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JACK Quartet's Performance of Darmstadt Kindergarten by Mark Applebaum


Stephen  Fine
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The execution is astonishing. These are definitely elite players.
The piece however, does less than nothing for me. I would call it much more “performance art” than a “quartet performance” and @matesic’s comment is well taken. Separate out the visual and what remains? Yet the visual is part of the performance. And yet music is aural and not visual, so it is literally impossible to put this on the radio.

 

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I’ve tried to be open minded for many years. This music is just crap. As for the execution, is it any more difficult than a quartet by Bartok, Schubert, or Beethoven? I know it’s in fashion to declare that the JACK quartet is so important and imperative to classical music, but honestly, their work is a niche/fringe interest.

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For what it's worth, I've shown it to a room full of children and they enjoyed it. It's got appeal if your preconceptions aren't wound too tight.

I think the piece is really really cool.  I've watched the performance a few times now.  What I find fascinating about the score is the interaction between the visual translation and my ears/brain.  Even the first time I watched it, I was able to "hear" the translation, but it definitely improved upon repeated viewings.

I would tell you that, indeed, this music is more difficult than a quartet by Bartok, Schubert, or Beethoven. But only because Bartok, Schubert, and Beethoven have all been done for a century or two.  Something I've realized over the past few decades of listening to new music is that it takes time to figure out how to perform it. The first group never quite gets a fair shot at something difficult.  JACK definitely benefited from Kronos performing the piece, but it's not like they've been seeing it performed their whole lives.

PS- if you want to try to be open minded, try thinking about it differently... it's not "crap," you just didn't like it.  The world is large.  What is important and imperative to one group of people might be completely negligible to another.  It's not all for you.

PPS- Phil, when is a live performance of a string quartet not performance art?  We talk about costuming and choreography even when performing Haydn. I think the visual aspect of a string quartet is hugely important for an audience. (We just don't talk about it as much because we like to think that what we're doing with our instruments is the only thing that matters.) I also like that the piece explicitly addresses the issue of audience enjoyment of watching physical movement.

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I enjoyed watching the video.  Watching is the word because, of course, the instrument-less parts wouldn't be appreciated without watching.   I see artistic value in the work.  In part it is a meta-commentary on the quartet genre.  I expect that repeat watching would make the interactions of the silent players more understood.   I have played all of the Beethoven quartets, one or two Bartok quartets, several Schubert quartets, several Shostakovich quartets and more, and I certainly would find this music more difficult to perform.  I particularly appreciate the coordination with the silent performers since the silent players can't see the other players.

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I think it was a missed opportunity not to include programme notes in semaphore. We recognise that it's a "string quartet" with an abundance of 20th century string quartet clichés, but what are the gestures all about? Doesn't seem much like child's play to me. :wacko:

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On 1/7/2022 at 6:41 PM, poptart said:

I’ve tried to be open minded for many years. This music is just crap. As for the execution, is it any more difficult than a quartet by Bartok, Schubert, or Beethoven? I know it’s in fashion to declare that the JACK quartet is so important and imperative to classical music, but honestly, their work is a niche/fringe interest.

Could not agree more... 

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12 hours ago, matesic said:

I think it was a missed opportunity not to include programme notes in semaphore. 

I included the program notes. But here they are again (in English):

https://web.stanford.edu/~applemk/portfolio-works-darmstadt-kindergarten.html 

JACK Quartet reproduced the notes in the description underneath the video.

And here's the score:

https://web.stanford.edu/~applemk/scores/Darmstadt Kindergarten.pdf

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On 1/8/2022 at 1:41 AM, poptart said:

I’ve tried to be open minded for many years. This music is just crap. As for the execution, is it any more difficult than a quartet by Bartok, Schubert, or Beethoven? I know it’s in fashion to declare that the JACK quartet is so important and imperative to classical music, but honestly, their work is a niche/fringe interest.

It's not. They can do anything - I wouldn't know or care. It's mindless crap.

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My interest was peaked...I watched/listened to it.  

It was interesting!  I feel a little uneasy after having heard/watched it.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. The entire time, I could not stop thinking about Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury...and the 1984 Apple commercial. 

2. The visuals...of the visuals...Back when Kronos Quartet released the CD with Jimi Hendrix' Purple Haze, I thought it sounded amazing!  Having only the recording, I did not even know what these guys looked like.  Then, years later, I watched a YouTube of a performance of Purple Haze.  The visuals (the exaggerated movements, the erratic bobbing, etc) were exactly how I had imagined them playing years ago when I listened to that CD.  My point, its performance art.  Performance of music played on classical stringed instruments can indeed be visual as well as audible.  

3. Technical difficulty...why even bother with the comparisons to other works from 200 years ago.  To say that this piece is not difficult...I would challenge anyone to reproduce it.  I looked at the program notes Stephen added.  The sheet music looks insane.  There is difficulty in playing a piece where melodies and harmonies are really indiscernible and unconventional.  I can memorize almost any standard repertoire piece (sans Shostakovich, Stravinsky and a few others) because my mind was trained to hear Western melodies and structure.  I could not say the same for Applebaum's piece here.

4. The most important thing that I teach my own children is that just because you do not personally like something, not to call it "crap."  This is something that I try to live by and often struggle with.  Crap stinks.  Crap is not appealing.  But crap is part of the life cycle and next time you eat a delicious ear of corn, remember, it came from crap.  

5. Having said all of that....Sorry Stephen, I cannot say that this piece, or performance, was my favorite.  I cannot even determine whether I liked it.  I can say, thank you for sharing.  It was worth watching/listening to, even if just to invoke some thought and emotion....it was emotionally disturbing to me.  

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loved it. 

just starving for stuff... its not new but the black and white footage reminded me of the Dada-ist crap we did in college. It sort of looked last century and the commitment level was appreciated. Also enjoyed the sonic imprint the motif left in my head. After the cellist stopped playing, I heard the tune... at least for awhile as the players precisely flopped their arms about.  

I introduce my students to the band, Devo's 80s videos, when they are in high school. It is an easy introduction to absurdist humor as the commitment level is just minutes. Just to start a conversation in why and why.

Teaching contemporary works requires an open mind. Older works by Ives, Copland do not make sense to most students until explained and studied. It is much easier to teach if they are accepting of newer ideas. It is clear that those here have given the piece a chance. Like it or not, it allows younger minds to experience something new. And they were introduced to some new techniques. I allow kids to fool around, but after a certain point, they must learn how to slide well, with different contours and shapes, "chop" well and scrub. I can not play "grind tones" ( my choice of words ) well, so I experiment along with students until I can actually understand the technique and play them well. 

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On 1/11/2022 at 11:14 AM, violinnewb said:

It was interesting!  I feel a little uneasy after having heard/watched it.  Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. The entire time, I could not stop thinking about Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury...and the 1984 Apple commercial. 

5. Having said all of that....Sorry Stephen, I cannot say that this piece, or performance, was my favorite.  I cannot even determine whether I liked it.  I can say, thank you for sharing.  It was worth watching/listening to, even if just to invoke some thought and emotion....it was emotionally disturbing to me.  

I found the music disturbing as well (at first).  There is something dystopic about it.  Also, I found the title a bit foreboding.

18 hours ago, GoPractice said:

loved it. 

just starving for stuff... its not new but the black and white footage reminded me of the Dada-ist crap we did in college. It sort of looked last century and the commitment level was appreciated. Also enjoyed the sonic imprint the motif left in my head. After the cellist stopped playing, I heard the tune... at least for awhile as the players precisely flopped their arms about.  

I introduce my students to the band, Devo's 80s videos, when they are in high school. It is an easy introduction to absurdist humor as the commitment level is just minutes. Just to start a conversation in why and why.

Teaching contemporary works requires an open mind. Older works by Ives, Copland do not make sense to most students until explained and studied. It is much easier to teach if they are accepting of newer ideas. It is clear that those here have given the piece a chance. Like it or not, it allows younger minds to experience something new. And they were introduced to some new techniques. I allow kids to fool around, but after a certain point, they must learn how to slide well, with different contours and shapes, "chop" well and scrub. I can not play "grind tones" ( my choice of words ) well, so I experiment along with students until I can actually understand the technique and play them well.   

Nice post, but maybe you could edit out the HUGE blank space.

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