Wednesday, June 24, 2015

concert, non-concert, experience, movie

or, what I've been doing musically lately.

1. My editor phoned last week and said, "There's a festival in your area this weekend." I said it's not for three weeks, but he was thinking of a different one. "What's it called?" I said, so I could look it up online. "Alliance Fran├žaise," he said, pronouncing it in such impeccable French that I had to say, "I don't know how to spell that." I hadn't heard of it. Turns out nobody else had either, as hardly anyone was there when I turned up Friday to review the first concert. This was a hard review to write because there was not much to say. It was a pleasant concert. Next week's follow-up looks even more tempting. I won't be available, but I hope my review tempts somebody actually to show up.

2. Alert correspondent MTD alerted me that Saturday evening was a drum corps competition at Stanford Stadium. He's alerted me to these before, but I've never been. Drum corps are basically marching bands, though I understand they get pretty snitty if you call them that. Video clips reveal that brass march around the field, percussion stay put on the sidelines (no winds), and play five-minute suites of fetid arrangements of, sometimes, rather esoteric modern classical music, this last fact being the sole generator of my interest. I skipped out early on the nearby Solstice Party to pop over to Stanford, only to find that this was very popular and, well, you know what Stanford parking is like. I didn't want to spend half an hour walking back to the stadium for this, so after nearly running over some pedestrians after I had been firmly directed by a street usher to drive straight through where they were about to walk by direction of another street usher, I gave up and went home.

3. On my way up to the Widner memorial of which I previously wrote, I went on Sunday evening to the Garden of Memory walk-through solstice concert at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland. This was the first time I'd been to it on a weekend, though it turned out not much more crowded than on weekdays. This time I was there early and plopped myself straight down in the main chapel for the first sets by all the performers posted there: William Winant (solo percussion), Kitka (women's acappella chorus with a Black Sea nasal style, performing a new multi-part composition by one of their members, with more open fifths than I've heard since 1400 A.D.), and Sarah Cahill (quiet postmodern pianism, abandoning a piece by Sam Adams when the accompanying electronics didn't work). Then I wandered down to the middle chapel and caught a set by old favorite Amy X Neuburg, performing not her own music this year but a strange and haunting song cycle originally written by Jerry Hunt for Karen Finley. After that I wandered around. Reached Orchestra Nostalgico up at the top terrace just after they finished their last set, dammit. Maggi Payne was letting people try out her theremin. Pamela Z was hooting. The Cardew Choir were singing Oliveros' Heart Chant again, and I still want to point out that Ursula Le Guin invented singing heya first. A group in white calling themselves the Lightbulb Ensemble played minimalist percussion utterly devoid of anything that makes minimalism interesting, even to me. I couldn't stop and listen to a lovely guitar and violin duo, because the room was so crowded there was no place to stand that wouldn't block the thin line of people passing through to the next room. Eventually I found peace in an obscure corner with another old favorite, the soft hypnotic padding percussion of Laura Inserra.

4. At the memorial, the movie all the fans were talking about was Jurassic World. I haven't seen it, and don't plan to. Even Seanan McGuire, who describes herself as the target audience for movies about dinosaurs eating people, only mentioned this to preface a grumble of dismay at the actual movie. And I'm not the target audience. When I last found myself in front of a movie theatre with nothing else to do, I chose:

Far From the Madding Crowd

I've never read the book. I've never succeeded in reading anything by Hardy, though I've tried a couple times. If I'm going to learn his work, then, it's going to be by movie.

Here's what the movie's about. Young woman manages farm. Rather than being far from the madding crowd, she's in the middle of a madding crowd of would-be lovers, men who issue her abrupt marriage proposals even though they've hardly met, and who will not go away and leave her alone. Not being inclined in that direction, I can't tell which of these guys, if any, would seem most appealing. The heroine knows how to run a farm, but it takes her the whole movie to learn to understand her own heart.

Any period story of this kind I will inevitably compare with Jane Austen. The closest parallel to this one is Emma. Our heroine is as headstrong and imperious as Emma, as uninterested in marriage, far less judgmental, but even less self-aware, if that's possible. The main difference is, in this one she's being simultaneously ardently courted by the equivalents of 1) Mr. Knightley; 2) George Wickham (no, not Frank Churchill: Wickham); 3) Robert Martin.

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