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Sunday September 30

WHEN IN DOUBT - BLAME THE FUNDERS: The Toronto Symphony's near-bankruptcy is just the highest-profile difficulty facing Canadian orchestras. Many are on the brink. Could it be the funders' fault? "What we have now is the blowback from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council building up the funding levels [during the eighties] and then dropping them,That created a void that none of these organizations ever recovered from." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/29/01

DOES L.A. NEED MORE DIVAS? Los Angeles has never been what one would call a high-culture kind of town. But in the last decade, a series of musical successes have begun to attract national attention to the City of Angels. The latest invigoration of the city's cultural scene is coming from Placido Domingo's L.A. Opera. Domingo has made it his mission to make the company one of the nation's finest, and early reviews suggest that he may be succeeding. "Most important, he has offered a challenge to a city that has hitherto lacked a prominent operatic profile -- productions that make you think." San Francisco Chronicle 09/30/01

ANYTHING BUT DERIVATIVE: For any high-minded culture critic fond of arguing that popular music can never have the far-reaching impact of art music, Nirvana's Nevermind, released ten years ago this month, represented quite the stumbling block. Arguably, the album, which ushered the Seattle-based grunge-rock movement into the realm of respectability, was the most influential rock 'n roll release since The Beatles burst upon the scene. A decade later, the music world in all its forms is still feeling the impact. Boston Globe 09/30/01

THE DIFFICULT MR. STOCKHAUSEN: Did composer Karlheinz Stockhausen really tell a journalist that the attack on the World Trade Center towers was "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos"? He says not and that he was misquoted. "Stockhausen the composer, and indeed the man, has always generated both horror and adulation. His total dedication to his work is admired and feared, his criticisms of almost every other musical genre (other than his own) are legendary, his demands that we throw away our attachments to 'the music of the past' seem like the strictures of a feared schoolmaster, and his grandiose spiritual pronouncements are often greeted with derision. And yet he is universally regarded, even by his opponents, as one of the key figures in contemporary music, and he is revered by a new generation of electronic pop and dance acts as a mentor." The Telegraph (UK) 09/29/01

  • DID HE MISS THE POINT, OR DID WE? "Stockhausen, in focusing on the formal and visual elements of the terrorist deathwork, forgot the idea that (as Bach indicated in all of his manuscripts) all art should be created for the greater glory of God — unless, of course, you have some perverted notion of what God is." Andante 09/30/01
  • HELP CREATE OR DESTROY IT? "Karlheinz Stockhausen is one of the great figures in modern comosition, a revolutionary whose shadow stretches across contemporary music in all its incarnations. Along with such avant garde goliaths as Pierre Boulez and John Cage, he embodies the iconoclastic spirit that has torn away old certainties such as melody and fixed time-signatures, and recast the fundamentals of music in the 20th century." The Guardian (UK) 09/29/01

Friday September 28

CHICAGO S.O. KILLS BROADCASTS: "Because of a lack of funding, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will terminate its 25-year series of weekly nationally syndicated radio broadcasts after this weekend... The CSO was the last remaining U.S. orchestra to be heard on the radio 52 weeks a year." Chicago Tribune 09/28/01

TORONTO SYMPHONY BLUES: "Now in its 80th season, the TSO has a cumulative deficit of nearly $7 million. Its subscription sales over the past few years have declined to 30,000 from a peak of 45,000. 'Over the past five to 10 years, the capacity of symphony orchestras to sustain revenues, to hold audiences, and to deepen the connection to the communities they serve have all been severely tested...around the world'." CNN.com 09/27/01

  • QUITTING POLITICS: The TSO's executive director resigned from the orchestra not because of a $7 million deficit, but because of internal politics, he says. CBC 09/28/01

THE NATIONAL COMPOSER: "Not every country has one, and it is not immediately clear why some countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Norway) do, while others (Austria, France, Germany, Spain, the US) do not. But Britain, for whatever reason, has one, and it is Elgar. In peace and war, in private and public, when we have needed music we have reached for Elgar, and he has invariably been there for us." The Guardian (UK) 09/28/01

ATLANTA UNDAUNTED IN QUEST FOR HALL: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has always had to fight hard to maintain its considerable reputation as one of America's great orchestras. The ASO's artistic fortunes, which suffered in recent years, are now on the rebound with the arrival of new music director Robert Spano. The last piece of the puzzle, according to orchestra officials, is a new, acoustically superior hall that will do justice to the ensemble on its stage. Fund-raising has begun, and a big-time moneyman has been placed in charge. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/28/01

WHOSE MUSIC IS DYING NOW? Global recording giant EMI will post significant losses for the first half of fiscal 2001 due to what the company describes as "a ‘marked deterioration’ in market conditions." Interestingly, as record labels worldwide are junking or severely cutting back their classical music divisions, EMI Classics was one of the only divisions that did well for it's corporate parent. Gramophone 09/27/01

Thursday September 27

TORONTO SYMPHONY IN PERIL: The Toronto Symphony is one of Canada's premiere arts organizations. But "due to lower than expected revenues, the symphony must secure $1.5-million in new operating funds by Nov. 30 and increase its operating line of credit by more than $1-million to survive." Otherwise, the orchestra is in danger of going out of business. National Post (Canada) 09/26/01

  • TORONTO SYMPHONY IN DISARRAY: Less than a year after taking the job, Edward Smith is leaving as Executive Director of the TSO. "The cancer has spread too far into the body," Smith explained. "It's not just a matter of treating one limb or one organ. These are strong words, I know. But that's the best analogy I can think of. The cancer within the TSO is everywhere." Toronto Star 09/27/01

JENS NYGAARD, 69: Jens Nygaard, founder and conductor of the Jupiter Symphony, died at his home in New York. His energetic conducting was legendary, as was his idiosyncratic programming. "I never programmed a piece I was not completely, 100-percent committed to," Mr. Nygaard said. "And I'm fortunate because I can love a Stephen Foster song, a Spohr symphony, a Caccini motet and a Beethoven symphony equally." The New York Times 09/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NAPSTER - EXPENSIVE, AND LIKELY TO STAY THAT WAY: "Bertelsmann's quest to keep the controversial Napster alive has cost the media giant more than $100m (£70m) - and it could become even more expensive. If it does survive, the company will likely have to pay damages or a settlement fee to record labels that exceeds the $26m offered music publishers." zdnet 09/27/01

Wednesday September 26

ORCHESTRA LOCKOUT: The Calgary Philharmonic is $650,000 in debt. "The CPO could be bankrupt by Christmas unless it can sort out its financial affairs - including reaching an agreement to roll back pay and benefits for its 65 full-time players." So the orchestra is asking musicians for a pay cut, or the players will be locked out. Calgary Herald 09/25/01

NAPSTER MAKES DEAL: "The much-maligned file-trading company agreed to pay $26 million to the music publishers for past copyright infringement in a move that would effectively end litigation between the two parties" and allow the file trader to go back online. Wired 09/25/01

Tuesday September 25

MUSIC, FOOD & SEX: "Researchers have found that melodies can stimulate the same parts of the brain as food and sex. 'People now are using music to help them deal with sadness and fear. We are showing in our study that music is triggering systems in the brain that makes them feel happy." Nando Times (AP) 09/24/01

ORCHESTRA BATTLES WHEN PEACE HITS: The Ulster Orchestra was founded in 1966 in Belfast, and though it dodged bombs, riots and martial law, it always played on. Now that the politics have calmed down, the orchestra's survival challenges are changed. The Times (UK) 09/25/01

ANOTHER STERN TRIBUTE: Violinist Isaac Stern "changed the very idea of what a classical musician does. Musicians once stayed on the political sidelines, practicing scales and bringing beauty to the world. Stern was a highly effective activist, so much so that he was too often guilty of not practicing scales." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/25/01

Monday September 24

MASUR TO GET TRANSPLANT: New York Philharmonic music director Kurt Masur is cancelling weeks of performances in December so he can undergo an organ transplant. "The orchestra did not specify which organ, saying only that it was not his heart. A suitable donor is said to have been found." The New York Times 09/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TOP 10 CONDUCTORS: Who are the top ten conductors in the UK, as chosen by conductors? A new survey reveals Simon Rattle on top, American Marin Alsop, the first woman to be music director of a major British orchestra comes second... The Independent 09/23/01

ATTITUDINAL ADJUSTMENT: "Plenty has changed since Sept. 11, and pop music is caught up in the cataclysm. Artists are delaying albums, canceling shows and in some cases overhauling their attitude. Every genre faces challenges all its own and some, like pop-country, might suddenly find themselves in vogue. But for rock and certain kinds of rap, the time-tested pose - disaffected, hostile, belligerent or utterly apathetic and self-involved - is suddenly out of sync with the nation's new rally-behind-the-adults spirit of community and purpose." Washington Post 09/24/01

APPRECIATING ISAAC STERN, 81: "Never a particularly dazzling virtuoso, Isaac Stern was notable rather for the integrity, vigor and emotional honesty of his playing, especially in the standard works of the Classical and Romantic repertoire. In his later years, the quality of his performances often slipped, but even then he was capable of great feats of intellectual bravura and dramatic force, and many of his early recordings document his finest endeavors." San Francisco Chronicle 09/24/01

  • MORE THAN MUSIC: "He left behind three pillars of a legacy: a vast body of recordings that inspired the loyalty of audiences; an adoring circle of colleagues, who remained loyal to him throughout the years of his artistic decline; and a building, Carnegie Hall, to which he remained loyal at a time when it appeared all but certain it would fall to the wrecking ball." Washington Post 09/24/01
  • MASTER PERSUADER: "Despite his musical prowess, Stern's efforts to save New York City's Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball in 1960 remain perhaps his greatest legacy. With reasoned arguments, political savvy and boundless charisma and enthusiasm, he rallied support from musicians and audiences to save the historic hall, later becoming head of the nonprofit Carnegie Hall Corporation. In 1997 the hall's main auditorium was named for him." Boston Herald 09/24/01
  • BREAKOUT ARTIST: Stern was one of those rare artists who was passionately involved with the arts beyond his own career and chosen instrument." Chicago Sun-Times 09/24/01
  • ALL-ROUND AMBASSADOR: "What was most extraordinary was his gestalt: Packed into Stern's roly-poly frame was an innovative violinist; an indefatigable advocate for such causes as his beloved Carnegie Hall, the National Endowment for the Arts, music education and the support of Israel; and a mentor to several generations of younger musicians, including Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Midori." Detroit Free Press 09/24/01

CAN HE DO IT? "As chalices go, the Royal Opera House seems pretty comprehensively poisoned. Rumour suggests that opera bosses around the world who were approached just laughed. And yet here is Tony Hall, an Oxford graduate in politics, philosophy and economics, a smiling, occasionally giggling and distinctly boyish 50- year-old, emerging from 27 years at the BBC to take over Covent Garden's cream gilded palace. Everything about this man is, in the context of the ROH, improbable." Sunday Times (UK) 09/23/01

Sunday September 23

ISAAC STERN, 81: Isaac Stern, one of the leading violinists of the mid-20th Century and one of the most powerful voices in the music world, has died. He was a foudning member of the National Endowment for the Arts and spurred the drive to save Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball. Washington Post 09/23/01

UNDERSTANDING WAGNER: Conductor Daniel Barenboim leads an examination of Wagner and politics in Chicago. "Wagner may forever remain controversial in Israel, but his music, predicated as it is on a fusion of all the art forms, is a given of Western high art. The classic status that so long eluded him is now his. His operas are basic to the international repertory, even if the world has never had more than a handful of singers equal to their almost superhuman vocal demands." Chicago Tribune 09/23/01

THE PROBLEM WITH JAZZ: "It's the recordings that seem to me exciting, immediate, completely lacking in nostalgia, but jazz is defined by its live and improvisational nature. 'Jazz's canon is its recorded legacy [but] if all the written music in the world suddenly burned up in a flash, who could still do a gig the same night, with complete strangers and no rehearsals?' It seems that jazz musicians are compelled to be ascetics in a corrupt world." The Guardian (UK) 09/22/01

POP MUSIC'S STRANGE ECONOMICS: It's the new economics of rock 'n' roll: Charge as much as you can. Since 1998, the average ticket price for major U.S. concerts has jumped 43 percent to $46.69. But the real sticker shock has come this year, with Twin Cities concerts that topped out at $176.50 for Billy Joel with Elton John, and $131.50 for U2." But are music fans starting to revolt? "Sales of U.S. concert tickets were down nearly 16 percent during the first six months of 2001 compared with the same period last year. Despite a $3 increase in the average price, the overall ticket gross was down 12 percent." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 09/23/01

Friday September 21

ARABIC MUSIC TOUR CANCELED: A 10-city American tour by an Arabic music festival has been canceled. "One reason for the cancellation was that the celebratory sound of the music would be inappropriate now. A more pressing consideration was safety. 'The fear of the artists grew heavier every day after the attacks. They said to us, "Can you imagine us getting on a plane in the United States now, 34 of us, clearly from the Middle East, with Middle Eastern names? What would the passengers think? What would they do?' " Los Angeles Times 09/21/01

MUSIC-AID: Musicians are out raising money for disaster relief. "Michael Jackson, for example, hopes to rustle up more than $50-million for victims of the disaster through sales of What More Can I Give, a song he wrote six months ago for his album Invincible but didn't use. He wants to record the song with a Live-Aid-like supergroup to include Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys and Mya from Destiny's Child, among others. Whitney Houston's label is rereleasing her Superbowl recording of The Star-Spangled Banner as a CD, with royalties to firefighters and police in New York." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/21/01

NIELSEN AWARDS: Three Danish musical artists have received Nielsen awards. The awards, worth DKr500,000 ($62,000) each, were given to composers Tage Nielsen and Per Nørgård, and violinist Nikolaj Znaider, in a ceremony at the Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. Gramophone 09/21/01

Thursday September 20

AIDA CANCELED: The annual Egyptian performances of Aida at the pyramids have been cancelled after tour groups called off their trips. Ironically, last year's performances also were cancelled, because "organisers said they wanted to focus resources on this year's shows, which would have coincided with the centenary of Verdi's death." BBC 09/20/01

THE NEW MO-TOWN: Is Detroit going to be the Next Big Thing in popular music? "The city is even drawing comparisons with that early-'90s music mecca, Seattle. At a time when pop charts are dominated by navel-baring blondes and boy bands still exploring the mysteries of shaving, serious music fans see Detroit's grittiness as a plus. But the more entertainment mavens sing the praises of Detroit, the more the city's insular music scene seems to agonize over the perils of success - especially the trappings of corporatization." Christian Science Monitor 09/19/01

HOW RADIO REACTS TO TRAGEDY: There are simply some common songs that aren't appropriate after something like the World Trade Center disaster. One of the most difficult things is to try and remember what the lyrics to songs are. The titles are fairly obvious, but it's knowing the sentiments too. You play something and halfway through it might tie in with particular things that have happened. They're a bit of a horror for us, lyrics." The Guardian (UK) 09/20/01

  • NO MUSIC BANS: Contrary to previous reports, says Clear Channel Communications — which operates 1,213 radio stations in the US — the company "never issued any directive about what stations could or should play. Instead, the list was developed from suggestions about potentially offensive songs that depicted graphic violence; referenced falling, explosions, or plane crashes; or seemed too celebratory of New York." USAToday 09/19/01

SORRY FOR COMMENTS: Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has apologized for comments he made comparing last week's attack on the World Trade Center to a work of art. The City of Hamburg canceled four concerts of his music this week. "Stockhausen told Hamburg officials he meant to compare the attacks to a production of the devil, Lucifer's work of art." Nando Times (AP) 09/19/01

Wednesday September 19

BEETHOVEN'S DOCTOR: A retired Melbourne gastronenterologist has spent years diagnosing Beethoven's physical maladies. He's " always had an interest in suffering, and 'Beethoven is the suffering composer par excellence.' He was attracted to the idea of applying his medical skills to Mozart and Beethoven to better understand how their health and moods affected their music." The Age (Melbourne) 09/19/01

SAYING THE WRONG THING: Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen said in a German radio interview Monday that last week's attacks on the World Trade Center were "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos. Minds achieving something in an act that we couldn't even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad for 10 years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying, just imagine what happened there." The comments didn't play well; four concerts of his music that were to have formed the thematic focus of the Hamburg Music Festival this weekend were promptly canceled. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/19/01

Tuesday September 18

ZINMAN DEPARTS BALTIMORE IN A HUFF: "In a move that has startled Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and staff, David Zinman has resigned his title of 'music director emeritus' in protest of the BSO's current artistic direction, specifically a decline in programming of works by contemporary American composers. He also has canceled previously scheduled appearances with the orchestra in March." Baltimore Sun 09/17/01

  • BUT WILL IT MATTER? Zinman's departure from Baltimore breaks a long-standing code among conductors - never speak ill of your successor. But do his charges of the dumbing down of the BSO's programming hold water, or is Zinman the one who comes out looking silly? Baltimore Sun 09/18/01

PHILLY TOUR IS ON: "Following a meeting with the musicians between rehearsals yesterday, Philadelphia Orchestra president Joseph H. Kluger announced that the [domestic] tour would go on with heightened security, contingent on any airport closings. In addition, the orchestra will travel with a former member of the White House Secret Service who will be in touch with the FBI daily." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/18/01

TORONTO SEEKS A NEW LEADER: As the Great American Music Director Search draws to a close for most orchestras in the U.S., one of Canada's most prestigious ensembles is hoping to snare a gem from the enormous crop of promising maestros who, for one reason or another, don't show up on American radar screens. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has faced a slew of problems in the last several years, but with a renovation of their much-maligned hall, the return of their nearly-deposed principal cellist, and the potential for an exciting new stick-waver, things may be looking up. Two candidates will conduct the TSO this month. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 09/18/01

SANITIZING THE CRISIS: Clear Channel Communications, one of the world's largest media companies, has circulated a memo to its radio stations across the U.S. "suggesting" the removal of some 150 songs from station playlists in the wake of last week's attack. Program directors have been left to wonder what could possibly be objectionable about the Beatles' "Obla-Di Obla-Da" or Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/18/01

Monday September 17

RESCHEDULING THE GRAMMYS (MAYBE): The Latin Grammys were cancelled last week. They had already generated lots of controversy and had been moved from Miami to Los Angeles. "Although salvaging a full-blown Latin Grammy production would be a long shot, organizers said they are hoping for a possible new date of Nov. 30." Los Angeles Times 09/17/01

THE GRANDEST VERDI: What is the appeal of Verdi? "The appeal of Italian opera is difficult to put into words, but it has something to do with the activation of primal feelings. Operatic characters have a way of laying themselves bare, and they are never more uninhibited than at the climax of a Verdi tragedy." The New Yorker 09/17/01

PAVAROTTI IN COURT (AGAIN): Pavarotti goes to court to defend charges of tax evasion. "Italian prosecutors allege that Pavarotti still owes the government unpaid taxes for the period 1989 to 1995 - despite the tenor's payment of 24 billion lira in back taxes (£7.8m) in 2000." BBC 09/17/01

Sunday September 16

THE NEW L.A OPERA: Kent Nagano is intent on helping create a new standard for opera in Los Angeles. "My big goal is to help realize Mr. Domingo's dream of an opera company you could only find here in Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times 09/16/01

EVEN IF IT IS BEETHOVEN: Why is it that even dubious incidental scraps of music by long-dead composers make more of a stir than anything else in the classical music world? "Even if the sketches were more extensive than they are, should they be pumped up into a concert work? Perhaps more than any other composer, Beethoven would be disconcerted to have his sketches taken in any way as finished works, because he struggled so hard, and so ingeniously, with the matter of musical structure." The New York Times 09/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Violinist and national ArtsCentre Orchestra music director Pinchas Zukerman takes criticism personally: "If I hear some really outlandish feedback from subscribers, I pick up the phone and call them. I say 'What the f--- did you mean by that?' And they go, 'Oh my God! Is that you?' And I say, 'Yeah, it's me. What do you think I should be doing here?' And usually they say, 'I didn't mean it like that' or 'I was misunderstood'." Saturday Night (Canada) 09/15/01

IS IT LIVE? Back in 1990 there was a scandal when it was revealed that Milli Vanilli had lip-synced their ways though songs. Now, pretty much any major music act faces questions about whether or not they perform their own work. "There's not a major band or singer out there today that people don't say it: 'Are they really singing?' People like to dish and gossip about it – it's like 'Are those ... [breasts] real?' " Dallas Morning News 09/16/01

Friday September 14

HOLSTERING THE FLAGS: The last night of the Proms in London are usually a grandly patriotic affair with patriotic music and plenty of flag waving. In the wake of the terrorism in New York, the Prom last night will go on, but absent the patriotic displays. "We're not going to actively ban flags, but it's clearly inappropriate. There's no sense of joviality or celebration that the flag waving has become a part of." The Guardian (UK) 09/13/01

GOING HOLLYWOOD: "The L.A. Opera has never been on the radar internationally. For the most part, it's not even on the radar nationally. The arrival of Kent Nagano, a young, good-looking conductor at a company now headed by one of the best-known musicians in the world, gives the opera its first chance to make waves everywhere - to become a big, world-famous group, with a distinct Southern California identity. Because the company is young - this season is its 16th - the possibilities are still open in a way they're not at an august house like the Metropolitan Opera in New York or at the sturdy companies of Europe. And none of them have the glamour of Hollywood, which the company wants to cloak itself in." NewTimes LA 09/13/01

OPERA ON A BUDGET: Belgium's La Monnaie Opera is an international force. "Opera is about so many things other than just music theatre. It embraces corporatism, elitism, snobbism and, above all, money. Which is where La Monnaie is so remarkable. It seats a mere 1,152 people, about half of the capacity of the Royal Opera House. Its top price is just over £50, compared to £150 at Covent Garden." New Statesman 09/10/01

Thursday September 13

CANCELLING THE MUSIC? The Philadelphia Orchestra considers cancelling its upcoming tour because of terrorism concerns. "Historically one of the world's most well-traveled orchestras, the Philadelphia has been scheduled to begin a three-week tour Sept. 21 and go to Dallas, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Kalamazoo, Mich., and eight other cities." Philadephia Inquirer 09/13/01

MUSIC ON YOUR OWN TERMS: R Murray Schafer is Canada's best-known living composer. But on his own terms. Though his music is performed internationally, he picks the conditions. Many of his works are made to be performed outside the concert hall. He once refused permission for the Toronto Symphony to play his music because he believed its music director didn't believe in Canadian music enough. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/13/01

THE FUTURE OF RECORDING? "Since the German businessman Klaus Heymann founded Naxos in 1987, the major labels have reacted to it with a mixture of disdain, resentment, and efforts to buy it out or beat it at its own game. All the while Naxos has survived and prospered, seemingly indifferent to the threats facing the classical recording industry — shrinking sales figures, declining market share, abandonment of artist development and so on." Is Naxos a model for the future? Andante 09/10/01

Wednesday September 12

TELEPHONE MUSIC: Vivendi music said last week it would make music available over cell phones. But "all Vivendi has done is hitch together two media in decline: recordings are canned, mobiles have peaked." The Telegraph (UK) 09/12/01

CONLON LEAVING PARIS: "James Conlon, chief conductor of the Paris Opera since 1995, said he will leave his job at the end of his contract in July 2004." Andante (AP) 09/12/01

Tuesday September 11

HAVE ORCHESTRA WILL TRAVEL: The Australian Chamber Orchestra was once described by The London Times critic as the "best chamber orchestra on earth." The orchestra tours more than any other Australian arts company, and it is aggressively promoted. It's also run up a large deficit and grappled with the idea of merging with another organization to stabilize. But now things seem to be looking up... Sydney Morning Herald 09/11/01

TRYING SOMETHING NEW: Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho may have hit on the way to finally drag classical music into the technological era without decimating its beloved institutions. With her first major-label release due to hit stores soon, Saariaho has been attracting attention with a unique blend of electronic and acoustic music, as well as a Debussy-like use of "scales that artfully avoid the gravitational pull of conventional tonality, giving her pieces the sense that they're constantly airborne." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/11/01

THAT'S PRONOUNCED "O-LEE": "A big-budget movie about the life of Norwegian virtuoso violinist and composer Ole Bull is to be released in 2005 to celebrate Norway’s 100 years of independence. . . Bull was Norway’s first international star, a Paganini-type womaniser who prompted hysteria with his playing all over Europe and the US." Gramophone 09/11/01

Monday September 10

SPANO DEBUTS IN ATLANTA: Robert Spano debuts this week as the Atlanta Symphony's new music director. Though Atlantans are excited by Spano's appointment, they're a bit apprehensive too. "Although a skilled conductor, Spano is unproven as a director of a major symphony. That requires a different set of skills, including making sound decisions and forming the vision to lead an organization. At 40, Spano is still young for such a position. But the orchestra's administration is betting that a smart conductor, savvy with the media and ambitious, is more important than a lengthy resume." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/09/01

BRITISH BUY MUSIC: British consumers buy more recorded music per capita than music lovers in any other country. UK residents buy an average of four cds per year, according to a new report. Gramophone 09/07/01

MICHAEL JACKSON RETURNS: Fans paid as much as $2,500 a ticket for Michael Jackson's Madison Square Garden concert this weekend. Actually, it was less concert than a contrived (and awkward) coronation. The New York Times 09/10/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NAPSTER OFFERS TO PAY: In a turnaround, Napster proposes paying recording labels for music downloaded over its service. Wired 09/09/01

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The major stars of a modern opera production can't afford to stick around through the run of a production - they commute by air between engagements like others use their cars. Los Angeles Times 09/08/01

Sunday September 9

DEATH RATTLE: "As a business opera is doing very well. There are more performances today than ever. From Tokyo to Tel Aviv, you can be sure to find Puccini and prima donnas. Opera has become the opium of a rich and educated minority, a launch-pad for millionaire singers who jet from one hemisphere to the other, garnering bouquets of adulation for their silken-lunged arias. But they're all singing an old tune. Forget the composer - today, the interpreter is king. Look at the programme of any number of opera houses. Of the 22 operas to be performed in the new season at Covent Garden in London, just one was written in the past half-century." Financial Times 09/07/01

MUSICAL GLUT: London's annual summer Proms concerts are a broadcasting staple for the BBC and an almost ridiculous overglut of top-flight performers. "In one seven-day period, not one, or two, but five distinguished orchestras visited from abroad, interspersed with appearances by the London Symphony Orchestra, most glamorous of native bands, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, curiously rejigged as a jazz band. On top of it all were illustrious conductors and soloists of the rarity of Martha Argerich." Sunday Times (UK) 09/09/01

RIPPING OFF THE MUSIC: The Canadian recording industry begins a campaign to try to convince teenagers they shouldn't download music and make CD copies. "When I was a teenager it was cool to drink and drive. Today it is not. The hope is the same thing will happen in the music industry with CD burning." National Post (Canada) 09/08/01

NATIONAL SYMPHONY'S NEW LEADER: Nurit Bar-Josef is 26, and about to take on the job of concertmaster of Washington's National Symphony. " She is one of the youngest players to hold such a prestigious position at a major American orchestra. But she is joining a troubled orchestrathat has been uneven in recent years, a group that has just ditched its president and is looking for a new general manager. At a time when the NSO needs leadership, Bar-Josef is quietly taking a job with a lot of behind-the-scenes influence over the direction of the ensemble." Washington Post 09/09/01

INTERNET OPERA FANS WIN: Metropolitan Opera fans organized over the internet restore Met broadcasts to Washington DC radio. Washington Post & The Idler 09/08/01

Friday September 7

THE EXPLOITED ROCK STARS? Music stars converge on Sacramento for Legislative hearings on how long recording companies can tie artists to contracts. Cortney Love and Don Henley argue that record producers exploit successful artists, while the companies say their risks with unknown musicians justify restrictive contracts. Salon 09/07/01

SELL-OUT AWARDS: This year's MTV Video Music Awards were little more than "an orgy of self-congratulatory hype" and "corporate synergy." "Reflecting the current lack of imagination at the top of the pop charts, MTV has been in a downward spiral for several years, however. And this year's edition of the VMAs was a stiff, leaden bore." Chicago Sun-Times 09/07/01

EVEN IN REHEARSAL, KRONOS IS DIFFERENT: Love them or hate them, you have to admit that the Kronos Quartet tackles projects others ignore. For instance, the "space-age bachelor-pad music" of Juan Garcia Esquivel. But should it be played like James Bond, or like The Pink Panther? Like a hotel guest, or silly like Mozart? [RealAudio] NPR 09/05/01

THE PRODIGY GAME: The music prodigy business is booming. "The increasingly tough competition scene is driving a growing market of 'music factories' and professional tuition providers." Sydney Morning Herald 09/07/01

CLEARING THE FOG: After complaints by chorus members, San Francisco Opera has agreed not to use a particular brand of stage fog. The singers had complained that the fog made some of them sick. San Francisco Chronicle 09/06/01

Thursday September 6

AS SLOW AS POSSIBLE - LITERALLY: A performance has begun in a German town of John Cage's Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible). The piece was originally a 20-minute piano piece, but organizers of the performance have inflated it to 639 years. "The audience will not hear the first chord for another year and a half. All they will get is the mellow sound of the organ's bellows being inflated." BBC 09/06/01

ASSESSING A NEW SHOSTAKOVICH: In 1939 Shostakovich was commissioned to write a piece that the Soviets intended to use on the occasion of their defeat of Finland. The Finland thing never happened of course, and the music was forgotten. Now it's had its premiere; and what's it like? "Shostakovich can hardly have expected the suite to be a propaganda tool in a military campaign; if he did, he made sure there was nothing triumphalist in it. More likely, he wanted the Party men off his back, and threw them a bit of jobbery to keep them happy." The Telegraph (UK) 09/06/01

Wednesday September 5

THE FAN WHO SAVED OPERA: When Washington DC classical music radio station WGMS decided to drop weekly broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, one outraged opera fan vowed to get it back. He organized opera fans, petitioned other stations, and convinced one - WETA - to bring back the opera. The Idler 09/05/01

CHIPPING IN: In most American cities, arts organizations are still loath to ask the public for help in building or renovating facilities following the anti-arts crusades of the early 1990s. But in Seattle, voters last year approved a $29 million levy to assist in the renovation of the city's opera house, which is something of a barn (seating over 3,000.) Among other improvements, "[t]he proscenium and stage house will be raised, backstage space enlarged and 1928-era technical systems replaced." Dallas Morning News 09/05/01

MUSICIANS PLEAD FOR EMANCIPATION: More than 100 famous musicians are testifying in front of the California legislature this week trying to get a law repealed that allows recording companies to keep artists under contract for many years. The musicians argue that "the contracts to which they are tied, often signed when performers are young and inexperienced, are punitive and unfair." The Guardian (UK) 09/05/01

ALMOST DONE IN PHILLY: America's most-anticipated new concert hall in decades is nearing completion. "With 15 weeks to go until opening, the architecture of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is taking on a more finished form. The 150-foot-high glass vault is completely enclosed. Construction trailers on the Broad Street side have been removed, giving passersby a clear glimpse at a giant glass curtain enclosing the east facade. It swings back and forth slightly with the wind. And the trees atop the recital theater have been hoisted into place." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/05/01

  • SADLY, NO GIANT SQUEEGEE: As Philadelphia's Kimmel Center gets its final touches, a solution has been devised for the most vexing problem its planners had encountered: how to clean all that glass. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/05/01

A YANK DOWN UNDER: "A 27-year-old American conductor has been named as the musical director of a recently formed symphony orchestra in Australia. Michael Christie – who first rose to international attention after winning a special prize at the 1995 Sibelius International Conductors Competition in Helsinki – will be the inaugural chief conductor of the Queensland Orchestra." Gramophone 09/05/01

Tuesday September 4

NEW SHOSTAKOVICH DISCOVERED: In the late 1930s, Dmitri Shostakovich was in disgrace in his Soviet homeland. He published little, and no Stalin-fearing musician would perform his work in public. The effect on the composer's history has been a near-black hole in his life, but now, an entirely unknown work written during this period has been discovered and premiered. Scholars say that the Finnish Suite will change much of what is known about Shostakovich's life in the period of his professional exile. Andante (from the BBC) 09/03/01

TROUBLE IN SAN JOSE: The San Jose Symphony has seen its deficit zoom in the past four months to $2.5 million. The orchestra's top executive says the symphony will have to downsize. San Jose Mercury News 09/30/01

  • PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS: Orchestra's unpaid CEO struggles with band's spiraling insolvency. "Beneath the financial woes are nagging personnel issues, questions about the orchestra's musical appeal and deep uncertainty about its ability to cultivate broader community support." San Jose Mercury News 09/02/01

OPERA COMING ON STRONG: In the UK opera audiences are small, but growing fast. "Although only 6.4 per cent of the population attended an opera in 1999/2000 - compared with 11.6% who attended a classical concert, 23.4% plays, 21.5% art exhibitions and 56% films - only film audiences are growing faster than opera. Between 1986 and 2000 the number of opera goers increased by 25.6%." The Guardian (UK) 09/03/01

FOUR STRADS UP FOR GRABS: A truly great set of instruments can do wonders for a string quartet's sound, but most young chamber musicians can only dream of acquiring even one of the million-dollar group of instruments, let alone a matched set of four. This week, though, the Library of Congress announced that its 40-year affiliation with the Juilliard Quartet would end next year, freeing up the library's collection of Stradivarius instruments for other quartets' use. The residency through which the instruments are "shared" will continue, but with a new quartet every couple of years. Gramophone 09/04/01

DARING THE PIRATES: "More than one million CDs with anti-piracy devices have been slipped onto racks in record shops across Europe. The discs form part of an experiment by major labels to find out how well their digital security systems work when trying to stop tracks being copied onto blank CDs or swapped as computer files." BBC 09/04/01

Monday September 3

THE HOTTEST GROWING ARTFORM? It's opera. Audiences for opera have grown 25 percent since 1986. "But the potential for growth is limited by a lack of new operas to perform, a shortage of productions and the poverty of dozens of small opera companies." BBC 09/03/01

AYE, MORPHEUS: A new file-sharing software program lets users download anything on the net. It's fast, efficient, and since there's no centralized computer system (like the one that hosted Napster), it's impossible to shut down. Free movies, music, pictures, books? it's all there. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/03/01

Sunday September 2

SYMPHONY CALLING: Most musicians consider cell phones a horrible intrusion into the concert hall. But American composer Golan Levin is writing a "symphony" for the chirping little buggers. He "is confident the concert will resonate well with the audience and eliminate some public pessimism surrounding the mobile phone. 'The mobile phone's speakers and ringers make it a performance instrument. The buttons make it a keyboard and remote control. Its programmable rings make it a portable synthesizer'." Wired 09/01/01

UNDEPAID LATIN: "Latin music is hot, but some musicians say their compensation is far inferior to that of mainstream artists. The US Congressional Hispanic Caucus has invited several Latin labels to San Antonio for a Sept. 8 hearing - three days before the Latin Grammys show in Los Angeles - to draw attention to the payment gap. 'They've been making big bucks at the Tejano and Latin artists' expense. We are going to hold them accountable'." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (AP) 09/01/01

THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Last week China rounded up 16 million counterfeit CD's, CD-ROMs and DVDs and destroyed them in a big public ceremony in a stadium. "China mounts such a spectacle every few months - though usually on a smaller scale than Tuesday - to show that it is serious about stopping rampant product piracy. The events get lavish coverage in state media, but the real target audience is abroad - China's angry trading partners." Does the effort do any good? National Post (AP) 09/01/01

THE PIANO-PLAYING COMPOSER: Artur Schnabel was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century. But he always considered himself foremost a composer. "And he was no dabbler; his catalog of works is substantial, including three symphonies, five string quartets, a piano concerto, songs, piano pieces, trios... The New York Times 09/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)


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