13 May 2005


Dear Scott D. Strader,

The following title(s) in your order is now permanently out of print at the publisher:

Chopin: Sonatas

They also have nicer editions with only #2 and #3 for about $18 each (instead of the more frugal $10 for all three).

At least they haven't canceled the Shostakovich scores. I'm getting familiar with the opus 34 preludes and have been very much enjoying them. For anyone who says that our culture is decadent with irony, listen to these works from 1934. Specifically #6. It's like everything he's saying has air quotes around it. I'm reminded first of the second movement from Prokofiev's Violin Sonata #1 with its rhythmic schizophrenia, yet that doesn't come close to the sarcasm that Shostakovich puts into this music. In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin learned to play piano but could only play when he was drunk (naturally). During his recital, he began playing the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and was drunkenly shifted at the piano bench so that one hand was in a different key. That's Shostakovich. He doesn't use polytonality (at least not here, maybe not anywhere?), but he writes familiar passages with just-the-right non-harmonic tones. It gives a sense of desperate invention when faced with the boredom of conventional tonality. The final two pages (if you've read it) of Dave Egger's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a good parallel. It's a cry of "please make this mean something!"

Or maybe it should be viewed as less anguished. Like when Shostakovich's contemporary, Chico Marx, is playing the piano and mugging for the camera as his fingers literally walk up and down the keys. He too is saying "I'm bored with this," but his response to that boredom is a joyful capriciousness.

[ posted by sstrader on 13 May 2005 at 9:51:07 AM in Music ]