Falling Through the Cracks, Part 2

Mark Shenton, a commentator for the British entertainment publication The Stage, picked up my blog post of July 22 ("Falling Through the Cracks") about the ways in which arts journalists are having to eke out their living in an increasingly unstable media environment -- and ran with it.His intelligently-written piece covers such ground as the difficulties that PR people face trying to weed out the legitimate arts writers from the opportunists in the blogging world and the impact of the increasingly non-remunerated nature of the critic's … [Read more...]

The Unsung Heroes of Opera

It's true that opera choruses can sometimes be godawful - a ramshackle group of amateurs in ill-fitting costumes marauding around the stage attempting to upstage the principles and regularly missing cues.But in many cases, they really are the unsung heroes of opera productions and should get greater recognition. Here's why:1. They spend their lives sitting around back stage waiting -- sometimes for hours -- to go on for a few minutes.2. They work very hard for relatively little pay.3. They don't get any of the glory.4. Their presence on stage … [Read more...]

Film Festival Opening Nights – Do’s and Dont’s

I was at the Jewish Film Festival's opening night over the weekend. The event prompted me to think about a few ways to make the event a night to remember versus one that is instantly forgettable. Here are my thoughts:1. Start with a film that possesses a strong storyline and characters. It should ensnare the mind and the heart in equal part. Or if it can only do one of these things, the heart should come first. Sounds obvious, I know. But a heady film or something too experimental won't jibe with the opening night crowd, which most likely has a … [Read more...]

Sound Sadhana

It's not surprising to hear that major recording labels like Decca think they can make a lot of money from the chant music of cloistered nuns, as the CBA story about the Benedictine nuns of the Abbaye de Notre Dame de l'Annonciation near Avignon, France, reports.But listening to chant, as relaxing as it might be for the listener, doesn't hold a candle to actually singing the chants in terms of the way in which the music affects the singer's body and mind.I experienced this first hand yesterday evening while attending a "sound sadhana" session … [Read more...]


The Wall Street Journal just ran a Q&A with Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony. Quite a lot of blather in the article, but the one thing that stood out for me was Thomas' remark about using skype:WSJ: Are you incorporating technology in your work here?Mr. Thomas: I use Internet technology a lot. I regularly rehearse with people on Skype. Usually it's the first time they've ever done it, but I have my computer right over my piano keyboard, and we work out whatever we need to work out.Skype has arguably … [Read more...]

Falling Through the Cracks

Since the media industry is what optimists call "going through a period of transition" and pessimists call "in the shitter," arts journalists have increasingly found themselves losing their jobs, and, whether on staff or freelance, working harder for less money. Nothing about this is new and it seems unlikely as far as I can tell, that things will change much for the next five to ten years.But what I've come to realize lately is that under these circumstances, arts journalists are starting to look more and more like artists in terms of the … [Read more...]

Multiple Campuses

Someone from an art museum in San Francisco contacted me about doing a story about the fact that the museum has two campuses. Perhaps I'm missing something but multi-campus arts organizations don't seem like a particularly unique thing. I can think of several such institutions in the Bay Area right off the top of my head -- The Fine Arts Museums (the de Young museum and the Legion of Honor), Intersection for the Arts (which now has a new wing in downtown San Francisco in addition to its home-base in the Mission ) and The Marsh (which has a … [Read more...]

A Day of Film Music

Saturday was a big day of film music for me. I spent the daytime hours preparing for and moderating a panel for the Silent Film Festival all about the composition and performance of silent movie scores. And in the evening, I went to Davies Symphony Hall to hear the San Francisco Symphony under assistant conductor Donato Cabrera perform Bernard Herrmann's score for the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock Movie Psycho. The movie was screened at the same time above the orchestra's heads.Some brief observations, first about the Psycho performance and … [Read more...]

Programmers and Talking

I have a great deal of admiration for Alan So (pictured), the energetic artistic director / programmer behind the eclectic San Francisco Soundwave festival. Over the course of two months in the summer, So brings together remarkable sound and visual artists in intriguing settings and integrates their work with thoughtful themes.A concert I attended at The Lab in San Francisco's Mission district on Friday night, for instance, epitomizes So's approach to creating meaningful audience experiences. Friday night's program brought together three … [Read more...]

Tweeting At the Theatre

Since SF Playhouse allowed a few audience members sitting in a specially-designated area of the theatre to send Twitter messages during last Tuesday evening's performance of The Fantasticks, an interesting debate about whether this activity should be allowed in the theatre or not has been going on on the Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Facebook page.It seems that opinions are wildly divided on the subject. The detractors say that people should have their attention on the stage at all times and tweeting can wait till the intermission or after the … [Read more...]

A Night On The Town

I love those spiraling evenings where you hop from one amazing arts event to another. Last night was epic. A brief summary:1. Bach & Friends: San Francisco Classical Voice hosted the west coast premiere of a new documentary about the great Baroque composer produced and directed by Michael Lawrence at the Sundance Kabuki cinema. The often compelling film features interviews with such leading lights from various musical genres as Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Bela Fleck, Bobby McFerrin, Chris Theil and the Emerson Quartet. The film is dotted with … [Read more...]

Identity and Innovation in Theatre

This morning, I was interviewed by a couple of marketing consultants as part of a project aimed at helping them pull together a branding and messaging strategy for a local performing arts organization.The interview, which lasted about 40 minutes, brought up a couple of interesting areas of inquiry, namely:1. How important is it for a performing arts organization to have a strong identity? On the face of it, you'd think this absolutely key -- especially in terms of branding. That in all my years of experiencing arts events under the auspices of … [Read more...]