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APRIL 2001

Monday April 30

A COPYRIGHT STATE OF MIND: When the New York Times Magazine put together a time capsule to show people in the year 3000 what life in 2000 was like, they natually wanted to include music. But there isn't any music in the capsule. Why? The recording industry wouldn't give copyright permission. Wired 04/30/01

UNEASY RELATIONSHIPS: "Even orchestras which commission one new piece per season or less love to trumpet their supposed forward-thinking ways, in the vague hope that such brief bursts of enthusiasm will make up for nearly a century of deep ambivalence towards modern composition." But the relationships between composers, conductors and musicians is often uneasy or ambivalent. Sequenza/21 04/27/01

GETTING OUT THE AUDIENCE: There was a time when tickets to Hartford's visiting orchestra series were so prized they were handed down from generation to generation. Lately that hasn't been the case, and even when the acclaimed Concertgbegouw Orchestra recently appeared, it filled only about a third of the house. Now a music lover has decided to do something very personal about the situation. Hartford Courant 04/29/01

CHANGING CELLIST: The storied Guarneri String Quartet makes its first change in personnel (after 37 years) next week when cellist David Soyer steps aside and Peter Wiley joins the group. Gramophone 04/27/01

HAPPY IT UP: Director Franco Zefirelli is making a movie bio of Maria Callas. But he doesn't like the way she died. So he's rewriting her untimely end to make it happier. Nando Times (AP) 04/29/01

Sunday April 29

CLASSICAL MUSIC'S PROBLEM? "Mainstream music lovers are said to be indifferent or openly hostile to contemporary music. As long as classical music is perceived to be in the preservation business, it should come as no surprise that potential new audiences, who are instinctively drawn to new works in other fields, dismiss classical music as dated and irrelevant." The New York Times 04/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday April 27

TOO SEXY FOR MY MUSIC... At the British Classical Brit awards, a controversy about sexing up classical music to sell it. Should the girl group Bond, with their skimpy clothes and popped-up music be part of the show? More traditional musicians object. The Independent (UK) 04/27/01

PRICES ON DEMAND: Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall experiments with price/demand tickets. If a concert is selling well, the price of a ticket goes up. "When tickets first went on sale for an Oscar Peterson concert, the best seat in the house was selling for $125. Because tickets have been selling well, that price has gone up to $150." CBC 04/26/01

(NEW) LIFE BEGINS AT 90? Composer Elliott Carter is still going strong at the age of 92. "Even now Carter's stature is more thoroughly appreciated in Europe than it is in his native US, where he has always been regarded with some suspicion. His music has always demanded concentration and never provided easy, ephemeral rewards." The Guardian (UK) 04/27/01

MISSING TRIO: The classical music world has lost three important figures in the past few weeks - conductors Giuseppe Sinopoli and Peter Maag, and educator/composer Robert Starer. Boston Globe 04/27/01

Thursday April 26

DSO SUBSCRIBERS INCREASE: Auto sales may be down in Detroit, but the Detroit Symphony is having a record-breaking year for subscription tickets. In fact, it's the third year in a row that DSO subscription sales have set a record. "If we can get someone to attend once a month, that person is really involved. We're a part of their life, and they're very likely to stay with us." The Detroit News 04/25/01

PASTORAL IMAGES IN CONCERT: This year, for the first time, an American - Leonard Slatkin - will conduct the Last Night of the BBC Proms. There's an unplanned irony to the Proms season this year: The theme is pastoral, in celebration of the countryside. It was chosen before the current hoof-and-mouth crisis hit the island. BBC 04/26/01

MUSIC OR NOISE? YOUR BRAIN KNOWS: The same part of your brain that distinguishes between logical sentences and nonsense also can identify a false chord sequence - even if you have no musical training. "It raises the possibility that language and musical ability appeared at the same time in human evolution." New Scientist 04/23/01

EXUBERANCE AND DISCIPLINE: The once-stale The London Symphony Orchestra has become London's most secure musical organization. How do they do it? Their urbane conductor, Sir Colin Davis, says "We want to show what we are, a group of virtuoso musicians who get audiences involved by our own enjoyment of the music." The New York Times 04/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BIG BAD INDUSTRY: Recording companies are suing again. "By threatening to take a group of academics to court as violators of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if they publish a research paper on computer security, the industry has not only re-enforced its public image as a bully, it has enhanced the mythic perception of that law as the weapon of choice for media corporations trying to keeping the public in line." Inside.com 04/25/01

Wednesday April 25

BATON DEATH MARCH: When Giuseppe Sinopoli suffered a heart attack on the podium this week in Berlin, and subsequently died, he became the latest in a long line of famous conductors to have expired while waving the stick. Why does this happen to the maestros? Apparently, as a breed, they just don't take care of themselves. The Daily Telegraph (London) 04/25/01

MERGER MUDDLE: The proposed merger between the EMI and Bertelsmann music companies is close to collapse. Once considered a done deal, the merger ran into trouble when the companies began trying to figure out a way to actually make money from the joining. BBC 04/25/01

NAPSTER BEATING: The courts may have ruled against Napster, but college students are still finding ways to get music files. And colleges are having difficulty coping with the high bandwidth music file trading is demanding of their servers. Chronicle of Higher Education 04/23/01

THE NEW TENOR: José Cura is the next Placido Domingo, and if you don't believe it, just ask him. The feisty and self-promoting Argentine has been building his reputation for years, and now, as the Three Tenors start to fade from public view, Cura is more than ready to assume the mantle of the new operatic superstar. National Post (Canada) 04/25/01

Tuesday April 24

PAGING TIPPER GORE: A new report to be issued today by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is expected to savage the music industry for its failure to curb the marketing of ultra-violent culture to children. The report notes that the film and video game industries have taken steps to alleviate the problem, and the FTC wants the major record labels to do the same. BBC 04/24/01

PLAYING WITH BACH: Some classical music purists object to director Peter Sellars' stagings of a couple of Bach cantatas. But maybe experiments such as these are exactly what are needed to reinvigorate the art form. New Statesman 04/22/01

DEATH OF AN ORCHESTRA: Philharmonia Hungarica, an orchestra founded in Germany by Hungarian refugees, has disbanded after more than forty years. The ensemble was renowned for its complete recording of Haydn symphonies in the 1970s, but fell on hard times earlier this year when the state support it had relied on was withdrawn. Andante 04/24/01

REDEFINING "CUTTING EDGE": When John Corigliano won the Pulitzer Prize for his "Symphony No. 2" last week, a number of questions were raised about the piece, the composer, and the state of composition. The winning work is a rewrite of an earlier work, which apparently did not merit any similar recognition. The composer has been accused of playing to audiences while ignoring "serious" musical convention. But what good is convention if no one wants to hear it? Philadelphia Inquirer 04/24/01

YEAH, BUT CAN THEY PLAY "DON JUAN"? Richard Lair is the conductor of the world's first and (one hopes) only orchestra made up entirely of elephants. They have a new CD. It is getting good reviews. Seriously. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/23/01

Monday April 23

THINGS GO BETTER WITH COKE? Opera Australia wanted to cash in on some sponsorship dollars for its production of Donizetti's Elixir of Love. So it decided some strategic product placement was in order - Coke became the "elixir" of the title. No big bucks were forthcoming, though. The Age (Melbourne) 04/23/01

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE NEW: What do orchestras owe to audiences when they present new music? New music often requires repeated hearings before it can be appreciated. Should performers expect audiences to put in that work? Sequenza/21 04/18/01

NOT KIDS PLAY: Children's performers may be big with their fans. But sustaining a career doing kids fare is a tiring struggle. The New York Times 04/23/01 (one-time registration required)

THE DANGERS OF STARTING ON TOP: Child prodigies are a staple of music; they are also one of its biggest mysteries. The late Yehudi Menuhin, for instance, dazzled the world as a teen-ager 70 years ago; he then spent the rest of his life being compared - often unfavorably - to his younger self. (RealAudio commentary, requires free RealAudio player.) NPR 04/18/01

RETHINKING GERSHWIN'S BIG 'FAILURE': "It's about black people so whites won't see it, it's written by whites so blacks won't see it, and it's opera, so nobody will see it." The Opera Company of Philadelphia mounts a production of Porgy and Bess which tries to overcome that clichéd analysis. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/22/01

Sunday April 22

SINOPOLI DIES: Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli died after suffering a heart attack and collapsing on stage during a performance of Verdi's Aida at Berlin's prestigious Deutsche Oper opera house. He was 54. USAToday (AP) 04/21/01

THE INDUSTRY LIVES: If classical music is dying, the final spasms sure are taking a long time to subside. Despite the unending parade of doomsayers, New York has an almost-embarrassing wealth of concert experiences to choose from. The past year alone has seen a constant procession of classical superstars that would put most of Europe's cultural capitals to shame. The New York Times 04/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ARTS-GRANT-IN-RESIDENCE? Nowadays almost every orchestra runs some sort of composer-in-residence program. But are such programs really useful to composers, or are they about getting money from arts councils? The Guardian (UK) 04/21/01

EL PASO STRIKES: Players of the El Paso (Texas) Symphony are on strike. It's the first musicians' strike in the orchestra's 70 year history. El Paso Times 04/21/01

THE PERFECT COMBO? Classical music certainly isn't lacking for star power. Soprano Renee Fleming and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet are younger marquee names, touring together for the first time, and their combination of youthful exuberance and talent are creating buzz in classical circles. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/21/01

SO WHO WON? "For two years in a row, the Academy Award for best film score has gone to a classical composer: first John Corigliano for The Red Violin, then Tan Dun for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. While cynics claim that this is the film industry's way of advertising its high-art pretensions, Hollywood may really be ahead of New York in acknowledging that the opposition between film music and concert music is a phantom of the last century." The New York Times 04/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HAVING IT ALL: "Summarizing the work of a composer as vigorously curious as Aurelio de la Vega is not easy. Serialism and pantonality, Cuban dance rhythms and chance operations, graphic notation and electronic tape, all have interested De la Vega, and have come together in a powerful and idiosyncratic musical personality." Los Angeles Times 04/22/01

Friday April 20

ISRAEL COURT ASKED TO BAN WAGNER: The Berlin Staatskapelle Orchester, with Israeli Daniel Barenboim conducting, will perform at a music festival in Israel this summer. On the program, an excerpt from Wagner's Die Valkiere. But the Simon Wiesenthal Center, citing Wagner's anti-Semitism and his admiration by Hitler, has asked Israel's Supreme Court to bar the performance, or to block funding to the festival. Nando Times (AP) 04/19/01

Thursday April 19

NOT TO OVERSTATE, BUT... Itzhak Perlman on the importance of Jascha Heifetz to the art of playing the violin: "I realised that everything in the history of violin playing could be divided into BH and AH: Before Heifetz and After Heifetz." The Guardian (UK) 04/19/01

IN SEARCH OF ACOUSTICS: "Ever since World War II, cities from Paris to London, from Toronto to New York, have fallen victim to multimillion-dollar concert halls that embody the latest "advances" in acoustic science yet sound little better than transistor radios. But could architectural acoustics at long last be coming of age? Has one expert finally discovered, as one of his colleagues has claimed, the 'Rosetta stone' of pure sound?" Lingua Franca 04/01

WHAT, JOHN CAGE WASN'T SEXY? Classical music is sexy again, apparently. To judge from the coverage the stodgy old stuff has been getting recently in Vogue and other high fashion mags, the new reliance on melody and accessible sound has made composers and performers of new music more desirable subjects for the mass media. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/19/01

WHINE, WHINE, WHINE: Sales of cassettes and singles have taken a dive in the U.S., and guess who the industry is blaming? You got it: Napster and all its free-music-swapping buddies. You'd think the end of Western Civilization was upon us... BBC 04/19/01

POWER TO THE PICCOLO: The traditional way of managing orchestras has been top down - a strong leader who decides everything. But for orchestras to survive, some believe the orchestra as an institution has to become more democratic. And some orchestras are finding success with this approach. CBC 04/18/01

COURTING THE PUBLIC: "[T]he most seductive myth of modern opera is that of the New Audience, [which] is supposed to save the medium from becoming entirely a museum of its past... Tapestry New Opera Works is about to discover whether its most ambitious attempt to conjure the New Audience is a success or failure." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/19/01

SAY IT AIN'T SO: A new study to be published in Britain's Journal of the Royal Medical Society makes a startling and, for music snobs everywhere, disturbing assertion: The Mozart Effect - the idea that listening to Mozart improves cognitive skills in children - apparently works with the music of new age sensation Yanni as well. [first item] The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/19/01

MUSICAL MISERY: You knew it had to happen eventually - some disgruntled Red Sox fan would acquire the ability to put "The Curse of the Bambino" on stage, and do so, with all the hand-wringing and hopeless pessimism that define baseball's most loyal fan base. Well, it's happened, but the author is (gasp) from New York. Boston Herald 04/19/01

Wednesday April 18

SOUND THE REVOLUTION: "Either the opera houses of the future will succeed in rejuvenating and restructuring themselves, or else we had better close them down, with a few fortunate exceptions that we can then cherish as museums of lyric drama. At present they are almost all museums. Despite the current debate, and contrary to appearances, most opera houses suffer from the same malaise." Culturekiosque 04/18/01

E-WORD OF MOUTH: The saviour of classical music recording might be the internet, as release of a recording of Mahler suggests. A somewhat obscure performance, promoted by Mahler cognoscenti on the web has made it a roaring success. The Telegraph (London) 04/18/01

AT LAST, A PULITZER FOR CORIGLIANO: Every year John Corigliano worked up a nice level of rage in April, assuming he would be passed over again for the Pulitzer Prize. This year, they surprised him and gave him the award. What makes the Pulitzer special? "In concert music, it is the highest honor a composer can get." (RealAudio interview, requires free RealAudio player.) NPR 04/17/01

MILES DAVIS, SOMEWHAT DIMINISHED: Miles Davis was once "the coolest black musician on the planet." Then along came Jimi Hendrix. And jazz-rock fusion. "At the end of his life, he was playing tunes by Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson, which was either a triumph of anti-snobbery or the effect of looking at the Billboard charts for too long." The New Statesman 04/16/01

Tuesday April 17

'FRAID OF THE NEW: Why is it so difficult to get contemporary classical music performed? "Where contemporary music is concerned, we deny ourselves context and continuity: we label it difficult but its difficulties stem from our unwillingness to engage with it. It is a vicious circle that only we, the prospective audience, can break." The Guardian (UK) 04/17/01

COUNTERING CONVENTION: Countertenors are the hot new thing in classical music, and Canadian Daniel Taylor is one of the rising young stars of the Age of the Falsetto. "[B]ecause the countertenor sound all but disappeared after the last castrato died in the early 20th century, its resurgence has thrown up a novelty in a field of music that can go decades without anything new happening." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/17/01

Monday April 16

TOP TENOR: "In a world short of big tenor voices, Cura has become the first choice of any major opera house trying to cast Otello, Manon Lescaut, Il trovatore, indeed almost any 19th-century Italian opera. In the seven years since he won Placido Domingo's Operalia competition, he has gone from being an unknown to an operatic superstar whose name sells CDs, whose face provokes the sighs of a devoted fan club, whose voice fills stadiums." The Telegraph (London) 04/16/01

HOPING FOR NUN-BER ONE: A group of British nuns have scored a hit on the UK Classical Music charts with their first recording of chants. BBC 04/16/01

Sunday April 15

THAT AMERICAN PROBLEM: Why don't American orchestras play American music? "American orchestras would have you believe that recent American music is inferior to recent European music, which is patently untrue. Orchestras, being the Eurocentric entities that they are, naturally gravitate to composers from abroad. The fact that most American orchestras are led by European conductors doesn't help." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/15/01

PRICED OUT: The price of tickets to pop concerts has gotten so high, whole segments of music fans are priced out of the experience. The Rolling Stones at $300 a pop? So much for music of rebellion... San Jose Mercury News 04/15/01

WORLD OF JAZZ: Jazz doesn't just belong to America. "Many varieties of ethnic music are in the process of making themselves known to jazz. Thanks to jazz, musicians from Brooklyn to Capetown and Shanghai, no longer divided by their own individual ethnicities, are able to communicate with each other. More and more non-Americans are studying it." Culturekiosque 01/15/01

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MUSIC? A "laughter choir" has been started . It "has already released a CD, starts by trying to render a known piece of music by going 'ha, ha, ha' until the inanity of what they are doing strikes one of them who then dissolves into real laughter. Sooner or later, the rest follow suit as Thomas Draeger attempts to 'conduct' them and shape the laughter into something resembling music." The Guardian (London) 04/15/01

Friday April 13

PRAGUE IN PERIL: The Prague Philharmonic has a long and proud history. But since the Velvet Revolution, the orchestra has suffered - problematic leadership, outdated ways and attitudes, and some scrappy playing. "Without a strong artistic vision for the future, orchestral standards will continue to decline. Without the resources to solve its material crises, the orchestra will continue to ignore long-term issues." Financial Times 04/13/01

THE CONDUCTING COMPOSER PROBLEM: Should composers be allowed to conduct? The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is touring Sweden and composer James MacMillan is conducting. And apparently not well. "Many rank-and-file players were just plain angry. It was their debut tour of Sweden and, if first impressions count, then they were worried about the impressions of the SCO's standard that audiences, promoters, and professional peers might be taking away." Glasgow Herald 04/13/01

WING WAITING: Despite the fact the world's most-established orchestras seem to have taken a conservative turn in their recent choices for music directors, a crop of impressive young conductors is on the way up and ought to be given some opportunities. The Economist 04/132/01

Thursday April 12

WHEN IT RAINS... "Napster's legal troubles could be about to get a whole lot worse, as thousands of music publishers could enter into a class-action suit against the file-trading company. Independent musicians, however, are still shut out of the litigation." Wired 04/12/01

STRIKE MAY NOT HAPPEN: The staff of London's Royal Opera House voted to strike last weekend. But new talks scheduled for the coming weeks may avert a work stoppage. BBC 04/12/01

SEIJI'S LAST HURRAH: The average tenure for a music director of a major American orchestra these days is around 7 years. Seiji Ozawa has been in Boston for four times that long, and will lead yet one more year of concerts with the BSO before departing for the Vienna State Opera. The schedule for that final season is out, and it speaks volumes about Seiji's tenure, the present rebuilding state of the ensemble, and the continued search for a worthy successor. Boston Herald 04/12/01

DON'T TELL HIM HE'S OLD: Alfred Brendel is 70, and he's sick of hearing about it. The finest pianist of a generation, beloved by audiences, orchestras, and critics alike, is not content to allow his septuagenarianism to mark the decline of his career. He is performing more than ever, and recently released a book of essays. And yes, he is still notoriously fussy about the instruments he plays on. Ottawa Citizen 04/12/01

TRYING TO SELL QUALITY: A new country record label based in Austin, arguably the independent music capital of the U.S., is taking an unconventional approach to their business: Lost Highway Records will be attempting to make money without pop crossovers or "classic" hits that were in vogue twenty years ago. The label's CEO is lining up artists who have been unable to fit into Nashville's increasingly narrow pigeonholes, and hoping that the audience will respond to quality, sans hype. Dallas Morning News 04/12/01

MUSIC CRITICISM, OLD SCHOOL: With classical music in seemingly constant danger of disappearing completely, most North American music critics have slipped into the role of cheerleaders, with even negative reviews carrying an apologetic tone. So it can be startling to come across lines like this in a review: "The...production of Mozart's Idomeneo...is the most stunningly awful professional opera production I've ever seen...[I]f Canadians weren't so damned polite, boos would have forced the curtain down after 20 minutes." National Post (Canada) 04/12/01

HOW ABOUT "SPINAL TAP" IN IMAX? Imax films, the giant screen movie format employed to great effect in science museums across the country, are expanding beyond the usual landscape adventure format. A new documentary captures the excitement of a sold-out concert in digital clarity, and creates a worthy successor to the great rockumentaries of the past. Chicago Tribune 04/12/01

Wednesday April 11

WHAT THE HALL? It's London's Royal Festival Hall's 50th birthday this year, so there's a celebration. But "the hall, as it stands, is a national embarrassment and an international joke. The acoustics are inferior, the comfort minimal and the ambience enveloped in a perma-pong of daylong kitchen smells. No one feels much affection for the amenity - least of all its performers, who complain pitifully of cramped dressing-rooms, often uncleaned. So what's to jubilate?" The Telegraph (London) 04/11/01

NEW PIANO DESIGN: A $140,000 Australian piano built with a "revolutionary" new design is out of testing and ready for export... Sydney Morning Herald 04/11/01

NAPSTER ULTIMATUM: Over the past few weeks, since a Federal US court ordered Napster to filter out copyrighted music, the file trader has said it's been struggling to comply. Yesterday the judge lost patience. Make it work, she said. "If you can't, maybe the system needs to be shut down." Wired 04/11/01

THE LINDA RONSTADT SYNDROME: Whatever it is, former female pop and rock singers - particularly in Canada - are returning to old standards. And audiences are lining up to hear them. "In general, people hunger for melody. You listen to computerized, formulaic stuff, and the human heart and ear will seek melodies - kids hear this music now, and to them, it's new and fresh." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 04/10/01

Tuesday April 10

LET THE WINNER TAKE ALL: There is a sense of relief - almost euphoria - after settling the battle for control of the Bayreuth Festival. In truth, little has really changed, but by wresting control of the festival away from Wolfgang Wagner, an important step has been taken. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/10/01

FAMILY FEUD: We've been reading for weeks about the family Wagner's battles for control of the storied Bayreuth Festival. Here's the dirt on the family background. Financial Times 04/10/01

FAMILY FEUD, PART II: Promoter and manager Jonathan Shalit, who sued Welsh sensation Charlotte Church and her family after being pushed out of the loop of the young soprano's blossoming career, is smarting over a last-minute rewrite of her autobiography. The original draft credited Shalit with making Church the international superstar she now is, but the new version barely even mentions him. New York Post 04/10/01

MASTER OF THE CHAMBER: No other type of classical music inspires as much devotion and passionate advocacy among its practitioners as chamber music. The heroes of the chamber world are not only world-class musicians, but dedicated teachers and promoters of their art. Canada's Andrew Dawes is one of these, and those musicians who have been gathered into chamber music's fold by his example remain, years later, in awe of his skills. Ottawa Citizen 04/10/01

PAVAROTTI.COM: "Opera star Luciano Pavarotti will mark the 40th anniversary of his stage debut with a performance to be broadcast on the internet later this month. The show, from the Modena Opera House, northern Italy, will launch his new website. He also announced that he will only continue singing for another 'couple of years'." BBC 04/09/01

WHAT, NO "HILARY & JACKIE"? The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is diversifying, adding a seven-film mini-festival centering around classical music to the usual hoopla that surrounds the main event. Films to be screened include "Song of Love," "Song Without End," "A Song to Remember," and "Gosh, What a Neat Song!" (Okay, we made that last one up.) Dallas Morning News 04/10/01

BUENA VISTA MUSICIAN DIES: A member of the Buena Vista Social Club band has died after collapsing onstage with a heart attack in Switzerland. BBC 04/09/01

MERGER HAS INDIES WORRIED: "Many independent music labels are questioning their futures after Monday's announcement of Universal Music Group's plan to acquire EMusic for approximately $23 million. Independent labels signed long-term deals with EMusic that gave the digital music company exclusive rights to sell downloads from their catalogs. Those exclusive contracts are expected to carry over to Universal once the deal closes, which could cause a rift with independent musicians." Wired 04/10/01

Monday April 9

NEW CARNEGIE HALL DIRECTOR TAKES OVER: Its autocratic (and much disliked) executive director out of the way, Carnegie Hall welcomes its new leader, and attempts to soothe. "An institution that is 110 years old and has been as successful as Carnegie Hall is a lot larger than any one person's vision." The New York Times 04/09/01 (one-time registration required)

WILL JAZZ SURVIVE? "The very term 'jazz' has become a metaphor for racial polarization, stirring up heated debates among musicians, journalists and historians. Some of these questions about race and where jazz comes from are interesting and provocative, but ultimately if the music is to survive, we've got to let it just speak for itself." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 04/09/01

CONDUCTOR MARISS JANSONS is pessimistic. "I feel that the world is going in the wrong direction. Although the material side of life may be getting better, we are neglecting the spiritual side, including art and music. Political leaders should regard it as an obligation to introduce young people to the arts. Instead, they talk about the subject as a luxury or entertainment - take it or leave it." Financial Times 04/09/01

Sunday April 8

LIKE PLAYING CENTER FIELD FOR THE YANKEES: The Chicago Symphony's brass section is legendary, so when the orchestra recently had to choose a new principal trumpet, the process was rigorous... Chicago Tribune 04/08/01

  • LEGEND RETIRES: After 53 years, Bud Herseth - one of the architects of the Chicago Symphony's brass section - is retiring as principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony. Chicago Tribune 04/08/01

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: For all the calculations, acoustics is more art than science. "Scale models and computer simulations can demonstrate the motion of sound waves, yet relatively few modern concert halls have stunning sound. Virtual reality cannot replicate the visceral sensation of sitting in a space and hearing it resound with real, unamplified music. Yasuhisa Toyota has spent 10 years working on the sound for LA's new Disney Concert Hall. Los Angeles Times 04/08/01

CONSIDERING STRAVINSKY: Was Igor Stravinsky the most influential composer of the 20th Century? Thirty years after his death, his music appears to have the staying power... Dallas Morning News 04/08/01

OPERA STRIKE: Workers at London's Royal Opera House have voted to go on strike... The Independent (London) 04/07/01

Friday April 6

THE LITTLE OPERA COMPANY THAT COULD: How many opera companies commission and stage a new opera every year, and then see those operas performed all over the world? The only one we know of is in a small town in Canada. Granted, it's a series aimed at children, but even so.... Ottawa Citizen (CP) 04/05/01

PAY-TO-PLAY: Now that the fun has been sued out of Napster, music companies of all stripes are jumping into the online music business. Just in the last week several big players have entered the pay-to-play business, each with their own variation on paid downloads. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/06/01

CANADIANS LOVE THEIR (FREE) MUSIC: So where are all those Napster users coming from? No. 1 is Canada and Spain. "On-line surfers in Canada and Spain spent an average of 6.3 days in February visiting the Napster site to download or upload digital music files, according to research firm Jupiter. They were ahead of Napster users in the United States, Argentina and Germany, who spent an average 6.1 days, 6 days and 5.9 days, respectively. The global average was 5.9 days." Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/06/01

LONGEST MUSIC: Composer Roberst Rich has recorded (on a high-capacity DVD) what he says is the longest piece of music ever. It lasts 7 hours, and "the work is designed to be played at such a level that the listener falls asleep as it begins, and then experiences it during the various stages of sleep. Rich notes that ‘You can listen to Somnium in your sleep with a small pair of headphones, although these can become uncomfortable if you try to sleep on your side'." Gramophone 04/05/01

Thursday April 5

WHAT HAPPENED TO JAZZ: "From the early forties to the late sixties, jazz strode confidently into the future, constantly revolutionising itself. The center, meanwhile, could not hold. Jazz as jazz died. Some of the best new jazz releases are actually old releases remastered and repackaged. Specialist publications aside, the only place where jazz commands extensive media attention is on the obituary pages, when living legends die." Feed 04/04/01

WHAT'S THE MUSICIANS' INTEREST? Surprise surprise - musicians tell the US Congress that record company lawsuits over Napster have not served musicians' interests, and that the legal actions bring more money to the companies, but do little to promote musicians to a wider audience. The Age (Melbourne) 04/05/01

  • NAPSTER USE UP: "Napster saw traffic surge in the last week of March, even as the Internet site scrambled to block trade in copyrighted material, a study said on Wednesday." Wired 04/04/01
  • SAYING GNO TO GNUTELLA: The recording industry, flush from its bloody victory over Napster, is now turning its attention to Gnutella, a loosely-structured file-sharing service where piracy is reportedly rampant. But stopping the swapping may be harder even than it was with Napster. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/05/01

BILLY BUDD COMES OUT: Critics have long speculated about the homoerotic subtexts of Herman Melville's "Billy Budd." When Benjamin Britten and E.M. Forster, both gay men, created an opera from the story, however, the idea of a gay Billy was largely ignored by conservative opera companies and their audiences. The Canadian Opera Company's new production meets the controversy head-on. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/05/01

CROSSING THE LAST BOUNDARY: Bela Fleck is the kind of musician who drives people like Wynton Marsalis up the wall. Not content to stick with one style of music, the legendary banjo virtuoso, who has won Grammys for jazz, country, and pop (some for the same album!), is now embarking on his most ambitious crossover to date: an album of classical banjo arrangements. San Jose Mercury News (from the Hartford Courant) 04/05/01

MAINSTREAM MUSIC ONLINE: Music channel MTV begins selling music online with the cooperation of major recording labels, in one swoop becoming the internet's biggest music presence. Wired 04/04/01

DEATH OF A SALESMAN: Not so very long ago, America's top orchestral musicians were paid on a scale little better than waiters, and their working hours were determined solely by the men standing on the podium. It took many a devoted advocate to sell the industry on the desirability and prudence of paying and treating musicians as the highly-trained artists they are. One such advocate died on Saturday. Philip Sipser was 82. The New York Times 04/05/01 (one-times registration required)

Wednesday April 4

IN THE ARTISTS’ INTEREST: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday into online copyright issues, both music and publishing. Artists themselves testified that musicians’ interests - namely that they get paid for their work no matter what - are getting obscured by the larger economic battle between the recording industry and Napster. "As [we] sit here, there is a Ping-Pong game going on over our head about business models on the Internet when we do not know how our intellectual property is going to be protected." Washington Post (Reuters) 04/04/01

NAPSTER WEIGHS IN: Napster weighed in with its own plea to legislate a compulsory license for music distributed over the Internet. "Both sides came well prepared…Napster rallied hundreds of young fans with free T-shirts and concert tickets, while the recording industry unveiled an anti-Napster Web site at www.nofreelunchster.com." ABC News (Reuters) 4/03/01

  • TAKING UP THE CAUSE: "Long-time foes of the recording industry, the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, are preparing to clash with the music labels over consumer rights issues and unfair business practices...They believe the recording industry has too much of a competitive advantage in the distribution of digital music." Wired 04/04/01
  • JUMPING THE GUN: The recording industry's plan to launch a new online music subscription service with RealNetworks seems to have overlooked one whopping issue: such a service would have to negotiate with artists for the rights to distribute their work, or they could find themselves shut down before they start. Inside.com 04/04/01

SOAP STYLE: The Wagner family drama over who will direct the Bayreuth Festival is playing out in unfortunately soap-operatic proportions. "It has reached the point where art and media have become reliant on soap values to capture our flickering attention. Millions in Germany and around the world who will never visit Bayreuth or watch a Wagner opera, start to finish, now follow the family feud as avidly as they watched Big Brother." The Telegraph (London) 4/04/01

HOPING FOR A MIRACLE: Pro Coro Canada, one of only three professional choirs in all of Canada, is on the verge of bankruptcy, and is appealing to federal and provincial government sources for relief. The choir is scheduled to move into Edmonton's brand new Winspear Centre for Music next season. CBC 04/03/01

NEW NAME, NEW DIGS: The Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, widely considered to be one of America's finest chamber orchestras, is getting a new name, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, to go along with it's beautiful new home in the Regional Performing Arts Center that opens this fall. The ensemble will also be bringing in a higher caliber of soloists and guest conductors. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/02/01

A NOT-SO-WARM WELCOME: Opera star Montserrat Caballe, widely acknowledged to be Spain's greatest living soprano, has finally won her battle to become one of the first women to join the 150-year-old all-male Cercle del Liceu club at Barcelona's Liceu opera house. Although she had sung on their stages more than 100 times in the past 30 years, her applications had been repeatedly rejected - until the club was forced to comply with Spain’s equal opportunity laws. BBC 4/04/01

THE POWER OF CLOSED DOORS: Members of the Metropolitan Opera Club, who have access to a private on-site clubroom reached via a secret elevator, are quarreling with the Met’s management over plans to open the club to more members and do away with its 108-year-old black-tie dress code. "That is a part of who we are, and it makes us who we are. Life has become so informal that it's one of the last bastions of decorum and style." New York Times 4/04/01 (one-time registration required)

FINALLY, SOME RESPECT: Female composers have been making great strides in the classical music world in the last decade. Case in point: New Jersey's Melinda Wagner, who has watched her Pulitzer Prize-winning flute concerto take on a life of its own, even as she moves on to her next high-profile commission. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/03/01

CHOICE COMES TO THE CLIBURN: The Van Cliburn competition has announced that contestants will now have their choice of four pieces of new music to fulfill the contest's contemporary requirement. In past years, a single work had been commissioned, and was required of all players. The change is popular with contestants and composers. Dallas Morning News 04/04/01

ROBESON REDUX: The son of famed opera star and blacklisted activist Paul Robeson has penned a new biography of his father, and the first reviews are in. The younger Robeson had originally commissioned an official biography more than a decade ago, but he was furious at the result, and withdrew his support for its publication as an "authorized" biography. Boston Globe 04/04/01

Tuesday April 3

EVERYWHERE BUT HOME: The music of Astor Piazolla is a hit worldwide. Everywhere, that is, but his native Argentina. "Piazzolla's approach was rejected by tango purists who couldn’t understand his phrasings and Mozartian harmonies, who felt that he was betraying the spirit of the Argentina's greatest musical contribution to the world." Sequenza/21 04/02/01

ACTING OUT: Peter Sellars takes on Bach's Cantatas, having the performers act as well as sing them. "Nobody sleeps through a Sellars show. True, a lot of purists can’t bear to sit through one either. But at this stage in its history, classical music doesn’t need more purists. What it badly needs is people who can communicate its meaning, its power and its glory to multitudes." The Times (London) 04/03/01

ROYAL OPERA CHIEF MOVES IN: Former BBC exec Tony Hall has taken over direction of London's Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. First order of business? Dealing with a threatened strike by backstage workers that could close the place down. BBC 03/02/01

LIKE A VIRGIN... Many services broadcast music on the Internet, but now Radio Free Virgin is going a step beyond. It provides a free download program with which you can record the music on your computer hard drives. Is it copyright infringement? If you keep the copy for your own use, probably not. If you share it with someone else... actually, no one seems to know just yet. Inside 04/02/01

REAL MUSIC, REAL MONEY: RealNetworks, whose RealPlayer is an Internet standard, joins AOL, EMI, and Bertelsmann in a subscription-based music service on the web. The joint venture includes three major record labels - EMI, BMG, and Warner - so there shouldn't be any of those nuisance lawsuits to worry about... BBC 04/03/01

Monday April 2

BAYREUTH STILL UNCERTAIN: So now that Wagner's granddaughter has been named the next director of Bayreuth, is the issue of succession and continuity settled? Maybe not... Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/02/01

IS NEW MUSIC BROKEN? No, but "we as an industry have lost a whole generation of listeners with our cynical attempts to tell the audience that it is their responsibility to make the sounds they hear from our instruments palatable to their uncultured ears. We will not ever get this generation back, and we are in danger of losing their children's generation as well, unless we change our tune, and fast." Sequenza/21 04/02/01

REINVENTING OPERA: "From Venice to Berlin, Europe’s opera houses are facing shrinking federal budgets, crumbling infrastructures, an aging core audience and accusations of elitism—not to mention the rapid incursion of mass media. In an effort to remain relevant—and solvent—European opera companies are being forced to radically overhaul everything from their repertoires to their management to their financial backing." Newsweek 04/02/01

WHAT OPERA LOOKS LIKE IN ATLANTA: "In the short history of the Atlanta Opera - anywhere from 15 to 20 years, depending upon whom you ask - the company has enjoyed extraordinary growth. In the past six years alone, attendance and budget have shot up more than 150 percent. More than 47,000 people attended its 12 performances at the Fox last year. The company's annual budget has climbed almost 150 percent in six years, to $4.8 million a year." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 04/01/01

DEATH OF MODERN JAZZ: John Lewis, founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet, died at the age of 80. Washington Post 04/02/01

MOZART, MD: Researchers have discovered that playing Mozart can be therapeutic for some patients. "Short bursts of Mozart's Sonata K448 have been found to decrease epileptic attacks." BBC 04/02/01

(P)OPERA STAR: "Because Charlotte Church is both MTV and PBS, she has found herself at the center of a debate that's heating up in the classical music world: Is she the industry's savior or its worst nightmare? Will her huge sales finance all the serious musicians whose low profiles challenge the patience of the recording industry? Or will her concessions to popular taste degrade the standards of an entire genre?" New York Times Magazine 04/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • SELECTIVE MEMORY: Singer Charlotte Church is still a teenager, but she's putting out an autobiography. Make that a selective autobiography. All mentions of Jonathan Shalit, the agent/promoter who discovered and built her career have been expunged. Last year Shalit and Church split under unpleasant circumstances. BBC 04/02/01

Sunday April 1

WAGNER OUT: The board of the Bayreuth Festival, the annual celebration of Wagner's music, says Wolfgang Wagner must hand over to his estranged daughter Eva. If King Wolfgang, 81, refuses to leave the fabulous theatre built for his grandfather Richard, Eva can evict him. The Independent (London) 03/31/01

SIMPLY THE BEST: Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache insisted on more rehearsals than anyone else. He was legendarily finnicky and he refused to make recordings. But "in the past four years, however, CDs of his live performances have been appearing, proving him to be, quite simply, the most revelatory conductor of the later 20th century." The Telegraph (London) 03/31/01

MADE IN CHINA: Some of the most prominent composers on the new music scene today are from China. But their music is better known and more widely heard in Europe and America than back home. The New York Times 04/01/01 (one-time registration required)

  • NEW GENERATION: "A generation of Chinese-born composers has established a major and diversified presence on the American musical scene. They are by no means the first wave of immigrants to have done so. But perhaps not since the various infusions of African influences has a sizable contingent steeped in an idiom so far removed from Euro-American norms achieved such prominence." The New York Times 04/01/01 (one-time registration required)


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