What I did on my work binge

Not that I wanted a work binge. But for three months, more or less, I’ve had a life like finals week in college, minus a few days when, with no absolutely immediate deadlines, I simply collapsed, or stole a few moments to do something fun.

So in the last month, here’s some of the work I’ve done:

— wrote the script for the last of my Pittsburgh Symphony concerts, and hosted the event

— started work as a consultant for a major orchestra, discussing problems related to finding a new audience

— finished three short canons for three unaccompanied female voices, and a song for soprano and piano (would have written more if I’d had time, and actually I wrote most of these pieces before the work siege began)

— wrote commentary for three Concert Companion tryouts, two with orchestras (the New York Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony), one at a tech conference organized by Walter Mossberg, the wildly influential personal technology columnist at the Wall Street Journal (and no, my Pittsburgh and Journal connections played no part here)

— spoke about the future of orchestras on Kurt Andersen’s very fine Studio 360 show on public radio; I was the guest for the entire hour-long show (you can hear it here — look for “Barenboim, Beethoven, Tilson Thomas”)

— spoke about the connections between pop and classical music for a show on the CBC (Canadian public radio, in effect)

—  did newspaper and radio interviews about the Concert Companion, with at least one more coming up

— went to the American Symphony Orchestra League convention in Pittsburgh, though I didn’t see much of the larger performing arts conference that enveloped it

— gave a lunchtime talk to the artistic adminstrators of the assembled orchestras, about the audience for orchestral concerts

— wrote my June NewMusicBox column, about why New York needs a website that would review new music concerts

— discussed a lot of future work: more orchestra consultancies, more concert hosting, some commissions for compositions (none of which, of course, may actually happen)

And more. The Concert Companion took more time than all the rest put together, and I’ll say more about it somewhere in my next few posts. It proved an amazing success, more or less confounding the dubious speculations some people indulged in (“it’ll keep people from listening!”). At a focus group after the Pittsburgh concert, even the one participant who didn’t like it said he’d recommend it to his friends, because everybody else in the focus group had liked it so much.

The Pittsburgh concert I hosted was also very gratifying. I put something in the script about feeling I was part of a new Pittsburgh institution. The audience burst into applause, not because I’d said something nice about their town, or their concert series, but because they and I have evidently forged a real bond. Somehow the symphony, I, and the audience really have created an institution, and it’s both gratifying and fun.

More to come on some of these things, especially the Concert Companion. It’s good to be back (and to have time to breathe).

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