Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Rest is Noise

One reader (hi, Jule) was surprised by my posting a part of Stabat Mater last week, but then she realized it had been referenced in the previous post. That was the most direct inspiration for it, but I had been meaning to put up a piece of religious music for a while. (I'd also highly recommend Spem in alium as performed by the Tallis Scholars.)

I've embarked (slowly) on building my classical/choral music collection, and one invaluable resource is Alex Ross' blog, The Rest is Noise. It shares its title with Ross' recently published and highly acclaimed book about twentieth-century music. When I went searching for Ross' thoughts on Stabat Mater, I discovered that he often writes annotated playlists on his site, and creates them on iTunes so you can download them in their entirety. A great idea.

I had already been a fan of The Rest is Noise for its general interest (and it's now belatedly on my blogroll at right), as in Ross' most recent post, in which he writes about the diaries of Prokofiev. He shares this excerpt that Prokofiev wrote about being interrogated by American immigrant authorities in San Francisco around 1918:
"What is this?"
"Did you write it yourself?"
"I did, on board ship."
"Can you play it?"
"I can."
"Play it, then."
On the piano in the ship's saloon, I played the main theme of the Violin Sonata on its own, without accompaniment. It was not appreciated.
"Can you play Chopin?"
"What would you like me to play?"
"The Funeral March."
I played four bars. The official evidently enjoyed it.
"Very good," he said, with feeling.
"Did you know for whose death it was composed?"
"His dog's."


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