Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

David Copperfield bv Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

David Copperfield
by Charles Dickens
published 1849-1850 in serial

    David Copperfield is generally considered to be the second best novel by the "best" Novelist of all time.   In fact, many critics/scholars would rank Charles Dickens second behind Shakespeare of leading literary figures of all time.   Talking about Charles Dickens as a "Victorian" Novelist- which happens a lot in the academic figure- hardly begins to touch the continuing and enduring popularity of Charles Dickens among Audience members and literary/artistic professional types.

Young Daniel Radcliffe plays Young David Copperfield in 1999 TV version

   It is important to recognize that Charles Dickens was popular before he was revered by critics, and the gap in time is considerable.   Dickens didn't really "break through" among critics until the mid 20th century, when literature professors were forced to acknowledge that Charles Dickens "wasn't going away."  During this entire period- from the mid 19th to mid 20th century, Charles Dickens has being republished, adaptations were being made in different media and his work was inspiring later Authors.

Maggie Smith as Betsey Trotwood in 1999 TV version

   It is also a fair observation that the critics who initially witnessed the explosion of popularity that greeted Charles Dickens literary output didn't fully understand why his Novels struck such a chord with the Audience.  "Overwhelmingly, early critics praised his humour (sic) (especially as seen in his characters), his pathos, and his eye for topical detail; his style and his aesthetic achievement were hardly mentioned." (1)

 It wasn't for nearly a century that  the era of "Modern" Dickens critical appreciation- even BEGAN- with the publication of Edmund Wilson's Dickens: The Two Scrooges, George Orwell's Charles Dickens and Humphrey House's The Dickens World- all published between 1940 and 1942. (2)

  The initial reaction to David Copperfield was by the marketplace, "Reviews of Copperfield were mixed, and monthly sales hovered around 20,000, in comparison with 32,00 for Dombey and 34,000 for Bleak House.  Nevertheless, as Forster proclaimed, "Dickens never stood so high in reputation as at the completion of Copperfield." (3)

  However, the autobiographical material that Dickens draws on to portray the titular character meant that this book was important to Dickens, and ensured that it received additional attention from the Author and critics after the initial reception.   Obviously, for critics writing after the mid 1950s canonization process was complete, David Copperfield is a wonderland for analysis.  David Copperfield is quite literally based on Dickens own life: the main character becomes a Novelist during the story, the love story is directly inspired by Dickens own case of unrequited young adult love, etc.

Other Posts About Charles Dickens On This Blog

Book Review:  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens11/20/14
Book Review: Dickens and His Readers: Aspects of Novel Criticism Since 1836 by George H. Ford. 3/25/13
Book Review: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, 3/17/13.
Book Review:  Dickens Worlds by Humphrey House, 3/8/13
Book Review: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, 9/21/12
Book Review: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, 8/23/12
Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 7/17/12.
Book Review: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens, 6/19/12.
Book Review: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 6/7/12.


 (1) The Oxford Readers Companion to Dickens, edited by Paul Schlicke, published 1999, page 135.
(2) Ibid.
(3) Id. at 152

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hit Songs: String Quartets, Op. 33 by Joseph Haydn


Joseph Haydn, String Quartets, Op. 33

String Quartets, Op. 33
by Joseph Haydn
published 1781 (Austria)

  Here is the fact you need to know about the career of Joseph Haydn, the composer and musician:

In 1779, an important change in Haydn's contract permitted him to publish his compositions without prior authorization from his employer.

  Two years later he wrote and published String Quartets, Op.33 via Austrian music publisher Artaria.  Joseph Haydn was the first musician to make this leap from "hired hand at court"  to a freelance publishing/touring artistic professional, and he used his fame to go to London, where his public performances became a sensation and formed a new Audience for the public performance of music among the 18th and 19th century London city-dwellers.

  Joseph Haydn was actually the first to pull off this trick, and he was the direct inspiration for the careers of Beethoven and Mozart. 

 To give you some idea of the contribution that Haydn made to music styles, he is called "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet."  Many people do not take interest in music history older then the symphonic form of Classical music, so for that group Joseph Haydn is a more appropriate starting point then Gregorian or Renaissance music. 

  What is interesting about Joseph Haydn's published works is that you can readily transpose them into works of Art from the same time period, they "match up" with books and paintings ETC from the late 18th century.   I would argue that listening to Joseph Haydn's String Quartets, Op. 33 is a good deal easier on the time budget vs. reading Fanny Burney's Cecilia, published in 1782, one year after the String Quartets, Op. 33 were published in Vienna.

   Joseph Haydn's String Quartets, Op. 33 were also contemporary with Jean Jacques Rousseaus' Confessions and 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade, Listening to Op. 33 by Haydn, reading Rousseau's Confessions, so to speak.  The 1780s.  You can't go that far back from the 1780s and perform similar comparisons as easily because Joseph Haydn wasn't "liberated" until 1779.

  Joseph Haydn is nowhere near as popular as Beethoven or Mozart, but he's arguably more important from the perspective of the history of music, since he showed them the way. 

Epic Colleen Green/Plateaus Tour Starts in San Diego This Friday

Friday, August 24th, 2012, Colleen Green & Plateaus play the Tower Bar in San Diego, CA.  

8/24 - San Diego, CA @ Tower Bar
8/25 - Tucson, AZ @ Plush
8/26 - Las Cruces, NM @ The Trainyard 
8/27 - Lubbock, TX @ Glassy Alley 
8/28 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk (inside)
8/29 - Dallas, TX @ Bryan St Tavern 
8/31 - Atlanta, GA @ 529 
9/1 - Durham, NC @ The Pinhook 
9/2 - Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar (upstairs)
9/4 - Philadelphia, PA @ TBA
9/5 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge 
9/7 - Brooklyn, NY @ 285 Kent  
9/8 - Storrs, CT @ University of CT 
9/9 - Boston, MA @ Middle East (upstairs) 
9/11 - Buffalo, NY @ Ninth Ward 
9/12 - Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog 
9/13 - Columbus, OH @ Cafe Bourbon Street 
9/14 - Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub 
9/15 - Louisville, KY @ TBA
9/16 - Lafayette, IN @ Black Sparrow
9/18 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle 
9/19 - Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
9/20 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
9/21 - Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
9/22 - Denver, CO @ Lion's Lair
9/23 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
9/25 - Missoula, MT @ Zoo City
9/26 - Seattle, WA @ Comet Tavern
9/27 - Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
9/28 - San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside  
9/29 - Los Angeles, CA @ TBA

    Bands should be recognized simply for being able to tour from one side of the country to another.  A national level tour for ANY indie band is going to have some rough patches, just based on the distance between markets and the size of some of those markets.  Too often, an indie tour is portrayed as a) a hassle b) creatively unrewarding c) a financial burden.   All that is true, but it also demonstrates to any interested music professional that the band is already together and worthy of further investment for recording costs, album production, etc.   Not to mention- obtaining a booking agent.  Booking Agents love bands that have already toured nationally. 

     If you look at the strengths and weaknesses of this particular tour, the first set of dates that come to mind Las Cruces, New Mexico and Lubbock, Texas.  First of all, those are both small markets.   Las Cruces is the 199 biggest metropolitan statistical area in the United States with 200,000 people.   Albuquerque, New Mexico is 57th, with close to 900,000 people- but it's also three and half hours away by car.   Las Cruces is also next to Juarez, which is a huge Mexican city- 1.4 million people, the equivalent of Jacksonville, Florida or Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   But still-- you have to wonder what the size of the Audience will be.   Lubbock Texas is 290,000 people- the 161st biggest market- so good luck there.

    But then there is a solid set of shows booked in Austin/Dallas/Atlanta- that should be a great stretch for both bands, just based on the combination of venue and promoter.  After that comes Durham- which may be good or may be bad-  Baltimore through Boston should be solid for this tour.  That strong period is followed up by a week of question marks through the mid west- though I would suspect the results will be "better then expected."

  Chicago is a really strong promoter/venue combination, same with Minneapolis, but the rest of the dates are question marks till the markets of the West Coast are reached.  I think the period between Missoula and Salt Lake City is going to be the most trying time- after having already toured across the country and going through the most conservative part as touring musicians from California- you can almost expect trouble.

  With some of these dates we're talking about a potential audience size of 10 to 100, anything over 200 in any of these venues would be a great result.   Obviously, if only 10 to 20 people show up, there are going to be issues with getting the promoter to pay up- just like there would be in San Diego.  

  How those situations are handled on the road can be the difference between a successful tour vs. a failed tour, but they are universally a drag and not "fun."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shirley (novel) by Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Bronte 

Shirley (novel)
 by  Charlotte Brontë
published 1849

   Shirley was the middle of the three novels that Charlotte Brontë bequeathed to us, Jane Eyre and Villete (published in 1853.)  Charlotte Brontë is particularly interesting for her intellectual network (1)  Even though Charlotte Brontë grew up in an isolated social environment, as the most succesful (and long lived) of the  Brontë sisters, Charlotte Brontë "got out."  She benefited from extensive reviews of her published works, and cultivated a network of similar minded Artists and professionals.

  The most basic of these people was Elizabeth Gaskell, who is herself a well remembered Author.  Gaskell wrote a "best selling" biography of Charlotte Brontë in 1857, that surely increased the Audience for Charlotte  Brontë.   It is easy to see  Brontë  crushing Jane Austen in terms of Audience size between 1800 and 1860.

  Charlotte Bronte actually hung out with William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, and it is fair to say that she was inspired by Vanity Fair (published in 1848) in the same way a band would be influenced by another band.  Barry Lyndon was another Thackeray classic that didn't make Boxalls 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list

   But ultimately the Bronte sisters must give way to Charles Dickens turning out arguably his greatest work, David Copperfield, in 1850, followed by the less appreciated at the time but more significant in terms of it's artistic influence, Moby Dick.  The first of those books is the apotheosis of pre-modern era of the Novel, the  second is the firing the gun of the modern period, when the Novel became more serious and important in the eyes of Artistis and Audience.

   If you compare the popularity of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Herman Melville from the 19th century through the 21st, it is easy to see that Jane Austen has retained the most relevance, but Melville and Bronte are both respectably behind her. You can see in the Google Ngram that there was actually a period where Melville drew close to Austen, nipping at her heels- between 1954 and 1959.  During that same five year period, Bronte was at her lowest point, whereas more recently she actually surpassed Melville in popularity.

  Hard to see the fan base for this particular novel outside of literature under graduate and graduate students, since everyone in the world would read Jane Eyre first and Shirley never.


(1) In The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change, Randall Collins describes intellectual networks of philosophers throughout history.  Closer to the modern period, those philosophical networks include people who wrote Novels and published other works of literature, making the novel one of the elements of his philosophical networks.

  To give an example of Authors who are placed in Collins intellectual networks, as described in Sociology of Philosophies, you have Alexander Pope, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Charles Dickens to name three.  In a particularly intensive piece of writing about literature in the 18th century, Collins runs through an analysis of Dostoyevsky, Franz Kafka,  Albert Camus, Sir Walter Scott, Honore Balzac.

  Collins makes some adept observations about the markets for Art,

 "An elite can survive only with external financial support.  Occasionally this happens by bootlegging avant-garde material into works for the middlebrow market; this is one reason for the adulation of Dostoyesvky, who unconsciously carried off this fusion by making his topic the rebellious Russian intellectuals of his day.  Similarly, the admiration of French intellectuals went to Hemingway, for his amalgamation of adventure story, stylistic severity and quasi-metaphysical code of meaning." @ PG 774

Messiah by Georg Friedrich Händel

Georg Friedrich Handel

 by Georg Friedrich Händel
composed in 1741
performed in 1742

   Georg Friedrich Händel is a transitional figure in the period between Baroque and Classical music.  He continues to enjoy major league popularity, with something like 5000 listeners a week on Last FM(going back  to 1741!)  Handel shows an equal, long term level of popularity similar to Joseph Haydn, though both are dwarfed by subsquent Classical composer like Ludwig van Beethoven and Mozart.

  Georg Friedrich Händel was also unusual because he achieved notoriety or "fame" through the public (or semi public/royal) performance, rather then through music publishing.  Notably, Messiah was debuted in Dublin, not London.  Composing in the mid 18th century,  Georg Friedrich Händel worked in a field that included opera scores and theatrical performances.

 Händel emerged from an Operatic background, but by 1710 he was working as the music guy for prince George of Hanover, Germany.  Prince George of Hanover ended up King George of the United Kingdom, so that worked out well for Händel.

 Messiah is, musically speaking, a choral work, and the treatment of Messiah by subsequent developments in chorus singing, namely the amplification of the size of the chorus, has not been kind to the original work.  Originally performed by a chorus of close to 30 people in Dublin, Ireland, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir regularly uses a cast of hundreds for the same performance:

  There is an "Elvis in Vegas" quality to Messiah in that regard, a taint on the status it continues to enjoy among a large Audience.   A certain "chessiness" I suppose you would call it.  In recent decades Händel  has enjoyed a higher profile then Haydn, and that no doubt springs from the sheer joy that people experience from seeing a whole lot of people perform Messiah at Christmas time.  Messiah was actually first performed in April, so its modern assignment to Christmas was itself a product of market forces.

What is the Audience Size For Animal Collective

  Last Fm is the best way to measure the Audience size for a specific Artist, because of the major Social Music services (Spotify, Pandora, Last FM) they are the only one that actually publish statistics for Artists.

  On this Graph, "0" is in 2008 for Spotify, mid 2005 for Last Fm, and 2005 for Pandora. So you can see here that Last Fm is a pretty big user group to be drawing statistics from.

  On Last FM, Animal Collective has close to one million listeners,  almost 55 million library plays and is #190 on the very excellent Last FM Top Artist Chart.  The record itself comes out on September 4th, so it would be good to check on the statistics a month from now to see the rate of increase.

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