Posted tagged ‘grab bag’

Grab Bag #1

December 29, 2009

A bunch of stuff with something or other to do with classical music: a Korean car, an Atlanta rapper, a blockbuster movie, a couple text messages. The “#1″ reflects my earnest hope to do this a few more times.

• I rode home from Detroit on December 20 in the backseat of a Hyundai Sonata, a car whose name has always puzzled me, since in its form one can detect no exposition, development, or recapitulation. Recommending it as a car name is that the word “sonata” sounds foreign in a nonthreatening way, unlike the word “Hyundai,” for better or worse. (Note: I drive a 2007 Elantra and really like it.) Also, to the extent that consumers associate classical music with the automobile in question, the associations are likely to be positive, connoting smoothness and luxury, unlike the potential associations for the “Hyundai Webern’s 5 Pieces for Orchestra.” Nonetheless, it was a spacious backseat in which to ride, and certainly classical fans who are in the market for a midsize family sedan could do worse.

• Here is a song called “Classical,” by ATL rapper Gucci Mane, that will show you what people who know very little about classical music think classical music sounds like. You only need to listen to the first 30 seconds or so to get the idea:

As a fan of both classical music and hip-hop, I am a little embarrassed.

• James Horner wrote the score for James Cameron’s supermegablockbuster “Avatar,” which I saw on Sunday. As expected from this composer, he has pastiched together a bunch of musical elements that have little to do with each other and neglected the opportunity to do anything in terms of establishing a structure. During the parts exploring the life of the native inhabitants of the moon Pandora, he lays on the “world music” percussion and singing so thickly and indiscriminately that it threatened (for me) to snuff out the life of the film. (At one point, he even has a chorus singing “Eywa,” the name of the deity that is spoken approximately 50 million other times during the film. I get it, Hornyboy.)

Horner does make one curious decision, which is to pay homage to Rachmaninov’s First Symphony by stealing its four-note opening motive, orchestrating it identically, and playing it at various grim martial moments during the film. (Chatter on the Internets indicates that this is a Horner signature; I am unwilling to systematically listen to Horner scores to verify.) After leaving the theater, I expounded on this to my moviegoing companion, who asked whether Rachmaninov’s work was in fact also inspired by nine-foot-tall blue aliens, because then the re-use would totally make sense here. Since no such inspiration has been documented, one is left to wonder whether Horner thought almost no one would notice (as has been the case in the past) or was trying to express an esoteric but profound connection between Rach 1 and the subject matter in question. I’m guessing Door #1.

• If you want to get a feel for the possibly fabricated yet totally hilarious adventures of America’s youthful dipsomaniacs, libertines, and narcotics abusers, texts from last night is your go-to resource. Given the vast scope of the site, classical music is touched on occasionally, or at least twice. This one:

Only you could turn Mozart into a stripper song

made me wonder: What Mozart “song” specifically was being employed in this unexpected yet appealing manner? One has to balance the impulse to select music that seems suited for such an endeavor (“La ci darem la mano,” anyone?) with the fact that the most common example of Mozart’s music close at hand for most people is probably “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” which who knows how you use that. (Readers: Which Mozart piece do you think was being used? Suggest in the comments below!)

This other one, which I will not quote here for reasons of taste, inspires less speculation, with one exception: Were the implications of this text followed to their logical end, the blind auditions for string-player positions in symphonies would be totally different.


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