This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a concert of choral works by Maurice Duruflé performed by Florilegium Chamber Choir. They sang Duruflé’s Requiem along with his Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégorians (Four motets on Gregorian Themes), and a setting of the Lord’s Prayer. The choir sung beautifully and the intensity of Duruflé’s works were certainly rendered in a compelling manner—especially the end of the Requiem‘s final movement, “In Paradisum”—but the real joy of the afternoon was due to a thunderstorm that rolled in during the Requiem. In fact, the whole concert experience was almost invaded by the sounds of the outside world, not only by the thunderstorm, but also by the busy noises of traffic and people on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Last night I had the wonderful experience of seeing and hearing a cabaret show put on at The Duplex in the West Village in Manhattan. The show, The Tinderland: A Tragicomic Cabaret, featured David J. Baldwin (music director) along with R-Elle Fry, Amanda Tarver, and Timothy Stoddard singing solos, duets, and ensemble numbers all addressing the theme of dating and love in New York City. The Selections included a variety of pop hits such as “Stay With Me,” “Elastic Heart,” and “La Vie en rose” among others.
As I’m in the midst of a research project about Tin Pan Alley, I couldn’t help be be struck by the similarities between the tales of late-19th century New York City entertainment and the performance last night. What really struck me was how the show weaved together contemporary pop hits, classic ballads, standards, and even songs from movies to support a personal and relevant dramatic theme, and how it integrated and embraced the nature of a drinking establishment as performance venue.
Despite the many changes and twists and turns that we see and hear about in the American music scene, The Tinderland affirmed that some things are so good that they can and will remain for some time.
Back in 2006 tech entrepreneur Andrew Keen wrote an article for The Weekly Standard entitled “Web 2.0” that criticized the increasing rise of democratized media and growing ability for anyone to publish books, make movies, or record an album with newly inexpensive technologies. Keen argued that traditional curators of content, the “media and culture industries,” perform a valuable service by making sure that the best works of art and the best artists find their audiences:
The purpose of our media and culture industries—beyond the obvious need to make money and entertain people—is to discover, nurture, and reward elite talent. Our traditional mainstream media has done this with great success over the last century. Consider Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo and a couple of other brilliantly talented works of the same name Vertigo: the 1999 book called Vertigo, by Anglo-German writer W.G. Sebald, and the 2004 song “Vertigo,” by Irish rock star Bono. Hitchcock could never have made his expensive, complex movies outside the Hollywood studio system. Bono would never have become Bono without the music industry’s super-heavyweight marketing muscle. And W.G. Sebald, the most obscure of this trinity of talent, would have remained an unknown university professor had a high-end publishing house not had the good taste to discover and distribute his work. Elite artists and an elite media industry are symbiotic.