Cindy Sherman and Tori Amos: Strange Little Girls

Having read Anna’s report from our trip to museum of art Louisiana last week, I thought I’d just do a post of my own, following up on Anna’s observations on Cindy Sherman.

Because seeing the Sherman exhibtion reminded me of the Tori Amos-album Stange Little Girls (2001) which I bought recently and like very much. It occured to me at Louisiana that Tori Amos is obviously very inspired by Sherman in this album, which features 12 cover tracks, covering songs by artists as diverse as Eminem and Lennon/McCartney.

Strange Little Girls - front cover

On the album, Amos presents an interesting new take on the concept of musical covering as she uses each track to present a different side of Woman as an expressive individual – and perhaps even different sides of herself as a woman artist. The songs are all centered around women and they are all originally written by male artists, and thus Amos uses the album as a way of exploring different male visions of women, and she does so playfully and freely, as if trying on different outfits in a fitting room. The homage to Cindy Sherman’s work  (whose artistic project of portraying women may be said to be similar) is quite evident, as Amos poses on the album booklet in a series of photos that recall Sherman’s staged photography:

Tori Amos - Strange Little Girls

From Tori Amos: Strange Little Girls

If the pictures stood by themselves, I would be tempted to dismiss them as sheer Sherman plagiatism, but appearing as they do as part of the album cover art, they merely serve to emphasize Strange Little Girls as Amos’s musical exploration of the artistic project that Sherman started, and I think that’s a very sympathetic idea.

Amos’s talent as a musician is indisputable, I think, and the tracks are all very interesting musically, ranging in genre from quite piano ballads to loud rock songs, much like Sherman’s photography which ranges from the fragmentary contemplative to the grotesque and shrill. My favourite tracks on the album are probably the beautiful, understated cover version of Tom Waits’s “Time”, which gains a whole new perspective with Amos’s delicate vocal replacing Waits’s hoarse one, and the almost deliriously rambling, disharmonic and multivoiced schizophrenic version of Neil Young’s otherwise very by-the-book ballad “Heart of Gold”. And her chillingly laid-back version of “I don’t like Mondays” haunted me for weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre and comes to my mind whenever I see Cho’s angry face on the news, the Elektra-like unquenchable thirst for revenge shining from his eyes.

A minor problem with Amos’s album is, however, that she does not achieve the diversity of expression that Sherman masters. While the genre of her cover tracks ranges, Amos’s women portraying gets a little monotonous, as the majority of the portraits present in some form a deranged and dangerous woman. She no doubt wishes to underline the tendency towards vagina-dentata-ish male fear of women, and while I think this is an important issue within our patriachal society, surely it does not reflect the attitude of the entire male population? Here, I think Sherman’s take on the male optics is more subtle and leaves more room for interpretation.

But the album’s spark and energy and Tori Amos’s fitting-room mentality towards a male-dominated society’s view on femininity, definitely makes Tori Amos’s music recommendable to anyone with an interest in Sherman’s project, and I think it is great, and much too rare, to see contemporary women musicians seriously exploring gender issues within their music. A much-needed break from Gwen Stefani’s scantily clad Hollaback Girls and Shakira’s allegedly truth-speaking hips. I haven’t yet heard Amos’s latest album American Doll Posse (which was released last month), but I understand that Amos continues her theme of women portraits, this time specifically criticising traditinal American sex roles; so it would seem that Sherman is indeed still very much alive and kicking. Good for her. And for all of us.

/marie

Advertisements

May 23, 2007. Art, Music, Reviews, Staged photos. 10 comments.

“But it wasn’t Stewie who was laughing at me. It was GOD!” – Amadeus on Family Guy

Just as I’m thinking I couldn’t possibly love Family Guy any more than I already did, they go and make an Amadeus-reference…! Wonderful! I love how “Heart & Soul” is the tune that Stewie plays when impersonating Peter. Mozart would totally have mocked Salieri with “Heart & Soul”, had he known that piece.

Em yrram, Seth MacFarlane! 

/marie

May 20, 2007. Films, Music, YouTube. 9 comments.

Schubert: Okay, for this I am SO sending the Erlkönig over tonight, beeyatch.

Five-year-old boy pointing to drawing of dog, excitedly: …And this is Schubert!!

– Charlottenlund Fort Restaurant, Charlottenlund

overheard by

/marie

May 12, 2007. Music, Overheard. Leave a comment.

Werther in Concert

My local library is really good when it comes to buying opera dvds. I often go there and leaf through the selection and find stuff I never knew I craved – but then there it is. Many I just pass visit after visit and then perhaps one day I decide to pick it up. One such dvd was this:

Werther. Hampson Graham

I first saw it some months ago and left it because the cover is plain ugly and because concert performances on dvd are just one more nail to the coffin of opera as an art form. But then later that day it returned to me. Because – what would the barytone Thomas Hampson be doing in an opera with a tenor hero? And embracing the heroine on the cover?

So when I stumbled upon it again last week I decided to bring it home with me.
It turned out to be musically stunning and acting-wise not bad at all.

The conductor Michel Plasson and I are not the best of friends…not that he knows. But I once witnessed him furiously screaming the text at a poor mezzo-soprano who couldn’t remember her part but who had also just been flown in to rescue the performance from cancellation. Not nice Monsieur P.
But I have to admit that with this Werther he does a remarkable job.

And then what I really wanted to share with you: the best love scene I can think of just now. And here performed by two singers, Thomas Hampson and Susan Graham, who are everything but 20-year-olds but who manage to put all the pain, vulnerability, and love into this encounter and make it one of the most touching scenes I have seen.

Have a look and try to ignore the impossible filming:

If you want to see what it all ends with then look here for Werther’s death.

The cast also includes delectable singers as Stéphane Degout as Albert and Sandrine Piau as Sophie.

And the barytone thing? It turns out Massenet revised his opera and turned Werther into a barytone in order to make him more brooding. Not sure I think that is the right thing to do – but Thomas Hampson is always welcome to do any of my favourite opera heroes!

/anna

May 11, 2007. In the library, Music, Opera, YouTube. 2 comments.

Cecilia Bartoli in Copenhagen

Monday Cecilia Bartoli visited Copenhagen and left a trail of happiness behind her.
She sang arias from her latest cd Opera Proibita which is a collection of beautifully silent pieces and brilliantly breathless virtuosity.
I have now witnessed three concerts with Cecilia Bartoli and I feel entitled to some conclusions about her performances. The thing about a Cecilia Bartoli concert is that it leaves you utterly exhilarated. Her joy in making music is so apparent that you are left with no choice but to follow her. Which means that being in a concert hall with her is a most wonderful experience. I recommend it to all!
This evening (as also the two other evenings I have spent with her) she delivered the pieces with energy and a complete control over her voice. It is like listening to the cd and then add her fantastic presence. That’s really all there is to say. Go here and listen to Disseratevi, o porte d’Averno. Then you will get a glimpse of what I’m talking about. We even got it twice!
The orchestra La Scintilla was brilliant too (heee – got it?) and worked very well both with and without La Bartoli.
Many thanks to Cecilia for sharing her passion so violently with the rest of us. Life-affirming!

Cecilia Bartoli

/anna

May 9, 2007. Music, Opera, Reviews. 3 comments.

April – Schumann: “The Fiddler”

I’m in a bit of a hurry, and April’s almost over, so I’m going to give you a very short version of my musical calendar this month.

Hans Christian Andersen

Good old H.C. – affected and brilliant as ever

I’m going to honour Hans Christian Andersen in this post as well, celebrating his birth-month, and I’m going to do so by proposing what I think would have been a great and proper act for a Hans Christian Andersen 200th Birthday Show two years ago: Soprano Inger Dam-Jensen singing one of Schumann’s renditions of HCA’s poems. Voila: Inger Dam-Jensen, singing Schumann’s “Spillemanden” (“The Fiddler”) with lyrics by HCA, accompanied by Christen Stubbe Teglbjærg on piano.

Inger Dam-Jensen

Beautiful Inger Dam-Jensen 

Inger Dam-Jensen has got the beauty of voice to match HCA’s poetry and she’s got the glittering, golden, cornfield-like authencity in her timbre to match HCA’s endearing naivité.

The lyrics are in Danish, but here’s a translation into English. Read ’em and weep:

In the village it is merry

A wedding is celebrated with dancing and music

Toasts are made in wine and mead

But the bride looks like an adorned dead

Yes, dead is she for her beloved one

for he is not there as her bridegroom

In the corner he stands with his sorrow

and plays his fiddle so merrily

He plays till his locks turn gray

He plays till the strings burst

Till the fiddle with sorrow and dread

He crushes against his heart

It is so heavy, so crushingly heavy

to die while one’s heart is still young

I can’t stand to look at it any longer!

I feel it going through my head.

See, the men hold him tightly

– but why do you call me by name?

God keep us all!

I am a poor fiddler myself.

Sniff. Happy Cruelest Month, everyone!

Fiddle 

Random Fiddle

/marie

April 30, 2007. A Musical Year, Music, The course of the year. Leave a comment.

Choreography. Dance-music from Louis XIV’s Court with Concerto Copenhagen

Last Sunday I went to the beautiful Garrison Church where my favourite orchestra Concerto Copenhagen do most of their concerts when in town.

Garnisons Kirken 
The Garrison Church, Copenhagen.

This Sunday the orchestra was conducted by the British harpist Andrew Lawrence-King in a programme of French dance-music from Louis XIV’s court. The concert was entitled Chorégraphie for the same reason and the hand-out told us that the 17th Century brought with it the first notation of choreography by the dancing-master Raoul Auger Feuillet. Feuillet based his dances on Jean Baptiste Lully’s music for which I have for some time harboured a quiet passion. In this concert Concerto Copenhagen played music by Lully and by a couple of fellows I had never even heard of before: Jean-Henry D’Angelbert and André Campra (more Rameau’s contemporary than Lully’s actually).

Andrew Lawrence-King had brought the guitar player and dancer Steven Player with him to perform some of the choreographies. So when it was required Steven Player would leave his guitar and step out from his place in the orchestra to use the nave as his dancing floor. I was absolutely taken with his appearance. This sternly looking middle aged man performed these pompous and thoroughly choreographed dances with the utmost seriousness and elegance. He opened by acting baroque conductor beating the time of a slow Pavane by banging a long staff against the floor with his back at the audience. Very simple but also effectively creating an atmosphere of ancient times and awe. Lully by the way died after banging such a staff against his foot which then infected and sent him to his Creator. Luckily Mr Player had no such accident this afternoon.

As I was sitting on the second balcony I has a perfect view over the movements just like Feuillet had noted them down:
dans2.jpg

Steven Player then added a variety of hand-movements that seemed very much like the ornaments French baroque music is so famous for. Well actually I couldn’t say if this elegant icing is also noted down – as I am only familiar with the notation of music. But it probably is or at least there must have been some general rules for the dancer to refer to.
Steven Player did what seemed genuine and authentic and for one of the pieces he even managed to dance with his guitar either on his back or playing it!

In between the sets Andrew Lawrence-King told us little bits about the court, the music, the dance and the dancers. And besides from being an absolute virtuoso on his instrument (the harp) he also turned out to be an excellent story-teller.

As I already mentioned Steven Player looked very stern but for one of his last pieces he transformed into a perfect Jester tumbling around, begging with his hat in his hand. A performance worthy of a Commedia dell’Arte expert (as I understand he is). The music said that he was Harlequin but perhaps he was more of the Old Man Lully played with great success in his own ballet Air d’Apollon.

I must say I loved this concert! How wonderful to experience dance and music come together again. This music is so extremely well-suited for dancing (as it was written for it…) that it makes so much sense when performed with a dancer. This kind of multiple arts performances are rare in Copenhagen when it comes to ancient arts. How wonderful to have such wonderful performers as Andrew Lawrence-King and Steven Player to enrich us! I would have loved to witness the concert all over again and I hope they will come back soon!

dans.jpg

/anna

April 29, 2007. Music, Reviews. 2 comments.

Andreas Scholl and Paul McCreesh in Copenhagen

Andreas Scholl visited Copenhagen Thursday to Saturday this week. I attended his two concerts with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul McCreesh.
The programme turned out to be both magnificent and problematic.

McCreesh and the orchestra framed Scholl’s performance with two symphonies by Haydn. First the so-called Philosopher (Symphony no. 22, 1764). The symphony opens with a very slow adagio movement with a repetitive pattern. After that follows the three movements of an (for the period) ordinary symphony. I loved the first movement to bits – it had a meditative quality which led me into a deep contemplation of the individual parts and voices of the composition.

Paul McCreesh
Paul McCreesh, a delightful and humouristic musician.

Andreas Scholl opened his part of the concert with Bach’s cantata Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust (BWV 170, 1726). The first aria is a soft treat for the ears while the last aria is a furious tour de force of anger and virtuosity. What lies in between is the in my view rather fragmented and not easily deliverable Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten which in this case confirmed what had already been looming in the first aria: that Scholl was not in his right spirits or perhaps even in his right element. When he intoned Vergnügte Ruh (the first aria) I felt my palms moisten slightly with a nervousness on his behalf. From where I sat I simply could not hear him! Ok, I was not on the first row, actually I was in the rear of the hall, but that rear is known for its good acoustics.
Of course Paul McCreesh should have reacted. It wasn’t that the orchestra was playing too loud, but given the circumstance they were. It didn’t help spotting Andreas Scholl’s extremely shaking hands. Poor fellow. I must add that I re-listened to the concert today on the radio – and he was there – and singing quite nicely! Just too bad that a technician has to control the balance between soloist and orchestra to let his voice reach us…

I left for intermission with a feeling of disappointment.

The second part of the concert opened with a reinvigorated Scholl. He gave us three perfectly delivered Händel arias that assured me of his on-going capacity in his field.
First O Lord, whose mercies numberless from the oratorio Saul (1738) which left me very moved. The aria is extremely beautiful and sweet and after the nerve wracking Bach it felt so good to hear Scholl’s voice flow freely and melodiously to my ready ears. *sniff*

The contemplative piece was followed by the vigourous Such haughty beauties rather move aversions also from Saul and the pantheist prayer What though I trace each herb and flow’r from Solomon (1748). This was the Andreas Scholl I know and love.

Even though the Radio Symphony Orchestra has been practising their baroque technique I still find them to be rather too sluggish in their dynamics. It’s not that they can’t play this repertoire, it’s just that I so missed the vivacity and springiness of a period orchestra. Paul McCreesh did his and so did the musicians, but it’s also a question of habits and dropping the vibrato and two thirds of the colleagues is not enough for a romantic orchestra to transform into a period orchestra.

Scholl spoiled us with an encore – the aria Ich will nicht Dich hören from Bach’s Hercules (better known as Bereite dich, Zion from the Christmas Oratorio). Again Scholl turned a bit, just a bit, uneven which leads me to a strange conclusion for a singer who must have been fed with Bach from his childhood – that he doesn’t feel completely relaxed with this composer’s oeuvre. Of course it’s rather daft to make such an extreme conclusion based on two identical concerts, but the difference between Händel and Bach was remarkable. I see from his schedule that he will be performing Vergnügte Ruh and other Bach pieces a lot in the near future. I do hope he will have more success – keep your chin up, Andreas!

The concert closed with another Haydn symphony, no. 101, also know as The Clock. In all this was a more interesting piece than the first Haydn symphony. Either because it just is or because the musicians were more into it. It made me consider how this type of music seems to be systematising silence. Of course the clock movement (the second) is very strict in ordering silence and music, and McCreesh underlined this by at one point letting the music, or the clock, stop, but I think actually that the whole piece and also other symphonies of Haydn are focusing on this foundation of music – the play and order of silence and sound. McCreesh did a wonderful job with this piece.

This was a strange concert, taking me from disappointment and sadness to joy and contentment. Next time Scholl is in Copenhagen I hope he will be singing with a more adequate orchestra and with less fear and trembling. He is after all one of my favourite musicians.

/anna

April 22, 2007. Music, Opera, Reviews. Leave a comment.

Doppelgänger II and Stewie

Marie and I were at an Andreas Scholl concert today. A review will follow, but the big surprise of the day was our realisation that Andreas Scholl has multiple voice talents. Not only is he a marvellous countertenor and an ok barytone – he is also behind the voices of Stewie and Peter Griffin (e.a.) of Family Guy. He masters the American accent to perfection – and the British accent of Stewie. Don’t get confused about the woman, just press play.

Just kidding of course. But the resemblance between Seth Macfarlane, creator of Family Guy and Andreas Scholl is in some instances striking. Just a reminder:

Andreas Scholl

And while we’re at it, I have to post this clip from Family Guy. I love Stewie.

We’re rude to the…the other people. 😀

To see more of Stewie drunk go here.

/anna

April 22, 2007. Internet Findings, Music, Photos, Television, YouTube. Leave a comment.

I have her, and will hold her

I have resisted since November. And I really did try and I thought I had succeeded. But then…how often is it Cecilia Bartoli comes to Copenhagen? Like – ever? And somehow the sneaky bastards of the Tivoli Concert Hall held back the cheap tickets until the expensive ones were sold. Hate that trick.
Well, the (reasonably) cheap ticket is now mine!! MWUAHAHAHAHA!
See you there Ceciliona!

Cecilia Bartoli Guido Harari
by Guido Harari

/anna

April 12, 2007. Fandom, Music, Opera. 2 comments.

Next Page »