Even as Septembers and Octobers go in San Francisco, this one has been crazy, careening between rehearsals and performances for various projects, growing in a new job, and dreading whatever new political development occurs. So our recent outing to hear SF Symphony perform the music of Igor Stravinsky was a bit of a respite. It was part of a two week-festival celebrating the music of Stravinsky that included not only the “big three” (The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring) but other less-frequently performed works. We were there for the night featuring The Firebird
The Firebird, the first the “big three,” premiered in 1910 and while was considered avant-garde by some in Paris, it’s a very accessible work that draws more from 19th-century romanticism than from the innovations of the time. For us at CatSynth, this is about as conservative as our live music gets. But it is nonetheless an adventurous piece and very richly textured, especially in its focus on brass and wind instruments. As it was performed without staging, it was easier to concentrate entirely on the music. The early “Prince Ivan” sections had phrases and idioms that foreshadowed L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale); then there is that iconic ending with the slow big chords.
If anything, it was the opening performance of Perséphone that was more unique an exciting. It far less often that Stravinsky’s other large-scale works, and it is complex to stage. For this performance, the symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas was joined by the great Leslie Caron as the narrator and Persephone, Nicholas Phan on tenor as Eumolpus and other characters, as well as San Francisco Symphony Chorus, San Francisco Girls Chorus, and the Pacific Boychoir.
Despite the massive number of performers between the orchestra and the choruses, Perséphone has a sparse and more minimal texture than The Firebird or the other big ballets. It also has a very deliberate and punctuated quality, with each note and each syllable of the text standing alone. It does have a joyous, lyrical quality at times – it is a celebration of spring. But it also has dark, unsettling moments, which is keeping with the mythological story of Persephone, the spring goddess and daughter of Ceres being brought to Hades by Pluto. The story is one of balance between light and dark, and between the seasons. But the text in this version is somewhat more ambiguous, emphasizing Persephone’s descending to Hades by choice. It does also celebrate her worldly existence as the bride of Triptolemus and joy of rebirth, and of course the springtime. Musically we are treated to a light touch without leaning too heavily on major/minor emotional tropes, much as the story projects its ambiguity between light and dark. The
It was our first trip back to the Symphony in a while, as their 2017 program was far more conservative and focused on traditional repertoire compared the numerous shows we had enjoyed in 2016. We do look forward to more adventurous and contemporary programming again soon.
Adorable Pearl sits atop an Access Virus TI synthesizer. And they match, too 😻. From Stefano Daksha Pettinelli via our Facebook page.
Pearl loves the Virus TI ❤️
Koi pool in Marin County, California.
This about as “CAT Synth” a picture as one cat get. A cute cat playing an Octave CAT synthesizer. From the Vintage Synthesizer Museum on Facebook.
@catmanofwestoakland brought by Bud a few days ago for play time and modeling
The Cat Man of West Oakland, like the Vintage Synth Museum, is a local treasure. We hope to feature more of them both in the near future.
From Orb Mag on Facebook.
Tom Hall’s Cat Knows the game 😺⚡️
We espy a MiniBrute 2S and RackBrute in use. We are quite fond of our MinBrute 2 here at CatSynth HQ.
Our feline pal Gracie certainly knows how to strike a pose. Here we see her laying claim to a Polymoog that is in for repairs. From Alsún Ní Chasaide (Alison Cassidy) via Facebook.
The Polymoog is a rare and somewhat anomalous instrument from Moog Music’s lineup. In addition to being polyphonic, it’s focused on a series of presets. It was intended in many ways to complement for the classic Moog mono synths – the nice wide flat (and presumably warm) surface where Gracie is sitting was designed to accommodate a Model D or similar instrument. They are also known to be rather temperamental and high-maintenance beasts. From Vintage Synth Explorer:
Unique among Moog’s lineup, the Polymoog is not at all like the Minimoog or any of the other mono-synths Moog has become famous for. Instead, it was designed to complement Moog’s monophonic synthesizers. It’s a unique and finicky product, the brain child of David Luce instead of Dr. Bob Moog himself. But like all Moog products, this isn’t an ordinary instrument — it’s the Polymoog and it sounds fantastic for what it is.