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July 25, 2006

Technology and Music Criticism

by Peter Dobrin

Regarding Janelle's comments on evolving newspaper treatment of the arts, here's a link to something we did in our coverage of Gary Graffman's retirement as director of the Curtis Institute of Music. In addition to a preview article, we gave readers a link to the entire interview with Graffman.
But here's the part that was really exciting.
We produced a slide show with backstage and performance photos of the students at Graffman's final concert with the Curtis orchestras. The photos go by, paced slowly, while an excerpt from the concert plays ("Firebird"). And our review of the concert was embedded with links to sound samples from the concert itself. In other words, where our review referenced a phrase or aspect of the music, readers could click on a link to hear the actual passage from the concert.
We've been talking with the Philadelphia Orchestra about doing this with their concerts on a weekly basis. No agreement so far, but the spirit of the talks has been positive.
Anyway, here it is (assuming the technology works):
Bravura Bartók at tribute (music samples, slideshow)

Posted by pdobrin at July 25, 2006 07:49 AM


Peter, I remember when you did this, and I thought it was brilliant. I took the idea to my editor and our online editor, who concluded that I would not be able to meet my one-hour deadline after the concert. Did you have to get permission from the musicians union to use the musical excerpts? I hope you succeed in doing this weekly, because it might pave the way for all of us.

Posted by: Janelle Gelfand at July 25, 2006 12:06 PM

The Curtis orchestra of course is students, but I am hopeful that the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra will approve the idea. There are some restraints. I believe that we will not be able to use more than three minutes of sound clips.

Posted by: Peter Dobrin at July 25, 2006 12:16 PM

Just a couple thoughts...

Scenario 1: I'm watching the Boston Pops rehearse with Elvis Costello for opening night. I look over at the bank of TV camera-folks filming and ask a publicity person a simple question: How much can they record? She tells me, basically, "as much as they want. They're only going to use 10 to 15 seconds." Hmmm. I ask if I could record some too, provided I only use one song. She okays this. So I tape two songs on the digital recorder, slice it in a half hour back at the office and we've got a one-minute clip - so as not to get into trouble with record companies, or the union - posted before the show.

Here's another idea, and one that's quite easy. I was writing a profile of Garrick Ohlsson, particularly his performing the Beethovan sonatas this summer at Tanglewood. He's obviously a great talker, so I asked if he could give me half an hour at his practice space. I brought the recorder again. We sat at the piano and he walked me through one of the sonatas. (As a non music-critic, I perhaps find it quite easy to play the "dumb guy," and lead him through as if he were playing for a regular person.) We sliced that into three, four-minute commentaries, teased it in the paper and our blog.

Finally, I'm posting a Schoenberg audio narration I put together in a few hours with a Mac/Garageband and a digital tape recorder. I wanted to try something fun and conversational to add to our more weighty discussion of budgets and the historic challenges of offering Schoenberg...



Posted by: Geoff Edgers at July 25, 2006 06:27 PM

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