Lou Harrison translated the Mahāyāna Buddhist Heart Sūtra into Esperanto for his choral setting, La Koro Sutro—a universal wisdom in a universal language. And then, paradoxically, he set it in a way that guaranteed that performances would be few, far in between, and heavily dependent on where you were.
American operas, apparently, can have the second acts American lives cannot. The concert performance, at Tanglewood on July 11, of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby—after the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who famously hypothesized that particular limitation of biographical dramaturgy—was a bid for redemption.
This lovely new recording by the Eclipse Quartet and percussionist William Winant is, primarily, united by the relatively unusual, pleasantly mad scientist-ish combination of string quartet and percussion. But it also presents three works that wear their respective approaches to marking the time on their sleeves.
With my antennae more or less permanently oriented toward music and the arts, the defining mood of this year’s commencement season has been realism. This is a year in which, it seems, society is determined not to let students of the arts out into the world without making sure they’re painfully aware of what awaits them.
Not surprisingly, Paul Fromm made the production of new music into something resembling the wine business. He took the same approach to music that he did to wine: cultivate relationships with the producers, invest up front, and endeavor to get the subsequent delivery, whatever the quality of the vintage, into the marketplace.
Music is at once the most anti-social and social of the arts, the solitary pursuit of proficiency—practice, composition, study—only manifested in extroverted gestures directed towards and among collaborators and audience. Trust and generosity are, in music, not really sentimental qualities. They’re the currency, the supply chain, the raw materials.