Exactitude of language...

...is incredibly important. If you follow this blog, you've probably seen one of my trends over the past year is to critique the language used by critics, and to get around their troublesome use of words by finding definitions. These definitions are sometimes literal, sometimes societal, and usually a created through combining the two. This gets to a certain sticky point (and one debated by philosophers extensively): meaning.

   What does a word mean? From where does the meaning come? Is language innate, passed along genetically, and only nuance is given during learning phases--an incredible oversimplification of Chomsky, barely comparable to his thoughts. Meaning in words can be tricky, and that's why philosophers and scientists define their terms.

    When we get into the meaning of music, things can be even stickier. There are many camps debating meaning in music, from ascribing a narrative (or looking for inner narratives) to purely formal approaches. I'm a sucker for a story, and in the past looked at the idea of storytelling in various mediums. I've talked about meaning in music in relation to politics, and that is an ongoing area of study and thought for me. I've even gone so far as to define and defend experimentalism, especially in the collegiate experience.

    And now I find my fingers tapping the keyboard again in search of a definition.

     A little less than 2 weeks ago, I posed a question on Facebook: what makes music (ir)relevant? The responses were of course varied, and from multiple people. Of course my friend Marek chimed in with "inasmuch as relevance implies pertinence, that question seems, like, incredibly relativistic." And that's the rub isn't it?

    The word relevant keeps being used in connection to music. Groups should be performing music that is relevant to today's younger generation. This is often distilled down into triadically based, beat oriented, non-traditionally structured, but traditional in form pieces; music that relates to or is derived from popular genres, which often share these incredibly general and borderline meaningless aspects.

    In this sense, the word relevant means "related to a known popular quantity." Or possibly "closely connected to something people already like." This seems to sprout from a definition from the 1960s when relevance became a buzzword--relevance at this point was related to ideas of social concern.

   In education, we often see the world used in conjunction with choosing majors. The humanities are under attack as being irrelevant. The Daily Beast compiled a list of "useless" degrees, and the fine arts were up there in the #1 slot. This of course set of a slew of "Oh no they didn't!" type responses. There have been defenses for humanities degrees, ranging from a mother defending her daughter's work, to Brown University's President making an impassioned argument for the financial importance of humanity degrees.

  Relevance in all these cases is tied directly to economics. Are humanities and fine arts (and music) degrees going the help students make lots of money?

  So, what does Greg Sandow mean when he talks about relevance? It's been a head-scratcher for me. Most of the time it seems like he means "music that is related, in some fashion, to music that people already like." His latest post he praised a concert of Nico Muhly and Pekka Kuusisto for their originality and fresh approach. I was perplexed at first, because he addressed Muhly's music as being "relevant," the format as being "personal" and the performers not being "high priests." I'm still sitting here the next day confused.

   Has Mr. Sandow never been to a new music concert outside of possibly the largest sanctioned halls? Has he never caught a concert by local NYC groups like Ensemble Signal, Talea, Ensemble Moto Perpetuo, Talujon, The Curiosity Cabinet, or any of the hundred other groups? He most certainly never caught my short-lived group, dfe, in concert when we played at the Yippie Museum in fall of '08 with a program about as varied as we could conceive (pulling from all three of his groups, plus an amazing rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle" by me on violin as we prepped another piece). I guess he hasn't noticed that the performers wear a wide assortment of clothing, performances happen at all sorts of spaces, and that, generally, contemporary chamber concerts have been exactly what he has described wanting them to be for...well...

    I was more or less instructed on how to give these concerts when I started my Masters in '07. By that point, they were incredibly old news, with my professor, Doug Cohen, telling me he had done them in the '80s.

  Ok, so where's the relevance. What makes this somewhat traditional structure so relevant. And yes, I mean traditional because as far as I can easily tell, dates back in the US at least to the 1960s with Phillip Glass' ensemble and the various loft concerts put on by Cage and Co...of course ignoring salon traditions, burlesque, and minstrelsy shows which did all the same things. (the smokers cough is getting better, but it seems to pop up in conversations like this...). I'm starting to feel like I'm spinning my tires--we're dealing with preconceptions, we're definitely dealing with a few critics obvious biases, and we're ignoring all the underlying economic questions behind low attendance. If it was just the music, a company like Live Nation, that runs a huge amount of concert venues, should be doing quite well catering to audiences with popular music. But that's not the case.

  But back to relevance. What makes music relevant? What makes music, to follow a more Webster definition, "closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand?" In the discussion of what a relevant degree is, the "matter at hand" is purely economic. So, what is the matter at hand for music?

   For Sandow, and many others, it is also economic. The matter at hand is "how do we sell more tickets to a younger generation." Therefore, any music that they perceive to not sell tickets is irrelevant. Which means exactly what Sandow says the matter isn't is exactly what the matter is--by relevancy he means familiarity.

    What do I mean then? Sandow claims that it's not about familiarity, familiarity to a certain culture. By his estimation we should look at what the widest amount of people consume culturally, analyze the music, and program (or create) music using these ideas. I've already said in my post about experimentalism that this is backwords. By taking a stance of "this is what people like right now," we lose sight of what people may like the future. It's not to say we know what people like, but to write in a way that reflects only data received after the fact means we are perpetually writing behind. Think about that for a second...

    Let's say we do a survey of a possible target audience--for me, that might mean 21-30 year olds, both genders, all races, living in the Indianapolis area. I'd like the data parsed by gender, race, economic standing, specific neighborhood, etc. I'm specifically looking at what music people like, what they feel is connected to their culture. I send out two thousand questionnaires, wait around six weeks, get back the questionnaires, and set forth to put in all the data and analyze it. It takes me roughly six to eight weeks to get all the data into the database (and formatted correctly with all the pertinent info in the right places), and then another six to eight weeks to sieve through all the information. All of a sudden, I'm sitting on a minimum of eighteen weeks of work before I can start to figure out programming, which after going through all the info would mean finding the musical terms in that music.

    OR I can head over to the Billboard Experiment and use info from the top 100 as compiled from the 1960s through today and see the type of general data that so many critics drool over. If I use that, well...

    I better be in 4/4, C major, around 120 bpm, four to four and a half minutes in length, and it wouldn't help if people already knew who I was...

    Of course, this misses out on a ton of information. If I go back to my study, I'd quickly see how fragmented the mythical audience is. I would also start to see and hear similarities and differences between the music. The repetitive nature of a rap anthem versus the greater amount of variance in a large indie ensemble (like Polyphonic Spree). I'd see a wide variety of instruments, but also a regular uses of electronics, either to enhance the instruments or as purely electronic sounds.

    I would see the world encapsulated into a small study.

    And that's the problem, isn't it? If we take Marek's quip about relevancy to heart, there's truth. Relevancy is relational, it's always related as a "relevant to what." Sandow's arguments are mostly related to "relevant to selling tickets to a specific cross section of young adults that he has personal knowledge." Compare this to the wide variety of populations in the world, country, state, county, city, neighborhood where the arts are active.

    I end by posing a few questions:

  • How can music, or anything, that is unfamiliar, be (ir)relevant?
  • Is relevancy in an abstract form of art (such as music) tied only to its formal properties? Is it the rhythm, instrumentation, time signatures, use of melody, form, and structure all that is tied to relevancy?
  • To who and how is it relevant? Relevant to what? To selling tickets? To reaching people through a musical experience? Are these the same thing? 
  • Who are we really marketing these concerts to?
  • Why are popular music live companies suffering difficulties, and what can we learn from those? Is just blanket emulation of traditional popular concert styles really going to save classical music?
  • Is it actually a new and different idea? Groups like Classical Revolution and GroupMuse are great, but are they really ground-breaking? Do we have such a short memory to have forgotten that this was a major part of the 1960s art scene in NYC? Or that salon traditions existed in Europe for years, with a large amount of premieres happening in 2 piano versions done in people's houses? 
  • And, most importantly: What are we actually talking about? 
   I'll be honest, there are many times I'm unsure anymore. It seems like we're just all spinning our tires. Sandow has been saying roughly the same things for twenty odd years. I've only spent the last year and change actively blogging in this sphere, and I realize that I'm repeating myself. Look at that first paragraph! It's all self-referential! That is a bad thing

    So why not take a step back, and instead of just continuously pushing a set position, why don't we start looking for questions again? Rather than pushing talking points, why not look at the questions above, and instead of answering with the same tired talking points, why not do some research and take me to task on my ignorance. I admit ignorance to a great many things. 

    What other questions do we need to answer before moving forward? What other words are we just tossing about without ever considering their definition or usage?

     How do we actual find answers rather than flash in the pan popular answers?



Concert attendance, rituals, and all the wrong questions

Something has been bugging me the past few months. People in the "Classical Music Crisis" camp often make a big deal out of the unique nature of what's happening in classical music. What comes out of these problems are answers that are also unique--unique in that they seek to change the artform itself, rather than to address problems in marketing, image, and pricing. In the past, there was much talk over ticket pricing, but that has since died down with a focus instead on kitsch, on creating some sort of buzz by putting in some new product, designed by the masses, for mass consumption, including the experience, rather than focusing on the product (and the evolution of that product naturally, which, btw, includes lots of influences) and finding ways to market more effectively, change the preconceived images, and bring more people into the fold.

There's a focus on the idea of barriers to entry. Particularly, there's a take by Pierre Bourdieu which has to do with the barriers caused by differences in customs, rituals, mannerisms, etc. by different groups of people. There was a blog post in January about the largest barrier this person felt wasn't the ritual aspect, but the specific knowledge of the music that was the problem. It's not knowledge of the ritual itself that is the issue, but the shared vocabulary to discuss the art afterwards. The author cites that talking about art is an important part of the experience, and that is a portion missing. I've blogged about the educational issue before.

If there is an issue with the preconceived idea that specialized knowledge is needed to enjoy a classical concert, then how do we alleviate this issue? We can bolster education through outreach programs, and we can actively work to change the image that specialized knowledge is needed. One of the things I try to work as a musician is how to explain music without needing technical terms. As a composer, every conversation I have with a new acquaintance has the question "What kind of music do you write?" How do I explain this?

During my comprehensive exam, I had to answer area questions submitted by faculty members on my panel. Three of the questions revolved around "elevator pitches," or discusses my music and what I do with different types of individuals. One was "You have five minutes to explain your music to a total stranger with little background in music." Another was "you have ten minutes to explain your music to another musician you've met an a conference." These are two wildly different approaches.

One can easily talk about music without getting into technical terms. I asked the question on Facebook about "what makes music relevant (or irrelevant)?" and in the long string, specialized knowledge was brought into the discussion. If you don't have the knowledge base required, the music becomes irrelevant.

But this leads to a few philosophical questions. First off, it starts down a path of there being a single meaning behind a musical piece. Second, it pushes a sort of agenda--depending on what information is given, different interpretations are achieved. Third, it discounts different styles of listening--formal vs. mimetic listening for one dichotomy.

I've seen the transformation first hand when this barrier is removed for students. In my teaching of music appreciation courses, I always seek to find ways for students to engage with the music, so I try different methods. Sometimes these are formal--I give students an understanding of the form and structure, point things out in a specific music example, then challenge them to listen for similarities in other pieces. This can work. Other times I've had students focus on historical or interpretive aspects. This works especially well with opera. Regularly, I start to see students come around not just to appreciating the music, but to start to understand all that ways that one can appreciate music.

If there's one piece of knowledge that can remove the barrier around needing specific knowledge, it's the knowledge that you don't need any one particular piece of knowledge, but can approach the music personally.

The next bit that confuses me regards marketing issues. I have lots of friends that play in bands of various sizes. Some go on tour with major groups, some flit from band to band, able to keep playing even as one band succumbs to the harsh reality that is the music business. They range in genre from brass players that have played with John Legend to heavy metal bands to jazz trios and any other group you can imagine.

When there's bad turn-out at a show, do you know what they blame first?


They didn't talk to enough people. They didn't get word out to enough of their friends, who didn't get word out to enough of their friends. The marketing group did a terrible job prepping the major tour and there were no adverts on the radio or TV. They only made a dozen posters and must have chosen bad places. Sometimes it gets into bits about a venue not being where people that like that music usually go (hey, surprise, venues cater to specific forms of music), or some other external force comes into light (shit, we booked against eighth blackbird... yeah, that happened. 15 people showed up).

What do we hear in classical music?

The music doesn't reach people. It's irrelevant. The culture of the concert hall is to blame. People feel uncomfortable getting dressed up. I've blogged before about how odd this idea is. I've made comparisons between new music concerts and death metal concerts. Talking to a friend tonight over some great Mexican street food (IN STOCKHOLM!), I came to the realization that, really, only classical musicians talk about music this way (and jazz musicians, which I think is just a symptom of being put into academia). If a death metal concert is not attended well, it's not because death metal is dead. When Kanye West only sold 4,500 tickets at the 18,500 seat Sprint Center in Kansas City, the local critic didn't say that West's music obviously lacked popular appeal and had no connection with the audience. Instead, he linked meager attendance to the various scandals surrounding West at the time. Maybe considering the album the tour featured, Yeezus, only made it up to #37 in the Billboard top 200 for the year, West's popularity could be falling.

But is it the music's popularity or West's?

Furthermore, attendance at all live events has been dropping. Live Nation has been facing financial issues because of declining ticket sales. There have been increases lately in ticket sales, though Live Nation is still having some financial issues. Overall concert attendance is down even though awareness is up. And, boy, if you want to start talking about a company that does a terrible job, and yet still exists, just look at Live Nation. But this isn't about Live Nation bashing, it's about continued decline in live music attendance.

If there's a problem in marketing with classical music, the problem lays with classical musicians. We're not doing our job well enough of reaching people. How many symphony musicians actively get their students to come to the symphony? When I studied with a principal player, he rarely mentioned the concerts. When I lived in Kansas City, I hardly heard a peep about what was happening with the KC Symphony, beyond the occasional "free tickets!" email sent to the conservatory. I didn't realize the KC Lyric was doing Nixon in China until it was sold out. It is, in part, my own fault. As a classical musician, perhaps I should be more "tuned in," and should be checking the arts calendars more often, and have the local symphonies webpages bookmarked and do the work myself. Perhaps I should sign up for the emailing lists...

But then again, that's a form of marketing that's very inactive, isn't it? It relies on the person you're trying to reach to go out of his/her way to find you. Then, once they've found you, you're in.

Take this against several of my friends in the jazz and pop world. Of course there's active use of Facebook, but it's important to remember the limited reach of Facebook--in the end, you're reaching your friends and followers. It's a bit more active, because you can initiate the contact, inviting people to like a page, or asking for a friend invite. I have to say the old system based on friending people with organizations was much better than inviting to pages. And, of course, they're posts only reach 16% of the people, on average. This means that while the bands my friends perform in do post their events, they also cross posted, repeatedly, with each member promoting as well. Some use twitter, and go out of their way to follow and gain followers. One friend in particularly still uses the old mass email.

I always know what my friends are doing. Even if I'm not paying attention, I can easily find out. They often reach out to me. I'm not saying social media and marketing is the way to go. Honestly, I don't think the reach is there for most businesses for it to be highly effective. But it's the active portion of it.

We also have to accept the reality of today's society. There's an ever growing portion of people that watch shows online instead of using TV. In fact, there's a growing number of people without TVs in their homes, with alternate devices taking over. About a third of the savior demographic utilizes the internet more for their viewing pleasure. On top of that, there's a large group that use ad blocking software. The privacy wars are raging, and it's causing a drop in ad space. While this can be good for symphonies and groups selling advertising (you can't block an ad in a live event), it can affect how a symphony markets itself. Paying for an ad on Facebook won't reach those tech savvy millenials you're after. Neither will playing on local TV.

I do not have an answer to the marketing issue...yet. But I'm working on some ideas that I think are perfectly in line with modern content and advertising ideas.

So, looking at this, what ideas really pop into your head? What ways are popular groups making a living these days? How are they advertising? Are they sacrificing their artistic ideas for the sake of more sales? The idea of the sell-out is of course omnipresent, as are the pop acts that are created by execs rather than by artistry. Should classical music change everything about itself to fit the idea of some mythical group?

Or should we find ways to reach people? Find ways so that people aren't angered by ticket prices. Address barriers to entry not from a "how do we change ourselves," thus leaving the barriers in place, just picking up and moving elsewhere (where there will be a new set of boundaries), or do we find ways to permanently remove barriers?

And if there are new modes to make money, how do we do them? I have quite a few ideas, and some have generated a fair bit of buzz in my secret meetings (look, I can do it too!). Look out in the future for any posts about upcoming projects, where some of these ideas come to fruition. 


When Kronos came to town

I take this break from my normal rhetoric to bring a concert review

Kronos Quartet came to Stockholm on May 9th bringing a mixed program ranging from traditionals and popular music to several recently commissioned pieces to their long-time signature. The technical skill of the quartet is as strong as ever, their communication and cohesiveness still at the elite level. Their blend as ensemble is at times hard to judge--they make use of amplification throughout, and choosing to use just a stereo pair of speakers on sticks on either side of the stage makes it hard to tell. That set-up, if using a stereo image of the group (which the engineer was), causes blend issues based on location. I was a bit further house left, so I got a bit more violin in my ear. Honestly, I would make use of a different style of amplification set-up, perhaps utilizing the array already in place which would have done a better job at even amplification across the space.

The program is as follows

  • John Oswald Spectre
  • Geeshie Wiley Last Kind Words, arr. Jacob Garchick
  • Raymond Scott, Powerhouse, arr. Michael DiBucci
  • Traditional, Smyrneiko Minore, arr. Garchick
  • Terry Riley, Serquent Risadome
  • Karin Rehnqvist, All Those Strings!, for string quartet and kantele, featuring Ritva Koistinen
  • George Crumb, Black Angels
  • 1st encore, Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze (arr. unknown)
  • 2nd encore, Laurie Anderson, Push
Spectre is a piece designed as an opener, utilizing a smooth transition from tuning the string section into the piece. It follows a process from the beginning to the end, from a drone cello tone building up, through the use of electronics, to "a thousand Kronoses" (quote from David Harrington in the show). The process is straight forward and effective. The balance of the electronics to the performers was generally good, though a few passages were almost unheard during the loudest build-up of the electronics. During the climax of the piece, were "a thousand Kronoses" were battling it out, the performers pantomimed playing, either in stop-motion, hitting a position and holding it, or in an exaggerated fashion. This brought some chuckles from the audience around me, as the exaggeration was a bit campy. Pantomime is a difficult performance medium for some to take seriously. 

Geeshie Wiley's Last Kind Words is an old Blues song dating from 1930. Below is a recording of Geeshie Wiley playing the song

Playing a blues song that wasn't originally an instrumental offers challenges. Jazz players do it regularly, with the approach being keeping the form and melody, but adding lots of personal touches and long solo sections. What Kronos presented was the song, in it's entirety, transcribed for string quartet. It was less an arrangement and more a straight transcription.

Below are the lyrics:

Stanza 1: The last kind words I heared my daddy say
Lord, the last kind words I heared my daddy say
Stanza 2: If I die, if I die in the German war
I want you to send my body, send it to my mother, lord
Stanza 3: If I get killed, if I get killed, please don't bury my soul
I p'fer just leave me out, let the buzzards eat me whole
Stanza 4: When you see me comin' look 'cross the rich man's field
If I don't bring you flour I'll bring you bolted meal
Stanza 5: I went to the depot, I looked up at the stars
Cried, some train don't come, there'll be some walkin' done
Stanza 6: My mama told me, just before she died
Lord, precious daughter, don't you be so wild
Stanza 7: The Mississippi river, you know it's deep and wide
I can stand right here, see my babe from the other side
Stanza 8: What you do to me baby it never gets outta me
I may not see you after I cross the deep blue sea

Here's the issue with instrumentally performing songs--none of those words come across in the performance. That feeling does not get transmitted to the audience magically. The music in many songs aids in the transmission of the lyrics, adding to the ideas present.

A good arrangement of a song like this takes into account the missing lyrics and their meaning. Those emotions must then be portrayed and brought out by the arrangement in some other fashion. Having the first violin play the melody while the other three instruments perform pizzicato accompaniment imitating a guitar makes for a bland arrangement. I was bored in the concert without knowing the piece, and downright irritated after doing a quick search and finding the piece. A standard blues song form, with it's repeated 12 bar set-up, can become monotonous without the lyrics, or the additions most jazz performers add. Not a good arrangement at all.

compare this to Michael DiBucci's arrangement of Raymond Scott's well known Powerhouse. Almost all of you will recognize this piece instantly, even if you don't know the title.

This arrangement was faithful to the original, while making use of string quartet in a variety of fashions. The arrangement was solid, the orchestration well done, and the performance top notch. It suffered from none of the arrangement issues of Last Kind Words.

Smyrneiko Minore ended the trio of arrangements. It was performed well, with a much more imaginative orchestration, though it too stayed very close to the original. John Harrington specifically mentioned the recording below by Marika Papagika

Again, what came out was much closer to a transcription than an arrangement. In this case the musical material already included string instruments, which Jacob Garchick transcribed almost perfectly. The melody line was handled by the first violin, including all the embellishments.

It's interesting to contrast Smyrneiko Minore and Last Kind Words based on their original content and how interesting the transcriptions became in performance. Smyrneiko has a much more florid vocal line, with embellishments and quarter tones thrown around as a part of the expressive character. Last sticks to a more traditional blues style with a strong focus on the lyric character. The difference between the florid and simple settings make for vast differences in the transcriptions. For me, Smyrneiko was more compelling as a transcription, whereas Last would have worked better with a more careful treatment, using the instruments to bring forth the emotion content of the words rather than just repeating the melody.

Terry Riley's Serquent Risadome is a piece written for Kronos' 40th anniversary. The piece is very sectional, making use of a few ideas that are developed shortly, then left behind, to be brought back later for a fleeting moment. I haven't been a huge fan of Riley's more recent works, and this piece also didn't resonate with me. Kronos did a good job navigating the quick changes, and doing a fine job bringing out the moments that connect the seemingly disparate sections of the work.

George Crumb's Black Angels is a staple of Kronos' repertoire. They did not disappoint in their performance. Speaking to a friend afterwards, she was intrigued by the theatrical elements of the piece, and how much was built into the piece and how much was added. It's the type of piece that can draw in an audience into the performance. Kronos chose to have the wine glasses up on a separate platform covered by black cloth, making the reveal quite theatrical. This again brought a few chuckles from the crowd, but this theatricality fit into the piece well, and was part of what made the piece so memorable for my friend.

This is the triumph of new music. The choreography was needed but interesting, demanded in the same way as large percussion set-ups, and done in an interesting way that draws a little attention to the movement, but in a positive fashion. The many different sounds and ideas in Black Angels gives an audience a ride through different territories (figuratively, metaphorically, and literally as far as development of ideas). It was met with raucous applause by the audience.

The first encore was Purple Haze. Here's a quick reminder of Jimi Hendrix:

Pay attention to Hendrix's guitar tone. There's a bit of fuzz, but not an overwhelming distortion. There's an edge on the vocals, more like they were tracked a little hot. There's not a large amount of compression, but it's definitely present. The drums are slightly in the back, with the snares being quite rattly. This is a live performance. Compare to this to studio version, here off the Best Of album

There's obviously more distortion, a more fierce distortion. And yet, each note is clear as day. For all the crunch and nastiness, the pitch isn't obscured by the effect. It's crunched, but soulful. The drums are crunched and compressed, but in a way that is fitting. It's a classic drum sound that has been emulated for ages.

Also notice the funky 1960s style stereo panning with the vocals in the right channel until the later effects that sent it ping-ponging. There's delay and reverb on the voice as an effect, emulating the lyrics.

Hendrix knew what he was doing.

Kronos' version was so distorted and compressed that pitch no longer mattered. Most of the time I had no idea what was being played. The effect was so badly mixed that it was just a wall of noise. I've described to people tonight as "a group of 15 year olds playing used guitars into used, nearly blown Marshall full stacks, with only an old Boss distortion pedal turned up all the way. Everything just cranked all the way as loud as possible, jamming in their parent's garage, just shredding like they're the greatest thing ever."

There's something to a raw sort of version of Purple Haze. But what I got wasn't raw, it was almost unlistenable. If it had been billed as a Merzbow meets Purple Haze, I might have bought it. Instead, I got an interpretation that left me more annoyed than anything.

For a real look into how a group should approach a "new standard," and interpretations of songs, fall down the amazing rabbit hole of doing a YouTube search for All Along the Watchtower. Start with Bob Dylan. Visit Jimi Hendrix. Move to Dave Mason. Listen to Dave Matthews Band if you're so inclined. There's a video of Eddie Vedder. You can listen to Eric Johnson do a version that hearkens back to Hendrix with his guitar tone and style. Take a listen to Richie Havens version. Maybe hop to Jamie N Commons' version. So many groups doing version that range from tributes to Hendrix or Dylan to more original takes. Performers keep their style and their tone, not adapting or aping someone else. There's individuality along with reverence. But be prepared for the rabbit hole that is this search path.

Thankfully, Kronos gave the audience a second encore that was more fitting with Laurie Anderson's beautiful piece. It's a simple song, beautiful in its simplicity. It allowed me to clap and give Kronos the appreciation they deserved.

You'll notice I skipped one piece, All Those Strings! by Karin Rehnqvist. I was unacquainted with Rehnqvist's music before arriving in Sweden. She teaches at KMH, but my contacts were in the electronic department, not the acoustic composition. However, since I arrived here, I've made a point of listening to the music of as many different Swedish composers as I could. Luckily, Rehnqvist has a fair amount of music available through Naxos, so I was able to at least get a fair sampling. What I heard I enjoyed.

All Those Strings! includes a kantele, a type of plucked dulcimer/zither. It's an instrument native to Finland, and is linked to Norwegian Finnish* mythology through the Kalevala, a epic poem written in the 19th century (which has been the source of many works of various art forms since its creation). The Kantele is a beautiful instrument, with a bell like quality. It reminded me of the hammered dulcimers of Appalachia, or the cimbalom. The plucked quality reminds me of the guzheng. All these instruments share the same family, so the relations in my mind make perfect sense.

There are times when I feel a piece is too short. Not because the piece did not give adequate time to the ideas or themes, thus leaving me unfulfilled. This was Brian Ferneyhough's criticism of my piece Dance of Disillusionment and Despair, when my my concept of miniature movements did not end up serving the material (or the material serving the form, to different views of the same problem).

Also not because it was a particularly short piece. There's something to be said for a piece that gets in and gets in and gets out, making it's point.

No, All Those Strings! was simply enjoyable enough that I didn't want it to end. The piece was billed as 20 minutes in length, and it felt closer to seven or eight minutes. There have been few moments when I got lost in a new performance, but Kronos and Ritva Koistinen's performance was impeccable. Rehnqvist's writing was idiomatic and made strong use of all the instruments, employing a range of techniques in a fashion that fit the musical material. The piece is very new, so there are no recordings available at the moment, but do yourself a favour, check out Rehnqvist's music, and put All Those Strings on your "To Buy" list. Hopefully Kronos and Koistinen will make a recording in the near future.

Overall, the concert was performed with the high level of artistry that one would expect from Kronos. The weakest portions were the pop songs, where Kronos seemed to miss the point of the songs with poor arrangements. The strongest were the pieces written for Kronos that made use of all the strengths and breadth of Kronos' skills.

*Edit made 5/12/2014. Why I'm thankful for astute readers! That's just a silly mistake: of course the Kalevala is Finnish. A few of my teachers are shaking their heads right now...