After Sixteen Months

About this I still can’t write.


Here’s a secret.

Almost every time I hear a clarinet, I think of you.

It’s more than a little ridiculous. You never even heard my voice.

Delightful Questionnaire for Valentine’s Day

I think I haven’t done one of these since high school.

1: Do you have a crush at the moment?
2: Have you ever been deeply in love?
3: Longest relationship you’ve ever been in?
    Five years.
4: Have you ever changed for someone?
5: How is your relationship with your ex?
    Doesn’t exist.
6: Have you ever been cheated on?
    Don’t think so.
7: Have you ever cheated?
8: Would you date someone who’s well known for cheating?
    Depends how much I liked them.
9: What’s the most important part of a relationship?
    What distinguishes it from a friendship, so probably some form of touching.
10: Do you like to be in serious relationships or just flings?
11: When you are dating someone do you believe in going on “breaks”?
    Not really.
12: How many people have you ever hooked up with?
13: What’s one thing you regret saying/doing in a previous relationship?
    Not breaking up sooner.
14: What age do you think is appropriate for kids to start having sex?
    Depends who they are.
15: Do you believe in the phrase “age is just a number”?
16: Do you believe in “love at first sight”?
17: Do you believe it’s possible to fall in love on the internet?
18: What do you consider a deal breaker?
    If they don’t want to listen to my anti-oppression rants. (There are many others).
19: How do you know it’s time to end a relationship?
    The participants have very different expectations/goals, and insufficient effort to resolve them.
20: Are you currently in a relationship?
21: Do you think people who have dated can stay friends?
22: Do you think people should date their friends?
23: How many relationships have you had?
24: Do you think love can last forever?
25: Do you believe love can conquer all things?
26: Would you break up with someone your parents didn’t approve of?
    Depends why, but probably not.
27: If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice about dating what would it be?
    Be more willing to take the risk with people who aren’t “perfect.”
28: Do you think long distance relationships can work?
29: What do you notice first about another person?
    Probably eyes.
30: Are you straight, bi, gay or pansexual?
    What about a- or trans*?
31: Would it bother you if your partner suffered from any mental illness?
    If they act in a bothersome way.
32: Have you ever been in an abusive relationship?
    I’ve been in a relationship that became abusive.
33: Do you want to get married one day?
    Don’t know.
34: What do you think about getting your partner’s name tattooed?
35: Could you be in a relationship without sex?
36: Are you still a virgin?
37: What’s more important: Looks or personality?
38: Do you enjoy love films?
39: Have you ever given anyone/received roses?
40: Have you ever had a valentine?
    I don’t really know what that means.
41: What’s your imagination of a “perfect date”?
    I don’t know that either.
42: Have you ever read “Romeo & Juliet”?
    Yes—I have, in fact!
43: What’s more important: Your partner or your friends?
    Depends which partner and which friends.
44: Would you consider yourself “romantic”?
45: Could you imagine to date one of your current friends?
46: Have you ever been “friendzoned”?
    I object to the term.
47: Which “famous couple” is your favorite?
    I don’t follow famous couples.
48: What’s your favorite love song?
    Love songs are usually weird.
49: Have you ever broken someone’s heart?
    I think so.
50: If you’re single, why do you think you are?
    I’m having problems finding new people.
51: Would you rather date someone who’s rich but a douchebag or someone who’s poor but a nice guy?
    Nice guy.
52: Are you good at giving other people advices regarding dating/relationships?
    “Advices”… what are you, a franco? I don’t think so, but people keep asking.
53: Are you jealous of couples when you’re single?
54: How important is it to make a relationship official (p.e. on facebook)?
    Wait! “p.e.” as in “par exemple?!” You totally are a franco! Not very.
55: Would you consider yourself “clingy”, “overly attached” or “jealous”?
    Yes, clingy.
56: Have you ever “destroyed” a relationship?
    Yes, but I wan’t the only one.
57: Do you think it’s silly to consider suicide because of a broken heart?
    I object to “silly” because it trivializes a serious mental health issue.
58: Are you the “dominant” or the “submissive” part in a relationship?
    Usually submissive, but I don’t prefer a hierarchized relationship.
59: Have you ever forgotten important dates like your partner’s birthday or your anniversary?
60: What’s your opinion on open relationships?
    Good idea, but not for me at this time.
61: Who’s more important: Your partner or your family?
    Now you say “partner,” so it seems like they are family, so “no.”
62: How do you define “cheating”?
    When you do that thing that distinguishes relationships and friendships with a person who isn’t your partner, and without the enthusiastic consent of your partner. What distinguishes friendships and relationships? For me, sex.
63: Is watching porn while being in a relationship inappropriate?
64: Do you think Valentine’s Day is overrated?
65: Would you consider yourself a “cuddler”?

So it was a little longer than I expected, but that’s okay (twss).

Have you ever left somewhere, gone somewhere else, and forgotten why you went?

For example: leave your living room, go to the kitchen. But why? I’m holding a cup… did I just want to wash it, or was I going to refill it?

I just realized I have an equivalent computer-based behaviour: leave an application, start another, and forget why I opened it. It’s especially problematic with a Web browser, because I could have been going to do almost anything! Might as well check that social network.

The Thing about Bruckner

People disparage Anton Bruckner all the time. He’s too repetitive and not very original, and so on—there are lots of (well-documented) clichés. I think it’s because they don’t really understand what he’s about. This isn’t a blindly pro-Bruckner rant either. Hear me out!

The thing is, Bruckner wasn’t a composer. Well, he wasn’t only a composer: he was indeed a composer, but also a scholar and an organist. I have no means with which to judge his organ playing, but from what I read, he was among the best of his time. As a composer and a scholar, however, Bruckner was always overshadowed by what amounts to his unfortunate historical position: there were a lot of really important developments just before him, and a lot of really important developments just after him. When you consider this alongside his well-known tendency to revise his own work, and the fact he wasn’t a first-rate composer or scholar, it’s no wonder he isn’t remembered as a first-rate composer or scholar.

Thus I claim that we should listen to Bruckner’s music as he might have.

Consider that Bruckner is a scholar-composer. Though it’s not widespread knowledge among music theorists, it is well documented that Bruckner used, extended, and taught the formal theory of his teacher, Simon Sechter. In writing, this theory was picked up by Arnold Schönberg, Erwin Ratz, and then William Caplin, thanks to whom it is well-known and widely taught today as “form-functional theory.” Because we also know Bruckner analyzed his own music using concepts from that theory (sentence, period, compound sentences and periods, along with basic and contrasting ideas), it seems reasonable to me that we should use form-functional theory to help understand Bruckner’s symphonies. (We don’t need such a historical endorsement, but the endorsement makes the current absence of such analyses all the more intriguing).

I was recently prompted to listen to the second symphony, which I don’t really like, and the eighth, which I do. I discovered something I confirmed with further listening: as a unit, Bruckner’s symphonies evolve from over-grown Classical-style monstrosities into elegant and sneaky predecessors of 20th century styles. What most impressed me this time is a situation I’ve yet to find or create a term for, where musical elements articulate different formal units, or where they articulate the same formal unit but with different start and end points.

The most striking example (from the top of my head) is a passage in the third (slow) movement of the eighth symphony. It’s both a tight-knit sentence and a transition between large formal sections. The first phrase is loud with brass-heavy orchestration, and it seems like the psycho-energetic conclusion to the large formal unit, even though the harmony and melody together articulate a presentation phrase, which is the *start* of a small formal unit. The second phrase is quiet, emphasizes the strings, and seems like the psycho-energetic transition between formal units, even though it uses model-sequence technique and ends with a half-cadence, like the continuation phrase we expect to follow a presentation phrase.

Described as I did, this isn’t record-breaking, and it isn’t even that we couldn’t possibly find an example of Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven doing something similar. What is new is that no analyst in their right minds would call this “a sentence,” because sentences simply don’t “belong” where this one is. “Okay then,” somebody’s thinking, “if a sentence doesn’t belong there, then it isn’t functioning like one, so it isn’t a sentence, right?” Right, but on the one hand, the end of a large formal unit almost never resembles a tight-knit theme, and on the other hand, the reason this passage works as it does because of the mismatch between different musical elements, which is what I was talking about two paragraphs ago.

When we listen like this—with the theory Bruckner helped develop—we have a very different perspective of a musical moment that at first seemed to be completely straight-forward. The fact most musicians’ (self-professed!) knowledge of Bruckner’s symphonies seems to start with the fourth and end with the seventh is unfortunate at best. If everybody had a chance to experience the growth of this admittedly ho-hum composer, we would share a much subtler understanding of the development of this undeniably important genre. It wasn’t Brahms who saved the symphony from Beethoven, it was both Brahms and Bruckner together. In fact, Bruckner’s role as an educator means he may have had an even greater influence than Brahms.

Response to a Friend, about the McGill Symphony Orhcestra’s Recent Concert

Here’s what. About the MGSO concert.

I think Berlioz is great, and the world could use more of his overtures specifically, also more “Harold en Italie,” and less of “Symphonie fantastique.” And the Rachmaninoff concerto is a Rachmaninoff concerto. Whatever. I’m over it.

But the reason I had to go is because Bruckner is one of my things. It started in high school because the Bruckner tuba excerpts are fun because they’re difficult in exactly the way a tubaist appreciates. None of this super-high, super-fast BS like Berlioz (whose music is fun for another reason) or under-used octave-machine BS like Brahms (except in the “Academic Festival Overture”). In Bruckner some parts are loud, some are soft, some are lyrical, some are percussive, and so on–it’s a good mix of everything. You can see how Bruckner’s tuba writing was the start of a trend continuing through Mahler, Nielsen, Hindemith, Shostakovich… everything we have! In my opinion.

Near the end of my second year, after four terms of training in harmony, three in Caplinian form, and three in music history (Laurier is a very different place), I started to appreciate Bruckner for another reason: forget Beethoven and Mahler/Schönberg; it’s Bruckner whose music paints a very compelling picture as the culmination and conclusion to the Romantic period, and Classical-style form with it. The music historical and music theoretical frameworks are set up to do that. Whether or not it’s true is another matter, and I think not worth considering, because we can never know the truth content of a statement like that. We wouldn’t even be able to establish the criteria for whether it’s true.

But I’ve never understood the dude’s fourth symphony. I haven’t listened to it in aaaaaaages, but as it turns out, I still don’t really get it. No idea which version the MGSO used (maybe a terrible one, like the Dover score, which would be a problem), but I spent most of the first movement laughing at the symphony. I think you’re right to say they played it well, but it just sounds like it was composed by a university professor (which it was).

So I just listened to Bruckner’s fifth symphony, and indeed it’s not that all of Bruckner’s music is stupid… just the fourth.