Sunday, April 12, 2015


Yesterday I read an article by Richard Todd on Wolfgang's Tonic summing up in his words the effect Lisitsa/TSO calamity had on Stewart Goodyear. I wasn't particularly interested on commenting directly on the feed since that usually grabs the attention of the wrong kind of people. I decided then that I would put it up here.

Obviously subjective judgments on pianists aside, I was a little unnerved by the term "free-speech radicals" used to describe an apparent subgroup who pushed Stewart Goodyear to dropping the gig. I don't condone the mob's actions, especially as they dealt with their frustrations by shooting the messenger, so to speak, but that term unfairly diminishes them and sets a dangerous precedent.

This is not the first time those words have been used to describe opponents to perceived 'censorship' issues in the arts - take the 2001 Death of Klinghoffer affair in Boston for instance. However, in the context of the online hysteria arising from the TSO blunder pidgeon-holing a cross section of misguided thugs as 'free-speech radicals' only opens the door for the people who really executed Lisitsa's dropping - those unnamed big time 'donors' - to gain standing. If donors have the power to affect the TSO's hiring policy so visibly, who's to say they won't try it again when it suits them while labeling opposition as 'radical'.

If the mob really wishes for this case never to be repeated then institutional change must be made across the board - a radical suggestion, perhaps? But that won't happen if personal attacks remain the norm on the one side, while the other has the establishment by the balls.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Choirboys Gone Wild

As I was digging yesterday I came across a composition treatise signed "Bar_____ G___n". It's a pretty nasty piece of work, actually. The pamphlet is attributed to William Hayes (1708 - 1777), Professor of Music at Oxford (1741 onwards), who clearly had it in for Birmingham organist Barnabus Gunn (d. 1753).

Gunn's supposed 'method' involved the first description of aleatory composition by use of what Hayes calls the 'Spruzzarino', a pen which spurted ink indiscriminately on the page. Hayes also makes a number of comments on Gunn's seeming lack of understanding of the foundations of music.
"As the Spruzzarino will not make Flats, or Sharps, you are to place them, where you think they will look best: no matter as to Propriety; the more odd, the more new and unexpected."
"As to Quick and Slow Movements,  no particular Disposition is required:  either with respect to Measure or Modulation; the Technical Italian Words do all."
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