“Agony I don’t connect with. Not even alienation.”

Preparing for the Radio Breakfast show this weekend, I’ve locked myself in my office, resisting the blandishments of Christmas shopping and the lure of a rapidly emptying London.

It’s increasingly hard to concentrate for me. Once I’ve listened to all the music and read all the notes and delved in the internet, I keep on getting distracted. Some of the music I like much more than others, so I find it hard to come back and write something germane while I’m down a wonderful wormhole in the internet.

I’m listening to a fantastic interview with Aaron Copland from 1980. He was 80 then but has the most wonderful voice. Crisp, laughing, open.

He was a striking figure in American culture. Gay, left-wing, Jewish at a time when none of those things were particularly acceptable. But he never seemed to suffer on account of any of those things.

Just listen to his voice. You can understand everything wonderful about him.

It’s always delightful to hear that story about ‘Appalachian Spring’ . Everyone thinks of it as a portrait of that geographical area – but Copland didn’t know what Martha Graham was going to call it when he wrote it.

Alex Ross tells it best in the monumental The Rest is Noise.

And now he’s telling a story about accidentally playing through a composition of his in front of Prokoviev.
“Very lively. A bad boy type. Not kind. And he was right about my piece: ‘Too many bassi ostinati!”

“I can’t imagine what it was like being a composer before recordings. To have your reputation based on one performance of a piece – then very rarely repeated. There were 4 hand piano reductions but no full orchestral version. I’m very glad to hear my works in full panoply of sound.”

4 Comments

  1. Daniel Murray

    December 30, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Isn’t Alex Ross an amazing writer! I’ve been getting “The New Yorker” since I was in my 20s, and I have found myself drawn to Alex Ross’s writing because of that. I usually start reading from the back of the magazine — well, that’s where I find Anthony Lane and/or David Denby lurking amongst flippant adjective — and, soon enough, I’ll find myself wondering through the world of Alex Ross. I usually get lost, midway, because his is such a complex world that I barely grasp the depth of. However, his writing is pure joy.

    Music: it brings so much to our lives. I wonder if we’ll learn more about the magic of resonance and storytelling that lies — seemingly hidden — in the wonder of so many pieces. The spiritual magic in music — wow.

    Thanks for your thoughts on here.

  2. Daniel Murray

    December 30, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Isn’t Alex Ross an amazing writer! I’ve been getting “The New Yorker” since I was in my 20s, and I have found myself drawn to Alex Ross’s writing because of that. I usually start reading from the back of the magazine — well, that’s where I find Anthony Lane and/or David Denby lurking amongst flippant adjectives — and, soon enough, I’ll find myself wondering through the world of Alex Ross. I usually get lost, midway, because his is such a complex world that I barely grasp the depth of. However, his writing is pure joy.

    Music: it brings so much to our lives. I wonder if we’ll learn more about the magic of resonance and storytelling that lies — seemingly hidden — in the wonder of so many pieces. The spiritual magic in music — wow.

    Thanks for your thoughts on here.

  3. lori

    December 31, 2008 at 4:00 am

    I have to agree with Daniel about the magic inherent in so
    many pieces and to add, prosaicly, that musicians find redemption within
    in the spirituality of music. It’s like they speak and they are heard.
    Unfortunately, I’m lacking on that front and possess a meager
    talent only in painting.
    Alistair,I admire your infatuation with this man and the aspects it
    brings out in you. It would behoove you to know that (I’m sure)
    many of us who read your blog here have never encountered anyone
    who uses words like a knife to carve out the most precise, classy,
    tender and sensitive image of a man. And it’s like your words are
    mellifluous themselves.

    Happy New Year’s

  4. Rick

    January 1, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Happy New Year Alistair!

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