Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thyssen, part 2

I think I exceeded some limit on images, so here is the continuation.

A lot of art from the 18th century seems to celebrate the wonderful state of European civilisation, like this painting of the Darsena at Naples by Caspar Adriaansz van Wittel:

(My photo was better, but it just would not load.) Paintings like that, large scale, don't translate well to small photos on the web. But trust me it is quite splendid in person. The interesting thing is that these kind of landscapes seem to undergo a kind of psychotic break in the 20th century. This is "Metropolis" by George Grosz from 1916/17:

Not surprising, given what was happening in those years. But it is hard not to look at this and other cityscapes painted in the 20th century and not see them as suicide notes from European civilization.

Let's end with another lutenist. This is a portrait of Count Fulvio Grati, who seems to have enjoyed his music, by Giuseppi Maria Crespi from the first half of the 18th century. Note the scores stuffed in the case:

Some music suitable for him might be a suite for lute by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, a friend of J. S. Bach. Here is a Chaconne in G minor, accompanied by paintings by Caravaggio:

A Morning at the Thyssen

That's the Thyssen-Bornemisa Museum, the newest of the three great art museums of Madrid, opened in 1992. It has close to a million visitors a year and the collection is worth about a billion dollars. Who says there's no money in art? Read the linked Wikipedia article for the details. It started as a private collection by the Baron Heinrich Freiherr Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva, possessor of the hereditary title granted by the Emperor Franz-Joseph I of Austria-Hungary.

I always forget to take a picture of the exterior, so here is one from Wikipedia:

Click to enlarge

The museum reminds me a bit of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris in size and partly in its collection. This museum has a lot more early European works, whereas the d'Orsay is just 19th century and primarily French. One pretty accurate comment on the Thyssen is that it has great works by minor masters and minor works by great masters. Yep. Unfamiliar stuff by Picasso, Miró, Degas, etc but some spectacular stuff by people you may not have heard of. They allow photos-without flash-so I have some to share.

I forgot to take a photo of the caption, so I don't know who painted this--it's 17th century--but I liked the pose:

That's a lute with extra bass strings, so from the later 17th century.

Here is one of those minor works by a great master, "Woman with a Parasol in a Garden" by Auguste Renoir:

I didn't crop that one so you could see the color of the wall. The whole interior of the museum, following the instructions of the widow of the Baron's son, is painted in a kind of salmon pink or cantaloupe. It's a bit odd, but I didn't mind. It gives the museum a much more friendly air, especially as compared to the Prado.

Here is a "Seated Woman" by Juan Gris:

And a painting from 1936 by Joan Miró:

I noticed a couple of things. One is that a lot of the earlier stuff, the paintings from the 15th century, display a remarkable technical command. Like this one, a Portrait of Giovanno Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio from around 1488:

That is really quite stunning and even more so in person.

I have more, but it looks like I will have to start a new post.

Some music that might have been played by that lutenist, a Suite in A by Denis Gaultier:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Street Performers in Madrid

Yes, there are some, but fewer than I expected. There were these guys, who when I passed were playing "Moon River" on violin and guitar:

Then there was this guy, playing "Strangers in the Night":

I could not figure out how this guy did this:

I couldn't see any wires or bars. But he must have had something, because he was hanging there quite easily with one hand on the bike.

This was easily the creepiest street performer and guitarist I have ever seen:

Zombie guitarist was playing freeform jazz with excessive reliance on chords with a major 7th. But how did he do this? The head is obviously false, but the hands and feet are real. The actual person's head and shoulders must be in the backpack. But it was a very convincing, and creepy, illusion.

And there were some guys playing weird music on accordion. No actual Spanish music.

Footnotes to Madrid

Stuck for a topic this morning, I am going to put up little observations that have come to me.

Europe is a complex place with a lot of history and, consequently, a lot of layers of civilisation. I was talking the other day about Spain being a constitutional monarchy, the last major country where a member of the House of Bourbon sits on the throne. This is indicated by the current flag of Spain:

That coat of arms is the emblem of the King of Spain and as the Royal Standard also hangs in the entryway of the Palacio Real. I took a picture of it the other day:

I was travelling via train through London some years ago and saw flying over some ancient castle what seemed to me to be rather an odd flag with golden lions on a red background. I later realised it must have been some version of the Royal Standard of Queen Elizabeth II:

It was flying over one of her palaces, residences or properties. I admit to enjoying some things about these constitutional monarchies (as a Canadian citizen I am one of the Queen's subjects as she is the sovereign of Canada). For one thing, they serve very well to curb the arrogance of elected politicians which in recent years has been becoming unbearable. I recall a scene from the film of a few years ago on the death of Princess Diana when Tony Blair comes for his first audience with the Queen, played by Helen Mirren. She comments that he, Mr. Blair, is her tenth Prime Minister since her coronation, the first being Winston Churchill. Now that will trim anyone down to size.

* * *

I read somewhere that Spain's most important export is not wine or olives, but ham. This is certainly not true if you consult the data: number one seems to be vehicles followed by fruit, nuts, vegetables and meat. But you certainly get the feeling that ham is very big here. Take for example these two delicatessens I took photos of:

Yes, that is the Museo del Jamón, the Museum of Ham. Not to be outdone by this one down the street called El Paraiso del Jamón:

* * *

Here is a concert I would like to attend, but it is just after I leave:

* * *

And finally, near my hotel is what is becoming my favourite restaurant, Terramundi. I got some photos yesterday. Here are some folks waiting outside to get in:

It is only open for lunch, but is nearly always full:

Here is a main course of roast chicken in lemon sauce with french fries and little roast peppers (not hot):

A nice bottle of wine:

Yes, in Spain they do know how to live...

Some suitable music: this is La Maja de Goya transcribed for guitar from the piano original by Enrique Granados and played to perfection by John Williams:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Beauty of the Blogosphere

This is going to be one of those rare posts that does not deal directly with music, so skip if you are of a mind. I am travelling right now and one thing I come in contact with when I travel is the mass media. At home I read the blogosphere and various sites on the Internet that do include a couple of examples of the mass media: the Wall Street Journal, the Globe and Mail and occasionally the New York Times. But as I haven't watched television for over a decade apart from a few select series I watch either on DVD or the Internet (Game of Thrones, House MD, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) when I do encounter television I probably see it from a different angle than most people.

Usually when I am in a hotel I am not even tempted to turn on the television. I know what it's like. But last night, after I got home from the opera, I was curious about that monster battle between Real Madrid and Atlético so I turned it on. Either television has gotten worse, or, more likely, my perceptions are keener.

Now let me utter a couple of caveats first: there are some excellent shows on television. I have admired some of the very fine writing and direction ever since I lived in Montréal and watched Homicide: Life on the Street set in a very gritty Baltimore. Then there was Buffy (I even gave a couple of academic papers on the show in England a few years ago) and House MD and now the remarkable Game of Thrones. Sure, I suspect it of being morally bankrupt, but what a remarkable production with some outstanding acting. But these shows are the exception. Most television consists of the horribly dreary and enervating yet constantly kinetic routine of sports, talk, advertising, station announcements, more talk, melodrama, news, weather, more talk, more sports and, god knows, more advertising. This is the television experience.

It is a bit like a poker game. If you are sitting at the table and don't know who the mark is, then you are the mark! If you are sitting in front of the television, which is free and you are wondering who is paying for it, then you are paying for it. Just scanning through the channels last night for fifteen or twenty minutes I was horrified at what is going on. First of all, the constant sparkling graphics and jump cuts short circuit any possibility of rational thought. That, I suspect, is their purpose. Second, what you see and hear seems to be of three varieties: about a third of it is, I suppose, information of some kind. What is the temperature in Budapest? Who won the game? Financial reports and prognostications. Another third is supposed to be amusement: very fit and attractive people dressed like evil clowns posturing in rhythmic ways to a mechanical soundtrack with caterwauling. Yes, that was either a music video or an ad for something. There are also the melodramatic telenovelas as they are called in Latin America. But the last third is the most dangerous and insidious.

These are the shows that are supposedly the most serious, the ones that really inform us, the ones that are a "public service." Take for example one I saw either on CNN or the BBC International, it doesn't matter which. It was a panel discussion about the refugee crisis in Europe. It was a frank and cordial discussion, very civilised, which meant that every single person on the panel had exactly the same views. There is a terrible problem and it stems from the difficult and unsettled domestic conditions in places like Libya and the Sudan and so on. Africa is facing some real challenges and we have to find a way to help them. Another chimed in saying how absurd it was to think that a gunboat or two could be of any help. And so on. We could imagine other discussions about access to bathrooms for transgendered people, how Bernie Sanders might wrest the nomination away from Hillary Clinton and so on. All sorts of important issues. And in each case, through television (and newspapers, but less blatantly) we are told exactly how and what to think about each issue. There is never any discussion of what the real issues or problems are or what feasible solutions might include. Every crisis is prepackaged to fulfil a certain purpose and generate a certain kind of public opinion. This has been known for decades, of course, but it has gotten worse and worse.

Let's take a non-political example: every time you look at the financial news you see the same thing: projections and prognostications that are often wrong. The financial industry, a lot of which is devoted to offering advice on investments to small and large investors, is always, always telling us what the prospects are for this or that stock or mutual fund or where bond yields are going or what developing countries are likely to see real gains and so on. But Warren Buffett revealed the true state of affairs the other day when he said, quoting very loosely, don't bother with the hedge funds or the mutual funds or the stock advisors or even individual stocks. Just buy index funds or exchange-traded funds in a broad selection of sectors and forget about them. 80% (or so) of these rock n roll fund managers don't beat the market but they charge you big fees anyway. He is absolutely right, of course. But 90% of everything you read and hear about the market and investment is designed to convince you that this is not not true.

Most of what you see and hear on television, when it is not simply entertainment, is wrong, incorrect, a lie. These lies are meant to serve particular purposes, which is to indoctrinate the viewer as to the correct opinions about the world, politics, business and so on. But they are, of course, lies.

The idea that the news media offer anything that is remotely neutral has been untrue for several decades now. When it comes to politics they always have a chosen candidate that they are going to try and drag across the finish line now matter how repulsive he or she is. To pick a Canadian example, you cannot read a single issue of the Globe and Mail without reading how nasty, horrible and awful Stephen Harper (the ex-Prime Minister) was as a person and a politician. And how wonderful, sweet and honest is his replacement Justin Trudeau. Stephen Harper managed the affairs of Canada for over a decade and delivered a strong, healthy economy with no deficit to his successor. Who immediately ran a deficit. And you can be sure that however good or bad Trudeau's administration is, the Globe and Mail will praise him every day and twice on Saturday.

Which brings me to the blogosphere. What is different now is that there is another place you can go to read the news and hear opinions. The blogosphere, while it has sectors representative of all the dysfunction of the mass media, also has vast sectors that express every hue of political and other opinion. You can read specialized discussion of classical music here or libertarian political philosophy over at Samizdata or constitutional law over there or, really, whatever interests you. And you can seek out sites that take what is, from your point of view, a neutral approach or ones as biased as you like. There is no monoculture on the Internet.

Mind you, there are forces to whom this is a horrible situation and they are doing what they can to "fix" it, but so far, no luck. So let's hope this continues.

Whew, sorry for all that, but I just had to share. Now for some music. One of my favorite divertimenti by Mozart. This is the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields with the Divertimento in F major, K. 138 written when Mozart was sixteen:

A Report on the Opera

It was an interesting experience to say the least. Picking out the seat when I bought my ticket online from my hotel, I did not realise how the seating was arranged. How extremely raked were the rows. I was up in the nosebleed section, just two rows from the very top. Here is a shot from there:

By curtain time, the house was 95% full. Moses und Aron was sung in German, with sur-titles in Spanish and English, so easy to follow. But the work itself is recondite. A good deal of the text is about how God is indefinable, inexpressible and unknowable. There are long instrumental sections that provided the producer the opportunity to do some interesting choreography and imagery. Yes, a 1500 kilo bull, sedated, was led on stage and appeared with a naked woman. A great deal of black ink was poured on the stage and various actors. Most amazing, a whole section of the stage was taken up, revealing what looked exactly like a lap pool in which characters would enter, dressed in white, at one end, then descend beneath the water (yes, real water) and emerge at the other end all in black.

Here is another photo from the production:

The Guardian has an interesting review with this summary of the first act:
Castellucci staged the first act almost entirely on an all-white stage, fronted by a translucent white screen: Moses and Aron materialised in an infinity of nothingness, recalling the detail-obliterating environments of the artist Doug Wheeler. The chorus of Israelites, whose male and female members concealed themselves under white lace veils, appeared through the scrim as a formless, throbbing singularity that enveloped the two prophets like a cloud. Moses’s staff takes the form of a white, gleaming, hi-tech spinning and levitating machine straight out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The newly dawning world of monotheism, governed by what Moses calls “a God unique, eternal, omnipresent, invisible, unrepresentable,” is for Castellucci an unforgiving place...
Yes, that was magically done. The use of the scrim to turn all the stage action into ghostly images was brilliant, though one reviewer referred to it as seeing everything though milk of magnesia. Oh, and instead of stone tablets, the word of God seems to come down to Moses in the form of long lengths of magnetic tape, spooling off a floating reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Here is another photo from the production:

At the end I had only the foggiest idea of the general outlines of the story and even less idea of the significance of the imagery in the production. But it was fascinating nonetheless. A very modern and professional production of what must be an extremely difficult work. The chorus has an immensely difficult part to sing and they seemed to do it very well. Some of the individual singing showed a bit of strain, but pretty well done--these are very difficult parts.

Yes, it is a 12-tone work, but the music throughout is given a lot of distinctive character of the surreal Viennese variety.

The audience seemed to regard the production as an entire success as the applause was long and loud and there were no boos that I could hear. Mind you, a fellow seated to my left just walked out after the first act.

Now I am going to have to study the score a bit and see if I can figure out just what they were trying to get across with this production.

The Teatro Real is a gorgeous building, by the way. Here is a shot of the lobby:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

About the food

The food has been great. Even the food on the plane, Iberia, was pretty decent for airline food. I've had really great paella (and forgot to take a picture of the dish) in this restaurant:

And I did at least take a picture of the setting with a little appetiser:

And today I went to a tapas bar and had a great lunch. These places, while they serve lots of little tapas dishes, serve lots of other things too. I ordered stewed oxtail with rice and a glass of Rioja. First they brought me a little tapa, included at no extra charge:

Those are two little sausages, hot, a little roast potato and three tiny breadsticks. Here is the wine, holding down the menu.

I forgot to take a picture of the oxtail when it was served, but here is the aftermath:

The basic difference between a regular restaurant, which is just open during mealtimes, and tapas bars, which seem to be open all the time, is that the latter are more casual. Just grab a chair or stand at the bar. The regular restaurants are more dignified. The food is great at both kinds and neither are expensive.

Can't think of what would be the ideal musical envoi, but this, by composer and madrileño Moreno Torroba should do. This is Torija from Castles of Spain played by Edoardo Catemario:

Moses und Aron

Tonight I will be attending the second performance of a new production by Romeo Castelluci of the opera by Arnold Schoenberg--perhaps history's least likely opera composer. This production is a collaboration with the Paris Opera and I'm really looking forward to it. I don't think I have ever attended either a production at this level, not being much of an opera-goer, nor one of the new era of European opera productions that seem to be just a tad more radical than they used to be. Here, for example, is a photo from a rehearsal this week with a naked woman and a live bull:

There seems to be a bit of a controversy and, since this is the 21st century, it is in objection, not to the naked woman, but to the exploitation of the bull. Sigh...

Yesterday, on my way to the Palacio Real I passed by the Teatro Real where the performance will take place. Here is the front, with a statue of Isabel II:

Clck to enlarge
And here is the back (or is it the other way around?):

This is the side that faces the Palacio Real, so perhaps it is the front. In between is the Plaza de Oriente, which features a large bronze statue of Felipe IV on horseback (which I didn't get a photo of) and the Visigothic kings of Spain who ruled before the Muslim invasion in the 8th century, which I did:

There are ten on each side of the square.

But back to Moses und Aron. You notice that I am giving the title in the original German. You might also notice that I am, following Schoenberg, spelling "Aron" with one "a" instead of two. Schoenberg, when it came to certain things, like the number 13, was intensely superstitious. If you spell it "Moses und Aaron" you have a title thirteen letters long, which he wished to avoid. So he dropped one of the letters "a". Now, you see in the poster on the Teatro Real that they put back the letter "a". But there is no problem because in the Spanish, "Moisés y Aaron" there are only twelve letters, so no need to drop an "a". Whew!

A commentator sent me this interesting and positive review of the Paris production which really whets my appetite. But let's get some background on the opera. Here is the Wikipedia article. The first problem is that Schoenberg only completed two of the three planned acts. Zoltán Kocsis completed the third act in 2010, but I don't know which version they will be using. Most performances are just of the two acts Schoenberg completed. Incidentally, he left it unfinished in 1932 and lived until 1951, so it was not death that intervened. The opera came out of Schoenberg's confrontation with his Jewish identity, forced on him by the growing levels of anti-Semitism in Germany in the 1920s. This had a heavy impact on him even though he had converted to Protestantism in 1898. Steve Reich has been connecting with his Jewish descent in a number of his recent works such as Tehillim.

Even without the third act the opera seems to have just about everything: burning bush, worship of the golden calf, sacrifice of four naked virgins, pillars of fire and cloud, betrayal and so on.

I read recently a book titled 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilisation Collapsed and noticed one very interesting thing. Of all the various peoples and cultures of the first millennium BC, about 3000 years ago, the Hittites, ancient Egyptians, the Sea Peoples, the Mycenaean Greeks, the Canaanites, the Cypriots, the Minoans, the Philistines, the Assyrians and the Israelites, of all these ancient cultures, one and only one has survived, prospered and flourished even unto the present day: the Israelites.

Let's have a listen. This is a 1984 performance conducted by Georg Solti with the Chicago Symphony and Chorus. If you go to YouTube, the whole cast are credited.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A little walk to the Palacio Real

Yesterday I took it easy as I’m still trying to get over jet lag. I don’t know why, but it always seems worse going to Europe than coming back. I was here years ago doing a concert tour with a flute player and we were taking turns driving. Each of us, at different times, usually, would be overcome with drowsiness and switch off driving. We were in Switzerland, just about to enter Italy when Robert, the flute-player, said “I’m getting really sleepy, we should switch over.” There wasn’t immediately a place to pull off and moments later we entered a tunnel in the mountain. I think it was the Durenmatt, which, on the other side of the mountain, comes out in Italy. Alas, this tunnel is about 20 kilometres long, with no pull-offs until you are through. That was a bit of a struggle to stay awake! On the other side, the climate was completely different: suddenly it was the Mediterranean with blue skies where in Switzerland it was a bit cloudy and rainy. That was a lovely tour, by the way, much of it spent playing in northern Italy: Verona, Ferrara, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and most of all, Firenza (Florence).

So yesterday, I rather vedged out (do people still say that?) and just took it easy. Today I am planning to do some walking and try and run down the shop of Jose Ramirez, where I bought my first concert guitar way back in 1974. That was the first reason for coming to Spain back then: to pick up a guitar that I had ordered months before. It is on the Calle de la Paz, which is supposedly just off the Puerta del Sol, though in that part of town the streets are so jammed together it is hard to tell from my map. The music shop Union Musical Española is nearby as well, who published a great deal of Spanish music for guitar.

Yes, I succeeded in finding the Ramirez shop. At first I thought I was going nuts because I didn't recognise anything about the neighbourhood. But, it turns out, when I bought my guitar they were in a different location, on Concepcion Jeronimo and now they are on Calle de la Paz. In any case, here is a photo of the shop:

Click to enlarge
Other places on my list include the Royal Palace which, with 2800 rooms, should take some time! I would also like to do a couple of excursions out of town to Toledo, the first big conquest of the Reconquista, and El Escorial. The latter is a place unique to Spain. It was built by Phillip II during the heyday of Spain’s empire in the 16th century and its construction absorbed a good deal of Spain’s economy for a couple of decades. It is a dark, but impressive, monument to the Counter-Reformation and has, among other features, 42 chapels and 16 courtyards. It began as a mausoleum to Philip’s father, Carlos I and to commemorate the Battle of San Quentin in 1557. Ultimately the project came to include a basilica, a monastery, a seminary and a library. Philip’s instructions to the architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, required that he should aim for “simplicity in the construction, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation.” After a few revolutions and the wholesale re-imagining of the whole social fabric it is hard for us to even entertain the concept of “nobility without arrogance” but for me that makes a place like El Escorial even more interesting.

I think that Felipe VI, the current King of Spain, is the last Bourbon monarch to still sit on a throne. Yes, Spain is now a constitutional monarchy, but its king, along with Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and a few other places, is almost the last of the era of monarchy. So today, I did a little walking tour and visited the Palacio Real, built in the 18th century. The king doesn't actually live there these days, but in a smaller palace nearby. The Palacio Real supposedly has 2800 rooms, but the tour only includes a few. Here are some photos.

Part of the eastern facade

The rest of the eastern facade
The courtyard/parade ground looking toward the adjacent cathedral
The grand staircase
and the ceiling of the staircase
After this, you were not allowed to take photos of the rooms. They mostly have ceilings like that, painted by folks like Tiepolo. One room has walls finished in silk with silver thread, another is done completely in the finest porcelain, walls and ceiling. There are 16th century Flemish tapestries all over the place. One room has on display a quartet of instruments by Stradivarius, supposedly the only one in existence. Oh, and if sixty people drop by and you need a table for sixty, they have at least one dining room where that would not be a problem.

What we forget is that during the 16th and much of the 17th century, the King of Spain was the most powerful leader in the world.

For our envoi a good choice would be something by Tomás Luis de Victoria, who enjoyed the patronage of Felipe II and was for 17 years chaplain to the dowager empress at the monastery for the nobility in Madrid, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales.  This is his Salve regina:

Friday Miscellanea

Is this a vision of hell? Keith Blanchard writes in the Wall Street Journal: "The Future of Digital Music...Maybe: One man’s vision of what life will be like when literally every moment of your life gets its own soundtrack." See, my problem is that if all music is, is a soundtrack to your life, then all music is nothing but a soundtrack. And I've always thought that soundtrack music, while it has a valuable place, is really not very important music. But now I see that it is all a satire:
Just the right music will pop up everywhere. You’ll hear a triumphal march after you nail that job interview, a tender love song when you’re apologizing. I imagine it’ll be like living in a musical, where any emotionally charged situation, like old lovers meeting on the street, will start the music flowing, and everyone will drop what they’re doing and start singing and dancing and splashing through puddles. And then, annoyed by all this audible cheerfulness, a pack of emo kids will swarm out of a back alley in a sea of black, accompanied by a dark storm of songs about their pain...
I hope...

* * *

Oh, Kanye, Kanye, Kanye. I don't think I have ever known a musician whose every public utterance makes me want to never, never, never hear a single note of his music: "Kanye West leaves Ellen DeGeneres speechless: 'I'm sorry for the realness' " Me too, Kanye! But I don't think "realness" is the right word. Perhaps, unbelievable moronic narcissistic personality disorder?
"Don't tell me about being likeable. We've got a hundred years here. We're one race, the human race, one civilization. We're a blip in the existence of the universe, and we're constantly trying to pull each other down. Not doing things to help each other. That's my point. It's like I'm shaking talking about it. I know it's daytime TV, but I feel that I can make a difference while I'm here. I feel that I can make things better through my skill set. I'm an artist, and I feel that I can make things better through my skill set. I'm a artist. Five years old, art school. PhD, Art Institute of Chicago."
* * *

And now, for the comic relief portion of our miscellanea today, the poster for that elusive work by Nigel Tufnel (guitarist for Spinal Tap):

* * *

New research by our friends in science suggests that practice is the way to get to Carnegie Hall. The book is titled Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 336 pp., $28.
Much of Peak is devoted to how deliberate practice works, and why more is better. Ericsson’s most famous research involved studying the schedules of violin students at an elite German school. The best—those the instructors said were destined for stardom—spent much more time in solo practice than those likely to become music teachers. Reconstructing their schedules since youth, Ericsson calculated that the best had spent on average 7,410 hours in deliberate practice by age 18, compared with 3,420 for the music education students. This solo practice allowed them to create mental models of their craft. They knew what a piece would sound like before they played it, and that familiarity allowed them to focus on details and nuance.
Now I know what my problem was: I didn't start practicing the classical guitar until I was 21! Be sure to read the comments at the link, because as is often the case, they provide the necessary correctives to the article itself.

* * *

I'm not quite sure of the source of these numbers, but supposedly this is what some of the musical acts performing at the Woodstock rock festival were paid:
Canned Heat – $6,500 The Who – $6,250 (also reported at $11,200 but Variety claimed that number was inaccurate) Richie Havens – $6,000 Arlo Guthrie – $5,000 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – $5,000 Mountain – $2,000 Tim Hardin – $2,000 Joe Cocker – $1,375 Sweetwater – $1,250 John B. Sebastian – $1,000 Melanie – $750 Santana – $750 Sha Na Na – $700
Those are astonishingly small numbers, aren't they. Santana, $750? And look at what pop musicians make these days: Beyoncé over $50 million a year.

* * *

I've always liked trompe-l'oeil, partly because, after a decade living in Montréal, I almost know how to pronounce it. But this is a trompe-l'oeil to end all such: French street artist JR will cover I .M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre with giant photos of the surrounding buildings to make it disappear. The Wall Street Journal has the story here.

* * *

Very short miscellanea this week as, well, I haven't had much chance to gather exciting items. Tomorrow I am going to the opera here in Madrid, a joint production with the Paris Opera of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron. So let's have an excerpt for our envoi today. This is the first part of a German production from 2009.

Wow, what an interesting production. Talk about making the audience part of the action. And how the heck do you put the whole audience on a movable platform?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Excursion to the Prado

I'm still rather jet-lagged: you know the feeling, it always feels like 3 am, but you can't get to sleep? So yesterday I just took the path of least resistance and went to the Prado which is just across the street. Mind you, that street is the Paseo del Prado which is a very grand boulevard indeed:

Click to enlarge
Why do Spanish-speaking countries seem to do more spectacular avenues than English-speaking ones? This is just the treed strip in front of the Prado. Then there are four lanes of traffic, another big strip of park, and another four lanes. It reminds me of the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, but the Paseo del Prado is much wider, I think. Here is an engraving from the 18th century:

I forgot to bring my drone with me, so I wasn't able to take any aerial shots, but here is one of the Museo del Prado from Wikipedia:

Click to enlarge

Yes, it's a YUGE museum. It seems to contain the majority of works ever done by Spanish painters, plus a wide selection of ones by Italian, Dutch and German painters. There is a line-up to get tickets, but not too crazy long:

It took perhaps 20 minutes to get through. I fell into conversation with a Polish fellow who works in London, which passed the time nicely. Once inside, I discovered that no, you can't take photos, even without flash! A bit disappointing. I guess I wasn't expecting that because the last museum I was in, the Museo Soumaya in Mexico City, taking photos was perfectly acceptable. Anyway, I got this shot before they told me not to. This is a 17th century table top made from semi-precious stones:

I have one just like it at home... 8^)

Instead of a handout, they have the names of the painters in their collection engraved in the wall beside the entrance. These are some of the Italians:

After a couple of hours wandering somewhat randomly, I played out and started back. On the way I grabbed some lunch. Let me remind you (and myself), never eat in a restaurant located so as to appeal to the tourist trade. Always find one on a side street. This after paying twice as much for a meal half as good as the one I had yesterday at Terramundi.

And this is the somewhat unprepossessing facade of my hotel (which is really very nice inside):

If I were rich I would be staying at the Ritz, which is next door to the Prado:

So that was my day. Except in the evening I went out to see if Terramundi was open for dinner to discover, that no, it just does lunch. All the restaurants on the street seem the same. The only places open were a couple of bars, which do offer food. Spain is different this way. The big meal is lunch and that is when the restaurants are open. Everything else is a snack and you go to a bar. They offer all sorts of very nice sandwiches and other things. I had a beer, slices of boiled ham with paprika, some very nice bread and a dish of olives.

It seems easy to meet people: just down from me at the bar was a fellow who started a conversation. He was Spanish, but spoke perfect English with a British accent because he went to school there. We had a fascinating discussion about politics and economics and seemed to have fairly similar views. The same with the Polish fellow I talked to earlier. I almost feel at home here!

So that's all for now. Today I hope to actually get some composing done! And here is some music to end with. This is the Ritual Fire Dance from Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujo, Daniel Barenboim at the stick with the Chicago Boys: