Monthly Archives: March 2011

‘Hercules’ at the Chicago Lyric

I don’t want to be a professional critic.  I don’t enjoy pointing out the many flaws in a bad performance or work of art.  I do enjoy promoting the works that I like, but only the luckiest professional critics can indulge in this activity on a regular basis.  Or the least honest ones.

I frequently turn to these critics for their opinions, though.  Especially after films and operas, rarely after concerts.  I almost never consult their opinions before I see or hear a work.  Usually I want to see if they agreed with me.  Sometimes I’m left with an impression of a piece, but I’m at a loss to describe why I feel a certain way, so I turn to a good writer to help me analyze my own opinions.

When time and resources allow, I try to get a representative sampling of critical opinions.  Rotten Tomatoes is great for this – whether or not I liked a movie, I always read at least one review from the opposite side of the aisle.

I’m compelled to write criticism of the Lyric Opera’s new production of Handel’s “Hercules” because I don’t see my opinion expressed in any of the major media outlets, namely the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.  In fact, it’s not even in any of the bitchy Chicago theater blogs.  So this post is for anyone who saw “Hercules” and wasn’t convinced by the von Rheins and Patners of the world.  An opposing voice to at least create a discussion.

Peter Sellars’ production was a total misfire.  Not even a misfire – a malfunction.  No, not even a malfunction.  This was like a wiry little kid armed with a beat-up, seventy-year-old machine gun lazily spraying it all over the stage.

Mr. Sellars had a concept.  It had something to do with post-traumatic stress disorder and America’s role in the Middle East.  I’m guessing he thinks both are bad.  His concept was less directed than costumed.  Cast members wearing contemporary American Army uniforms were juxtaposed with others wearing… something else.  I’m not sure what it was.  The gowns looked like they were recycled from a 1965 production of Cendrillon. Or from this.

Other than that, I’m not sure where the concept was enacted.  I doubt Mr. Sellars gave the matter any further thought.  What I saw on stage was a collection of half-formed, ill-conceived ideas.  Why was the Lyric Chorus performing a Differently Abled-appropriate rendition of the Macarena to this chorus?  We may never know.

Musically, this was an excellent effort.  Harry Bicket‘s conducting was inspired, and the orchestra sounded wonderful.  Lucy Crowe was exquisite beyond words.  The only weak link was Eric Owens as the title character.  I have no idea what he was doing on the stage.  His voice did not in any way suit the material or match the style of the other singers in the cast.  Not to mention, if I were going to play the role of Hercules, I might stop by the gym a couple times before opening night.

But of course, this is Opera.

Portrait of a starving artist

The music is gorgeous, but the score needs cutting.  I know we’re all supposed to be living in some new era of refinement and intelligence, and we’re supposed to love us some 2 hour acts of da capo arias.  But Baroque Opera is a tricky thing in that it existed before the invention of “plot”.  A good, creative director can go a long way to helping us love the music for what it is.

It’s nice that Peter Sellars arranged for meetings with Iraq War Veterans and involved other community organizations.  Perhaps the Lyric Opera should consider hiring him for their Outreach Department.  Nobody should consider hiring him to direct any more operas.  This was a truly bad production.

The Big Picture lesson here is one about projects and art and suitability.  There are certain subjects out there.  There are certain media as well.  If you’re an artist, there are two ways to go about matching them: you can either say to yourself, “There’s a topic that I really care about.  What is the best form for me to communicate and express it?” OR, “I’m involved in x project/medium, which is defined by certain tools at my disposal.  What would be good topic to explore given inherent virtues and limitations of these tools?”

What you don’t want to do is say, “I really like this subject.  I’m doing this kind of project.  Why don’t I smash them together and see what comes out?”

Which brings me to my next case:

Some things you just know are going to suck before you hear the first note.  This is one of them.  I see what’s temptingly operatic about the story of Anna Nicole Smith.  Celebrity, money, family, death, tragedy.  Killer material.

The problem is that her story is a very contemporary one – she was a Pop culture icon.  So how do we deal with this?  Well, the first option would be to re-set her tale to a period that would be more commonly associated with opera.  That could even be really interesting.  Unfortunately, you would be breaking a cardinal sin of the opera world  – operas can only be staged later than their intended period.

So let’s say you’re the Royal Opera House and you’ve got your heart set on doing this Anna Nicole thing as an opera.  Your next step would be to find the artists to make it work.

And here’s the real snag.  Anna Nicole’s story is a tragedy, but it’s a tragedy that played itself out in Pop Media.  She inhabited the world of MTV, Courtroom TV, and the internet.  So if you confine yourself to someone who is part of the official world of New Music, you’re going to end up with the above.

For all his Puma footwear, Diesel jeans, and Versace glasses, the poppiest musical idiom he could muster for this show was a light swing.  This bit of advertising is VERY revealing:

Notice that you don’t hear Mark Anthony Turnage’s score.  You hear some song by this band called Age of Consent, which actually is pretty decent.  I’d say they would have been a much better choice for Composer on this project.

Top 10 Personal Favorite Composers

OK everyone, this is the last Top 10 Top 10 list – Personal Faves.  Here are the rules:

1) These are your personal FAVORITES.  No explanations, no reasoning.  Don’t choose someone just because you think he or she is a particularly good or great composer.  Choose someone because you love his or her music.  [Note: the two need not be mutually exclusive.]

2) These are your personal favorites at this very moment in time.  Try to let it flow – don’t hem and haw.  Five minutes hence, you might have a totally different list.  In fact, you could come back five minutes later and post a whole new list.  I would love it if you did that.  Maybe the You of five minutes ago really didn’t understand the You of now and your new perspective on life, love, and music.

3) Your list need not reflect any particular order.  It can if you want it to though.  Also – and this is very important – just because someone’s not on your list doesn’t mean you don’t love them.

4) Our working definition of ‘composer’ is anyone whose primary means of musical conveyance is the written note.  Feel free to understand this broadly.

Discuss! We’ve had some astonishingly interesting and in depth discussions on these lists.  Between like 5 people.  And I love those 5 people, and respect them and value their opinions and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them.  But I have a little thing called Google Analytics, and, Dear Readers, I know that there’s many more of you out there.  This is a get-to-know you activity – absolutely not a debate.  Just fun, y’all!!

I’ll start.  In no particular order (excepting Beethoven):

My Top 10 Personal Favorite Composers

1. Ludwig van Beethoven

2. Alfred Schnittke

3. Maurice Ravel

4. Jean Sibelius

5. Claude Debussy

6. Giaocomo Puccini

7. Stephen Sondheim

8. Henry Purcell

9. Joseph Haydn

10. Björk

CSO: Elgar and Penderecki

Welcome Chicago Symphony patrons!  Here are some extra insights, materials and links pertaining to the CSO’s recent concert of Elgar and Penderecki.

Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934)
Variations on an Original Theme “Enigma” (1899)

Elgar was a lover of puzzles, none more puzzling than this cryptogram he sent to his good friend Dora Penny (of the “Dorabella” variation):

It’s commonly known as the ‘Dorabella Cipher’, and much like the Enigma Variations, it has never been solved.  The BBC site has a wealth of information on the Cipher and a section where you can weigh in if you think your cryptogrammatical skills are up to the challenge.

Krzysztof Penderecki (1933 – )
Concerto Grosso No. 1 for 3 Cellos and Orchestra (2000 – 2001)

Penderecki’s first major success as a composer came with the extremely moving Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima in 1960. It features a wide variety of “extended techniques” for the strings – everything from playing behind the bridge, to playing with extreme amounts of vibrato, to tapping their bows on the wood of their instruments.  One early critic wrote that Penderecki asks his string players to do everything but play their instruments.

Listen to it here:

By 2001, the year of Penderecki’s Concerto Grosso, his musical language had softened considerably, and after writing a number of film scores, he had incorporated different styles into his writing – tonal, atonal, and everything in between.

If you’d like another listen to the Concerto, you can find the premiere on YouTube (much like everything else that has ever happened).  It’s in four parts:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Top 10 Composers Who Make You Seem Cool When You Tell Other Musicians You Like Them

aka Stuff Music People Like

You go to a friend’s concert/opera performance/chamber recital at an acclaimed school of music or summer festival.  You’re invited to the party afterwards.  There is  wine, there is cheese, there’s a respectable collection of craft brews.  There’s a strange mix of young people and old hangers-on, all of whom are way too intense and riled up because of the concert.  There’s really awkward background music.  Cathartic drinking abounds; inappropriate touching ensues.

You find yourself in a conversation with the type of people who want to talk about their favorite composers at a party.  This is already bad news.  Your instinct to retreat is a good one.

But let’s say you’re trapped next to the drink table, or you have a fighting spirit, or this is Imaginationland, and there are some hotties at an orchestra party who you want to impress.  You need a list of composers who are Academy approved, under-appreciated, but not so outré that only the lamest of the music theory geeks has ever even heard of them.

I’m here to help.

1. J. S. Bach

No musician, be they orchestralist, vocalist, Old Music-ist, New Music-ist, keyboardist or lutenist will disparage the name of J. S. Bach.

If you say Bach, you leave yourself open to a discussion of his individual pieces.  You can save yourself a lot of valuable time and listening by simply memorizing the letters BWV.  BWV stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (which you don’t have to memorize) and refers to a listing of all Bach’s works.  If pressed for an opinion on your favorite Bach piece, insert any three digit combination after the letters BWV.  Do so with absolute confidence.  Most musicians will think you’re talking about one of their own favorite pieces.  Go with it.  If not, they’ll assume you’re refering to some unknown masterwork and murmur in agreement.  In the unlikely case that they don’t immediately follow this by offering their favorite Bach piece, ask them for it right away.

They will not respond with a BWV number.  Do not press the issue.

2. Joseph Haydn

Musicians do love Mozart, but the ones who have heard “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” in too many Julia Roberts wedding scenes tend to consider him a tad middlebrow.  In either situation, you can never go wrong in expressing a preference for Haydn. Whether or not the people you’re talking to agree, they can’t help but respect this opinion.

Haydn’s a musicians’ musician.  His symphonies are laced with a private wit, the kind that leads to much tittering over white wine at string quartet parties.  Haydn is a strong way to start impressing classical musicians with your knowledge, but you will be wise to steer clear of any but the titled symphonies: “Surprise”, “Miracle”, and “London” will suffice.

3. György Ligeti

Show your flare for the avant-garde by working Ligeti into the conversation.  Do not attempt pronunciation of his first name unless you are fluent in Hungarian.  Mention that you think he stands out from the rest of the postwar European avant-garde.  You can definitely mention Kubrick, but do not in any way insinuate that Ligeti composed scores for Kubrick’s films.

You’ll gain major points if you can think to mention what a visionary Alan Gilbert was to include “Le Grand Macabre” on the New York Philharmonic’s programing.  If you really want to go for broke, say that you attended one of the performances.  When asked for an opinion, simply say that it was “sick”.

4. Dmitri Shostakovich

Correct: Intense.  Preludes & Fugues.  Stalin.

Incorrect: Boring.  Film scores.  DSCH drinking game.

5. John Adams

that is, John Coolidge Adams, of “Nixon in China” and “Doctor Atomic” fame, not to be confused with John Luther Adams, who is best known for living in Alaska.  It would not be a mistake to mention either composer’s name, however, but this is only recently true.  In the past two years, Alex Ross has done much to improve the latter John Adams’ reputation, whereas before, everyone just thought he was a crackpot who made your life that little bit more annoying when you were looking for scores in the library.  Better to stick to the former Adams though, and affix the term post-minimalist.

6. Modest Mussorgsky

Mussorgsky will be a surprise hit.  If pressed, simply say, “Well, I love his operas”.  Singers will be amazed.  Theorists and Cultural Historians will be suitably impressed.  Instrumentalists will only know “The Night on Bald Mountain”, but they all secretly love it and they will warm to you for reminding them of it.

Now.  If you really, really want to go for broke, you can say the following: “I love Pictures, but I somehow feel like the original piano version actually has more color than any of the orchestrations when it’s performed well.”  You are advised to leave the party immediately after deploying this gambit.

7. Franz Schubert

Say “Winterreise” (pronounced “vin-ter-rise-ah”), and really say it like you mean it.  Express a heartfelt connection to it.  You may express admiration for any symphony up through number 9, excepting number 7.  If you do happen to slip up and mention the non-existent seventh, there are two recourses: 1) say that you assumed everyone had switched over to the new European numbering system for Schubert symphonies, or 2) say, “oh, I mean the ersatz seventh symphony.  But we all know that story…”

8. Alexander Scriabin

Here’s what most musicians know about Scriabin, if they know anything at all: he was nuts and he had synesthesia (i.e. he heard music and saw colors).  Few know that he was Russian.  Because of this, they all tend to imagine that his music sounds way zanier than how it actually sounds, which is a lot like Debussy but more dissonant.

The one piece people know by Scriabin is “The Poem of Ecstasy”.  Counter with “The Poem of Fire” (aka “Prometheus”).  If the going gets really rough, there’s also “The Divine Poem”.  At this point, nobody will have any idea what you’re talking about.

9. Carl Nielsen

Nielsen is perfect for your purposes: he’s the big romantic symphonist that everybody forgets about.  The fact that nobody’s actually listened to his music will play strongly to your advantage, because everybody assumes they know enough (symphonist, Danish) to know what it sounds like.  Let’s just say, people will be slightly bewildered but majorly impressed, which is exactly what you want.

10. Gustav Mahler

Young musicians have been inculcated in the culture of Mahler since they started playing in youth orchestras, and everyone is more than willing to overlook his deficiencies as a composer.  Singers hate singing in his choruses, but love singing the solos.  Young singers especially love singing his song cycles, because they get to feel like they’re singing Wagner without the longeur or the difficulty.

10 Composers Who You Should Never Admit Liking To A Musician Who Considers Him or Herself Serious

1. Leonard Bernstein

There will be almost no way to save face if you refer to Leonard Bernstein as a great, favorite, or otherwise serious composer in the wrong crowd.  The only possible save is to say, “Hm?  Oh, I thought we were talking about conductors – did Leonard Bernstein actually write music?”  Still, you slipped pretty far.

2. Aaron Copland

If you accidentally say this composer’s name, the immediate and necessary remedy is to follow it with the phrase “Piano Variations”.

3. Johann Pachelbel

If you’re with Early Music People, Pachelbel is actually safe.  I’ll hope for your own sake that you’ve done some serious pre-gaming before the party (and the concert) though.

4. Howard Shore

or: Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, John Williams, or anyone named Newman.  That’s not to say that all film composers are off the table, but proceed with caution.  If you name Bernard Herrmann, be sure to precede it with, “Well, I love Alfred Hitchcock, so…”  Other classic era film scorers are safe-ish, but don’t expect more than polite stares.  Michael Giacchino is safe, but you’ll have to provide a lot of explanation and name check Alex Ross several times.

5. Nico Muhly

Unless you are in New York, singers and instrumentalists will generally not know who he is, but if you are in New York, there may be political ramifications to mentioning his name.  Anywhere you go, composers within 10 years of his age will know enough to resent his career.

6. Alfred Schnittke

No one will know who he is.  The very few who do will either a) not have been instructed what to think of him, b) will call him “Shit-ke” and chuckle, or c) will be a violist and will actually think you’re really cool, something you want to avoid at all costs.

7. Ron Nelson

or: Frank Ticheli, Norman Dello Joio, Morton Gould, Gordon Jacob, or anyone else primarily associated with Concert Band Music.  The only exception to this rule is Percy Grainger, but only if you connect his name with the phrase “S&M freak”.

8. Antonio Vivaldi

The only possible way out of this slip is to use the following joke: “You know, everyone says that Vivaldi wrote the same piece 500 times, but it’s not true.  He wrote the same piece 600 times.”  This, in fact, will be a brilliant save, and the riskier among you may even find it worth attempting the flub.

9. Johann Strauss

Jr. or Sr., or any other member of the Strauss family, for that matter, up to and including Charles Strouse, but excluding Richard Strauss, even though his name is better left unmentioned anyway.

10. Niccolò Paganini

The only people who won’t scoff will be violinists.  They’ll cringe.

[Disclaimer: I only vouch for this advice in mainland America.  An entirely different set of rules may apply in Europe, especially in Germany.  Use with caution.]


If you want to.  I’d love to hear more suggestions.

Top 10 BEST Composers

Hi blogfanz – I’m back, and I’m glad to be returning to our top 10 top 10 with List #8, the Top 10 BEST Composers, where by “BEST” we mean something along the lines of “Most Technically Accomplished”.

“Compositional technique” is a phrase that gets bandied around a lot (among a tiny, tiny élite of classical musicians and critics).  But I don’t think I’ve ever heard it defined.  Composers confront a series of Design Challenges and Execution Challenges as they write a piece.  So, is a composer’s technique simply a question of how well he or she executes a given design?  Is it possible to separate the design from the execution?

My favorite example of this conundrum is Gordon Jenkins, a composer/arranger from the Golden Era of pop music who wrote beautiful, lush arrangements for Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, et al.  As a composer, he specialized in writing “concept albums” for many of these collaborators.

His concepts for these albums were, in a word, ludicrous – Frank Sinatra taking a guided tour of outer space, for example.  But the music he wrote to accompany his zany scenarios is gorgeous.  It’s like, “yeah, if Frank Sinatra took a space ship to Saturn and then sang a jig about it, this is the best possible version of that jig.”  You know?

Here’s what I came up with.  We’ll talk more about the criteria at the end:

1. J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750)

Any person who writes a canon at the 7th, smoothly and gloriously, you do not mess with this person.

(Goldberg Variation 21, Glenn Gould ’54)

2. Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)

Here’s some mad compositional technique: Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, second movement, letter D.  This audio begins 4 bars before the printed excerpt.  Here’s what happens:

(Concertgebouw, Jansons)

00:00  Impassioned 2-part counterpoint; violins v. lower strings; build-up to

00:11  The previous two lines are remixed into one, and this composite line is pitted against itself; build-up to

00:21 Dramatic tremolo in strings, winds play the main motive (ascending 3-notes), trombones recall the main motive from the previous movement of the symphony.

00:32 Letter D:

Violins and bassoon play the counterpoint from the beginning of this movement, flute and oboe keep playing the motive from the last section, long tones in the lower strings build drama and tension into

00:48  Parallel section to 00:21

This is what we call ‘tightly constructed’ – the themes all relate to each other, play against each other, appear and reappear, and build up into a large scale structure.  But honestly, you don’t have to appreciate ANY of this to enjoy the symphony.  This wealth of composerly technique is in the service of beautiful, dramatic, and emotional musical story-telling.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

I say we let Lenny sort us out on this one:

4. (F.) Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)

Now, a lot of the tricks that Lenny was just talking about w/r/t Beethoven, I’m convinced Beethoven learned from Haydn.  That is to say – the guy (Haydn) was killer when it came to form.  But he (Haydn) also happened to be really good at all the things Lenny claims Beethoven sucked at: melody, harmony, fugues, etc.  Haydn dazzles us, leaves us spinning, and has a ball doing it.

So for all his fancy tricks, I’m going to present a passage that seems rather mundane – just 8th notes, in pairs.  The trick though, is that he slowly modulates the harmony, dynamics, and instrumentation to bring us back to the opening theme of this, the last movement of his 88th Symphony:

(Wiener Phil, Lenushka)

(score picks up on 00:04)

It’s like you’re driving around some back country roads, and just when you think you’re totally lost, you look up and it turns out you’re back where you started.  That’s Haydn.

5. Johannes Ockeghem (1420ish – 1497)

I’m hardly an expert on this composer or his music.  But like many an undergraduate music major before and since, I did at one time learn about the staggering contrapuntal accomplishments of Flanders’ greatest son.

Let’s look at his most famous work, the Missa Prolationum, so called because of its extensive use of “prolation canons”.  It works like this: you all know what a canon is – “Row, row, row yr boat”, “Frère Jacques”, etc., anything where one guy sings a tune and the other guy starts singing the same tune a little later and it all works out harmonically.  Well, in a “prolation canon” (which is more commonly known as a “mensuration canon”), the two guys sing the same tune at different speeds.  Normally, they have a relation to each other – like twice as fast or twice as slow.

They don’t always have to stagger their entrances either – they can both start singing at the same time and it still counts.  Ockeghem took this idea of mensuration canons to the extreme.  Here’s the Kyrie II from his mass.  There are two melodies: one in the soprano and alto, and another one in the tenor and bass.  The soprano and alto sing their melody at different speeds.  The tenor and bass sing their melody at two entirely different speeds.  What’s more, the two melodies are very closely related.

You try to do that.

(Hilliard Ensemble)

6. Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)

I’ll turn over the floor again, this time to Esa-Pekka Salonen:

7. Wolfgang Amad̩ Mozart (1754 Р1792)

I don’t know where to even begin talking about Mozart’s ridiculous compositional technique, but you can’t do much worse than the final set of canons in his last symphony, No. 41 (the “Jupiter”).  This piece is chock full of canons, fugues, and other contrapuntal devices – and yet, you never get tired of them (unlike, let’s admit it, Bach).  It’s just one vivacious bar after another:


8. Gy̦rgy Ligeti (1923 Р2006)

With a mind to the generalish audience that sometimes reads this blog (if anyone’s actually made it this far), let’s turn again to the Hungarian composer’s Nonsense Madrigals, based on texts by Lewis Carrol.

Here’s “Flying Robert”:

(King’s Singers)

So what makes this so great?  Well, first off, let’s figure out what’s going on.

Element the first: The tenor has a melody (“when the rain… when the rain comes tumbling down… in the country or the town”).  Each of the three phrases of the melody begins the same and builds to a higher note.  The rhythm of the melody is irregular – it has a rhapsodic quality.

Element the second: This piece is a passacaglia, which means there is a repeated, regular figure in the bass line.  Ligeti does that and also includes the two baritones in establishing the pattern.  So even though this pattern gets shifted from beat to beat, there is a regular pulse going on, grounding the music.

Element the third: When the altos come in, they pick up the tenor’s melody, but their rhythm mimics the regular pulse of the passacaglia people, but shortening their pulse by 1/4 of the value.  Just to make things a little more complicated, at the top of the third system, the second alto starts drifting off into his own little world.

So again, what’s so great about this?  It’s that Ligeti combines the elements in a way that gives the listener a simultaneous sense of regularity and irregularity – everything sounds natural but odd, logical but unpredictable.  It works like a precision machine, as does much of his music, including the wild, 100-instrument scores from his early period.

9. Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)

I’ll admit, there’s occasionally things that are clumsy in Stravinsky’s writing – some of his meter and barring choices can be rather confusing at times – but the flaws are very minor, and easily overlooked when taken in context of his overall skills as a writer of music.

Since fugues seem to be a common theme of this list, here’s a great one:

(Symphony of Psalms, LSO/MTT)

10. Alban Berg (1885 – 1935)

Alban Berg, the shining light of the Second Viennese School, has gotten all too little love up in these lists so far.  Finally, we’ve arrived at his category.

What I personally find so impressive about Berg’s writing is his ability to unite disparate elements.  He chose to use a wide range of compositional tools: tonality, atonality, dodecaphony.  He wrote waltzes and polkas, but infused them with eerie harmonies.  He wrote startling, arhythmic sound masses and contrasted them with delicate, crystalline chords.

His opera Wozzeck is practically a textbook of compositional forms.  But I’ve chosen the most famous passage from his Violin Concerto to illustrate how he so skillfully combined vastly different musical worlds:

Berg’s going from a huge dissonant cluster to a quotation of Bach.  What’s admirable is the smooveness with which he does it: the chorale melody starts with a rising 4-note motive.  He introduces this motive in the violin during the most dissonant music.  Then he gives us the tune, but it’s set against slightly less dissonant music.  By the time the winds enter on Bach’s harmonization, it makes all the sense in the world.


So, in choosing the composers on this list, I think I settled on the following criteria for great compositional technique:

1) handling of counterpoint (multiple, simultaneous lines)

2) tight motivic construction (building melodies and sections of music out of small themelets)

3) form (a logical succession of musical ideas, paced correctly so that the music seems to follow a logical flow)

4) ability to contrast and unite disparate musical ideas (which nobody does better than Schnittke, and I hate not including him on this list)

And then there’s the matter of, given their resources, how well did these guys write the stuff down on a score?  Sibelius is one of my favorite composers, but his scores are a certifiable mess when it comes to logic and consistency.  Ligeti’s scores are nearly as virtuosic in their meticulous layout and instructions as they are in their musical content.

So, y’all, what do you make of these criteria?  And who fits it?  My guys, or some other peops?

If you’ve made it this far, it’s time to let your voice be heard in the comments section!