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July 30, 2004

Defining The Music Of Ideas What are today's Big Ideas in music? Well, before you can start identifying them, you have to first decide whether music needs any Big Ideas. Some of America's classical music critics struggle over definitions... Critical Conversation (AJBlogs) 07/29/04

July 29, 2004

A Parsifal That Doesn't Shock "The audience was prepared for the worst. A highly controversial German director whithout any experience in opera had been charged with putting on a new version of “Parsifal“ to open the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. But after months of suspense, the audience left the theater on Sunday rather calmed." Maybe it was the weak singing? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07/30/04

The Carlos Kleiber Aura The mythologies aabout conductor are only getting bigger since his death. But Norman Lebrecht suggests that Kleiber failed to live up to his gifts. "Kleiber was a magnificently gifted conductor who chose, for reasons known only to himself, to deny himself to music. He gave very little, and then he took it away. He was the greatest non-conductor we have ever seen." La Scena Musicale 07/29/04

They Don't Teach Elvish at Juilliard This weekend, the Pittsburgh Symphony and its resident chorus will put on a special performance of a symphony based on the Lord of the Rings film scores by Howard Shore. The show is sure to draw a crowd, but has presented some interesting challenges for the choral director, who has never before had to instruct his singers in proper Elvish and Dwarvish diction... Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/29/04

Rock On Why do so many adults give up their devotion to great rock music once they reach a certain age? Maybe its the sense of grown-up responsibility that somehow seems at odds with the devil-may-care ethos of rock, but Jim Walsh can't imagine living without his favorite bands. "I suppose [it's] an unsettling energy to tap into all the time, which may be why some people ultimately minimize the importance of music. The act of going to see a great live band and waking up the next morning to take on work or family can be energizing, but also schizophrenic and jarring--so much so that some stop tapping into it altogether, or relegate it to a bygone heyday." City Pages (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 07/28/04

Struggling Philly Gets Another 7-Figure Grant "The Philadelphia Orchestra has landed yet another seven-figure gift. This time the largesse comes from the William Penn Foundation, which has pledged $2 million over three years. The grant was awarded for general operating support, some of the hardest money for non-profits to find these days, and is meant to assist the orchestra until its endowment grows to the point that it is generating substantial interest every year." The gift comes in the midst of increasingly contentious negotiations between the orchestra's management and musicians over a management demand either to cut musician salaries by 10%, or eliminate 10 musicians from the orchestra's full complement. Philadelphia Inquirer 07/26/04

Back In The Fold San Antonio's Kronkosky Foundation withdrew its support for the San Antonio Symphony a year ago, saying it had no confidence that the organization was capable of operating responsibly. Now, as the SAS prepares to return to the stage after a dark year, the foundation is returning as well, offering up a $250,000 grant with tough financial triggers. "Beginning in August, the folks at Kronkosky want the symphony to meet specific monthly revenue targets through ticket sales, sponsorships and fund raising" in exchange for the money. The hope is that the Kronkosky grant will be a sign to other funders that the orchestra is worthy of their attention. San Antonio Express-News 07/27/04

Another Orchestra Looking To Change Red Ink To Black As the Cincinnati Symphony begins negotiations for a new contract with its musicians this summer, nearly every part of the ensemble's budget is facing possible cuts. The orchestra ran a $411,000 deficit last year, and would have faced a $1.8 mil shortfall this year, but for a last-minute donation. Among the options being considered to close the gap are the elimination of a popular holiday series, a move to online publication for some informational materials, and the possible cancellation of a street music festival that the CSO had sponsored. It's a fair bet that the orchestra management is seeking concessions from the musicians at the bargaining table, as well. Cincinnati Enquirer 07/22/04

July 28, 2004

Why Doesn't Elgar Travel? "Why has Elgar failed to find favor outside England? Is his music really 'untranslatable'? Or might the problem instead be extra-musical? Even inside England, after all, there has always been a small but vocal cadre that has objected to Elgar’s music for reasons that have little to do with its merits." Commentary 07/04

Philadelphia Orchestra - Some Auditions Are Tough, But... Nineteen-year-old Curtis violist Rachel Ku won an audition for a spot in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then she didn't have the job. Now she does again. Philadelphia Inquirer 07/28/04

When Pop Musicians Break "Classical" Many pop musicians seem to want to take a whack at composing "classical" music. But why, wonders Greg Sandow. "Why do these terrific musicians -- really lively spirits, in their own area -- put on handcuffs when they write classical music? There might be two reasons. First, classical music is too well-bred. Or, at least, the classical music world is. People come to it from outside with genuine respect, and do what the Romans do. Second, classical music is largely defined by older repertoire, so when people from outside come to it, that's what attracts them, and that's what they move towards." Sandow (AJBlogs) 07/27/04

Atlanta Opera Gets New General Director Dennis Hanthorn, general director of Milwaukee's Florentine Opera Company, is leaving to take the top job at Atlanta Opera. "Hanthorn said Atlanta offers 'a bigger pond to play in.' The metropolitan population is more than 4 million, compared with Milwaukee's 1.3 million. The Atlanta Opera's budget, Hanthorn said, was $6.8 million to Florentine's $3.7 million. Atlanta staged four operas vs. the Florentine's three. But the Atlanta Opera has a debt of about $1 million; the Florentine has been in the black for 11 years." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 07/28/04

July 27, 2004

Music's Next Big Thing What's the Next Big Idea in music? It's a flawed question, to be sure. Just asking it betrays a bias about how the history of music works. Twelve of America's best music critics debate the question in a new AJ Blog called Critical Conversation... Critical Conversation (AJBlogs) 07/28/04

NY Phil In the Round? Facing a $300 million bill to renovate Avery Fisher Hall, the orchestra is experimenting with a stage that would put the orchestra in the center of the auditorium surrounded by seats. "The experiment put the orchestra out much closer to the middle of the hall than ever before, allowing it to play under a higher ceiling. Onstage the musicians play in what is essentially a box set back under a lower roof than the one over the audience." The New York Times 07/28/04

Magnificent Organ (If Only It Worked) The Royal Albert Hall organ is a magnificent beast. "It has 9,999 pipes, 147 stops, weighs 150 tons, and at its loudest sounds like a jet taking off. It is a quite magnificent beast that the Royal Albert Hall has just spent £1.7m restoring to all its Victorian majesty. Which is why there was a palpable air of embarrassment hanging over the hall yesterday, because on Saturday the damn thing wouldn't work: not a squeak from one of its much-vaunted 9,999 pipes." The Guardian (UK) 07/27/04

Royal Festival Hall To Get Upgrade London's Royal Festival Hall has acoustics that aren't up to much. Now the hall is to get a £71 million refurbishment that will guarantee that it has the 'finest and most flexible' sound in the capital by 2007." The Guardian (UK) 07/27/04

Bayreuth, Salzburg Festivals Greeted With Boos "A storm of boos greeted the opening operas at both the Salzburg and the Bayreuth Festivals last weekend. High ticket prices -- as much as 360 euros ($437) -- in Salzburg and stratospheric expectations in Bayreuth didn't help. When all was said and done, when singers and conductors had been politely applauded, the direction teams marched onto stage and the audiences responded with the verbal equivalent of the rotten tomato." Bloomberg 07/27/04

July 26, 2004

Music Dimminished By Copyright As the recent case involving copyright and the recording label Hyperion shows, copyright of music is an issue fraught with peril. The question is: who is helped by the current law? It would appear that everyone loses all around... The Scotsman 07/27/04

Lebrecht: Regretting The Walkman The Walkman is 25 years old. Norman Lebrecht says it transformed (and cheapened) music. "Its advantages were many, mostly unforseen. Actors learned their lines by Walkman on the bus into rehearsal. Splenetic executives used it for lunchtime meditation. I once heard Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony on a vertical Alpine train as a thunderstorm crashed all around. In unforgettable settings, music acquired unsuspected dimensions. But these benefits were soon outweighed by its corrosive effects." La Scena Musicale 07/26/04

MIA - Good Political Campaign Music The disappearance of decent election music is a sad reality in this age of artistic angst. In previous generations, well-crafted campaign songs were as plentiful as gas-guzzling four-door sedans and helpful service from government employees. Democrats could adopt catchy little tunes such as Happy Days Are Here Again (Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932) or High Hopes (John F. Kennedy in 1960) and be assured that nothing in the impossibly peppy lyrics would inspire impressionable youth to burn down their school or have unprotected sex on a Ferris wheel. At some point in the late 1960s, it was no longer commercially viable for most mainstream musicians to be happy, and campaign-worthy songs became an endangered species." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/26/04

CD's Aren't Forever After All When CDs were first introduced, they were advertised as almost indestructable. Turns out that isn't true. "CD deterioration may start with a smattering of pinpricks or what appears to be rust creeping inwards from the edge of the disc. Certain tracks jump or emit clicking noises. Eventually, the CD loses all data and is better used as a shiny coaster." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/26/04

July 25, 2004

Plenty Of Words Between The Notes Musicians who spend their careers in the pit of an opera house or theater are something of a different breed than those who get to solo in front of thousands or take repeated bows as members of a symphony orchestra. For one thing, the players in the New York Philharmonic aren't generally found reading novels during the performance to stave off boredom... Boston Globe (LA Times) 07/25/04

A Cross-Country Rail Rock Extravaganza, Only 34 Years Late It was more than a quarter-century ago when some of the brightest lights of the rock 'n roll world - including Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, and the Grateful Dead - boarded a train in Toronto and proceeded to ride it 2,100 miles across Canada, performing festival-style shows in three cities and, more importantly, capturing the whole trip on film. "The shows for the paying customers... were terrific, but the real action took place during the impromptu jam sessions and inebriated socializing on the train." Thirty-four years later, the sights and sounds of the Festival Express are finally getting a public viewing, after decades of legal battles over copyrights and unpaid bills. The New York Times 07/25/04

Cellist Wanted: Must Be Perfect In Every Way There is no ensemble more tightly connected than a string quartet, so when a major quartet loses one of its members, as Canada's St. Lawrence String Quartet did two years ago, finding a replacement who is both musically and personally compatible with the rest of the group can be a nearly impossible task. The St. Lawrence thought they'd found their new cellist, only to discover after a year that the match wasn't quite made in heaven. Now, the group is trying to fill the hole again, and American cellist Chris Costanza is "[fitting] in as naturally as if he had been playing with the others since the beginning." Toronto Star 07/25/04

Royal Albert Hall Loses It Pipes "Its 9,990 pipes were designed to resonate to the ends of the Empire and have been painstakingly restored in a three-year, £1.7 million project – but Britain’s largest organ fell silent last night. Royal Albert Hall bosses confirmed today that the mighty instrument, known as The Voice of Jupiter, suffered an electrical fault before an evening BBC Proms performance. Technicians were today bidding to determine the cause of the mystery problem, which set in following a successful afternoon recital." The Scotsman (UK) 07/25/04

Why Critics Shouldn't Be Cheerleaders A few former board members of the now-defunct Florida Philharmonic are still furious with local critic Lawrence Johnson for several articles he wrote pointedly criticizing the organization's management and board. In fact, a recent letter to the editor of Johnson's paper accuses the critic of actually having contributed to the orchestra's demise by pointing out failings rather than rallying the public to support the floundering ensemble. Johnson isn't buying it: "Overpraising mediocrity subverts that [critical] duty and serves only to reward lazy or inept artistic leadership. When the third-rate is praised to the skies, there's zero incentive for those organizations to ever strive to improve." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07/25/04

New York's Second City Presence The New York Philharmonic travels a lot, even by major orchestra standards, but this summer, one could forgive Chicagoans for mistaking the Phil for their own orchestra. This month, the New Yorkers' radio broadcasts have been added to Chicago radio, a sign that negotiations with the Chicago Symphony's musicians for a radio presence are at an impasse. And this past weekend, the Phil made its first appearance in five years at the CSO's own Ravinia festival, showing off the much-hailed collaboration between the notoriously conductor-unfriendly New York musicians and guest conductor David Robertson, who is considered a strong candidate to be the orchestra's next music director. Chicago Tribune 07/24/04

July 23, 2004

Pint-Sized Musicians Take On A Conductor Controversy Proving that major symphony orchestras don’t have a lock on serious conflict between musicians and boards, the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) are currently embroiled in an embarrassingly public conflict over the attempted firing of the organization’s chief conductor and artistic director. Dr. Jean Montes, a “charismatic, 33-year-old Haitian” who was hired last fall to lead the top GTCYS orchestra, is quite popular with his students and their parents, but apparently quite difficult for his fellow staffers to get along with. Last night, nearly 300 Montes supporters showed up at a hastily called meeting to urge the board to reconsider his dismissal. St. Paul Pioneer Press 07/23/04

July 22, 2004

Scottish Opera Chair Resigns Duncan McGhie, the chairman of Scottish Opera, has quit in protest of the Scottish Executive's treatment of the company. The board McGhie has led, which also oversees Scottish Ballet, is slated to be disbanded under the terms of the Executive's much-criticized plan to keep the opera company afloat. The resignation is only the latest high-profile protest against the plan. The Herald (Glasgow) 07/23/04

Boulez At Bayreuth, 35 Years Later It was 1966 when the fiery iconoclast Pierre Boulez, who had once suggested solving "the problem of opera" by blowing up all opera houses, came to Bayreuth to conduct Wagner's Parsifal. "Famously, he conducted the quickest and least pompous Parsifal ever seen at Bayreuth. This year, he's back [at Bayreuth] with Parsifal after a gap of 35 years... To conduct Parsifal as a slow, grandiose celebration of religiosity could all too easily turn into a proto-nationalist ritual, so it's no wonder Boulez wanted to strip away these connotations." The Telegraph (UK) 07/23/04

Big Bucks In Piracy Pirated music is now a $4.5 billion industry each year says the International Federation of Phonographic Industries. "It is estimated 35% of all CDs sold in the world are pirate copies." BBC 07/22/04

July 21, 2004

Cincinnati Symphony In Major Cost-Cutting "Three consecutive years of operating at a deficit will require the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to look at major cost-cutting despite a $1.8 million gift from an anonymous donor that will erase the deficits for the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years." Ohio News Network (AP) 07/22/04

EU Gives Consent For Sony/BMG Merger The European Union has given its assent to a merger of music giants BMG and Sony. "The tie-up of the Japanese firm with the music arm of German media group Bertelsmann reduces the number of music majors from five to four." The deal renews speculation that other mergers might be in the works. "EMI has twice failed to merge with Warner Music over the past four years." The Guardian (UK) 07/21/04

Moscow Conservatory Great Hall Is Falling Down The famed Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory is crumbling. "With increased usage, a fundamental problem has been aggravated: underground rivers have weakened the foundations of the building, and they have cracked. A few months ago, the conservatory had to close some of the Great Hall's balconies, as there was a danger of sections collapsing into the orchestra. Then there are the water pipes and electrical wiring..." The Guardian (UK) 07/21/04

Maybe A Fix For Piracy? Maybe one way to cut down on CD piracy would be charging less for CDs with heavy copy-protection. CDs that can be copied or that play on more devices would cost more... BBC 07/21/04

July 20, 2004

Who's In Line To Take Over Proms? At the end of this summer's Proms, Leonard Slatkin steps down as chief conductor. "It has been known for almost two years that Slatkin was going to leave, but no announcement has been made about his successor. The BBC is being cautious, aware of the fact that, with the appointment of Slatkin in 2000, it has been a case of married in haste, repent at leisure." The Telegraph (UK) 07/21/04

Operatic Sex And Violence? Just A Passing Fad Two opera productions in Berlin trade heavily in gratuitous sex and violence. Okay, so the theatres were full, even if the critical reception was outrage. But this is a fad that will pass. "Indeed, the quest for this kind of spectacle cannot last, if only because scandal is not a renewable resource. Whatever remaining taboos exist in the opera house can be broken only so many times before this approach becomes a parody of itself. That process may already have begun." The New York Times 07/21/04

Philly Orchestra Musicians' Contract: Management "At stake is the very future of the orchestra. Negotiation rhetoric? No. The fact is, we have until Sept. 19, when our current five-year contract expires, to determine whether our path continues the preeminence of the orchestra or leads to extinction." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/20/04

  • Philly Orchestra Musicians' Contract: The Players "In their current proposal, management is demanding a 10 percent reduction in funding for the musicians, even though compensation for the orchestra is already among the lowest of our peers. To achieve this drastic reduction, musicians have been offered a Hobson's choice: reduce salaries by 10 percent, potentially driving away our great younger players, or reduce our ranks, threatening the lushness that is a hallmark of the Philadelphia Sound. They also propose to slash our pensions by as much as 50 percent, and charaterized as a "waste" their legal obligation to provide pensions to working musicians over age 701/2. These proposals are the equivalent of selling Renoirs to fix a hole in the Art Museum's roof." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/20/04

The Miraculous Cleveland Orchestra Why did such an amazing orchestra emerge in Cleveland? "From this once notoriously no-hope city has emerged one of the wonders of the world: an orchestra that displays none of the overt – or extrovert – characteristics of its US siblings, an orchestra whose sound – under current music director Franz Welser-Most, pictured – is so balanced, so luminous, so brilliantly pure, unanimous and gleaming that, at its best, it's almost miraculous." Glasgow Herald 07/21/04

Reconciling England's Two Greatest Living Composers "Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies have known each other for almost half a century since they were friends at the Royal College of Music in Manchester - members of an illustrious group of students that included the composer Alexander Goehr and the pianist John Ogdon." But 35 years ago they had a falling out, and haven't spoken since. Now they meet again. The Guardian (UK) 07/21/04

July 19, 2004

Conlon Give Up Paris Opera For the Road Conductor James Conlon is giving up being chief conductor of the Paris Opera for a life of guest conducting. "A stocky and energetic 54-year-old, he says that he feels wistful about leaving Paris, but that he is happy to trade administrative duties for the freedom of wandering America (and occasionally Europe) as a guest conductor." The New York Times 07/20/04

Pondering The English National Opera "What is going on at the English National Opera? Is this much-loved company, having been wracked by disasters - the troubling resignation of an admired general director two years ago; a deficit of £1.3m for 2001-2; an emergency rescue package from Arts Council England; a chorus on strike - getting back on track? Or are stormy times just around the corner? The answer depends on who you ask." The Guardian (UK) 07/20/04

Summer Concert Ticket Sales Die Summer concert tickets aren't selling in the US. "People aren't buying tickets. For whatever reason, ticket sales dried up around the middle of April. According to a Pollstar analysis of the top 50 shows through June, gross revenue was up 11 percent to $753.5 million, but ticket sales were down 2 percent to 12.8 million, with prices up 13 percent. The average price of a ticket shot up from $26.05 in 1995 to $50.35 om 2003, according to Pollstar. Ticket prices have gone crazy -- very, very, very high, and nobody knows how to change that tide." Miami Herald (AP) 07/19/04

Elder Re-signs With Hallé Orchestra Conductor Mark Elder re-ups as music director of the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester. "Elder, music director since 2000, is now acknowledged as the conductor who has probably established the closest rapport with the Hallé since Sir John Barbirolli led it to glory in the postwar years. He has won critical acclaim for his concerts in the Bridgewater Hall and for his recordings on the Hallé's own label." The Guardian (UK) 07/19/04

Inside The Philadelphia Orchestra's Contract Talks The Philadelphia Orchestra's negotiations over a new musicians' contract is contentious. Management wants to cut costs: "Among the options on the table is slashing the minimum salary for musicians by 10 percent, to about $95,000. Another is reducing the orchestra's size by 10 percent." The orcehstra also wants to do away with practices such as "paying players 701/2 and older both their $100,000-plus salaries and their $50,000-plus pensions. Management says there are 13 players in that category." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/19/04

July 18, 2004

When Elvis Costello Wrote For Orchestra Terry Teachout comes away impressed with Costello's skill with an orchestra. "It's not cut-rate Prokofiev or Bernstein, but a lively, ingratiating piece of mainstream modernism, with decorous snippets of symphonic rock and jazz thrown in from time to time to spice things up." About Last Night (AJBlogs) 07/18/04

  • Costello's Ballet Score - Deeply Boring Alex Ross concedes that Costello's score shows evidence of technical skill. But he was deeply bored: "After half an hour, I did something I’ve never done in twelve years of reviewing concerts in New York: I got out a book and started to read. There was nothing for my brain to grasp on to — I felt like I was clawing the air and falling." The Rest Is Noise 07/18/04

Liverpool Orchestra Decides Not To Renew Music Director's Contract The Liverpool Philharmonic has decided not to renew music director Gerard Schwarz's co ntract. "The Philharmonic board's decision to terminate the existing contract two years before Liverpool becoming Capital of Culture has been condemned by politicians and funders." A few months ago the orchestra's musicians voted not to renew the contract. Liverpool Echo 07/16/04

The Strads Are Coming, The Strads Are Coming... uh, Never Mind... Ontario's fledgling Stratford Summer Music Festival thought it had scored a coup when it signed up the Axelrod String Quartet to bring its matched set of Strads loaned by the Smithsonian. But then the deal came apart... Toronto Star 07/17/04

The New Improved La Scala La Scala plans to reopen its newly-refurbished opera house this fall. "During our first year we shall give 185 performances. That is a lot when you consider the high quality of each work that we present and the number of rehearsals. With the technical possibilities that we now have we shall increase quantity while maintaining quality. Our new stage machinery is the most modern in the world. Until last year we needed hours or one or two days to shift scenery. Now it can be done immediately. You just push a button and it is done." BBC 07/17/04

Informing The Public, Or Forcing A Strike? AJ Blogger Drew McManus says that the Philadelphia Orchestra's new web page offering a supposedly impartial "informational update" on contract negotiations with the orchestra's musicians is full of hypocrisy and hyperbole. "It’s almost as though [board chairman Richard] Smoot wants to force the musicians to go on strike. And when that happens, no one wins. Yes, changes need to occur, but this is the absolutely worst possible way to draw them out. This is a clear sign that the Philadelphia community and the classical music community at large should call for the resignation of Richard Smoot as Chairman of the Board and Joe Kluger as President." Adaptistration (AJ Blogs) 07/16/04

  • Previously: Philly Orchestra Management Takes On Musicians On Website Contract negotiations between orchestra musicians and managements usually take place behind closed doors, but the increasingly contentious talks currently ongoing in Philadelphia have apparently escalated into open warfare. This week, the Philadelphia Orchestra's board chairman launched a new corner of the ensemble's web site, entitled "Securing the Future," which advertises itself to be an informational update on the negotiations while declaring that "it is our musicians' turn to share responsibility." Highlighted on the new site's front page is a fiery declaration that "Our current trade agreement is a roadmap to extinction." Philadelphia Orchestra 07/04

It Looks Good, But The Sound Needs Work The on-stage acoustic of Frank Gehry's new Jay Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago is a vast improvement over anything the Grant Park Orchestra has known before. Musicians can hear each other, and the overall quality of sound on the stage is something previously thought to be impossible on an outdoor stage. But for the audience, the acoustic "remains a work in progress. Indeed, the quality, depth and presence of sound still varies dramatically from place to place; ironically, the sonics are best at the back of the seating area and on the first half of the lawn." Chicago Tribune 07/18/04

Costello's Crossover Rock musicians who try to cross over to the classical world tend to fare about as well as sheep attempting flight. More often than not, their efforts tend to illicit scorn from classical audiences, and confusion from their traditional fan base. But if critical response is any indication, Elvis Costello be be the exception to the rule, as he prepares for the premiere of his first major symphonic work in Brooklyn this weekend. "'Il Sogno' was commissioned four years ago by an Italian dance company for its adaptation of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Costello composed it in 10 weeks, writing it out painstakingly in pencil across 200 pages, without computers or collaborators. New York Post 07/17/04

July 16, 2004

Tonight - A New Millennium In Chicago Design critics have been raving about Chicago's new Millennium Park. But tonight is the real tes, when the first concert is given in the Frank Gehry-designed structure. "The pavilion's most distinctive features are the curled, stainless steel panels that frame the stage like a bank of gray, shimmering clouds. The stage itself, ample enough for a 100-member orchestra and 150-member chorus, is lined with light reddish-brown Douglas fir. Fixed seating for 4,000 stretches back from the stage, and Millennium Park officials estimate that the lawn, crisscrossed by a metal trellis that holds the amplification system, can hold up to 7,000 more listeners." Chicago Sun-Times 07/16/04

July 15, 2004

Albuquerque Orchestra Files Bankruptcy "The Chamber Orchestra of Albuquerque has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a move that comes as a shock to the orchestra's music director." Albuquerque Tribune 07/13/04

Box G - Eau D'Opera Robert mailer Anderson is a 35-year-old San Francisco novelist who reserves Box G at the San Francisco Opera every season for himself and eight of his closest buddies. "Last Christmas, Anderson bought his crew tuxedos to wear on their nights at the Opera House, but he still felt they were missing a certain je ne sais quoi." So he had a parfumier mix a special scent for the occasion. "To top it all off, the San Francisco Opera gift shop decided to sell the scent (for $120), named, appropriately enough, Box G." SF Weekly 07/15/04

Classical Downloads - Not Just For Pop Anymore "The normal share of business for classical music in the US is about 2.5% of the overall music market so, in terms of turnover, it's relatively small. But on iTunes we represent between 6-8% of sales in any given week, so we have orders of magnitude more of the market online than offline. Yet a quick tour of current classical websites is disappointing." The Guardian (UK) 07/16/04

Another Score For Potemkin Sergei Eisenstein's silent film masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, has twice inspired composers to pen complete scores to accompany it, and now a third soundtrack is in the works. But whereas the first two musical accompaniments were created by the eminent composers Edmund Meisel and Dmitri Shostakovich, the latest version is to be recorded by pop group The Pet Shop Boys. The score will be mainly instrumental, but will include a few new songs. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 07/15/04

Offenbach Score Unearthed "A handwritten copy of the original score for Jacques Offenbach's last opera has been discovered a century after it was thought lost in a fire. The manuscript for the Tales of Hoffman - which premiered in 1881, a year after Offenbach's death - was found when the Paris opera library was re-organised." BBC 07/15/04

July 14, 2004

The Blonde Wagner Steps In To Save Bayreuth "Some of her famously quarrelsome relatives doubtless regard Katharina Wagner as little more than an inexperienced blonde harpy luring the Wagner family honour on to the rocks. But this week the great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner took a decisive step in the battle to take control of the composer's most prestigious legacy: Germany's Bayreuth Festival. When the tantrums and walk-outs started, it was the 26-year-old Madonna fan who saved the day." The Independent (UK) 07/11/04

US Goes For Country "Country music sales in the US have risen by more than 10% in the last year, thanks to a wave of new artists." BBC 07/14/04

What Happened To The Summer Concert Business It died, that's what. "A midyear business analysis just released by the trade publication Pollstar concludes that "For reasons that are still unclear, the bottom seemed to fall out of the concert market in mid-April. All three major concert promotion companies and several prominent independents reported a sudden drop in sales of anywhere from 15 percent to 50 percent." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/14/04

Fear Factor - Record Companies Play It Safe Where's the innovative recorded music these days? "You would think, in the age of Outkast, that there would be a lot of crazy types of innovation going on. Instead, there's a huge vacancy in left field. Declining revenue, allegedly due to file-sharing, has record execs more risk-averse than ever, particularly where a cash cow like urban music is concerned." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/14/04

July 13, 2004

Philly Orchestra Management Takes On Musicians On Website Contract negotiations between orchestra musicians and managements usually take place behind closed doors, but the increasingly contentious talks currently ongoing in Philadelphia have apparently escalated into open warfare. This week, the Philadelphia Orchestra's board chairman launched a new corner of the ensemble's web site, entitled "Securing the Future," which advertises itself to be an informational update on the negotiations while declaring that "it is our musicians' turn to share responsibility." Highlighted on the new site's front page is a fiery declaration that "Our current trade agreement is a roadmap to extinction." Philadelphia Orchestra 07/04

A Musical Rebellion Against Music-Playing Technology "Imagine Thomas Edison going shopping for music today, however: the inventor of the phonograph would reel from one shock to another. Why have records shrunk to compact discs? How do you download songs from computers? How can thousands of them be stored on a tiny personal stereo? As for a portable telephone that plays the latest Britney Spears single - well, at that stage he would probably need a long lie down. The danger of grumbling about these new technologies is that you sound like a mildewy old vinyl bore who thinks records are intrinsically superior (which, let's face it, they are). Yet there's a perfectly sound, non-Luddite reason for resenting the attention iPods, ringtones etc are getting." Financial Times 07/13/04

Aix - Reinventing, One Year After Nothing Last year's AIx Festival had to be canceled because of labor unrest. This year the festival starts over. "Aix has always been the prince of French music festivals since it was founded in 1948. It is based in a rich university town with well-preserved aristocratic mansions, winding streets and squares protected from the strong provençal sun by the essential plane trees; a white collar town full of lawyers that looks down on blue collar city of Marseilles, barely 30 kilometres away." Financial Times 07/13/04

Nothing Amateur About This Music Competition The second Washington International Piano Amateur Competition wasn't about starting careers. "Participants seemed to take sheer pleasure in refining their technique and playing before an audience. It was also apparent that the amateur piano-playing world is a bit of an incestuous society, and the event was as much a chance for the participants to catch up with old friends as an opportunity to hone their Schubert or Beethoven. There was a nice purity to it all: comfortable people reveling in all the aspects of music and piano playing." Washington Post 07/13/04

Vancouver Symphony Sees 23 Percent Increase In 2003/04 Ticket Sales "After several tough financial years, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is reporting the largest leap in ticket sales it's seen in at least 20 years. Over the 2003­04 season, the company saw a 22.3-percent increase in its paid attendance, which translates into about 30,000 more customers." Why? Several new initiatives... Georgia Straight (Vancouver) 07/13/04

July 12, 2004

Opera - Stuck In The Past? "While every other art has remade itself several times in the past century, opera stuck to formula and shut the book on self-renewal. Considering the immensity of its contribution to 19th- century opera, it is anomalous that English literature has been bypassed by opera companies in modern times..." The Scotsman 07/13/04

New Beatles Songs Found? The songs are in an old trunk bought at a flea market in Australia. "Beatles experts had yet to properly examine the cache - thought to have once belonged to one of the British band's close associates - but hope tapes within it could contain new material." The Age (Melbourne) 07/13/04

Why The Miami Quartet Left Florida Why did the well-regarded Miami String Quartet give up its Florida residency to move to become quartet-in-residence at Kent State? There are various stories. But one thing is clear, writes Laurence Johnson: "Though a much less public affair than the bankruptcy of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, the loss of the Miami String Quartet is a comparable blow to the local music scene." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07/11/04

MacGregor: National Opera Company Is Important Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, has criticized the Scottish government for its treatment of Scottish Opera. " 'If a European country of the size of Scotland cannot support a musical life that encompasses an opera company, that is very serious. It would be 'unimaginable' for comparable countries such as Denmark not to have major orchestras, opera houses, ballet companies, as a central part of their national existence.' Mr MacGregor said the fate of the opera company was not simply a matter of funding, but had elements of a Scottish Calvinist tradition in which music was not seen to be as important as literature." The Scotsman 07/12/04

Rushing To Complete La Scala La Scala opera house is scheduled to reopen December 7. But the construction is still a long way from being finished. "La Scala's $67 million renovation added precious storage space for sets which will allow the opera house to mount more productions and performances to meet growing demand for seats." Backstage 07/09/04

US Music Dominates UK For the first time, last year American music has outsold UK music in the UK."American artists sold 45.4% of albums compared with the UK's 42.3%, the British Phonographic Industry said. The BPI said the figures could be explained by huge-selling albums by US singers Justin Timberlake and Norah Jones - against scant UK competition." BBC 07/12/04

Dump The MP3 Is it time to dump the MP3 format for music? "In order to keep file sizes down MP3 encoding loses a lot of data, a lot more than modern formats, and this shows in the quality of the listening experience. The way it compresses files and plays them back means that the music too often sounds awful on anything but tinny laptop speakers or cheap earphones. We cannot let some sort of techno-nostalgia get in the way here. There is no reason to defend MP3, no reason why everyone who currently listens to MP3s stored on their hard drive should not move to something significantly better." BBC 07/12/04

July 11, 2004

The Incredible Shrinking Band Band breakups are often spectacularly dirty. But "the music world — full of notoriously volatile and dysfunctional types who have long preferred to rock it out, not talk it out — has become more receptive to therapists and their ministrations. Though the notion of seeking help remains one of rock's dirty little secrets, some of these therapists have become a regular part of band retinues." The New York Times 07/11/04

Morris: Musicians Have Lousy Rhythm! Mark Morris is known as a particularly musical choreographer. And he has some Particularly strong opinions about musicians. At Tanglewood this summer he has musicians up dancing. "This experience makes musicians better. Way better! The thing is, I'm the enemy of the conservatory, because it kills music. Nobody gives a damn about intonation. It's not about that. Imagination has been wrung out of these people, and it's tragic. Really, musicians have lousy rhythm." The New York Times 07/11/04

Pearl Now World's Biggest Piano-Maker The Pearl River Piano Company based in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou, is now the world's largest piano maker. At the company's spotless factory, 280 pianos a day roll off the production line like cars in an auto plant. "China's one-child policy has created a culture where parents invest heavily in their children's education – a boon for piano makers like Pearl River." The Star (Malaysia) 07/10/04

Underwater Symphony "A symphony conductor donned scuba gear and used a red snorkel for a baton to lead a group of underwater 'musicians' wearing tuxedos and sequins Saturday in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The scene was part of the yearly Underwater Music Festival that attracted more than 400 divers and snorkelers to Looe Key Reef, about 6 miles south of Big Pine Key." Miami Herald (AP) 07/10/04

Axelrod Strads Can't Travel To Canada "The efforts of Stratford Summer Music to bring the Axelrod Stradivarius String Quartet to Canada for a series of concerts have fallen through -- and have left the Stratford concert presenter and Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution pointing fingers at each other." The quartet plays on instruments worth $50 million, and the Smithsonian has clamped down on how often it allows them to travel in recent years. What actually caused the breakdown in this case is still murky, but the connection of the instruments to now-incarcerated philanthropist Herbert Axelrod is high on the list of speculative hang-ups. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/10/04

Juilliard's New Fundraising Strategy This week, the Juilliard School, possibly the world's most famous training ground for classical musicians, will put on a benefit concert featuring... um, Elton John? "The benefit is only one of the renowned music school's latest fund-raising strategies, part of an effort to find new donors to support a major capital and endowment campaign estimated at around $290 million. The funds will be used to expand the campus and increase the scholarship money available for students." Crain's New York Business 07/12/04

A Good Year In Philly, Mostly It was a good season for classical music in Philadelphia, but there are more than a few storm clouds on the horizon. The city's music critics go over the good ("Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia music director Ignat Solzhenitsyn went several extra miles with Shostakovich's darker-than-dark Symphony No. 14"), the bad ("the elimination of the city's arts and culture office by Mayor [John] Street"), and the profoundly worrisome ("Now that most listeners have tired of talking about the acoustics of the Kimmel... let's not forget that the city spent $265 million to build a great orchestra hall and didn't get one.") Philadelphia Inquirer 07/11/04

NY Phil Cancels Tour The New York Philharmonic, battling deficits and deep into contract negotiations with its musicians, has canceled a tour of Europe scheduled for September, saying that the Spanish presenters couldn't guarantee the necessary fees to keep the tour in the black. This is the third time in the last calendar year that the orchestra has canceled a tour, but Philharmonic officials insist that a fall 2004 tour to Japan and South Korea is not in danger. The New York Times 07/10/04

A Bloody Awful Comedy Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio is supposed to be a comedy. Comedies, as a rule, do not include "scenes of copulation, fellatio, rape, torture and mutilation." Comedies do not end with the protagonists littering the stage as corpses. And yet, this is the much-criticized approach being taken to Seraglio by Berlin's Komische Oper. People are walking out of the production in droves, and newspapers are braying about misuse of public funds. So why even attempt such a bloody and controversial production? Well, every show thus far has sold out. "It could also be that shock treatment is just what's needed to jolt some outmoded art forms back to life." The New York Times 07/10/04

July 9, 2004

Legendary Tosca To Close A legendary Royal Opera House production of Tosca is finally seeing its final curtain. "The production was first staged 40 years ago in 1964, starring the legendary Maria Callas as Tosca and Tito Gobbi as the police chief Scarpia. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, it has returned to Covent Garden year on year and been staged more than 230 times." BBC 07/09/04

July 8, 2004

Opera - A Lost Plot? "Down in the mists of Greenwich, miles from the nearest Ring, they are dusting off Graham Greene's only opera. Never seen it, say the buffs. Worth a tube trip for curiosity value. Add it to the stock of esoterica for the bar chat at Bayreuth. That's how opera fans go about their business, collecting wayside works for the inevitable Wagnerian longueurs." La Scena Musicale 07/08/04

Road Show Opera - But Why? Wagner at Glastonbury, Boheme in Trafalgar Square... why are English opera companies hitting the road? "It does not matter whether anyone was in fact converted to opera by the Glastonbury Valkyrie, Wednesday's Bohème, or any of the educational programmes that have become de rigueur. No, what counts is that opera is seen to be reaching out to the unconverted, is seen to have outgrown its image as a bastion of privilege, is seen to be democratical ly accountable, however token the gesture." Financial Times 07/09/04

A Bad Year In English Music In England, 1934 was the worst of years. Three of the country's best composers died within a six-month period. "The greatest, Edward Elgar, had been the first to die, full of years and loaded with honours, at his home in Worcester on February 23. Two months later, on May 25, Gustav Holst passed away in a London nursing home aged only 59. And on June 10, Frederick Delius passed away." The Guardian (UK) 07/08/04

Music Industry Says Study Shows Downloading Hurts Music Sales Some say music downloading helps music sales. But a new study by the big music producers says that's not the case. Some "28 per cent of the people surveyed who reported buying less music in the last 12 months said the decline was mainly due to downloading, file sharing and CD burning. Fifty-two per cent of music consumers who don't download said they paid for music in the past month. Thirty-five per cent of downloaders said they'd bought tunes in the past month. When those who'd purchased were asked how they heard about the CD, only 2 per cent cited downloading." Toronto Star 07/08/04

Philadelphia Orchestra, Musicians Union Far Apart In Contract Talks The Philadelphia Orchestra's contract with its musicians expires in September, and negotiators seem to be far apart. "Deficits are nothing new at the orchestra, but this season's shortfall is unusually large: $4 million. In response, management has already implemented a number of surprising cuts, asking music director Christoph Eschenbach to take a 10 percent pay cut, reducing fees for guest soloists and conductors by 10 percent, and asking administrators to take a week's unpaid vacation." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/08/04

Duke Ellington And The Pulitzer What would Duke Ellington have thought of the decision by the Pulitzer board to broaden the prize's music category to include jazz? He would have thought, writes Nat Hentoff, that it was damn well about time. OpinionJournal.com 07/06/04

When Was Rock Born? So rock music is officially 50 years old. So much for officially. "Just when did rock really begin? It's an issue that has long been tinged with racism, specifically the notion that it took a white man to make it rock 'n' roll, whereas before it was only R&B and what was then described as 'race music'." Chicago Tribune 07/08/04

July 7, 2004

Pay Copyright Royalties On 300-Year-Old Music? "The director of Hyperion Records plans to appeal against this week's high court ruling that the company must pay copyright fees on its recording of a 300-year-old piece of music. The decision could have serious repercussions throughout the world of classical music." The Guardian (UK) 07/08/04

ENO's Outdoor Opera Busted By Weather "English National Opera's plan to bring high culture to the wide expanses of Trafalgar Square was last night defeated by the British weather. Seven thousand Londoners had snapped up free tickets to watch a live performance of Puccini's La Bohème. But as heavy rains closed in and forecasters warned of winds gusting up to 35mph, even the 2,000 complimentary ponchos seemed unlikely to protect those braving the soggy Astroturf rolled out over the square's paving." The Guardian (UK) 07/08/04

La Scala To Return Home (Briefly) After three years of renovation, La Scala will move back into its home for the traditional December season premiere. "Opening the season at La Scala will be the same work performed when the theatre opened for business in 1778: Antonio Salieri's Europa Riconosciuta." But the welcome home will be brief - the opera company will move out again a few weeks later so the renovation job can be completed. The Guardian (UK) 07/08/04

Seeing (Electronically) The Music In Front Of You Lee Rosenbaum takes the electronic Concert Companion for a spin. "The constant flitting between commentary, video and the live performers, the glitchy image quality and the need to reboot after several crashes put me in a state of nervous agitation rather than rapt absorption. CoCo's chief drawback, though, is that words can never adequately translate music. Background reading is helpful, either before or after a concert. But the best way to appreciate a live performance is to switch off all electronic devices and simply employ your ears." Wall Street Journal 07/08/04

Concert Recordings On Demand "The scourge of live bands, the illegal bootleg concert recording, will soon become a money spinner for the live music industry when a Sydney company offers patrons the opportunity to buy a CD of a show within five minutes of the finale." The Age (Melbourne) 07/07/04

Industry: Aussie CD Copy Rules Change Will Be Bad "Proposed changes to legislation allowing consumers to copy CDs for personal use, and to impose a levy on blank CDs for distribution to songwriters, would create an inefficient and unfair system, says the Australian Record Industry Association." The Age (Melbourne) 07/07/04

Should San Francisco Be Looking Past MTT? Michael Tilson Thomas is nearing his tenth season as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, and the partnership shows no signs of fatigue. Under MTT, as he's known throughout the industry, the symphony has flourished musically and become the media darling of American orchestras. So what now? Joshua Kosman thinks its time to start looking for Tilson Thomas's successor. Seriously. San Francisco Chronicle 07/07/04

More Controversy At Bayreuth "Rehearsals for the eagerly anticipated new production of Richard Wagner's final opera Parsifal at this year's legendary Bayreuth Festival resumed yesterday after iconoclastic theatre director Christoph Schlingensief re-appeared for work following a few days absence. Schlingensief had plunged preparations for the prestigious annual summer music festival... into disarray on the weekend by calling in sick following a row with the composer's grandson and festival chief Wolfgang Wagner." The Globe & Mail (Agence France-Presse) 07/07/04

Concert Companion Taking Off The much-hyped "Concert Companion," a PDA-sized device which allows concertgoers to follow a written commentary to symphonic works live in the concert hall, is becoming the gotta-have-it item for major American orchestras. With successful trials in New York and Pittsburgh now complete, other orchestras are lining up for the chance to try out the device on their audiences. In fact, it may be hard for the supplier to keep up with demand, not so much for the hardware, but for the specialized commentary (written, up to this point, by ArtsJournal blogger Greg Sandow) which must be composed for each featured work. Hartford Courant 07/07/04

KC Music Director Candidate Withdraws Conductor David Lockington has withdrawn his name from consideration in the three-man race to become the new music director of the Kansas City Symphony, saying that he wishes to keep his focus on the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Symphony, which is preparing for its 75th anniversary next season. The Kansas City job would have been a considerable jump in prestige for Lockington, but no further reasons for his withdrawal have been given. The job will now likely go to either Stefan Sanderling or Michael Stern. Kansas City Star 07/07/04

Asian Musicians Abused, Assaulted in NZ Several Asian members of New Zealand's Wellington Sinfonia were taunted with racial slurs this week while on tour in the town of Masterton this week, and one Asian violinist was physically assaulted on the street in an apparently racially-motivated incident. The woman "was approached by a girl described by witnesses as wearing 'Gothic-style clothing' and who said 'why don’t you just go back to where you came from' and then hit her in the face." Waiarapa Times-Age (New Zealand) 07/07/04

ENO Tries Another Unconventional Show The English National Opera is attempting to mount a major outdoor production of La Boheme in London's Trafalgar Square, covering the whole area with fake grass in an effort to recreate the look and feel of Glyndebourne's opera on the lawn. But on the heels of ENO's wild and unconventional success at the Glastonbury Festival, this event may be a bust: "heavy rain and winds are forecast and picnics, bottles and outdoor furniture banned." Still, all 7,000 free tickets to the event are already spoken for. BBC 07/07/04

  • Previously: Wagner Is A Hit At Pop Festival An abridged version of Wagner's "Ring" cycle has been a hit at the Glastonbury Festival. "It was the first time opera had been performed at the festival, with thousands of fascinated revellers gathering in front of the main Pyramid stage for the event. The 75-minute long extract opened with the section of the opera familiar to fans of the film Apocalypse Now, its lyrics sung in English and subtitled at the side of the stage to make it widely accessible. The Valkyries were played with relish by the ENO singers, flame-haired and dressed in black, as members of the orchestra behind them were clearly enjoying the unique experience." BBC 06/28/04
July 6, 2004

Make-Your-Own CDs (Legally) A new music kiosk allows customers to mix their own CDs, choosing from 200,000 songs. "At $10 for the first seven songs and $1 per song after that, it's not as cheap as free, but it is legal. And the service addresses a fundamental problem with how the music industry sells its product: People don't like paying $15 for a 10-song album when they want only two of the tracks. The company hopes to expand the concept to digital movies, games and software." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) 07/06/04

The £6 Million Pirate A prolific music pirate lands in court. Prosecution says he made £6 million in ten years selling copies of bootlegged music. "He commissioned, manufactured and sold, here and elsewhere, unavailable or illicit recordings of musical works performed by virtually every well-known artist in the world. Members of the audience at concerts made illegal recordings which were used as master copies for the CDs. TV and radio performances were also illicitly taped, and tracks from existing records were duplicated, the court heard." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/04

The Longest Concert - Two Notes Down, 636 Years To Go "In the abandoned Burchardi church in the German town of Halberstadt, the world's longest concert moved two notes closer to its end Monday: Three years down, 636 to go. The addition of an E and E-sharp complement the G-sharp, B and G-sharp that have been playing since February 2003 in composer John Cage's 'Organ2/ASLSP' -- or 'Organ squared/As slow as possible'.'' Chicago Sun-Times 07/06/04

Pulitzer Music Changes And The Comfort Zone What's wrong with changes in eligibility for the Pulitzer Prize in music? "On the face of it, the changes instituted are small. The Prize will no longer be for a musical work of "significant dimension," as the Board seems to feel that such language has tended to prevent composers of shorter pieces from submitting their work. The press release also states that the changes are intended to broaden the types of works available for review to include jazz, musical theater, movie scores "and other forms of musical excellence." Never mind that such works have actually been eligible since the last overhaul of the Music Prize's rules, the real problem that I have is how this restated emphasis on broadening the scope of musical works under consideration bespeaks the essential discomfort that the Pulitzer Prize Board has with art music." NewMusicBox 07/04

Mexico's Music Piracy Standoff "Entertainment bootlegging is sweeping the globe, but nowhere has the landscape changed more quickly than in Mexico. An estimated six out of every 10 CDs sold are believed to be bootlegs, vaulting Mexico to the No. 3 spot worldwide, behind China and Russia. But unlike those nations, Mexico has a long-established commercial industry that is getting pummeled in the process." Los Angeles Times 07/06/04

Wanted: The Very Model Of A Major Music Director With Daniel Barenboim on his way out as music director of the Chicago Symphony, the orchestra searches for its next leader. But what kind of maestro fits the bill for a modern music institution? National Public Radio [audio] 07/06/04

July 5, 2004

Introducing... The No-Frills CD? Attempting to combat the lure of piracy, Betelsman is offering three different "classes" of CD's. "The no-frills version will look virtually identical to a pirate copy, with only the title printed directly on the disc. It will cost €9.99 - about £6.70. The regular version will cost €3 more. It will include a cover and lyrics. A "luxury" version with additional material and video clips will cost €17.99." The Guardian (UK) 07/05/04

Scottish Opera May Put Its Hand Out Scottish Opera is facing a shutdown. But the company is considering asking for donations to help it stay active. "The company is debating whether to launch a fundraising drive that would appeal for donors to keep productions up and running. There were fears that, amid headlines of crisis and cutbacks, opera backers might feel their cash would go into a black hole. But regular supporters have already come forward asking how they can help, and a few have sent cheques for hundreds of pounds." The Scotsman 07/05/04

Jazz In Montreal The 25-year-old Montreal Jazz Festival is one of the world's great music festivals. "The festival's sense of its own history is one. As large an enterprise as the event has become -- 500 concerts, 10 indoor stages, another 12 on the downtown streets around Place des Arts, attendance approaching two million -- it tempers its penchant for grandiosity with a strong sentimental streak." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/05/04

SF Opera - System Failure In America Why did Pamenla Rosenberg withdraw from running San Francisco Opera? "What Rosenberg overlooked when she returned to the US after years working in two of Germany's most avant-garde opera houses was that a European-style artistic policy depends on European-style consistency of funding - some thing the US opera community can never provide." Financial Times 07/04/04

July 4, 2004

Rock's Birthday? It's A Black & White Debate On July 5, 1954, Elvis Presley recorded his first single. That's reason enough for BMG Records, which distributes the Presley catalog, to declare the date as the birthday of rock 'n roll. "But the marketing blitz, by BMG as well as other companies, reopens a nagging debate: Just when did rock really begin? It's an issue that has long been tinged with racism, specifically the notion that it took a white man to make it rock 'n roll, whereas before it was only R&B and what was then described as 'race music.'" Boston Globe 07/04/04

The Do-It-Yourself Album "Record labels are still vital for many musicians. They get the CD in the bins; they advertise it; they put up the money to produce it in the first place." But for established artists who are sick of the huge revenue chunk swallowed up by traditional labels, a new do-it-yourself method is emerging, and many artists are willing to put up their own money for production costs in return for having direct control of a web-based distribution network that brings in more eventual revenue. The New York Times 07/04/04

The Orchestral Wage Gap Are conductors and executives bankrupting American orchestras? Blair Tindall sees a basic conflict between the skyrocketing salaries of those at the top, and the cries of institutional poverty which have led to stagnating musician salaries and increasingly bitter fights between labor and management. It's true that, of 20 orchestras which settled new musician contracts in the last year, 19 included wage cuts. Still, most musicians don't seem to be bothered by the high salaries of their bosses, just so long as the conductors and CEOs appear to be earning their pay. But with the industry widely perceived to be in trouble and salaries continuing to climb, those at the top may soon find themselves under fire. The New York Times 07/04/04

Heating Up Summer in New York For orchestras like the Boston Symphony, which have revered summer homes like Tanglewood, the long hot months are a celebration of easy revenue and casual concertgoing. But for the New York Philharmonic, which has no regular summer destination, what's needed to get its home audience into the hall during the second season is constant innovation and, um, snappy slogans? "Welcome to Summertime Classics, the fun new festival of smile-inducing classics performed live for you by your New York Philharmonic, in a lively, colourful and refreshingly casual setting. It's classics for your favourite sneakers, not your glass slippers." Toronto Star 07/03/04

U.S. Album Sales Jump "Album sales in the United States for the first half of 2004 are 7 percent ahead of last year's midway point, putting the recording industry on track to end a three-year slump, according to the Nielsen SoundScan retail tracking service. Sales in the first six months of this year totaled 305.7 million units, compared with 285.9 million from January through June 2003." The New York Times (Reuters) 07/03/04

July 2, 2004

South African Family Sues Disney Over Song Royalties A South African family is suing Disney for unpaid royalties from the hit song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", originally a Zulu tune composed by the family's father, who died broke in 1962 Johannesburg Times 07/02/04

The New Jazz (But What?) In the past two decades jazz has been transformed as an artform. "While some argue in favor of this evolution of jazz onto the concert stage, into museums, and onto the archival stacks of various institutions, others see it as dangerous to the continued evolution of a living, breathing, and constantly advancing art form. Regardless of opinion, jazz has most assuredly found its place on the concert stage." NewMusicBox 07/04

Musicians Criticize US Travel Restrictions For Cubans A group of musicians has criticized new U.S. regulations that will further limit travel to Cuba, urging the United States to build bridges to the island instead of tearing them down. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/02/04

July 1, 2004

Rosenberg: Money Plays Role In Leaving SF Opera Pamela Rosenberg confirms that San Francisco Opera budget cuts played a big role in her leaving the company. A smaller budget means fewer new productions. "That part of the job has always been my most creative -- being a midwife to artists and projects, and getting new productions conceived and done," Rosenberg explained Thursday in a phone call from her office in the War Memorial Opera House. It looks like I won't be able to do that in the future -- we're taking the budget down by 20 percent, and that will mean we will have the means to do a maximum of one new production a year for at least the next three seasons. At this point in my career, that's just not enough for me." Contra Costa Times 06/28/04

Attendance Up In Cincinnati In another sign that the American orchestra crisis may be abating, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has announced a second straight year of increased ticket sales. Overall sales jumped 2% for the 2003-04 season, with a 4% jump in subscriptions and a 12% uptick in online sales. An average of more than 1,900 concertgoers attended each CSO performance. Cincinnati Post 07/01/04

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