Never been the biggest Mozart fan, but the Sinfonia Concertante has always been a favorite. The Allegro is a non-stop geyser of coruscating musical invention that will make your heart race. And what a performance by Vilde Frang and Nils Mönkemeyer and the Basel Chamber Orchestra.
Interview by Aquarium Drunkard:
AD The band name, my friend was saying, means mathematical patterns.
Kikagaku Moyo: Geometric.
AD Geometric patterns. Which is funny, because you think of these bands that can play math rock and that’s not what y’all are doing at all.
Kikagaku Moyo: [Laughs] Yea. Cause we were playing jam all the time at night. That’s the only time we could play long hours because you have to pay so much money in day time. As I said, a friend was working in a studio so we could go only the night, from midnight to 7am. [Laughs] So we were super tired. Working and then going to the studio. Jam. We cannot do so much stuff…just playing one note. [Laughs] Then make it really dark. And then we start feeling sleepy but you know like when you see noise show, whoever plays music in the last seems like “I am most musician.” [Laugh] Whoever quit first and looked around is losing. You have to be the last one who is making noise. It was like that. So even when you were so tired, you still play. And I started seeing visuals. Cause it’s dark and you cannot see. So everyone is closing their eyes. And I’m seeing all the patterns in my eye. So I shared the experience and it was like “Okay let’s make Geometric Patterns the band’s name.”
A mesmerizing groove.
Martin Kettle, who proudly calls himself a Germanophile, expresses his admiration in the Guardian for the new Elbphilharmonie (Philharmonia on the Elbe River) concert hall in Hamburg:
[I]n Hamburg on Wednesday evening a substantial part of official Germany – and surely everyone in the city itself – turned out in force for the opening of the dazzling Elbphilharmonie concert hall stretching high into the heavens in the former port district. Germany’s president Joachim Gauck made a witty speech, chancellor Angela Merkel, Hamburg-born before her family emigrated to communist East Germany, sat in the front row of the stalls. The mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz (a social democrat opposed to Merkel), glowed with civic pride….
For sure, Germany is far too deferential for the British taste. It is too respectful, polite, orderly, above all too serious. At times, including in the course of my visit for the Elbphilharmonie opening, even I, a Germanophile, wanted to have a bit more naughtiness and surprise in the proceedings. And no British arts organisation would put seven white men on stage to conduct a press conference about a huge project – the way the Elbphilharmonie did this week – with not a woman nor a black face in sight. On social media, there is this week, certainly, a strong undercurrent of hostility to the Hamburg opening, and the amount of public money it has taken is eyewatering. But the fact remains that Germany’s readiness to spend on a project such as the Elbphilharmonie, though often controversial on matters like cost and the environment, is ultimately a unifying force.
The civic pride and pleasure now that the concert hall is finally up and running was palpable. The tickets are all sold out for the next six months. The aim is that every child in Hamburg will get to a concert within the first year of the opening. The hall has already had half a million visitors before the first notes (by Benjamin Britten, as it happens) were heard in the opening concert, broadcast live on German television.
…But the truth is we don’t care, not enough. Maybe Germany cares too much. But I’d rather care too much than too little. And it really is a stunner of a building in a city that it’s a joy to get to know.
Amen, brother. This is what makes living in Germany a delight: livable cities with bold, interesting architecture and thriving cultural scenes. German politicians all more or less agree that high culture is an end in itself. It is not open to debate whether the state should fund it. They know that many people find it elitist and a waste of tax money, but it has to continue.*
High culture cannot survive without subsidies either from the state or from private donors. And its existence benefits everyone, whether they understand that or not. So Hamburg spends millions to build a glorious new concert hall. And at the other end of the scale, municipal arts councils dole out grants and commissions here and there to small bookstores, avant-garde theater groups, nature education programs for children, jazz clubs, charity projects, and artists of all kinds. Of course there's some corruption and waste here, what government program doesn't have that? But overall, most of the money goes where it's supposed to, and keeps interesting things happening.
It all adds up, and has a subtle, but profound overall effect. This is why I love living in Germany.
* And yes, as Kettle suggests, the audience for classical music in Germany is lily-white, and German orchestras, like orchestras in North America, are 80% white, 20% Asian. Europeans and Asians are just more likely than other ethnicities to find classical music appealing, and to invest huge amounts of time and money learning to play it and building an infrastructure for it. And since they created it and still have a leading role in propagating it, they're going to spend their money to ensure that it survives. And they're not going to apologize or listen to lectures. This is their culture, and they're going to celebrate it.
And you know what? Even fairly progressive Germans generally don't complain about the 'lack of diversity' in classical music. Sure, they will celebrate it when (non-Asian) minorities succeed in the classical realm. They'll also be sure to listen to all sorts of music from other cultures, from samba to Noh to gamelan to Carnatic. But they aren't pushing to force 'diversity' upon the overwhelmingly white classical establishment. They enjoy experiencing other high cultures because they enjoy their own. They have respect for the noblest achievements of other cultures because they admire their own noblest achievements. As the Lady in the Radiator said, "you've got your good things, and I've got mine".
And German high culture is, in turn, admired and respected across the world. Something most Brits and Americans, obsessed as they are on the controversial Austrian statesman, are unaware of.
A thoroughly wholesome, pro-social song about using efficient public transportation while being Dutch and happy:
Schlecky Silberstein stumbled upon this instant Internet classic — an American from San Antonio decides on the spur of the moment to visit legendary Berlin nightclub Berghain and, as his Yelp review indicates, is scarred for life. I'm putting it after the fold because, well, this is Berghain we're talking about. You've been warned.
Here's the text of the review, link to original below:
Please excuse the long review, but I'm going to share with you my experience at Berghain. I was in Berlin a couple weeks ago and I was sitting in my hotel bar. I started chatting with a couple guys from London. They seemed normal and told me they were getting ready to head to the worlds coolest night club. I figure it's Saturday night…what the hell. So I ask them if I can tag along. They said no problem. One of them informs me that I should probably change clothes because this place is hard to get into, but they had a connection. They recommended that I go change into black, simple clothes. No buttons on the shirts and no hoodies. They said if I had a black scarf, that would be awesome. Said the door guy loves scarves and black clothes. So I go change and come back down to the lobby. We hail a cab and are now off to this place called Berghain.
Upon arriving…I see this super long line that's leading into what looks like a commercial building of some sort. I'd liken it to a warehouse. It's not inviting at all. The guys from London tell me we are going to cut in line. While we are standing there looking for the spot to cut, I take out my phone to check Facebook. One of the London guys goes into a rage and starts cussing me out and grabs my phone. Yelling…"DON'T LOOK AT YOUR PHONE. DON'T USE IT!" "THEY WON'T LET US IN!"…Anyway…we get to the front of the line and there's this creepy looking, older guy with ear rings–face tats and spikes in his lips. Supposedly he's some type of guru in the club scene. He's a weird guy and yes he had a scarf on. He looks me up and down and then waves us in using his pinky…Now things are about to get really weird.
Once inside, the music is blasting too loud. You could feel it in your chest. I thought the bass was going to set my heart off rhythm. I tell the two guys from London…"Let's go get a beer!"…They look at me like I am crazy. They offer me these strange looking little pills and I pass. No drugs for me. They both pop them and then start making out! I'm not talking about a little kiss or a peck, I'm talking open-mouth, tongue kissing. It was very aggressive/disturbing kissing. I didn't even know these dudes were gay! I look around and there are 3 or 4 naked guys dancing all crazy with erections. I decide to go get a beer and I tell myself—maybe I'm in the wrong part of the club? Maybe this is the gay section. Nope. The whole club is the gay section!
On the way to grab a beer, I pass in disbelief, a bearded guy butt fucking the crap out of another bearded dude. You could smell feces and sweat. I take my eyes off of that situation and it only gets worse. There's another guy, and I kid you not…he's got his arm, almost to his elbow, up another guys ass! I thought it was a magic trick or an illusion. It WASN'T! The guy that's basically getting impaled is enjoying it! I saw one guy getting tag teamed (double penetration style) by 2 guys! I said to hell with this…I'm out of here! As I'm leaving, I remember that one of those Londoner's has my phone. So I need to go to find him.
Now there are naked guys everywhere! Sucking each other off. Fisting each other. There was one dude that was riding another guy (cowgirl style) and yelling "Balles Tief!" "Balles Tief!"…I ask the dude next to me…"What's he screamin?!"…He informs "Balles Tief" is German for "Balls Deep"…
This Nazi looking guy comes up to me with a syringe and acts like he's going to stick me with it. I jump back and think about beating the shit out of him and he starts laughing and in very bad English says "You vant chemical to keep wake and make you high?"…As I'm saying "NO!"…a loud siren/whistle starts blowing and the whole club starts going bananas! I ask this guy who looks like a vampire…"What the hell is that? Is there a fire or terrorist or something?"…He does this weird giggle and say's the siren means it's "Slip and Slide time!"…100's of guys, the ones that aren't already naked, drop there pants and start masturbating on the dance floor. Evidently, you are supposed to ejaculate on the floor and make it slippy and then naked guys go sliding through it! WTF! I look back and that vampire looking dude is jerking off in my direction. I throw a beer bottle at him and start hauling ass out of there.
I run past this one guy that seems to be injured and he's asking for help. I'm a pretty nice guy, so I ask what happened. He bends over and you can see this silicone/rubber looking object barely protruding out of his butt. You could barely see it. He then explains that he had shoved a rubber arm with fist up there and it was stuck! This guy thinks I'm going to help pull it out?!? Get the fuck out of here!
I finally get to the exit and I yell to that weirdo door man "YOU SICK BASTARD!"…I hail a cab and make it back to my hotel. That was my experience at the "worlds coolest night club"..I can handle a lot of stuff, but this place was WAY over the top. I will not be back. Never.
From the December 1992 edition of the American satirical monthy Spy Magazine:
As a teacher on the Sopranos said about the mobster's feckless, dull-witted son AJ: "Well, like my dad used to say, 'The world needs ditch diggers too.'"
And when Dutch ditchdiggers dolefully depart, the number-one song they choose to accompany their incineration is this:
Of course, they choose the anglicized version of it: 'Time to Say Goodbye', sung as a duet with Sarah Brightman. But that's another ball of wax entirely. English translation of the lyrics here.
This song is also used several times during The Sopranos, both diegetically and non-diegetically, as a sort of psychological cue that one of the grubby, classless Italian mobsters is having a Moment of Profound Emotion. David Chase, one of the world's great misanthropes, used the melling swellody, er I mean swelling melody to spit contempt at the characters he so memorably etched: "Look at these cheap, empty people. This is their idea of a 'bee-yoo-tee-ful' song. Yet they can't even speak the language it's written in anymore, because they're deracinated, lazy, and corrupt. It's just an empty token of their once-proud heritage."
But Chase is wrong! Well, not about the mobsters, but about the song. If you ask me, 'Con te Partiro' is fucking awesome. It's a creamy, silken masterpiece of heart-on-your-sleeve, pop-those-cuffs, if-this-don't-turn-you-on-you-ain't-got-no-switches pop melody-making. I mean come on, once you hear that melody, you'll never forget it. And the sudden key shifts keep the drama intense until the last bar fades.
No wonder this music accompanies the synchronized fountains outside Steve Wynn's Bellagio casino resort in Las Vegas ("The Fountains of Bellagio"!). Once, while watching those fountains in Vegas with a group of friends, 'Con te Partiro' came on. Most of us sneered the sneer of the international urban haute bourgeoisie at this ejaculation of cheese. Yet one of our company, a fluent speaker and lover of Italian culture, visibly choked up. "You assholes don't know quality when you hear it. This is a beautiful old Italian ballad, just amped up with a big orchestra."
I told him that as far as I knew, it had been written in the 1990s for Andrea Bocelli. He said, "Maybe, maybe not," (this was before smartphones), "but even if it was, it's in the grand tradition of Italian song-making. The yearning, the passion, the genuineness of the Neapolitan ballad, it's all there. Laugh all you want, but this is great music. What would you rather have people listening to? Vanilla Ice?"
Needless to say, I've come around to his way of thinking. But judge for yourself:
Via slipped disc:
From 2014/15 Deutsche Bühnenverein statistics, just released:
1 La Traviata (Verdi) 31 productions, 286 performances
2 Die Zauberflöte (Mozart) 30 productions, 285 performances
3 Carmen (Bizet) 26 productions, 247 performances
4 Hansel und Gretel (Humperdinck) 207 performances
Magic Flute and H&G are targeted at children and Christmas audiences. So, no surprises here.
Among more recent works, Peter Grimes (Britten) had 35 performances and The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky) 30.