I picked up this book yesterday at the Joslyn Art Museum store. It is a beautiful, visual exploration of the music of John Coltrane, particularly his rhythm. I think it would be a great book to use in teaching a child about jazz and improvisation.
This weekend we had friends visiting from Oklahoma City, and they attended the symphony with us on Friday night. The program was "Barber and Copland," and it was quite good.
There was a guest conductor, Daniel Hege of Wichita, and a guest cellist, Julie Albers. Hege was an enjoyable leader, even if not our own maestro.
Before the program, we enjoyed the new lobby bar, which was a project of our friend Kristine Hull. That's a great addition to the Holland Center.
I was looking forward to the program of American music and hearing some Barber pieces I haven't heard before.
The program began with Samuel Barber's Overture to The School of Scandal, Op. 5. I thought it exquisite during a portion played by the oboe and then picked up the English horn (we weren't sure what the instrument was in the moment; I'm glad the program notes helped with this fact).
It was followed by Barber's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 22. The second movement, the Andante sostenuto was my favourite. The third movement wasn't as strong. Julie Albers had what appeared to be a very powerful technique.
The intermission was followed with two newer pieces. First was Christopher Rouse's The Infernal Machine. Mr. Hege introduced it as having much dissonance as it sounded like a machine. Rouse's description was "a brief orchestral showpiece inspired by the vision of a great self-sufficient machine eternally in motion to no particular purpose" (this made me think of, for some reason, Alexander Pope's poem "The Dunciad" -- "In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die."). The crowd generously and humourously responded, but you could also tell that they were going to wait to see what it actually sounded like.
And it was both really good and fun. It is filled with all sorts of interesting percussive elements and closes with a large hammer. In fact, at the end the whole thing seems to fall apart, but fantastically so. Even Ken, who doesn't like more contemporary music, really liked this one.
Up next was Michael Daugherty's Red Cape Tango from Metropolis Symphony. It is a piece inspired by Superman comics. The crowd responded very enthusiastically to it, more than any other piece of the night. I didn't care much for it. One friend said he liked it because he liked hearing something different. Another said he found it interesting.
The evening closed with Aaron Copland's Suite from Billy the Kid. This very familiar music sounded even more interesting following the two more modern pieces. I heard all the experimental technique of Copland because I had just heard all the experimental technique of the previous pieces. Whoever structured the program in this way did a very good job.
I like Copland and enjoy listening to what I do own, but I don't have Billy the Kid. I need to correct that. The soundscapes -- of the open prairie, the frontier town, etc. -- accurately evoke the settings.
The Omaha Symphony is off to another very fine season.
We listened to the Sufjan Stevens album as we departed Saugatuck for our drive through the lower peninsula of Michigan (the one that looks like a mitt). The day before we had listened to "Come Hear the Illinoise" as we entered that state. Marty Peercy texted, "Good driving music, if a bit sad."
The drive took us through Grand Rapids, where I had attended the UCC General Synod in 2009, my only previous visit to the state. We drove around the downtown and some of the pretty historical neighborhoods nearby, though I could not find the lovely streets that I had walked down in 2009.
The interior of Michigan is a mix of wooded areas and argicultural zones, with nice rivers.
Lunch was had at Blue Cow in Big Rapids. I enjoyed my Croque Monsieur. I forget what Michael had. The service was very slow, which was annoying giving that we were basically driving all day. We were also a little tired and grumpy. They had a good selection of local wines and beers and I bought a mixed six-pack of beers to bring home.
We would have liked to take the longer, slower coastal road along Lake Michigan, past Sleeping Bear Dunes, and through Traverse City, but we didn't have time. Another trip.
As it was, we made it to St. Ignace and the ferry about an hour later than we had hoped. For the next two days we'd be without our car, enjoying our visit to Mackinac Island (the c is silent).
The drive across the five mile long Mackinac Bridge afforded great views of the straits. I was glad Michael was driving -- I'm not great on bridges -- and there was a wind warning.