He reigned for about forty years. During that time he ate in all of the finest restaurants and slept in the finest hotels for free — because he was the Emperor. He had three seats permanently reserved in the front row of the San Francisco opera house — one for him, and one each for his two dogs.

This is about self-proclaimed “Emperor Norton”, whom I’d never heard of. But what do I know, as I’m not from The City?

But before I place a link here, anyone know if this is true?

12. August 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Ramble

Elliott (two Ls, two Ts) Carter’s Oboe Concerto

I’d never heard it before, but had recently read of it and the Proms performance.

The final three notes are probably the most terrifyingly vertiginous ever written for the oboe: the soloist has to plunge from the very top of the instrument to its lowest note (the B flat below middle C), but connect them as a single, singing line, before a final C sharp hat has to be in tune with a tam-tam.

(Found here)

We don’t get to the end with the video, though. I really wanted to know what the “very top” was. Anyone know? Seems like the “very top” is changing and people have to keep learning higher notes. (I really don’t care to play all those high notes. Isn’t that what flutes are for?)

12. August 2008 · 6 comments · Categories: Ramble

If an artist has done unforgivable things in their private life, can you still let the music speak for itself?

It was asked here.

There are some things that would interfere with my listening far too much, I think. Glitter’s history would be one of them. Every time I’d hear him or see his face I’d think about what I just read.

Of course it’s sort of a moot point, since I’ve never heard the guy before. Or if I have, I didn’t know it.

But I struggle with this in other, somewhat different instances.

I worked with one artist who was rude, difficult, and extremely unpleasant to the orchestra. And in front of an audience. To this day I can’t listen to that person without cringing, and I hear the person with a prejudice that just refuses to leave. Sometimes I wonder if the individual has changed. Perhaps some slack should be cut? But I won’t know unless that person performed here again, and that is quite doubtful.

At the same time, I would never divulge information about artists that are cruel, rude, or otherwise distasteful in some way. That would, after all, make me cruel, rude, or otherwise distasteful.

Of course I may already appear like that to some of you … but I’m not going to feed that problem if I do come across that way!

But ah, the tales we could tell. (I’m not the only one who has stories, believe me!)

12. August 2008 · Comments Off on BQOD · Categories: Ramble

As for oboe playing, I was in a symphonic band. The high point of my ‘career’ was blowing (as in screwing up because my reed suddenly turned into a paper soda straw) a solo in front of an audience of about two thousand. Then there was the time a pad fell out right before a solo and I had to crawl across the floor under the flute section to retreive it, in front of an audience of about a thousand. But I did make that solo. The craziness of oboe players is well documented. I suspect if you aren’t crazy when you take up the oboe, you will be after you play it a few years. It has to do with being a solo instrument (many, many solos and other showcase pieces are written into classical music – Swan Lake, anyone?) that is notoriously unreliable. Either you’re crazy enough to think that sounds fun, or it’ll make you crazy after a couple tanked solos. My brother-in-law is a professional violinist, and his wife a pro cellist; on the few occasions I’ve met friends of theirs, they ask if I play an instrument, I say ‘oboe’ and they treat me cautiously, like I’m at critical mass. For the record, I think it was the tanked solos that made me crazy. I wasn’t to begin with. No. Really. Seriously.