The sound of a concert in its moment is the product of silent preparations and complex cultural processes: debates, projections, and decisions. The instant that precedes the first coup de baton on opening night is highly emotional, as is the winding path of events that takes a musical work to its appointment with the public and with Time. The first gesture of the baton, the attack of the first note, would be all the more vital to us if we knew the polyphony of efforts that sustain it as an act: thousands of drafts, dreams, wads of letters, correspondence between poets, editors, composers; phone calls, agreements, disagreements, and entreaties; technological evolutions of instruments, and then rejections of those changes for aesthetic reasons; the boom and collapse of entire industries, the dawn and decline of empires and nations reflected in musical form; histories of individuals and institutions transforming the landscape of sound: mothers taking note of a violin teacher’s words, high dignitaries signing decrees, musicologists restoring scores, youth orchestras traveling the world; sweat, tears, sacrifices, and discoveries, not to mention the incalculable hours of study and rehearsal… The musical moment is so rich with human content and transcendental energies (and yet so frivolous – a marvelous game) that it would be absurd not to examine it in its dense historical dimension, its more labyrinthine ramifications. Appreciating the tremendous cost of a minute of music in concert, a symphonic minute, depends on a profound understanding of one sole equation that explains everything, unique in its transparency, in its infinite philosophical and spiritual demands: the moment is eternity.
From that equation arises this weekly column, God willing, along with reviews of various concert highlights of the season. Here is a list, in no particular order, of some themes, reviews, and speculations: why did Boulez make a bunker in the 1970s… to hide?; the controversy around publisher Peter Hamilton and the music of Antonio Lauro: aftertastes of the Invincible Armada?; the recent departure of Alejandro Rodríguez, founder of Musicarte: a great loss for our music; what Dutilleux told me about his relationship with the public, and what Ligeti told me about salsa; John Adams and Peter Sellars, celebrity creators of opera, on their grand tour of El Sistema; a visit to Philip Glass’s laboratory in New York; the Tuyero harp and Venezuelan mountain Baroque: popular music or un-notated classical music? Silence and Civilization: the urban concert space as a stronghold against noise pollution; the improvisations of Gabriela Montero: masterworks of Venezuelan classicism in flight (would anyone record her 365 days a year? It would be worth it); the colonial origin of Venezuelan music: the welcome party as modus vivendi; the creativity of Baroque rebirth (“If it doesn’t have style, we’ll reinvent it”); the anonymous heroes of the System of Youth Orchestras (El Sistema) or the incalculable value of the symphonic minute; Carlos Duarte: playing dominoes with death, memories of a friendship; Beclard d’Harcourt (1920s), the French post-Impressionist, visits the Empire of the Incas; Mauricio Kagel and the role of paper in his work; the orchestra of General Gómez: a photo speaks in Calcaño’s book; the complete correspondence of Debussy: more than 2,000 pages from Éditions Gallimard; the amusing little drawings of Erik Satie: Gothic deliria of a loner; the cocktail recipe of Nadia Boulanger, who studied with all the world’s musicians; Alejo Carpentier, composer of ideas: half a century of his Caracas chronicles; torture and adulation: the extremes of current musical creation; the reggaetón of hell: is it lawful to sell sonic torture machines?; Stravinsky in Lajao: he conducted in the Municipal Theater, but did he swim in Choroní?; the legacy of Yannis Ioannidis, Greek maestro in ’70s Caracas; an orchestra is born in San Fernando de Apure: Henry Zambrano went out to sow seeds; communism and music: a day in the life of Dmitri Shostakovich; Florentino and the Devil in the ’50s and 50 years later; webcasting and the future of opera and concerts…
We begin next Sunday.
Translated from Spanish by Rosemary Holland