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Thomas Meglioranza has been writing for a while about his arduous preparation for the role of Prior Walter, in Peter Eötvös's operatic adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. The work, mounted by the Boston Modern Orchestra and Opera Boston, received its American premiere last Friday. The critics came on Saturday night (I'm told), and they seem to have liked the work. They are quite unanimous about Tom: everybody liked his performance very much. It was from the reviews, and not from the baritone, that I gathered that his role was something like the lead. Congratulations, Mr Meglioranza!

I had not thought of writing about the event, however, because I didn't see it myself. I have never seen the play, and I have no idea what Mr Eötvös's music sounds like. But as a fan of Tom's I was eager to read the reviews, and one of them, which appears on the writer's Web log in advance of publication in MusicalAmerica, set me on a line of thought that at first seems quite depressing. The blog in question is Steve Smith's Night After Night.

Scrolling down through Mr Smith's recent entries, I was of course aware that I was visiting a journalist's site. It is in the nature of journalism to track the new, and I'm not surprised that, when Mr Smith lists the classical music that he's listening to, the recordings are all new, or, at least, out-of-the-way. Music critics don't have to go back; fresh performances are always welling up about them. What did strike me as incongruous, however, was the jumble of genres. For someone of my age, there is something decidedly transgressive about talking about both Jordi Savall and Ornette Coleman with much the same kind of admiration. What I realized, finally, was that the transgressiveness has entirely disappeared.

Steve Smith's wide-ranging taste is beginning to look like a certain kind of norm for listeners half my age. It's a much bolder taste, but it's also, I think, somewhat less reflective. It mirrors the voracious appetite for any food but mom's that seems to be required of today's hip New Yorkers. Sometimes I don't quite believe that the enthusiasm is real - it can't be! - but then I recollect what a very different musical world today's thirtysomethings grew up in. First, music became less political after 1970 - does anyone remember Ellen Willis proclaiming the "death of rock"? - and correspondingly less grimly embraced. Second, recordings poured in from everywhere to the racks of Tower Records. (I suspect that computerized inventories made the swelling possible.) When I was young, there was always a handful of guys who admired Beethoven's Late Quartets and Miles Davis equally, but, for the most part, they were showoffs of understatement. Genres were ghettos; they had a lot to do with what sort of friends one made.

Of course, I've also become an old person who finds it increasingly difficult to keep up with lots of new names. And knowing that I will never have an iPod is sobering. I can't imagine listening to music anywhere but in my rooms. Yet no one was a more passionate user of the Walkman when it first appeared. In other words, I haven't got anything against iPods. I just wouldn't use one now. I hate to say it, but it's something that I've outgrown, like the taste for swimming.

I prefer, that is, to think of it as a matter of outgrowing - as opposed to senescing. I'm no longer driven to listen to recordings all day long, partly because all this Daily Blague-related reading and writing requires my undivided attention, but partly too because my head is already stuffed with wisps of lovely music. They're muffled and unobtrusive, but very pleasant nevertheless. Sometimes, I have to play recordings just to impose some law and order.

I ought to get out more. Last spring, Ms NOLA made a compilation for me that, when I got round to listening to it, I was tempted to turn off in the middle of every cut. But I hung on, and was wowed at the end, by what turned out to be the first two cuts of Rufus Wainwright's Want One. I got the album pronto, but not before being lured into buying Want Two by the promise of an enclosed DVD - in which Mr Wainwright sings most of Want One's songs at the Fillmore. The first song on the DVD, however, is not one of Rufus's. He never says whose it is, and I always wonder what different things the members of the audience made of it. I knew just what to make of it: the marvel of Rufus Wainwright's turning Absence, by Hector Berlioz (from Les nuits d'été) into a contemporary torch song.

Welcome to the present.


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The present indeed, be here now. A few bars of this and a passage or two of that seem to constantly running in my mind also. Spookily, earlier today in anticipation of a very rainy weekend I rented several DVD's before cracking open DB. Included in my rentals is the two DVD set of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Spooky, eh?
What a long strange trip it's been.

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