Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jump for Joy

My model for journalism is Entertainment Weekly. After that comes the Huffington Post. Then I religiously read the comments attached to things in YouTube. I have a 7 second attention span, and don’t manage to read anything longer than three paragraphs. Nevertheless I do book reviews. Curious.

So here at the end of an issue of EW is an essay by Stephen King dishing them for assigning letter grades to everything under the sun. People listening to things on YouTube also can’t resist grading everything and making endless comparisons with other performances. For a while I was assigning stars to DVD’s, but that petered out. I feel a desire to explain things, but not necessarily to grade them.

He’s absolutely right in his essay titled “Jumping for Joy.” Does it ring your chimes? When you hear this music or watch this opera, does your heart sing? Mr. King says, “All I know is that they make me want to laugh and dance in the aisle at Best Buy. And that’s enough. Because, dammit, that’s what it’s for.”

I’m not searching for perfection. I don’t think there’s only one right way to sing “Casta Diva” as represented by this or that singer from the past. Actually, I think exactly the opposite. I’m looking for someone to sing it in a way I’ve never heard it before. Rearrange my ideas completely. Break the monotony. Make me hear it again. Make my heart sing.

Lately I can only say that about Anna’s Russian Album and Cecilia’s astounding recording of “Casta Diva.” Admit it. You totally did not see that coming. And “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen.” I’ll never lose my taste for gloomy singing.

Classical musicians are allowed only a very limited range of options in creating this surprise. They can’t add a drum track and a backup group. The surprise has to come from your soul.

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