On Saturday I trekked down to the ritzy and conservative "O.C." to see Cho Liang Lin play the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic (no, Mischa Barton and Adam Brody were not in the audience. Neither, for that matter, was Peter Gallagher. Could these O.C. characters really not exist? Or live in the O.C.? Or attend classical music concerts there?!? Wait, aren't these the names of the actors? I'm so confused.). Moving on, though: The last time I saw the Moscow Phil, it was at Tilles Center, a large comfy hall on the suburban north shore of Long Island that isn't too different than Orange Country in terms of average annual income and real-estate tax medians. How strange that this storied band, known for providing the soundtrack to the Soviet Union's post-Stalin years, regularly tours these monied American burbs so agressively. Is it because they're low-pressure venues where only one critic may be sitting in the audience and the majority of listeners aren't likely to be too curmudggeonly? Is it because the venues pay a lot of money? Or that the orchestra simply can't get better gigs in rooms like Carnegie and Disney? I think it's a combination. The real question is: How did the concert come off and do these musicians deserve to play in more so-called prestigious halls after years of modern-day mediocrity? Read the brief L.A. Times review below (i.e. I wish I could have gotten into more depth on the issue of how the group has been watered down over the years, but I think it's clear that all old hardliners simply die out and eventually require replacement).
Posted on January 31, 2005 at 08:47 AM | Permalink
Not to get anyone in my family in trouble, and not to imply that Alex Ross's reaction to Blair Tindall's forthcoming book isn't ridiculously funny (good show, Alex), but in my music school days (and since) I have seen too many classical musicians who fit Tindall's mold: always high, often drunk, definitely promiscuous, and all-out morally defunct. It's just that Classicals (and that's what I'll call them in opposition to Rockers) aren't demonstrative about their vices -- they had to have learned something being mentally beaten to the ground by taskmasters inside conservatory music-lesson studios. And what they learned, instead, is: only fraternize amongst your kind and self-destruct privately. On stage, at night, they have to project the illusion of decorum, so they have something to gain by keeping stuff quiet. Rockers enjoy the opposite power. They're rewarded for kicking amps across stages and nailing roadies in public. All I can say is if I had a penny for every true story I've heard about some coked-up young female classical performer sleeping with a lecherous power monger, be him a musician or administrator, I'd be one moderately middleclass blogger. So, too, for crazy drug use across the pit, and lots of incestuous "favors" that often lead people into new gigs and beyond... Who would have loved it more than Mozart? Rock on, mothafuckas.
Posted on January 27, 2005 at 07:28 AM | Permalink
Um, why in God's name, was Paul Giamatti snubbed by the Academy two years in a row? I mean, I know it's a shock that Don Cheadle could go from the worst cockney accent ever in the history of film (Ocean's Eleven and Twelve) to a compelling force of social change (Hotel Rwanda). Still, maybe the powers that be could have made some room for the one movie actor in recent years to give voice to a writer's true feelings? Too, I believe Clint Eastwood has impressive presence in Million Dollar Baby, but clearly a nod for Best Director would have been enough -- it's not like the youngins voting on these guys never saw that character on celluloid. More nominees.
Posted on January 25, 2005 at 09:08 AM | Permalink
I had been in Hollywood far too long not to have somehow ended up in the Capitol Records Building already. It finally happened yesterday, however, and under the best of circumstances. I had been invited to observe a recording session for a hit TV show that shall remain nameless until I publish the assignment that won me access. And what a pleasure to be there, and not because I'm a huge fan of the show, or an ooh-ahh oggler of Hollywood movie-music magic (and I tend to be both from time to time). No, my reaction to the experience was colored more by the working relationships I observed -- the working environment that the musicians and control room personnel (from composers and orchestrators to editors and producers) enjoy. A musician friend in the band is, like me, a product of the tightly wound classical conservatory environment. But as we would later discuss over a post-session salad, playing in the Hollywood studios is anything but tense. The control room is full of jokesters who seem to work better under pressure when relaxed (and there's a lot of pressure on you when you have three hours, and three hours only, to record newly composed music for a weekly show on a budget of $16,000). The conductor -- and he could do a lot more than keep time, believe me -- kept lightening moods to get the best out of his musicians. And the only mildly tense people in the place where some of the (younger) players -- perhaps because as my friend and I would agree, it's just pretty damn hard to take the conservatory out of the conservatory musician. Loyalty -- a foreign ideal to people who pay the bills writing for glossy magazines, trading stocks, or marketing cellphones like Topher Grace in his pat new feel-good flick seducing audiences to endure its hammy dialogue day after day -- is still a part of the Hollywood movie music process. People still get hired because, well, they're nice. And in the end the results are pretty damn good. So good I send this call out to any seriously trained young musicians feeling boxed in or trapped by the orchestral audition route. If you're interested in freelancing -- if you're friendly; if you're openminded to new, expressive ways to use your instrument; if you won't give yourself a terminal anxiety attack about the fact that by your particular age you should be playing Mahler in the third chair of a second-tier American orchestra, etc. -- maybe you should think about playing music for the entertainment industry. It's not easy to break into, but by all acounts it's not as crazy-hard as it seems, and there's definitely a resurgence of original score-writing that's necessitating qualified musicians. What's more, the people I know who do it feel satisfied -- both musically and financially. Yes, I said financially. Shocked? Read about union residuals -- old-schoolers get yearly checks for over $200K -- and stay tuned for more reports from the Hollywood TV and movie music scene as I delve deeper.
Posted on January 25, 2005 at 07:27 AM | Permalink
[Disclaimer: The following text may seem evangelical. Move on if you're frightened.]
I have never been one of those people who can adopt to a new way of life and become a spokesperson for it. I just can't seem to believe in something more than I believe in myself. And rest assured, I laugh like the rest of us born skeptics when I drive past the terribly funny Scientology Celebrity Center on Franklin Avenue. But I don't think getting into yoga is the same thing exactly, and I'm not *so into it that I could ever be a spokesperson (in fact getting somewhat into it over the past few weeks has reminded me how troubling it is that the political spin in this world has forced me to be a skeptic individualist who refuses to join, to listen even!, much more than he should for the sake of his health and ability to learn). And so I urge you -- if you sit at computers for extended periods of time, if you let superiors walk all over you and make you jump every minute to do their jobs for them, if you overthink anything at all, if you feel like you're trapped in a certain lifestyle, if your body hurts anywhere -- take a look at yogajournal.com and see about getting into a class. It's hard, it hurts, and if you're like me, you may think yourself unfit for it. But I have finally -- after many years of laughing at the technique -- gotten past the point of saying no to finding relaxation in my breath, to finding ways of managing stress in intense stretching. It works if you're open to it. And above all else, this stuff will make your back, shoulders, and neck feel better in a way that lifting weights and cardio never will. Take it from a hard-boiled New Yorker critic-type who spat in the face of all things "new age" from the day he was born and weathered serious life-threatening illnesses at inappropraitely young ages. This will help you feel physically better than you currently do as well as react to this troubling world in ways that are much less self-destructive than whatever you're doing now.
Posted on January 21, 2005 at 05:59 AM | Permalink
Putting a concert like Christian Tetzlaff's latest journey through Bach's Sonatas and Partitas into a series package entitled "Baroque Variations" isn't unlike putting Picasso's cubist paintings in a luxury hotel exhibition entitled "Pretty pictures from the 20th century that, um, make you think." Still, that's how the show, which happened last Sunday night, got packaged by the entertainers at Disney Hall. And that could be partly why the thoughtful German fiddler whose impatience thankfully doesn't reveal itself in his music seemed miffed from the get-go. Read the post-continuation below to find out just how differently he played his Bach. And find out why very few audience members called him out for an ovation they would never get.
Posted on January 19, 2005 at 07:56 AM | Permalink
So I've added some links to the blogroll without mentioning them, and I'm thinking that wasn't such a great idea, especially because they deserve your attention.
Chromasia is an award-winning photoblog by David J. Nightingale. On it you will find beautiful pictures. I'd elaborate but in this case less is more. Check it out.
The eponymous Angry John Sellers is an equally personal blog produced by a very funny magazine writer in Brooklyn. I recently met him at a magazine dinner (we contribute to the same publication) and am proud to say he made me feel like I have a lot to learn. Watch for his forthcoming book on indie rock.
Radosh, brought to us by Daniel Radosh, the writer of many thought-provoking New Yorker Talk stories among other things, continues to inspire with issues disparate ranging from Scarlett Johannsen, porn, and neo-Nazis to the iPod shuffle, Dan Rather, and Malcom Gladwell.
Megnut, a great techie I have yet to meet, offers me recipes, tech rumors, cultural opinions, and photoblogging info I find indispensable and entertaining.
And James Wolcott, well, what to say about James Wolcott? Do you know who he is? He's crazy. He's brilliant. He's offensive. He's not. He's a Vanity Fair columnist who thinks he's God, and quite often he can persuade you that he's right.
Posted on January 15, 2005 at 09:08 PM | Permalink
After I read that, like me, Alex Ross had fallen sway to J.J. Abrams mania, I got in touch with him about our affliction. I explained both that "Lost" has such a hold on me that it's affecting my sleep, and that I'm really happy that the music, written by Michael Giacchino, is blissfully written and recorded weekly -- a virtue for Hollywood studio musicians swallowing the reality TV tsunami. Alex countered by reminding me that it's the music that's probably inspiring my entertainingly cinematic nightmares, and I've got to say now after a thorough night of dream-logging that he's right. What's even more great about "Lost," though, is that it beats reality TV at its own game. It nods sarcastically in the direction of castaway copycats like "Survivor" and proves that fictional televison and the dramatic music that drives it wins in the end. Real life just ain't as exciting as what John Locke may be up to. Sad, perhaps, but true.
Posted on January 14, 2005 at 09:44 AM | Permalink
Today, in my L.A. Times review of Itzhak Perlman's recent Disney Hall recital -- see the post-continuation below to read the text -- I take note of a certain Perlman quality that has kept him both more marketable and memorable than any other violin recitalist of his generation (Gidon Kremer, aside). The quality is powerful character, and I'm not just talking about his mensch-y charm or lame music-teacher humor ("I asked Beethoven why he hadn't written in a while; he told me he was 'decomposing'"). I'm talking about his very real ability to comfort people. To provide charismatic leadership. The gift became supremely evident Monday night. For some reason or another -- Perlman later found out it had something to do with the rain pummeling Frank Gehry's "masterpiece" -- a frighteningly blaring emergency alarm sounded during Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata. Expectedly Perlman stopped playing, and audience members rose to their feet, looking to each other for cues on whether or not to evacuate. Then many eyes returned to Perlman, who sat firmly in his chair, smiled calmly, and personified solidity. As the people seated behind me uttered comments like, "Oh god, It's another 9/11," Perlman held them still with a steady glance and sturdy posture. He wasn't going anywhere, and neither were you. It was at this moment that I remembered how Israeli Perlman is. How used to random trauma he is. To unrest. To standing strong in the face of it. Of course the concert eventually continued. But not because a member of the Disney Hall staff calmed things down. No. Perlman willed everyone to relax alone. Silently. Then he went on playing. He'd later joke about the experience, the rain, how silly L.A. can be. But I didn't forget how serious he had turned some thirty minutes before. How people look to him for more than smaltzy showpieces. How the most exceptional artists must be a leaders -- even when the music stops. [See the review below.]
Posted on January 12, 2005 at 08:08 AM | Permalink
The list is life. Or something like it. In any case, all 24 of my intriguing product finds from CES are up on Cargomag.com. If you think it's just product porn, you're not alone. But I urge you to take a look and think about how some of these innovations will change your life for the better. It's not magalogue writing if it actually educates and helps improve your daily routine in the process.
Posted on January 11, 2005 at 11:02 AM | Permalink
Multi-media cultural critiques that chart how culture or entertainment behaves differently on different platforms -- from iPods to plasma televisions and everything in between -- are what initially got me into technology. That's why this latest piece for Cargo -- about the best movies, SACDs, and DVD-As for your home theater -- was so natural for me to write. I got to discuss how cultural content influences and works with technology and vice versa. Granted I couldn't get very detailed, and I also picked some movies to appeal to a broad audience (although, I might also argue that in these formats they're more appealing). Still, I didn't compromise on audio or video quality -- and I tested nearly every surround-sound release. The point: that if you're into home theaters, confused by the aforementioned media formats, or just generally curious about new ways to enjoy (and hopefully deconstruct the meaning of) music and movies at home, you'll hopefuly find the roundup worth your time. Thanks for reading, as always.
[Image via Cargomag.com]
Posted on January 10, 2005 at 06:58 PM | Permalink
According to the trusted folks over at Engadget, President George W. Bush owns an iPod. Is this a joke or will liberal-leaning iLifers have to reconsider the statement their hardware makes about them? (Click through the great B&W photo gallery until you see W. prepping his white cube -- God, to just imagine what's on it! -- for his bike ride around the district.)
Posted on January 10, 2005 at 04:34 PM | Permalink
Since I've arrived at CES (this is Day Five for me), I've felt awfully David Foster Wallace about the whole event. For those who don't quite get the reference, DFW has an uncanny ability to humorously deconstruct in significant detail the troubling nature of large modern societal constructs: the luxury cruise, the American state fair, etc. CES falls into that category, and that's not surprising. It's a self-sustaining eco-system made of press-room helpers, terrifyingly articulate spokesmodels, salesmen, retail buyers, engineers, public relations executives, MBAs, journalists, entertainers, and, of course, the people who make it all happen: the convention center crew. But what's most surprising about the event, and this reminds me how much more DFW the whole experience has become, is what it has done to my brain. I escape back to my luxury hotel and have trouble relaxing. I run to my laptop for the latest Virtual Press Room Updates. I order mass-produced faux gourmet food to eat as I surf other journalists' accounts of the same experience. I play with the USB flash drives that companies have doled out to me (an efficient means to pass along a press kit as well as a little admitted payola). And above all, as I look downhill at the end of this ride (I leave tomorrow night), I feel a bit sad. DFW's hit essay about luxury cruises enjoys the title "A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again." I was quick to think this way upon arriving here. But what I'm realizing is that save my considerable foot and back pain -- not to mention the gastrointestinal discomfort that eating catered food will produce -- I could see myself doing this again, and probably will. I'm finding myself addicted to the process. A little shot of adrenaline shoots through my veins as the doors to the press room open in the morning. I'm enjoying the warm cream cheese, the mediocre coffee, the company of foreign trade journalists with their wrinkled smiles and weathered travel satchels. I'm a little depressed it might end. And yet there's nothing I'd rather have right now than the freedom I enjoy in my regular day-to-day life. It's as if I'm trapped in a virtual world and learning how to adapt to it. I'd be glad to leave but the transition back to normalcy frightens me. And that's what the convention symbolizes most, the impression it will leave with me. It's mind-control via organized madness. It's residency in a new form of society. And it's not particularly keen to people who don't want to pledge their commitment to its organizing principles. When I return to L.A., I will undoubtedly feel withdrawal. It will be welcome as better physical and mental health surely await. But I'm pretty sure the adjustment will hurt awfully bad just the same.
P.S. More (genuinely) intriguing product finds to be perpetually found at Cargomag.com until Wednesday of next week.
Posted on January 08, 2005 at 09:09 AM | Permalink
CES is so ridiculously large that it proved impossible for someone covering the show (me) to make it into Bill Gates's Microsoft press event. How disappointing because lo and behold, as I learned on CES TV (which streams right into my Westin hotel TV, thank god!), Conan O'Brien had been installed to interview the leader of America's technocracy. I'm not suprised. Conan shares a fascination with geekdom, and I was equally interested in getting to see Gates (meeting him here would have been a crazily unrealistic proposition). But upon watching the faux interview on CES TV, I've got to say: Conan didn't seem too comfortable feeding Gates the leading questions they had probably worked out beforehand. It looked like he felt a bit bought. As he should have. Otherwise the convention is pretty conventional: wonky salesmen trying to do their best imitations of Trump's aggro Apprentice contestants, hot Vegas blondes decked out in tight-fitting outfits in order to entrap press and buyers (at one booth, a California theme found one middle aged tech rep taking pictures on a surfboard with a bikini-clad Korean girl who, I surmise, we were supposed to imagine was Polynesian). I also skipped a porn party at the Hard Rock last night in trade for some much-needed rest. I hear the two conventions merge more casually later this weekend, and I'm curious to see the results. No doubt I'll have some bawdy company on my flight back to Burbank Sunday night (Burbank, if you're new to Cali geography, is the the San Fernando Valley's premiere landing strip). Cheers for now.
P.S. See my new product finds at Cargomag.com.
Posted on January 07, 2005 at 08:38 AM | Permalink
I didn't know what to make of the Consumer Eletronics Show (CES), when I arrived at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday. I was early -- present for preview press events -- so the virtual metropolis of Best Buys that have taken over Desert Inn Road had yet to stock their goods. I've since: watched this world populate itself; attended far too many press conferences; met MTV Pimp My Ride stars; worn alien necklaces; ate far too much catered food; almost been run over by a team of tech-reviewing handicapped-scooter drivers; seen 70 inch plasma tvs that could very well be portals into another dimension; witnessed the bellowing chairman of Sirius satellite radio lash out, George W. Bush-style, at a heckler in the crowd who kept screaming at him to speak louder (as my editor said to me, "What's his beef?" -- is the satellite radio game so fierce that competing companies are installing hecklers to interrupt press conferences?); ate far too much catered food; listened to technology executives talk about how their companies aren't in business to make money but rather to "do the right thing" (I'll save this company the embarassment of identification); enjoyed meeting my colleagues (community is sorely lacking in the world of the freelance writer); ate far too much catered food; and actually seen a lot of new technologies that intrigue me. For instance, Blu-Ray discs, which will hold 50 GB of secure media data, and fuel-cells that will let laptops run for what seems like years (or at least nearly a week). Log onto Cargo's Web site for a look at what I've been finding, and stay tuned for reports on meeting Jackie Chan and watching people snowboard in front of a convention center in the service of selling new Motorola cellphones.
P.S. Perhaps the funniest conflation of the week: the country's biggest porn industry convention is happening at the same time just a few blocks away. Nerds and pornstars. Who ever thought they'd rule the world? (Um, everyone!)
Posted on January 06, 2005 at 09:23 AM | Permalink
So the holiday is over, and we must all return back to real life. Except this week I won't be returning to whatever version of real life I have been known to enjoy but rather boring to the center of the tech world's version of real life: a huge convention in Vegas replete with appearances by Chingy, Bill Gates, the West Coast Customs Crew, a few Sopranos wiseguys, and of course Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. Yes, this week I'll be in Vegas reporting on the annual Consumer Electronics Show, and thankfully I won't have to get too techy on *glassShallot because these days the tech world is such a favorite booty call for Hollywood, the media, the music industry, and so much else, I'm bound to turn up some pretty entertaining conflations of characters and -- what would we do without them? -- conglomerate conflicts of interest. Let the spin fly, and I'll return to you soon from Sin City.
Posted on January 03, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink