The latest avant-garde tricks ...

'A multimedia event with music by Philip Glass, a huge work for amplified violin and orchestra by John Adams, a concerto for tap dance by Michael Torke, and Marin Alsop will lead the East Coast premiere of Life: Journey Through Time by Baltimore native Philip Glass, a work incorporating the projection of photography by the National Geographic's Frans Lanting.' The Baltimore Sun on the lineup for the 2006/7 Baltimore Symphony Orchestra season.

'There are many dangers which hedge round the unfortunate composer: pressure groups which demand true proletarian music, snobs who demand the latest avant-garde tricks; critics who are already trying to document today for tomorrow, to be the first to find the correct pigeon-hole definition. These people are dangerous - not because they are necessarily of any importance in themselves, but because they may make the composer, above all the young composer, self-conscious, and instead of writing his own music, music which springs naturally from his gift and personality, he may be frightened into writing pretentious nonsense or deliberate obscurity. He may find himself writing more and more for machines, in conditions dictated by machines, and not by humanity: or of course he may end by creating grandiose clap-trap when his real talent is for dance tunes or children's piano pieces.' From Benjamin Britten's 1964 acceptance speech for the first Aspen Award.

You are not going to believe this but the photo really is of Maestro Krio, a Sony robot who conducted a Japanese student orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in 2004. I understand the critics found his rhythms rather mechanical. So he didn't get a Baltimore booking, but a Naxos contract is rumoured. Follow this link for the story in Italian (see first comment below for a rough machine translation). Photo credit

Now playing: György Kurtág's
Musik für Streichinstrumente performed by the Keller Quartet on ECM. Both Officium breve and the Twelve Microludes extend the concept of the quartet beyond Britten's three masterpieces for the genre. This is music which springs naturally from Kurtág's own gift and personality. The only machines involved are the recording equipment, and these works are about as far from grandiose clap-trap as you can get. (Shame though about ECM's design, or should that be non-design? for the CD inlay. It looks like a black and white blur in the image above because it is a black and white blur. I am sure Britten would have had some thoughts on it.)

Britten's On Receiving the First Aspen Award speech was published by Faber, ISBN 071100236.

Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Baltimore Symphony chief quits and Music will rise from the wreckage.


Pliable said…
By popular demand here is a very rough translation of the Italian article, as translated by Alta Vista's Babel Fish.

It is a typical machine translation. I'm sorry I haven't time to tidy it up, but for those interested it gives the main gist. Anyone who wants to post a more literate version would do us all a favour. But I bet your last line won't be as funny as the one below.


The new creature of the Sony to the Work of Tokyo Robot, a umanoide directs the orchestra 13 March Krio, high robot 58 cm, will direct the filarmonica orchestra in the execution of the celebre fifth sinfonia of Beethoven Krio, the last umanoide robot of the ' Sony', appeals the baton and directs the filarmonica orchestra of Tokyo in the celebre fifth sinfonia of Beethoven. The appointment of the first world-wide one of ' dumb-robot' e' for 13 saturdays March in the granda knows it from concert ' Orchard' to Shibuya, the mecca of the young of the Japanese understood one them. For hour of the unknown experiment of a machine to guide of one of the moments piu' created you of the attivita' human, which music, exists the tests generates them conduct yesterday nientemeno that to the new national theatre of the Work of Tokyo. With television resumptions from alive of the mechanical small Dumb, high the 58 cm., that it dictates times, on first of all the improbable ones, to orchestrali from the air between perplexed and the amused one. "Excused, we have mistaken, riproviamo" and giu' duckings of excuse from part of the master, inappuntabile in the dizione of its synthetic voice. Who listened, swears that after the fifth repetition of the first time of sinfonia "the destiny", the things have gone decidedly better and the understanding between master and orchestra has begun to work to wonder. "To play Beethoven e' an always new enterprise: times and pauses vary from director to director. With Krio we say that the times of our orchestra go of agreement ", has commented the first one violino of the filarmonica of Tokyo. It does not remain that to attend the execution from the alive one of next saturday, the photos of the main robot in first page write all newspapers today publishing. With the precisazione that the classified concert sara' to the children, as one convene to an event a lot piu' from videogiochi and promozionale exercise that legacy to music. For the ' Sony', however, and the other Japanese societies seriously engaged in the search on the umanoidi robots, that one of the robot orchestra director not e' other that one of the stages for the improvement of the artificial intelligence. Music then, has a particular value for the Sony, for its not only goes interests to you in the record industry but also for its history. Inasmuch as its former president, Norio Ohga, head of the group until the slid year, laureo' from young person to the conservatory of Tokyo and was itself appreciated student of the great Herbert Von Karajan, that he assisted on the bed of dead women. (Published 10 March 2004)
Garth Trinkl said…
"...he assisted on the bed of dead women."

hmmmm...this doesn't sound good (or does it?)

I least it wasn't the bed where his father bled to death...
Pliable said…
Yes Garth, and can you work out how Herbert von Karajan fits into this fascinating scenario?

It gives a whole new meaning to Lost in Translation!

Thank goodness it's the weekend.

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