Garden and Barbican

    Spent most of today in the garden, making a start on clearing it up for the summer. Not exactly gardening, as such. More gathering sticks and leaves, and putting them into brown bins for collection. Nice day for it, though.

    Then this evening to the Barbican, for the New York Philharmonic doing a couple of pieces by John Adams, as part of the “John Adams at 70″ series. Oh, and in the middle they had a cello concerto by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Who was the cellist? Nobody special. Just Yo-Yo Ma.

    It was clearly a virtuoso performance, but I didn’t enjoy the Salonen nearly as much as I did the two Adams pieces. Especially the second, “Harmonielehre.” Among other things, it’s good to see something orchestral where the percussionists have some serious work to do.

    Not that we could see the percussionists, mostly. We were effectively in the front row. Which is to say, it was row D, but row C was right up against the front of the stage, and not being used because the stage had been extended into rows A and B. That orchestra is big. The downside of having such close seats is that you can only see the first few rows of the orchestra: the string sections, basically.

    The big upside of the position, of course, is that you get such a close view and intimate sense of the performance. It’s almost like you’re inside the music at times.

    Meanwhile British politics has gone even crazier, with Michael Howard crawling out of the woodwork to threaten war with Spain.1 But that’s a discussion for another time.

    1. To be fair to Howard, that’s not at all what he said. Just that May should be as steadfast with Spain as Thatcher was with Argentina. But “war” is of course how the papers are hyping it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gibraltarians (96% remain) now wanted to become part of Spain. ↩︎

    Youssou N'Dour, Philip Glass, The Kronos Quartet, and Bela Lugosi

    Most, but not all of them at one event.

    Jamaica and Senegal Make Music

    A couple of weeks ago we went to the Barbican to see Youssou N’Dour. In support were an acoustic reggae band called Inna da Yard. They were fabulous fun, and reminded me that I’ve been missing out on reggae since John Peel died.

    Youssou and his band were amazing. They had more percussionists on stage than most bands have members (five, counting the drummer), which amused me.

    The total number of musicians on stage was about sixteen. Plus they had a couple of amazing dancers.

    And the professionals weren’t the only ones dancing on the stage. Several times members of the audience got up and joined in. Yes, a veritable stage invasion in the Barbican. The security people looked vaguely worried; I didn’t know the Barbican even had security.

    I won’t try to dance about architecture and describe the music, but let’s just say it was the rockingest gig I’ve been to at that venue.

    The Glass Eye

    A few days later it was off to the Hackney Empire, where we saw the original 1931 Dracula, with a live soundtrack. Which was composed by Philip Glass, and performed by him, Michael Riesman, and The Kronos Quartet. That’s a pretty stellar lineup from the modern classical world.

    I had at first thought that the film was silent, but it isn’t (I think I was confusing it with Nosferatu). Apparently it didn’t originally have a musical soundtrack, though.

    While it’s clear that the film is the origin (or an origin) of many horror film clichés, and the story is of course very familiar, I don’t think I had ever seen it before – though I thought I had.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, though the film volume could have done with being louder, as the music drowned out the dialogue at times. And on a related note, I’m not convinced that the music was always only there to serve the film, as a true soundtrack should be.

    But all in all a fascinating night.