John Schaefer appears in the following:
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Elijah Wald is a good writer. And like most good writers, he knows a good title when he sees one; a good title will grab you and make you eager to open the book and start finding out where that title came from. So when he titled his new book How The Beatles Destroyed Rock'n'Roll, he knew just what he was doing
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I guess you can find someone to argue about virtually anything. On the face of it, who would have any problem with opera houses and orchestras trying to lure in young listeners, or with parents taking their kids to the opera or the concert hall? Worst case scenario, the kids hate it, fidget, whine that they're bored, and complain bitterly if you ever try to do that again. Best case scenario, you find kids who really respond to great music, beautifully played, and who will be the next generation of classical music players and listeners.
Monday, June 15, 2009
'Baby baby don't get hooked on me/'cause I'll just use you then I'll set you free...' Doesn't exactly sound the right romantic note for a newly-married couple, does it? And yet that was the first dance at a wedding I went to some years ago. I remember wondering, who thought that was a good idea? It was probably the strangest choice for a first dance I've ever heard, both because of its inappropriate lyrical imagery and the incontrovertible fact that the song, by any objective measure, sucks.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Far from being the Province of the Eggheads, neuroscience has turned into a wild frontier of discovery - and music plays a surprisingly large role in the neuroscientific discussion. Prior to around 1980, the field was still in its infancy. Monty Python, as far back as their Matching Tie And Handkerchief album in the mid 70s, explained that "the human brain is like an enormous fish: it's fat and slimy, and has gills through which it can see." Recent advances in neuroscience show that at least parts of that statement are inaccurate, and as our knowledge of the brain increases, so do the questions about music, and how it might come to have its undeniable, demonstrable, but still inexplicable effect on our minds.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The idea of the "Gateway" album - the album that turns you on to an artist or even a whole genre that you didn't expect to like - is a little misleading. At some point, almost every album you listen to is a gateway, if only to more albums by those artists. Still, most of us can identify a couple of albums that led us down some paths we might not have otherwise gone.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Theater critics and audience members alike are complaining about a rise in boorish behavi...
Sorry. Bored myself to sleep for a moment there. Yeah, yeah, people are ignorant, rude, loud, and uncouth. I'm afraid that's not the theater, people. That's just people. We've covered the same complaints on past shows from opera houses, concert halls, jazz clubs, even movie theaters and rock venues, where a certain amount of noise is expected, and sometimes even encouraged.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I wonder when the first song about cars was written. I'm guessing about half an hour after Henry Ford's pre-dawn test of his horseless carriage on the streets of Detroit in 1896. I mean, cars have become such a symbol of America - a complex symbol involving freedom of movement, exploration, masculinity, status, sex - that it was inevitable that we'd end up writing and singing about them.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Prince's global hit, Purple Rain, turns 25 this summer. There will be the usual gushing about the album's impact on pop culture - and really, how can you argue the point, since almost every song on it became a single, and the album came with a movie that did quite well even if critics weren't as kind to it as they were to the album.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
I have to admit that I have not seen a single one of the Tony-nominated musicals in our listener poll - so I'm really relying on you folks to steer me in the right direction there. But I'm told this was a really good year for musicals, if you happen to like that sort of thing.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
There's a striking moment in Entertainment Weekly's interview with Moby when Moby says that not only did he like the unexpected success of his global hit record Play in 1999, but he actually wanted more, and found himself chasing after that kind of success again in his subsequent records. It's a telling quote, because it says a lot about the nature of pop success. You can study the formula, perfect the techniques, combine all the right ingredients - and discover you've just reinvented the wheel, to a collective shrug and yawn.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Susan Boyle and Adam Lambert might just be the two biggest names on television this year, the former in the UK, the latter here. Both are losers. In two apparently stunning upsets (the media in both countries had already anointed both the winners of their respective reality TV shows), Adam Lambert was NOT named our new American Idol, and Susan Boyle did not win in the final of Britain's Got Talent.
Monday, June 01, 2009
First he was Steven Georgiou, but he became world famous as Cat Stevens. Songs like "Peace Train," "Wild World," "Morning Has Broken," "Moon Shadow," and a host of others made Cat Stevens one of the most familiar names in music. Then in 1977, he became Yusuf Islam, converting to Islam and leaving the music world for nearly 30 years. When he returned, with 2006's An Other Cup, it was with a slightly shorter name - just Yusuf.
Friday, May 29, 2009
All this month on our series Sound Off we've been looking at Noise. We live with it, sometimes it feels like we live IN it, and it affects everything from the music we hear to the way we shop. But what if we literally could turn all the sound off?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Now that Memorial Day has unofficially started the summer season, it doesn't take long for all the summer festivals to get their schedules out. Celebrate Brooklyn, in Prospect Park, has a particularly good-looking lineup this summer, but of course the usual suspects - Central Park SummerStage, the River To River Festival, and Midsummer Night Swing, to name just a few - have a wealth of concerts for the those who have a little less wealth this year.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Reggaeton might just be the most successful cultural export from Puerto Rico since Ricky Martin. But if Puerto Rican authorities had had their way back in the late 90s, this hard-driving style, with its often hardcore lyrics, would never have made it to 2004, when Daddy Yankee's out-of-nowhere hit "Gasolina" made reggaeton matter in the US. For years, reggaeton was seen by the authorities as a low-class, no-morals blight on society. It actually reminds me of another style of music... wait, which one was it again... Hip-hop? Jazz? Tango? Ragtime? The Waltz? Oh wait - I remember. It was ALL OF THEM!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Rock has become so good at grand, anthemic statements - the kind that can fill a stadium with 60,000 screaming fans - that it already operates on a grand opera-like stage. So you might well ask, why would anyone bother to make a "rock opera." But rockers have been trying for over 40 years to do just that. Now, The Who's Tommy is marking its 40th anniversary as still the best-known "Rock Opera"; and Green Day is getting raves for the new 21st Century Breakdown, also billed as a rock opera.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Despite being a lifelong Yankee fan, I have not gone to a live game in several years. Yeah, it's too expensive, but it's also just too loud. You don't realize it when you're watching at home but the music blares from the speakers virtually anytime the ball isn't in play. That's traditionally when we'd get to discuss strategy and compare notes on who's doing well and who's not and how in our softball game last week we got a clutch hit in just this situation... I'm fine with "Enter Sandman" when Mariano Rivera comes in to save a ballgame, and "New York New York" when the game is over, but the music nowadays is relentless. This is all in an attempt to whip the crowd up, to convince us we're excited and having a good time - even if the game is a blowout. And most of the music is crap.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
It sounds like a joke, so it was no surprise that when we first learned of music being used as an "enhanced interrogation technique" there were lots of jokes to be heard. But we're not talking about being in a store and feeling like the music being piped in is going to drive you crazy. We are talking about music deliberately being used in way that can drive you crazy. You can walk out of a store; prisoners cannot escape from the loud onslaught of the music they're subjected to.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
You've probably never given a second thought to the page-turner sitting or standing unobtrusively behind the pianist at a concert - and that's the way it should be. Page-turners, and their opera counterparts, the prompters, are like offensive linemen in football: you only notice them when they do something wrong. Their job is to be invisible, and to enable the star to do his/her job, whether that's negotiating a long and difficult sonata, or surviving the murderous charge of a 300-pound linebacker clad in hard plastic armor.