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March 31, 2004

Debunking The Myth Of Austin Why all the kudos for Austin as a music capital? It peaked about seven years ago, writes Lindsey Eck. These days "cops with dB meters lurk like vultures outside of venues and force people unloading equipment to park blocks away, no matter how heavy the drum kit. Alcohol enforcement is particularly heavy, while the State Comptroller has singled out downtown clubs for closure over unpaid taxes (which must be paid in advance of the club taking in revenues). And let’s not even begin to enumerate the ways in which zoning, industrial policy, and development decisions generally have made Austin an impossible place." Leaves of Oak 03/31/04

Canadian Judge Rules Downloaders Can Allow Their Music To Be Copied A Canadian judge has ruled that the recording industry can't sue people who allow music they own to be copied by others. The judge ruled that "the Canadian Recording Industry Association hadn't shown copyright infringement by 29 people who had allowed their music files to be uploaded. Making files available in online, shared directories is within the bounds of Canadian copyright law." CBC 03/31/04

Winnipeg Symphony Buys Some More Time The provincial government of Manitoba is giving the financially strapped Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra another year to pay off it's CAN$1.3 million credit line which was guaranteed by the province in 1999. In addition the WSO will receive two additional $75,000 grants for the current year, as the organization struggles to return to fiscal solvency. The moves were welcomed by orchestra supporters, but some taxpayer advocacy groups were upset at the news, pointing out that Manitoba is running a deficit of its own, and can ill-afford to be subsidizing a money-losing symphony. CanadaEast (CP) 03/31/04

EMI Announces Major Cuts The British-based EMI label has announced that it will lay off 1500 workers in Europe and the US, consolidate several of its record labels, and begin outsourcing much of its CD production to other companies, in a move which the company hopes will save it $91 million per year. EMI has had a somewhat troubled history in recent years, as it attempted to buy or merge with multiple other global music companies such as Bertelsmann and Warner Music, mergers which ultimately failed. The cost-cutting moves will actually cost EMI money in the short term, but may stabilize some long-term operations. BBC 03/31/04

March 30, 2004

Get Your Budget Opera Here Raymond Gubbay's new Savoy Opera is preparing to make its debut. But can the company succeed as London's third opera house? "Their idea is to present accessible opera sung in English for the price of a West End show (highest ticket price £49.50, whereas at the Royal Opera the best seats for the most sought-after shows cost £170). They want to tempt in the sort of audience who might go to Holland Park Opera or Gubbay's Albert Hall extravaganzas, but who might find the aura associated with Covent Garden or the Coliseum off-putting." The Guardian (UK) 03/31/04

Study: Digital Piracy Doesn't Harm CD Sales Recording companies have been saying that digital piracy has killed their CD sales. But "researchers at two leading universities have issued a study countering the music industry's central theme in its war on digital piracy, saying file sharing has little impact on CD sales. 'We find that file sharing has only had a limited effect on record sales. The economic effect is also small. Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale'." Wired 03/30/04

Denver: Can't We Be Austin? Austin's South by Southwest festival has put the city on the map as a center of live music. "Austin's scene generates about $616 million annually, and 11,200 jobs are directly related to the city's live music scene, according to a study by the Austin Music Commission." So music fans in Denver are petitioning the city for "more visible promotion of its live music scene and touting figures that show its economic strength. However, the Mile High City has a long way to go to match Austin's musical clout." Denver Post 03/30/04

March 29, 2004

A Better Barbican? Musicians have complained about the acoustics in London's Barbican Theatre for years. "But a £7m refurbishment to improve the deadening acoustics has proved so successful that more of the best musicians in the world are now happy to appear, it was claimed yesterday. Twenty years after its first - and only - distressing performance at the Barbican, the Vienna Philharmonic returns next month." The Independent (UK) 03/29/04

Robinson Appointed Head Of Palm Beach Symphony Ray Robinson, 71, has been appointed music director and manager of the Palm Beach Symphony. He "headed Palm Beach Atlantic University's choral program for 14 years before semi-retiring last season. He also was a freelance music critic for the Palm Beach Daily News. Before that, he was dean of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, president of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College at Cambridge University in England. He's a violist and conductor, an expert on composers Felix Mendelssohn and Krzysztof Penderecki, and the author of 11 books on music." Palm Beach Daily News 03/28/04

March 28, 2004

Balancing The Composer/Conductor Many conductors start out as other brands of musicians. It used to be that composer/conductors were common. There aren't so many today. "Musicians who genuinely straddle that divide -- whose talents and personal commitment are equally devoted to composing and conducting -- have been the rare exceptions. Mahler was one, Leonard Bernstein another. Salonen is the pre-eminent case in our time. What it means, for him and for his audiences, is a constant, painful assessment of competing priorities. For a listener located outside Los Angeles, it's hard to look at Salonen's small catalog of compositions and not begrudge the time and artistic energy it takes to run the Philharmonic." San Francisco Chronicle 03/28/04

Welser-Most Turns Down Vienna State Opera Job Franz Welser-MÖst was offered the top job at the Vienna State Opera Friday, and turned it down, citing his contract commitment to the Cleveland Orchestra through 2012. "I'm not somebody who breaches a contract. I believe both institutions deserve 100 percent focus. I cannot divide my focus and give each institution 50 percent, which would mean in the end both institutions would suffer." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/28/04

Opera: Of Stage And Sound David Patrick Stearns has no problem reconciling the physical size of a singer with the role he or she's supposed to assume. "The opera world is splintering in ways that make big-blast singers - most often those with weight problems - not always necessary. Directors are the new stars of the opera houses, which for some operagoers is a sign of defeat. If there are so few great singers out there, voice connoisseurs think, at least opera can tell interesting stories. There's an even wilder card with opera's changing venues: What used to be a medium of standardized grandeur now comes in all shapes and forms, some demanding physical appropriateness, some not." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/28/04

Bands: The Internet For Fun And Profit More and more bands are discovering that the internet is their friend and that digital downloading can help promote sales of recordings and concert tickets. "Whereas once the record industry sold 90 percent of its records to 15 percent of the U.S. population, digital distribution has paved the way for more people to participate in music than ever before, whether making, distributing or consuming it." Chicago Tribune 03/28/04

A Revolution To Transform Music As We Know It "The music industry stands at an historic crossroads -- almost every aspect of the way people consume and listen to popular music is changing, dwarfing even the seismic shift in the 1880s when music lovers turned from sheet music and player pianos to wax cylinders and later, in 1915, newfangled 78 rpm phonograph discs. The one thing all of the experts agree upon is that these changes -- which are already under way -- will be dramatic, quick and inevitable." Chicago Sun-Times 03/28/04

Sorting Out The Look And Sound Of Opera "We are told all the time that the audience's expectations for opera have changed because our society is visually oriented, educated by films and television, even by opera on television. We now expect opera to be theatrically vital. One problem with this view is that our visual society has not been well educated by films and television -- media that even now often ignore the "visual" reality of the society they are supposed to reflect. People come in all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and types of behavior; they engage in passionate love affairs and die nobly or ignobly, regardless of their outward appearance. In a way, opera is a more honest art form than the movies, because people look the way they do rather than the way film fans expect heroes and villains to appear." Boston Globe 03/28/04

  • Sound And Fury Of A Size Does size really matter in opera singers, wonders Justin Davidson? "There is a rough, unofficial consensus that in some operas size matters more than in others. Companies will bend over backward not to cast a fat Carmen or a slow-moving Zerlina in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," but all of Wagner, some Strauss and much Verdi are open to singers of any dimensions. As we whittle down the options for large singers, we also deplete the pool of people who can sing these demanding roles. Voices like Deborah Voigt's are a precious resource." Newsday 03/28/04

March 26, 2004

Penny A Note - The Fair Way To Pay For Play Violinists in a German orchestra want to get extra compensation for playing extra notes. Howard Reich likes the idea and proposes a compensation system that would be fair to every player in a symphony orchestra. It starts with one cent for every 64th note and two pennies for every quarter note. Rests, of course, count towards vacation time. "Musicians are responsible for counting the notes they play. This is an honor system, so remember, mistakes do not count. Follow the score as directed and we won't have to levy fines for playing sharp or flat." Chicago Tribune 03/26/04

  • Previously: Musicians Demand: Equal Pay For Equal Play Violinists in the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn, Germany, are suing for a pay raise - on the grounds that they play many more notes per concert than their musical colleagues - the flutists, oboists, brass, etc... The Guardian (UK) 03/24/04
March 25, 2004

New Music For Amateurs (As A Lifestyle) So much high-end contemporary music of the past century is so difficult, you need to be highly skilled to perform it. But shouldn't there be more new music for amateurs? "We need to look at new ways of keeping musical culture going, and composers need to think more broadly about how their music is performed, and who is performing it." The Guardian (UK) 03/26/04

The Final Word (Yeah, Right) On Shostakovich "Deep in the silos of the American midwest, a Cold War missile is being readied for launch. From the University of Indiana Press at Bloomington, advance copies are being mailed out this week of what is academically warranted to be ‘the definitive statement on the Shostakovich controversy’." Norman Lebrecht is sick to death of this whole debate, and in particular, has had just about enough of the "counter-revisionist academics" who persist in their delusion that Shostakovich was nothing more than a cowed stooge for Stalin and the Communist Party. "Evidence of his moral courage and political disgust is so overwhelming that it is hard to imagine how even an ivory-towered musicologist could pretend otherwise." La Scena Musicale 03/24/04

Turning The Tide (Maybe) in Tampa The Tampa-based Florida Orchestra is battling the tide of red ink that has swamped so many American ensembles in recent years, and to hear orchestra officials tell it, the group is on the comeback trail, following a difficult season in which the musicians were forced to reopen their contract early and accept a pay cut. But with one of the orchestra's key wind principals set to leave for the more financially secure San Diego Symphony, and rumors constantly swirling that music director Stefan Sanderling is being wooed by other ensembles, it's proving difficult for the organization to shake the taint of its recent troubles. Still, Sanderling insists that he's in this fight for the long haul. St. Petersburg Times 03/25/04

Damage Control When the Long Island Philharmonic canceled the remainder of its 2003-04 season earlier this month for fiscal reasons, questions about the viability of a small-budget regional orchestra playing in the shadow of New York's juggernaut of a music scene were inevitable. But the orchestra's chairman insists that the arts are as valuable on Long Island as they are in Manhattan, and is calling on state and local government to increase their commitment to funding regional arts groups. Larry Austin also denies reports that the Philharmonic is in danger of permanent collapse, saying that the decision to cancel this season's last concerts will make the orchestra stronger overall. Newsday 03/25/04

Scottish Opera Union Propose Alternate Budget Unions at the Scottish Opera have done an unusual thing - they've drafted their own budget for the financially sick company. "The unions believe the current management's plans for the future of the company will lead to extensive job cuts and its eventual dismantling.
Instead, the union proposes a halt on the large scale operas that play at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, for the next two years."
Glasgow Herald 03/25/04

March 24, 2004

Not All Instruments Are Created Equal... So what do musicians in other orchestras think of violinists in a German orchestra demanding more pay because they play more than other colleagues? "It's a completely fatuous argument - and I'm not just saying that because I'm a piccolo player. That line of reasoning doesn't apply in any other world. Certainly not in the sports world. In an American football team there's a guy who just comes on to kick goals, and he works for maybe a total of one minute in the whole game, but he gets paid just as much as the rest of the team. Maybe even more, if he's good." The Guardian (UK) 03/25/04

  • Previously: Musicians Demand: Equal Pay For Equal Play Violinists in the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn, Germany, are suing for a pay raise - on the grounds that they play many more notes per concert than their musical colleagues - the flutists, oboists, brass, etc... The Guardian (UK) 03/24/04

Opera - What About The Language? "Opera sung in the local language is becoming increasingly incomprehensible. Is it because in the age of the surtitle we've stopped listening for the words? Or are international casts to blame, for mumbling in every language?" Financial Times (UK) 03/24/04

The Case For Music (And Musicians) Over The Music Business "As we listen these days to the cries of music-selling middlemen that those sweet songs of yesteryear will disappear in a world of unbridled file sharing, we need to remember that the interests of music professionals don’t necessarily coincide with the interests of music listeners. Sure, new technologies and ways of doing business have hurt many trades related to the music industry. There are many fewer people making a living as song pluggers, sheet music publishers, and the like. There are probably fewer professional live musicians than there would be if we had never enjoyed radios, jukeboxes, transistorized stereos, or computerized file sharing. Yet with every change, people’s access to better reproduced, more portable, more personalized music grows." Reason 03/04

Standoff in San Francisco San Francisco Opera, which is looking to rebound from a nearly $4 million deficit in 2003, may be staring down the barrel of a strike by the company's chorus, dancers, and production staff, an action which could cancel the SFO's summer season. The company previously reached an agreement for a 5% pay cut with its orchestra musicians, and says that it cannot afford more than a 2% raise for the members of the chorus, who are paid less than the pit musicians and are not guaranteed work. But the union representing the chorus insists that the current arrangement is unfair, and wants the singers' work weeks to be guaranteed, and for their salaries to be pegged to 90% of the orchestra's scale. San Francisco Chronicle 03/24/04

March 23, 2004

Musicians Demand: Equal Pay For Equal Play Violinists in the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn, Germany, are suing for a pay raise - on the grounds that they play many more notes per concert than their musical colleagues - the flutists, oboists, brass, etc... The Guardian (UK) 03/24/04

Big Music Sues 500 More Downloaders Music sales are up this year (and profits too) but that isn't stopping Big Music from suing downloaders. "The Recording Industry Association of America said Tuesday it is suing another 532 people -- including 89 on university campuses -- in its latest wave of lawsuits against alleged file swappers. Since September, the industry trade group has tried to sue 1,977 people in various parts of the country for allegedly trading music illegally on file-sharing networks. Most of the suits are pending. This time, the RIAA made a point of targeting people who trade on university campuses, who are most likely students." Wired 03/23/04

The Next Great Voice? (Here Now) Last year extravagant claims were made for tenor Salvatore Licitra - that he was the Next Great Voice. After hearing him then, Joshua Kosman wasn't entirely convinced. Now he is. "In a glorious return visit Sunday night to Zellerbach Hall, Licitra delivered on all the most extravagant claims being made on his behalf. His singing was expansive, powerful and superbly shaped, and he wooed the audience with all the dewy charm of a fresh-faced young suitor." San Francisco Chronicle 03/23/04

WalMart: 88 Cents A Tune Apple's iTunes store has been a big hit selling songs for 99 cents apiece. But WalMart is taking aim at the online download business - its new music download store charges only 88 cents. Anyone for 77 cents? The Star-Tribune (Mpls) (AP) 03/23/04

March 22, 2004

Capitol Idea - A Record Company That's Growing Capitol Records is that rare music label that has been expanding even as the music business has contracted in the past few years. "Since taking over nearly three years ago Andrew Slater and his very hands-on approach to music making — from rerecording parts of songs to dissecting new videos — have transformed Capitol from a languishing heritage label best known for the Beatles and Frank Sinatra into a company that can once again develop hit artists." The New York Times 03/23/04

Groking The Norah Jones Phenomenon What accounts for the phenomenal success of an artist like Norah Jones? "There are sociological explanations. Critics point out, accurately, that young artists like Jones, who is twenty-five, and Josh Groban and Michael Bublé are selling soothing songs by the seashore to a much older audience. These artists’ faith in melody and acoustic instruments ostensibly provides evidence that not all musicians below the age of thirty are getting tattooed with runic symbols and sending viruses to each other on tiny, inscrutable batphones. Record companies have agreed to think that the older audience is their pot of gold. This is half science—the percentage of records being bought by listeners above the age of thirty is growing—and half hearsay." The New Yorker 03/22/04

A Grey Response To Black And White Laws The public is getting increasingly irritated with Big Music's attempts to tighten copyright. EMI's recent move against Danger Mouse and the Grey Album "was a spectacular backfire in the war over what's fair when the muse runs afoul of copyright law in the Digital Age. Technology is making it easier than ever to sample and rework recordings, and to the chagrin of entertainment companies and some artists who hold copyrights, the public is showing little sympathy for their efforts to control original works." Los Angeles Times 03/21/04

Sony And McDonald's Team Up On Music Deal Sony and McDonald's are discussing a music deal. "The two companies have been hammering out the details of a pact in which McDonald's would provide fast-food diners with free songs from Sony's online music store, Sony Connect." Los Angeles Times 03/22/04

Indie Times At SXSW This year's SXSW fest in Austin Texas was a raucously independent event. "While few of the 1,261 acts booked to perform during the conference's four nights of showcases would object to selling a million albums, the festival's tone was one of modesty and realism as participants shared advice on how to sustain a career with CD sales in the thousands, not the millions, and with a full calendar of performances rather then video shoots. Most bands were more concerned with having gas money to get to the next show than they were with the major labels' bugaboo, Internet downloading." The New York Times 03/22/04

March 21, 2004

Colorado Symphony Finalists The Colorado Symphony has narrowed its list of candidates to replace Marin Alsop as music director to four... Rocky Mountain News 03/21/04

Indie Record Stores: Downloading Helping Our Business Conventional wisdom has it that music downloading has damaged the recording business. But some independent record stores are "finding that file sharing can help create a buzz online that can lead to more sales, according to a panel of independent music store owners who spoke at the South by Southwest Music Conference & Festival here Friday." Wired 03/20/04

Sydney Opera House Being Retrofitted With Bomb Protection The Sydney Opera House is getting bomb blast barriers for its entryways. "Police and security agencies fear a truck or car bomb could be driven into one of Sydney's most recognisable landmarks. The building has been identified by ASIO as one of Australia's top terrorist targets along with the rail network and government buildings in Sydney." News.com.au 03/21/04

Mr. Perlman Takes The NY Phil Itzhak Perlman makes his debut as conductor with the New York Philharmonic. "There are a few things to be said for Mr. Perlman as a conductor. Whatever the flaws in his conducting technique, his inherent musicality goes a long way in communicating what he wants. Clearly he is not doing this half-heartedly, as some soloists have." The New York Times 03/20/04

How Pavarotti Got To Say Goodbye To The Met Last year, when Luciano Pavarotti canceled two performances at the Metropolitan Opera, it looked like his career at the Met was done. Met impressario Joseph Volpe intimated as such. But there the tenor was on the Met stage two weeks ago singing his farewells. So how did it happen? The New York Times 03/21/04

March 19, 2004

The Music Biz - New Beginning The end of the music business? Not hardly, says Mark Cuban. "If you're a music consumer, this is the glory days. It's a golden age if you're not trying to protect your arcane business practices. Instead of listening to music lovers who want to take the path of least resistance to hear their tunes, the labels are trying to get you to do it their way. There are a lot of untapped opportunities that are not being utilized." Wired 03/19/04

March 18, 2004

Do Or Die - This Is The Year For The UK Music Industry "This is going to be the most important year for the British music industry in nearly a decade. Many of its challenges have already been documented: from expensive Pop Idol flops to the effect on CD sales of illegal internet downloads. But the real problem is that the UK business is in danger of becoming nothing more than a regional office for the rest of the world. Where we used to amaze and confuse the competition with our maverick, sulky, ingenious pop star exports, the past year has seen the UK left in charge of the stationery cupboard." The Guardian (UK) 03/19/04

Is Elliott Carter Too Hard For Detroit? When the Pacifica Quartet came to perform at the Chamber Music Society of Detroit this week, they were specifically asked not to perform the Elliott Carter quartet they had planned. Why? Fear of "alienating" subscribers. "Never mind that Carter's Fifth (1995) is a brilliant work in the composer's late style, muscular but communicative, full of spry dialogue and texture. Never mind that the Pacifica's reputation is based partly on its passionate advocacy of Carter. Never mind that removing Carter to placate a few reactionary patrons drives a stake through the heart of the society's artistic integrity and tightens the noose more securely around the future of classical music. If you do not play the music of today, to paraphrase composer Gunther Schuller, there will be no masterpieces for tomorrow." Detroit Free Press 03/18/04

Small Orchestra Struggles, Part LXXVI "Plagued by poor ticket sales and high costs, the Long Island (NY) Philharmonic has canceled the last two concerts of its 25th anniversary season, its second cancellation within four months. What should have been a year of celebration has become a time of trial, with missed payroll deadlines and a $250,000 deficit in the orchestra's $2.1 million budget." Newsday (New York) 03/18/04

March 17, 2004

A New Orchestra, And A Lot Of Russian Politics... Two years ago Vladimir Spivakov resigned (or was let go) as music director of the Russian National Orchestra. Within hours, Vladimir Putin heard about it and asked Spivakov to form a new orchestra. Many of Spivakov's former players joined him, and a new orchestra was born, and now ... The Guardian (UK) 03/18/04

The Case For A Jazz Museum Harlem will get a jazz museum, and the need for it is great. "Since the music has long been an international language, tourists from around the world will be coming to Harlem in ever greater numbers. They won't see a statue of Charlie Parker, but they'll be in his presence, along with that of his progenitors. They, and visitors of all ages, will learn, interactively, dimensions of American history through the lives of embodiments of what Ellington called the 'unhampered expression of complete freedom reflecting the ideals of American Independence'." OpinionJournal.com 03/18/04

CD Sales Up 8 Percent In Australia Recording companies have been screaming that music downloading is killing there business. So why are sales going up? "After several years warning of dire consequences for record companies because of rampant music downloading and copying, the Australian Record Industry Association yesterday released sales figures for 2003 showing an increase of nearly 8 per cent." Sydney Morning Herald 03/18/04

Orchestra of the Future? If there can be said to be a single American orchestra which has consistently been at the forefront of efforts to revitalize the classical music industry, the orchestra would have to be the San Francisco Symphony under music director Michael Tilson Thomas. From innovative recordings to fearless marketing techniques to an embrace of technological synergy, the SFS/MTT partnership may be providing a crucial example for other American ensembles to follow as the 19th-century art strives for relevance in the 21st. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/17/04

Mountain Laurel Exec Resigns The chief executive of the Pennsylvania-based Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts, which was seeking to be the new summer home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra before collapsing under a mountain of debt this winter, has resigned shortly before a meeting of the center's bondholders. Blaney was hired five weeks before Mountain Laurel's opening weekend in 2003, after the center's first CEO, Christopher Dunworth, was unexpectedly fired. The Daily Intelligencer (AP) 03/17/04

  • Previously: Good Idea, Lousy Execution The short, sad story of the Mountain Laurel Center is a lesson in the risks of overreaching in the service of a great idea, writes Dan Majors. The project was underfunded from the start, and last summer, construction was still ongoing when the Pittsburgh Symphony showed up for the gala opening concert. Now, with Mountain Laurel officials looking for a state bailout only seven months after that gala, one has to wonder why no one addressed the financial precariousness of the project earlier. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/10/04

The Indies Gather In Austin Even as the majority of music industry heavies watch their album sales slip ever further down the profitability chart, and continue to tilt at the file-sharing windmill, thousands of independent musicians, producers, and fans are descending on Austin, Texas for a music festival with a decidedly pro-innovation slant. "South by Southwest, or SXSW, has a special following among artists and fans who are interested in shaping the future of the media industry. The bands and artists who appear at SXSW don't have Britney's marketing budget, so they turn to the Net to attract attention and find new fans. In essence, these artists and fans are vanguards." Wired 03/17/04

March 16, 2004

Renaissance Painter Composed Music For His Painting A Renaissance scholar has discovered that the musical notes painted by Filippino Lippi in a famous 15th Century painting "Madonna and Child with Singing Angels is original music probably composed by the painter himself. "The first several notes of the composition are exactly the beginning notes of a popular Renaissance song, 'Fortuna Desperata.' After the first few notes, however, the piece does not resemble Fortuna." Discovery 03/16/04

The End Of Hip-hop? "For a genre that is 25 years old this year, hip hop has little to show for its maturity. Repetitive images of material excess and recidivism continue to dominate the commercial rap market, and while production techniques have evolved to become the most sophisticated in pop music, rapping itself - the essence of hip hop culture - has not developed in at least a decade. As the ideas have dried up, celebrities and industry investors have been forced to promote the most sensational aspects of the culture. Even loyal fans are now claiming that hip hop's message to the disenfranchised is one of confusion and self-destruction. For a musical form that once claimed to offer meaning, and even hope, this must spell the end." Prospect 03/04

Florida Orchestra Woes Continue "Despite slashing musicians' pay and bringing popular new music director Stefan Sanderling onboard, the Florida Orchestra's financial woes continue. A promised endowment campaign has yet to be announced, and the strain is starting to drive some players to other orchestras." St. Petersburg Times 03/16/04

Larsen: Women Composers Making Progress When composer Libby Larsen started out, there weren't many women composers successfully making careers writing music. "After 30 years, it's 'like night and day.' The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers has 900 entries. There is now community, history, a consistent body of professional work and generations upon which to build. 'I can see the next one coming,' says Larsen knowingly. 'You need seven generations to make a big change. We can now, at least, find five'." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/16/04

Tower Records' New Lease On Life Tower Records emerged from bankruptcy court Monday. "Tower leaves bankruptcy protection with a far lighter debt load and a sunnier outlook. The music business seems to be coming back - CD sales nationwide are up 14 percent this year, according to Nielsen/SoundScan market research - and Tower's revenue has inched up since August, reversing a multiyear decline. Tower says 90 of its 93 stores make money." Sacramento Bee 03/16/04

iTunes: 50 Million Served Apple has sold 50 million songs through its iTunes service, and is currently selling about 2.5 million songs a week. "Crossing 50 million songs is a major milestone for iTunes and the emerging digital music era," said Apple boss Steve Jobs. BBC 03/16/04

How Easy Listening Took Over The Top 10 Time was that the UK's Top 10 charts bristled with pop energy of the latest thing. But look at them now - the list is dominated by easy-listening and soft jazz. "Of the few pop acts that remain in the Top 10, the mellow Zero 7 and newly-soulful Will Young sound distinctly adult. So how did every day come to sound like a dinner party?" BBC 03/16/04

March 15, 2004

LA Opera In The Fast Lane "Los Angeles Opera is growing like a rambunctious weed. In 2004-5 there will be 100 performances, a 30 percent increase over this season. The budget of $48 million is up by a third over this season and double what it was when Plácido Domingo took over as general director five years ago. These numbers put Los Angeles in position to challenge San Francisco's longtime West Coast operatic primacy and to surpass, in terms of quantity if not necessarily quality, other worthy companies like those of Seattle and San Diego." The New York Times 03/16/04

Saving The Building Blocks Of Jazz "In a campaign long on ambition and short on funding, music aficionados and historians have targeted for preservation nearly 2,000 New Orleans-area buildings connected to the birth of jazz — from the childhood homes of its pioneers to the mammoth halls where they performed. By poring over old phone books and dusty property records, through word of mouth and even the stubs of timeworn rent checks, researchers and historians have identified more than 600 homes and 1,300 performance halls linked to the early days of jazz." Los Angeles Times 03/15/04

Wanted Above All: A Singer Of (Vocal) Heft Yes there's a trend towards hiring svelte singers who can look more like the opera roles they're performing. But "if there is a truly extraordinary voice, you'll make a place for it, regardless of how the singer looks or moves." Apparently not, writes Charles Ward, if you're London's Royal Opera. Houston Chronicle 03/10/04

Page: Goodbye To A Star Luciano Pavarotti's opera farewell at the Metropolitan this weekend was a nostalgia-charged event, writes Tim Page. The door has still been left open as to whether the great tenor will come back to opera. "Myself, I hope he packs it in. It has been a glorious career and it might be best to leave before mounting and irreversible infirmities, apparent throughout the evening, overwhelm what remains of his fragile but still magnificent artistry." Washington Post 03/15/04

Opera - One Size No Longer Fits All? Covent Garden's rude brush-off of Deborah Voigt for being too big is a sign of a changing opera world, writes Joshua Kosman. "The resultant possibilities for mocking and excoriating this once- respected opera company are rife and fairly obvious (insert "the opera ain't over" joke of your choosing here). But this mini-scandal reveals some important shifts in the prevailing attitudes toward opera and the performing arts in general. Have we really reached the point where only the slim or the beautiful (the two terms are far from synonymous) need apply? Does artistic prowess now count for less than comeliness? Must every other consideration be subsumed to the visual?" San Francisco Chronicle 03/15/04

March 14, 2004

Tower Records To Come Out Of Bankruptcy Stronger Tower Records has been in financial difficulty for a while. So there was considerable concern that when the chain declared bankruptcy last year, the end was near. Not so. "Wrapping up a fast-track case that's been mostly a formality, Tower is poised to emerge from bankruptcy protection Monday with its debt load $80 million lighter and its business intact." Sacramento Bee 03/14/04

What Makes A Great Violinist? What makes a great violinist? "The Genius of the Violin festival, which starts in London later this month, is designed to display the instrument's extraordinary versatility in everything from Bach to bluegrass. It is a tribute to the impresario Joji Hattori's powers of persuasion that three of the world's top fiddlers should be participants." The Independent (UK) 03/12/04

The Shostakovuch Question, Round 257 Time once again to play The Shostakovich Question. "The 'Shostakovich Question' is a debate is over the relationship between the composer and the triad of Stalinism, Mother Russia and Shostakovich's own deep humanism. It asks: why did Shostakovich remain in the USSR, while others like Stravinsky left? Was he obliged by a love of country to acknowledge, if not accept, the government? Or was his life torn between a public and private self? Indeed, was every musical phrase a thread woven through a tortured tapestry of dissent, a passionate but coded cry of opposition?" The Observer (UK) 03/14/04

Opera On The Outside (Of London, That Is) So where is the great opera happening in England these days? "Our regional companies, all of which tour way beyond their home bases, are currently setting standards at least as high as their better-heeled metropolitan rivals." The Observer (UK) 03/14/04

A New Chorus That's Been Around Awhile "When the Florida Philharmonic went bankrupt, it effectively meant the end of the Philharmonic Chorus as well. Yet in less than six months, a new organization has risen from its ashes to bring choral repertoire to local audiences." It is an old, established organization, and yet as an independent newcomer, the challenges of setting up are formidable. Florida Sun-Sentinel 03/14/04

Will That Be Tunes With Your Latte? Starbucks is unveiling a new instore music service. The ubiquitous coffee chain plans to offer 250,000 songs for sale in its stores. Customers can then order tracks they like, have them burnt on to a CD and buy it when they leave. BusinessWeek 03/13/04

Pavarotti's Final Opera Curtain Luciano Pavarotti's final Metropolitan Opera performance Saturday night was his last opera performance anywhere, he says. "At the end, there was an 11-minute ovation that featured four solo curtain calls as everyone from the orchestra to the standing room section applauded and yelled 'Bravo'." BBC 03/14/04

  • Dyer: The Meaning Of Pavarotti Luciano Pavarotti sang his last performances in opera at the Metropolitan this week. Richard Dyer: "This is not the occasion to survey Pavarotti's nonoperatic career in concert, arena events, on film and television, with the Three Tenors, and as a newsworthy talk show celebrity; all of that continues. What is important is that Pavarotti let all of his outside activities feed back into opera. He could have left the opera house decades ago and made even more money than he has, but he chose not to. The musical world needs its celebrities because they vouch for the validity of the art." Boston Globe 03/14/04

Hip-Hop For Old People? (Naw!) "How does one grow old gracefully in hip-hop? Truth be told, I'd rather talk about hip-hop's aging than my own, and since I have watched hip-hop from its infancy, I've been thinking about the relevant and parallel question: How does a culture like hip-hop, so invested in its youth, experience its own aging process?" Los Angeles Times 03/14/04

March 11, 2004

Hazlewood: If Bach Was A Beatle, Vivaldi Was A Rolling Stone Former punk-rocker Charles Hazlewood is the BBC's new "face of classical music," and he takes a particularly populist approach to his shows: "There is a terrible conservatism, like a cancer, right in the heartlands of music-making, a tremendous resistance to change, an absolute horror of the idea that more people might connect with music. That infuriates me more than I can say. The very idea that people are too stupid to get their heads round what a fugue is is beyond me. I think it's total bollocks and it drives me mad." The Telegraph (UK) 03/12/04

Are The Music Charts Obsolete? Music producers are fascinated with the demographic shift in music sales. Instead of kids driving the charts, it's older fans with money to buy CDs. But "the problem is that the whole concept of the charts may have become outdated, certainly as a measurement of units of music consumed. A large and ever growing proportion of young people simply no longer go into record shops, or even listen to the radio, but that does not mean they are not interested in music." The Telegraph (UK) 03/12/04

More On Voigt - An Exceptional Case? Soprano Deborah Voigt's sacking by Covent Garden because she was too big for the costume designed for the production is an example of misplaced priorities. "Voigt's case is exceptional: it's hard to think of another singer who was dumped for not having the right looks. What is noticeable is that European companies are giving stage directors an increasingly active role in casting. In some cases, it's the only way to attract a top-flight director. Visual realism is becoming as important as the right voice type." Financial Times 03/11/04

From Mali To America (And Back) American musicians are studying the music of Mali (think Timbuktu) and its direct connections to American blues. "It is quite obvious that several African musical traditions have had a major impact on Western music styles. Jazz, blues, rock and roll, salsa, funk, and hip-hop would not have existed without Africa's influence and genetic pollination. What's intriguing about the Mali connection is that it is so direct and palpable." Christian Science Monitor 03/12/04

Dance Music - The Challenge The dance music industry gathered in Miami Beach this past week for the annual Winter Music Conference. "New technologies and the Internet were identified by panelists throughout the conference as key in various aspects of dance music's future. According to Forrester Research, the online music market will soar from about 3 percent of sales currently to about 30 percent by 2007." Miami Herald 03/11/04

March 10, 2004

L'Affaire Voigt - Covent Garden Responds A spokesman for the opera in London's Covent Garden confirmed on Sunday that Voigt had been dropped from the lead role in a summer 2004 production of Richard Strauss' "Ariadne on Naxos" and that the reason was her size. The spokesman, Christopher Millard, said Sunday that casting director Peter Katona had selected a black evening dress for the part and believed Voigt would not look right in it." Still, says the company, Covent Garden hopes Voigt will consent to perform there again in the future New Jersey Online (AP) 03/10/04

Hip-Hop Under Police Stakeout "The Miami and Miami Beach police have a black ring-binder six inches thick that starts with 50 Cent and ends with Ja Rule. In between come photographs, arrest records and other information on all the other major rappers in the US, from P Diddy to DMX. The police photograph them arriving at Miami airport, stake out hotels and video shoots and scrutinise their lyrics and connections in search of hints of potential violent conflict. It is the latest development in a nationwide effort to place every aspect of hip-hop culture under state surveillance." The Guardian (UK) 03/11/04

Welsh Opera Slashes Ticket Prices When an arts organization moves into a shiny new home, it often takes the opportunity to boost ticket prices. Not the Welsh National Opera, though. They're lowering the tariff to get in. "Top price tickets will be cut by 25% to £35, while cheapest seats will cost as little as £5, a reduction of 37%. The WNO say the increased seating capacity at the new venue makes this possible." BBC 03/10/04

Giving Weight To The Issue Of Opera Singers Does being fat help opera singers? "Despite the success of a few far-from-slender singers—Luciano Pavarotti being the most conspicuous example—there is no scientific evidence to suggest that greater mass allows for better range, breath control, or projection without microphones. Nevertheless, heavy opera singers tend to believe their weight aids them. And since singing, like any other human talent, is greatly affected by the performer's comfort and state of mind, a soprano who believes that her heft helps her with tricky arias may actually give a better performance." Slate 03/10/04

Audition Horror Stories There may be no more stressful way to job hunt than to take an audition for a big-time orchestra. Flying around the country at your own expense for the chance to play the hardest excerpts in the orchestral repertoire for three minutes, before being summarily dismissed by a disembodied voice - it's not the most relaxing job interview environment. So you can imagine how Boston-based violist Karina Schmitz felt at her last two auditions: the first in Detroit, where airline mishaps got her to the hall after a night of unscheduled flights around the Midwest; and the second in Los Angeles, where the power on stage went out as she was playing her concerto. Boston Herald 03/10/04

BSO Reconsiders Price Hikes The Boston Symphony Orchestra has had a change of heart regarding its recent decision to hike the prices of some tickets at Symphony Hall by as much as 80%, after hearing from hundreds of angry subscribers. High ticket prices have become a way of life for major American orchestras, and the BSO's are some of the highest in the industry, but in the process of reassessing its pricing scale, the orchestra had decided that a batch of seats in the second balcony had been dramatically underpriced, and hiked the per-concert price from $57 to $83. After weeks of protest and the launching of a web site excoriating the price hikes, the BSO announced that it will offer subscribers some relief from the new prices. Boston Globe 03/10/04

PA Summer Venue Shuts Down "Seven months after it opened, the Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts in the Poconos has run out of money and canceled its summer concert season featuring the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra." The PSO was notified of the decision in a letter dated February 26. The center may be able to reorganize and emerge as the high-profile summer venue it was intended to be, but at this point, all the big plans are on indefinite hold. Allentown Morning Call 03/10/04

  • Good Idea, Lousy Execution The short, sad story of the Mountain Laurel Center is a lesson in the risks of overreaching in the service of a great idea, writes Dan Majors. The project was underfunded from the start, and last summer, construction was still ongoing when the Pittsburgh Symphony showed up for the gala opening concert. Now, with Mountain Laurel officials looking for a state bailout only seven months after that gala, one has to wonder why no one addressed the financial precariousness of the project earlier. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/10/04

Northwestern Kills Off Organ Program "Northwestern University on Monday officially ended the school's storied organ and church music degree programs, citing the lack of enrollment and need to focus music department resources elsewhere." But students in the program, who are protesting the decision, have some powerful allies - members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who are on faculty at the university are speaking out against the cutbacks, and letters of support have come from CSO music director Daniel Barenboim and Chicago Lyric Opera director Andrew Davis. Northwestern's organ program has been a cornerstone of the school's music department since the 1890s. Chicago Tribune 03/10/04

Oregon Symphony To Appoint New Prez For mid-sized orchestras, finding and holding onto quality executives can be a difficult task. If an executive succeeds in creating a sustainable orchestra model at a top regional orchestra, s/he will likely be snapped up in short order by a more high-profile ensemble. Such was the case in Portland this past year, where Oregon Symphony president Tony Woodcock was snatched away by the Minnesota Orchestra, leaving Oregon scrambling to find a replacement who could match Woodcock's skills. Today, the symphony will announce William A. Ryberg, a tenor-turned-banker who has lately been running a small orchestra in Michigan, as its new president, and all involved will cross their fingers in the hope that they've found another quality administrator, and that this one might stay. The Oregonian (Portland) 03/10/04

March 9, 2004

Writing Music Anytime, Anywhere "Composers today, both professionals and amateurs, can write and produce music in home recording studios using versatile recording software and powerful computers. They can combine multiple tracks, mix in various instruments and even buy the rights to recordings by well-known artists to augment their music. The final product is digital music, and the sound is very, very close to studio quality." Miami Herald 03/09/04

Tommasini: Wait Weight, Don't Tell Me Anthony Tommasini is "flabbergasted by the decision of the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London to drop the soprano Deborah Voigt from a new production of Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos' in June because she was deemed too heavy for a slinky black dress that is central to the director's concept of the role. The company's move is so appalling that you have to wonder whether there is more to the story." The New York Times 03/10/04

March 8, 2004

Musical Max - Master Of Music Composer Peter Maxwell Davies is the ideal choice as the new master of the Queen's music. "He and Harrison Birtwistle are unquestionably the pre-eminent composers of their generation. Both have wide international recognition and both feel passionately about musical education. Max, in particular, is a wonderful animateur who loves working with children and non-professional musicians - a man of the community and one who galvanises people into action. It is brave of the Palace to go for that kind of distinction even if it risks having to deal with some outspoken comment." The Guardian (UK) 03/09/04

The Bigger Soprano Covent Garden's sacking of Deborah Voigt once again brings up the issue of ample girth in opera. "It has become a cliche to say that we live in an era of 'director's opera', and that it is the producer rather than the singer who now reigns supreme. This is only partly true. Although there is a growing demand for theatrical veracity in opera, any operatic performance that is poorly sung is simply a non-starter. But there was a time when none of this even mattered. Jokes about the disparity between voice and appearance have always abounded, even among opera's most ardent admirers and practitioners." The Guardian (UK) 03/09/04

Sales Of Classical Music Up In 2003 Sales of "classical" music CDs were up last year in the UK. "Classical sales increased by one million copies to 14 million in 2003. New Zealand's Hayley Westenra, 16, had the top-selling classical album of the year with her debut Pure, which has sold almost 600,000 copies in the UK. Welsh singer Bryn Terfel came in at number two, with Andrea Bocelli and Aled Jones also in the top 10." BBC 03/08/04

Personal Music - Prime Choice Why have portable music players become so popular? Yes, they're cool. But there may be a deeper psychological reason. "Choice is the key factor. By choosing the music, you reclaim some of the world - it's no longer dominated by messages pointed at you." BBC 03/08/04

Pavarotti Lumbers Through Farewell Luciano Pavarotti began his last set of performances at the Metropolitan Opera Saturday. How'd he do? "There is an honored protocol for opera buffs and critics to give great artists a pass for their farewells, and Mr. Pavarotti has been one of the greatest vocal artists of our time. Still, he has invited comment with his sadly prolonged and hapless exit." The New York Times 03/08/04

They Couldn't Have Fired The Costumer? In one of the more bizarre stories to come out of the UK's Royal Opera House in recent years, acclaimed soprano Deborah Voigt has apparently been fired from an upcoming production of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos for being too large to fit into the dress the costumer had designed for the role. There's no denying that Voigt is a large woman, but she is also quite a well-known woman who has made Ariadne her signature role over the course of a very distinguished career. But the casting director at the Royal Opera insists that the producer's vision for the production simply precluded Ms. Voigt's participation, and further added that, in his opinion, many singers use their profession as "an excuse to eat too much." The Sunday Telegraph (UK) 03/07/04

Jansons In Pittsburgh: The Exit Interview Mariss Jansons's tenure as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been an unqualified success by artistic standards, and as the maestro prepares for his final concerts in the Steel City, he still speaks of his musicians with great affection, praising their humility and work ethic as well as their talent and skill. But if Jansons has any regrets about his time at the PSO, the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of America's political and cultural disinterest in great art. "What I can't understand is having this orchestra in the city and not supporting it, or making it a treasure. This I don't understand as politics. I lived in Soviet Union, the officials didn't like classical music, but how they supported art and sport, you can't imagine." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/07/04

Is The Pop Critic Irrelevant? "Thanks to fan blogs, artist Web sites and legal (and not so legal) downloadable music that's often peer-reviewed, a music fan can get instant information - and opinion - about an artist without ever turning to the pages of Rolling Stone. Or a fan's daily newspaper, for that matter... With so many new outlets for music fans to connect with artists and vice versa, and with the days of hanging with the band on the tour bus for a week more often than not replaced with a 15-minute phone interview of say-nothing sound bites, has the pop music critic become as outdated as an eight-track tape?" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 03/06/04

March 7, 2004

Minnesota Tour - The Price Of Greatness The Minnesota Orchestra picked up lots of critical praise on its recent three-week European tour. But was the cost worth it? "The orchestra's recent tour, which ended Feb. 27, was certainly a success in terms of the musicians' bonding and finding confidence with new music director Osmo Vänskä. Whether it was worth the $1.6 million it cost is not an exact calculation." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 03/07/04

Indie Labels Thrive In A Downloading World "As the bad news keeps befalling the music recording industry giants - downsizing, filesharing, another Britney tour - the struggling major labels are looking for help and are relying more and more on small independent labels to find and nurture new bands. "Instead of signing more baby acts, they are signing more baby labels." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/06/04

Met Opera Makes Public Appeal For Broadcast The Metropolitan Opera broadcasts will continue next year, after the Met raised money to cover the costs. But the company says help will be needed from Met fans if the broadcasts are to continue beyond that. The Met says "the search for another corporate sponsor had been difficult. 'The corporate community looks at the radio broadcasts and doesn't believe it's a good media buy, that we don't reach enough listeners. They are better off having commercials on big sporting events.' The Met broadcasts are carried on more than 350 stations in 42 countries, reaching 11 million people, the Met says." New York Times 03/06/04

Giving Voice To Music Of The Streets Pepe Garza was looking to revive a struggling radio station in Los Angeles. Looking for music, he took to the streets, and discovered a thriving scene, which he put on the air. Now, "Garza, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, has emerged as one of the most influential figures in the Latin music industry by giving L.A.'s immigrant population something it never had before — the chance to be on the radio and become stars. Until he moved here in 1998, the music of these working-class artists was dismissed as low-brow, crude or simply awful." Los Angeles Times 03/07/04

Live From The Middle Of The Orchestra Want to know what it's like to be a working professional musician? Chris Pasles suggests you check in on some blogs - like Pasadena violinist Laurie Niles' online account of naking it in the orchestral world of Southen California. Or ArtsJournal's own Sam Bergman, in his recent blog (www.artsjournal.com/roadtrip) about touring with the Minnesota Orchestra through Europe... Los Angeles Times 03/07/04

March 5, 2004

RIAA Head: Piracy "Killing" Music Biz The head of the Recording Association of America says online piracy is killing the music business. "He told a conference in London that a 31% decline in music sales between 1999 and 2002 was primarily due to piracy. 'More music is being consumed than at any time in history, it's just that less of it is being paid for'." BBC 03/04/04

  • Kazaa: The Recording Industry's Killing Us! "The makers of Kazaa, the peer-to-peer file sharing software, failed to quash a court order Thursday that allowed the music industry to raid its Sydney-based offices, prompting a furious response from its chief executive. In February, the music industry was granted an Anton Piller order... allowing it to raid 12 sites across Australia to seize documents and data. Sites raided included the offices of Sharman Networks, the home of its chief executive, several universities and other companies that were believed to be holding information relating to Kazaa. Following the raids, Sharman cried foul. It made an application to have the order invalidated by Australia's federal court." Wired 03/04/04

March 4, 2004

Women's Philharmonic Folds The San Francisco-based Women's Philharmonic, which had promoted the role of women in the classical music industry for nearly a quarter-century, officially closed its doors on Sunday, nearly three years after having to suspend its regular concerts due to a lack of funding. Some of the WP's programs will be folded into the American Symphony Orchestra League, and much of the work in which the organization had been involved will continue in other forums, but the demise of such an important organization is still sad to see, says Joshua Kosman. San Francisco Chronicle 03/04/04

Take The Concert Home With You Imagine you're at a club, or in a concert hall, completely engrossed in a performance. As a music consumer, you are at your most susceptible in situations like these, but promoters and musicians have rarely been able to take advantage of your concertgoing euphoria, because they have no way of selling you a piece of the live music experience to take home. But a bar in New Jersey is becoming one of several testing grounds for a new digital kiosk which allows audience members to plug in and download a digital recording of the show they just saw, almost immediately after it ends. It's "the next step in instant audio gratification," and the possibilities for its use seem to be limitless. The New York Times 03/04/04

Ravinia Looks Inward For Its Centenary Illinois's Ravinia Festival is celebrating its 100th birthday this summer, and organizers have created a season designed to call everyone's attention to that fact. "The nation's oldest music festival will surround the resident Chicago Symphony Orchestra with programs and activities -- 100 nights in all -- that look back to Ravinia's origins in 1904 as a 'high-class amusement park,' its early reign as the summer opera capital of the world, and its subsequent history as a major international center of music, dance and theater." Chicago Tribune 03/04/04

The Naxos Future The founder of Naxos records says that classical music isn't dying at all. In fact, Klaus Heymann thinks that the only part of the industry that will fall by the wayside in the future is the part made up of musicians, managers, and union bosses who can't see past the end of their own noses enough to notice that the old formulas for such essentials as recording no longer work. Heymann envisions a future in which the concert experience is more informal, the musicians of a major symphony orchestra are contractually bound to work in area schools and play at local weddings, and recordings are made cheaply and quickly. Nashville City Paper 03/04/04

CSO Musicians Won't Beg Barenboim Following a meeting between the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the CSO's executive director and board chairman, the musicians have voted not to hold a referendum on whether to ask outgoing music director Daniel Barenboim to reconsider his resignation. The referendum, which would have amounted to a vote of confidence in Barenboim, and an indirect vote of no confidence in board members who were reportedly dissatisfied with him, was pushed by a handful of musicians loyal to Barenboim, but there were fears that it could have driven a wedge between different factions of the CSO organization. Chicago Tribune 03/04/04

March 3, 2004

Barenboim in Chicago: Not Quite Dead Yet? The musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are considering a vote of confidence in the leadership of music director Daniel Barenboim, who announced last month that he would step down from his Chicago post in 2006. If passed, the resolution would be a symbolic but powerful statement from the musicians that they disagree with members of the CSO's management and board who have long been frustrated with Barenboim's leadership and personal style. The idea for a musicians' vote appears to have been born out of a conversation in which several musicians asked Barenboim to reconsider his decision to step aside, and Barenboim's reply that he would reconsider only if a majority of the orchestra wished him to. Chicago Sun-Times 03/03/04

  • Previously: At The Chicago Symphony - What Next After Barenboim? There is ambivalence about the Chicago Symphony's Daniel Barenboim stepping down as music director. "Unsettling questions remain to be answered. By allowing Barenboim to walk out the door - a musician with a unique combination of intellectual curiosity, profoundly creative engagement with the process of making music and wide involvement with the world beyond the podium - the CSO has redefined, for better or worse, the role of music director." Chicago Sun-Times 02/29/04

Waiting For The Conductor So Kent Nagano is officially taking over the reins in Montreal. But his contract with the orchestra doesn't begin until the fall of 2006, and he'll conduct only two weeks of the 2004-05 season, due to Nagano's prior commitment to Berlin's Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester. Furthermore, Nagano is already speaking out on the necessity of a new concert hall for the MSO, a project which has consistently gone nowhere with the provincial government of Quebec. And how much does a top-flight conductor make these days, anyway? No one at the MSO is saying, but it's a good bet that the orchestra's annual budget (currently CAN$18-$19 million) will have to rise to meet Nagano's salary. Montreal Gazette 03/03/04

  • Why Nagano Chose Montreal "For clues to what Nagano brings the Montreal music community - beyond his world reputation as a nervy tightrope walker in stimulating musical climates - you have to examine his [25-year] relationship with the ragtag [Berkeley Symphony Orchestra.] For the youthful orchestra, comprising mainly part-timers, epitomizes his belief in total engagement with the music. Community means everything to him, specifically his beloved Bay Area, but also branching out into strong personal connections to 'adopted' cities where he tackles high-stakes environments with implacable cool." Montreal Gazette 03/03/04

Swapping Files, Selling Music In Austin, the home of the South By Southwest(SXSW) music festival, anyone with a wireless internet connection suddenly has 600 new songs in his/her online iTunes database, absolutely free of charge. SXSW organizers are providing the songs to the shared database as a promotional tool for this year's festival, which runs March 17-21 and features some 1,200 acts. SXSW has been allowing listeners free access to its music for several years, and many see the wireless project as final proof that file-sharing is, in fact, useful beyond simply allowing consumers to steal music. Wired 03/03/04

March 2, 2004

Warner Music To Lay Off 1000 The recording company Warner says it will cut 20 percent of its 5000 worldwide workforce. "These significant steps to streamline Warner Music Group's operations are essential to the future success of the company and to the expanding, ongoing opportunities for its people." BBC 03/02/04

Philadelphia Orchestra Cuts Costs, Boosts President's Pay The Philadelphia Orchestra recently cut its music director's salary, asked soloists to reduce their fees, asked employees to take a week's unpaid vacation, and fired seven employees in a cost-cutting move. All this while approving a $10,000-per-year raise for its president. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/02/04

Nagano Takes Montreal It's official. The Montreal Symphony announces that Kent Nagano will be its new music director. "It is an extraordinary catch for both the MSO's musicians and the city. Nagano has been touted as a potential successor to Daniel Barenboim at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and even Lorin Maazel at the New York Philharmonic." Montreal Gazette 03/02/04

Prokofiev's Grandson In The Nightclub Sergei Prokofiev's grandson is 29 and is "already one of Britain's hottest producers of garage music." His new project is a string quartet, and he's hoping to attract the young hip crowd to a nightclub to hear it. The Telegraph (UK) 03/02/04

March 1, 2004

Berlin's New Operatic Reality Berlin can no longer afford three opera houses, funded in the manner they traditionally have been. But it couldn't close any of them either. "The solution that has now been imposed by the Berlin Senate, amid squeals of dismay and sighs of resignation, was predictable. The three opera houses — the Deutsche Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the Deutsche Oper and the Komische Oper — will remain open, but they must cut costs, including 220 jobs, and learn to live on smaller subsidies. They are also to share workshops, and will shortly merge their three ballet companies into a single Staatsballett Berlin." The New York Times 03/02/04

The ENO's Coliseum - Nice To Look At, Hard To Hear The English National Opera moves back into its home at the Coliseum, but the critics are kept away. Still, Peter Jessup gets a peek inside, and reports that the makeover of the theatre is quite handsome. But up in the higher balcony, it's still difficult to hear what's going on... London Evening Standard 03/01/04

La Scala's Grand Makeover The fix-up of La Scala opera house should be completed by November 10. "The new architecture includes a striking elliptical extension rising from the classical building. The new stage tower is 2.4 metres taller than its predecessor, while the stage area will be twice the size at 1,600 square metres. The rebuild will allow La Scala to mount no less than three different productions simultaneously." Gramophone 03/01/04

Are Competitions Taking Advantage Of Composers? Composers are anxious to get their music performed. And competitions can provide exposure for young composers. But some competitions charge large entry fees and "sometimes you get the feeling the money involved in these application fees is going to be the prize money, and what that's doing is creating a prize off the back of the losing composers." NewMusicBox 03/04

What Minimalism Hath Wrought Twenty years ago Minimalism was everywhere. It's not heard so often anymore. But it's had a major influence on music of the recent past. "Ultimately, the question isn't whether this kind of music is still viable in the 21st century, but if what we have to say now can be adequately expressed by it. You see parallels in every epoch." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/29/04

Cleveland Orchestra Boss Steps Down After 17 Years After 17 years as executive director, Thomas Morris leaves the Cleveland Orchestra. "Morris' tenure in Cleveland strikingly reflects the paradoxes that surround world-class orchestras. Sublime artistic accomplishments are accompanied by endless financial challenges and sometimes heated relations between musicians, conductors and management." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 02/29/04

The ENO's New Era Begins (Haltingly) Friday night, the English National Opera finally got to play in its newly refurbished home, after a long delay. "The good news is that the performance finally went ahead, the first building block in the first ENO Ring for more than a quarter of a century. The bad news is that, at the last moment, ENO told opera critics to stay away, citing inadequate stage preparation time since the company reclaimed its home theatre this month after an eight-month refit." The Guardian (UK) 02/28/04

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