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MARCH 2002

Friday March 29

NEW YORK TO GET GRAMMYS? It looks like the Grammy Awards, which have been held in Los Angeles the past four years, are moving to New York. "The show is broadcast in 161 countries and generates an estimated $20 million to $40 million for the host city. The show has also grown to include a week's worth of parties, concerts and cultural events that extend well beyond its three-hour television broadcast." Los Angeles Times 03/29/02

TOWARDS YOUNGER POORER AUDIENCES: Trying to fight off charges of elitism, London's Royal Opera House has released a study that says its patrons are getting younger and poorer (really). The study shows that "one fifth of opera goers were under 35 years old - and a similar proportion earn less than £15,000 per year. And more than half of opera goers have an income less than £30,000. BBC 03/28/02

STREET NOISE (OR BEAUTIFUL MUSIC?): Since the mid-1980s, members of the Chicago City Council have been "waging war" on street musicians, "pushing for increasingly restrictive rules governing their behavior and branding them 'unhealthful,' 'safety hazards' and 'peddlers'." Now the city's reversed itself, putting up $1.5 million to encourage street music in a program called Music Everywhere across the Midwest. The idea is that from May 30 to Sept. 29 "the city will be awash in accordionists, organ grinders, kazoos, harmonicas and 'little bongos' that will be handed out - free of charge! - to pedestrians" along with invitations to play on the streets. Chicago Tribune 03/29/02

Thursday March 28

CONCERT HALL DOCTOR: Acoustician Russell Johnson has designed the sound for many successful concert halls around the world - he's one of the best in the profession. So why, given the sorry state of acoustics in London's concert spaces, has no one signed up Johnson to make things better? London Evening Standard 03/27/02 

MUSIC'S VOODOO ECONOMICS: Recording company EMI recently announced it is cutting 1800 jobs and a quarter of its artists. "Some interesting facts have emerged: record sales are falling internationally (down almost 10 per cent in the US); only five per cent of major label releases make a profit, and big record companies need to sell 500,000 copies of a CD just to break even." But "undeterred by paying Mariah Carey £38 million to end her contract (and dropping hundreds of other artists) they have just offered Robbie Williams £40 million to extend his." The Telegraph (UK) 03/28/02

TRANS-PENNSYLVANIA COMMISSIONS: "Three new works by Sofia Gubaidulina, Oliver Knussen and Roberto Sierra will be commissioned and premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony under the terms of a new commissioning project to be announced today. All three works will be performed by both orchestras, with one orchestra giving the world premiere of each, and the other holding the right to take that piece to Carnegie Hall for its New York premiere." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/28/02

BOULEZ COMING FULL CIRCLE? Over the decades, composer/conductor Pierre Boulez, who made his reputation attacking the conventions of the art music world, has softened his approach to music and his treatment of those who write and perform it, and in the process, has become one of the world's most beloved authorities on new music. The Lucerne Festival has now announced that Boulez will head up a new contemporary music academy, under the auspices of the festival, beginning in 2004. The academy will focus on teaching young musicians how to appreciate contemporary music as they do Beethoven and Bruckner. Andante 03/28/02

BBC CANCELS NORTH AMERICAN TOUR: Hot on the heels of Leonard Slatkin's announcement that he will step down from its music directorship in 2004, the BBC Symphony has cancelled its planned tour of the U.S., scheduled for 2003. The orchestra's management is citing economics and a harsh touring schedule as reasons for the cancellation. Andante 03/27/02

DALLAS GM TO DENVER: The general manager of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, which has risen in the last decade to become one of America's top ensembles, is leaving the DSO to take up the GM position with the Colorado Symphony in Denver. The move is somewhat puzzling, given Colorado's relative lack of prestige in the orchestral world compared with Dallas, despite the presence in Denver of high-profile music director Marin Alsop. Dallas Morning News 03/27/02

ROYAL OPERA OF THE PEOPLE: "The Royal Opera House, London, is attracting more and more first time visitors, with a third of bookings from people new to the venue, according to research. The report backs the ROH's claims that it is attracting a less elitist audience." BBC 03/28/02

Wednesday March 27

DOMB SAGA ALMOST OVER AT TSO: "It has taken a long time for this particular cello concerto to reach its climax, but the battered Toronto Symphony Orchestra has finally made a deal for an out-of-court settlement with Daniel Domb, its embattled former principal cellist. That brings an end to a shocking saga that started almost a year ago when Edward Smith, then the TSO's executive director, tried to fire Domb while he was on unpaid leave recovering from near-fatal head injuries." Toronto Star 03/27/02

DOROTHY DELAY, 84: Behind every great musician, there is at least one great teacher, and Dorothy DeLay was that teacher to an astonishing number of the world's top violinists for the past several decades. From Itzhak Perlman to Gil Shaham to Nigel Kennedy, DeLay was a legend among her students, and she became the closest thing the music world has to a matriarch, overseeing the progress of a studio of young musicians which can only be described as the finest in the world. Dorothy DeLay died this week, after a battle with cancer. The New York Times 03/27/02

Tuesday March 26

DEATH BY PAY-TO-PLAY: A US copyright ruling a few weeks ago that says web radio stations must pay royalties for the music they play, threatens to put many of the stations out of business. Even though the fees are small, most stations are small shoestring operations with tiny budgets.  "In recent weeks, webcasters have started a campaign to try to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright law so they can stay on the Internet airwaves."  Salon 03/25/02

DEAD AGAIN: Once more Napster has been killed, but don't get in line for tickets to the funeral. A federal court says the company may not resume its free on-line file swapping service. The fatal blow seems to have been administered to the wrong entity, however; Napster never did resume its free service, but focused instead on a paid service. That service too is under attack, but it's also another story. Wired 03/25/02

SLATKIN WILL DROP BBC GIG: "National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin will step down from his "other" job - that of chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra - in September 2004. He has held the position since 2000. Slatkin recently extended his contract with the NSO through the end of the 2005-2006 season. His initial contract with the BBC was set to run through 2003; in renewing for one additional season, he made it clear that 2004 would be his last year." Washington Post 03/26/02

Monday March 25

WHY NY CITY OPERA SHOULD LEAVE LINCOLN CENTER: "Given that there is now a $l.2-billion renovation plan on the boards, New Yorkers might want to ask how well Lincoln Center has done its job. Robert Moses conceived the complex as a shining city of the arts, taking the place of neighborhoods that he called 'dismal and decayed.' It did succeed in sprucing up the Upper West Side and placing the companies in a secure cocoon. But Lincoln Center has never been able to foster an ideal cultural populace that delights equally in opera, ballet, and symphony. In my experience, opera people, ballet people, and symphony people seldom overlap comfortably. The lumping together of such distinct art forms has made it harder for each company to define itself crisply in the public eye. Ensconced in the limestone fortress, they have become subspecies of 'the performing arts,' whose main characteristic, the curious onlooker might decide, is an edifying stuffiness. City Opera should jump at the chance to leave this rudderless ship." The New Yorker 03/25/02

WHAT AILS YOU: Everyone seems to agree that the music business is suffering. How did business get so bad? "The problems began with the mega-mergers of the '90s, some say. Increasingly large corporations have lost touch with consumers, they claim, alienated artists and failed to incorporate emergent technology by fighting the Napster music downloading system instead of making a deal early on. Performers, in turn, are arguing for improved conditions, including ownership of their work. They want to be free agents, like actors, who are not beholden to long-term contracts with one studio." Miami Herald 03/24/02

WHOSE COUNTRY IS IT? "For several years there have been growing tensions surrounding country radio, now the top format on the air. Roughly 19 percent of the stations in the United States play country — 2,100 broadcasters out of 11,000. That's nearly double the number dedicated to the second-most-popular format, talk radio. Yet most of country's classic artists and styles have been getting short shrift on the air and, consequently, from the Nashville music industry." The New York Times 03/25/02 

DANISH RADIO'S NEW CONCERT HALL: The Danish Broadcasting Corporation is building a new 1600-seat concert hall, designed by Jean Nouvel. "The 21,000 square meter complex, part of the TV-network’s new Headquarters in Copenhagen, will include all facilities for Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s music production. Arcspace 03/22/02

Sunday March 24

SETTLEMENT IN EDMONTON: The musicians of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra have agreed to a new contract with their management which provides for greater musician input into the way the ESO is run. The settlement ends a months-long standoff over the issue of creative control that was sparked when the ESO management fired popular music director Grzegorz Nowak against the will of the musicians. During the dispute, Nowak claimed he would start his own orchestra, stealing away many of the ESO musicians, and a donor offered the ESO a major gift, but only on condition that it accede to the musicians' demands. Edmonton Journal 03/21/02

  • A PRECEDENT-SETTING AGREEMENT? "The agreement that ended the strike at the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on Thursday is part of a national trend that music-lovers hope will help end the slow diminuendo of Canadian orchestras. Across the country, directors are inviting musicians into the boardroom, finally giving them a chance to wave the baton on the future of their ensemble." Canada.com (CP) 03/21/02

GET READY FOR MAHLER, SOTTO VOCE: "A directive being debated in the European Parliament and getting a lot of support around Europe would reduce noise in the workplace, concert halls and opera houses included... The bill calls for a workplace decibel limit of 85 without earplugs, 87 with them. Some members of the parliament, Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark among them, think the directive doesn't go far enough. He is looking for an amendment to lower the level to 83. European musicians are not happy. They say that noise in a factory and the noise of a Bruckner finale are not the same thing... One toot on a trumpet can reach 130 decibels instantaneously." The New York Times 03/24/02

BACK TO THE FUTURE: After years of fundraising and hoping, the Toronto Symphony's decidedly substandard concert hall is being renovated, with the project expected to greatly improve the acoustics, which have always been an embarrassment to the TSO. While the renovations are ongoing, the orchestra has returned to its old home, Massey Hall, and some critics are feeling nostalgic. But its a good bet the musicians aren't, as Massey has notoriously difficult delays and imbalances for those on the stage, even though the sound in the audience is fairly good. Toronto Star 03/23/02

SO WHY ARE THEY PAID SO WELL? When the Vienna Philharmonic visited New York recently, the musicians performed an entire concert without the aid (some would say hindrance) of a conductor. The success of the effort, and countless other similar examples, beg the question of what exactly it is that a conductor adds to a performance that the musicians could not, given the right circumstances, accomplish on their own. And how did the one person on stage not making a sound somehow become the focus of our attention? The New York Times 03/24/02

BEING CONTRARY IN ATLANTA: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has narrowed the field of architects hoping to design its new concert hall to six, but one of the finalists is stirring the pot perhaps more than the ASO would like. Stephen Holl is insisting that the location of the proposed hall is all wrong, and wants it moved to a different street, where, he says, there would be greater visibility and more convenient access for patrons and musicians. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 03/22/02

AN UNUSUALLY DOWN-TO-EARTH DIVA: "Eileen Farrell, who excelled as both an opera and pop soprano in a string of successful recordings and performances including five seasons at the Met, died Saturday. She was 82... Although her career at opera's top level was relatively brief, she was considered one of the leading dramatic sopranos of her time." Andante (AP) 03/24/02

BOOING FROM THE WINGS: Valery Gergiev is one of those omnipresent conductors who seems always to be in demand and on top of the charts. But the usual backstage grumblings that plague many conductors have hit a fever pitch with Gergiev. Musicians hate him for his indecisive baton, critics complain that he knows too small a slice of the repertory, and administrators despise his chronic lateness and frequent cancellations. So why is he still so famous? The truth may be that competence often has little to do with conducting success, but it is equally true that musical insiders are often disdainful of artists who are popular with the public. The New York Times 03/24/02

SLAVA'S WORLD: Few musicians are as universally beloved as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and for good reason. The Russian emigré who has crafted one of the last century's greatest performing and conducting careers is a bridge between the musical stars of yesterday and today. He has the profound presence of Pablo Casals, but the easy humor and approachability of Yo-Yo Ma, and th combination makes him a favorite with musicians and audiences alike. The New York Times 03/23/02

THE CRIME OF ACCESSIBILITY: "Philip Glass, who in his hungry years drove a cab in New York, likes to tell the story of the elderly passenger who looked at his taxi licence and informed him that he had the same name as a famous opera composer. That would never happen to Carlisle Floyd, a retired music professor who has had many more performances of his operas than Glass, without a 10th of the renown... Floyd's cardinal sin, in some eyes, is to write music that pleases many and challenges no one. His realistic operas are full of hummable tunes, many of them fashioned after the folk songs he heard while following his father, a Methodist preacher, through the U.S. South during the thirties." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/23/02

Friday March 22

ALL-CLASSICAL IN ARGENTINA: While more US radio stations drop classical music in favor of more profitable formats, in Argentina, pop music fans are protesting the government national radio network's decision to drop rock music in favor of classical. "Founded in the 1940s, during Juan Perón's first term in office, the government-run network has frequently been used as a propaganda tool. During the 1990s, the Nacional stations reduced classical music to a minimum in keeping with then-president Carlos Menem's populist policies." Andante 03/21/02

Thursday March 21

EMI LAYS OFF 1800: Recording company EMI is laying off 1800 employees, about 19 percent of its total workers. The struggling music label has been losing money and shedding projects. "EMI has 70 labels and 1,500 artists, including The Beatles, Paul McCartney, Lenny Kravitz, Janet Jackson, Garth Brooks and Pink Floyd." Nando Times (AP) 03/20/02

PIANO COMPETITION "IN THE OLD WAY": The new Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition begins in Los Angeles. Though scaled down from ambitious plans announced two years ago, organizers are bringing competitors from around the world, as well as the Moscow Radio Symphony to accompany performers. And the head of the festival assures fair judging: He "thinks the world of piano competitions is due for an ethical overhaul, comparing the scene with ice skating events at this year's Winter Olympic Games. There are numerous examples of judging controversies in piano competition, including a scene in the 1980 Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland, when pianist Martha Argerich stormed off the jury to protest the early elimination of young pianist Ivo Pogorelich." Los Angeles Times 03/20/02

THE WOEFUL STATE OF MOVIE MUSIC: This year's Oscar-nominated film scores are an uninspired lot. "The Academy's choices of warhorse composers over fresh and innovative ones reflect the general deflation affecting the movie score. It's not just that interesting scores aren't receiving the acclaim they deserve—they're simply not being written much anymore. When a director looks for a composer these days, it's usually to write incidental music to be played between the pre-released pop hits that form the real soundtrack of the film." Slate 03/20/02

Wednesday March 20

COLLECTIVE CONTROL: "The Louisiana Philharmonic is the only symphony orchestra in the United States that is owned and operated by its musicians. They do everything from choosing conductors to approving the advertising budget." So when the orchestra faced a budget crisis last summer the players voted not to fire colleagues or get a cheaper conductor - they took a pay cut... The New York Times 03/20/02

MENDING HIS WAYS? "After several years of criticism that he's been neglecting Canadian composers in favour of heavy doses of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, National Arts Centre Orchestra Director Pinchas Zukerman yesterday announced an ambitious new program to develop, promote and support Canadian music nationally and internationally." Ottawa Citizen 03/20/02

AS GOES NEW YORK? A Who's Who of the New York classical music world has protested public radio station WNYC's decision to cut back on its classical music programming. "Unfortunately, New York is going to set an example for the rest of the nation. And that is what's most disturbing about this decision. People look at New York as a cultural leader not only in the United States, but throughout the world. So this decision is much more significant than simply a reduction of five hours for New York listeners." Andante 03/19/02

Tuesday March 19

LEAVING TOWN: Musicians of the Phoenix Symphony are leaving the orchestra or auditioning elsewhere after a contract signed last month reduced the orchestra's pay because of financial difficulties. "After the salary reductions, musicians who last season made a base salary of $33,300 (more for principal musicians) will earn $30,030 this season and still less next year, the first full season under the new contract." The salary ranks the PSO last among the top 40 professional American orchestras. Arizona Republic 03/18/02

DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP: "For many years, radio has been, and to a degree remains an important ally for contemporary art music. And while an important conduit for the dissemination of music, it has been problematic at best. The musical arts are among the most conservative, or at least the audience is. The art world embraces the contemporary. Modern art museums are a source of civic pride, galleries specialize not only in modern art, but even in specific styles, genres, and niches. On the other hand, modern music remains esoteric and for the most part, underground, tucked away so as not to upset or annoy anyone within earshot. As a result, it is virtually unheard on television and only begrudgingly allotted a few moments on the radio airwaves, often when few listeners are likely to tune in." NewMusicBox 03/02

TECH IS NOTHING NEW... Let's not get all carried away thinking that the digital revolution will be the end of music as we know it. Of course music is changing because of technology - it always has - from the invention of the piano to the phonograph... Still...the availability of free music is a compelling change. New York Times Magazine 03/17/02 

MUSIC FOR A DESERT ISLAND: In sixty years of choosing recordings they would take with them to a desert island, participants on the BBC's program Desert Island Disks most often prefer Beethoven - specifically the Ode to Joy from the Ninth Symphony. Since the 1960s, the most popular pop music has been the Beatles. The Guardian (UK) 03/17/02 

WAGNER-THON: Conductor Daniel Barenboim is performing 10 Wagner operas in just 14 days - all but three of Wagner's total. "The marathon Berlin event will see him conduct more than 40 hours of music at the city's prestigious Staatsoper Unter den Linden opera house, where he is general music director." BBC 03/19/02

Monday March 18

ORDERING OUT: With major labels getting out of the classical music business and smaller independent companies having distribution problems, a growing business in subscriptions holds out some promise. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/17/02

FAILURE TO STUDY: Why have scholars and universities been so slow to study rock/pop music in the way they've examined jazz and classical music? "It seems like it's only with a great deal of age that anything gets picked up on. Rock 'n' roll, or as I call it, modern music, reflects all sorts of sophisticated cross-cultural reference points, all of which lends itself to serious artistic consideration. But very few people will tangle with that world. I think it's a mixture of ignorance and fear." Los Angeles Times 03/18/02

THE OLD SIDE OF NEW: Contemporary music seems to be performed more and more. But why does so much of it not sound "modern"? Such pieces may be pleasant to hear, but they "don't advance our art; they don't bring it closer to the world outside. They feel, as I've said, like the classical music of the past, and for that reason they don't thrive, or at least their thriving might not do us much good, unless they prepare the way for some new style that feels less like classical music, and more like life." NewMusicBox 03/02

Sunday March 17

THE INHERENT DRAMA OF MUSIC (HELPED A BIT): Chamber music has generally been delivered in plain wrappers - small groups of musicians dressed in black performing on a stage. After decades of conventional performances, the Emerson String Quartet, arguably the finest quartet currently performing, "has begun confronting the idea that a concert is inherently a theatrical experience" and has begun performing Shostakovish as part of a visual/dramatic performance. Los Angeles Times 03/17/02

WHO'S GOING TO PAY? It costs a lot to find and promote a new band who will earn enough from album sales to turn a profit. And it's getting harder as digital copying of Cds proliferates. So who's going to pay for the development of new artists? "The industry seems to have lost touch with its roots, spending too much pursuing manufactured megastars." The Age (Melbourne) 03/16/02

A LAVISH CAREER: At 79, director Franco Zeffirelli "is the same age as Verdi at the premiere of Falstaff, his comic farewell to the stage. The two have been in touch a great deal of late." For decades, Zeffirelli's lavish productions have been a Metropolitan Opera staple. Usually a hit with audiences, the productions haven't been kindly treated by critics for some time. A revival of Zeffirelli's Falstaff, which was his Met debut in 1964, is an opportunity to reflect on what initially attracted the opera world to him. The New York Times 03/17/02

Friday March 15

PARALLEL UNIVERSE? The president of the Recording Industry Association of America speaks at the opening of this year's SXSW conference in Austin. She "alternately sounded like the captain of the Titanic asking, 'Iceberg? What iceberg?' and George Orwell's double-speaking Big Brother stubbornly insisting, 'Black is white.' She maintained that RIAA surveys prove that consumers do not object to the average CD price pushing the $20 mark, and that federal anti-trust laws are actually bad for consumers, since they are slowing the record companies down from banding together to institute technical 'improvements' that will stop us from making duplicate copies of our own CDs. By far Rosen's most absurd contention was that record companies create artists, not the other way around." Chicago Sun-Times 03/15/02

  • CD's HELD HOSTAGE: The Recording Industry is lobbying Congress for mandatory anti-piracy technology for recordings. "It would be outrageous that you can’t combat technology with technology," Rosen said. "Let the music industry deal with its consumers because it’s in our interest to make products that people will buy." But "the deployment of copy-protected CDs threatens to unilaterally eliminate Americans’ fair use right to non-commercial audio home recording. The fact that these copy-protected CDs will not play on many legacy players already in the home and on CD players today on the retail shelf, combined with the lack of adequate labeling, will inevitably lead to confused, frustrated and no doubt angry consumers." Wired 03/15/02
  • PRIVATE DEAL: "The record companies and Hollywood are scheming to drastically erode your freedom to use legally purchased CDs and videos, and they are doing it behind your back. The only parties represented in the debate are media and technology companies, lawyers and politicians. Consumers aren't invited." Wall Street Journal 03/15/02

BUYING BEETHOVEN'S NINTH: The Royal Philharmonic Society is selling 250 manuscript scores collected over 250 years. The collection includes the manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and the British Museum wants to buy it. Unable to come up with the money itself, the library is mounting a public fundraising campaign. "The library needs to raise £200,000 more to meet the £1 million asking figure for the Royal Philharmonic Society's collection." BBC 03/14/02 

CLASSICAL RADIO ALTERNATIVES: Classical music stations are going off the air as station licenses become more valuable and owners look for more profitable formats. That doesn't mean classical listeners are going away - they're just finding other outlets such as digital radio and the internet. Christian Science Monitor 03/15/02

108 YEARS OF MUSIC (OR WAS IT 109?): Leo Ornstein was one of the most innovative American composers of the 1920s - if you'd asked most music critics of the time, they probably would have pegged him as America's brightest music prospect. But by the 1930s he had disappeared from the music scene. Doesn't mean he died though. In fact, he didn't die until a few weeks ago, at the age of 108 or 109 (the year is in dispute). The Economist) 03/14/02

SPEEDING TO THE BEAT: An Israeli researcher says drivers who listen to fast music in their cars may have "more than twice as many accidents as those listening to slower tracks." The study demonstrated that while listening to fast music "drivers took more risks, such as jumping red lights, and had more accidents. When listening to up-tempo pieces, they were twice as likely to jump a red light as those who were not listening to music. And drivers had more than twice as many accidents when they were listening to fast tempos as when they listened to slow or medium-paced numbers." New Scientist 03/130/02

Thursday March 14

REVOLUTIONARY STICK: How many conductors come along who can transform an orchestra? Outgoing BBC Scottish Orchestra music director Osmo Vanska is apparently one (he's off to run the Minnesota Orchestra next). "The technical honing and transformation of the BBC SSO under his stewardship was never beyond description, but, at its best, still beggared belief. The musical revelations across a range of repertoire, even to sophisticated ears, have been breathtaking. The combined effect of the two developments, technical and musical, echoed to the highest reaches of the corporation, and beyond these shores." How'd he do it? Relentlessness. "This guy is never going to give up; it's better we play it his way so we can get home." Glasgow Herald 03/12/02

BUSINESS CORRECTION: Even if classical music recording is on the wane, what does it really say about the health of the artform? Not much. "What's left when the record companies, with all their marketers and middlemen, finally fade away is a world full of artists left to their own considerable devices, making records, not for the promise of nonexistent glory, but for the sake of the music. Recordings, I wager, will be fewer, but they will have been made with more of a sense of mission." Andante 03/13/02

LUCRATIVE LIFE AFTER OPERA? There is much speculation that Pavarotti may be retiring from the opera stage. But not quitting. "The temptation to concentrate on concerts is not hard to understand. Last year he was paid a reputed £650,000 for singing at the Grand Theatre in Shanghai. The price will certainly not go down as retirement rumours abound." The Independent (UK) 03/13/02

MUTI TO CONDUCT AT STEEL PLANT: After an embarrassingly public brouhaha that was less about music than a political catfight between a mayor and a Catholic church official, a major concert which will bring conductor Riccardo Muti back to his hometown of Naples has been moved to an abandoned steel factory on the outskirts of town. The organizers are doing their best to put a good spin on it, but nearly everyone involved is furious that the battling pols couldn't or wouldn't put aside their differences and allow the concert to proceed in a local church. Andante 03/14/02

BUILDING A BETTER COMPOSER: The hardest part about being a composer may be that no one ever tells you how to do it. You write works for dozens of instruments that you don't really know how to play, and hope that everything works out. But a new seminar in Minneapolis aims to change the sharp learning curve many composers face. "The musical boot camp, unique in the United States, entailed more than the usual orchestral run-throughs. It involved seminars about copyrighting, licensing and public speaking; sessions about how to write grant applications and deal with unions and contracts, and workshops on how to write better for particular instruments." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/14/02

PULLING RANK: Critics are used to receiving furious replies to their reviews, and most have learned to let the barbs, jabs, and veiled threats roll of their backs. But it must have been a difficult moment for Washington Post reviewer Paul Hume back in 1950 when he received a scathing note from the father of a singer whom Hume had given a bad review. The father was none other than President Harry Truman, and the letter he wrote goes on auction at Christie's this month. Washington Post 03/14/02

PUCCINI A LA BAZ: When Baz Luhrmann's bohemian odyssey Moulin Rouge hit theaters last year, with its over-the-top theatrics and reworked pop songs, "some critics reached for rhapsodic analogies, others for aspirin bottles." Luhrmann's next project is a daring attempt to bring Puccini's La Boheme to Broadway, and to do it without bastardizing the music as with Elton John's Aida. "His idea is not exactly to reinvent La Boheme, but to make it accessible for audiences unschooled in the opera tradition." The New York Times 03/14/02

Wednesday March 13

DESPERATELY SEEKING AN IDENTITY: Almost since its inception, New York's City Opera has been the bastard stepchild of the Gotham opera scene. Overshadowed by the Met, ignored or reviled by its Lincoln Center masters, and confined to a ballet theater specifically designed to muffle sound, the company recently saw its fortunes turn with a massive gift towards the purchase or building of a new home. But even with the cash infusion, City Opera constantly runs the risk of seeming directionless, and must always struggle to be noticed in a city overflowing with culture. New York Observer 03/18/02

CLEANING UP THE OPERA WORLD: On the surface, it might seem that, without sex and violence, opera would suddenly become wholly uninteresting and, well, short. But with a recent proliferation of shocking, over-the-top productions in Britain's opera houses, the incoming music director of the Royal Opera House felt the need to stress that he is a traditionalist, and will not use excessive theatrics to sell tickets. BBC 03/13/02

MENDELSSOHN FOR SALE: A handwritten copy of Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, thought to be worth $700,000is to be auctioned. There are three known manuscripts: "A copy of a version dated 1830 is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and a slightly later autograph version titled Die Hebriden is in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City. Mendelssohn wrote a third version in preparation for a series of concerts in England in 1832, Sotheby's said." Nando Times (AP) 03/12/02

RADIO JUST ISN'T FOR MUSIC FANS: Blame it on a vast corporate conspiracy, a bad local program director, or anything you want, but radio's small playlists and near-total unwillingness to play anything not backed up with reams of audience research and paid for by the big labels is unlikely to change anytime soon. So why do stations do it this way? Well, because most listeners seem to want nothing more than their favorite songs repeated over and over, and have no taste for experimentation. And the folks who run the stations admit that, if you're a true music fan, you're pretty much out of luck. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/13/02

Tuesday March 12

WHEN CONTROVERSY DOESN'T SELL: A controversial English National Opera production of Verdi's Masked Ball that featured "male rape, transvestites, dwarves, Elvis impersonators and a row of chorus singers using the toilet without washing their hands" got lots of attention in the press last month. But it was something of a flop with audiences. The production sold few tickets. The Guardian (UK) 03/09/02

THE MISSING PAVAROTTI: The Metroplitan Opera has announced next year's season, and "for the first time since the 1969-70 season, the Italian tenor is absent from the roster of singers scheduled to appear at the United States' biggest opera company." Yahoo! (AP) 03/11/02

QUILTING TO THE MUSIC: What do musicians do in the intermissions at the opera? At Chicago Lyric Opera, they make quilts. "The old-fashioned communal handiwork has been warmly embraced by the 31 women in the 75-member orchestra. Twenty-two of them have painstakingly pieced together 24 individual squares and nearly everyone else has sidled up to the frame to do a little needlework." Chicago Tribune 03/12/02

Monday March 11

WHEN MODERN MUSIC WORKS: Michael Tilson Thomas is highly regarded as a champion of contemporary music. But there are genres of music he doesn't perform. "If a music director doesn't feel the spirit, why should he be compelled, out of a sense of obligation, to yield to pressure - especially if he can offer an alternate and more persuasive aesthetic? That Thomas has been permitted to flourish in his own manner and to fashion the San Francisco Symphony into a partner in his ventures has made audiences feel like collaborators, too, even when the score on the conductor's desk requires a kind of unlearning on the part of the listener." San Francisco Chronicle 03/10/02

WORDS ABOUT MUSIC: Monster, a new Scottish Opera about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein by Sally Beamish and Janice Galloway has revived a longstanding debate about the relationship between words and music in opera. "The libretto is elegant, the music full of beauty and invention. Why, then, does the combination not quite catch fire?" The Observer (UK) 03/10/02 

BROKEN RECORD: There is no good news for the recording industry. Sales are down, sound file piracy is rampant, a judge threatens to overthrow the Napster decision, and even the artists are rebelling against longstanding recording company deals. San Francisco Chronicle 03/10/02

MONTREAL'S LONG ROAD: The Montreal Symphony thought it had money for its new concert hall all locked up and ready to build several times in the past decade. There was the time the province's premier flew to New York to hear the orchestra in Carnegie Hall and came away so impressed that he called up music director Charles Dutoit to guarantee the money. Then he resigned before it could happen. Now it appears the orchestra really will get its building. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/11/02

Sunday March 10

BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE: When Linda Hoeschler arrived at the Minnesota-based American Composers Forum in 1996, the group was in financial and organization trouble. Thanks to a savvy business approach, the organization has grown into a national presence and "its annual budget has climbed from less than $300,000 to more than $3 million. Fifteen staff members now administer more than a dozen programs, dishing out hundreds of grants annually and providing a range of other services to a swelling membership of more than 1,400 composers." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/10/02

GOING IT ALONE: The London Symphony's Grammy win last month with a recording it produced on its own, is challenging the traditional recording industry model. "To get these albums, marketed at about $8 to $9 per disc, into the hands of consumers, LSO Live employs distributors in Britain and Japan, and as of late, Harmonia Mundi U.S.A. But more significant, the orchestra is also selling the CD's directly through Internet outlets, including its own (www.lso.co.uk). To date, sales of "Les Troyens" have exceeded 30,000 sets." The New York Times 03/10/02

GENDER BASHING THE VIENNA PHIL: Every time the Vienna Philharmonic comes to America, it faces protests that it hasn't hired women players. This tour, the orchestra says progress has been made. The orchestra's regular membership is still all male, but there are women substitutes. Critics charge that given the Philharmonic's current pace, "it will take a generation or more for women in the Vienna Philharmonic to attain even the 5% to 10% representation he says is typical of other elite central European orchestras. The average is 30% in top U.S. orchestras." Los Angeles Times 03/10/02

SINGULAR FRUSTRATION: Are recording companies encouraging piracy? Just try to buy a single song from a top-rated album. Singles aren't being made anymore. "The bottom line is fear that singles cut into album sales. There are record company executives who believe that if you don't put out a song as a single, then kids will buy an $18 CD to get the one song they want.'' Boston Herald 03/08/02

BEATING UP THE PIT BAND: "It is widely held that ballet music is inferior to opera music, that the orchestra rarely plays its best for ballet, and that ballet music attracts the dimmer, less expensive conductors." But maybe that's the perception because of the way ballet scores are conducted. The Telegraph (UK) 03/10/02

Friday March 8

TURNING DOWN THE CLASSICAL: Making the rumors come true, New York public radio station WNYC has announced it will replace five hours a day of classical music programming with news and talk programming. "The changes — approved by an 'overwhelming consensus' of the board of trustees at a meeting yesterday, signify the transformation of WNYC from a quirky station operated by sometimes eccentric hosts to a public radio station of the modern age, one that is a serious business requiring significantly larger funds to keep on running." The New York Times 03/08/02

WRECKING LA SCALA? Critics are sounding the alarm over La Scala's renovations to its venerable home. "According to architect Mario Morganti and other experts, the renovation will cause more damage to the theater than did the Allied bombing during World War II. The process, he said, will be 'more of a demolition than a restoration. Only an empty shell will survive'." Andante 03/08/02

HOW TO BEAT THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: With the music industry so tightly controlled these days, right down to national radio playlists and ultra-formulaic album releases, it can be difficult for anything particularly creative to find success in wide release. But a group of talented youngsters from the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston may have broken through the clutter, with a compilation album of emerging artists backed by the school and, amazingly enough, a major label. The Christian Science Monitor 03/08/02

Thursday March 7

COPYRIGHT, COPYRIGHT, WHO'S GOT THE COPYRIGHT? A federal judge has told the record labels suing Napster "to produce documents proving they own the copyrights to 213 songs that once traded for free over the song-swapping service. It's a last grasp to limit monetary damages in a case that has slowly gone against Napster since the service went offline in July." Nando Times 02/06/02

MUSICAL PEACE PLEA CANCELED: Daniel Barenboim had planned to give a piano recital in the West bank city of Ramallah this week as his personal "plea for peace." "But the Israeli army said it had banned all Israeli citizens from entering territory under sole Palestinian control and Mr Barenboim was no exception," so the concert has been canceled. BBC 03/06/02

GIAN CARLO AT HOME: Is Gian Carlo Menotti the world's favorite living opera composer? Maybe - probably that's true in America. In Europe he's probably better-known as founder of the Spoleto Festival. In Britain he's not as well known - even though he's lived there for 30 years. "His 40-room mansion, nestling in a vast estate that rolls away over the horizon, is classic 18th-century, designed by William Adam and his sons, Robert and John." The Telegraph (UK) 03/07/02

Wednesday March 6

ARE WE ALL JUST THIEVES? "Despite a plethora of problems that have nothing to do with the Net, media executives are obsessed with the idea that their customers are shiftless pirates who want their wares for free. The world got a chance to sample this mind-set at the Grammys last week, when National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences head Michael Greene hijacked his own awards ceremony to rant Queegishly about music downloading, 'the most insidious virus in our midst.' (So much for HIV.)" Newsweek 03/11/02

SOUTH BANK REVIVAL? London's Royal Festival Hall, has been given the okay to begin a massive renovation that many hope will be the start of a complete overhall of the South Bank arts centre, long considered something of a cultural embarrassment. "The auditorium's much-criticised acoustics and technical facilities will be modernised and the seating made more comfortable." BBC 03/06/02

Tuesday March 5

OVER THE EDGE: Though the Brooklyn Philharmonic has been much-praised artistically over the years, its financial operations have always been marginal. The slowing economy and September 11 only pushed the orchestra closer to the edge. Then, when the organization tried to cut costs by scaling back its concerts, the musicians revolted... "My biggest frustration is if we're not playing together as an orchestra, what are we?" The New York Times 03/05/02

WHY THE MUSIC INDUSTRY SUCKS: Last week's Grammy Awards demonstrated lots of reasons why the music industry is in such trouble. "Record executives must be among the slowest learners on the planet. Only 5 percent of major-label releases make a profit; a big company needs to sell 500,000 copies of a CD just to break even. Hmm: could any of this have to do with dumb decisions? Virgin Records bought Mariah Carey for $80 million in 2001, only to give her an extra $28 million last month to go away. Meanwhile, Sheryl Crow and Don Henley have felt compelled to found the new Recording Artists’ Coalition, an organization of high-profile performers hoping to protect musicians from their own labels." Newsweek 03/11/02

  • THE GRAMMYS WAR ON DOWNLOADERS: Recording Academy president Michael Greene would rather blame fans who download music over the internet for the industry's problems: "No question the most insidious virus in our midst is the illegal downloading of music on the Net. It goes by many names and its apologists offer a myriad of excuses. This illegal file-sharing and ripping of music files is pervasive, out of control and oh so criminal. Many of the nominees here tonight, especially the new, less-established artists, are in immediate danger of being marginalized out of our business." Grammy.com 02/27/02

AIMING AT THOSE WHO DON'T COME TO CONCERTS: On the hunt for new audiences, the Colorado Symphony has begun a new series of concerts called CulturalConvergence. The series "will consist of culturally diverse concerts that combine orchestral music with dance, literature, theater and video, and incorporate production elements that are rarely encountered in conventional concerts. 'The point is, we can be very pure. But unless the Colorado Symphony has sold out every seat of every concert in the subscription season, it may be necessary to think about some other ways of reaching people." Denver Post 03/05/02

SLATKIN STAYING AT NATIONAL: Leonard Slatkin has renewed his contract as music director of the National Symphony for three more years. By then he will have led the orchestra for 10 years. "Slatkin's present contract was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2002-2003 season." Washington Post 03/05/02

Monday March 4

LEARNING FROM THE PHILLY DISASTER: Was the opening of the Philadelphia Orcehstra's new concert hall a "fiasco"? The LA Times' Mark Swed says yes, and directs a warning to all those who open new halls in the future - learn from Philly's mistakes. From impatience to programming to over-long opening speeches, Philadelphia is a textbook case of how not to open a new home. Los Angeles Times 03/04/02

FORMAT LOCK: The soundtrack to the movie O Brother has sold more than 4 million copies, was one of 2001's 10 best-selling albums, the year's best-selling country album, and it won a Grammy last week for best soundtrack. A live tour of music from the movie has sold out quickly. And yet, you won't hear any of the music on American radio. Why? It has something to do with formats... Denver Post 03/04/02

COMPUTER MUSIC ONSTAGE: Tired of seeing sheet music fall or blow away during performances, Harry Connick Jr. bought computers for his band on which scores scroll by. Now he's received a patent for the "system and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra." "Oh man, it's made my life easier," Mr. Connick said. "Before, I would write out a song by hand and give it to a couple of guys in the band who are copyists and they would figure out the instrumental sections. It could take days. Now I can write a new score in the morning and everyone has it on his computer screen in the afternoon. Imagine if a Duke Ellington or a Stravinsky had had a system like that." The New York Times 03/04/02

OPERA GOES ON: Musicians of the striking Edmonton Sympony have struck a private deal with the city's opera company to play for next week's performances of Of Mice and Men. "The deal with the union effectively does an end run around ESO management and gives the striking musicians two weeks of work." Edmonton Journal 03/02/02

HOMAGE A SLAVA: Mstislav Rostropovich has led an extraordinary life. He is a cellist who has not only performed some of the most important music written for the instrument in the 20th century but has also been directly involved in its creation. However, it is as a political dissident - and now almost a modern icon - on a par with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov that Rostropovich has made the most impact on the wider public consciousness." The Guardian (UK) 03/02/02

Sunday March 3

THE END OF MUSIC AS WE KNOW IT? Pop musicians are joining up to break the "tyranny" of  music industry contracts. "If this pop-star labour movement is able to overcome the anarchy and dissension of music's fractious communities, it could put an end to the music business as we know it. It is a little-understood drama that is pummelling the giant music conglomerates just as they are beginning to collapse under their own weight. The next few years could mark the end of Big Music, an institution that has promoted homogeneity and poor taste for decades." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/02/02

SAMPLE THIS: It wasn't that long ago that musicians were railing against rappers sampling their music to make new songs. The practice is a staple of hip hop. Then the practice became highly regulated (and lucrative). "Now more than ever, it's the sellers who are actively trying to get established and up-and-coming musicians interested in picking up a beat, a musical fragment, or a snippet of lyrics. Yet the selling price of samples has some artists saying they're not in the market to buy anymore. ''It's costing too much to get clearances, and sometimes it's easier to just do your own music'.'' Boston Globe 03/03/02

BITING THE BARBICAN: "Few buildings in Britain can have been as persistently tinkered with over the years as the Barbican. The concert hall, in particular, feels as if it has been work in progress for large parts of the past two decades. The centre's insoluble problem is that it has no real entrance and no outward profile." And then there's the location... Can anyone love this arts center? The Guardian (UK) 03/02/02

TURNING DOWN THE OPERA FOR BUSINESS REASONS: Belfast's Grand Opera House is generally acknowledged by all who use it to be too small and inadequate for the heavy use it currently gets. So the management came up with a plan to buy the property next door and expand, a plan it thinks will solve the theatre's plans. "But the Arts Council does not agree. Last month it turned down the Opera House scheme, claiming the application was 'of insufficient business quality' to warrant the investment of public funds." Belfast Telegraph 03/02/02

Friday March 1

CITY OPERA AT WTC? New York City Opera is talking to other New York cultural institutions about building a major new arts center on the site of the World Trade Center. "City Opera officials caution that their planning is in its early stages and that they have not made a decision to go forward. But they have attracted interest from the Joyce Theater, the Chelsea-based home of contemporary dance, in becoming involved in the project, which in one configuration would include a 2,200- seat opera house for itself, a 900-seat dance space and possibly a museum." The New York Times 02/28/02

RATTLE IN BERLIN: Simon Rattle takes over the Berlin Philharmonic podium later this year. The Berlin Phil is possibly the world's most prestigious orchestra. But is it possible the orchestra needs Rattle more than he needs it? "Perhaps it will send a signal that the times are indeed changing and that the symphonic music business needs to get with the times in order to maintain some relevance. It signals a dramatic shift in the mythology and mystery surrounding the role of the conductor - from an unapproachable, distantly enigmatic, eccentric figure to a proactive, hands-on, engaging human being that musicians and the public can relate to!" Christian Science Monitor 03/01/02

BROKEN ON PURPOSE: Recording companies are starting to produce CD's that can't be played on computers or players that can copy them. Consumers are protesting, but an industry spokesperson says: "If technology can be used to pirate copyrighted content, shouldn't technology likewise be used to protect copyrighted content? Surely, no one can expect copyright owners to ignore what is happening in the marketplace and fail to protect their creative works because some people engage in copying just for their personal use." The New York Times 03/01/02

REINVENTING OPERA: How much liberty ought an opera director or producer have in setting an opera. Updating and reinterpreting are popular right now, and they can help an audience see a piece in a new way. On the other hand, some rethinking distracts from the the work itself. But how far is too far? Chicago Tribune 02/28/02

THE SEASON THAT ALMOST WASN'T: The most impressive aspect of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's 2002-03 season is that it exists at all, "a major achievement for an organization that just three months ago was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, had no artistic director (it still doesn't), and watched helplessly while its management stampeded for the exits." Even more important, the season's programming has been crafted around the coming acoustic renovation of the much-maligned Roy Thompson Hall. National Post (Canada) 03/01/02


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