Michael McDonagh is a San Francisco-based poet and arts writer whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Review of Books, The Threepenny Review, and The Bay Area Reporter.
Articles by this Author
Igor Stravinsky was a constantly changing artist. He's also the most Janus-like of all musicians — always looking forward and back at once. His work, when it was new, puzzled and challenged in equal measures. And though Cocteau virtually wrote him off early in the game, Erik Satie came to his defense in a 1922 Vanity Fair article.
The business of art is to communicate. If it doesn't, what's the point? And though modernist music has sometimes adopted a "high art" indifference to its audiences, as with Schoeberg's Society for Private Musical Performances, which forbade vocal expressions either pro or con and critics as well, it has paid a high price. Most people like music that connects with them on a deeply personal level.
Most summer music festivals program only the tried and true. But not Cal Performances’ Berkeley Edge Festival, which offered three programs in its third biennial festival June 7-10, featuring two composers — Frederic Rzewski and Paul Dresher — in two venues on UC Berkeley’s night-jasmine-scented campus. Rzewski was represented at Hertz Hall on the June 8 concert I attended, and also on June 10, both of which Jeff Dunn covered for San Francisco Classical Voice (see his review in this issue).
Having people over for the first time can be a trial. You don't know whether to say a convivial "pleased to meet you," or sit on your hands. Last week, the San Francisco Symphony's first-time guest, 54-year-old Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, did not get the full red carpet treatment from his hosting band, but he did seem to get their undivided, professional attention.