It’s sad but true that many people denigrate and distrust their own reactions to classical music out of fear that they don’t “know enough,” and that other, more sophisticated folks know more. When people leave the movie theater they rarely hesitate to give their opinion of the movie, and it never occurs to them that they don’t have a right to that opinion. And yet after most classical music concerts you can swing your program around from any spot in the lobby and hit a dozen perfectly capable and intelligent people issuing apologetic disclaimers: “Boy, I really loved that — but I’m no expert” or “It sounded pretty awful to me, but I don’t really know anything, so I guess I just didn’t get it.”
“Few people play instruments, and music at home emerges from digital machines, controlled by buttons that require no musical culture to be pressed. For many people, the young especially, music is a form of solitary enjoyment, to be absorbed without judgment and stored without effort in the brain. The circumstances of music-making have therefore changed radically, and this is reflected not only in the banal melodic and harmonic content of popular music, but also in the radical avoidance of melody and harmony in the ‘modern classical’ repertoire. Released from its old institutional and social foundations our music has either floated into the modernist stratosphere, where only ideas can breathe, or remained attached to the earth by the repetitious mechanisms of pop.”
One of the reasons the 17-movement work is so rarely performed, despite Zappa’s celebrity, is the fiendishly tricky rhythm in some spots. (You know how triplets are three-notes-in-two? One spot has 23-notes-in-18.) And then there are the movement titles, which range from “Outrage at Valdez” (about the Exxon oil-tanker spill) and “Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America 1992” to “Dog Breath Variations” and “The Girl in the Magnesium Dress.”
“The new initiative – [called the National Alliance for Audition Support and] created by the Sphinx Organization, the New World Symphony and the League of American Orchestras – will train musicians for auditions, pair them with mentors, showcase their work in concerts and give them stipends to travel to auditions. It is the latest effort to diversify American classical music, which has lagged behind other fields.”
The 64-year-old conductor will step down from the music directorship of the Norfolk-based orchestra at the end of its centennial season, 2019-20. (She is evidently staying on with her other orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, where her current contract expires in 2021.)
“Lamar’s historic win figures in the grander, affected consecration of blackness within élite spaces—exemplified, I think, by the “thousand flowers of expectation” blooming in Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Barack Obama. It was Obama, with his caucuses of rappers in the White House, who accelerated the conclusion that hip-hop had earned a prestige as a great American art. In its long and perplexing lurch toward acclaim, did hip-hop sacrifice its edge? Lamar is a fascinating and brilliant non-answer.”
The music Pulitzer was an obscure bauble coveted only by the people who cared about it, of which there were not many. Forget the big reporting and magazine awards; even the poetry Pulitzer mattered more than music. Grammys are the awards that count most in music, and given that Kendrick is already loaded with golden gramophones — though the Album of the Year continues, unconscionably, to elude him — the Pulitzer is just a feather in his Dodgers fitted cap.
Dana Canedy: “In this case [the jurors] were considering a piece of music they felt had hip-hop influences and said, ‘Well if we’re considering a piece of music that has hip-hop influences, why aren’t we considering hip-hop?’ And someone said, ‘That’s exactly what we should do.’ And then someone said, ‘We should be considering Kendrick Lamar’ and the group said ‘absolutely.’ So then, right then, they decided to listen to the entire album and decided ‘This is it.'”
“Michelle Miller Burns, former chief operating officer for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, will lead the state’s largest performing arts organization starting Sept. 1.” She succeeds Kevin Smith, who stabilized the orchestra and repaired management-musician relations following the 2012-13 lockout.
The not-for-profit Brass for Africa “has delivered 800 brass instruments to both Uganda and Liberia and reaches over 1000 children weekly. … The children involved include those living in extreme poverty (living either as street children or in a slum), as well as children living in orphanages and rehabilitation centres, living with physical or mental disability, or coping with HIV/AIDS. These children each have two training sessions a week, which include music theory, and … the bands each have at least three performances a year,.”
The Margravial Opera House, built in 1478 by Frederick the Great’s sister and now one of the best-preserved 18th-century theaters in Europe, is reopening after a six-year, €30 million renovation with one of the operas performed when the house was new, Johann Adolf Hasse’s Artaserse.
The Pulitzer for music, which was first awarded in 1943, generally goes to contemporary classical music; a quick scan through the list of previous winners reveals a lot of operas and symphonies. Lamar, however, is a hip-hop artist, and DAMN. is a hip-hop album. Lamar is now not only the first person to win a Pulitzer for a hip-hop album but the first person to win a Pulitzer for any music that’s not classical or jazz.
Yes, the physical manifestations of music worship, structures so Romantic that they wouldn’t be foreign to Richard Wagner. Though some argue that the etiquette for concert halls is outdated, elitist, and partly responsible for classical music’s struggle to find new audiences, concert halls actually provide unique experiences that have become all too rare.
Rebeat Innovation is creating “HD vinyl” that the company claims will have “30 percent more playing time, 30 percent more amplitude, and overall more faithful sound reproduction.”
Talk to orchestra leaders around the country, and you find a new consensus about what community work means: a new approach to an orchestra’s role, even a new approach to training musicians. Leaders of some of the most innovative orchestras stress the need to find different ways to perform and get the music out there. But it’s a hard thing to talk about without lapsing into routine orchestra-speak — and an even harder thing to spotlight for a public.
French law forbids the exclusion of any children, but the singer left his estimated £100 million estate only to the daughters he adopted with his fourth wife. But he made his will in California. “A judge will now have to weigh up whether Hallyday, 74 when he died of lung cancer in France, was a US or French resident, thereby deciding if his will breaks French law.”
The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra has launched a new education program, and half of the students will be Latinx and African American, by design. Executive Director Patrick Nugent said, “There’s a crisis of diversity in our field. … We will do a better job of attracting more diverse audiences if those audiences see themselves reflected on stage.”
That’s what conductor Benjamin Zander, music director of the Boston Phil, thinks. He recorded an 80-minute version with the London Philharmonic Orchestra- and when that version is released, Sanders is adding in a 160-minute explanation disc.
“Yes, the physical manifestations of music worship, structures so Romantic that they wouldn’t be foreign to Richard Wagner. Though some argue that the etiquette for concert halls is outdated, elitist, and partly responsible for classical music’s struggle to find new audiences, concert halls actually provide unique experiences that have become all too rare.”
“Jennifer Higdon has been awarded the $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition for 2018, given to contemporary classical composers of exceptional achievement ‘who have significantly influenced the field of composition’ … by the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.” The award, which has previously gone to (among others) Steve Reich, Kaija Saariaho, and both John Adamses, also includes a two-year residency at the Bienen School and a performance by the Chicago Symphony.
Scott Cantrell: “So who are the leading candidates? Don’t take my word as gospel, but, between personal observations and chats with musicians, I can hazard some guesses. At least on purely musical grounds, I’m guessing there are two leading candidates, although each has drawbacks.”
“Sir Andrew Davis will step down from his role as Chief Conductor with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the end of his contract in December 2019, the Orchestra announced today. The British maestro, who has led the MSO since 2013, will continue his artistic relationship with the orchestra as Conductor Laureate.”
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Despacito is the most viewed YouTube video of all time, with more than 5bn views, but temporarily disappeared from the site and had its hold image replaced by a photograph of a masked gang holding guns. Hackers calling themselves Prosox and Kuroi’sh replaced the description beneath the video with: “Free Palestine.”
UK record labels enjoyed a 10.6% surge in earnings in 2017 to £839m, thanks to the digital popularity of a new generation of artists including Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Dua Lipa and Stormzy. It was the fastest growth since 1995, when Oasis, Blur and Pulp created a high-street CD sales frenzy. Music companies enjoyed a 45% year-on-year increase in subscription streaming revenue – from £239m in 2016 to £347m – as an industry hammered for a decade by illegal piracy now enjoys the success of music lovers turning to legitimate services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.
“Consider the reaction of another listener: Jimmy Carter. In 1978, the president, not renowned as an especially sophisticated jazz listener, hosted a jazz festival at the White House. Most of the bill was reasonably mainstream, if widely varying in style – Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Clark Terry, Chick Corea – but it also included Taylor, who must have been hard-pressed to fit his expansive music into the requisite five-minute slot. The music was far from plain, but the man from Plains was agog. … ‘The president took the pianist’s two hands in his own, looking at them with wonderment and awe. ‘I’ve never seen anyone play the piano that way,’ he marveled.'” (includes sound clips)
“[The Montreal Symphony will] receive a supplemental grant of $7.5 million over five years in addition to the $8.8 million it gets annually from the province … The Orchestre Métropolitain [du Grand Montréal] can look forward to an extra $2.5 million over five years – one-third of the money awarded to the OSM, but a formidable sum if viewed as a proportion of its modest budget of about $5 million … The Orchestre symphonique de Québec will get $3 million.”
“Don’t worry Hugh. There will be no further operas by me that you will ever have to sit through again. I’m done with the genre. Going to leave it my more talented contemporaries and younger colleagues.”
General director Bernard Foccroulle credits the festival’s artist development program, L’Académie du Festival Aix: “You really have to work with a vision of the long term. We have been able to give birth to 12 operas or interdisciplinary creations very close to opera. I’m not only happy with the quality of the works but also with the quality of the reception, because we have proved that we can find an audience for good new pieces today without compromise and without trying to be just popular.”
“Plans for the first opera house in the country’s second city, Jeddah, are already under way.”
The Fourth of July Boston Pops concerts are particularly successful, but in total, “adjusted for inflation, that’s up roughly 40 percent from a similar independent study done in 2008. A decade ago, symphony-related economic activity was pegged at $167 million.”