Hari Kunzru takes a road trip through the Deep South to figure it out. “It is extraordinary music, if you can really hear it. I’ve been making playlists of songs originally recorded on 78rpm shellac discs in the years before the second world war, songs that sounded like the work of ghosts. The voices of the old singers were distant in time, muffled by crackle and hiss, and yet somehow immediate.”
They only showed four shows – the last in August. But ten people just emerged from “an uninhabited private estate that the Ministry of Defense used as a training ground during World War II, The Radio Times of London reported. A six-foot fence was erected on three sides of the estate, with the fourth side bordered by the sea.”
What is American music? And, perhaps more to the point, why do we care so much? “I remember being asked in Prague not so long ago, ‘What is your obsession, you Americans, with American music?’ ” said Robert Spano, the music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which will perform at SHIFT on March 31. “The only answer I could give . . . was: It’s because we don’t know who we are, and so we’re endlessly fascinated, because there are so many things that make up America . . . so much to wrestle with and balance and try and understand. . . . I was kind of defending our self-obsession.”
John Wetherill, 62, accuses music director Krzysztof Urbański, 34, of a five-year campaign of harassment, including attempts at public humiliation, in an effort to get Wetherill to retire or give up his principal chair in favor of a younger player. The ISO has no comment. (Where’s the musicians’ union?)
It’s called the encephalophone (brain instrument), and it was developed “with a double-edged purpose: to explore new frontiers in music technology and as a possible therapeutic tool for people who’d suffered from strokes or neurological problems like ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).”
“The most venerable American orchestras take pride in having a distinctive sound: the Philadelphia strings, the Chicago brass, the Cleveland blend. The New York Philharmonic has prized a virtuosity that edges, for better or worse, into brashness. The L.A. Phil, by contrast, has a tradition of no tradition: its sense of self resides not in a fixed repertory but in a mediation between past and present. That spirit of flux has persisted across several generations and now seems part of the institution’s identity—although, in the fragile sphere of the performing arts, nothing can be considered permanent. As a critic, I have made a habit of following this orchestra wherever it goes, and I am therefore hesitant to offer advice as it plots its future. But the adage of another noted Southern California composer comes to mind: keep on keeping on.”
“When it comes to opera, the council does not appear to know what is best for opera in Ireland and seems shy of taking the advice of the report writers it has hired to tell it what might be better for opera in Ireland.”
“A performance of Verdi’s Ernani at the Capitole de Toulouse was cancelled last Tuesday, because South Korean tenor Alfred Kim, who held the title role, was placed under custody over violence against his girlfriend.”
“The situation is an active threat to the ability of global music artists to tour the United States— something that is often already complicated—and arrives, paradoxically, at a time when audiences are more easily immersed in international sounds than ever before. It seems like an opportune moment to consider the meaning and relevance of what has been called “world music,” as a global refugee crisis and a rise in nationalistic fervor in Europe, Russia, and the United States newly threatens open cultural exchange.”
“A few decades ago, I would not have put money on the survival of the concerto, except as an antiquarian curiosity. Celebrity soloists continued milking the classics, but the rest of the music world seemed to have moved on from all that gladiatorial bravura.” Justin Davidson looks at four new concertos – by Sofia Gubaidulina, Lera Auerbach, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Timo Andres.
“[John] Berry quit as artistic director of ENO in 2015 after 20 years with the company. He has now launched Opera Ventures, a charitable organisation that will produce opera and mixed-media performances in addition to providing workshops, classes and training.”
“As streaming becomes our dominant mode of listening, Billboard has begun measuring success song by song, stream by stream. In turn, pop albums are expanding. The more tracks an album contains, the more coin it can generate, the better the album can perform on the charts. As the container changes shape, so does the stuff that goes inside. And not necessarily for the better.”
Musicologist and conductor David Skinner writes about how the discovery of fragments of music manuscript behind some plasterwork at an Oxford College led him to a text written by Queen Katherine Parr for the nation to, as it were, pray the king into battle.
A performance of Borodin’s Prince Igor at Bulgaria’s national opera house was interrupted, and then cancelled after the building was evacuated, due to an overpowering smell.
“Starting with a Petite Messe Solennelle in 1987, [the Teatro Comunale di] Bologna has provided the orchestra and chorus for the main productions each year, resulting in almost 50 video and audio recordings.” But the opera house has now broken off relations with the Pesaro-based festival – and “it’s not an amicable split.”
Having gone to all the trouble of putting an orchestra (largely made up of New York-based music students and freelancers) in a club, and assembling a trendy-looking audience (largely, it seemed, people with some connection or other to the various presenting organizations), he didn’t actually want a rave atmosphere. The conductor kept berating the audience for talking, took them to task for their cellphones (“we’re here to dance, not to take pictures”) and, at one point, actually stopped the music to try to force people to be quiet.
What’s it worth to Apple to have a two-week exclusive with a young, famous musician? Well, about half a million dollars. Chance the Rapper, who revealed that info about his “Coloring Book,” wrote, “I think artist can gain a lot from the streaming wars as long as they remain in control of their own product.”
The idea for Orchestra Noir came about at date night for founder Jason Ikeem Rodgers. “The group’s website emphasizes they aren’t striving to be a traditional orchestra. Instead Orchestra Noir strives to raise ‘the invisible curtain and [bring] classical music to diverse, younger audiences that is relevant and respectful of their community.'”
The older composer essentially told Brahms that the younger composer would be nowhere without him. And, despite the many issues, “Wagner is so ingrained into our classical musical landscape … that it’s impossible to listen to him and not feel a deep sense of familiarity. For all of his snark towards Brahms for ‘making him what he was,’ be it direct or indirect, Wagner did kind of shape classical music in a world beyond Beethoven.”
The “I Want” song is a classic way to reveal character early on in a musical – and almost every great Disney character has “an ode, operetta or full-blown ballad where the main character bursts into song revealing their innermost desires.”
“These small grammatical rebellions strike some as poetic and others as pretentious — at least when the titles are given as their composers intended. (They are rendered inconsistently in many publications, including the one you are reading, that strive to follow standard grammar rules.)”
Very possibly. Musicologist Laurie Stras writes about a carefully but anonymously published collection of motets, all for treble voices, from 16th-century Italy; about the life of Sister Leonora d’Este, born four years before her notorious mother died; and about why she thinks that Leonora wrote this music but would have to keep her name off of it. (includes video and audio)
In assembling this list, critic Alexandra Coghlan made it a point to avoid the names that always come up (Hildegard of Bingen, Clara Schumann, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre), but ranged from 9th-century Byzantium to 17th-century Milan (a nun, no less) to the Depression-era U.S. (includes sound clips)
“So far, this has affected numerous musicians who planned to perform at the festival, with some of their experiences shedding a very unflattering light on the U.S. immigration system. Below are the stories of every band that has, so far, been unable to make it to SXSW due to visa issues.”
“For the past decade, Seattle Opera has spent $2 million to $3 million more a year than it earns, and its financial reserves are drying up. In an attempt to stabilize, the company will cut six full-time jobs and close its Renton scene shop.”
“Maybe a more entrepreneurial classical world would be of benefit to everyone and help to attract more people to concerts?”
“On the surface, this is a startling coup for New York. In her 17 years as head of the L.A. Phil, Borda has made it the most successful and glamorous orchestra in America and the most progressive major symphony in the world, premiering an unprecedented amount of new music, staging operas and rethinking every aspect of the symphony orchestra for the 21st century.”
The notion of “abstract music” is a troubled one; music becomes “abstract” mostly by association with art that is so named.