The Classical Music World Reacts to Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer

Apr 19, 2018

It's time for a link roundup! Herein: the week's biggest music news, a little marching band slapstick, and a really darn good Mozart cosplay.

1. The biggest news in music this week: Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer Prize! A lot of smart people are saying a lot of smart things about what his win means for music (including two finalists for the prize who lost to Lamar), and I especially like this article by Alyssa Rosenberg for the Washington Post. In it, she asks composer, writer, and performer Alex Temple  "What [can] the classical-music world... learn from Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer Prize?" Here's a great quote:

"I feel like we're never going to have a really honest conversation about this until we can talk about our underlying fear of cultural irrelevance. And to talk about that, we need to ask who specifically we want to be relevant to."

Another good take, by Jeremy Samuel Faust for Slate:

Why, I must now ask, did I not fully appreciate Lamar’s tight control of Sprechstimme, the stodgiest academic description one can imagine for his vocal style: spoken, yet almost sung, not dissimilar to efforts by composers from Leoš Janáček, to Arnold Schoenberg, to Luciano Berio, but also Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur, and Eminem? Why did I not enjoy his vocal lines as scrupulously controlled “cells” of repeating pitches, slowly evolving in much the same way as the best works by Steve Reich and Philip Glass? Why did I not notice cathartic metric modulations that would have made Elliott Carter, the father of this technique in classical music, swoon with jealousy? Why did I not notice that Lamar’s tightly controlled beats and instrumentals are not just platforms for his vocals but are, unto themselves, akin to expertly controlled musical plate tectonics, slowly but relentlessly shifting, creating subtle and yet epic movements—what we in the classical music world would hear as a sophisticated and successful form of post-minimalism?

Honestly, I could spend this whole link roundup just sharing smart articles about Lamar's Pulitzer win. I won't, but I'll leave the subject with this thought: if Lamar's win shakes up the classical music world as much as many of us hope it will, then we'll all be better for it. Congratulations on a well-deserved win!

Now, moving on:

2. Rumble strips along the side of this road play a regional anthem... and it's driving residents crazy. What, you don't want to hear the same song at all hours of the day and night? (And, at least this one was better-executed than this road in California.)

3. Sure, we all love Mozart. But do you love Mozart... this much?

3. Imagine Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Got it? Now make it 20 minutes shorter. That's how much conductor Benjamin Zander thinks the Ninth should be sped up to more accurately reflect Beethoven's original intentions. He recorded an 80-minute (instead of the usual 100-minute) version with the London Philharmonic Orchestra that will be released in June.

4. Sometimes, you just want to film yourself doing something cool. But then, sometimes... things don't go exactly as planned.

5. Finally, here's Daniil Trifonov playing the hardest piano piece ever written, Liszt's "Campanella." Piece of cake.