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April 30, 2004

Online Music - Good For Music Industry, Or Not? "Online services account for just a small fraction of overall music sales, but they're growing rapidly. And the new choices they give consumers threaten to remix the recording industry's traditional revenue streams, pumping up the volume of singles and subscriptions and turning down album sales. The shift to online shopping could be lucrative for the music industry if the flexibility and convenience lead people to spend more on tunes than they do today. But some industry executives and analysts fear the opposite result, with music lovers buying a few 99-cent singles instead of $15 CDs." Chicago Tribune 04/30/04

Politico To Direct Harlem Boys Choir The Boys Choir of Harlem has named Ernie Hart, chief of staff to New York City Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as its new director. The choir's founder was asked to step down earlier this year for failing to report allegations that a counselor was abusing a student." Baltimore Sun (AP) 04/30/04

April 29, 2004

Scottish Orchestra Tries To Minimize Hearing Damage To Players "The Royal Scottish National Orchestra launched two days of workshops yesterday, with a 'noise team' aiming to work out ways of playing orchestral music safely. While deafening music is usually associated with the thundering basslines and power chords of rock, the classical world has been stirred into action by European regulations limiting the noise to which musicians can be exposed. There has been rising concern in the UK over the potential damage to musicians’ health from sound and stress in the workplace." The Scotsman 04/30/04

Shouting In Four-Part Harmony The chief cultural export of the Finnish town of Oulu is "the Shouting Men's Choir, which is exactly what it sounds like: 30 men of Oulu in black suits, shouting in harmony. You don't get that sort of thing down in Geelong, or in Helsinki, for that matter. It is a product of long nights in a town with little to do, a northern sense of humor that revels in the absurd, a high city count in eccentrics, and a lot of vodka." The Age (Melbourne) 04/30/04

Runnicles To Take Helm Of BBC Symphony? Who will be the next chief conductor of the BBC Symphony after Leonard Slatkin departs? "One name on the orchestra's shortlist is said to be Donald Runnicles, the Scottish conductor who now works largely in the US." Glasgow Herald 04/29/04

Physicists In New Way To Restore Old Recordings Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have "found a way to digitally map the grooves in warped or damaged shellac records and wax cylinders, and play them back using a sort of virtual needle — all with the same powerful microscope and computer technology they use to measure particle tracks. The 'non-contact' optical scanning method could also detect any scratches, or clicks and pops due to dust, and automatically filter them, allowing a digital rendition to sound as clear as the original performance." USAToday (AP) 04/29/04

Take That Concert Home With You Like that concert you just heard? Now you can take a recording of it home with you after the concert. "On May 21, new digital kiosks offering the tiny drives will be installed at Maxwell's, a small indie-rock club in Hoboken, N.J. At $10 a pop for the recording, and $20 for the reusable, keychain drive, let the downloading begin. This is a tool that allows fans to take home and share some of the best independent music from small live venues around the country." Wired (AP) 04/29/04

Wage Gap Between Soloists And Orchestra Players Causes Discord The gap between what orchestra musicians earn and what star soloists and conductors earn is wide. And causing some unhappiness in the ranks. "A typically eminent conductor earns, per concert, about a quarter as much as the typical full-time player earns all year. Given that most freelance orchestral contractors can expect as little as £75 per concert, the fees lavished on top conductors and soloists can rankle." The Independent (UK) 04/26/04

Met Opera Still Looking For Radio Funding Last weekend, the Metropolitan Opera broadcast its final live performance of the season, the last time the series will carry a sponsorship credit for Texaco, which kept the opera on the air for more than six decades. And while the Met has found money to cover the cost of next season's broadcasts, the long-term future of the wildly expensive series is still very much in jeopardy. Met chairwoman Beverly Sills is spearheading the effort to solicit donations for future seasons, and her basic strategy is a simple appeal to the warm, gauzy memories of all the moneyed folks who grew up listening to the Met. Miami Herald (AP) 04/29/04

Cleveland Orch Spurns Proms Over Web Payments The Cleveland Orchestra has declined an invitation to perform at the BBC Proms because its concerts would be webcast on a BBC website with no additional payment to the Cleveland musicians. Norman Lebrecht cannot believe his ears: "Open access is what makes the Proms a magnet for the world's great orchestras who, after the formalities of their overlong seasons, feast upon its effervescent atmosphere like nomads at an oasis. The trade-off is that everyone does it on the cheap... We are not talking here of the poor and downtrodden of the musical earth. The basic wage in the Cleveland Orchestra is $97,090 per annum, twice the going rate for London musicians and for less than half the work." La Scena Musicale 04/28/04

April 28, 2004

Rattle Attacked By German Critic Is Simon Rattle's honeymoon as director of the Berlin Philharmonic over? He's been attacked by a leading critic. "The article, entitled "Simon von Rattle" compared the conductor to the dictatorial Herbert von Karajan, the Berlin Phil's last director but one, and described Sir Simon's music-making with the orchestra as "uninspiring", "insubstantial" and "transparent"." The Guardian (UK) 04/29/04

Last Days Of Scottish Opera? "The odds are that the new production of La Bohème, which opens tonight at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, will be the last time that Scottish Opera performs as a full-scale, year-round national organisation. The crisis has a long, bitter history. Nobody has ever doubted that Scottish Opera has been pitifully under-funded for the job it is required to do, but all attempts to rationalise its operations have foundered." The Telegraph (UK) 04/29/04

Ontario Orchestra Decides Not To Rehire Music Director Several months ago the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony fired music director Martin Fischer-Dieskau. But an uprising among the orchestra's supporters won a commitment to re-hire him. After months of negotiations, though, the orchestra has decided not to rehire him. "Negotiations between Fischer-Dieskau, the symphony board and management fell apart over the weekend, with the symphony eventually deciding Tuesday evening that it could not meet with the Berlin-based conductor's demands, which reportedly included full artistic leadership of the symphony." CBC 04/28/04

iTunes At One "When Apple launched its online music store in the US on 28 April 2003, few could have predicted the impact it would have. But a year later, iTunes has helped transform the fortunes of the flagging global music industry, selling about 70 million songs and proving, once and for all, that there is a market for paid-for music online." BBC 04/28/04

Curtis Hits Its Goal Early Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, arguably the nation's top conservatory, has raised the $35 million it set as a goal in its latest fund drive several months ahead of schedule. The money will be distributed to several parts of the institution, but the bulk will go the the school's endowment, which - at $127 million - is larger than that of all but a few major American orchestras, and is a huge boon for a school which does not charge tuition to its 161 students. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/28/04

Scrambling For Relevance "Online services account for just a small fraction of overall music sales, but they're growing rapidly. And the new choices they give consumers threaten to remix the recording industry's traditional revenue streams, pumping up the volume of singles and subscriptions and turning down album sales... The shift to online shopping could be lucrative for the music industry if the flexibility and convenience lead people to spend more on tunes than they do today. But some industry executives and analysts fear the opposite result, with music lovers buying a few 99-cent singles instead of $15 CDs." Los Angeles Times 04/28/04

All That Money For A Ring, And You Don't Even Get Engaged! Looking forward to attending the Canadian Opera Company's forthcoming Ring cycle? You might want to see about a home equity loan: the COC announced its ticketing policy for the cycle this week, and patrons learned that they can expect to pay CAN$1700 for prime seats, and as much as CAN$2200 for certain VIP tickets. The cheapest ticket is CAN$300 for the full cycle. And having the money is no guarantee of getting in the door, since the company is giving ticket priority to its donors. The COC cycle commences in the fall of 2006. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/28/04

Robertson & St. Louis: A Perfect Match? The task of matching a conductor to an orchestra is far more complex than merely identifying a high level of skill in each. Orchestras, as well as conductors, often have distinct personalities, and a conductor who goes over fabulously in, say, Cleveland, may not get such a warm reception in Boston or Chicago. So when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra announced David Robertson as its next music director, the real question wasn't whether either party had the necessary skills for top-notch performances, but whether this would be a match of musical personalities. The SLSO played New York with its music director-designate this week, and Bernard Holland found the new marriage promising. The New York Times 04/28/04

Strad Cello Stolen in L.A. A Stradivarius cello known as the "General Kyd" has been stolen from a private home in the Los Angeles area. The instrument, which is owned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and played by its principal cellist, Peter Stumpf, dates from 1684 and is valued at $3.5 million. Police are being cagey about the circumstances surrounding the theft, refusing to identify the specific house from which the cello was taken, but stating that there was no immediate sign of a break-in at the residence. The Guardian (AP) 04/28/04

April 27, 2004

Is Karl Jenkins One Of Our Most Popular Composers? Karl Jenkins is a former jingle-writer and rock musican. Now he's a popular classical composer. "The wealth of these influences make him a hard composer to define, and he wearies of critics’ insistence on putting him in boxes. So let’s say that he’s a new sort of world composer: one whose music is fêted in Kazakhstan and cherished in Japan for its healing properties." The Telegraph (UK) 04/28/04

The Languishing Long Island Philharmonic The troubled Long Island Philharmonic has special challenges attracting an audience. "People who have moved out here have made a conscious decision. They'll go to New York City to take in an orchestra or a Broadway show. We're an audience known for renting movies. My competition isn't Tilles Center or Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, it's Blockbuster Video and the couch." The New York Times 04/28/04

It's Official - Colorado Symphony Chooses Kahane The Colorado Symphony chooses Jeffrey Kahane as its new music director. "The Los Angeles native, a finalist in the 1981 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and winner of the 1983 Rubenstein Competition, remains most widely known as a virtuoso pianist. But his reputation as a conductor is quickly catching up." Denver Post 04/27/04

Bowie To Fans: Take My Songs David Bowie isn't concerned about piracy of his music. In fact he's encouraging it and says he'll give a prize for the most creative remix of his work. "The musician's Web site urges fans to mix classic Bowie songs with material from his latest album, "Reality," to create a "mash-up" -- a track that uses vocals from one song superimposed over the backing tracks of another." Dallas Morning News (AP) 04/27/04

April 26, 2004

Latin Music Languishes "The Billboard Latin Music Conference celebrates its 15th birthday in Miami Beach this week. But instead of the coming-out festiveness typical of a quince, conferencegoers will wrestle with the financial and creative crisis facing an industry that makes Miami-Dade County its home." Miami Herald 04/26/04

Peabody's Renaissance Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory unveils a $27 million redo of its campus. "It is a good time for Peabody. The endowment has reached $70 million, and an association with Johns Hopkins University has proved beneficial for both institutions. Not bad for a place that came perilously close to bankruptcy a mere 27 years ago. Much of the credit for Peabody's renaissance must be given to Robert Sirota, a composer and conductor who has been the institute's director since 1995 and oversaw the renovation." Washington Post 04/26/04

Downloading Up (Illegal Down) A new study on music downloading reports that "an estimated 6 million people have stopped downloading copyrighted music from the Internet over fears that they may sued by the recording industry, but the overall number of Americans who download music is rising with the popularity of iTunes, Napster and other legitimate online music services." Washington Post 04/26/04

Springer Opera Coming To US Jerry Springer - The Opera" is making its US debut in 2005 in San Francisco. "The show has the distinction of being the only one ever to win all four major London awards for best musical." San Francisco Chronicle 04/26/04

  • Springer Opera To Broadway Jerry Springer - The Opera will open on Broadway in October 2005. "The production, which features bad language, tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members and a man wearing a giant nappy, may be something of a gamble in the US. Despite an increasingly conservative approach to indecency, producer Jon Thoday has vowed the material will not be toned down. Either it will be the most enormous hit or audiences will walk out in horror." BBC 04/26/04

April 25, 2004

What Happened To The Philadelphia Orchestra? Norman Lebrecht checks in on Philadelphia and finds an historic orchestra in disrepair. Could it be music director Christophe Eschenbach? "While it only takes one conductor to make a great orchestra, one misjudged transfer is enough to secure relegation. Philadelphia, like many football teams at this time of year, finds itself facing a very long drop. The testimony of my CD shelves suggests that there is no return from orchestral oblivion." La Scena Musicale 04/21/04

How To Encounter The Contemporary Composer Columbia University's Miller Theatre has found a successful format. "In most classical concerts, if listeners hear any music by contemporary composers, it's in small doses, which may be for the best. In a mixed program, a composer's style must quickly declare itself, both on its own terms and in relation to the styles of the other composers on the bill. The problem is that a composer discovered in a mixed program may not turn up again for months or even years. Single-composer concerts allow for a better assessment, but they are risky. A composer can be like a cat with a spool of yarn. Having found an intriguing idea, he or she may explore it from different perspectives through a dozen works or a dozen years. How well a handful of pieces based on the same notion — a rhythmic device, say, or a way of changing harmony — will work depends on the composer's inventiveness." The New York Times 04/25/04

Who Should Succeed Barenboim? John van Rhein has some very definite opinions on the subject whom the Chicago Symphony ought to select for its next music director. "Audience numbers have fallen during the Barenboim years, internal morale has sunk and the orchestra remains an orphan of the airwaves and recording studio. The CSO badly needs a music director who can restore the orchestra's luster in these and other areas. The eyes of the music world are upon Chicago." Chief among van Rhein's criteria: the new guy needs to be an American. Chicago Tribune 04/25/04

  • CSO Needs Substance Over Stardom Alan Artner would like to see the Chicago Symphony abandon its decades-long fascination with "superstar" conductors in favor of a leader who truly understands the importance of engaging the community. "Absenteeism does nothing to encourage audience identification and involvement with an orchestra," but the biggest names in conducting invariably spend most of their time somewhere other than Chicago. "Musicianship, inquisitiveness and commitment to the city are what counts -- the three together. And if they're not all present, the CSO should not engage." Chicago Tribune 04/25/04

Two London Orchestras Facing Eviction The massive renovation of London's Royal Festival Hall is being billed as the city's last, best chance at gaining a truly world-class classical music facility. But in the short term, the one-year period (beginning summer 2005) when the hall will be completely closed is causing major headaches for the two London orchestras which make their home there. "Viable alternatives are thin on the ground. The only other full-scale classical concert hall in London is the Barbican hall, but that has a busy schedule with its own resident band, the London Symphony Orchestra, and a host of visiting ensembles." The Guardian (UK) 04/24/04

Baltimore Deficit Grows "The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra expects to increase its projected deficit for the 2003-2004 season from $1.6 million to $2 million, administrative officials said yesterday. The $400,000 increase would push the orchestra's accumulated debt to about $3.2 million. Driving the red ink are shortfalls in ticket sales for the BSO's own concerts and presentations of other performers at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and a shortfall in contributions to the annual fund." Baltimore Sun 04/24/04

The First Nation of Classical Music? In Finland, music is practically the national language. Children are frequently taught to read notes before they can read words, and the government pours money into national music and arts education at a rate which would cause U.S. lawmakers to choke on their tax cuts. The result of all this national emphasis on music is clear: Finland, with a population comparable to the state of Minnesota, is dominating the international music scene, and "classical music has little of the elitist aura that tends to be the case in the United States." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 04/25/04

The Ultimate Narrowcast "It was the quietest concert of the year and perhaps the noisiest. For long stretches of the Tune(In))) the Kitchen, a four-hour electronic music gathering on Thursday night that was as conceptual as its title, the only sounds in the Kitchen came from people strolling around and sporadic conversations. But the airwaves in the room were alive with abstract sounds. Four simultaneous performances and a channel of video soundtracks were broadcast to the FM radios and headphones of the audience. The musicians worked at tabletop setups, never knowing who was listening." The New York Times 04/24/04

April 23, 2004

Schwarz: Was I too Adventurous In Liverpool? American conductor Gerard Schwarz says his choice of music when he first arrived as music director of the Royal Liverpool Orchestra may have scared off some audiences. Players of the orchestra recently voted not to renew Schwarz's contract with the orchestra. "In my first season's programme, I didn't think I was stretching the audiences. Obviously, everyone doesn't agree with me." Liverpool Echo 04/23/04

April 22, 2004

Sanitary Music "The prevalence of swearwords in modern pop has led to the rise of 'radio friendly' versions of singles, in which obscenities are muted, leaving only either the initial consonant or an isolated vowel. When swearing is the very point of a record, this approach results in a quite bizarre stop-start patchwork of noise and silence. Perhaps this is a cunning marketing ploy." The Telegraph (UK) 04/23/04

Killing The iPod - Try The Celestial Jukebox "By using licenses, the labels and their download sites are secretly transforming music into a service—something to which you subscribe, and about which they can change the rules any time they want. But it's a particularly crappy service. Who wants to 'own' this sort of pseudo-property, these annoying, stubborn, mulelike music files? In contrast, a music-streaming site advertises itself as a service, with an entirely different sort of consumer logic and much more satisfying results." Slate 04/22/04

But Dahhhh-ling, Say It Isn't So Workers at a UK opera company have been banned from using the theatrical greeting 'darling'. The English National Opera confirmed they had issued staff new guidelines on using the term of endearment. They fear use of the word 'darling' could constitute sexual harassment in the workplace." BBC 04/22/04

Will Pittsburgh Tour Without A Music Director? According to a German company which specializes in booking American orchestras into European venues, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is planning two major tours of the continent in 2005 and 2006, despite not having a music director. The plans call for Hans Graf to conduct the PSO on the first tour, with Andrew Davis leading the way in late summer 2006. It is highly unusual for an American orchestra to tour without its music director, but the PSO may be attempting to take advantage of the worldwide reputation it earned under departing MD Mariss Jansons as one of the U.S.'s best, if not best-known, ensembles. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/22/04

Detroit Hires NYC Ballet Exec "The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has found its new top administrator at the head of the largest ballet company in America. Anne Parsons, 46, general manager of the New York City Ballet, has been hired as the executive director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The appointment comes at a crucial moment for the DSO, which is coping with a $2.2-million accumulated deficit, searching for a successor to music director Neeme Jarvi and developing a long-range vision for the $60-million Max M. Fisher Music Center, which the orchestra opened to great acclaim in October. The DSO has been without its top administrator since former president and executive director Emil Kang, in the wake of the deficit, resigned in December after 3 1/2 years at the helm." Detroit Free Press 04/22/04

Kahane to Colorado The Colorado Symphony Orchestra has reportedly settled on conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane as its next music director, succeeding Marin Alsop. Kahane also heads up the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, recently founded a new music festival in northern California, and is a frequent guest with many major American orchestras. There is no word yet on when his tenure with the CSO will begin. Rocky Mountain News 04/22/04

Never, Ever, Ever Leave Your Violin In The Car "A thief recently broke into a car and made off with two 1840s violins owned by musicians in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. More than two weeks after the April 5 theft, police have not recovered the rare instruments, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars." The theft was particularly brazen, taking place while the instruments' owners were less than a block away buying a parking pass for their car. Vancouver Sun 04/22/04

Breaking Free of the Jazz Police For the last couple of decades, the ultraconservatove jazz movement known to some as neoclassicism and to others as "The Cult of Wynton Marsalis" has had a profound influence on rising young musicians. But Marsalis's influence seems to be slipping, as a new generation of jazzers raised on hip-hop and R&B comes of age. Some of the new breed feel that the neoclassicisists confuse history with tradition, and are eager to branch out into new realms of musical exploration. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 04/21/04

April 21, 2004

D-Day For Scottish Opera Scottish Opera's day of reckoning has come, as its funding fate is being decided. "It has been told it must repay a £4 million advance against its £7.5 million funding from the Scottish Arts Council. One plan on the table is said to involve as many as 80 job losses, including the opera’s staff chorus." The Scotsman 04/22/04

Taking The Measure of a Prodigy "Whatever Platonic fascinations they might hold, supremely gifted young musicians also live in a bruising real world of managers, agents, recording contracts, talented and carefully cultivated rivals, standard-bearing critics and a listening public fine-tuned by CDs, pirated downloads and the world-wide whir of Internet music sites and chat rooms." In other words, do not envy the prodigy: all the talent in the world can't spare him from the inevitable backlash of a world obsessed with the rapid rise and fall of celebrities. Case in point: the omnipresent Lang Lang... San Francisco Chronicle 04/21/04

Taking It To The Community The Philadelphia Orchestra is renewing its commitment to performing free summer concerts in underserved areas of its home community. The performances, which were briefly suspended last summer due to lack of funds, draw thousands of people to unconventional venues to hear one of the world's top orchestras, and music director Christoph Eschenbach has been said to be a key proponent of the idea. But it apparently took the financial security of a $50 million pledge from the Annenberg Foundation to make the orchestra, which has struggled with debt over the past several seasons, confident enough to move ahead with the three free concerts, which will cost the organization $375,000 in total. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/21/04

Royal Festival Hall To Get £90 million Makeover "Plans for a £90m refurbishment of London's Royal Festival Hall have been unveiled, with the news that £73m of the total sum has been raised so far... The Arts Council have given £25m to the project, while Heritage Lottery's donation is £20m." The aim is to give the hall an entirely new look, and in the process, create a world-class acoustical venue for London, which despite multiple tries, has never managed to build one. BBC 04/21/04

San Antonio: Back From The Brink? The San Antonio Symphony's bankruptcy reorganization plan was approved by a federal judge this week, allowing the orchestra to move ahead with plans for a new season. Bankruptcy may be in the past, but so are many of the SAS's old musicians, who have moved on to new jobs in new cities. Still, hopes are high for a rejuvenated ensemble. "The new operating plan includes a slimmed-down budget with a shorter season and lower pay and benefits for musicians. It also features a new management team and increased emphasis on marketing, sales, corporate sponsorships and decreased telemarketing expenses. The proposed budget for 2004-05, based on a 26-week season and 72 musicians, lists operating expenses of about $5.5 million." San Antonio Express-News 04/19/04

April 20, 2004

Not Much Grand About Florida Grand Opera? Florida Grand Opera seems to be appealing to ticket-buyers, but artistically, there's plenty to complain about, writes Lawrence Johnson. "It's the logical culmination of several unsettling trends that have been apparent over the past few years, with the depths plumbed this season pointing to a company that seems to be artistically adrift." Florida Sun-Sentinel 04/18/04

April 19, 2004

Police Shut Down Rowdy Ragtime Band (And Takes Their Instruments) Neighbors complained about the noise from a ragtime band practicing. So they called the police, who came and confiscated the band's instruments. "Acting with the full force of the law, they took an upright piano (white, slightly bashed), two electric pianos, a violin, a trombone, an acoustic guitar, four CD players, two tape decks and a portable stereo. They also loaded a £10,000 viola into the back of their van, but allowed its owner to rescue it when he produced proof that he would need it for an audition in Barcelona the next day." The Guardian (UK) 04/20/04

Music Should Be Free "If the current anarchy leads to cheaper music for all of us and a fairer distribution of profits to artists, it can only be a good thing. It is to everyone's benefit — artist, fans and industry — that there is now greater access to music of all ages, provenance and genre than ever. Piracy may be rife, but the appetite to consume and produce music is also booming. What the current developments also point to is the decrease in the cost of making music, which has accelerated dramatically with the cheapening of technology." The Telegraph (UK) 04/20/04

Scottish Opera On Hold "Scottish Opera has put planning for its coming season on hold after it was told not to enter into any binding contracts. The crisis-hit company now has to wait for the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) and the Scottish Executive to agree on its financial future. In the latest sign of continuing problems, Scottish Opera’s accounts for last year have not been signed off by an auditor." The Scotsman 04/19/04

Audience Turns Up To Support Liverpool's Schwarz Gerard Schwarz returned to conduct the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic after members of his orchestra voted last week not to renew his contract. "The members voted against the 57-year-old music director's contract being renewed when it comes up for renewal in 2006. But Mr Schwarz appears to have the support of the paying public as record crowds turned up to see him conducting the Liverpool Young Musician of the Year contest." Liverpool Daily Post 04/19/04

Modern Music In Modern Art "For whatever reason – and speculation could fill many a book – modern visual art is far more widely accepted than modern classical music. Exhibitions of Picasso and Matisse draw huge crowds, and even hotels mount abstract art on their walls. But mainstream modern music by the likes of Stravinsky, Poulenc and Janácek, some of it nearly a century old, remains a hard sell. Genuinely atonal music, from Arnold Schoenberg to Elliott Carter – the equivalent, you might say, of abstract expressionism in painting – isn't popular even among highly trained professional musicians. Surrounded by modern painting and sculpture, though, modern music can make more sense." Dallas Morning News 04/18/04

April 18, 2004

A Crescendo Off A Single Piano Note? Lars Vogt is a pianist who seems to believe the impossible. "Power, he says, 'has nothing to do with the force of hitting a key. You see some pianists attack; that's what makes the sound ugly and not resonant,' he says, demonstrating with a welter of loud but indistinct notes. 'If the fingers are very close to the keys, you always have a feeling of drawing the sound out - rather than pushing the sound into the key. You can be a lot more intense in the playing while still making the piano sing.' Sit down and try to do it yourself, and you realize that much of Vogt's success comes from his head rather than his hands. He imagines the sound and wills it into being." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/18/04

Scottish Opera On The Line "Scottish Opera has, for reasons hard to discern, acquired pariah status. No one will speak up for it. Less than a year after the triumphant conclusion of its Ring Cycle, generally held to be one of the great post-war Wagner productions, it is cast in the role of profligate - elitist, unpopular, and irrelevant. Apparently unwilling to conform to the demands of contemporary cultural policy, it has retreated into the ranks of the untouchables, tarred with the great New Labour crime of being non-inclusive. The time has come, say its critics, to shrug it off, to clear it from the desk, to consign it to outer darkness. Except that no one can quite bring themselves to say so." The Scotsman 04/18/04

Peabody's New Face Baltimore's Peabody Institute "unveils nearly $27 million worth of campus renovations, the most extensive and expensive construction project since the institution opened in 1866." The school campus has looked in for decades, and the renovations are designed to reconnect with the community. Baltimore Sun 04/18/04

US In Iraq - Loud Music As Weapon Once again, US troops are using loud American rock music as a weapon against its foes. Last week the Americans blared music into Fallujah, hoping to set militants nerves on edge. "The loud music recalls the Army's use of rap and rock to help flush out Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega after the December 1989 invasion on his country, and the FBI's blaring progressively more irritating tunes in an attempt to end a standoff with armed members of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas in 1993." The Globe & Mail (AP) 04/17/04

Today's Music: Give Me That Old Time Religion Christian music is big business now. "Sales of praise and worship albums have doubled since 2000, to about 12 million in 2003. While music sales over all slumped last year, including Christian music in general, worship music was up 5 percent. A series of CD's marketed on television by Time-Life, "Songs 4 Worship," has drawn a million subscribers and sold about 8 million CD's since 2000." The New York Times 04/17/04

Universal Raises CD Prices (Cutting Prices Didn't Help) Universal is abandoning its lower retail pricing plan, and increasing its suggested retail prices. "Universal's competitors didn't follow suit with wholesale price cuts. Some record label executives privately dismissed the price-cut plan as a promotional ploy aimed at boosting short-term sales numbers. Moreover, some retailers complained that the new system unfairly squeezed their profit margins." Los Angeles Times 04/17/04

Is Schwarz Done In Liverpool? Why did musicians of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic vote to not renew music director Gerard Schwarz's contract? "If it's because the Liverpool orchestra rejects him aesthetically, that might be a problem. If it's because the orchestra resents some changes he's making, that's different. They might resent him for firing somebody's brother. They might think that just because the tuba player is 80 years old, that's no reason for him to go away." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 04/17/04

April 16, 2004

Liverpool Musicians Vote To Oust Schwarz "Musicians at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra are understood to have voted for Gerard Schwarz to be ousted from his position as musical director. Maestro Schwarz was brought in three years ago to turn fortunes around at the cash-strapped orchestra, which was then £2.5 million in debt." The Scotsman 04/16/04

  • 45 of 64 Musicians Vote Not To Renew Schwarz In Liverpool Two thirds of the musicians of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic voted to not renew music director Gerard Schwarz's contract. "A final decision on whether to renew Mr Schwarz's contract will be taken by the 11-strong board of directors following the review. The issues that musicians have disagreed with Schwarz about are said to include programme planning and repertoire choice. There has been some concern over the new umbrella job title of musical director." Liverpool Daily Post 04/16/04

April 15, 2004

Down On The People's Opera "It is not surprising that the latest venture from Raymond Gubbay, the man who brought opera to the Albert Hall, has attracted the sneers of the experts. Savoy opera, intended to offer (relatively) cheap, accessible productions of the classics in the West End, has been accused of undermining London's other opera companies by skimming off the easy stuff and offering less than perfect performances, with cheap labour in the form of young, largely unknown singers. It is the antithesis of what the purists, regardless of the viability of the product, appear to believe opera ought to be." The Guardian (UK) 04/16/04

The First Rock Record... Who made the first rock 'n roll record? Think you know? Really? "It's one of those debates that's going to go on forever. It's one of those questions that there's no answer for. It would be nice for me to tell you that the first rock'n' roll record ever made was by Fred Bloggs, but it's an impossible thing to do. You're never going to get a definitive answer." The Guardian (UK) 04/16/04

You Notice No One Seemed To Care About The Viola "An 18th-century Italian-made violin reported missing earlier this week was found in an alleyway near the Manhattan bar where its owner had left it, police said. Odin Rathnam, the first-chair violinist for the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, had been in New York for a meeting and left the violin, along with a borrowed viola, at Yogi's bar on the Upper West Side. The violin, valued at about $95,000, was made by Bartolomeo Calvaros of Bergamo, Italy, between 1750 and 1755; the viola belonged to a friend." A bar patron actually claims to have hocked the fiddle at a local pawn shop for $600, but doesn't have a good explanation for how it ended up back in the alley. Miami Herald (AP) 04/15/04

April 14, 2004

Miss Manners Vs. The Conductor's Temper In the last year alone, a conductor in Rio de Janeiro has mooned an audience which was booing the opera he was conducting, and another baton-twirler went on a 10-minute tirade against an audience in Florida for some perceived slight or other. The problem of audience behavior and musician backlash is nothing new in the music world, of course, but when conductors begin displaying their posteriors in public, someone needs to step in, and Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners, figures it might as well be her. In fact, she's proposing a career exchange with the marauding maestros. "It is true that Miss Manners can’t count terribly well, but she looks fetching in evening clothes and has some experience at terrorizing people into silence with a mere glance. How difficult can the rest of it be?" Rockdale (GA) Citizen 04/14/04

Are Great Conductors Avoiding France? "France's main symphony orchestras are struggling to recruit conductors, especially on a permanent basis, though the roots of the problem remain unclear... Departing conductors speak of conflicts with management, the difficulties of having to share facilities with other artistic companies, overwork and, more coyly, personal reasons." Whether the problem is bureaucratic, artistic, or cultural, it is clear that France has a conductor problem to which no one has yet found a solution. Expatica (Agence France-Presse) 04/04

April 13, 2004

Better Sport Through Mozart Forget drugs. "A strong dose of Mozart is more likely to enhance athletic performance. This is the revolutionary theory of a Greek cardiologist who, when not attending to affairs of the heart, busies himself as a composer. He recommends music as the best stimulant for sporting success and claims that a series of studies have shown that, used in combination with the right diet, 'it can act as an energy supplement in the attempt to reduce the use of pharmaceutical substances by young people involved in sport'." The Independent (UK) 04/11/04

Music Sales Turnaround... Why? Sales of music are up 9 percent in the first three months of 2004 after three years of declines. Yet downloading on the internet is still increasing. So if downloading wasn't responsible for declines in music sales in recent years, what was? IOndustry watchers say it was a combination of factors... Wired 04/13/04

April 12, 2004

A Rossini Find Worth Finding It was 170 years between performances of Rossini's opera Ermione. Anne Midgette is aware that such long lost finds more often than not prove why they were forgotten. But "for my money, this is the best rediscovery to cross the radar in a long time. Anyone who likes 19th-century Italian opera — from Donizetti to Verdi — should see City Opera's "Ermione." The New York Times 04/13/04

All The Opera You Can Eat For £50 All of a sudden there are all these opportunities to buy cheap tickets to opera and music in London. So here's the challenge - how much can you get in to £50? Try five shows at some of the city's biggest performing arts venues. The Guardian (UK) 04/13/04

Critic: Opera's Cut-Rate Ticket Plan Won't Expand Audience London's Royal Opera House's plans to offer some of its best seats for £10 is not going to widen the audience for opera, says a leading think tank. The critique suggests that "such schemes are more likely to encourage the middle class to go to the opera more often, rather than widen access." The Guardian (UK) 04/13/04

Rocky 2 Tops Classic FM Poll (Again) For the fourth year in a row Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 has topped Classic FM's most-loved music poll. "Its emergence - in each year so far of the new century - as the British classical listening public's favourite tune indicates Rachmaninov's position as perhaps the most popular mainstream composer of the last 70 years. Its place was secured by the votes of the commercial station's listeners." The Guardian (UK) 04/13/04

Was Rock Critic Fired Because He's Too Old? Larry Nager was recently fired as the Cincinnati Enquirer's pop music critic. Nager says it was because he just turned 50. "The Enquirer, Nager claims, deemed him expendable because he didn't fit the paper's profile of someone who should be reporting on the Britneys and Justins of the music world. Nager accuses the Enquirer — and many other newspapers — of targeting an 18-34 female demographic, a move he calls a reaction to the whole MTV-ing of our society ... newspapers are trying belatedly to be 'with it.'" Editor & Publisher 04/12/04

Of Orchestra Managers And Musicians - A Wage Chart Why is there such a huge discrepancy between the salary of orchestra executives and musicians? AJ blogger Drew McManus correlates the pay compensation of players and the people who manage orchestras. Executives earn, on average, between 3 and 6 times as much as the musician earning a base salary... Adaptistration (AJBlogs) 04/11/04

Fleisher: Music In Words Leon Fleisher is king of the musical metaphors. "Listening to Fleisher talk about music is delightfully dizzying. The metaphors come in an endless flow. Play like a cat, he might say, but with sheathed claws. Play it like a Bavarian milkmaid, not like Britney Spears. Fingers shouldn’t be hammers, they should be dolphin flippers. This chord change could be from a Marlene Dietrich song; croak over it." The New Yorker 04/12/04

April 11, 2004

Doing The Homework To Listen Should the music critic look at a score or listen to a recording before attending a performance of a new work? Tim Mangan says yes: "Virtually any piece of serious classical music that a listener is not familiar with is 'just an overwhelming event' the first time he hears it. There's so much going on that our ears can't comprehend it in one gulp. And who knows whether, that first time we hear a piece, be it Brahms' Third Symphony or Adams' 'Transmigration,' it's a good performance or bad?" Orange County Register 04/11/04

Daniel Barenboim On Why He's Leaving The Chicago Symphony: "It's impossible for me in America. It's very difficult to be a musician in America because the system has become one where people expect you to do all sorts of other things that take a tremendous amount of time. When they talked to me about renewing my contract, they said `We would like more time from you not necessarily to conduct, but to do community activities.' They basically expect you to go and spend half your time explaining to people why it is important to have culture, to have music. Here in Berlin when you fight, you fight in order to have enough for projects you want to do." Chicago Tribune 04/11/04

Beethoven's Ninth In 24 Hours There are many recorded versions of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. But a radical new interpretation by the Norwegian conceptual artist Leif Inge, which he calls "9 Beet Stretch," "digitally elongates a recording of the symphony to make it last 24 hours. The piece slows symphonic time so that movement is barely perceptible. What you hear in normal time as a happy Viennese melody lasting 5 or 10 seconds becomes minutes of slowly cascading overtones; a drumroll becomes a nightmarish avalanche. Yet the symphony remains somehow recognizable in spirit if not in form, its frozen strings fraught with tense, frowning Beethoven-ness." The New York Times 04/11/04

Emerson Quartet Wins Avery Fisher Prize This year, the administrators of the $50,000 Avery Fisher Prize for American musicians changed its rules of eligibility to include ensembles, and the first beneficiaries are the members of the Emerson String Quartet, who will be announced as the 2004 winners of the prize in a Monday ceremony. The group says it will "try to do something creative [with the money.] We won't just spend it." The New York Times 04/11/04

U.S. Music Sales Bounce Back "Music sales in the US rose by more than 9% in the first three months of 2004 compared with the same period last year - signalling an end to a four-year dip. The 9.1% upturn in sales of CDs, music DVDs and legal downloads is a ray of light for an industry that has battled online piracy and new technology." BBC 04/11/04

Scottish Opera On The Brink Scottish Opera is planning to lay off 80 staff members in a desperate effort to avoid fiscal collapse, according to a union representing Scottish actors. The crisis managemant plan the union claims to have seen would cut across the entire organization, with dozens of musicians, crew members, and administrators losing their jobs, and "the entire 34-strong chorus [would be made] redundant." Scottish Opera has already taken a £4 million advance on next year's £7.5 million grant from the Scottish Arts Council, and general consensus has been that the company is severely underfunded. The company isn't commenting on the layoff report. Scotland on Sunday 04/11/04

Whither The American Sound? Nationalism can be a dangerous thing, but a love of country and all that it stands for is the only thing that can lead to the development of a serious "national sound" among composers, says Robert Jones. Individuals like Copland and Bernstein aside, America has never really had its own tradition of classical music, and even works identified as distinctly "American" are often written by European composers like Dvorak. "America always seemed nervous about nationalism in music," and Jones says that will have to change if anyone expects the U.S. to develop a compositional tradition as easily recognized as those of countries like France, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Charleston Post & Courier 04/11/04

The Guitar That Changed Rock 'n Roll The Fender Stratocaster may be the most famous instrument of the 20th century, and it turns 50 this year. From Les Paul to Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton, the guitar built with an eye to architecture and a sound like nothing anyone had ever heard before has helped define three generations of rock 'n roll sound. Toronto Star 04/10/04

Re-re-reconsidering Shostakovich. Again. The debate over whether Dmitri Shostakovich was a talented but limited composer in the pocket of the Soviet leadership; or a secret dissident, hiding messages of anti-Stalinist revolt in his music, is unlikely to ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. But a new book by Solomon Volkov, whose earlier book Testimony reignited the Shostakovich debate a quarter-century ago, sheds some new light on the complicated relationship between Shostakovich and his chief antagonist (and chief sponsor,) Josef Stalin. Volkov divides the composer's career into two periods: the brash, exploratory years before Shostakovich penned his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtnsk," and the cautious, paranoid period after Stalin denounced "Lady Macbeth" as an anti-Soviet muddle. The New York Times 04/10/04

April 8, 2004

Scottish Opera - Doin' The Limbo "Scottish Opera is in limbo, struggling on an already meagre budget and warned that it must pay back a £4 million advance and will receive nothing above its current annual £7.5 million. The most imaginative company in the world cannot survive on nothing, so it seems certain that unless it is thrown a lifeline quickly, Scottish Opera will sink." The Scotsman 04/08/04

Ode To The Studio Musician "Most of the music you will ever hear will be played by people you will never see and whose names you will neither know nor think to ask. It will be recorded in windowless rooms, witnessed sometimes only by an engineer or producer, the now-ancient technology of the overdub making the presence even of other musicians unnecessary. For every superstar singer or guitar heroine whose name adorns a T-shirt or tattoo, there are hundreds whose work is done anonymously, or as good as. Who play their part, collect their pay and go home." LA Weekly 04/08/04

Wringing More Profits Out Of Downloads "Unburdened by manufacturing and distribution costs, online music was supposed to usher in a new era of inexpensive, easy-to-access music for consumers. In many cases, buying music online is still cheaper than shopping for CDs at retail outlets. But just a year after iTunes debuted with its 99-cent songs and mostly $9.99 albums, that affordable and straightforward pricing structure is already under pressure. All five major music companies are discussing ways to boost the price of single-song downloads on hot releases -- to anywhere from $1.25 to as much as $2.49." Wired 04/08/04

Daring To Improvise: Jazz As A Life Metaphor Nat Hentoff's public profile is that of a strident left-wing columnist and first amendment crusader, but privately, he's always dreamed of being a jazzer. "Starting when I was eleven, jazz musicians were the adults I most admired, even more than Ted Williams and some of his colleagues on the Boston Red Sox. Their music so lifted me up that at times I'd shout in pleasure and surprise, even though I was a relatively proper Boston boy who did not ordinarily disturb the public peace... And I measured the other adults I knew against these musicians' resilience of spirit. They made their living as improvisers, taking chances in public every night. Challenging themselves was their natural way of life." Wall Street Journal 04/08/04

Detroit Symphony Reduces Its Summer Season Struggling to cope with a multimillion-dollar deficit, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has cut way back on the concerts it plays at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, where the DSO has traditionally played 15 summer concerts over 5 weeks. In January, the orchestra completed a mid-contract renegotiation with its musicians, who agreed to temporary pay cuts and furlough weeks in an effort to balance the books, but the Meadow Brook cuts will still leave a 3-week gap in the summer schedule, which could be filled by a statewide tour, or an expansion of the DSO's other summer activities. Detroit Free Press 04/08/04

April 7, 2004

London's Newest Opera Company Debuts Raymond Gubbay's Savoy Opera opens. With cheap tickets, the opera attracts an audience you don't typically see at Covent Garden. "It's a myth that opera is posh; it's the most visceral of art forms, preoccupied with love, sex and death. It's just opera-goers who have given it a bad name. If Gubbay can reclaim it for coach parties who might otherwise go to Mamma Mia!, good for him." The Guardian (UK) 04/08/04

Music Sales Down Worldwide In 2003 Sales of recorded music sales fell by more than 7% worldwide in 2003 says the International Federation of Phonographic Industries. Germany led the biggest decline with a drop of 19 percent. The organization reported said that "internet piracy was a major factor in the decline. It said sales had fallen 20% over three years." BBC 04/07/04

  • After The Drop: Good Times Ahead For Recording Industry? What's to blame for the worldwide drop in retail music sales (the recording industry still sold $32 billion worth of music in 2003)? The industry blames "rampant piracy, poor economic conditions and competition from video games and DVDs. However, a strong second-half recovery in the United States, Britain and Australia, boosted by top-selling acts such as Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and rapper 50 Cent, has raised hopes that the worst is behind the beleaguered industry." Wired 04/07/04

Philly Summer Season Looking Awfully Pops-Heavy The Philadelphia Orchestra's summer series at the city's Mann Music Center is taking a decided turn towards light pops programming, reports David Patrick Stearns. While orchestral summers are frequently lighter than winter programming, there's no mistaking the direction the orchestra is taking, with fully 40% of the concerts scheduled for the Mann categorized as more pop than classical. Attendance figures from the last several summers seem to suggest that the orchestra, which is coping with a nearly $6 million deficit, will benefit financially from the increase in lighter fare. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/07/04

Looking To The Bottom Line in Baltimore As orchestras around North America struggle to adapt to a harsh new funding climate, a dividing line is appearing between those ensembles which choose their leaders based mainly on their perceived business savvy, and those which prefer to be led by individuals with experience in the arts and non-profit sectors. This week, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is expected to take the former course, promoting its 49-year-old marketing director James Glicker, who had never worked for an orchestra before being hired to his current position in January, to the post of executive director. Baltimore Sun 04/07/04

April 6, 2004

The Royal Opera's £10 Revolution Royal Opera House boss Tony Hall says a sponsorship that will reduce some of the best seats in the house to £10 is revolutionary. "The adjectives are extreme, but it is hard to argue. Best seats in the house to see some of the biggest opera and ballet stars in the world - including Plácido Domingo, Cecilia Bartoli, Bryn Terfel, Darcey Bussell, Carlos Acosta - for less than the price of a West End cinema ticket. In some cases, that represents a saving of £165. Hall can scarcely contain his enthusiasm. 'This is really opening up the opera house'." Financial Times 04/07/04

Give Me Those Suburban Blues... Chicago is still a Blues kind of town. "But as the marketplace changes and the fan base becomes more suburban than inner-city, it's not your father's or granddaddy's blues that they're playing. The blues is more than a museum piece in sweet home Chicago, but many purists believe the music is being sanitized to appeal to tourists." Chicago Sun-Times 04/06/04

The Royal Opera House's Premium £10 Tickets London's Royal Opera House is slashing the prices on 100 top price tickets for opera and ballet on Mondays, cutting their price to £10 each, thanks to a corporate sponsor. "It follows a similar scheme - also funded by the same company - at the National Theatre last year." BBC 04/06/04

Band Download Fans Donate To Charity The band Wilco's new recording won't be officially released until June 22. But last month copies of the new album hit the internet. Rather than get mad, "the band responded in a novel way. Instead of filing lawsuits or issuing cease-and-desist letters - a common practice in the piracy-crazed music industry - Wilco cooperated in setting up a Web site where downloaders could cleanse their consciences." Since Friday, fans have donated $4000 to Wilco's favorite charity. Baltimore Sun 04/06/04

April 5, 2004

Webber: Musicians Paid By The Note? Yeah, Right! Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has "no sympathy for the shrill squeaks emanating from the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn's violin section, whose players are demanding more euros than the rest of the orchestra because they play more notes... An undoubted compensation of orchestral playing is the companionship among the musicians, who have a camaraderie that soloists rarely experience. Ours is a world where ships often pass in the night but seldom dock in the same port." The Telegraph (UK) 04/06/04

Was A Prominent London Nightclub Pushed Out Of Business? London's Impreial Gardens nightclub was a breeding grounds for young black musicians, writers and producers. But then the club suddenly had to close when they land it was on was marked for redevlopment. "We were going to be the Motown of south London. All money raised by the club went to support artists, black record labels, writers and producers. We were part of a cluster of black business here and we were all pushed out. It seemed a bit like ethnic cleansing. They have found premises for the others but nothing suitable for us." The Guardian (UK) 04/06/04

Musical Greatness - All About The Personality? Why do some musicians capture the imagination of the public, while others, perhaps just as gifted, do not? "Nathan Milstein, popular though he was, never became as big a celebrity as Heifetz, and the reason for this can be found in his personality. Unlike Heifetz, an introverted man with few passions outside of music, Milstein was both outgoing and wide-ranging in his cultural interests, and he embraced the act of public performance with an enthusiasm alien to Heifetz’s tightly wound nature." Commentary 04/0/04

Moravec Wins Music Pulitzer American composer Paul Moravec has won this year's Pulitzer Prize for music for his "Tempest Fantasy." Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Piano Concerto No. 3 by Peter Lieberson, and Cello Counterpoint by Steve Reich. NewMusicBox` 04/05/04

Watch The Robot Conduct Beethoven Let's see - we've replaced musicians with "virtual orchestras" in theatre pits. And more and more movie scores are being synthesized. What's next? Conductors. A robot has successfully(?) conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Japan. "The 58-centimetre-tall humanoid robot led the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in a unique rendition of Beethoven's 5th symphony during a concert held at the Bunkamura Orchard Hall in Tokyo on 15 March." New Scientist 04/05/04

Country Song-Writers Fall On Hard Times Nashville's country music songwriters are singing the blues these days. "Radio homogenization, corporate mergers and music piracy have made it tough for songwriters to earn a living. 'We've lost more than half of America's professional songwriters over the past decade. The ones staying alive have really had to adapt." WJLA-ABC (AP) (Washington) 04/05/04

What If The Music Industry Is Wrong About Downloads? The recording industry has been fighting music downloads as piracy, saying that the recording business is being hurt by downloads. But "what if the industry is wrong, and file sharing is not hurting record sales? It might seem counterintuitive, but that is the conclusion reached by two economists who released a draft last week of the first study that makes a rigorous economic comparison of directly observed activity on file-sharing networks and music buying. 'Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero, despite rather precise estimates'." The New York Times 04/05/04

April 4, 2004

The Amateur Cliburn Time once again for the Amateur Van Cliburn piano competition. It's actuallt called the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, and 75 pianists from eight countries and 27 states will compete in Fort Worth from May 31 through June 5. "The field of competitors, once again heavy on people from the medical professions, will perform in a three-part, elimination-style competition at Texas Christian University's Ed Landreth Auditorium. The 75 were selected by the foundation from 110 recorded applications and written statements from amateur pianists age 35 and over." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 04/04/04

Why The Long Island Phil Is A Tough Sell Why is the Long Island Philharmonic sort of problem is one that confronts almost anyone who presents live classical music. The 'event' aspect of live music has been challenged on one hand by the advent of electronic reproduction of music and on the other by what we might think of as the "museum-ification" of classical music generally. The development of new technologies that make performed music readily and easily available has had a profound effect not only on how and when people listen to music but on what listeners expect to hear." Newsday 04/04/04

  • Previously: 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

Lost Bach Manuscript Found A lost musical score by JS Bach has turned up in the estate of a Japanese pianist. "The 1728 composition, called "Wedding Cantata BWV 216," was found among the papers of Japanese pianist Chieko Hara, who died in Japan in 2001 aged 86." BBC 04/04/04

Get Your Red Hot Music Here... Recording companies are trying all sorts of new ways to deliver their product to consumers. "Offerings for consumers that are already available or in the works range from free song downloads (awarded after buying a bottle of soda or a cheeseburger) to the ability to walk into a Starbucks and choose from thousands of songs to make a CD." Christian Science Monitor 04/02/04

Colorado's Next Conductor? Who will succeed Marin Alsop as music director of the Colorado Symphony? "The search apparently has been whittled down to a quartet. Nothing official, but we're banking on Roberto Minczuk, Jeffrey Kahane, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and David Lockington." Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 04/04/04

Music For Mind And Body A new study says that you can improve your health (mental and physical) by working out to certain kinds of music. "According to the journal Heart & Lung, a team of Ohio State University researchers has found that exercising to music — at least to Antonio Vivaldi — not only improves physical conditioning, it also improves mental conditioning. People get smarter if they work out while listening to certain music." Los Angeles Times 04/04/04

Tale Of Two Awards Shows Canada's Junos and Quebec's Felix Awards celebrate Canadian musicians. But where the Felix finds its winners from artists who make their careers almost entirely in Canada, the Junos have been increasingly dominated by Canadians who have struck it big south of the border. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/03/04

Who Was The Real Shostakovich? "Was he a faithful servant of the Soviet regime, as his public behavior and official pronouncements might suggest? Or was he a secret dissident who expressed with musical signs and subtexts all the protest he could not make in words? Or did he live and work, like so many Soviet citizens, in a complicated gray area between those extremes?" Two new books revive the controversy but fail to deliver the definitive answer. The New York Times 04/04/04

April 2, 2004

To Share Or Not To Share, That Is The Question Recording execs are blasting a Canadian judge's decision that allows music file-sharing. "But ask anyone else connected in some way with music -- from artists and small record company managers to listeners and file sharers themselves -- and you'll get myriad views on the matter, pro and con. The decision Wednesday in a Toronto Federal Court against the Canadian Recording Industry Association's attempt to sue file sharers in Canada doesn't seem to have changed opinions much." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/02/04

Age Of The Producer We are living in the age of the producer. That's the guy who takes the music and wrestles it around until it comes out a hit. Producers are now stars in their own right, and their status is only increasing now that anyone with a laptop computer can do what formerly took a roomful of mixing boards. Four producers talk about how their business has changed. Christian Science Monitor 04/02/04

American Mavericks Wins Peabody The American music series "American Mavericks" has won a Peabody Award"American Mavericks' tells the story of the tradition-breaking composers who shaped the development of American music, from Charles Ives to Henry Brant, Harry Partch, Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich and others." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 04/02/04

April 1, 2004

Violins - Some Wood, Some Strings, Some Sound We have a romanticized image of the violin-maker. The reality tends to be much more clinical. "Violins are made of spruce, maple and ebony. So anyone with carpentry experience could actually go out and buy a do-it-yourself book and build one. But without an idea of sound, it would be hit or miss." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/02/04

Cautious Recording Companies = Dull Music? EMI is laying off workers, and recording companies are slashing their expenses. So is that really a bad thing? "The real risk with major record companies being in a position where they have to be cautious with their money is that they'll play safe, and the way to play safe is to play pop. That's the thing that many people overlook when they see the downloading as simply stealing music from rich companies. If those companies aren't able to invest in long-term artists, they will just continue to churn out manufactured pop bands." The Telegraph (UK) 04/01/04

Recording Industry - The Big Gouge? The recording industry says suing downloaders has helped reduce piracy. And new legal download stores are thriving. "None of these actions has done anything to change the public's view of the music industry as one that gouges its customers. One reason that the illegal sharing of music files online is still so widespread is that music-lovers know how little of the price of a compact disc goes on its manufacture, or to the artist. Musicians, too, are becoming fed up." The Economist 04/01/04

CD Sales: A Record Year Not To Be Proud Of "The Australian record industry has just had its best year ever. But it doesn't want you to know about it. This month ARIA announced its sales figures for last year. In its press release, it talked about Delta, it talked about falling CD singles sales, it talked about the rise in DVD sales, but at no stage did it tell us it was the industry's best year ever. Why bury the good news? Record industry types aren't usually shy about success. But this time their success is a little embarrassing." Sydney Morning Herald 03/29/04

Legal Downloads Up, Choice Too The amount of legally purchased downloaded music has increased 10 times in the past year. But what's really interesting, is what is being downloading. "Music fans are downloading a wide range of songs, with the top 100 downloads accounting for just 11% of sales. This contrasts with CD single sales, where the top 100 CD singles account for 77% of total CD singles sales." BBC 04/01/04

The Ultimate Do-It-Yourself Music Who needs a big expensive piano, really? After all, you can make beautiful music for only a few measley bucks! Just "pry open a Gameboy, tinker with its electronic guts, plug the re-engineered result into a Speak & Spell, duct tape it all together, sprinkle liberally with glitter, hook it up to an amplifier and let the good times roll." The act of creating such self-hacked instruments is known as "circuit bending," and a new festival celebrating the fad may be proof that it's becoming a legitimate form of artistic expression. Wired 04/01/04

You Mean MTV Still Plays Videos In Europe? MTV Europe has backed off efforts to force a cut in the royalty rate it pays to independent record labels. The TV music network, which also owns European music channels VH1 and TMF, had sought a rate cut of 55% from nearly 300 smaller labels, but the companies went public with the dispute, and MTV has apparently backed down. BBC 04/01/04

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