A while ago, I heard someone give a keynote speech about classical music, and why it deserves a bigger audience. He was lively, smart, impassioned, witty, a master (among much else) of unstoppable one-liners. And yet nearly everything he said was wrong. He talked about the superiority of classical music, and about how much our culture needs it. “Everything else is loud!” he said (or words to that effect). We’re mezzo-forte music in a fortissimo culture.” Only classical music, he said, gave people room for thought and reflection. Which of … [Read more...]

Straws in the wind

Some things I’ve run across recently, not necessarily in Aspen (see my last post). All of them show something that’s going on, something all of us should know about. So first, something really nice from St. Louis. At some point this season, the St. Louis Symphony played a piece by Steve Reich. The orchestra had to be seated in an unusual way, so after the piece was over, stagehands had to rearrange the stage. That always takes a while, and leaves (or so it seems to me) a dead spot in the concert. But not this time. David Robertson, who … [Read more...]


I’ve been traveling, both for work and pleasure. The work part was two events in Aspen, both at the music festival, one a private conference on professional music education, the other a pair of public panels involving music critics. This last is the second installment of what I hope will be an ongoing series, and it’s an extraordinary project, not least because it was conceived and carried out by the festival’s director of marketing and public relations, Laura Smith. How often does a marketing and PR director plan and fund a project like this? … [Read more...]

Post-classical playlist

This came from Molly Sheridan, managing editor of NewMusicBox, the American Music Center's new music webzine. It's her response to the fabulous pop music playlist I posted here a while back. Many readers of the blog won't know the music Molly picks, but check out how she presents it. Molly's in her late 20s, and knows more about reaching a young audience than most of us. Her approach reminds me a bit of The Ring and I, the lively and engrossing introduction to Wagner's Ring that WNYC (New York's public radio station) broadcast a year ago. (More … [Read more...]

Oprah yet again

Oprah, Oprah, Oprah…there’s a lot to say. From Anastasia Tsioulcas, classical music columnist for Billboard (and a triple threat, because she’s handy with world music and jazz, too) comes the following: I was just catching up on your blog, and wanted to point out that Oprah's extremely popular magazine, "O," already does carry (albeit small) features on serious music--classical music, opera, and jazz--fairly regularly. (I should know, as I write many of them!) Over the past year, the pieces I've done for "O" include a short preview of the … [Read more...]


I talked for a long time yesterday with someone I’ve just met, Joe McKesson, a former opera singer (dramatic tenor), who’s now a music programmer at MTV, and used to work with classical music at iTunes. He thinks younger people—college age—are getting interested in classical music. This he bases on the kind of anecdotal data you’d develop if you were trying to sell music to college kids, and on buying patterns he observed at iTunes. This makes sense to me. People these days have wider, more diverse musical taste than they’ve ever had before. … [Read more...]

I read the news today, oh boy…

And yesterday, too. From yesterday’s ArtsJournal links came this, from the San Francisco Chronicle: Travel industry fears tougher security Already tight precautions discourage foreign visitors and are about to get tighter   There are fewer foreign visitors than there used to be, the story said, and in the future there may well be fewer still. This is bad news for many New York attractions (and maybe attractions elsewhere), but especially for the Metropolitan Opera, which has long gotten many sales from people who visit New York from … [Read more...]