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Cue Sheet – April 2007

INFORMED DECISIONS

    Terry Teachout thinks it’s a good idea to honor jazz figures with a Pulitzer Prize, but he says that, for a number of reasons, Ornette Coleman’s Sound Grammar did not deserve this year's award. He ponders, as do I, whether the broadening of Pulitzer eligibility will mean that judges will be making even less informed decisions than usual:

I also wonder how many judges likely to be tapped for future Pulitzer juries will be equally competent to weigh the relative merits of jazz and pop albums and written-out classical compositions. In a perfect world, all musicians would be as familiar with Duke Ellington as they were with Aaron Copland--and some of them are. In practice, though, it's comparatively uncommon for classical musicians to have extensive knowledge of jazz, or vice versa. Yehudi Wyner, the classical composer and Pulitzer laureate who chaired this year's jury, acknowledged this fact by recommending to the Pulitzer Board that separate prizes be given to classical and nonclassical music, which strikes me as a realistic response to an otherwise insoluble problem.
    Read his whole essay here.

Classical Music,

ROSTROPOVICH

    Mstislav Rostropovich has died of intestinal cancer at age 80. I won’t bother linking to any articles, because they’re everywhere you look. But I will tell you of one person who, frankly, is not sorry to see Rostropovich go.
    My friend Jeff Joneikis, owner of the mail-order company Records International, used to run a label called Russian Disc. He and his business partner, pianist-conductor Constantine Orbelian, would license recordings from the Russian agencies that succeeded the old Soviet broadcasting system and distribute them, quite legally, in the United States. The Russian Disc catalog included a good two dozen Rostropovich discs.
    Well, Rostropovich got wind of this, then got a lawyer. He claimed that Russian Disc had pirated material to which he owned the rights, and which he supposedly intended to have released by EMI. Never mind that Russian Disc had formal contracts with the post-Soviet radio archives. Never mind that the tapes in Rostropovich’s possession were mono copies of the stereo masters Russian Disc had used. The nuisance lawsuit, unfounded as it was, drove the company into bankruptcy. Jeff suspects that the lawsuit may have had less to do with rights to the tapes than with bad blood between Rostropovich and Orbelian’s father, who had nothing to do with the label. Jeff has no evidence to support this notion, though.
    So now you know why there’s one man in America who sneers when he says, “Rostropovich, the great humanitarian.”

Classical Music,

A MALL AND THE RIGHT VISITORS

    The over-hyped arrival of an overrated junk-food chain at El Con Mall has prompted much local discussion about whether or not anything can save the faltering mall. My suggestion: Tear the thing down and put up a resort hotel, the one thing sure to make money in Tucson these days. Oh, wait … what demolished landmark on that site was the mall named after?

quodlibet,

SPANGLISH TRIUMPHS

    Well, one out of three isn’t too bad:

    There's one excellent reason to see the Catalina Players' trilogy of one-act plays about immigrants: Silviana Wood's And Where Was Pancho Villa When You Really Needed Him? It boasts a quality of writing and acting, and a love and understanding of very real people, that its two companion pieces can't match.
    Many Tucson Hispanics of a certain age will recognize as their own the situation in Where Was Pancho Villa. It's an anecdote about an elementary school class, not too many decades ago, in which a well-meaning teacher tries to turn her lively little Mexican-American students into nice little Anglo kids. First, she Anglicizes their names, because she can't pronounce the Spanish originals. … Then she goes after their pronunciation, their lunches, every evidence of their Mexicanness.
    Naturally, the kids find much of this humiliating. Some is necessary, like an all-out assault on head lice, but it's the manner in which everything is carried out that grinds them down, from the incessant pronunciation drills to the way the school nurse handles them like lepers.
    Will the kids find a way to fight back? Well, whatever happens, you can tell from the way the adults who play them are costumed that they won't all live happily ever after.
    You can read my entire review in the latest Tucson Weekly.

tucson-arts,

TRYING TIMES

    I’ve held off linking to this until the series was complete; what suspense! Violist Charles Noble auditions for a job with the Seattle Symphony, and lets us in on what it’s really like, musically and psychologically, to try out for an important orchestra (or any orchestra, really). This great read begins here, continues here and here, and concludes here.

Classical Music,

DUNBAR SCHOOLING

    Too busy for blogging, or even first-person pronouns, so for a couple of days you’ll have to settle for links to interesting material found elsewhere. Here’s a fascinating article about an utterly forgotten West Indian conductor, who was the first black guest conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, among other major ensembles. Ever heard of Rudolph Dunbar? Why haven’t we?

Classical Music,

About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.