Friday, October 15, 2010

Alex Ross at Cal Performances

Alex Ross
I was happy to catch New Yorker music critic Alex Ross last night on the Berkeley campus. In what he warned us would be a "slightly massive" talk, Mr. Ross discussed chaconnes, laments & descending bass lines through 4 centuries of music. The material comes from the 2nd chapter of his new book, Listen to This, though in the live talk Mr. Ross plays musical clips to illustrate his points. He often juxtaposes musical examples in surprising & revealing ways. To demonstrate the resurgence of Baroque-style chromatic descending bass lines in popular music, he has an amusing 1960s medley that makes the point without further explanation. The well-culled selection of clips includes performances by Carlos Kleiber, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, Bob Dylan, Segovia & Nina Simone. It sometimes felt like Mr. Ross was an old friend spinning up some of his favorite disks for us. He even snuck in a recording of his cat's mew.

Wheeler Hall was nearly full & the audience contained many baby boomers for whom the 1960s selections no doubt had special significance. After his talk, which lasted over an hour, Mr. Ross stuck around to chat with people. I'm afraid I was a demanding fan, asking him to sign my copy of his book, complaining that I finished reading it far too quickly, & then blaming him for being the catalyst for my acquaintance with certain bloggers.

To round out the evening, I had the pleasure of meeting The Standing Room at long last. In the past we have managed to avoid one another even when in the same place. He was charmingly disappointed that The Opera Tattler was not in costume, though she reported that she was nearly denied entry into Disneyland recently due to an outfit which was deemed a "costume" by the park staff.


Immanuel Gilen said...

Reading this post is a bittersweet experience. My absence pains me particularly for this event!

Here's to me being around for the next time Alex Ross comes to speak in SF!

Robert Gable said...

I personally think this person you mention "The Standing Room" doesn't actually exist. On the other hand, I don't get out much so I'm not the one to know...

Axel Feldheim said...

IG: Your absence pains us as well, though fortunately it looks like the CBLLAS will be re-united at an up-coming performance at the SF Symphony. Too bad the New Yorker does not send Mr. Ross out to review it!

RG: I completely understand your skepticism. The Standing Room is very elusive. I am pretty sure, though, that you will at least be in the same location as him if you attend Volti's up-coming performance at the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio.