5-3-14 Hodgepodge

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Secret Recordings, Partial Disclosure, and Double Standards

Larry Elder notes a curious double-standard being applied to Donald Sterling and others by a "confederacy of dunces" from the left:

This "racist" hired an expensive, championship-winning black coach, who happens to be married to a white woman. He pays his black starting point guard $18 million annually. His payroll is the sixth most expensive out of 30 teams. Oh, and the "racist's" girlfriend is a black Latina.

If Sterling is unfit to own a team now that he's expressed racial animosity, what about superfan Spike Lee's racial animosity? Should Lee be banned from games? A courtside fixture at Knicks games, Lee once said he dislikes interracial couples: "I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street." Should the NBA investigate the suitability of an expressed hater of interracial couples to have such a prominent perch at the Garden?

What about Bill Maher? He is a part-owner of the Mets -- that is when not calling Sarah Palin the "c" word or Michelle Bachman "a dumb t--t," or when not joking about Palin's son Trig, who has Down syndrome. Should MLB investigate his stand-up for foul language?
Elder also gets us up to speed regarding the full context of the remarks that have landed Sterling in hot water.

Weekend Reading

"A rational approach is needed to counter this [irrational fear of being 'exposed']; specifically, to judge yourself objectively the same way you would a stranger." -- Michael Hurd, in "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Success" at The Delaware Coast Press

"People who worry about things they can't control should ask themselves, 'What form of action is possible for me right now?'" -- Michael Hurd, in "Can Anxiety Be a GOOD Thing?" at The Delaware Wave

My Two Cents

Michael Hurd's advice on overcoming what I believe is also called "impostor syndrome" is deceptively simple-sounding. It can be hard to remember to apply it and hard to do, but it is a crucial skill.

What Orchestral Conductors Do

Via Arts and Letters Daily is an interesting article about the evolution and nature of the conductor's role:
Decades ago, when I was a student at one of the London conservatoires, I discovered just how difficult conducting really is. With the cockiness of youth I reckoned it was something I could add to my portfolio of skills without too much trouble. I signed up for a course, and soon found myself in front of a student orchestra, with a Brahms symphony on the music stand. I gave what I thought was a clear upbeat into the piece, and almost immediately things started to fall apart. The winds raced ahead of the violins, the basses lumbered in their wake. The horns missed an entry, probably because they were laughing. Meanwhile I flailed on. Brahms's carefully contrived texture disintegrated like a ghastly slow-motion car crash.
It really gets interesting when the author describes what an experienced conductor can do as against a merely competent one. This he observed first-hand at a masterclass given by Bernard Haitink.



Anonymous said...

Hi Gus

Asked for advice by a young conductor, Richaud Strauss smiled ruefully and said, “Never look at the brass, it only encourages them.”

And here is Arturo Toscanini having a meltdown during a rehearsal.


That first crash and then the thumping sound is Toscanini tearing off his watch, throwing it on the stage and then stomping on it.

He was later presented with a cheap watch by the orchestra with the inscription "To be used only during rehearsals."

My grandfather, in his later life, became well known for his choirs. But he had a tendency to break his baton on the conductor's podium by pounding for attention.

One of his choirs bought him a fiberglass baton shortly after such became available. He never broke it but it did show some fraying, with use.

c. andrew

Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

A follow-up on conducting. Although conductors really do provide the integrating factor to the music performance, it is possible to do without one. Just ask the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

But they are nearly sui generis, which underscores the importance of the conductor in music, particularly in large ensembles.

Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra was one such spectacular pairing. A union kerfluffle led to his resignation as conductor in 2002 after 25 years. And the MSO hasn't been worth listening to since his departure.

I don't know if you are into Russian classical music, but the MSO (under Dutoit) double CD version of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" is, for my money, the best out there, outstripping even various Russian orchestra's in that regard. The MSO never did release the other Tchaikovsky Ballet suites in their totality; for the "Nutcracker" and "Sleeping Beauty" you have to be satisfied with mere selections.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the interesting note on conductor-less orchestras and for the recommendation.


Gus Van Horn said...


Also, thanks for the amusing anecdotes.

I missed seeing your first comment due to GMail's "threading" of conversations, which often lumps multiple comments together under one email entry marked new. (So then I proceed, on the premise that there is one comment, only see a strange number of entries in the thread after publishing it, and THEN discover the older comment, which was buried as old business in the thread. So, yes Google owns both Blogger and GMail, and yet notification of new comments by email is a hash when you have GMail. It's something I usually, but not always, catch.)


Snedcat said...

C. Andrew writes, "Although conductors really do provide the integrating factor to the music performance, it is possible to do without one. Just ask the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra."

There are a number of conductor-less orchestras; I don't think they field more than about 20 musicians when playing a piece. They still (usually) have leadership by the concertmaster though; that's usually the head first violin, but it can be another player in certain ensembles like wind ensembles.

In general, you have to have one musician providing musical leadership--counting beats and such. You might think that the difference between chamber music and orchestral music then is whether there's a conductor, but that's not so.

Note too that jazz ensembles sometimes have conductors (not always called bandleaders, heh). Not necessarily large ones, either: The Oliver Nelson album More Blues and the Abstract Truth that I gifted you with many years ago had eight musicians and Nelson conducting.