Unoriginal – but bassy

I ordered some new speakers several weeks ago (I’ve been good! it had been, like, 6 years!), and the subwoofer finally arrived on Saturday. I’ve been spending a bit of time over the past few days listening to pieces that I haven’t listened to in ages, just to see how they sound on the new setup. (I’m also doing a lot of writing — so don’t send any guilt-trips my way, Newman — and I only retire to the family room for Stereo Time as a reward to myself after many hours of Finale Time.) It’s been a good activity, and even somewhat (okay, maybe questionably) productive.

I’ve been ordering scores that I’ve always wanted (including for one of my top 5 pieces of all, William Walton’s “Partita for Orchestra“), and it’s been a blast following scores like I did in the old days — but with the new benefit of the ability to reproduce sound waves down to a literally house-shaking 10 Hz.

Today, I took the old Rite of Spring score off the shelf and listened to several different recordings while following along with the score. I had thought I’d prefer Pierre Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra — hearing him conduct a live performance of it with Cleveland was a highlight of my undergrad years — but I was disappointed by the recording. Boulez inexplicably takes the last section under tempo, and it gets surprisingly ponderous by the end. Next I listened to a recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the LA Phil — and it rocked. (Here’s the iTunes link for the album, which includes another favorite, Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite.) Salonen has the bass drum player dampen the hell out of the bass drum for the last section of Rite of Spring, so it sounds like a drum set kick drum on steroids. It was sweet.

Listening to Rite of Spring for the first time in a few years made me again painfully aware of how ridiculously derivative my music is. There’d be some screeching Eb clarinet lick, and I’d go, “oh, that’s where I got that idea.” Some crazy mixed-metered ostinato? Weird. Apparently not my idea. Bass drum in pounding, constant 8th-notes against 16th-note-based mixed-meters with different pulses? Er, check.

What would my music — or any other living composer’s music — sound like if I’d never heard Stravinsky? (Well, besides wussier — and with decidedly less need for subwoofers.)


Mark S. says


The percussive composer of Pagan rituals that cause fist fights.

He's not my favorite. Although I do like Bartok.

Montoya says

Without Stravinsky and Mahler... there would be no contemporary marching band arrangements!!

Or "Original" marching band music!!!

Kevin Howlett says

The first recording of the Rite I owned was Ozawa conducting the CSO. I thought it was pretty good, but going back to it, I find the intonation is terrible--apparently, that was problematic with any group Ozawa conducted, I've read.

I also have a recording of the LSO under Bernstein which is pretty interesting but the sound quality isn't too good.

The best one I have, however, is Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the SFSO. I will check out the interpretations you've mentioned, though.

New MacBooks today! Who's excited? This guy!

Steve says

A bit of trivia: the resonant frequency of John Mackey's house is Db. I think that's about 17.32 Hz.

He's not kidding about the whole house shaking.

Re: Stravinsky - he laid down the funk jamz.


Ok, so the "wussier" with a link to Air Supply is the funniest thing ever...

Mom says

How interesting that you have dusted off the "Rite of Spring" and that your friend, Ken and I agree that the more recent recording of Michael Tilson Thomas' (& SF Symphony) exemplifies Stravinsky's intent!! In fact PBS recently featured Tilson-Thomas in a new program series (reminiscent of Bernstein's "Joy of Music" series (1958-1963) analyzing the work and demonstrating the powerful score with the SF Symphony Orchestra. Did you know that before MTT achieved fame and fortune he conducted the Cincinnati Symphoniy and Pops Orchestra as well as teaching at the Cincinnatti Conversatory of Music?

Eric, Rick and I are looking forward to attending your performance at OSU School of Music. (Eric is studying your recordings and is looking forward to meeting and interacting with you!!

Elizabeth aka MOM

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