“The Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin was no doubt regarded as a one-of-a-kind virtuoso. Which is peculiar, in a way, since he also stole freely and transparently from other artists. [Sara Fishko traces] the various influences that went into Chopin’s signature style.” (audio)
“The boat belongs in Washington, a city both blessed and socially determined by its rivers. The nation’s capital was founded at the confluence of the Potomac and the Anacostia, near the ports of Georgetown and Alexandria, and is home to the country’s oldest naval base. At times, the city has embraced its river setting, most significantly in 1901 when the McMillan Plan created the Mall, new parks along the waterfront and Memorial Bridge, which created a symbolic (though often illusory) post-Civil War rapprochement between the North and the South by joining the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington Cemetery.”
“One in three [British] adults responding to an online poll highlighted ‘aloofness’ as a challenge for the artform, and a similar percentage said they thought major classical events only ever happened in [London]. 40% of respondents said concerts need to be performed in more everyday places – such as parks and clubs – for classical music to remain relevant.”
“The new Berlin chief, in his mid-forties, is as close as you can get to being an unknown commodity. He has never given a media interview (my request for an off-the-record coffee was coolly declined) and has made just five commercial recordings. He refuses to play maestro games — you conduct my orchestra, I’ll conduct yours — and is no respecter of vanities. When the Berliners handed him Sir Simon Rattle’s job, Petrenko swiftly renewed his Munich contract until 2021. He’ll take Berlin in his own time.”
There is a remarkable number of new works being commissioned. Some companies, such as Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera, have long traditions of fostering new operas. There are indispensable groups you should know about, foremost among them Beth Morrison Projects and American Opera Projects that exist to create new opera. Visit their websites often.
“‘This isn’t some magic soup!’ says David Devan of the data-driven, meticulously engineered transformation of Opera Philadelphia. The once sleepy, old-school company has become one of the most progressive forces on the opera scene. Having spent more than $600,000 on market research over the past five years, the company is now poised to launch the most ambitious component of its master plan: ‘O17’ will be the first in a series of annual festivals designed to reinvent the urban opera experience. Spanning twelve days, from September 14 to 25, the festival will feature seven ‘operatic happenings’ at six venues across the city.
“Elizabeth is a fascinating character, for one thing. She starts with nothing but a horrid upbringing and finds herself singing alongside the most famous music hall performer of the day. I loved the way the story moves around chronologically as well – not something often done in opera – and a particular challenge, especially since I could tell the pace of the piece needed to be very quick. Not to mention the quirky inclusion of historical characters like Karl Marx!”
“The music flowing out of the record player sounds distant, muffled, surrounded by whispers. The singer’s voice alternates moments of clarity with crackly sputters– as if coming out of a wormhole from a windy day in the Fifties. You can get the sense that what is being played is no ordinary vintage record: indeed, on the platter, instead of a vinyl, is the X-Ray of some guy’s skull, cut in the shape of a disc.”
“Young people like to play, so if you can make the material they’re trying to learn more kinesthetic, it helps it to stick a bit better. It’s a way to transform the classroom into a living, breathing art, so that it becomes a part of them, as opposed to material that they’re supposed to absorb and spit back out.”
The “decision caused immediate outrage among some members of the symphony, and a number of them are refusing to play the fund-raiser, saying that allowing the orchestra to be conducted by Mr. Prager, who has suggested that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and incest, among other contentious statements, would be tantamount to endorsing and normalizing bigotry. Some are even encouraging others not to attend the concert.”
“Since its start in 2008, SoundCloud has been a digital space for diverse music cultures to flourish, far beyond the influence of mainstream label trends. For lesser-known artists, it has been a place where you can attract the attention of fans and the record industry without having to work the usual channels. There is now a huge roster of successful artists who first emerged on SoundCloud, including the R.&B. singer Kehlani, the electronic musician Ta-Ha, the pop musician Dylan Brady and the rapper Lil Yachty, to name just a few.”
When he was a young man in Macon, Georgia, “it was clear he had a good ear and the passion, but for a while, the furthest point he imagined going in his musical career was becoming a band director. And then his worldview opened up” – thanks to Victor Yampolsky at Northwestern University. “Now two years into his role as associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, he’s come a long way from leading a convocation of action figures.”
Things seemed amicable enough at Gilbert’s farewell concerts at Geffen Hall and in the New York City parks. But at a 70th anniversary concert for the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara last week, reports Mark Swed,”there was no acknowledgment of its music director from the orchestra during the bows – no tapping of bows on stands, practically no glances from the players at the conductor. … When [L.A.] Master Chorale Music Director Grant Gershon hugged Gilbert the stage suddenly became radiant, despite the orchestra musicians pointedly looking the other way.”
The program, “which is to begin this coming season, will make the orchestra and the Kimmel [Center] even more organcentric: commissioning new works; programming additional organ concertos and orchestral works that weave organ in and out of the overall texture; holding community concerts, recitals, and postlude concerts; and providing real-time program notes that explain the way the organ works.”
“Whether businesses or researchers, these teams are trying to answer the same question: can machines create music, using AI technologies like neural networks to be trained up on a catalogue of human-made music before producing their own? But these companies’ work poses another question too: if machines can create music, what does that mean for professional human musicians?”
“His players often sound as terrified as they must have been: it is worth going to YouTube and listening to a few of the maestro’s rehearsals, which still horrify in their sound and fury, the range of his imprecations, the breaking of his batons and hurling of his score. As Lotte Lehmann said, ‘If we weren’t good, this certainly wasn’t going to make us any better.’”
Three weeks ago, Congress proposed a global, centralized music database to ensure that artists get paid on every streaming platform. Then, performance rights organizations (PROs) ASCAP and BMI announced that they had started work on a joint authoritative music database one year ago. Now, the RIAA and the NMPA have started discussions on a possible shared music rights database.
“In the 1960s, an average hit song on the Billboard Top 10 had an average of 1.87 writers and 1.68 publishers each year. Songwriting duos were common, and creativity a simpler endeavor. Now, popular mainstream songs have (on average) at least four writers and six publishers each. And that, ladies and gentlemen, underscores the challenge that the music industry faces in licensing and rights administration.”
Arguments about whether and when music in church was uplifting or distracting go back to at least St. Augustine and St. Jerome – but, as Alexander Lee finds out, various Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist sages and authorities have hashed out similar disputes and come up with widely varying answers. (Do we take it Hindus and Confucians saw no such dilemmas?)
“In reality, Cio-Cio San is a sex-trafficked 15-year-old Japanese teenager,” says Seattle Opera’s (Japanese-American) media-relations manager. “Why are we so comfortable with that, to the point of romanticizing it and telling the story over and over?” The company is, and has been, examining that question; Jason Victor Serinus reports on how.
“Classical hipsters don’t try to be hip. They just are. Attempted hipsterism is often geared towards reaching the younger audience member. There have been some notable successes, but not in the numbers we hoped to achieve. Audiences young and “old” recognize a strong, committed performance of the music we create on stage. Let’s always start there.”
In Philadelphia, they’re trying: after-school programs like Play On, Philly! are now well-established, and both local musical institutions like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mann Center and major foundations are directing energy and money specifically to music and arts education. Yet, Peter Dobrin reminds us, there are dangers to look out for.