Monday, March 30, 2009

The Haunted Musical Mind, as Usual

Stu and I went to a University Symphony concert yesterday afternoon (at the finely appointed and trimly scaled Battell Chapel, instead of the cavernous full concert hall) that featured Dvorak's Serenade for Strings; consequently I've had the second movement waltzing wistfully through my head for the past thirty hours. (Thankfully I can listen to the Naxos Music Library at work and thus can generally scratch whatever non-John-Adams classical itches I acquire on a daily basis.) This movement might be the most spellbinding thing Dvorak wrote, aside from the slow movement of the New World Symphony; I hadn't listened to it for a while and had forgotten this. I have a bell-clear memory of hearing it for the first time, in Vienna while Nate was there, and having the same reaction to it then. Best available YouTube would appear to be here.

Elsewhere on the program, Jonny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver (of There Will Be Blood soundtrack fame) -- effective and impressively sonorous in concert; Paul Dukas's Fanfare to "La Peri," sounding with a little roughness and elephantine honesty that goes quite well with the exotic harmonies (had chills through all 3 1/2 minutes, first time that's happened in a while); Mozart's Serenade no. 12 for winds, with a great first movement and a fine last movement and a lot of standard-issue wind serenade in between.

I finally got around to watching Nate's birthday gift to me from last year, which is the DVD of filmmaker Bill Morrison's Decasia, a reel of uncannily apocalyptic decayed film stock from the early twentieth century, set to an orchestral wash of nightmare minimalism composed by Michael Gordon. This involves being haunted in a completely different fashion: less gentle melancholy, more having the alarm bells in the base of your brain jangled for aesthetic purposes. I've still got chromatically dysfunctional nuns flashing before the back of my eyes. I would recommend watching Decasia with the caveat that you have really come to like atonal orchestral music: you've got to be in a mindset to savor some extreme severity. Still and all it's the good kind of edgy, and it makes a lot of hay from the way you're used to interpreting film visuals as reasonably faithful to real life. Creepy!


Blogger Dan B. said...

We saw a bit of Decasia for my film class, along with some readings talking about this (it was a week on film preservation). Strangely compelling, like looking through a stranger's photobook.

3/30/2009 11:57 PM  

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