Friday, June 29, 2007

Combining Four-letter Words: Oboe + Blog


I received an email about my post In Which David Is Confused By The Second Coming. This concerned a piece of hip-hop music, The Second Coming by Juelz Santana, which quotes the Dies Irae. It was used in a television commercial for basketball shoes. I can tell you, it confused the hell out of me when I first heard it.

That post has gotten more hits than any Mixed Meters post ever. When you're one of the first to write online about a subject many people are actually interested in, I guess that's what happens. This wave of hits rose up and carried Mixed Meters along for a while, giving me a whole new understanding of the phrase "Surfing the Internet".

Anyway - like I was saying...

I received an email about my post on Nike/Dies Irae/Juelz Santana from Susan Spector. Susan plays oboe at the Met in New York City. That means she wears black clothing and sits in the big hole in front of the stage where only people in the first few rows can see her. Here is her picture from her blog Perfect Pitch showing the proper way to hold an oboe. What a grip.

On deck, Susan Spector hold Oboe SluggerObviously a blog called Perfect Pitch is about BASEBALL Duh. Specifically her blog is about her team, the Mets. Susan is a big fan of the Mets.

Let's review: Susan plays at the Met and she roots for the Mets. What were the chances?

What brings
  • Hip Hop and
  • Baseball and the
  • Dies Irae and an
  • Opera Orchestra Oboist
all together in one post? I'm glad you asked.

Well, The Second Coming, that same music from the Nike commercial, is being used to rouse the Mets fans into something approaching excitement at their home games. Susan's first reaction, not unlike mine, was confusion. She has a good deal more to say about The Second Coming story and the meaning of the Dies Irae. Read her Perfect Pitch Post entitled Day of Wrath here.


In a more recent MM post Rich Critic, Poor Critic, I asked whether there were any female music critics out there. Another blogging-oboist (or oboe-playing-blogger), Patty Mitchell of OboeInsight, added a comment alerting me to the history of female music critics in the Bay Area. She also mentioned NY Times' critic Anne Midgette. Thanks Patty.

(Later without any help I remembered music critic Donna Perlmutter here in Southern California.)

In Patty's blog I found this article entitled To: Guy Who Screamed Obscentities at the Ballet the Other Night which links to a too-good-to-pass-up story told in this Craigslist posting.

Here's a sample.
It was then you yelled, in your beautiful gray-haired old crotchety man voice, "WILL YOU PEOPLE SIT DOWN AND LET THE *POLITE* PEOPLE SHOW THEIR APPRECIATION?!," slight pause, "YA ASSHOLES!"
Just read the whole thing for yourself. Gentility lives at the Ballet. At least the recent fist fight in Boston was at a Pops concert.

the RAT

On Sunday, June 24, at my local Pasadena Starbucks I picked up an abandoned copy of the New York Times Arts & Leisure section. The featured column-one article was "Music That Thinks Outside the Chamber". I read the first few paragraphs finding these striking quotes: acquaintance informed him that the two most boring words in the English language were "chamber music."
...for many people, chamber music is dead.
"Wow" I thought. "I wonder whose article this is."

I looked for a by-line. It was by none other than Anne Midgette. Since the death of classical music is turning out to be a frequent Mixed Meters theme I read on. A couple more paragraphs and I found this:
"At the moment supply outstrips demand," said John Steinmetz, a bassoonist and composer active in the chamber music field.
"Double Wow" I thought. John Steinmetz has been a close friend of mine for many decades. He and I were students together at Cal Arts, co-founders of the chamber ensemble X-tet, frequent performers of one anothers music and, these days, close neighbors (if only by the loose standards of Southern California geography). And here he was being quoted on the front page of the NYT Arts section above the fold. Way to go, John.

"I'd better read this entire article." my thoughts concluded.

(For those of you who wonder "What's a Bassoon?" imagine four oboes laid end to end and twisted around the body of the performer. This picture shows a somewhat younger John Steinmetz playing one.)

L to R: Richard Emmet, John Steinmetz, Frank Zappa, David Ocker early 80s
Anne Midgette's article dealt mainly with people playing chamber music in "non traditional spaces" Um, that means "bars".

Fine. Let's give this idea another try. In 1976, when John and I were studying at Cal Arts, the chamber ensemble Tashi (including my clarinet teacher Richard Stoltzman) played The Quartet For The End of Time at the Bottom Line in New York City. That concert was big news back then. Yep. And it really changed everything in the world of chamber music. Nothing's ever been the same since.

Apparently Anthony Braxton shared the bill with Tashi at the Bottom Line.

Oboe+Blog Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Anne Midgette's fascinating 2002 article, A Critical Difference about being a woman and a music critic is here. (Thanks to Diva341 for pointing this out.)

The "Beats The Hell Outa Playing the Oboe" picture came from Roboflutist

Another MM post, entitled Who Is Weiden-Kennedy Anyway?, about a different Nike television commercial which used religious-themed classical music to sell basketball shoes.

Here's an article about the 2008 reunion of Tashi.

The picture of Richard Emmet, John Steinmetz, Frank Zappa and myself - and others like it - can be found on Richard Emmet's website.

X-tet's website can be found here.

John Steinmetz's website can be found here. He has been mentioned previously in Mixed Meters here and here. The little metal rat sculpture was given to me by John years ago. You'll have to ask him what it signified and why he wanted me to have it.

OJ and the RAT

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