Archive for October, 2011

How to best see Copenhagen

A brief diversion from the normal weighty topics…  I realized yesterday when leaving the hotel that there was a rack full of identical bicycles stamped with the hotel logo and arrived at the brilliant conclusion that they must be for rent.  The hotel I am at this weekend is at least a mile removed from the main downtown area with restaurants, shopping, and general city-life.  When I was here last year, I did a TON of walking, and made some use of the Metro (subway) system while watching the world speed past on bicycle.

Here in Copenhagen, bicycles are a massive part of everyday life.  Automobiles are VERY expensive here by American standards, with taxes that fall between 100 and 200% of the purchase price!  Gasoline is close to twice as expensive as what we pay in the United States.  So, many folk rely on bicycles to get around town.  They are everywhere, and so is a network of bicycle lanes that makes any US efforts to provide space to cyclists seem very insufficient.

A quick check at the front desk this morning confirmed that the bicycles were indeed for rent, and so I soon had a key to the lock in my pocket, and I was off!  Bicycling was a wonderful improvement!  The city is very “bicycle-sized” and you can ride from one end to the other in under an hour.  The city is essentially flat, and so the riding is not taxing.  Compared to my fancy racing bicycle at home, I was riding a heavy three-speed clunker, but it allowed me to see whole swaths of the city that would have been inconvenient to get to by mass transit or cab.  It also reminded me that I didn’t own a car before getting married.  I was an avid cycle commuter, even during Chicago winters! The weather here is brisk fall weather, but just as I had learned many years ago, a bit of cycling and you are toasty warm and unzipping jackets in weather that would have you bundled up without the exercise.

If you are ever in Copenhagen, skip rental cars, taxis and rent a bike!  It is a great way to get around.

Maestro

Work has brought me back to Copenhagen this year, and it is nice to come back to a place and know how to get around.  This morning, I took the train across the water to Malmo, Sweden and walked around the downtown area.  I was quite unimpressed with their Modern Art Museum, and overall it seemed like a smaller version of Copenhagen.

On my return, I kicked off my shoes from several miles of walking around and flipped on the TV.  It came on to Danish Radio, where someone was conducting an orchestra, but you could tell they weren’t professional.  A few minutes later it was clear what I was watching:  a Danish reality show called “Maestro” with an elimination format ala Survivor/American Idol/Dancing with the Stars, but the subject is conducting the Danish Radio orchestra!  The pieces selected are quite well-known “crowd-pleasers”, and the contestants were amazingly animated (are they famous Danish “personalities”?  I don’t know, but they had “screen presence” to burn).  The producers did a great job with the show and it was entertaining.  High art?  Not really, but you could see how much work several of the contestants put in trying to do a credible job.  Watching the show is enough to disprove the idea that all you have to do is get up there and beat time.

I tried to find a link for video of the show, but all I could get was the webpage in Danish.  The production value of the show was quite high with gorgeous crane shots, location cut-aways to fantastic rehearsal spaces.  It is clear that the producers have all the classical music connections to pull off some pretty outrageous stuff.  The performance space was gorgeous.  I couldn’t understand a word of the program, except “Fantastik!”, but I presume that is a space that belongs to Danish Radio.

In trying to find a link to a video clip of the show, I came across a rather negative review by a Danish musician.  I get his point that this “panders to the lowest common denominator” and even that an elimination format reality show is a poor match to transcendent art, but I loved the show.   I loved it because I’d LOVE to do that – hang out with professional conducting coaches, a top national orchestra with chorus and attempt to work with some of the greatest music in western civilization.  I just don’t see a downside (other than making a total fool of oneself on national television)!  There are “fantasy” camps for middle-aged rockers to play with big name stars, but it just isn’t convenient or affordable to get the New York Philharmonic together to practice conducting!

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