Sinfonia black

The Association of British Orchestras conference I went to was held in Newcastle, a lively, thriving city. Or pair of cities—it promotes itself as NewcastleGateshead, Gateshead being a sister city right across the River Tyne. I happened to spend time with two people from the UK the day before I left, and both of them raved about how fine a place it is. And I could see that for myself. I had a hair-raising connection between two of the three flights I had to take, to get to Newcastle, and while I managed to get to the plane on time, my luggage … [Read more...]

UK orchestras

I've been at the annual conference of the Association of British Orchestras, where I spoke on two panels, and gave one of the wrapup speeches. Very, very interesting in many ways, which I'll blog about in the next few days. Among the things to talk about: the informal dress of the Northern Sinfonia, which I heard play the lack (as I was told) of older musicians in British orchestras the tone of a conference -- and of an orchestral scene -- where government subsidies are still the mainstay of orchestra funding, and therefore trustrees (people … [Read more...]

Episode Five

Episode Five of my book on the future of classical music is now online. It talks about form in classical music -- and why form has become such a fetish. Comments always welcome! … [Read more...]

Last gasp of beauty

My iTunes shuffle just brought up the "Pas d'action" ("Apollo and the Muses") from Stravinsky's Apollo, one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know. Given what I've just been writing, how does its beauty strike me? As deliberately clsasical beauty, an assumed serenity, serenity that implicitly honors all the 20th century reasons not to be serene. (Too bad for Theodor Adorno, who absolutely did not get that, and thought Stravinsky dishonestly tried to make the world go away.) Which makes the music all the more beautiful, and helps me … [Read more...]

Further beauty footnote

There’s a beautiful passage in Bjork’s song “Jóga,” the refrain, with intricate string music weaving around her voice. But look at the words: Emotional landscapes, They puzzle me, Then the riddle gets solved, And you push me up to this State of emergency, How beautiful to be, State of emergency, Is where I want to be. So again we’re in a modern realm of beauty, where beauty has an edge. And now let me clarify what I’ve been saying, in case it hasn’t been clear. I’m hardly arguing that beauty no longer exists. Instead … [Read more...]

Footnote to beautiful

I wondered if I was completely right to say that “beautiful” isn’t much of an aesthetic category for younger people. Of course it is for some; there are majorities and minorities in anything you look at, and also exceptions to every rule. But is “beautiful” at the very least not a good description for the alternative rock a lot of smarter younger people listen to? I dialed up all my alt-rock tracks on my iPod, turned on Shuffle, and listened to them in the random order the iPod generated. The artists were Arcade Fire, Bjork (her six-CD Family … [Read more...]

The young and the beautiful

I'm often asked how classical music can attract a younger audience. There aren't any easy answers, but it's pretty obvious -- or ought to be -- that the younger audience, if it ever showed up, wouldn't be much like the older one. Or, to put this another way, the younger people the classical music world would like to attract aren't much like the older audience classical music already has. Oh, of course you'll find a few younger people happy to attend on the same terms the older audience does -- or in effect to become part of that older audience … [Read more...]

Perfect Beethoven

I was driving back from the country to New York, flipping around on the radio dial, looking for whatever might catch my ear. The heavy metal station from Poughkeepsie? The AM station from Pittsburgh that unpredictably wafted across three states the last time I drove late at night, broadcasting a show for older folks, who called in requesting songs they'd danced to in the Big Band days? I listened for a while to soul music from the city. The DJ's voice could have made a nun melt. A woman named Keisha called him. She'd had a hard day. "You … [Read more...]

Episode Four

The new episode of my book on the future of classical music went online today, Monday, January 9. It's about structure in classical music, and starts to talk about my take on how structure works. I'll be continuing on the same subject in Episode Five, which will go onlin on January 23. I aim to have these episodes available at 12:00 AM on these days (midnight of the night before). But note that this is Eastern Standard Time (New York time), in the United States. Readers outside this time zone -- and especially International readers -- will find … [Read more...]

Art and Entertainment

Some months ago, I went to a large and impressive function at Juilliard, a public forum on the arts in America, featuring some all-star guests: Renee Fleming, Stephen Sondheim, David McCullough (the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. This turned out to be a no-bullshit symposium. All of the stars talked sense, and talked from their personal experience. You could agree or disagree with what they said, but they weren’t speaking empty words. The same was true of Juilliard’s president, Joseph Polisi, who led … [Read more...]