Classical Music

Play That Funky Music

Ever since starting this blog, people in and out of the industry have been super nice to help me along the way – either sharing their thoughts on music, suggesting new music or composers to try or even offering recommendations on blogs to follow so I can learn more about the classical music industry. It’s all been appreciated more than you can imagine. I’ve learned a lot so far and have met some wonderful people – be that online or in person.

One recommended blog to follow is that of Lisa Hirsch: Iron Tongue of Midnight. Based in San Francisco, she critiques opera performances and writes about all aspects of the classical music world. She also has a lot of good things to say about website maintenance in the arts world.

Well last week, she asked me for my mailing address, which made me think she wanted to send a copy of something, maybe a mix-CD? A photocopy of something? I had no idea. We’ve never met so who knows? Well this week, I had quite the surprise show up on my doorstep: Alex Ross’ book The Rest is Noise and four music CDs. WOW!


It’s all about 20th century music. Alex Ross’ book puts all this 20th century music into historical context which is perfect for me since I love history. I’m only 30-40 pages into it so far, but it’s very well-written and I look forward to sitting down at a cafe this afternoon to delve further into it. As for the music, it’s all new to me. I’d heard of Pierre Boulez (as a conductor) and I’d just heard my first music by Messiaen a couple of weeks ago thanks to a concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, but otherwise, I had know idea who these people were or what this music was.

I was floored – I told her I didn’t know what to say since this was such a generous gift. We’d only just connected on Facebook, so I doubt she knew this, but today’s my birthday, so this turned out to be a fantastic birthday present!  🙂

Here’s what she sent:

Pierre Boulez: Sur Incises – Messagesquisse – Anthèmes 2

Esa-Pekka Salonen: out of Nowhere

Magnus Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto / Gran Duo / Chorale

Messiaen: Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps

Knowing of my preference for Early, Baroque and Classical music, Christopher Blair of Akustiks called this some challenging listening for me! He’s right!

I’ll be honest – I probably grabbed my chair out of sheer panic the first time I heard some of the clarinet concerto. And while I’ve not at all listened to all of this yet, I did listen to some of the Messagesquisse while at work this week.  These are a few of my first impressions that I jotted down while listening to it:

  • Oh man – a violin piece just started.  Sounds like it’s either tuning or just hitting random notes.
  • It would be great in the context of a scary movie – like a crazy, European, messed up, truly disturbing, mind **** of a movie, e.g. A Serbian Film or something of that ilk.
  • I feel like I should be sneaking around trying to scare people right now while this is playing.
  • Either that or running for my life!
  • I feel paranoid, almost frightened, like I should be attempting to move through the office unseen, sneaking from desk to desk until I get to a door to make my escape.
  • I think I like this one
  • Don’t look now, but…
  • I can picture an evil, mad scientist dancing in the room

I think Lisa might have gotten a kick out of my initial reaction!

I’m pretty sure I kept looking over my shoulder for a good couple of hours after listening to that!

I read once that Janet Leigh never again took a shower – only baths – after filming Psycho. Maybe it had nothing to do with Norman Bates and everything to do with Bernard Herrmann’s music score. Something to consider, anyway.

This is four CD’s worth of really funky, weird, discordant music that I would never have bought for myself, but am so thrilled that I now have an opportunity to hear. I feel like I’m conducting an independent study of 20th century classical music. And once I get over my initial shock, I may grow to truly like some of this. Who knows? That said, you have to give a lot of credit to Pierre Boulez – to illicit such an emotional response is testament to the power of music. No words, no threats, no other people did that, only his music did that: generated all sorts of crazy thoughts and (fortunately temporarily) paranoid feelings. Whether I end up “liking” it or not is almost irrelevant. It’s powerful music!

While I’m not sure if I’m going to “lay down the boogie and play that funky music ’til tI die”, I am certainly going to enjoy listening to this funky music, that’s for sure.

Thanks for the great present, Lisa!

3 thoughts on “Play That Funky Music

  1. You’re so welcome!

    I subconsciously knew your birthday was coming up, because Google+ helpfully sticks contacts’ birthdays on my Google calendar when that information is public! But the real inspiration was that you liked the Messiaen you heard at the CSO.

    Most of the music is 21st century, it occurs to me. sur Incises, the big Boulez piece, is from maybe 2000? Barely 21st c., but the Lindberg and Salonen concertos are more recent. The Quatuor is the oldest piece in the four CDs.

    The structure of each will become clearer when you’ve heard them more. I hope you get to hear them live, too. I cannot say enough times how beautiful sur Incises was live at Disney Hall.

  2. Pingback: Modern Music | Giocosity

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