September 10, 2008 at 4:16 PMAt the end of last season, after a concert, a group of girls came up to me with an art card they'd created. It read, "Hilary Hahn Sleepover!" and was covered with all sorts of birthday references. Turns out my concert was part of a bigger event; all the kids had attended to start off the birthday girl's sleepover, and they were on their way to her house for the rest of the party. I thought that was a terrific idea. When I was their age, I loved birthday sleepovers. It was such a treat to go to TGI Friday's for dinner and then go to a movie en masse, decorate the cake together, and, the next morning, to wake up on the living room floor surrounded by friends. (Apparently I talked in my sleep on several occasions.) Finally, we'd rush to the table for animal-shaped pancakes, and then the parents would arrive to drive everyone home. But no one I knew ever went to a big event to kick it all off.
I thought this group's concert sleepover sounded like so much fun, I started trying to figure out other ways to connect birthdays and musical events. I wanted to honor a more unlikely subject than a pre-teen: someone who might not have had a sleepover within the past twenty years: someone important: someone wry yet perceived as humorless, who would in all actuality get a kick out of a random mass birthday event:
Someone like Arnold Schoenberg.
Having just released a recording of Schoenberg's unfairly neglected Violin Concerto, I was fired up. Not that this year would bring a particularly big anniversary; that would have been too symmetrical. This would be simply his 134th birthday, as good an excuse as any to bring people together in his memory. But now I needed a plan. Arnold Schoenberg Sleepovers? I tried to imagine a vast array of music dorks (like me) of all ages, ordering peanut-butter-sandwich cakes in the shape of Schoenberg's head, making crafts modeled on tone rows or building miniature instruments, and then, at the end of the evening, laying out the sleeping bags and drifting off to the Sprechstimme dreamland of Pierrot Lunaire. Or Schoenberg Listening Parties? – at which people would gather on steel-and-leather sofas to roll their own cigarettes and talk musical philosophy over a marathon of notes before passing out, drunk on theory and innovation. Maybe costume parties themed on the number 13? I pictured some odd gatherings indeed. I couldn't think of any context that would draw everyone in.
Then it occurred to me that I could provide a location where everyone interested could join together – people from many different backgrounds and ages, who didn't know each other, who were all either fans of Schoenberg or curious about him. A channel on YouTube seemed like the best location; I could post self-recorded answers to questions I'd receive before the big day, September 13, and viewers could post video responses to anything under the sun (as long as it's kid-friendly). We could create a nice little tribute to the composer. And all of us dorks and geeks would be happy.
Thus the Hilary Hahn YouTube channel was born. It will launch on September 13. In the end, then, Schoenberg not only pushed me in new directions with his violin concerto, he led me to experiment on the Web – Schoenberg, a man who never even heard of the Internet. Something tells me he'd enjoy that irony.
If you'd like to submit a question about Schoenberg for me to answer on YouTube, please post them in the comment section below, or you can e-mail questions(at)firstchairpromo.com.
I am currently struggling with Schoenberg's Phantasy, a very beautiful and intense piece written by him near the end of his life. Have you ever come across this piece and, if so, do you intend to study it?
Your recording of the Schoenberg Concerto has inspired me to work even harder on my piece, and I look forward to your Youtube Channel. Thank you so much!
I find that absorbing atonal or twelve-tone music takes a slightly different process for me than absorbing something more traditional. And I'm not talking about analyzing it on paper, I'm talking about getting it into my head aurally, as music.
For traditional music, I hear a melody, and it just sinks right in. I'm probably whistling it by the time I walk out the door. Whatever adventure the composer takes me on with that theme or melody, I'm ready. It might be slightly surprising, but all within the realm of expectation.
But...for example, with the Berg Concerto. I had to listen to it many times before anything "stuck" in my head. Then, it came in disconnected fragments. I did end up enjoying and absorbing the piece, but it was a different adventure.
With modern music, what sticks for me is often a clever transition, or a melodic fragment. Maybe it's an interesting rhythm. Upon these things, I can build the music in my mind.
So I'm wondering, what are the most intriguing little pieces of the Schoenberg Concerto, the little things a listener might fall in love with, and build on? Maybe you could play a few of them, and talk about them in one of your videos for your Youtube site?
Addressing that could be a real eye-opener. Eye-opener for a sleepover, hmm, needs work...
Schoenberg’s a lucky guy to have you in his camp. Or hosting his sleepover, as it were. Even if, at 134, he’s not around to tell you thanks himself.
Please do return to us on the 13th to post the directions (well, the link) to the party. And thanks again for sharing your thoughts and words with the community here.
What a delight, pleasure and honour to say you post here.
I agree with much for Laurie's post. I think that with music that is not readily tonal or melodic, what to listen for is a challenge for the listener.
My question then might be this - What is it that you would clearly be drawn to listening to a work? Are there images conveyed by the sound and structure, ideas in sound (chords, clusters, recurring structures)? I think that opening people's ears in how to listen to dodecaphonic music and helping get in touch with it, especially emotionally (or intellectually if the appeal is greater) would help a lot. After all, the beauty of a sleepover is the anticipation of the event and how you might feel with your friends once there!
Thanks, all my best and cheers for all that you do!
Thank you so much for all you do.
Finally, I'll have to post a link to one of my favorite youtube videos, a "twelve tone commercial."
Best wishes from Germany,
Ysaye, Eugene 150 th birthday (16-7-2008) fragments
(I have plans to upload the fast 3th part of the cd of Hilary's very very fast Barber violinconcerto[I doubt whether I get permission]. How many notes in 1 second you play the last 10 seconds?? It is incredible fast. Perhaps you were at that moment the fastest violinplayer in the world I guess.)
Also, everyone, Hilary has posted a lot of answers to our questions! Thank you, this is turning out to be such a fun experiment!
She knows not to say "i'm lovin' it" and get sued.
Okay. Fuggettabout the non-blog-readers. It's every musician for him/herself.
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