FYI France

File 3: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler,

June 15, 2012 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on June 15, 2012 - and, a little later, on, and at Facebook-Jack Kessler's Notes

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FYI France : Grimaud, an Online Global Musical Évènement


The French pianist and devotee of wolves, Hélène Grimaud, is doing a really interesting experiment in online music, presented and now even performed "globally": as a benefit for her Wolf Conservation Center, located in Westchester County, New York -- I bet you didn't realize that Westchester is this "wild"! -- she has arranged,

* a webcast

-- aired yesterday, June 14, Grimaud and cellist Jan Vogler played,

Schumann ~ 3 Fantasiestücke -- fine video work, up-close & intimate focus far better than any theater-seat could provide, wonderful sound on an iMac -- the two performers play well together, very "in-tune" with one another, for this very "in-tune with one another" piece -- Grimaud radiant and focussed, Vogle intense and precise;

Debussy ~ Sonata -- at first mysterious, then fun, with passages for both instruments which must be extraordinarily difficult to play;

Shostakovich ~ Sonata -- lyrical, then a folk-dance, wild & Russian with strange cello effects and some absolutely-percussive piano fingering, then the sad and mournful section creating a truly magical moment, and finally what sounded like dancing again, wrapping things up, with what looked like tremendous work for both players -- Grimaud like her wolves with beautiful eyes and occasional flashing smile, great passion in her playing -- Vogler one-with-his-instrument, eyes closed in his intensity but that focused us on his music too. What a piece -- what a performance!

-- waves of applause, from what appeared to be at least 50 in the audience, then two encores --

Ernst Bloch's very moving Prayer,

Brahms' E minor sonata opus 38, the final movement, the audience swaying to the familiar and powerful music

-- all live at "Richard Gere's Bedford Post Inn, Old Post Road, Bedford, New York, a Relaix & Chateaux property..." -- the place looks perfectly beautiful, in what little we were shown of the recital room and nice windows with pretty garden beyond -- probably a wonderful setting -- and there was Gere himself, looking his Rockstar Hollywood-best, he escorted-in his VIPs and gave them both a handsome and eloquent introduction --

-- easy online registration, to view the webcast, cost US$25 -- as of June 12 listeners had so-registered from, "the US, Canada, Poland, Netherlands, Japan, Italy, France, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Serbia, Belgium, Russia and other countries around the globe..." -- and as of yesterday evening, the Center's director announced, registrations had come in from "16 countries"...

-- sooo,
100 registrations @ $25 = $2,500...
1,000 @ $25 = $25,000...
100,000 @ $25 = $2,500,000...

-- Internet economics, the kind of math which these days gets politicians elected and increasingly drives the globalizing economy... the mind boggles... pays for a lot of wolf conservation real estate...


* and, a gala,

-- simultaneous with the webcast, at the above location,

"Click here to buy Tickets or a Table $500, Table of 8/$5,000 (Cocktails, Recital and "Meet the Artists" Dinner)"

"Attend the Recital only $150 (Cocktails, Recital)"


* and an email campaign,

-- I and many others have received attractive, informative, disciplined & deliberate & passionate -- like Grimaud's playing, I don't understand how she manages all that simultaneously... -- appeals, on this, good use of email, standouts among all the wandering spam, bolstered by coordinated website and Facebook notices -- easy links, too, I'll never comprehend why so many other worthy causes and even experienced commercial vendors make it so complicated, and so tremendously difficult, to give them money...


* and nowadays, of course and here very thankfully, a video,

-- the longue durée... If everyone, everywhere, did not see the live performance yesterday, well, they also can view it -- anyone & anywhere & at any time & at their own and not just some events promoter's convenience -- how wonderful to be able to stretch, get up, move around, go to the kitchen, come back, take it along on a walk -- from now on and for as long as the Wolf Conservation Center keeps paying its ISP bill, and that appears secure for at least as long as Grimaud keeps playing her piano, I expect, she seems to be very dedicated to both of her causes here.


Wonderful -- powerful! -- music... Also a fascinating demonstration of the powers of the Internet, and of Globalization, and of a woman blazing her own path out from Aix-en-Provence to the entire globe.

Congratulations to the entire team: Hélène Grimaud and Jan Vogle, and their Hollywood Rockstar, and Deborah Heinman and Maggie Howell animal expert and Sarka Kalusova webcast producer, of the Center, and everyone else involved, very much including Atka the Wolf !




And now, a Note:

These days this is how you do it... at the World Class level, anyway, in a globalizing world... you get Richard to loan you his resort... or if you are Richard you get Hélène to perform at your resort, maybe... and then Hélène & Jan do this little webcast & video, which reaches the Entire World on their desktops / laptops / mobiles... Shostakovich in the Bangladesh rice paddies... and then we all adjourn for drinks...

A couple of traditional Internet questions:

* Indexing

Do we yet have the intellectual access tools for describing what just happened here?

This, it seems, was a "multimedia event". It even had a wolf: "Special Appearance by Atka The Wolf" -- and, sure enough, there right in the midst of the elegant gathering of Westchester's finest and some of its richest -- to celebrate & wine & dine and listen to Schumann & Debussy & Brahms & some others -- was Atka The Wolf, wonderfully-white and towing along his own handler and eyeing everyone warily the way wolves do and then poking around behind the piano... at one point he got bored and sat down and just stared...

So how does one provide Access Points, for all this? What was it, what "support" as the French librarians say: it was a video -- OK -- but also a concept, and a lecture, and something called a webcast and a gala and an email campaign -- and a live wolf, "canis lupus" or something like that, "large doglike carnivore with heavy broad skull and muzzle"... and his name was Atka The Wolf, and he gets along with children and even adults OK, altho he doesn't appear to like applause or any loud noise too much...

And actually Grimaud's Évènement was all of the above and so much more -- the description just-given omits the Hollywood Rockstar, for one thing.

How to do classification and categorization, on such a media-event -- then recall, with some precision, search & retrieval & use, all such that the pieces thus-retrieved might be reassembled to form anything at all resembling the whole?

That music was formidable, and wonderful, but as the herself-impressive animal expert Maggie Howell advised us, Atka The Wolf always is the star of any show, for any school audience, and he was for this very cool & sophisticated adult-evening audience too: on the webcast you can see pretty clearly that all human eyes were riveted on that wolf, while he was in there... there is something primal in us about music, something primal in us too about wolves... so Grimaud's strange and eccentric combination of personal interests is not so strange and eccentric, perhaps...

* Archiving

And even if we can search & retrieve & use it -- this thing, this "multimedia event", including its live wolf -- where and how will it be archived, and who will archive it?

How will we save it, to show future generations? Particularly if some significant part of it does not survive: Grimaud herself, her music, the music of Brahms, that wolf -- only 7 Mexican Red Wolves were left on the planet a short time ago, animal expert Maggie told us, and now thanks to this Center and others like it we have 400 -- sounds like the California Condor -- all this is information, it is data, but how much of it are we still totally clueless about recording and preserving? How to preserve and later show others: the precision of Vogler, the passion of Grimaud, the immense energies of both, the beauties of that Shostakovich piece... and that wolf...


-- and now a few non-traditional thoughts about all this --

* The experience

It does seem to me that a unitary approach is needed, here: something which collects and catalogs not just the component parts, of such a "multimedia event", but instead or maybe also the "experience", the feeling registered by those who first felt it.

One of the great tales in music is of old deaf Beethoven losing track of his own notes and gently being turned from the podium to face his crowd's applause...

Another is of the début of Rite of Spring, when the audience rioted and tore up the theater seats while Stravinsky ducked out the back to escape them...

Or the wonderful story of the very-young Mendelsohn reviving old Bach's St. Matthew Passion... or of the Wolffs rediscovering the Singakademie Bach Archive almost-literally buried for forty years in Kiev... All these famous tales can be recalled by playing preserved copies of recorded music, or by playing the notes on instruments. But what about the performance? What about the feelings, of the multimedia event involved in each? Those get lost, or at least the magical energy of the "event" -- you can see it shining in the eyes of the performers, of the audience, it is what motivates them all -- that grows dim. The vagueness of later poetry can come close to capturing it, as can the movies, or the music itself, but with multimedia perhaps we can do better.

* The course of music history...

In one sense we are doing better than ever. Music famously was confined to the salon, prior to 1800 -- wealthy elites heard it there, others didn't -- church was the place where the masses might hear some music, and popular tunes were played at home and in the streets, but through Mozart's time his kind of music rarely reached the hoi polloi. The Magic Flute I suppose was an exception -- Bach too feared the "beer fiddler's" reputation, got very riled when someone called him that.

With the 19th century came the concert-hall. The Gewandhaus was the first symphony -- music-halls, and beer-fiddlers, came both earlier and later -- by that century's end though the masses had the sophisticated music too, even played it themselves at home on their Estey organs and upright pianos, finally even heard recording's earliest beginnings on Edison' s new devices.

And the 20th century saw telecommunications and mass media conveying music even further than that, to even more people and people of more different kinds.

So now the 21st century gives us multimedia... I don't know how many people Grimaud's Online Global Musical Évènement reached -- or will reach, with the online video archive version which will result from this. They charged US$25 per person, but I know of no way to site license that -- nothing to mechanically / electronically prevent the piping of a webcast into a classroom or conference room or performance hall and thereby enabling access to hundreds of people at the one point. My own mobile device, an iPhone, didn't seem to work either: perhaps because I'd already logged-in via my iMac -- I know software can control simultaneous logins -- or perhaps it was the Flash apps Steve Jobs so-thoroughly-hated, which Apple Co. still does not support or even permit, this event used version 11.3.300.257 of that.

But the theory is there, now -- and now, per Grimaud, proof-of-concept too. Apple, or someone, will find workarounds for the Flash problems -- site licenses will be crafted and negotiated -- the event is outstanding marketing, anyway, for the recording companies, the global webcast greatly extends and enhances the performers reputations, and the sales of their recordings.

* The French-ness of it all... francosphères...

Grimaud is not "typically" French -- she is not "typically" anything, very unique lady, at least in any among the extraordinary variety of public interviews and projects she undertakes -- her uniqueness shines through, in this latest global webcast & Shostakovich & wolf fund-raising event. But then I've never met anyone "typically" French: those exist only on Les Guignols, and in foreigners' imaginations -- and Les Guignols are getting better and better at being eccentric.

So when foreigners, or French politicians in election years, undertake their perennial searches for quintessential French-ness, they perhaps should consider this shy, apparently-quiet -- no Lady Gaga, this -- immensely-disciplined and intensely-focussed pianist, Aix-en-Province-born but resident now en Suisse, and a devotee of American wolves in a place here where there aren't any except hers, to be representative... She speaks the language, yes, but she speaks others too, can throw out some good nasal American slang when an interview calls for that...

Official francophonie efforts to define francosphères, then, nowadays perhaps require more fluidity than they have had in the past. It once was internal to the Hexagone, a matter of defining and then breaking and subjugating the langue d'oc, or breton, or basque or some other "mere patois" to the centralized and authoritarian will and rule of the royal court at Paris -- later a task of the mission civilatrice, to hold together l'empire -- nowadays, though, what is the task?

I have met many French citizens like Grimaud, in fact -- unique individualists -- alike in their unlikeness, perhaps. French tourists roam the planet, to many remote and strange corners of it never reached by others. They pursue unique and eccentric interests there too: this one in classical European piano and American wolves, others in moto-cross and sub-Saharan geology, I have met others wonderfully-fascinated by digital information and the customs of Brazil, or Cantonese tea house experts from which they assembled vast personal knowledge of that long tradition while insisting on baguettes and french cuisine only for their personal food, I have known of others who competed with Aurel Stein for Chinese Art, still others who delved deep into Egyptology, hydraulic engineers, Southeast Asian smugglers.

Where all these talents and eccentricities meet perhaps is, by definition, the francosphère -- and that perhaps is best and most easily viewed nowadays online. Hélène Grimaud's webcast and wolves and Shostakovich will be there, now -- so are Paul Pelliot's adventures and mis-adventures in China, and Champollion's in Egypt, and those of Malraux.

In a globalizing world it is hard to keep track of things geographically, the way people did back when l'occitan was found only in le Languedoc and breton only in le Bretagne. The French roam the globe, now, just as others do. But their interests cross online: a globalised event like Grimaud's yesterday -- beautiful German and Russian and French and other music, played beautifully at a wonderful concert in Westchester County New York, from there webcast live to the world and available online perpetually as a video, is like an Internet node -- a crossroads on the web for many people and many interests, but with a few selected others an element of the new francosphère -- not just because Grimaud speaks french, or was born in Aix, or attended the Conservatoire or likes baguettes, as before, but because others on the planet, equally unique and as-eccentric in their interests, happen to share her french-ness.

She has much in common too, she finds, with several people who speak no french, prefer American junk-food, and prefer Lady Gaga's music to her own, and perhaps do not care about her frenchness, at all, but who share her passion for wolves -- and that's one globalization miracle of the modern multi-layered and multi-faceted world, for Lady Gaga as it is for Hélène Grimaud.

The francosphère is maybe larger, then, than just the people who speak french. It includes the people who love wolves and just speak english, and by extension from that also some people who love wolves and speak only japanese -- perhaps a few of the latter group even will meet Grimaud through her wolves Webcast and video now, develop a fascination for Brahms and Shostakovich, and learn french as a result... It has been said that we all are related by only "six degrees of separation": that is what the Internet is all about -- also globalization, now -- also this French pianist's fascinating online experiment.

And the catalyst in this instance was her wonderful -- powerful! -- music... And her amazing wolves...


Definitely "worth a journey" -- but don't leave the armchair, wherever you are just point & click on,

-- or send mail to,

-- and nag them, ask them when their video of this great webcast event will be available online!


Jack Kessler,






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