Monday, June 22, 2009

hodge podge

First things first. I've been thinking a lot about getting a bicycle. In fact, I did get one, for about $100. It was with me for a couple months and then was stolen. Also because I locked it up a bit improperly, but it wasn't exactly a bike that I was going to be able to ride around everywhere, nor did it fit the rather specific things I needed my bike to be able to do: be portable, work well in commuter traffice, yet still be able to handle longer tours and bike trips.

Thought about it and it laid dormant. I had been eyeing Bromptons a good deal, but the $$ pricetag on them really stopped me from pulling the build-it-yourself trigger at NYCE Wheels Build Your Own website. This weekend, I went with F to trade in his beat-up Zenetik on-loan from Mt. Airy Bikes for another one the owner said he should try. A folded up Brompton caught my eye and I took it for a spin.

It felt great! The gear selection was such that I really could get quite a bit of power into the wheels and go for a zoom zoom. I'm going to see if I can loan one from them a bit -- or even see if they can give me a better deal than the a la carte one I've built that runs about $1300 at the moment.

Check out its folding action though:

Next, to return to a thought about a previous post on which features make voices really great in baroque/early music, I had a discussion with a friend, and I think it really is all about freedom. There are many pieces of romantic singing (many of them operatic) that can handle what sounds like strain in the vocal production -- Ortrud's Oath, for instance. I have to admit that I kind of like hearing the singer battle the orchestra as she invokes Wotan and Freia -- to hear Varnay flatten her backup band without any sign of strain whatsoever is thrilling in a completely different way.

Christa Ludwig

Astrid Varnay

Even comparing Christa Ludwig's Invocation with Varnay shows a remarkable difference. One is aware of how hard Ludwig is working, and how easily she could clamp down and tense more than she is (which is not very much). It's a clearly comparison with Waltraud Meier. I'll see if I can upload something.

Early music is almost completely unlike this in affect. Virtually at no time should the audience hear how hard you are working. They'll know anyway -- some of this shit is incredibly nutty. (Whatever Vivica Genaux sings would apply).

Alright, so fine -- freedom of the voice is paramount in this music. Meaning that a voice can freely and without inhibition achieve its expressive goals without feeling or sounding like it is hitching or working around technical obstacles, although this just is the very fact of life.

But what sort of standard to you apply in describing a free voice? It's so easy to fall on bizarre little tropes in music criticism when a writer isn't even trying to describe something technically -- the buzzwords range from strapping singers to well-oiled wooden voices (singers?).

It's bizarre, but I recently started to think about singing quality using textile immagery. Was I going for a velvet-feeling sound or a gauzy one? Taking it further, thinking about the vastly different kinds of yarn really did it for me. Someone who loves to knit (like my friend Knitting Pretty in DC might not like mohair, but could see that (I don't know the terms, exactly) that the thread is nice and consistent. The dye holds well, and color shifts are natural and pleasing rather than arbitrary and jarring.

It really pulled into focus how I think about voices and how free they are -- even with tones and colors that I myself do not appreciate.

Finally -- I still can't find a Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo that I like. The piano ones play the Arioso in such a way that it's either too fast (it is Adagio) or sounds a bit too sentimental. I like the Tureck, but it's somewhat sentimental for me. I think that I like it best on harpsichord, which allows the performer to go even slower (this is almost toooooo slow) without the sentimentality that inevitably creeps in on a piano.

All of which means that I'm going to have to learn it myself and possibly play it on a recital, which I would really like to be crazy vaudevillian more than yucky and staid.

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