Saturday, January 27, 2007

books and books

One of the things about last year's change of scenery that has been a benefit to me is having time to read without distraction (some distractions were quite good and others more in the tedious category, like free-way noise). So I have finished a couple of books in the last few months about which I hope to blog some in the future.

One of them is a little book called This is Your Brain on Music. For years I have felt convinced that music is as much a function of the perceiving mind as anything else and that musical form is shaped by a mixture of physiological and mental parameters.

Another book, obviously, was the dissertation on Koshkin's music and still another book, that came out two years ago, is about Olivier Messiaen, which I hope to get into shortly.

And some books are of a greater vintage. I recently read Proverbs 17:6 (I think) which says, roughly, "grandchildren are the crown of old age and a child's glory is his parents". This has gotten me thinking. How many Americans view their parents as a source of glory? Even among professing Christians? Many, I suppose, but our culture is saturated with the motif of parents who don't get it (whatever "it" happens to be); or stifle the true nature of the child who then has to rebel to assert identity; or who can't keep their own lives together enough to be of much use to the kids.

The trouble with interpreting wisdom literature as that proverbs are just what they are. Ecclesiastes can be seen as a lengthy study in Koholeth measuring one proverb against another to test the limits of what the wisdom literature can reveal. Many times parents are not everything they should be and yet Proverbs 17:6 is still there. So what does that mean? Not really sure but it's food for thought. One thing is certain, if we spiritualize the proverb by talking about our Heavenly Father we miss the point of the proverb by skipping the first and plainest meaning of the text.

postscript on the review

A bit of information that guitarists may want to know regarding Koshkin's work. Because he has focal dystonia Koshkin isn't playing concerts or playing guitar much at all anymore and there are some pieces he has composed but never played. Chief among these is his Sonata for solo guitar, which Elena Papendreou has recorded. There are also a couple of pieces for flute and guitar that, to my knowledge, no Americans have recorded. So if any of you ambitious classical guitarists out there in pro-land want to tackle his guitar sonata go for it. I'd like to see a recording of the flute/guitar sonata that gets done state-side, too.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

short review of G. Cain Budds' dissertation on Nikita Koshkin

Wow! I can say that now that I know his dissertation is out there for people to read I don't NEED to blog so much about Koshkin's music. Most of what is available to be read about Koshkin's work is only in the form of what Matanya Ophee might call "liner notes musicology". For living composers who want some kind of private life this is as inevitable as it is understandable. The only downside is that this often means a detailed study of the work of a living composer doesn't really happen unless the composer is sufficiently a super-star to be considered worthy of the attention.

This dissertation adds to what you could read in liner notes by including a lot of basic biographical material that isn't available elsewhere by way of interviews the author conducted with Koshkin by various means of correspondance. He also includes a structural and thematic analysis of six of Koshkin's major works for solo guitar. With the exception of The Porcelain Tower these are all works you can order through Guitare Diffusion if you can't drive or can find at a well-stocked local vendor. This book is something I'd like to see have a more commercial release than just having a handful of copies through ProQuest UMI. This book is, if not all by itself, the first and only significant published written study of Koshkin's music, is also a candidate for what I would consider to be a pretty good popular level introduction to Koshkin's music for musicians in general. There are ample extracts from scores and the discography and list of published works is solid.

The only things I wish could be added to research on Koshkin's music is that someone would investigate his chamber music. I may just have to do that myself.

For the sake of trivia I found it fun and funny that Koshkin's favorite rock bands included The Rolling Stones, Yes, Pinkfloyd, and most of all Led Zeppelin! It's just more proof that musicology departments should be able to account for how the "high" and "low" in music in the contemporary scene cross-pollinate.

One word of warning, the dissertation as published is NOT cheap.