Fascinating look at the effects of technology on how music is played and heard.
Philip begins his book with a riveting description of concerts at the turn of the last century. "Freedom from disaster was the standard for a good concert," he writes. Rehearsals were brief, mishaps routine. Precision was not a universal value. Pianists rolled chords instead of playing them at one stroke. String players slid expressively from one note to the next--portamento, the style was called--in imitation of the slide of the voice. And the instruments themselves sounded different, depending on the nationality of the player. French bassoons had a reedy, pungent tone, quite unlike the rounded timbre of German bassoons. French flutists, by contrast, used more vibrato than their German and English counterparts, creating a warmer, mellower aura. American orchestral culture, which brought together immigrant musicians from all countries, began to erode the differences, and recordings canonized the emergent standard practice. Whatever style sounded cleanest on the medium--in these cases, German bassoons and French flutes--became the gold standard that players in conservatories copied. Young virtuosos today may have recognizable idiosyncrasies, but their playing seldom indicates that they came from any particular place or emerged from any particular tradition.
The books discussed in the article: Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music, Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording, Performing Music in the Age of Recording. The first one includes a companion CD to illustrate points in the book, which is pretty cool.
After Godspeed You Black Emperor, the band I've most wanted to see live is Apocalyptica. On September 23rd, I will finally do so. Awesome!
In other fanboy news, Neil Gaiman will be here for a book signing in either September or October.
Some cool information about the upcoming Complete Calvin & Hobbes - it's going to have some new art and an introductory essay by Watterson. The publisher is also soliciting questions for Watterson from readers on their website (direct link to PDF); this involves dealing with paper and pen and something called the Post Office as no electronic submissions are being accepted. (via.)
Interesting tidbit in this article - Tom Stoppard helped out with dialogue for the new Star Wars film. Dammit, I'm starting to think the rumors of not-sucking might actually be true. (In other news, my Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead DVD just came. Can't wait to watch it again.)