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November 30, 2003

Insta-Recording - The Ultimate Concert Souvenir Fans record concerts. How to make them quit? Offer better instant recodings and sell them. "Those enthralled by a performance will seek mementos and there are few more appealing than a recording of the event, an audible aide de memoire. The way to persuade them to leave their Minidiscs at home and to shun those who peddle noisy, distorted, unbalanced piracies is to offer them that memento as they leave — under terms which reward not only the audience but the artists and the company." San Francisco Classical Voice 11/026/03

Venice's La Fenice Finally To Reopen After years of delay La Fenice, the famous Venetian opera house destroyed by fire in 1996, reopens next month after a seven-year multi-million-euro restoration. Andante (AFP) 11/28/03

Hip-hop As A Brand Hip-hop is big business, and full of branding opportunities. "It's a pop culture phenomenon because it's receptive to brands as opposed to other music genres which are diluted when commercial interests come in. With hip hop, it's almost the reverse - they feed one another." The Observer (UK) 11/30/03

Everything Tchaikovsky "Over the next month, the Kennedy Center will present an ambitious Tchaikovsky Festival as part of a celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg. Among the participants will be the Kirov Opera, Ballet and Orchestra, straight from Russia, under the direction of Valery Gergiev; the Suzanne Farrell Ballet; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; pianist Yefim Bronfman; violinist Gil Shaham; the Vermeer Quartet; and the National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Leonard Slatkin and Emil de Cou." Washington Post 11/30/03

Better CD's, Better Sound If regular CD's aren't selling so well now, how about super enhanced sound CD's? "Introduced four years ago, SACD boasts superior fidelity and surround-sound capability when played on an SACD player. Though the format is not widely established, a renewed interest in rock classics and a considerable uptick in SACD sales have given its supporters reason to be optimistic." Chicago Tribune 11/30/03

Mandela's Concert Against AIDS Nelson Mandela was host to a five-hour pop concert in Cape Town in a benefit to fight AIDS. "Mr Mandela, 85, who watched the show alongside his wife Graca Machel and US TV presenter Oprah Winfrey, has said Aids is a bigger challenge than apartheid. In South Africa there are more people living with HIV/Aids than anywhere else in the world, and globally the number of those infected is now more than 42 million." BBC 11/30/03

November 29, 2003

Homeless Stage Opera An opera production produced by homeless people has been staged in Oxford. ""The charity behind the project, Streetwise Opera, helped train volunteers to sing, perform and develop theatre skills. Professional opera singers joined them for last night's production at New College, which was sold out. The show's director, Matthew Peacock, said he hoped the music boosted the confidence of the homeless people involved and would help them in life." BBC 11/29/03

November 28, 2003

NY Phil: Looking To Future Talent David Robertson conducts the New York Philharmonic. So? There is a sense that younger conductors are being given chances to work with the orchestra with an eye to the future. "To the credit of the current music director, Lorin Maazel, the orchestra has done a much better job of introducing promising younger conductors — and potential successors — to its podium, musicians like Robert Spano and Alan Gilbert, as well as Osmo Vanska and Gianandrea Noseda, who made their debuts recently." The New York Times 11/28/03

Harlem Boys Choir In Trouble The famed Boys Choir of Harlem has declared a financial emergency after corporate and individual donations have fallen dramatically. "Everybody thinks we must be rich. Well, we're not. This is the worst time period in our 35-year history." New York Daily News 11/28/03

Mao's Greatest Hits For the 110th anniversary of Mao Zedong's birth, Chinese officials are releasing an album of great songs by the former Communist leader. The songs have been re-recorded, one even remade as a rap. "Ten years ago, the album 'A Red Sun' brought a crimson tide of songs rushing through our music industry. This year ... the China Record Company has finished the production of the powerfully red 'Mao Zedong and us'." BBC 11/28/03

November 27, 2003

Record Album Sales (But Lower Revenues) Better music in the past year helped sell 232 million albums last year, a record amount. But "heavy discounting by stores has seen the total value of music sales drop 4.6%, according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Singles sales fell 31% in the 12 months up to September, the BPI said." BBC 11/27/03

Lloyd Webber To Buy Warner Chappell? Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is apparently going to try to buy Warner Chappell, the music publishing business of Time Warner. The company is valued at about $1 billion. "Andrew is seriously interested. He is confident he can get a consortium together."
BBC 11/27/03

November 26, 2003

Kroc Leaves San Diego Opera $10 Million In addition to giving National Public Radio $200 million, Joan Kroc has left the San Diego Opera $10 million in her will. "In appreciation of the bequest, the San Diego Opera will dedicate its 2005 40th anniversary season to Kroc. Thereafter, one of the five operas scheduled each season will be dedicated in memory of Kroc." San Diego Union-Tribune 11/26/03

Note To Schubert Guardians: Get Over It! The Scubert purists didn't like Lang Lang's recent Carnegie performance. But Charles Michener was thrilled: "Unlike the droves of super-trained but faceless young graduates—many of them of Asian parentage—who pour out of our conservatories, Lang Lang isn’t afraid to show us exactly who he is. Like Liszt, Paderewski and Horowitz, to name a few of his most adored predecessors, he comes to us not just as a virtuoso, but as a showman. If he was overdoing it the other night in front of the German crew who were filming the concert, I say God bless him. Another Liberace I can do without—but right now, classical music can use all the sensational showmanship it can get." New York Observer 11/26/03

World Idol - Will It All Sound American? There is to be a "World Idol" music competition. One wonders what it will be like though, based on the "Australian Idol" experience. The "biggest problem with Australian Idol: all those talented young people performing as if they were country and western singers straight off a Qantas jet from Nashville. Even Beatles songs were Americanised. Sacrilege! In the context of the debate over the proposed free-trade agreement with the US, in which Australia may have to sacrifice its right to set local content quotas on TV for such things as Australian drama, it really grated." The Age (Melbourne) 11/26/03

Cutting The Music In Australia The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is laying off staff and will shortly be dismissing five members of the orchestra itself, in a desperate effort to get its books in balance. The ASO's problems are not unfamiliar to other Australian orchestras: since orchestras went to a system of private funding, known as "corporatisation," nearly every orchestra involved has struggled financially. Adelaide Advertiser 11/26/03

November 25, 2003

Why EMI Shouldn't Feel Jilted EMI had wanted to merger with Warner. But it shouldn't feel too bad the deal won't happen. "The truth is that Warner is being bought by a music industry wannabe responsible for one of the worst deals of the 1990s - the sale of Seagram, the Bronfman family's drinks and entertainment firm, to Jean-Marie Messier's Vivendi." The Guardian (UK) 11/25/03

Big Instruments Down Some of the bigger orchestral instruments are so unpopular with young Britons, that there's a big shortage of players opening up. "It seems that the tuba, bassoon, double bass and trombone are too ugly and expensive for a new generation of teenagers who, if they like classical music at all, prefer the charms of the flute and clarinet. The result, according to the some of the country's leading instrumentalists, is that Britain's bass line is in danger of fading out." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/03

Older Music Fans Dominate "At a time when the 'MP3 generation' is getting its tracks for free from the internet, fortysomething music fans are beginning to dominate sales. According to current trends, the over-40s will account for more than 50 per cent of album sales in Britain within five years." London Evening Standard 11/25/03

Killing Off Underground Music The sounds of silence will soon reign supreme in Boston's subway tunnels and station stops. Well, except for the screeching trains and squawking public address systems, of course. The city has banned street musicians from using amplification or playing electronic keyboards or brass instruments on Boston's underground platforms. "The rules are sure to transform Boston's true underground music scene, which up to this point has been one of the nation's least regulated. In New York and Atlanta, musicians must audition and sign up for slots; Toronto singers pay a $114 fee; in London, musicians need licenses to croon to commuters 'minding the gap.' And in Washington, D.C., they're banned altogether." The Christian Science Monitor 11/25/03

Met Opera To Take A Midwinter Nap Ticket sales at the Metropolitan Opera haven't been great in recent years during the weeks following the Christmas and New Year's holidays. So the Met has announced that it will be taking a two-week break in the middle of its season, beginning in January 2004. "This will be the first midseason break since the Met began in 1883," and it may not be the only change the company makes to its schedule. Executive director Joseph Volpe says that the Met is also considering replacing its Monday night performances with Sunday matinees. Newsday (AP) 11/24/03

Montreal Concert Hall In Jeopardy For years, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has been begging for a concert hall of its own, with the sort of acoustics that turn a good orchestra into a great one. Last year, the MSO finally got its wish, when the provincial government agreed to fund a $300 million complex including a concert hall and music conservatory. But the promise of funding was made by the Parti Quebecois, which is no longer in power, and this week, the ruling Liberals announced that the price tag for the MSO project is just too high, and that it plans to seek private donations to bolster government funds. Opposition leaders are voicing concern about the dangerous precedent that could be set by moving towards an American-style system of private arts funding. CBC Arts Report 11/24/03

November 24, 2003

Boosey And Hawkes Sold "Music publishers Boosey and Hawkes, home to the estates of Stravinsky, Britten, Strauss, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov, is to be bought by the venture capitalists HgCapital - meaning it will remain independent, at least for now." The Guardian (UK) 11/25/03

Symphony-Sur-Jumbotron Pop concerts have employed jumbo video screens at performances for years. This year the Vancouver Symphony is trying them out - "four remote-controlled video cameras strategically positioned in the hall, used to "simulcast" performances on screens measuring 2.2 by 2.7 metres, to the left and right of the stage." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/24/03

November 23, 2003

Why European Conductors Prefer European Orchestras Josh Kosman ponders why conductors such as Simon Rattle prefer to lead European orchestras than American bands. "The crucial distinction is that American audiences still need to be sold - constantly, repeatedly, and with tireless effectiveness - on the very premise of orchestral music. No conductor of an American orchestra, not even in the bastions of old-world Europhilia along the East Coast, can ever entirely take for granted the importance of what he's doing. For many music directors, especially the Europeans who still constitute nearly the entire conductorial population of the United States, that uncertainty can rankle." San Francisco Chronicle 11/23/03

Sing-along Software New software can make anyone sound like a (good) singer. "The software, which is due to be released to consumers in January, allows users to cast their own (or anyone else's) songs in a disembodied but exceedingly life-like concert-quality voice. Just as a synthesizer might be programmed to play a series of notes like a violin one time and then like a tuba the next, a computer equipped with Vocaloid will be able to "sing" whatever combination of notes and words a user feeds it. The first generation of the software will be available for $200. But its arrival raises the prospect of a time when anyone with a laptop will be able to repurpose any singer's voice or even bring long-gone virtuosos back to life." The New York Times 11/23/03

A Glass Harmonica Debut For the first time, a glass harmonica is being played as part of a performance at Covent Garden. "Even in Donizetti's day, glass harmonica players were so scarce, and the original performer was looking for such an outrageous fee, that by the second production the composer ditched him and re-scored it for a flute." The Guardian (UK) 11/24/03

Is The Cello The Next Big Pop Instrument? The cello is showing up a lot more in popular music. "Unlike guitar or drums, the cello in popular music is definitely a visitor from another place, and comes wrapped in a cloak of romance and serious purpose."
The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/22/03

The Paradox Of Emotive Performance You would think that a performer who is truly moved by the music s/he is playing would be exactly the kind of performer an audience would want most to hear. But in reality, emotional connections can be both a blessing and a curse for performers, who must battle "trembling limbs, nerves, [and] memory problems. All these can intrude between the musician and the music, and between the music and the listener. Some of the most outwardly emotional music requires enormous control." The Guardian (UK) 11/22/03

Life As An Orchestral Cog Few regular concertgoers would likely be able to recognize more than a few members of their home orchestra. After all, there are nearly 100 musicians on stage for most orchestral works, and apart from the concertmaster and a few select wind and brass principals, most of the musicians seem fairly anonymous. But being a section musician in a major orchestra is hardly a low-pressure job. "Section players such as violinists or cellists play the same music everyone else in their section plays. Regardless of their individual approaches to their instrument, they are required to perform as an ensemble, not as 10 or 20 individuals. They are essentially willing cogs in a big music machine." Chicago Tribune 11/23/03

  • The World's Toughest Job Interview So what's it like to audition for a job with one of the world's great symphony orchestras? In a word, terrifying. The process involves multiple rounds of competition, with candidates performing the most difficult excerpts of the orchestral repertoire one after another, before a committee hidden behind a screen. One slip-up, one wrong note, one skipping bowstroke, and the months of preparation and hundreds of dollars in travel expenses can all be for nought. Chicago Tribune 11/23/03

When Personal Taste Trumps Objectivity Richard Dyer is intrigued by John Rockwell's recent analysis of two prominent pianists with distinctive styles, one of whom Rockwell adores, and the other of whom drives him up the wall. "Many of the greatest artists overturn convention and provoke controversy; most of us would rather hear a risk-taker than someone who's playing it safe." Still, the unique qualities that make a performer worth hearing are the same ones that will cause many members of a given audience to turn up their noses at a performance that sounds substantially different from what they're used to hearing. Dyer: "All of us have artists whose work we enjoy; all of us have encountered performers who fail to leave us begging for more. But every listener has to be open to surprise." Boston Globe 11/23/03

Progress In Edmonton Eighteen months ago, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was in serious trouble, running deficits it couldn't afford, and facing a revolt from its own musicians after the board dismissed music director Grzegorz Nowak. Since then, the ESO has brought its finances under control, added several orchestra players to its board, and this week, the musicians ratified an extension of their current contract, which will keep the orchestra on a slow but steady path to recovery. Edmonton Journal 11/22/03

San Antonio: Turnover at the Top "After two years at the helm of the financially troubled San Antonio Symphony, Executive Director Steven Brosvik is stepping down. Brosvik, 38, pledged to enhance the symphony's image and boost fund raising when he took the job in March 2001 and began work that summer. But many potential donors didn't open their pocketbooks during Brosvik's tenure. This year, the orchestra cut its season short and declared bankruptcy." There is speculation that Brosvik's resignation may have been part of a quid pro quo for the SAS's musicians, who recently signed a contract which officially cancelled the 2003-04 season and gutted their future salaries and benefits. San Antonio Express-News 11/22/03

Making A Place For French Opera French operas are not like other operas. Where German and Italian operas feature endless melodrama and tragic heros who die unspeakable deaths, French composers have traditionally preferred lighter plots and happier endings. (Ambroise Thomas even composed an operatic Hamlet in which the title character survives to become King of Denmark.) So it's no surprise that North American companies, steeped in the Italian and Germanic traditions, have traditionally avoided French opera. But in Quebec, where the two leading opera companies in the province are led by the same man, French conductor Bernard Labadie, a distinctly French flavor is beginning to take hold. Toronto Star 11/22/03

The Commissioning Club As writers, musicians, and pundits around the world bemoan the lack of public appreciation for new music, five couples in Minnesota are doing something about it. For 13 years, each couple has contributed $2000 per year to a pool of money which is eventually used to commission a carefully selected composer to write a specific piece of music. The rights to the piece revert to the composer immediately following the first performance, but the club members continue to seek new performance opportunities for "their" composers. Needless to say, composers are thrilled with the club. Minnesota Public Radio 11/21/03

November 21, 2003

Milwaukee Symphony - Deeper In The Red Earlier this year the Milwaukee Symphony predicted it would have a $2.5 million deficit. Instead, the orchestra finished $874,000 in the red. "The gap closed because musicians gave back 21/2 weeks of work and pay, several office staff positions were eliminated, other staffers agreed to wage cuts and the symphony negotiated fee cuts with many guest artists. The symphony's accumulated debt now stands at $5 million, $1.37 million of it run up in the last two seasons." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 11/21/03

How Iraq's National Symphony Got Invited To Perform In The US "The 55 members of the Iraqi group will be joined by about 45 musicians from the National Symphony and they will perform as a single, joint orchestra. Iraqi conductor Mohammed Amin Ezzat and NSO conductor Leonard Slatkin will take turns leading the mixed group. Their Dec. 9 concert will include works by Beethoven and Bizet as well as two pieces of contemporary Iraqi music for a full symphony orchestra, augmented by six Kurdish folk instruments." Chicago Tribune 11/21/03

November 20, 2003

Hamburg's Pullback From Contemporary Music German conductor Ingo Metzmacher is quitting as music director of Hamburg, and the move is seen as a pulling away oif commitment to contemporary music. "Just as William Forsythe took Frankfurt to the cutting edge of dance, so Metzmacher turned Hamburg into one of the most musically progressive cities in Europe. He introduced avant-garde 20th-century works into his concert programmes and scrapped the traditional New Year's Eve performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in favour of a hugely successful series of concerts entitled Who's Afraid of 20th-Century Music? Under his control, the Opera developed an international reputation for its radical redefinition of opera as hard-hitting music theatre." The Guardian (UK) 11/21/03

An Acoustic Appraisal Of Disney Scott Cantrell writes that while Disney is good, Dallas' Meyerson Hall still sounds the best of the new American concert halls. "Most of the 19th- and early 20th-century concert halls regularly cited as best for symphonic music – the Musikverein in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Symphony Hall in Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York – are variations on a shoebox shape. Their acoustics tend to be described as 'warm' and 'rich,' but with ample clarity. 'Full-bodied' and 'spacious' weren't adjectives that came immediately to mind at the opening of Disney Hall. What wasn't there was the lower-midrange depth and visceral bass that you get in the great old halls." Dallas Morning News 11/14/03

The Formula For Selling Opera So promoter Raymond Gubbay is going to present opera in London's West End, and many are skeptical. But Gubbay has a formula, and the formula is a winner. "Hire a prestigious hall, get together a band of highly experienced musicians, give them music to play that they and the rest of the civilised world all know backwards, allot on that basis minimal rehearsal time, engage young, inexpensive soloists eager for the experience or desperate for the work, ditto conductor, dress the whole thing up with a fancy title (preferably printed in rampant italics to give it that classy look), and sit back and wait for Mr and Mrs Average from the Home Counties or suburban Averageville to buy their tickets in their droves. One can easily sneer at all of this, of course, but it works as far as the balance-sheet is concerned. Gubbay will not promote anything if he risks losing so much as a shirt-button. He’s a businessman, not an altruist." The Spectator 11/22/03

Video Games Helping To Sell Music "Video games are proving to be a good partner for a struggling industry eager to find new ways to appeal to young people who would rather pirate music off the Internet than pay for it. Million-selling games are boosting sales, launching musical careers, and persuading skittish record executives that not all technology is bad for business." Christian Science Monitor 11/21/03

Clear Channel To Offer Instant Recordings Of Live Concerts Clear Channel Communications, America's largest concert presenter is getting set to sell recordings of live concerts to the fans who just paid to see the concert as soon as the show is finished. "It is almost an impulse buy. You walk home with a memento of the concert. You had a great feeling coming out of it and, for $20, you can put it on again anytime you want." Christian Science Monitor 11/21/03

File-Swapping Bad! (Unless There's Money To Be Made...) "The recording industry, it seems, doesn't hate absolutely everything about illicit music downloading. Despite their legal blitzkrieg to stop online song-swapping, many music labels are benefiting from — and paying for — intelligence on the latest trends in Internet trading... One company, Beverly Hills-based BigChampagne, began mining such data from popular peer-to-peer networks in 2000 and has built a thriving business selling it to recording labels." Yahoo! News (AP) 11/17/03

No Solutions Yet In Houston Only a few months after a crippling strike in which the musicians of the Houston Symphony Orchestra called for the resignation of their orchestra president and much of the board, the HSO has announced that it ran a whopping $3.56 million deficit for the 2002-03 season. Slumping ticket sales and decreasing donations have a lot to do with the fiscal problem, but the HSO has also had to contend with the costs of severe flood damage to its concert hall in recent years. The orchestra acknowledges that the deficit is as large as it's ever been, but says that its long-range plan calls for surpluses by the 2005-06 season. Houston Chronicle 11/19/03

Giving The People What They Want "Record labels have long been accused of stealing musicians' copyrights as soon as the ink is dry on the contract. Now, one small independent label in Great Britain is doing the opposite: It's giving the rights to the artists -- and anyone else who wants to use the music, too. Loca Records wants to foster experimentation and freedom in music by building a stable of free music which can be shared, remixed and manipulated by anyone... The music is available for free in MP3 format, but the company sells its CDs and vinyl in retail stores throughout Europe." Wired 11/20/03

November 19, 2003

Scientists: Deep Frozen Trumpets Don't Sound Better There has been a theory among trumpet players that deep freezing their instruments improves the sound. But scientists report to the Acoustical Society of America meeting in Austin, Tex., that "scientific testing of cryogenically freezing 10 trumpets showed minimal differences when the instruments were thawed and played by six musicians." The New York Times 11/18/03

Video In The Concert Hall? Only If It's Really Good Video. There has been a recent slew of concerts in New York in which the musicians brought along a video component to complement their performance. But is the move to add multimedia to the staid old classical concert form really a positive step? Allan Kozinn isn't sure. "If there's no compelling reason to do it beyond simply doing something new — and if it isn't so thoroughly thought through that it becomes an organic part of the show... it can do more harm than good." The New York Times 11/19/03

Begging For Crumbs Opera San Jose is just one of the thousands of California arts groups hit hard by recent budget cuts, which slashed the state's per capita funding rate for the arts to the lowest of any state in the U.S. But the Silicon Valley-based opera company is scheduled to move into a new theater next year, and says it simply won't be able to make ends meet without more money from the city. The group's director "hopes the city will exempt the company from the new formula and instead give the opera a financial shot in the arm." The city has promised to consider the request. San Jose Mercury News 11/19/03

Good News/Bad News For Canadian Orchestras Canadian orchestras are slowly recovering from a dismal few years in which several orchestras folded or filed for bankruptcy, and nearly every orchestra ran at least one serious operating deficit. A new report says that, nationwide, orchestras posted a $1 million surplus this year, but also points out that massive structural deficits remain, and are not being paid down at a fast enough rate. Ticket sales are down, as well, with 39% fewer tickets to classical events sold last year than in the 1996-97 season. Unlike their American counterparts, however, Canadian orchestras have managed to increase both public and private subsidies over the last several years. Vancouver Sun 11/19/03

November 18, 2003

The Best Writing About Music? It's Online Writing about music in the mainstream press is in a bad way. So, Rob Young writes, the best music writers are now to be found webside - in blogs. "What they add up to is a fertile breeding ground for a new style of music writing - just when the trade needs it most. The ludic quality of music criticism merges with a serious approach to the subject rarely found in a mainstream that treats music as entertainment rather than art. Add encyclopaedic knowledge, genre-crossing frames of reference and a disregard for celebrity, and you have the key traits of the music blog." The Guardian (UK) 11/19/03

Dobrin: Rattle And Berlin Still Finding Themselves Though there wee other high-appeal concerts in Philadelphia Sunday, Peter Dobrin naturally went to hear Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. "What's more interesting at this point in the green relationship between orchestra and conductor - Rattle took his position a year ago - is that it's still not clear whether their respective strengths will add up to anything resembling synergy. Berlin is a perfection machine; Rattle is a supremely inspiring musician with a somewhat less than perfect baton technique. Someday this might be a great match. So far it's not, at least not consistently." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/18/03

Recording Co. Mergers = Less Choice With recent merger announcements, it looks like the five major recording companies could become three. "If American and European regulators approve both the Sony-BMG and EMI-Warner mergers, about 75 percent of global music sales would be controlled by three companies. For a typical music shopper, that could well mean fewer new acts (since artist development is so expensive), fewer independent stores (since business with large chains is more cost-efficient), and more major-label product on the racks of remaining stores (since they'd be able to strong-arm retailers the way the big snack and soda companies do with delis)." Village Voice 11/18/03

Can't Tell The Music Without A Program... So you've decided to take the plunge and buy and download some classical music from one of the hot new legal paysites. First you've got to find it, writes Greg Sandow: "As I rooted around, I came across all the Beethoven sonatas in the old and greatly respected Artur Schnabel performances. All of them! Ninety-nine cents per track. There's only one problem. What you get, when you look these up - and it's the same on all three services I've mentioned - is a track listing. As follows (transcribed verbatim): 1 The Complete Piano Sonatas, I. Allegro/ 2 The Complete Piano Sonatas, II. Adagio..." Sandow (AJBlogs) 11/17/03

Power Struggle In Moscow Concert Hall Moscow has a shiny new $200 million performing arts center - its first new concert hall in 100 years. "With the conductor and violinist Vladimir Spivakov as the center's president, a rich array of events has taken shape. Yet behind the glass and metal exterior, a power struggle as harsh as the confrontation between Kremlin prosecutors and the oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has unfolded, rooted in Spivakov's acrimonious departure as music director and principal conductor of the Russian National Orchestra last year." International Herald Tribune 11/18/03

Too Many Bad Songs - Is That The Problem? Music executives are prodding acts to limit the number of tracks on their CDs in a bid to raise fans' perceptions of the value of albums. 'There's been a tendency to overload CDs because the technology permits it. The final choice will always be the artist's, but I feel — and consumer research bears it out — that the public thinks albums have too much filler'." Los Angeles Times 11/18/03

November 17, 2003

Singing America Morten Lauridsen is one of the most performed composers in America. "Lauridsen's music is sung in churches and concert halls throughout America and increasingly in Europe. Most critical attention to contemporary art music focuses on premieres by renowned orchestras or avant-garde instrumental specialists such as the Kronos Quartet. Yet their audiences are dwarfed by the number of Americans who listen to and perform choral music. More than 28 million Americans sing in a quarter-million choirs, most of them in churches but also in school and college ensembles--and their directors are hungry for new and challenging works that hone their singers' skills, yet remain accessible to mass audiences." OpinionJournal 11/18/03

World's Biggest Retailer To Launch Online Music Store Wal-Mart is planning to launch an online music store. "It is unclear what Wal-Mart's pricing strategy will be for music downloads. Prices on existing services range from 79 cents to 99 cents per song. But Wal-Mart, which accounts for roughly 20 percent of U.S. music sales, typically sells music at a loss to attract customers to its stores." New York Post 11/17/03

November 16, 2003

Hogwood: Opera Amputees - Is It Really Fair? Christopher Hogwood laments the casual way opera directors edit and disfigure operas. "The great liberties taken in opera productions today are often laughable and ludicrous: think of Brünnhilde with her head in a paper bag or cleaning her teeth while Siegfried is declaiming his love, or of the chorus in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera sitting on toilets. But such silliness is, strictly speaking, cosmetic: close your eyes and the music proceeds as intended, and eventually she removes the paper bag and they pull up their trousers. But amputate an aria, remove a recitative, reallocate an interval and, even with eyes closed, the structure wobbles fatally." The Guardian (UK) 11/16/03

Iraq Symphony's New Home Iraq's National Symphony moves into a new home. "The 63-member orchestra met Friday with U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer III, who welcomed the musicians to their new practice space at the Baghdad Convention Center. The building is inside Baghdad's 'Green Zone,' an area guarded by U.S. troops and surrounded by concrete walls, rolls of razor wire and sandbag bunkers." Baltimore Sun (AP) 11/16/03

One Of The UK's Largest-Ever Private Gifts To The Arts... A London businessman is giving £20 million to be split between the Royal Opera House and the Wales Millennium Centre and form a partnership between the two. It is one of the largest single private donations ever made to the performing arts in the UK. "The gift comes with strings: as well as cooperating with one another, both will be expected to work with opera and ballet companies in South Africa" The Guardian (UK) 11/16/03

Rattle + Berlin In America A season after he took over as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle is bringing the orchestra to America. "Today's Berlin, Rattle has found, is a lively, slightly dangerous place in which to live. The Russian Mafia, a holdover from the Cold War era, is still in evidence in this gateway to the East. In a strange way the BPO mirrors this rough-and-tumble society, he says. 'They tend to hire musicians that other orchestras reject as being too extreme - people who are chamber musicians rather than orchestra musicians. One of them said to me, `Simon, we're sick of experience. What we want is talent.' However, because the Berlin Philharmonic of 2003 is more heterogeneous in its membership than ever before in its 121-year history does not mean it has lost its distinctive character." Chicago Tribune 11/16/03

  • Rattle Takes Carnegie Anthony Tommasini reports that Simon Rattle's first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall was a big success. "Judging by the smiles on the faces of the cellists as they plucked some pizzicato bass line in the slow movement, the way the violinists kept rising off their chairs as they dug into the rustic theme of the scherzo and the overall energy of the playing, it's clear that the Berlin Philharmonic musicians are excited by their new conductor. So were the audiences at Carnegie Hall." The New York Times 11/17/03

November 15, 2003

Kennedy Center's Opera House Clean-up After a $20 million renovation, the Kennedy Center Opera House is about to reopen. "The Washington Opera will resume performances there in the spring. In a typical year, the Opera House has 225 performances, attended by a total of 500,000 people. The renovations included a top-to-bottom cleaning, from the sprawling Austrian chandelier to the expanded orchestra pit. New features include a maple floor on the orchestra level. The red seats have been redone throughout the hall, along with cherry trim and arm rests." Washington Post 11/16/03

Year Of The Woman Singer Women singers seem to be dominating World Music this year. "Not all of them are young, but their average age must be about 30. Ten years ago, the idea of a compilation of women's music would have smacked of political correctness – now it's simply what's happening. It is of course a truism that pictures of attractive young women sell newspapers, CDs, books and films better than just about anything else. So, are Western record companies simply choosing the acts that are most marketable? Or does the phenomenon of the young world diva reflect deeper global upheavals? And what, if anything, does this sudden upsurge in female creativity add up to musically?" The Telegraph (UK) 11/15/03

At Home With Pinchas Zukerman It's been five years since Pinchas Zukerman took over as music director of Ottawa's National Arts Center Orchestra. "Whatever the specific contributions of each of the current administrators, the National Arts Center Orchestra seems to be thriving, and this at a time when many Canadian orchestras are suffering much the same economic woes as their American counterparts. True, it operates on a relatively small scale. With 50 permanent members, it is about half the size of the largest North American orchestras." The New York Times 11/16/03

Denver Post Pop Critic Resigns For "Using Language" Of Another Denver Post pop music critic G. Brown resigned from the paper Friday after editors discovered he had "used language" lifted from other reviews of a Simon and Garfu8nkle concert without attribution. "Post editors learned of the matter last week when a reader contacted the newspaper and pointed out similarities between language in Brown's Oct. 26 preview of a Simon and Garfunkel concert and phrases in an article that had appeared earlier on a website." Denver Post 11/15/03

November 14, 2003

Music In Black And White Brita Brundage wonders about the complexion of Hartford's music scene: "I've noticed that groups playing traditionally black music forms in the area - be it jazz, funk, blues, Latin, even reggae and hip-hop - are made up almost entirely of white musicians. While there's nothing inherently wrong with white musicians playing music of any style, the question of legitimacy has started to gnaw at my ability to appreciate the music." Hartford Courant 11/14/03

CD Price Cuts = Mass Uncertainty As some music companies lower CD prices, everyone from artists to record store owners are wondering what the effect of the cuts will be. With profit margins down, for instance, will small indie record stores offer esoterica that stays around for a long time? And the recording companies... who knows what they'll even look like six months from now? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/14/03

November 13, 2003

Classical Music As Racist Institution Charlotte Higgins is unequivocal: Classical music is institutionally racist. The extent to which it is dominated by white faces - audiences, performers, administrators and critics alike - is overwhelming. Black taxpayers may be paying their share of the bill for an important tranche of Britain's cultural life, but few are either participating in it or enjoying it. British theatre may be witnessing a flowering of extraordinary black acting and writing talent, but classical music remains determinedly white.
This lack of participation, however, does not reflect lack of appetite."
The Guardian (UK) 11/14/03

Bye-Bye CD's? "The future of the album - both in its physical form and as a grouping of related songs - is being pondered by everyone from bands who refuse to provide their music to online services to technology analysts, who predict that the CD will become passé within the next five years. It's a pressing concern, given the decline of record sales since 2000 and the popularity of downloading singles by a public tired of paying $15 for an album with one hit and lots of padding." Christian Science Monitor 11/14/03

Baltimore Symphony Prez To Step Down John Gidwitz, president of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 1984, has announced that he will step down from the position at the end of the current season. During his tenure with the BSO, Gidwitz (along with music director David Zinman,) was credited with building the orchestra's reputation from that of a small, regional ensemble to one of America's top orchestras. Baltimore Sun 11/13/03

New Composers' Prize Created In Evanston Suburban Chicago-based Northwestern University has established a new $100,000 prize for composers, instantly making it one of the most lucrative awards in the industry. "The winner of the biennial Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Musical Composition, one of the world's largest awards for composers, will also be given a four-week residency at the School of Music and a performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in addition to the cash prize." The Daily Northwestern 11/13/03

November 12, 2003

Mozart Mass Reconstructed A lost setting of a mass Mozart wrote for his wedding, has been reconstructed and will be performed for the first time since the ceremony. "Passages plundered for later works, after Mozart decided not to finish the piece, have been re-assembled and a final section written. The jigsaw puzzle has taken two years of research and composition, using records of Mozart's work." The Guardian (UK) 11/13/03

Culshaw: The Real Problem With Jazz? Peter Culshaw thinks he knows: "The real problem seems to me the disappearance of spontaneity and fun from the world of jazz. Marsalis's attempt to turn jazz into America's classical music often produces work that is respectable and bourgeois to the point of dullness. Yet take a look at the greats of jazz history, from Fats Waller to Billie Holliday and Miles himself, and you will nearly always find a sleazy undercurrent of sex and drugs." The Telegraph (UK) 11/12/03

A Productive Use For File-Sharing While music fans and the recording industry continue to bicker and sue each other over the legality of file-swapping, America's top non-classical music school is working to advance the idea that there is a place for the peer-to-peer network, and it doesn't have to have anything to do with illegal downloads. "The Berklee Shares program at the Berklee College of Music offers 80 different online lessons for download -- and sharing -- on topics like writing music, producing, engineering, remixing and performing... Anyone can use and trade the material provided she or he agrees to the terms set by the school: Users may not alter or sell the material, and must credit the original source." Wired 11/12/03

One Strad Sells, One Doesn't The Stradivarius violin which was up for auction at Sotheby's in London this week has sold for nearly $1.3 million, but the Stradivarius cello which was also on the block failed to draw a high enough bid, and went unsold. Another Strad violin had failed to sell at another London auction earlier in the week. No word on who, exactly, purchased the fiddle that did sell. BBC 11/11/03

  • Previously: Two Strads For Sale Two Stradivarius instruments, a violin valued at $1.3 million and a cello estimated to be worth over $800,000, hit the auction block this week in London. As usual, there is little chance that either instrument will be purchased directly by anyone who can play them, as most of the world's high-end instruments are now bought and sold by collectors, who may choose to lend them out to performers, or not. Earlier this week, another million-dollar Strad violin failed to sell at auction when no one met the asking price. BBC 11/11/03
November 11, 2003

Are Thug Feuds Killing Hip-Hop? Renee Graham has had about enough of the ongoing lyrical battle between rappers Ja Rule and 50 Cent, and she's also begun to wonder whether the hip-hop community really took notice of the violent deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. seven years ago. "This was a cautionary tale written in blood to rappers, their fans, and the media that helped stoke the so-called East Coast-West Coast rap war. Less than a decade on, it's as if no lessons have been learned from the pointless deaths of two of the most influential artists in the history of rap music." Boston Globe 11/11/03

Two Strads For Sale Two Stradivarius instruments, a violin valued at $1.3 million and a cello estimated to be worth over $800,000, hit the auction block this week in London. As usual, there is little chance that either instrument will be purchased directly by anyone who can play them, as most of the world's high-end instruments are now bought and sold by collectors, who may choose to lend them out to performers, or not. Earlier this week, another million-dollar Strad violin failed to sell at auction when no one met the asking price. BBC 11/11/03

November 10, 2003

Scottish Opera In Long-Term Danger Scottish Opera's financial crisis is so profound and longterm that the company is being damaged. "With a key board meeting looming early next month, Scottish Opera is reported to be £3 million or more in debt. The Scottish Executive is reported to have turned down a request for more funding on top of a £7.5 million annual Scottish Arts Council grant, while officials say they want a long-term solution to the opera’s woes." The Scotsman 11/11/03

Director Moons Booing Audience (Now He Pays The Price) When a Rio audience booed Gerald Thomas' reworking of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," he went up on stage and dropped his pants, mooning the crowd. "Now Mr. Thomas, the eternal enfant terrible of Brazilian theater, is paying the price. Acting on a complaint filed by the local chief of police, prosecutors have charged him with public indecency, and on Nov. 11 he is scheduled to appear before a judge who will decide whether there are grounds to proceed with the case." The New York Times 11/11/03

Rock Music And The Hungarian Revolution "Rock music played lead in giving Hungarian baby boomers the resolve to bring down their communist state, says one of those reformers who today is a government official." My Way News (AP) 11/09/03

Disney As Hard Rock Cafe? Alex Ross goes to Disney Hall: "Gehry’s building is enjoying a mammoth wave of publicity, the like of which has not been seen in classical parts since Lenny partied with the Panthers on Park Avenue. My first reaction was of slightly disappointed déjà vu; if more of these silver-winged creations touch down in cities around the world, they will begin to resemble quarter-of-a-billion-dollar Hard Rock Cafés." The New Yorker 11/10/03

Tough Anti-Copy Laws Come To UK European digital rights management comes to the UK. "While much of what home users do with their CDs, DVDs and videos could now be legally questionable, the directive is instead aimed at large-scale privacy outfits." BBC 11/10/03

A Music Mag For Adults Pretty much all music magazines are written for younger fans. But what about older adults? They still like music too. A new music magazine called Tracks hopes to reach that market. "Older consumers generally do not excite advertisers, and Tracks' first issue has little in the way of ads from companies that are not record labels. But older consumers, whether out of technological impairment or a habit of collecting, still actually buy music. So as the music industry has watched sales drop 30 percent over the last few years, these listeners - and readers - have a special, and growing, power in the music industry." The New York Times 11/10/03

November 9, 2003

Lang - Full Of Himself? The young pianist Lang Lang is being extravagantly touted as the future of classical music. "Far from being intimidated by the pressure, Mr. Lang seems to be high on his success. But as on other recent occasions, his playing suggested that success is going to his head. When he first gained attention in the United States in 1999 at 17 he seemed an unformed but musically intuitive pianist with a white-hot, brilliant technique and an exuberant personality. On Friday, though, for all its color, flair and energy, his playing was often incoherent, self-indulgent and slam-bang crass." The New York Times 11/10/03

The Berlin Phil's Philadelphia Drought Why hasn't the Berlin Philharmonic not performed in Philadelphia since 1955? Well, there's was that time that Ormandy snubbed Karajan, and... Philadelphia Inquirer 11/09/03

Pittsburgh In Rome The Pittsburgh Symphony will be the first US orchestra to perform at the Vatican. "The concert, featuring a performance of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, will recognise the interfaith efforts of Pope John Paul II, said the orchestra." BBC 11/09/03

When Familiarity Leads To Contempt It's not true that you can't play a song too much. "It's unclear when a tune crosses the line to become contemptibly over-familiar, but I always know the boundary has been crossed when I automatically start reaching for the radio dial or the remote control because it's coming on again. 'Oh, well. Another one retired.' It's never a great feeling when a song you once loved suddenly triggers indifference bordering on revulsion." Toronto Star` 11/09/03

Where's The "People" In The "People's Opera"? New York City Opera has been "aggressively lobbying to be named the flagship institution in the new cultural presence at ground zero. To its evident surprise, it has encountered resistance. As of this writing, no decision has been announced, but the downtown powers seem to want a greater diversity of artistic expression. City Opera represented that last flush of idealism in which the common man was to be bettered by high culture. What caused the erosion of that old sense of obligation, and why does our 'people's opera' no longer seem popular — or even welcome — at ground zero? The answer, not to be judgmental about it, is the rise of popular culture." The New York Times 11/09/03

McDonald's To Give Away A Billion Songs "In a dramatic move that gives a thumbs up to the music industry's efforts at creating legal alternatives to file sharing, McDonald's plans to give away up to 1 billion songs in a marketing campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter." The company will buy the tracks (at 99 center per) from iTunes. New York Post 11/07/03

iTunes As Apple Loss Leader That 99-cent price to download music from iTunes still seems a little high to some, especially since it costs nothing for the recording companies to produce it. But then, Apple's got to make some money too, right? Wrong. Apple CEO Steve Jobs says that all of that 99 cents goes back to the copyright holders - the recording companies, not artists. That makes iTunes a loss-leader. So how is Apple making money on the deal? Selling iPods... The Register 11/07/03

November 7, 2003

New Jersey Opera Festival Calls It Quits The well-regarded Opera Festival of New Jersey, a summer music fiestival, has announced it is closing because of financial pressures. "The festival, which was founded in Lawrenceville, N.J., 20 years ago and has been praised by critics as a highlight of the region's summer classical music season, has been troubled by debt since it moved to the McCarter Theater in Princeton five years ago. A spokesman said the festival ended its 2003 fiscal year just under $700,000 in debt." The New York Times 11/07/03

A Music Museum For Washington DC? Plans for a $200 million music museum to be built in Washington DC, were unveiled this week. "Supporters want a 155,000-square-foot museum included in the 10-acre redevelopment of the old D.C. Convention Center site six blocks east of the White House. The museum would contain three theaters, with 3,200, 750, and 250 seats for different types of performances. It would have 50,000 square feet of exhibit space for memorabilia and artifacts, many contributed by the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress." New Jersey Online (AP) 11/07/03

November 6, 2003

Sing Out That Protest Can classical music play a role in political proitest, wonders Kyle Gann. "No one can doubt that music has a big role to play in the world of political protest. The controversial musicians we read about in the papers, though, are mostly from the pop and folk genres. It's not only that those musicians are more visible, though that's certainly true as well. Classical music and jazz seem to have a more long-term, measured, even sublimated approach to political protest, slower to react and more deeply embedded in the structure of the music itself." NewMusicBox 11/03

Ragtag Iraq Symphony Soldiers On "The orchestra recently had to move its rehearsals from Ribat Hall in the city center to the U.S.-protected Baghdad Convention Center, in part because electrical outages were forcing musicians to practice on a dark, stuffy stage. Despite a much-heralded June concert here, no additional performances have been scheduled in the capital because the director fears that even loyal fans would be afraid to venture out for a nighttime concert. And the orchestra is having second thoughts about plans to perform in December at the Kennedy Center in Washington amid criticism in the local press that the musicians are kowtowing to an occupying force." Los Angeles Times 11/06/03

Cincinnati Hall Ready For Renovation A proposed $3.8 million renovation of Cincinnati's Music Hall got a big boost this week, as the county approved $2 million in new bonds to go towards the project. "Of that, $1.5 million will go toward the Music Hall renovation to create a new space for Cincinnati Opera, and $500,000 will pay for new stage lighting." Cincinnati Post 11/06/03

Taking A Stand For The Music The world of hip-hop has expanded well beyond its musical roots in the last decade, and that's not necessarily a good thing. For many of today's hottest rappers, the music is almost secondary to the culture of intimidation and implied violence which grew out of the "gangsta rap" culture of the 1990s. But not every hip-hop artist is in favor of the genre's current direction, and Wyclef Jean is one of a handful of high-profile musicians making a direct plea to his colleagues to return hip-hop to its musical roots and put an end to the cycle of real and imagined violence. New York Post 11/06/03

Sweet Honey's Rock To Retire "You always know what to expect from a name brand like Sweet Honey in the Rock. Despite the comings and goings of 23 singers in its lifetime, Sweet Honey's rich harmonies and socially conscious lyrics make it as recognizable as a drumbeat, as uplifting as a revival meeting. But what will happen when 61-year-old Bernice Johnson Reagon, the group's founder, retires in late January, Sweet Honey's 30th anniversary?" Philadelphia Inquirer 11/06/03

November 5, 2003

Time For A New Name For New Music? Greg Sandow thinks it's time to rename contemporary classical music. "I think we might need another term for what we talk about here. Our genre, obviously, is 'new music' — but what does that mean? The words themselves don’t say very much. There are all kinds of new music—new salsa, new merengue, new Christian rap, new Mariah Carey remixes. Which 'new music' do we mean? Well, new classical music, I guess." But that's not very accurate either...
NewMusicBox 11/03

Grinding Axes In Minneapolis This summer, the Minnesota Orchestra appointed a new president following a nationwide search, and expressed confidence that Tony Woodcock was just the man to lead the 100-year-old ensemble into its second century. But it seems that not everyone on the orchestra's board was happy with the way things turned out. "In August, Eugene Sit, a 12-year member who was head of the executive-search committee, resigned," claiming that "decisions were made by one or two people that should have been made by the board." The chairman of the orchestra's board has dismissed Sit's allegation, pointing out that "out of nearly 60 votes, he could 'count on one hand' the number against Woodcock." The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 11/02/03

Tilson Thomas Out Front Again Since Michael Tilson Thomas took up the reins of the San Francisco Symphony nearly a decade ago, the group's national profile has steadily increased, and the partnership between conductor and orchestra has led to several critically acclaimed projects designed to bring symphonic music back to cultural prominence. Next year, the SFS will launch a major new multimedia project designed to increase audience understanding of classical music. In addition to national TV broadcasts, "the project will also include the development of a web site and the creation of DVDs. The Symphony is working with Minnesota Public Radio to develop a radio series designed to air concurrently with the TV series." San Francisco Chronicle 11/05/03

Still Striving For Perfection In today's instant-gratification world, it is difficult to accept that some things still take time. But in Philadelphia, the team behind the Philadelphia Orchestra's 2-year-old Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is still tweaking and adjusting the hall's acoustics, striving to create one of the world's great concert venues. "Almost two years after opening night, hundreds of millions of dollars since the orchestra started dreaming of acoustical perfection, Verizon Hall isn't quite what it should be, Kimmel and orchestra leaders agree... And so the original acousticians for the hall, Artec Consultants, are being brought back for another round of work." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/05/03

November 4, 2003

Warner Chappell Music Publisher For Sale Time Warner is said to be putting up Warner Chappell, its music publishing business, for sale. The company is said to be worth about $1 billion, and already suitors are lining up... The Guardian (UK) 11/04/03

MIT Shuts Down Student File-Share Scheme MIT has shut down a new file-sharing system set up by students. "The music service had its official start one week ago but within hours, music companies, including the Universal Music Group, complained that they had not granted - or been paid for - the required legal permission to make the copies of their songs used by the system." The New York Times 11/04/03

  • Previously: File-Sharing That's Legal? "Two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a system for sharing music within their campus community that they say can avoid the copyright battles that have pitted the music industry against many customers." The New York Times 10/28/03

How About Flex-Pricing For Recordings? "Doesn't it seem odd that these fully automated online e-commerce systems, with software that ought to be able to track and respond to customer behavior instantly, unimaginatively mandate the same fixed price across the board? One of the Internet's supposed strengths is its ability to let supply and demand drive prices up and down in real time. Couldn't the music companies use the Internet as a way to introduce popularity-based pricing, meaning that the songs with the highest demand would cost the most? Compared to eBay, charging 99 cents for every song is price fixing. And while 99 cents for my favorite song seems fair, what about my not-so-favorite songs?" Slate 11/04/03

The Courtship Of David Zinman Conductor David Zinman resigned the music directorship of the Baltimore Symphony five years ago, unhappy with what he called the orchestra's increasingly conservative direction. At the time, many observers assumed that Zinman would never again agree to lead an American orchestra, that he was just too disgusted with the place of the arts in his native country. But now, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra revving up its search to replace outgoing director Mariss Jansons, Zinman is apparently willing to consider a return to the States. "I told them that it really depends on who the new executive director is and who the new board president is," he says. "Then I would be open to talking about it." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/04/03

Picking Up The Broken Pieces With the Charlotte Symphony's 7-week strike finally over, the organization is hoping to get back on track quickly, and begin raising the money the CSO will need to stay solvent throughout the five-year contract it just inked with its musicians. CSO president Richard Early says in an interview that the organization's focus must now be on mending fences with its subscriber base, and reminding the city's corporate community of the importance of supporting the orchestra. Charlotte Observer 11/03/04

Planning For The Future In Florida The Florida Philharmonic is gone, a victim of the bad economy and public indifference. But, like so many other communities which have lost symphony orchestras, music fans in South Florida are holding out hope that a new ensemble will eventually rise from the ashes of the Phil. This week, the Dade Community Foundation struck a deal that makes such a revival much more likely: it's purchasing the Philharmonic's music library for $180,000, and storing it until a new orchestra can take it back. An orchestra's music library is its most irreplacable asset, and building one from scratch takes years of careful purchasing, so the preservation of the library was a major priority for the musicians of the defunct Philharmonic. Palm Beach Post 11/04/03

November 3, 2003

Disney - The West Rises Up? LA's Disney Hall is a great accomplishment, sure. And a good place to hear music, writes Joshua Kosman. "But it's also a great roar of regional pride, a sweeping claim for the importance of the arts in a city and state long derided as philistine. It promises to strike a powerful blow - perhaps even, at long last, the fatal one - against the cultural mythology that says America's musical life begins on the East Coast and peters out somewhere around the Mississippi River." San Francisco Chronicle 11/03/03

The Chorus Grows - Singing Praises Of Pay-Per-Song It's official: downloading pay-per-song tracks is the new darling of the music world. "Pay-per-song is now a legitimate industry promoted by some of the best brains in modern technology and entertainment, from Apple to Napster to Dell. With prices starting low and falling lower, legally downloading your own songs and mixing them to use the way you want is a seductive right that is fast revolutionizing the music business." Denver Post 11/03/03

November 2, 2003

Union: Scottish Opera Should Sell Theatre, Cover Losses One of Scottish Opera's unions suggests the company ought to sell off its home - the Theatre Royal, in an attempt to cover its mounting losses. "The radical proposal for the Glasgow theatre reflects serious concern over staff cuts amid reports of the company’s latest financial crisis." The Scotsman 11/02/03

Cheap Music That's Legal (Whoopee!) "Music-for-peanuts is suddenly flooding the Internet, much of the tide being released by at least eight Web sites, each one telling the world that it has a quarter of a million songs or more in stock. This wave of legitimate, low-cost music may eventually sweep away music stores as we knew and loved them, because it is such an easy wave to ride. If you can surf the Internet - and especially if you have a high-speed cable modem or DSL connection to the Net - you can do this." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/02/03

Tarting Up The Classics "Just when you thought it was safe to get in an elevator again, there comes a new twist on an old bastardization: the rearrangement of classical standards by performers whose chief selling points are not their musical chops but their sexy attire and cool attitudes. The Planets, a British acoustic-electronic ensemble, sell bizarre arrangements of Bach, Bizet and, of course, Clair de Lune on their Classical Graffiti disc. The OperaBabes, also British, indiscriminately mix arias and famous classical instrumental works - all arranged for vocal duet and backed up by various combinations of chorus, string orchestra and the inevitable electronic keyboards." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 11/02/03

Getting Hot Over "Smooth" Jazz Hard-core jazz fans can't abide it, but the so-called "smooth jazz" has a large and growing following. "It's supposed to be banal tripe for people too meek for real jazz. It's the boring music played on 'quiet storm' radio stations or heard in the waiting rooms, lounges and elevators. It's even the porno industry's soundtrack. Nonetheless, smooth jazz has its champions. And its audiences are perhaps the most diverse and harmonious in all of music." Denver Post 11/02/03

Melbourne Opera: A Long Road Up "It is seven years since the Victoria State Opera disappeared in the merger that created the Sydney-based national company, Opera Australia, and started a stream of complaints that Melbourne's needs are not being met." The recharged Melbourne Opera Company looks to meet those needs, but the challenges are many. "For a start, it has no funding, so the budgeting skills are of the micro variety rather than the macro." The Age (Melbourne) 11/03/03

Recording Companies Increasingly Focusing On Older Consumers While overall sales of recordings are down, music sales to older music lovers are strong. "The growing success of albums by older artists — and of singers like Norah Jones, who appeal to less cutting-edge tastes — offers some solace to an industry mired in a three-year sales slump. The older audience, typically more affluent consumers who grew up buying their music on vinyl LP's, seldom uses the free file-sharing sites. And because they account for a growing segment of the record-buying public, labels are increasingly tailoring their releases and their marketing, particularly on television, to reach them." The New York Times 11/02/03

Digital Singles Outsell CDs "Digital tracks are outselling physical singles by a growing margin, a sign that consumers increasingly are embracing the brave new world of Internet downloading. Digital download sales outpaced physical singles 857,000 to 170,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures for the week ending Oct. 26. That's slightly more than a 5-to-1 ratio." Washington Post (Reuters) 11/02/03

Is Einaudi Our Most Popular Classical Composer? Ludovico Einaudi is "Classic FM's most requested contemporary composer. His latest album, Echoes, went straight to the top of the classical charts when it was released in September. It has sold 50,000 copies – enough to put it at number 40 on the pop chart. It isn't the sort of music you would immediately associate with a concert hall. Certainly, it is perfect music if you're doing something else at the same time as listening to it. And yet he has just performed to a packed Barbican, where he received a standing ovation. The Telegraph (UK) 11/02/03

November 1, 2003

Single-Minded - Recording Business Changing Priorities The economics of the recording industry are changing. "The success of iTunes has made clear to the music industry an uncomfortable truth: many people want to buy single tracks, not albums. Apple's data show that its customers bought 12 singles for every one album at iTunes. That compares with 0.02 singles per album in American stores, according to research by Sanford Bernstein. The best artists may tempt people to buy a whole album. But the industry can no longer rely on getting the price of an album as a reward for backing a band." The Economist 10/30/03

Pianist Performs All Beethoven's 32 In One Day British pianist Julian Jacobsen performed all 32 Beethoven sonatas in one day Friady. "As the pianist began the challenge in St James' church, Piccadilly, at 0915 GMT, he said: 'It's pretty crazy isn't it?' He told BBC Radio 4 it was a 'self-test to see if I can get through it all and keep my concentration', and a chance to raise money for his favourite charity." BBC 11/01/03

Charlotte Symphony Strike Ends Musicians in the Charlotte Symphony ended their strike after getting close to a contract settlement. The proposed contract calls for an initial pay cut, but then increases. "The agreement leaves two key issues yet to be resolved: the management's proposals to have players shoulder more health-care costs and to reduce the musicians' paid time off. Those issues will be dealt with by task forces made up of players, management and staff members working with a federal mediator." Charlotte Observer 11/01/03

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