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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

February 14, 2010

WHY IS FIGURE SKATING MUSIC SO BAD?

Washington Post -Music for skating has never been noted for its quality. Fans are accustomed to kitschy arrangements, abrupt cuts and sub-par sound systems. Yet over the years, in part because of the improvement in technology, there's been a shift away from random juxtapositions toward programs that are at least thematic. . .

Even for those who do want to improve the musical level of the sport, there are limits to what you can do in less than five minutes, especially when you're working with a skater, a choreographer and a coach who may all have their own ideas of what they want.

"The problem is that these people don't know any music," says music writer David Hurwitz, who established a small side business on his CD-reviewing Web site, Classics Today, to advise figure skaters on their musical choices. Skaters tend to cling to what has done well before: "Carmen," in various permutations, tops a list that includes a heavy dose of Russian ballet and dance music ("Swan Lake," "Scheherazade") and Spanish-themed works.

Increasingly popular, too, are film scores. "Film scores have no rhythm," Hurwitz says. "It's just mood music, not meant to be choreographed. But they do it anyway, because they liked the movie [and can] wear a funky costume." This Story

Even the musically knowledgeable do things to their musical selections that would outrage any purist. Alexander Goldstein, a Russian-born composer who has been arranging music for athletes since he worked with the Soviet figure skating and rhythmic gymnastics teams in the 1970s, points out that on his computer he can "make the music faster, make the music slower, without any degradation of the sound quality." But that's the least of his manipulation.

For the Japanese skater Miki Ando, the 2007 ladies' world champion, Goldstein has assembled a short program from excerpts of Mozart's Requiem. The problem is that no branch of figure skating, except ice dancing, allows words in the musical selections for its programs. Goldstein, therefore, had to creatively arrange the score. "I used the choir, but they don't pronounce any words," Goldstein says. The result is a kind of expressive vocalise that, as he says with a "what can I do" tone in his voice, "fulfills the figure skating requirements."


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