The world is a quieter and sadder place today.
Notes from the left coast by the classical music critic of the San Francisco Chronicle
New York, April 25 — Conceding that the task of finding a music director to succeed Lorin Maazel was "far beyond our capabilities," officials of the New York Philharmonic yesterday announced a plan to make the orchestra's podium available to "anyone who wants to take a crack at" the job.
Composer, pianist, conductor, critic, blogger extraordinaire — and now hilarious cartoonist to boot? It is to weep.
If 4' 33" adds a frame where none had been, the widely remarked-on Joshua Bell stunt does the converse. Take the Bach Chaconne out of the museum and plunk it down in the subway at rush hour, and it turns out that many people don't recognize it as Great Art — or have too many other things on their mind to react to it with the kind of pious reverence some might expect.
These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.
At its inception, 4' 33" was about challenging preconceived ideas of listening as mediated by the concert hall experience. That's a good trick, but it really only works once, after which reported accounts spoil the surprise.
Until today's news that 26-year-old Gustavo Dudamel would be taking the reins of the L.A. Phil, I didn't think there was anything an American orchestra could do that would surprise me quite this much. Well, let's rephrase that. I didn't think there was anything that would fill me with such awe at an orchestra's sheer fearlessness (as opposed to thinking, "Jeez, I would never have guessed that even [exec's name here] could come up with something this bone-headed").