Wednesday, December 30, 2009

catcerto

I love cats but even I find the majority of cute cat videos too much. An exception is the one recently sent to me by a friend. You can see it yourself at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeoT66v4EHg&feature=player_embedded
This one features Nora, a feline prodigy, featured in her own "catcerto" with a chamber orchestra. Rather, it's apparently by the Lithuanian conductor and composer of the orchestra but Nora has a star part in it.
I think it's astounding. What might have sounded random or aleatoric from Nora's performance has been scrupulously composed-around so that it makes musical sense. And actually it does. The composer picks up motifs from the notes that Nora's pewter-gray paws choose from the keyboard, and this cat's got an ear for harmony. It's not diatonic harmony but it's certainly got nothing with dodecaphony, or 12-tone music, as one commentator originally but wrongly thought.
It has more to do with Alban Berg, though it's a little sweet-sounding for Berg, or maybe Gy├Ârgi Ligeti. I love it when Nora suddenly reaches into the black notes or accidentals for just the right effect, then sweetly looks up at the camera, probably waiting for praise, or a treat. And then she accomplishes something like a note-cluster by suddenly rolling her head on the keys.
What's even more remarkable for me is that Nora's the image of my dearest cat ever, Schuster. He was musical too. I like to think Nora was channeling Schuster.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

been a while

The "fine writing" bit in the above announcement was the phrase I heard from my former managing editor when I announced that I was willing to take a buy-out, and it seemed to be said sarcastically. It amazed me. That something any writer would aspire to should be held somehow against him, and "ironically."

Never mind. I'm ready to say what I think of popular and classical culture.