“Now is a good time for me to rephrase the original question: Do we really want to hear Beethoven’s Fifth as it was heard at its premiere? Do we want to listen to 50 unevenly trained musicians, give or take, playing for four hours on weak instruments that are hard to play, in an unheated concert hall conducted by a deaf man on one rehearsal?”
Meet the new boss, same as the old substitute boss: Dausgaard, a 54-year-old Dane who takes over from Ludovic Morlot in 2019, has been the SSO’s principal guest conductor since 2014. “It was his 2015 Seattle Symphony Sibelius Festival performances,” writes Melinda Bargreen, “that made the tall, silver-haired Dane a popular figure among the city’s classical-music lovers, with standing ovations after every performance, and the kind of connection with players and audiences that conductors dream of.”
Both organizations have new presidents – Debora Spar at Lincoln Center and Deborah Borda at the Phil – who did not like what they saw when they looked at the plan’s costs, schedules (which were getting longer), and fundraising prospects. Said Spar, “There was a general sense that the project had just gotten too complicated.”
For Wednesday night’s Carnegie Hall season-opening gala with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chinese superstar was booked to play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Chick Corea in a seldom-heard two-piano version. Then, this past spring, Lang Lang injured his left arm – he says it was by practicing Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand too hard. So he’s bringing in a 14-year-old protégé to play the left-hand part alongside him.
“The spots on the Hot 100 that aren’t occupied by rappers, DJs, or Imagine Dragons largely belong to interchangeable young men playing R&B for campfires: Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber of course, but also Charlie Puth, Shawn Mendes, and the second wave of One Direction solo efforts—Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson. The pose they strike is of the nice-guy seducer, the suave but puppy-eyed everyboy. It’s true that Cardi B and Taylor Swift have broken through lately with brash, campy cries of war. But it remains to be seen whether their success remains an outlier in an era when pop’s women have often needed to quiet down in order to be heard at all.”
“Never in human history have people had easier access to music. As studies such as the 2016 Music Consumer Insider Report and Nielsen Music 360 Study of 2015 have revealed, a large portion (over 90%) of the U.S. population listens to music beyond 20 hours each week, and young people are especially engaged with music. While there is broad engagement with music, there are two musical genres which have increasingly moved to the periphery of ordinary life; the very two genres that I would argue have become unusually comfortable ignoring emotional connection between music performer and the general-public listener.”
“Last weekend’s NFL drama touched on many issues, including police brutality, racism, and free speech. For many who opposed the protests, however, it all came down to one thing: respecting the flag and our country’s national anthem. But while critics claim that the anthem is above politics, radical uses and re-writings of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ are, in fact, older than the song as we know it.” (audio)
About ten days after Opera Philadelphia’s successful O17 festival wrapped up, the October Revolution of Jazz and Contemporary Music begins, with artists ranging from John Luther Adams (with a piece for 24 horns), Claire Chase, and So Percussion to the Art Ensemble of Chicago, saxophonist Anthony Braxton, and the inimitable Sun Ra Arkestra.
From the very start, many people on the production team expected and hoped for the record to be commercially released soon after the launch of Voyager.c”Carl Sagan tried to interest labels in releasing Voyager,” Ferris says. “It never worked.” Timothy Ferris says that’s likely because the music rights were owned by several different record labels who were hesitant to share the bill. So — except for a limited CD-ROM release in the early 1990s — the record went largely unheard by the wider world.
Engagement in music activities among young people aged 11 to 15 has been on a slow and steady decline since it reached a peak in 2011/12 when 77% reported participating. But this proportion has fallen dramatically over the last year from 70% to 61%.”
The opera is still being written, but it had its first major performance in Little Rock, at Central High School, to an audience that included some of the nine who integrated the school these 60 years ago. “In a scene in which the students explain why they volunteered to integrate the school, unaware of the dangers they would face, [Minnijean Brown Trickey] heard her own words from long ago sung back to her:
‘I sort of loosely thought,
So, well, why not?
I’m beautiful, I’m smart,
I’m talented. How hard,
How hard could this be?'”
During the many hours of Erik Satie’s “Vexations,” the reporter says, “I felt, by turns, agitated, frozen and delirious. But I also left with the clearest mind and best hearing I’ve ever known. Here’s how it happened.”
This month, for the inaugural concert, that means immigration. The orchestra’s founder and conductor: ” want people to leave the concert hall with the idea that orchestras can connect to current events. This is a perfect opportunity for classical music to shake the dust off its programming and become an active, viable part of the community. By taking a stance on social justice and doing a program on immigration, I hope we’ll encourage other orchestras to be movers and shakers.”
Soprano Charity Tilleman-Dick: “I went into the hospital with an epic set of cankles — my ankles were swollen to the size of pachyderm ankles. I thought that they were going to give me some diuretics and let me leave, but the following morning, I woke up. It was to the news that there were lungs, it was a match and we were going to Cleveland immediately to have a transplant.”
“The engagement with music is one of the most universal activities of humans that does not have a direct link to our survival as a species. Nobody ever died from music depravation, yet we work and worship to music, dance and court to music, make love and relax to music, rejoice and grieve with music. With the developments in migration, travel and technology over the past 70 years (which in retrospect we will probably regard as the most significant period of musical change of the past two millennia), two important things have happened.”
“In a new Reddit AMA with Darren Aronofsky, the director was asked by a commenter named chickenmagic (of course) if he considered staging his new movie as a play, to which he responded, ‘johan johansson and i are thinking about turning it into an opera.'” (Jóhannsson composed the score for the film.) This could make sense – indeed (as some have observed), it could make more sense than the movie does.
“The Metropolitan Opera, which has continued to struggle at the box office and face what it calls ‘economic challenges,’ has offered voluntary buyouts to 21 of its 243 administrative employees.”
“The call for attention to numerous details such as watching the conductor, listening to the other voices in harmony, reading the music and/or remembering the words all contribute to reaching this attentive, aware, and accepting state.”
Jon Caramanca checks out the finals at Carnegie Hall: “There were groups striving to make a cappella their lives, groups that formed as passion projects and groups that seemed intent on dismantling the a cappella establishment from within by taking advantage of the competition’s open format to import styles of singing you won’t see at most college pre-frosh weekends. At times, and especially during the awards portion of the evening, that made for a confusing mandate, with global folk songs pitted against choral lite-gospel, and smarmy pop-rock alongside the familiar complex multipart vocal harmonizing (with vocal percussion!) that is a cappella’s public face.”
“In an ideal world, Rattle would tour the LSO around its own country, instead of everywhere abroad, with a rallying cry to raise standards. That won’t happen either, because the Arts Council won’t fund anything that treads on the toes of regional clients. All of which leaves Rattle with a job title that has less clout than a viscountcy, an honorific to deceive the media into believing in miracles. These inhibitions may help explain why the incoming music director has set such store on getting the public authorities to build him a new hall. That, at least, could be credited as a concrete achievement.”
“Opera, so often derided as elitist, has played an active role in society and politics throughout its life – sometimes as a direct conductor of political ideas, invariably as a mirror of the power structures that produced it. … And opera in Britain has a vivid life outside the famous houses. Young artists still want to sing it; young composers still want to write it; it still has things to say.”
The 81-year-old Estonian, who is the world’s most-performed living classical composer (and who is not himself Roman Catholic), is one of three recipients of this year’s Ratzinger Prize, named for Pope Benedict XVI (né Joseph Ratzinger) and given to “people who answered to the challenge of fostering a deep dialogue among science, theology and philosophy.”
“Describing performances, whether the New York debut of an exciting young Finnish pianist or a boldly radical production of The Magic Flute, is the core of the reviewing art. … [Yet] music, especially purely instrumental music, resists being described in language. It’s very hard to convey sounds through words. Perhaps that’s what we most love about music: that it’s beyond description, deeper than words. Yet the poor music critic has to try.”
“The seating arrangement for the musicians in an orchestra is designed, naturally, to make the music sound best to the audience sitting out in the hall. … But [it] is definitely not optimized for the listening pleasure of the musicians, who hear a different cacophony depending on where they sit. ‘The stage has 101 acoustical micro-climates. Every seat on that stage is different,’ says section percussionist Perry Dreiman.” (audio)
In the perpetual tug-of-war between hiring the best artists available from anywhere and helping Australian singers make a living in their home country, the balance has swung to the former, with the number of non-Australians in leading roles in the company having tripled over the past seven years. So a government report has recommended docking funding for Opera Australia by up to $200,000 if it doesn’t maintain an “appropriate balance” of Australian and foreign singers.
In a study of 200 people who listened to 260 songs, those with the highest psychopath scores were among the greatest fans of the Blackstreet number one hit No Diggity, with Eminem’s Lose Yourself rated highly too.
“Opera is the coming together of music, theatre, design, people and coughing in the greatest synthesis of art capable of collapsing at the beep of a watch alarm. … As the sounds soar and mingle perfectly, the evening makes sense, the stupidity is forgotten and the burglars and the rain and the hundred cars outside and the fight 40 yards across the street, and then someone sneezes, which is when, somewhere in the middle of the second act, in a radical switch to the American midwest, we return to a stage full of big people and papier-mâché cacti.”
“The short work, consisting of title sheet, a single page for the viola part and one for the piano score, is titled Impromptu op.33. It was found among documents belonging to Vadim Borisovsky (d. 1972), the violist of the Beethoven Quartet for over 40 years.”
With the flood-damaged Wortham Theater Center, HGO’s home, out of commission until at least next May, the company has decided to set up a flexible 1,700-seat performance space – dubbed the “HGO Resilience Theater” – in Exhibition Hall A3 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Post-genre thinking seeks to move away from objective methods of characterizing music, instead focusing on a more subjective method within which music is viewed piece by piece with an emphasis on the intention and background of the composer. If a composer has no intent of writing within the “classical” genre label, then attempting to understand the piece through a classical lens is irrelevant. But what about the listener? There is no doubt that all listeners have pre-existing connotations surrounding certain types of sounds. Realistically, because we have discussed music in terms of these genre constructions for so long, a listener’s experience is likely to naturally include elements of: “This moment in this piece of music reminds me of X genre, which makes me think of Y connotation.”