach player in memory, but when taken as a model of how Bach should sound, he is a catastrophe. People who blow up buildings get our attention, and sometimes their messages clean out our heads, but we don’t let them be architects.

ON THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
They will no more grow than Mother Nature will take the liver spots off my hands. We have grown old together.

SYMPHONIC BLACKNESS
There’s a more relevant question behind the one that asks why so few black musicians go into classical music, and that is: Why should they want to?

ON EARLY MUSIC
If the early music movement taught us anything it is that all music is contemporary.

TANGO
The tango is sublimated warfare. It rarely smiles. Elegance, ritual and a deep dignity win out over darker impulses. In a single Argentine dance form the universal paradoxes of romance between two human beings seem to gather.

ON AMERICAN MUSIC
I would trade some Strauss, most of Hindemith and even a little Brahms for the first eight bars of “April in Paris.”

ON ELLIOTT CARTER AND HAYDN
One wonders what kind of music Carter would have written had he, like Haydn, lived his teenage years in frightening poverty.

SCHOENBERG ON HIS CRITICS
“My music isn’t modern. It’s just played badly.”

FARRAKHAN AND HIS VIOLIN
In the green hills of North Carolina on Saturday night, the lion lay down with the lamb. A reputed sower of discord communed with a maker of harmony. Louis Farrakhan, meet Felix Mendelssohn.

ON CASTING BAYREUTH’S “RING.”
Gabriele Schnaut’s Brünnhilde bore down on the helpless listener like a sopranic freight train threatening derailment at any moment. Her Siegfried (Wolfgang Schmidt) could offer only strangled desperation. When we were lucky, Mr. Schmidt landed on no pitch at all, creating a kind of 19th-century German Romantic rap.

HENRY BRANT INDOORS
The Brant aesthetic, when brought under a roof, shrinks to a form of encirclement. Here the audience, Custer-like, receives incoming fire from every direction.

RING FOLLOWERS
Wagner lovers are besotted people, like the sharers of some extraterrestrial visitation who are compelled to gather in cities like Seattle, Vienna, New York, San Francisco and, of course, Bayreuth to trade sightings.

RING FOLLOWERS II
When doom is announced on Monday but does not arrive until Saturday, the “Ring” and its audiences are captives in time, forming a kind of space capsule in which listeners are as much crew members as the performers.

PETER SELLARS AND EL NINO
Mr. Sellars takes his usual role as honorary member and emotional spokesman for the oppressed and the slighted. It must gall him at times to be so showered with attention and success.

OUTIS AT LA SCALA
The brothel scene steams with bare skin, gyrating pudenda and simulated (I think) copulation.

ON THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WEATHER
The sorrows of this story’s title lie in togetherness and loneliness made to stand side by side.

GIACINTO SCELSI AND HIS BLACK HOLE
A Beethoven sonata begins at the front door, takes a trip, meets new friends, goes home. A Scelsi piece closes the front door and digs in the basement.

CASTING WOES AT THE MET
Gorgeous to look at but virtually uninhabited, the Metropolitan Opera’s new ”Traviata” seems to have been the victim of a neutron bomb.

ON AVERY FISHER HALL
This building is cursed and should be leveled. It doesn’t need an architect. It .needs an exorcist.

ON HIGH PAY AND THE THREE TENORS
Perhaps a more apt title for these events would be “Three Tenors, One Conductor and Four Accountants.”

ON BRUCKNER AND CLASSICAL STYLE
Bruckner is a Mozart sonata that ate too much.

ON BLOGGING
All of us should go home, find a dark room, sit down and be silent.

ON MUSIC APPRECIATION
That leap from ”understand” to ”appreciate” is long and blind.

ON CONDUCTING MAHLER
You do not keep “Das Liêd von der Erde” together by snapping your fingers like Harry James.

ON ACOUSTICS AND LISTENING
Good acoustics, like a good haircut, go unnoticed.
Acoustics are to music what bookbinding and typeface are to Faulkner. If our minds are doing their work, Faulkner’s voice will sound the same in the roughest, smallest and most unwelcoming old paperback as it does in the most luxurious special edition.

MYSTERIES OF CONDUCTING
Look no farther than Leopold Stokowski who managed to pack his dessert-like sound into a suitcase and carry it from city to city.

RELUCTANT CRITICISM
The critic’s duty is to report that Mr. Bocelli is not a very good singer.

MOZART FROM MINOR TO MAJOR
Just as we put up our umbrellas, the sun comes out. We don’t know whether to be happy or sad, and so we are both.

ON CRITICISM
Critics may speak German or English but they can’t speak music. Music is sublimely illiterate

ON RELIGION
Messiaen invented a Christianity with no missionaries and a congregation of one.

To order, click on the title Something I Heard.

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WE SUBMIT FOR YOUR APPROVAL: Books to Make You Smarter, Books to Entertain

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Dear Friend: Shadow Teams now powers Lisa Hagan Books, an independent publishing company working in the United States, Canada and the U.K. We now believe everything everyone told us about how hard you must work on a startup.
We are extremely proud of our first group of books. We offer them below.

Simply click on the title of the book to order.

Please forward on this email to family, friends and other readers. We would love your feedback and help in spreading the word. http://www.shadowteams.com

Anyone who signs up for our email will get three chapters of our next release for free. (What is the book, you ask? It will be a surprise, just like all presents.)

If you wish to review the book — for print, blog or possible interviews – or for potential inclusion in curriculum, please email beth@shadowteams.com

ADULT NON-FICTION

SOMETHING I HEARD
b9thnolinelargery Bernard Holland
New York Times Critic Remembers 1981-2008

For twenty-plus years, music critic Bernard Holland heard it all. He reviewed and interviewed many of the most celebrated classical artists – singers, conductors, instrumentalists, composers and the avant garde – of the twentieth century for the New York Times.

Reporting both sides of the culture war between music history and radical change, Holland writes critiques on Philip Glass to Verdi, Messiaen to Bach, Peter Sellars to Zeffirelli, and Linda Ronstadt to The Three Tenors.

Along the way, the reader chats with Herbert von Karajan, takes a plane trip with Yo-Yo Ma, joins in with the boos at Bayreuth, and walks the slow walk with Robert Wilson.

“No one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recalls the heyday of
Virgil Thomson.”
-The New Yorker

MEMOIR

Hive-Mind
by Gabrielle Myers
Hive-Mind final cover-page-001
With the lyrical precision of Annie Dillard and the exquisite food writing of M.F.K. Fisher, Gabrielle Myers takes us on a Northern California idyll – an internship at the Tip Top Farm and Produce in Vacaville.

Here, the beauty of the land – light streaming through fig branches; carnelian tomatoes exploding in front of rows of sweet peas – is tended by the mysterious frenetic Farmer and her companion, Baker. Together with their intern Gabrielle, the trio tends a landscape full with sustenance and life. Their days are filled with back-breaking farm labor and their nights are alive with the freshest, most creative meals imaginable.

At night, Gabi lays in her yurt pondering her mother’s suicide attempt, working on stories to tell herself to make it alright, while just up the hill another mind, busy as a hive, fights a storm of loss and sorrow that threatens to shatter their eden. And what of these stories we tell ourselves? Myers asks.

Sometimes, they can’t be rewritten.

“The voice in Hive-Mind is complicated, edgy, vulnerable and deeply in love with fig trees, cherry tomatoes, and the sound of crickets on a hundred-and-ten degree day. In these dark, environmentally catastrophic times, we need books like this one to shake us out of our slumber, remind us where we came from, reconnect us to what we have.”
– Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted

Order now from Amazon.com by clicking on the title above.

PARANORMAL

Men in Black:Personal Stories and Eerie Adventures
by Nick Redfern

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Nick Redfern’s new, and third, book on the Men in Black is filled with the very latest revelations on the sinister and deadly MIB. Never-before-seen witness testimony combines with papers from some of the leading figures in UFO- and paranormal-themed research to provide an outstanding look at this creepy and disturbing phenomenon.

Men in Black: Personal Stories & Eerie Adventures takes the reader on a mysterious, macabre, and menacing journey into the world of the dark-suited silencers. It’s a journey that encompasses tales of UFO conspiracies, government agents, strange and bizarre monsters, the occult, demonology, and psychic attack.

“Reading and reviewing the always-fascinating writings and research of author and “unsolved mysteries” lecturer Nick Redfern, for more than a decade, has allowed me to gain new insight on conspiracies and paranormal subjects. And Redfern refuses to let up…..”

– Red Dirt Report

Order now through Amazon.com by clicking on the title above.

BUSINESS

Build the Fort: 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10-Year Old Can Set You Up for Start-Up Success
by Chris Heivly

In Build the Fort, Heivly breaks down his childhood personal fort-building experiences and uses them as an analogy to his journey as co-founder of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2 billion) as well as The Startup Factory (a seed-stage investor & mentorship program).

Build the Fort outlines five basic elements that are common to both fort-building and startups:
• Socializing Your Idea without fear or inhibition,
• Identifying and Marshaling the People You Trust,
• Gathering the Minimal Resources Closest To You,
• Acting on the Smallest and Simplest of the Idea, and
• Build the Fort.

Build_The_Fort_cover_final
Whether you are 16 or 60, Build The Fort will provide the reader a better understanding of the earliest micro-steps of starting your own business by overlaying Chris’s 30 years of experiences in startups, investments, big-company intrapreneurship and community development.

“Chris is a ‘been there, done that’ kind of guy when it comes to startups. From his own highly successful startup, to leading a venture capital firm, to running a successful accelerator, to personally mentoring hundreds of entrepreneurs, Chris is not only someone who knows his stuff, but is the kind of person who truly cares.”
– F. Scott Moody
CEO of AuthenTec (sold to Apple)

Available on Amazon.com by clicking on the title above.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Motherless
by Gabriel Horn

An island appears and disappears. A mysterious animal stands at the edge of the forest, watching. A door becomes a portal to the deepest secrets of the ocean. Through the darkness, a wolf strikes for life.

Born in a downpour that breaks a record drought, she is named Rainy. A young Native American girl, orphaned at 5, she lives with her grandfather on the white sandy shores of the Florida coast. As she approaches adolescence, Rainy struggles with her love for the Earth and the horrors inflicted on our natural world, facing questions of loss and identity, and the very essence of the human spirit. They are questions that hours spent in classrooms, and even her grandfather’s ancient wisdom, cannot answer. Exasperated, a storm rages inside of her, ultimately releasing her own spirit to the storm raging outside, and lifts her into a dream that is more than a dream.

Beyond this dream, in a place where the ordinary and extraordinary merge, Rainy Peek realizes her destiny and what it truly means to be MOTHERLESS.

“…insightful and eloquent”
– The Tampa Tribune
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HOW TO PUBLISH YOUR HUSBAND AND AVOID DIVORCE COURT

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To order book or ebook, click on title: Something I Heard

/Beth Wareham

Being married to a legend has it’s downside. When our wedding announcement ran in the New York Times, a publishing colleague remarked “I didn’t know you knew Bernard Holland.” Yeah, lady, I knew him. Every inch. But I wasn’t pitching him books. I had bigger fish to fry.

When I traveled with him, people would elbow me out of the way to get at him. Young music students would trail him at events and I would whisper in his ear “you make me famous, I suck your dickee.” No one thought I was funny but me and I kept myself amused at the edges of these “high culture” events.

As his wife, the legend took me everywhere and taught me how to be a woman of the world. I stood at the Bebelplatz in Berlin where Hitler’s brown shirts burned thousands of books just before I walked into the Staatsoper to hear Wagner. I sat on the water at Puccini’s house on a tiny lake in Italy where he lived, composed, and hunted ducks. He took me to Havana for a string of concerts with the visiting Milwaukee Symphony; I met Royalty on the manicured gardens at Glyndebourne and then watched the bloody despair of Berg’s Lulu inside.

Fast forward twenty years. I own a publishing company and it was time to put out some of this huge body of work. BUT WAIT! The New York Times owns 4600 of my legend’s bylines. That’s about a 2000 page book right there, I thought. I rolled my eyes. I would have to penetrate the Times wall to get permissions, a task that even Pinch Sulzberger would find hard. But luckily, we found the great Sam Sifton and he, well, sorted it out.

Next came assessing all those critiques into a larger whole that would paint an incomplete picture of classical music albeit a tantalizing one. Working with my legend, we chose reviews whose music led to discussions of real life: love triangles, serial killers, power grabs, lying, cheating, love, and loyalty.

I learned that music lives above words; it is impossible to capture again once released. No two performances will ever be the same and the best music is that which lives in your head, in memory. It can not be pulled out of the rest of you any more than your soul can.

And there it is. There was no divorce, no fighting, only a deeper understanding of what my marital legend had been blathering on about for the last twenty years. The writing is beautiful with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s (the writer he most reminds me of, stylistically) elegant, lilting language.

And now I’m going to turn off the Stone’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” and change the pace. Today, I’m going to listen to Tristan und Isolde and see what it does to my soul. I could use it.

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It’s Good if You Say So and Other Thoughts of Living with a New York Times Critic

It’s good if you say so and other notes on living with a New York Times critic
I married a fancy man. I myself am not fancy: I used to ride horses and drink beer out of the bed of the truck. But some how, some way, a fancy man from New York City went into the wilds of Texas and pulled me out of the bushes, dusted me off and said, “hey gurl, drop the reins and come on with me.” And I went.

I went to work for a publishing company and by sheer proximity to all that thought and sophistication, I too started to become fancy. I read books everyone blathered about so I could blather too. I hung out at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with the fancy husband. I was great yahoo country muscle when an unhappy reviewee would want to attack him in the aisles. I’d stand up, all 6 feet 2 inches of me, and say in my yahoo voice, “fuck offffff, little buddy.” It worked out.

My fancy husband showed me his office. We were with Ben Brantley, the king of Broadway and funniest man alive. When we passed the sign that said “NY Times Critics” at the door, Ben said, “it might as well say ‘throw bombs here.” Their offices were all chaos and paper, just as you would imagine. Whiny notes about recording thefts abounded. Dilbert had arrived at The New York Times.

Shortly thereafter, on a trip to the Santa Fe Opera, I saw my fancy husband’s true colors. His sedition would have rocked that gross, dirty office of “NY Times Critics.” All his fanciness dried up in a second when I heard his response to the question, “was this opera good?”

The fancy man looked out over the theater into the hills of New Mexico and said to the music-affectionado, “It’s good if you thought it was.”

And there you have it, people. You don’t need affirmation. Art is good if it’s good for you. Period.