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Concerts: previews / reviews

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The big thing that Rite reveals after the initial "surprise" wears off is how melodic it is, and simply so at that, a handful of basic melodic themes that keep coming back without all THAT much linear variation. Rhythmically and harmonically, yeah, it goes there, but it can be kind of LOL funny hearing the "oh, THAT one again" with the melodies as they keep reoccuring. Hell, it's dance music, right? Repetion is a strength!

Also, two things I wonder about - one of the themes is pretty much a cop of what I know as "Song Of The Volga Boatman", which I always assumed was some kind of folk song. What is the actual derivation of that?

And then...there's one theme of which the first three notes never fail to put me in mind of the first three notes of  "I'll Remember April"...but also French Impressionism in general...still, Spring, April...probably not a connection except to the French thing,  but still, LOL if you don't mind LOLing with Stravinsky, and I don't. 

Brahms...my completely uninformed impression is that he would've been happy being Mozart II, but that damn Beethover dude got in the way. The guy tries SO hard to keep it between the lines but just can't help himself. Every time I hear him, it's like that, about to yawn and then OOPS! Again LOL. I love it when I can laugh to music, not the laugh of derision or mockery or jokery,  just...you know...happy to be hearing that. People being great, yes, but still just being people. Fun.

 

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It was quite common to mock Brahms in the late 19th/early 20thC - often derided as boring and stodgy. But he was revered by some composers for his sense of structure. Schoenberg was a big fan even arranging some of his pieces. 

The thing I've never got is the war between the Brahms and Wagner/Bruckner factions in the late 19thC. I know it's all tied up with musical politics at the time that has since evaporated - but I can't imagine why an ear adjusted to Brahms should find Bruckner so outlandish (or vice versa). People do like to be against something.  

I think there is a Stravinsky arrangement of the Volga Boatmen. Ah, here it is:

 

Yes, I can hear part of the Rite there. 

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J.S. Bach - Fantasia in C minor BWV 906; Aria Variata 'alla Maniera Italiana' BWV 989; Fifteen Two-part Inventions BWV 772-786; Fifteen Three-part Sinfonias (Inventions) BWV 787-801; Capriccio on the Departure of his Beloved Brother BWV 992; Capriccio in E BWV 993; Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV 904

Angela Hewitt - piano @ Sheffield Crucible Theatre Studio

Like zillions of others I play Bach records rather a lot. But even more than other favourites I'm always aware that I'm only really taking in a fraction of what is there. This programme was perfect - short to medium length pieces allowing you to concentrate without losing the threads (as I often find with records of the longer pieces). Had me wanting to get back to the records paying more attention to Hewitt's liner notes - she's very through in that respect. Did an encore of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations (reassuring us after two hours that it would be only the Aria!).

Somewhat overdressed for the venue - the Studio is a superb place to hear small scale classical/folk/jazz but it does resemble the place I take my car to be serviced in appearance - all exposed girders and brutalist functionality. 

Instead of a printed score she used a computer tablet. I think she turned the pages via a foot mechanism. Never seen that before. Mass redundancies amongst page turners.      

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Started seeing the tablet scores in a few chamber concerts last year. Before that, have gone to gigs and jams where the fake books are on tablets. It's here to stay.

Tonight at DSO

Quote

Jaap van Zweden conducts
Yuja Wang piano
Lisette Oropesa soprano
Matthias Goerne baritone
Dallas Symphony Chorus: Joshua Habermann director

BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 3

BRAHMS A German Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem)

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20 hours ago, JSngry said:

Started seeing the tablet scores in a few chamber concerts last year. Before that, have gone to gigs and jams where the fake books are on tablets. It's here to stay.

Tonight at DSO

That's a program I would pay to hear. Yuja Wang is terrific; will be interesting to hear how she plays Bartok; and while I'm not generally a Requiem kind of guy, the Brahms is lovely -- plays down the fire-and-brimstone damnation angle.

On ‎9‎/‎28‎/‎2016 at 10:13 PM, JSngry said:

The big thing that Rite reveals after the initial "surprise" wears off is how melodic it is, and simply so at that, a handful of basic melodic themes that keep coming back without all THAT much linear variation. Rhythmically and harmonically, yeah, it goes there, but it can be kind of LOL funny hearing the "oh, THAT one again" with the melodies as they keep reoccuring. Hell, it's dance music, right? Repetion is a strength!

Also, two things I wonder about - one of the themes is pretty much a cop of what I know as "Song Of The Volga Boatman", which I always assumed was some kind of folk song. What is the actual derivation of that?

And then...there's one theme of which the first three notes never fail to put me in mind of the first three notes of  "I'll Remember April"...but also French Impressionism in general...still, Spring, April...probably not a connection except to the French thing,  but still, LOL if you don't mind LOLing with Stravinsky, and I don't. 

Brahms...my completely uninformed impression is that he would've been happy being Mozart II, but that damn Beethover dude got in the way. The guy tries SO hard to keep it between the lines but just can't help himself. Every time I hear him, it's like that, about to yawn and then OOPS! Again LOL. I love it when I can laugh to music, not the laugh of derision or mockery or jokery,  just...you know...happy to be hearing that. People being great, yes, but still just being people. Fun.

 

 

Like a dog worrying a bone, the musicologist Richard Taruskin has spent a lot of time tracing the Russian source material in Stravinsky's music -- an interesting subject as the composer cultivated a cosmopolitan reputation, downplaying his "Russianness," covering his tracks as it were. Taruskin's 1996 book on the subject is "Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions," but there is an earlier journal article of his that focuses just on the "Rite."  https://www.scribd.com/doc/209466394/Russian-Folk-Melodies-in-the-Rite-of-Spring

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Folks might find this review interesting of a Detroit Symphony program yesterday that paired Milhaud's "Creation of the World," Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and Copland's Piano Concerto, with a contemporary work by Christopher Rouse and Respighi's "Pines of Rome."

http://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/music/2016/10/07/dso-gershwin-copland-milhaud/91735430/

 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Wang/Bartok...impressive, bot not really moving. Very "precise", and maybe that's where it's at these days, but...The music didn't breathe as much as it did inhale and exhale as per somebody's algorithm. But still, the piece itself is so damn meaty that, hey, ok, if that's what's on the menu tonight, I'm in 

No such issue with the Brahms Requiem.I started getting moist-eyed (quite unexpectedly), like 16 bars in and was there for the duration.Whether the zone was real or imagined, there was a zone, and it did not lapse. 

It was the kind of thing that I know I would probably fade in and out of if just playing a record at home. Road trip, maybe a better focus. But there, in the hall, with all that music being all around you in the air that you breathe as you breathe it (think about that) unfiltered and unshrunk...If you want to let it get inside you, it can. I did, and it did.

So, again, Brahms.  Here's hoping for enough time.

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I really took to the Brahms Requiem a few years back - saw a good performance in Truro Cathedral whilst on holiday. I like the idea of a secular Requiem well before such things became common.

Another cinema live event yesterday, this one from the Met:

Image result for met opera tristan und isolde

Tristan and Isolde - Dick Wagner

Really enjoyed this - much, much better than the ENO version I saw back in July. Similarly eccentric production (Act I and II on a destroyer, Act III in a spare hospital cell) but far less distracting than the London production. Above all, a much better Isolde (Nina Stemme) both vocally and dramatically. Same Tristan as at ENO (Stuart Skelton). Some very effective visual effects - the high point was Brangane's soaring warning above the love duet in Act II with some beautiful filmed effects superimposed. Simon Rattle waved the stick - my he looks old now...and he's my age!!!!

Only reservation was the sound quality - every five or six minutes a jolting click; and some serious distortion in voices and orchestra in peaks (of which there are a few!). Clearly the world wide web still has some technological issues to sort out. 

The Met are broadcasting a good few of these over the next year - mainly familiar fare (I suspect that's the nature of the Met) - but there's a Saariaho (L'Amour de loin) in December and I may well confront a few prejudices about Verdi and mid-19thC opera in general later in the season. Der Rosenkavalier at the end - hard to resist. 

Audience of 7 in the cinema. Worksop's not big on high culture! Though given the emptiness of the streets at 10.30 on leaving it's not that big on low culture either - everyone goes to Sheffield. 

[Production (not the singing or playing) gets a panning here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/27/tristan-und-isolde-met-opera-review]

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Image result for franz joseph haydnImage result for maurice ravelImage result for ludwig van beethoven

HAYDN String Quartet in B flat Op.76 No.4 Sunrise 
RAVEL String Quartet in F Op.35
BEETHOVEN String Quartet in E flat Op.127

(Van Kuijk Quartet at Sheffield Crucible Studio)

Nice mixture of (for me) the unfamiliar, the 'getting to know you' and the old favourite. 

I've heard a few of the Haydn quartets in concert (they often seem to open programmes here) and on record. Always enjoy them but have yet to get a real sense of any one of them as a piece I must return to (my lack of familiarity, not a criticism of the music). Been putting some time into the Beethoven quartets over the last year and it's starting to pay off. Love the wonderful rich chords in the first movement here; the slow variation movement a real beauty; a great moment in the coda of the scherzo where it sounds like the central fast section is going to get repeated before the movement gets swiftly dismissed; and there's something very unusual happening at the end of the last movement - a drift into some very strange places - that I need to listen again to to really get a grip. At this rate I should be able to do the 'Well, of course darlings, the only music I can bear to listen to are the late Beethoven quartets...' in about 20 years.

The Ravel quartet is the old favourite - along with the Debussy and two Janaceks, the first 'chamber music' (what a prissy label that is...does anyone still have a chamber?) I got to enjoy. Not hard to hear why last night - the transparent colours and use of all manner of effects make it immediately more appealing to an unfamiliar listener (they're even using the fast movement on a TV add at present). Final movement is not a million miles from what Stravinsky would be doing very shortly. 

First violinist had a string snap with a loud bang three minutes in. All trooped off for a pit stop. Returned five minutes later quite unphased. They looked terribly young. Minus a star for not saying a word to the audience throughout. 

    

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Tonight @ DSO. Nothing I really "want" to hear here, so just going to enjoy a good band playing well, reward enough, really.

Jaap van Zweden conducts
Augustin Hadelich violin

ROUSE Rapture

BRUCH Violin Concerto

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4

 

Rouse seems to have an "in" here, probably NY Phil tracks all over the place, which is cool. I've just yet to hear anything by him that gets me excited.

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Reward diminished proportionate to traffic hassles. Friday is perhaps not as good a night as Saturday for sitting down with the expectation that just showing up will get it done.

OTOH, good band, played well.

 

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After letting Friday night's overall neutral enthusiasms sink in, the one really "up" note that lingers is the playing of the DSO trumpet section, Ryan Anthony, Principal. Mr. Anthony seems to be they type of player whose work consistently gets me hot, or whatever it is that you're supposed to say about that type of thing.

My intuitive reaction is a simple "that cat can PLAY!".

I guess if you're well-versed in such things, this is a Captain Obvious DUH! kind of thing, but I am not, so...forgive me, those who are.

But anyway yeah:

http://www.ryananthony.com/home.htm

and holy shit, scanning the DSO musician bios page, I just now came across this, which really, really sucks...

https://www.mydso.com/about-the-dso/people-and-places/musician-bios

The Fall of 2012 brought a change to Mr. Anthony’s life and career with a diagnosis of an incurable cancer. After a stem cell transplant for Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow and blood) he started The Ryan Anthony Foundation 501(c)(3) non-profit organization using music to promote cancer research. The concerts called “Cancer Blows” have taken off as an important vehicle for musicians and audiences to unite in finding a cure.

whoa...

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Another local cinema visit:

Image result for bolshoi ballet the golden age

Shostakovich's 1930s 'jazz age' ballet, just before the full demands of conformity descended. 

The 'lighter' Shostakovich - short, zippy tunes (but very Shostakovich) plus oddball foxtrots, tangos and other takes of American popular music. Nice production using Constructivist-like backdrops (or Art Deco for the club scenes) and lots of recognisable iconography from propaganda posters and parades of that era in the full ensemble dances. Ballet is way outside my experience of entertainment so I've no idea of the quality of the dancing - looked bloody amazing to me. The way they throw the principal women around...don't they get dizzy? They used the highly romantic, almost cod-Rachmaninov slow movement of the 2nd Piano Concerto for the last duet (think that might be called a pas-de-deux - I'll be buying a tuttu next) - not sure if that has been slipped in as contrast to the mainly brittle music or if it was there at the start.  

Amazingly there's another Shostakovich coming up in this series in a couple of weeks - 'The Limpid Stream' (called 'The Bright Stream' in this production). Will try to get to that - and 'The Nutcracker' in December, something I'd never have thought I'd want to see. I was so much older then...   

 

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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The DCMS season begins tonight, yay! We have eagerly subscribed. This is Brenda's favorite concert series, the general-admission in a college auditorium chamber music sets. She gets no quarrel from me.

http://www.dallaschambermusic.org/72ndseason/chiara-string-quartett/

chiara.jpg

CHIARA STRING QUARTET
Monday, October 17, 2016, 7:30pm at Caruth Auditorium at SMU

Hearkening back to a tradition that is centuries old and still common amongst soloists, the Chiara Quartet has adopted a new way of performing: from memory, without printed sheet music, or “by heart.” They will perform Britten: Three Divertimenti, Schubert: String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 29 and Beethoven: String Quartet No. 12 in E-flat Major, Op. 127.

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On 10/13/2016 at 1:17 AM, A Lark Ascending said:

 At this rate I should be able to do the 'Well, of course darlings, the only music I can bear to listen to are the late Beethoven quartets...' in about 20 years.
 

Looks like we heard different bands playing the same quartet!

Tell you what...I'd never want to voluntarily play that "only" card, but if that's how it just ended up...I'd be kept busy, for sure. That's some massively deep content.

Chiara Quartet, maybe or maybe not the playing with no charts thing is a gimmick, they read the Schubert, but visually, it is really compelling to watch a quartet that plays like this do it without music stands and paper. They had 4 CDs for sale afterwards, one of the Bartok cycle and three of original commissions. Hell, I bought all four, why not? I dug the band and bought product in support. That's how it works, right?

They also had t-shirts for sale (in two colors!) but only went up to XL. I'm gonna need more shirt than that, ok?

No matter, helluva good time with this band and this music, helluva good time.

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5 hours ago, JSngry said:

Tell you what...I'd never want to voluntarily play that "only" card, but if that's how it just ended up...I'd be kept busy, for sure. That's some massively deep content.

I find the Beethoven quartets tough music to get into - started to listen about ten years back and have given them some careful listening (as far as I can as a non-musician) in the last year and I'm getting drawn in. Hearing four live has helped (with two more to come in the next few months). A situation where I'm pursuing because of external reputation rather than responding to immediate internal reward. But it's paying off.

Most of what I've booked this autumn has been in the 'chamber music' area, purely because the music at the Sheffield Crucible and Sheffield University programmes is largely unfamiliar or music I only know in passing. The orchestral programmes at Nottingham and Sheffield are very unadventurous (though there are about four I'll go to in the second half of the season).    

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A bit further afield last night (2 hours down the A1):

Image result for bach

(Random picture of Bach)

Academy of Ancient Music - James Gilchrist director & tenor; Pavlo Beznosiuk director & violin; Rachel Brown flute

  • Purcell Suite of overtures, dances and songs
  • JS Bach Cantata No. 55 “Ich armer Mensch, ich Sundenknecht” (1726)
  • JS Bach Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor (1738-39)
  • JS Bach Cantata No. 82a “Ich habe genug” (c. 1731)

West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

Very small scale presentations of all four pieces - just over a dozen musicians at most. The Purcell was a well programmed arrangement (by Gilchrist and Beznosiuk) of songs and orchestral pieces from across Purcell's career. The only thing I knew was the Bach Orchestral Suite - you hear the Badinerie all over the place (usually when you're in a queue on the phone trying to get through to a bank!). You don't even think of how hard it must be to play, it all seems so smooth - well I wanted to run out and give Ms Brown an Olympic gold medal at the end of the whole piece - how you coordinate you fingering and breathing for that is beyond me.  

I had expected choral cantatas (didn't read the programme properly) but in the end it hardly mattered. I felt totally alienated from the subject matter of both - looking forward to death so we can leap into the arms of our 'Maker' - but musically engaging from start to finish; interesting hearing the chorale at the end of the first sung by a single voice. My brain was automatically putting in other singers. 

Usual dumb mime show you get in 'classical' concerts between pieces - yet in the pre-concert talk both Gilchrist and Beznosiuk proved witty, engaging and self-deprecating. Why can't they bring that to the performance instead of the stultifying 'Shush, this is Art' ambience (by chance there was an item on the news as I drove home about the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment doing gigs in pubs in Essex with clinking glasses!)? The pair of them saw off a particularly obnoxious academic during the open forum section after he moaned about the inauthentic nature of using the same bass in the Purcell and Bach on the grounds that different instruments would have been used. They politely but devastatingly skewered his notion of authenticity.  Every now and then I 'get' The Cultural Revolution - said academic could do with five years in an inner city comprehensive school.  

Here's the OAE doing one of their Night Shift concerts:

Image result for orchestra of the age of enlightenment night shift

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Image result for billy budd opera north

Billy Budd - Benji Britten

Opera North - Leeds Grand Theatre

A somewhat insecure community with xenophobic tendencies turns in on itself. How apt. 

Most of Britten's opera are for relatively small forces but this one, like Peter Grimes, is on the 'grand' scale. Large orchestra, huge cast. One of Britten's top five in my book. Set in the French Revolutionary Wars with a conservative Britain on edge in the wake of the Spithead/Nore mutinies. Britten's usual themes of innocence betrayed, the individual and the crowd, the brutalising power of the machine once it lurches into action (his own experiences as a gay man and a pacifist are usually referred to but it occurred to me that Macarthyism was also fresh in mind when this was written).

Tremendous score - huge choruses, brilliant orchestration and marvellous solo moments. Especially noticed the prominent roll for brass and woodwind rising out of the orchestra throughout last night. Two high points for me were the aborted attack on the French (picture above), a section of enormous tension that fails to dissipate, adding to the atmosphere of angst on board; and the beautiful orchestral passage after Billy is condemned.

Excellent production just using one set - a stylised warship deck on three levels. Nothing else was needed. Roderick Williams sang Billy. Busy man - he's in Sheffield singing Winterreise in a fortnight.    

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Image result for Cordelia Williams

Messiaen - Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus

Cordelia Williams (piano) Michael Symmons Roberts (poetry reading). 

Frith Hall, University of Sheffield

Initially disappointed to discover that only dix of the vingt were being performed, with a poem attached to each. In the end proved an excellent way of presenting the music - the full piece is over two hours. I'm not a great one for poems (my loss) but here they helped provide a period of rest and contrast between the musical pieces, helping you come to each one freshly. Symmons wrote the poems in response to the music drawing from both the nativity story and the experiences of Paris during the occupation and liberation (when Messiaen wrote the piece). An utterly compelling 90 minutes of music - I've 'heard' the music several times on record but as usual the live performance brought much more into focus. All played from memory apart from number XX where she used a score. I'm no judge of performance but this young woman seemed to play impeccably.

Part of the University of Sheffield's extensive programme across the year. I frequently grumble about the hackneyed programming in the local concert halls - well the corrective is here where the programming is incredibly wide ranging. Ancient and modern, rock, folk and 'world' music woven into the longhair stuff. I presume the 'university' nature of the enterprise explains the greater experimentation; perhaps funding help too, meaning that 'bums on seats' isn't quite the same issue as in the main concert halls.  

Best of all, three quarters of the audience [almost a full house] were late teens/20s - I don't recall the last time I attended a classical concert where we codgers were in the minority. We're usually the 90%. Clearly a lot of students from the university. Pricing must help too - under 26s can get a ticket for £6 in advance.

Looking forward to a few interesting programmes here in the near future - nearly 50 to choose from!     

[Frith Hall is an ideal place for a performance of 4' 33" - no soundproofing and directly across the road from a major city hospital!]

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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This weekend @ DSO, looks fun enough.

Pinchas Steinberg conducts
Ingrid Fliter piano

FRANCK

The Accursed Huntsman (Le chasseur maudit)

SCHUMANN

Piano Concerto

DVOŘÁK

Symphony No. 8

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Dvorak 8 is lovely - another one I've taken to only quite recently. 

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Dvorak has seemed a little "light" to me in the past, but recent listening ahs gotten me rethinking. Looking forward to hearing the case made in person!

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A fair bit of music I once considered 'light' (probably because I'd been told it was light so adopted that view) I've subsequently come to enjoy. It helped to face up to the fact that I was not 'heavy' (one of those smiley things).  

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I've learned, somewhat, to adjust my perspective from that of the modern man being told yesterday's tales of the future to that of the modern man taking stock of how...impressive it is for anybody to appreciate, anticipate, and actually attempt to articulate a vision of the future that doesn't involve glorifying the past and dropping anchor in the present...."New World"...it took me a while to realize that, yeah, by today's ears, it's "Spiritual" influences might seem obvious and/or superficial today, perhaps even sappy, but at the time...well, let's just say not everybody was looking at things that way, either in terms of the present or for going forth. So, sometimes, "heavy" is not so much a function of execution as it is simply of vision. Sometimes. Still, as it applies to Dvorak, the vision evident in the work is what is drawing me in more and more, not so much the music itself, but what is implied by the music...like it's an invitation to a party that is still being planned. I like that.

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I think the key to enjoying most music is to try to take it on its own terms. That can be difficult if your perspective or experience is very far from that of the music. Haydn can sound like dainty music for powdered aristos at first hearings. Dvorak always sounded a bit bland to my 20thC ears (my perception, not a judgement on the music) until I started giving it a bit more attention a few years back.    

When I first started listening I was very dismissive of the likes of Tchaikovsky and Puccini. I eventually learnt to leave the jury out for as long as possible and just keep going back to the evidence every now and then. The worst that can happen is that you find yourself enjoying the music you think you're supposed to dismiss.  

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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