Friday, February 1, 2008

Chronicle of December 2007

December 1

Death of Danny Newman (b. 1919, Chicago, IL), of pulmonary fibrosis, at 88. Lincolnwood, IL. "Newman may be best remembered for his 1977 book Subscribe Now!, which offered theories for building audiences through subscriptions; the ideas have since been embraced by nonprofit organizations around the country. The book is used in 31 countries and has been printed in 10 editions. . . . In a long and varied life, he owned movie houses in Chicago in the pre-television era; was active in the Yiddish theater; had a hand in promoting the new postwar craze for drive-in movie theaters; promoted high school football games; and from 1946 to 1951 was a co-producer of the radio program Famous Names with Mike Wallace as host. . . . His wife recalled that even during his final illness he was often ready with one of his famous trademark expressions: 'We'll get out of this mess yet'" [Bernard Holland, The New York Times, 12/11/07]

December 3

Sergio Gomez, founder and lead singer of K-Paz de la Sierra is kidnapped while leaving a concert. Michoacan, Mexico.

December 3

Death of Sergio Gomez, who was beaten, tortured with a cigarette lighter, and then strangled with a plastic cord, at 34. Michoacan, Mexico. "Mexico's country music stars are being killed at an alarming rate -- 13 in the past year and a half, three already in December -- in a trend that has gone hand in hand with the surge in violence between drug gangs . . . . None of the cases have been solved. All have borne the sign of Mexican underworld executions, sending a chill through the ranks of other grupero musicians, who sing to a country beat about love, violence and drugs in modern Mexico. . . [Gomez] had just been nominated for a Grammy Award. 'We don't understand why this happened,' his uncle, Froylan Gomez, said in an interview. 'He never did anyone any harm.' The motives for the killings remain a matter of speculation, and no evidence has been found to link them to a single killer. In some cases, the musicians appeared to have ties to organized crime figures, making them potential targets in reprisal attacks from rival gangs. Others had composed ballads known as narcocorridos, glorifying the shadow world of drug dealers and hit men, which can offend other drug dealers and hit men. In still other cases, as the musician's fame grew, they may have become embroiled with criminals unwittingly" [James C. McKinley Jr., The New York Times, 12/1807].

James Levine conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Henri Dutilleux's Le Temps, L'Horloge. Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.

Alexander Ghindin in Rodion Shchedrin's Sonatine Concertante and Sergei Prokofiev's Suggestion Diabolique. Zankel Hall, New York, NY.

December 5

Death of Karlheinz Stockhausen (b. 8/22/28, Modrath, Germany), at 79. Kurten-Kettenberg, Germany. "[He] envisioned music as a force of cosmic revolution and . . . himself became a musical force of nature. . . . He helped inspire Miles Davis' most extreme musical experiments, and the Beatles included his photograph on the collage cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Bjork has mentioned Mr. Stockhausen as an influence. Among his most important pieces was what has come to be considered the first classic electronic score Gesang der Junglinge (Song of the Youths), which he described in 1955 as the birth of space music. Another classic from 1958 is Gruppen, which requires three orchestras and conductors. Once, when asked what he might suggest be programmed with the difficult score for a performance by student ensembles at Tanglewood in Massachusetts, he replied that the evening should be Gruppen, a lecture on Gruppen, then Gruppen again. 'He was the rock star of my youth, Esa-Pekka Salonen . . . 'When I was a teenager, my classmates listened to rock and pop, but I got the same kind of kicks listening to Stockhausen.' . . . By 16 [Stockhausen] was an orphan. His father, a Catholic schoolteacher who became a German army officer, never returned from World War II. His mother, who suffered severe depression, was one of the first victims of Adolf Hitler's euthanasia policy. Mr. Stockhausen's own wartime experience was as a stretcher-bearer in a military hospital. In the 1960's, Mr. Stockhausen taught at the University of Pennsylvania, then at UC Davis. The Bay Area, just then becoming a hippie haven, had a radicalizing effect on him. Astrology and alternative lifestyles proved appealing, though he apparently rejected drugs. Around this time, he began spending time in Tokyo as well, and elements of ceremonial ancient Japanese music entered into his compositional vocabulary. . . . [B]y the late '70's, when he had begun his huge operatic project, he was living in a specially designed house in Kurten, on the outskirts of Cologne, with two of his most trusted performers, flutist Kathinka Pasveer and clarinetist Suzanne Stephens, along with his children, many of whom became virtuoso performers themselves. They became the characters in his operas, an extraterrestrial mythic Christian saga that defies description. Mr. Stockhausen got so involved with the epic struggle between good and evil that he was producing that he seemed unable to separate his own ego from his creations" [Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 12/12/07].
"Stockhausen had secured his place in music history by the time he was 30. He had taken a leading part in the development of electronic music, and his early instrumental compositions similarly struck out in new directions, in terms of their formal abstractions, rhythmic complexity and startling sound. More recently, he made news over his public reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center. . . . . [H]e became infamous for calling the attack 'the greatest work of art that is possible in the whole cosmos.' His comments drew widespread outrage, and he apologized, saying that his allegorical remarks had been misunderstood. Mr. Stockhausen produced an astonishing succession of compositions in the 1950's and early 60's: highly abstract works that were based on rigorous principles of ordering and combination but at the same time were vivid, bold and engaging. In Song of the Youths (1956), he used a multichannel montage of electronic sound with a recorded singing voice to create an image of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego staying alive in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. In Groups (1957), he divided an orchestra into three ensembles that often played in different tempos and called to one another. Such works answered the need felt in postwar Europe for reconstruction and logic, the logic to forestall any recurrence of war and genocide. They made Mr. Stockhausen a beacon to younger composers. Along with a few other musicians of his generation, notably Pierre Boulez and Luigi Nono, he had an enormous influence. . . . [H]is music was promoted by radio stations in Germany and abroad as well as by the record company Deutsche Grammophon, and he gave lectures all over the world. . . . Earlier he had based his thinking on psychoacoustics and the nature of musical time; now he presented himself as the receiver of messages about a spiritual drama being played out in the cosmos. Between 1977 and 2002, he concentrated his creative efforts on Light, a cycle of seven operas intended to bring that cosmic drama to the human stage. The project was extravagantly egomaniacal. Mr. Stockhausen devised the music, the scenario and the words for his operas, and he made stipulations about sets, costumes and lighting. During the period of Light and after, Mr. Stockhausen was venerated within his own circle of performers and family members (often the same people) but largely ignored outside it. His home at Kuerten, which he designed, became the center of a publishing, recording and promoting enterprise removed from the wider world. Formerly a star, he had turned into a guru. . . . His mother began suffering deep depressions when he was still a boy and was committed to a mental hospital, where, according to Mr. Stockhausen, she was 'officially killed' in 1941. His father later volunteered for the army and was killed in Hungary. The young Mr. Stockhausen himself served as an orderly to a military hospital during the last year of World War II, after which he studied at the state Academy of Music in Cologne. He took composition lessons from Frank Martin, but his training was as a music teacher. He also played jazz in Cologne bars, directed an amateur operetta theater and, as he later remembered, 'prayed a lot.' His ambitions changed in July 1951, when he attended a summer music course at Darmstadt and heard a recording of Olivier Messiaen's piano piece Mode of Values and Intensities, which he described as incredible star music. On his return to Cologne, he began studying the music of Messiaen, writing his own similarly conceived work, Crossplay, for piano, percussion, and two wind instruments. As Crossplay shows, he understood at once how Messiaen's single notes could be organized by applying Schoenberg's serial principle to every dimension of sound: pitch, duration, loudness, and tone color. A few formal rules would be set up, and the notes would fall into patterns of themselves. Here his admiration for Hermann Hesse joined with his intense Roman Catholic faith go give him confidence in a kind of music that would be new and pure, reflecting the unity of the divine creation. He arrived in Paris in January 1952 and stayed 14 months, during which he wrote two big orchestral scores: Counter-Points, an exuberant ensemble piece with instrumental flourishes; and the first four of a continuing series of piano pieces. He also composed his first electronic piece. When he went back to Cologne, it was to assist in the foundation of an electronic music studio, as well as to marry his student sweetheart, Doris Andreae, with whom he had four children during the next decade . . . Between 1953 and 1955, he wrote more piano pieces (influenced by a first meeting with John Cage and with Cage's regular pianist, David Tudor) and two electronic studies. Then came works on a more public scale: Song of the Youths and Groups. He was attracted by the idea that pitch, timbre, rhythm and even musical form could all be understood as forms of vibration, and by the notion of an entire musical work as a kind of photographic blowup of a single sound or sequence of sounds. The first performance of Groups, in 1958, confirmed his dominant position within the European avant-garde. . . . His music became slower and more enveloping in the electronic Contacts (1960) and in Moments for solo soprano, choir, brass, percussion and electric organs (1964). At the same time, his Catholic piety began giving way to a broader spirituality that embraced Eastern thought. He also fell in love with the American visual artists Mary Bauermeister. He divorced his first wife to marry her in 196; they had two children . . . In Tokyo he composed the electronic piece Telemusic, in which recordings of music from around the world are made to intermingle. On his return to Cologne, he produced Anthems (1967), an electronic composition based on national anthems. For a few years after that, much of his work was devised for his own live-electronic performing group. Working with his chosen musicians, he simplified his notation, until, in From the Seven Days (May 1968), he was offering his players only a text on which to meditate in performance. He spoke not of improvisation but of 'intuitive music' . . . With Mantra for two pianos and electronics (1970) he returned to precise notation and introduced a new style, in which entire compositions were to be elaborated from basic melodies. This method gave him the means to fill long stretches of time, and from then on his major works were of full-evening length. They included Starsound for several groups in a public park (1971) and Inori for orchestra (1974). . . . In 1974 the American clarinetist Suzanne Stephens entered his entourage, and she remained his companion to the end, joined from the early 1980s by the Dutch flutist Kathinka Pasveer. These two, along with his son Markus [by Andreae], a trumpeter, and his son Simon [by Bauermeister], on saxophone and synthesizer, gave him a new ensemble. They also became the central performers of Light; Markus, who shared his father's striking good looks, as the hero Michael; Ms. Stephens or Ms. Pasveer as the lover-mother figure, Eva; and often a trombonist as Lucifer, he spirit of negation. The first three Light operas were introduced by La Scala, the next two by the Leipzig Opera; the remaining two have not been staged. Mr. Stockhausen's final project was Sound, a sequence of compositions for the 24 hours of the day. . . . Right from his early 20's he never doubted that he was a great composer, and this conviction guided all his actions. It made him authoritarian in his dealings with others, whether fellow musicians or administrators. It pulled him through the creative challenges he set for himself as a young man. But it left him an isolated figure at the end" [Paul Griffiths, The New York Times, 12/8/07].

Death of Andrew Imbrie (b. 4/6/21, New York, NY), after a long illness, at 86. Berkeley, CA. "Imbrie's music . . . included operas, symphonies, concertos and . . . chamber scores . . . . His opera Angle of Repose, based on Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was commissioned and premiered by the San Francisco Opera in 1976. It was his largest creation, a historical panorama whose action shuttled between 1876 and 1976. The score included American folk tunes and banjo music alongside more austerely atonal writing. Among his other notable works were five string quartets . . .; three symphonies; three piano concertos . . . . The San Francisco Symphony gave the world premieres of six of his works, including the Violin Concerto (1958), the Symphony No. 1 (1966) and the Requiem (1985) . . . . A 2000 recording of the Requiem on the Bridge label was nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Composition. . . . He was on the faculty of the music department at UC Berkeley for more than 40 years, and taught composition simultaneously at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. . . . He began studying piano at age 4, and remained a skilled player throughout his life. But the formative encounter of his life came in 1939, when he enrolled at Princeton -- the fourth generation of his family to do so -- and began studying composition with Roger Sessions. Sessions' esthetic outlook, including his reliance on classical formal principles and his insistence on clarity above all had a profound and lifelong influence on the young composer. Generations of Mr. Imbrie's students observed that it was a rare lesson or class that did not include some invocation of Sessions' teachings. After a stint in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946, Mr. Imbrie followed Sessions to UC Berkeley, where he earned a master's degree in 1947. He spent two years on a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome before returning to Cal to join the music faculty. He retired from the department in 1991" [Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/8/07].

Lucas Foss's Griffelkin (1955). Manhattan School of Music, New York, NY. "[A] tale of a child devil who spends his 10th birthday walking among mortals and ends up banished from hell for the twin crimes of shedding a tear of compassion and doing a good deed. Granted, the deed is major: Seeing two children grieving over their mother's death, he brings her back to life. Mr. Foss wrote the work for NBC television which broadcast the premiere . . . . Foss revised it for a New York City Opera production in 1993. . . . If Mr. Foss's musical language is straightforward and consonant enough for a 1950's television audience, allusions to Stravinsky, Mozart, Verdi, and others peek through arias, vocal ensembles and instrumental interludes. Mr. Foss was an eclectic long before it became the style of the day, and while so much 1950's avant-gardism now sounds dated and quaint, Griffelkin sounds like what composers are writing now. Who'd have thought it? . . . Updated touches, like devils with punk hairstyles, images of the New York subway system as the portal between earth and hell, and crowd scenes complete with multicultural touches (and at least one cell-phone user) wrench the piece from its 1950s roots. . . . The supporting cast is enormous. During his visit to earth Griffelkin animates a few statues, a mailbox and the contents of a toy store, all of which have singing or dancing roles, as do a policeman, an ice cream vendor, quite a few passers-by and Griffelkin's family, which includes a grandmother and six siblings" [Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 12/5/07].

Death of H[ugh]. Wiley Hitchcock (b. 9/28/23, Detroit, MI), of prostate cancer, at 84. New York, NY. "[He was] a leading scholar of American music and the founding director of the Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College. . . Hitchcock served as president of the Music Library Associations, the Charles Ives Society and the American Musicological Society. He was also on the editorial boards of The Musical Quarterly and American Music, as well as of New World Records . . . . He was probably best known as the co-editor (and chief content editor) along with the British musicologist Stanley Sadie, of The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (Macmillan). The voluminous 'American Grove,' as it came to be called, was heralded both for its ecumenical embrace of vernacular musical idioms and for the often breezy writing style of its articles. . . . 'Lacking a patronage system, like Europe's, American music has developed along broad lines,' [Hitchcock] said. 'Therefore, inclusiveness of pop music, jazz, country, rock and Native American Indian music was essential. . . . There is no entry on the harpsichord (considered too European), but there is a thorough history of the electric guitar. Mr. Hitchcock read all of the work's four volumes, 2,600 pages and more than 5,000 articles, at least three times, often while riding the subway between Brooklyn College and his apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 'If I had known then what I know now,' he said in that interview, 'I would have put my order in for a new pair of eyes.' . . . After earning a bachelor's degree at Dartmouth and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he began his teaching career, he studied music with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. In 1961 he relocated to New York to take a post at Hunter College, a decade later moving to Brooklyn College. He retired from CUNY in 1983 as a distinguished professor but continued to teach in the 1990s at Yale, Columbia and New York University. Among his notable books is Music in the United States: an Historical Introduction (1969, revised in 2000), still a valued college text. His last completed work was a critical edition of the 129 songs by Charles Ives, published in 2004. . . . [H]is wife of 42 years [was] art historian [Janet Hitchcock] who is also known as Janet Cox-Rearick . . . . Hitchcock was a gregarious professor with a refreshingly blunt approach to scholarship. Asked in the 1986 interview about how in editing the American Grove he had handled disputed words and labels, for example, jazz, a term that many jazz musicians have found patronizing, Mr. Hitchcock said: 'Schoenberg didn't like the word 'atonality' either, and Philip Glass doesn't like 'minimalism.' That's tough!'" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 12/9/07].

December 6

Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach. Carnegie Hall, New York, NY. "Einstein on the Beach changed my life. Everything I thought musical theater was, abruptly wasn't. St. Paul had his road to Damascus; mine was the Brooklyn-bound No. 4 train to Atlantic Avenue. Philip Glass and Robert Wilson first brought Einstein to the surface in 1976, after exploratory trials in Europe, with two performances at the Metropolitan Opera House. It reappeared in 1984 and 1992 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The first revival was my introduction. The second revival left me just as disoriented as the first. Einstein, or a lot of it, returns in a concert version at Carnegie Hall, performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble. There have been two audio recordings. . . the one on Nonesuch, from 1993 . . . [and] Sony Classical [Tomato] from 1985. Gerard Mortier says he wants to bring back Einstein on the Beach in the 2009-10 season when he takes over the New York City Opera. He should, before its remarkable group of players, singers, stage directors and set designers shuffle too far into old age. . . . People smarter than I have expended a lot of brain power trying to figure out what Einstein on the Beach means. I don't think it means anything. It is majestically two-dimensional. Its references to the atomic age, criminal justice, true love, air-conditioning and Patty Hearst are merely art materials, like red paint or blue. Those who want to link it to our inner beings or to outer space are welcome to try. . . The music stops as if you were pushing a button on your radio. It starts again the same way. Charles Ives gave us a preview of no-ending endings about 1920, with The Housatonic at Stockbridge. The orchestral version, one of his Three Places in New England, floats along in a kind of misty indeterminacy and then, with the downward half-step in the violas, simply disappears. Expect no overture from Einstein, nothing to put listeners in their seats and prepare them for what is going to happen. This is not Verdi; there will be no first-act finale to send audiences humming to the lobby bar. . . A friend of mine came upon Mr. Glass after a rehearsal during the Philadelphia Orchestra's summer season in Saratoga Springs, NY, years ago. 'How are they doing with your piece?' he asked. Mr. Glass answered, 'Are you kidding?' and walked away. . . . Einstein on the Beach is the ideal entertainment for people smart enough not to think too much" [Bernard Holland, The New York Times, 12/2/07]. "Throughout his career [Glass] has changed his scores to suit the circumstances, trimming them for recordings, for example, because he believes that non-visual performances benefit from (relative) concision. The notion of an immutable, sacrosanct urtext -- the very thing musicologists sift historical evidence hoping to establish -- is entirely alien to him. Still, you would think that if Mr. Glass held anything sacred, it would be the structure and format of Einstein on the Beach. At that opera's premiere in 1976, and in its 1984 and 1992 revivals, Einstein played for five hours with no intermission. . . . The version that Mr. Glass and his ensemble presented at Carnegie Hall on Thursday evening swept away the elements that made the work a happening and transformed it into a concert piece: three hours long, with an intermission and with formal seating rules in force. The breadth of the work was presented, if not its full sweep. The two-hour trim was accomplished by deleting sections from all but a few scenes. Some trims were noticeable: Lucinda Childs's tale of the multicolored bathing cap was intact, as were the quotations from Carley Simon's I Feel the Earth Move, but Mr. Bojangles was evicted from this version. Musically, the score survived the trims and might even have benefited from them: The brisker movement from one section to the next highlighted the degree of inventiveness that drives this piece and pointed up passages of real beauty. In 'Knee Play 3' . . . the music has the grandeur of a sacred setting much of the time and, at others, the energy of a symphonic presto. And Tim Fain, the violinist, gave the solo passages in the second, fourth and fifth 'Knee Plays' and in the climactic, swirling 'Spaceship Interior' scene an electrifying, virtuosic workout. Some of the work's magic is in the way its elements pull in opposite directions. The repetition of short phrases, on one hand, can be soporific; yet the wheezing keyboard and woodwind textures and the bursts of choral counting, with sibilants creating their own rhythmic patterns, are invigorating. And because the performance is heavily amplified, timbres seem to melt together: is that repeating fragment a voice, a violin or the top notes of the organ figure? The ensemble, which included musicians who have been with Mr. Glass from the early days as well as newcomers, gave the score a tight, high-energy reading. Having Ms. Childs on hand to recreate her original narration was a fine touch; Melvin Van Peebles was the male narrator. Mr. Glass was one of the three keyboardists; another, Michael Riesman, directed the ensemble" [Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 12/8/07].

December 7

New York stage premiere of Elliott Carter's What Next? and a performance of the composer's Au Quai. Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York, NY. "[Carter] attended operas for decades, but selectively. He did not pay heed to [Puccini's] La Boheme until he was nearly 70 and left the show unimpressed. . . . [Carter] found a sympathetic librettist in the music critic Paul Griffiths . . . What Next?, a 40-minute, one-act work, which had its premiere at the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin in 1999. It is an existential comedy about six people, survivors (or victims?) of an auto accident . . . . In this imaginative staging and gripping performance What Next? emerges as a theatrically dynamic and, finally, quite poignant music drama. The last performance, on Tuesday night, falls on Mr. Carter's 99th birthday. . . . What Next? begins with a volley of percussion to convey the clanking steely, rhythmically jagged noises of a car crash" [Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 12/10/07].

December 8

Orpheus presents Paul Chihara's Childhood Dreams, as a possibility to complete Robert Schumann's Overture, Scherzo and Finale as a four-movement symphony; and Christopher Theofanidis's Muse. Carnegie Hall, New York, NY. "Chihara's addition . . . is a sleek and luxuriously colored medley from Schumann's piano piece Kinderszenen. Quite agreeable in itself, the new movement sticks out from the other three: its sound blossoming in full flower but surrounded by the original's dryer, tougher tone. Mr. Chihara is a better orchestrator than Schumann was and can't seem to resist letting us know about it. . . . Muse is a brief, civilized, literate and obliging three-movement piece that draws its format from the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3" ]Bernard Holland, The New York Times, 12/10/07].

December 9

New York Youth Symphony in Alberto Ginastera's Seven Dances from Estancia, Clint Needham's Violin Concertino, Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, and Maurice Ravel's Tzigane. Carnegie Hall, New York, NY.

December 10

Death of ethnomusicologist Henrietta Yurchenco, of lung failure, at 91. New York, NY. "[Her] quest to save living music from the past took her from the mountains of Guatemala and southern Mexico to a New York City radio station to the Jewish community of Morocco. . . . In an interview, Pete Seeger said she 'went to places people didn't believe she would be able to find.' Among her thousands of recordings are ritual songs from North, South, and Central American Indians, including peyote chants, and music celebrating everything from love to agriculture, found from Eastern Europe to the Caribbean to Appalachia to Spain. . . . Woody Guthrie called her in 1939 or 1940 and asked if he could be on her live show. Bob Dylan, a little tongue-tied, did one of his early radio interviews with her in 1962" [Douglas Martin, The New York Times, 12/14/07].

December 11

Elliott Carter's 99th birthday. New York, NY.

Led Zeppelin. O2 Arena, London, UK. "The Songs Remain the Same, Just Played a Little Slower. Some rock bands accelerate their tempos when they perform their old songs decades after the fact. Playing fast is a kind of armor: a refutation of the plain reality of aging -- all that unregainable enthusiasm and lost muscle mass -- and a hard block against a band's lessened cultural importance. But Led Zeppelin slowed its pace down a little. . . . [I]n its first full concert since 1980 -- without John Bonham, who died that year, but with his son, Jason, as a natural substitute -- the band found much of its former power in tempos that were more graceful than those on the old live recordings. The speed of the songs ran closer to that on the group's studio records, or slower yet. . . . Dazed and Confused was a glorious doom-crawl. It all goes back to the blues, where oozing gracefully is a virtue, and from which Led Zeppelin initially got half of its ideas. . . . There was a kind of loud serenity about Led Zeppelin's set. It was well rehearsed, for one thing: Planning and practice have been under way since May. The band members wore mostly black clothes instead of their old candy-colored wardrobes. Unlike Mick Jagger, Mr. Plant -- the youngest of the original members, at 59 -- doesn't walk and gesture like an excited woman anymore. Some of the top of his voice has gone, but except for one attempted and failed high note in Stairway to Heaven ('There walks a la-day we all know....') he found other melodic routes to suit him. He was authoritative; he was dignified. As for Jimmy Page, his guitar solos weren't as frenetic as they used to be. But that only drove home the point that they were always secondary to the riffs, . . . which were enormous, nasty, glorious. (He did produce a violin bow for his solo on Dazed and Confused during that song's great, spooky middle section. . . . And what of Jason Bonham, the big question mark . . . He is an expert on his father's beats, an encyclopedia of all their variations on all the existing recordings. And apart form some small places where he added a few strokes, he stuck to the sound and feel of the original . . . At the end of it all, as the three original members [including John Paul Jones] took a bow, Mr. Bonham knelt before them and genuflected" [Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, 12/12/07].

Speculum Musicae in Kaija Saariaho's Je sens un deuxieme coeur, Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Quintet, Bent Sorensen's Nocturnal, and Poul Ruders's Cembal d'Amore Second Book. Scandinavia House, New York, NY.

Chu-Fang Huang in Maurice Ravel's La Valse and Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7. Zankel Hall, New York, NY.

Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace. Metropolitan Opera, New York, NY.

December 12

Death of Ike Turner (b. Izear Luster Turner Jr. or Ike Wister Turner, Clarksdale, MS), who had emphysema, at 76. San Marcos, CA. "[He was an] R&B musician, songwriter, bandleader, producer, talent scout, and [the] ex-husband of Tina Turner. . . . [He] discover[ed] Anna Mae Bullock, a teenage singer from Nutbush, TN, whom he renamed Tina Turner. The Ike and Tina Turner Revue made a string of hits in the 1960's before the Turners broke up in 1975. Tina Turner described the relationship as abusive in her autobiography, I, Tina, which was adapted for the 1993 film What's Love Got to Do With It? and made Mr. Turner's name synonymous with domestic abuse. 'I got a temper,' he admitted in 1999 in his autobiography, Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner.' But he maintained that the film had 'overstated' it.' . . . [He] was brought up [in Clarksdale] by his mother after his father, a minister, was beaten to death by a white mob . . . According to Mr. Turner's autobiography, the D.J.'s [at local radio station, WROX, a hub for Delta blues performances] taught him how to cue up and segue records, sometimes leaving him alone on the air when he was 8 years old. . . . In high school he formed a group called the Kings of Rhythm. B.B. King helped that band get a steady weekend gig and recommended them to Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in Memphis. They had been performing jukebox hits, but on the drive from Mississippi to Memphis, they decided to write something of their own. Their saxophonist, Jackie Brenston, suggested a song about the new Rocket 88 Oldsmobile. The piano-pounding intro and the first verse were by Mr. Turner, and the band collaborated on the rest: Mr. Brenston sang. Sun was not yet its own record label, so Mr. Phillips sent the song to Chess Records. It went on to sell half a million copies. . . . Turner['s] . . . book says he was paid $20 for the record. . . . [He] worked with Mr. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Ace, Otis Rush [and] Elmore James. . . . The Ike and Tina Turner Revue became stars on the grueling so-called chitlin' circuit of African-American clubs. Ike and Tina Turner had a wedding ceremony in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1962; Mr. Turner's book claims they were never actually married. . . . The Rolling Stones chose the Ike and Tina Turner Revue as its opening act on a 1969 our . . . . In 1971, the revue reached the pop Top Ten with its version of Creedence Clearwater's Proud Mary, with Ike Turner's deep vocal counterpoint and Tina's memorable spoken-word interlude. 'We never do anything nice and easy,' Ms. Tuner says. 'We always do it nice and rough.' . . . Tina walked out on him in 1975. Mr. Turner, already abusing [himself with] cocaine and alcohol, spiraled further downward during the 1980's while Ms. Turner became a multi-million-selling star on her own. A recording studio he had built in Los Angeles burned down in 1982, and he was arrested repeatedly on drug charges. In 1989, he went to prison for a variety of cocaine possession offenses and was in jail when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he had a windfall when the hip-hop duo Salt-N-Pepa used a sample of his song I'm Blue for their 1993 hit Shoop, which reached Number 4 on the Billboard pop cart. Mr. Turner set out to reclaim his place in rock history. He wrote his autobiography with a British writer, Nigel Cawthorne. At the 2001 Chicago Blues Festival, he performed with Pinetop Perkins in a set filmed for the Martin Scorsese PBS series, The Blues. He renamed his band the Kings of Rhythm and re-recorded Rocket 88 for the 2001 album, Here and Now. He toured internationally, recording a live album and DVD, The Resurrection, at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2002. He visited high schools during Black History Month with an anti-drug message. He recorded a song with the British band Gorillaz in 2005. In the end, the music business embraced him: Mr. Turner's 2006 album, Risin' with the Blues, won the Grammy as best traditional blues album" [Jon Pareles, The New York Times, 12/13/07].

The Bad Plus in David Bowie's Life on Mars?, Ornette Coleman's Song X, Ethan Iverson's Let Our Garden Grow and Who's He, David King's My Friend Meditron, Reid Anderson's Physical Cities and Beryl Loves to Dance. "[Pianist] Iverson added a shimmer of reflective atonality, suggesting a hint of Debussy. . . They were playing Life on Mars?" [Nate Chinen, The New York Times, 12/14/07].

Doug Elkins & Friends in Fraulein Maria. Joe's Pub, New York, NY.

Daniel Schnyder. Kosciuszko Foundation. New York, NY.

Neil Young. United Palace Theater, New York, NY.

December 13

Death of Floyd Red Crow Westerman (b. 8/17/36), of leukemia, at 71. Los Angeles, CA. "[He] used his talents as an actor, singer and songwriter to advance the cause of native American rights and become one of the more famous Indian faces. . . . As an actor, Mr. Westerman was perhaps best known for playing Ten Bears, the wise old chief, in Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves (1990). Another prominent movie part was as a shaman in The Doors (1981), directed by Oliver Stone. . . . On Dharma & Greg, he was George Little Fox, an elderly Indian who came to live with [above]. . . . The title of his first album, Custer Died for Your Sins (1970), was taken from the book by his friend Vine Deloria, Jr. . . In the United States, he collaborated and appeared with singers like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Buffy Sainte-Marie. . . . Last year he released A Tribute to Johnny Cash to positive reviews. . . . In 1982, Mr. Westerman followed up with another album of Indian protest songs called This Land Is Your Mother. He branched out to other issues, and sang with Sting to protest the destruction of rain forests and with Harry Belafonte to fight nuclear power. He battled the naming of sports teams after Indians. . . Westerman is survived by . . . 'at least' 10 grandchildren. . . . The Washington Post quoted him as saying: 'We don't need no bullets or bombs to destroy this country. It will destroy itself. And that's just fine with me'" [The New York Times].

Steven Isserlis and Kirill Gerstein in Dmitri Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in D Minor, Sergei Prokofiev's Cello Sonata in C, Benjamin Britten's Suite, and Leos Janacek's Pohadka (Fairy Tale). 92nd Street Y, New York, NY.

New York Philharmonic, conducted by Andrey Boreyko, in Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4, Jacques Ibert's Hommage a Mozart, and Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G. Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY. "Symphony No. 4 [is] a rugged, often explosive score" [Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 12/15/07].

December 14

John Adams's Doctor Atomic. Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, New York, NY.

December 15

The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama, including Laurie Anderson's From the Air. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA. Through March 16.

Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, performed by the Juilliard Ensemble, with Isaac Mizrahi, to illustrations by Andrew Scott Ross. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY.

Juilliard Orchestra and Dance present Franz Schreker's Gezeichneten, Erwin Schulhoff's Ogelala, and Zemilinsky's Sinfonietta. Juilliard School, New York, NY. "[Schulhoff's 1923 ballet . . . a large-scale example of . . . neoprimitivism, was based on Mexican themes . . . . You can hear what it owes to the dramatic modernism of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and its (accidental) resemblance to Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin (which had its premiere a year later) and still find it a cauldron of newly exciting rhythm and varied sonority" [Alistair Macaulay, The New York Times 12/18/07].

December 16

Richard Strauss's Frau Ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow), with Deborah Voigt and Christine Brewer. Lyric Opera, Chicago, IL. "Every new production of Strauss's Frau Ohne Schatten is a newsworthy event. Of all the Strauss operas, this fantastical, strange and humane fairy tale, first presented in Vienna in 1919, is the longest, the most musically elaborate, the most philosophically resonant and the most daunting to stage. With five vocally taxing major roles, the opera is also challenging to cast. Paul Curran's new production . . . which opened last month, is making news of a casting coup. Singing the Empress, that woman without a shadow of the title, is Deborah Voigt, arguably the leading dramatic soprano of the day in the Wagner and Strauss repertory. And signing the role of the Dyer's Wife is Christine Brewer, who has increasingly challenged Ms. Voigt in this wing of the repertory. Though these artists have much in common, including a home state (Illinois), they are mutually admiring rivals, or so they appeared on Sunday afternoon. Both sang splendidly. Die Frau Ohne Schatten may be the greatest achievement of the fraught but inspired collaboration between Strauss and the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Still, it is an unwieldy opera" [Anthony Tommasini, York Times, 12/18/07].

Death of composer-vocalist Dan Fogelberg, after battling prostate cancer, at 56. ME.

72nd birthday of Gerald Busby. Chelsea Hotel, New York, NY. "By Mr. Busby's count, he has worked with five geniuses in the course of his career. They include Robert Altman, for whom Mr. Busby composed the score for the 1977 film Three Women. Another genius was Paul Taylor, who hired Mr. Busby to compose music [Runes, Paris (1975)] for his dance company. . . . The AIDS crisis changed his life. . . . Busby sank into despair, cocaine addiction and bankruptcy. He stopped composing. He nearly lost his home. . . . But he did not die. About seven years ago, he got sober, and he started composing again. . . . Busby lives on $658 a month from Social Security, supplemented by $78 in disability payments and $156 in food stamps. In a good month, he may make $1,000 for composing new work; other months, he earns nothing. . . . In May, Neediest Cases money was spent for an unusual purpose: $754.96 of recording equipment that will enable Mr. Busby to transfer his work from cassette tapes, which degrade over time, onto CDs. The New York Public Library at Lincoln Center has requested all his original scores, he said" [Alexis Rehrmann, The New York Times, 12/16/07].

Dillinger Escape Plan. Blender Theater at Gramercy, New York, NY. "Dillinger Escape Plan's music is arranged down to the millisecond and always has been. But watching its shows is like cranking the handle on a jack-in-the-box. You know what's coming but you're startled anyway, and then you do it again. . . . [I]f you really want to know these songs -- metal through the jazz rock filter of Allan Holdsworth and Mahavishnu Orchestra -- you have to listen repeatedly and concentrate" [Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, 12/18/07].

December 19

Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic announce that Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony have been asked to open Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds, a celebration of the composer and the opening of the Hall's 2007-2008 season on September 24. New York, NY. "The Philharmonic will play two programs featuring one of his symphonies and works of other composers at Avery Fisher Hall. Lorin Maazel, the music director, will conduct one program, and David Robertson, who has been given some of Bernstein's mantle as grand musical communicator, the other. Alan Gilbert, the orchestra's future music director, will lead the Juilliard Orchestra in a third Bernstein symphony. (The Philharmonic has infrequently played Bernstein's three symphonies since his death.) Bernstein was the Philharmonic's music director from 1958 to 1969 and continued to lead it in concerts until his death. Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president, said about 50 current members had played under him. . . . On November 14 the Philharmonic and Mr. Gilbert will bring a Bernstein program to Carnegie exactly 65 years after Bernstein's unexpected and splashy debut there with the orchestra, when as an assistant conductor he filled in from Bruno Walter. His musical On the Town will be part of the Encores! series at City Center in a semi-staged version. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led by Marin Alsop, will perform his Mass at Carnegie" [Daniel J. Wakin, The New York Times, 12/18/07].

December 22

Death of Ruth Wallis (b. Ruth Shirley Wohl, 1/5/28, New York, NY), of complications of Alzheimer's disease, at 87. South Killingly, CT. "[She was] a cabaret singer of the 1940's, 50's and 60's who was known as the Queen of the Party Song for the genteelly risqué numbers she performed for happy, and very occasionally horrified, listeners worldwide . . . . [T]he novelty songs -- more than 150 of them -- she wrote herself, all positively dripping with double entendre. . . . In 2003, Ms. Wallis's work was the basis of an off-Broadway revue, Boobs! The Musical: The World According to Ruth Wallis. . . In Boston, Ms. Wallis's songs were banned from the radio. In Australia, her records were seized by customs agents when she arrived there for a tour. Both incidents only made her more popular, according to later news accounts. . . . She chose her stage name in honor of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor . . . Wallis's marriage to her manager, Hy Pastman, ended in divorce, though they were later reconciled" [Margalit Fox, The New York Times, 1/3/08].

December 26

Marion Cajori's Chuck Close, including Philip Glass's Portrait of Chuck. Film Forum, New York, NY. "[It is] an expansion of Ms. Cajori's acclaimed 1998 short Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress. But where it truly excels is in its depiction of the physical process of making art. This film lets Mr. Close frame the highlights of his life and career; including his upbringing in strait-laced 1950's Monroe, WA; the pivotal role he played in the 1960's and 70's downtown art scene; the spinal-column blood clot that landed him in a wheelchair in 1988 and made it difficult to paint without mechanical aids and help from assistants; and his struggle to create innovative, significant representational painting in an era when photography seems to have rendered such art irrelevant. More mesmerizing, however, is the attention that Ms. Cajori, who died in August of 2006, devotes to Mr. Close's process, which entails blowing up photographs by way of a grid system and rendering each section as a huge, abstracted square" [Matt Zoller Seitz, The New York Times, 12/26/07].