Young audience, new music, and the future

Here’s a fabulous rant I got during an e-mail exchange with Michael Wittmann, a physicist and college-radio DJ. As Michael says, “we indie kids (I'm 34, grew up with Dead Kennedys and Beethoven in equal amounts during the 80s, etc.) have our own art music.” By which he means bands like Sonic Youth. But he’s also into new classical music, and like many people who know both worlds, knows that there’s a powerful potential (and often actual) crossover between them. But let him say it: I am completely convinced that the highbrow, "stuffy shirt" … [Read more...]

“Main Street Sessions” footnote

When I wrote my post on classical and pop performed together, I should have noted a few places where this really happens, or almost happens. Key among them ought to be the London Sinfonietta, which has done concerts with Warp Records, a pop label, in which Warp artists play on programs where the rest of the music is by serious postwar composers like Xenakis. These concerts have been wildly successful, attracting a large, young audience, who from what I’ve heard like the Xenakis pieces just as much as the pop stuff. And then there’s Zankel … [Read more...]

What we’re entrusted with

The following arrived as a comment on my ongoing online book. But as the anonymous writer said (I’m guessing he’s an orchestra musician), “This is more of a response to your ‘Main Street Sessions’ blog entry.” So I’m taking the liberty of posting it here, instead of on the book site. When classical musicians play other styles of music they generally play that music in a very pure form whether it is bluegrass, jazz, or whatever. The common thread may be that there is a certain refinement technically but the product is true to its origins. I … [Read more...]

The Main Street Sessions

For a long time, I’ve thought that the classical music world needs to embrace other kinds of music. Why? At first the idea might not make sense to some people. We don’t ask reggae stars to acknowledge country music; we’d be surprised if Wynton Marsalis went on TV with Bjork. So why should classical musicians (and classical music institutions) reach out to any other musical style? Well, there are many reasons. (And as I’m writing this, I’m playing the hot new Bruce Springsteen album. He sings Pete Seeger songs live, with a large crew of … [Read more...]

The book proceeds

I'm happy to announce that episode five of the second version of my book -- about the future of classical music -- is now online. I think it's an especially good episode, full of very specific ideas for ways in which classical music can change. Of course, these are just a teaser, since I'm still just writing the introduction to the book. In the finished text, I'll have many more ideas. Comments, as always, are very welcome. I don't know if anyone who hasn't done what I'm doing here can imagine how helpful all the comments are. And they've also … [Read more...]

Again on constricted music-making…

From another frequent corresondent, Eric Edberg, and also originally posted as a comment on my book:: Dull music-making is indeed a big issue. And the ironic thing is that conservatory training, the orchestral audition process, and most music competitions emphasize technical perfection, discourage genuinely individualistic performance, and are much of the problem. The more charismatic an established performer, the more likely (s)he is to be ridiculed by teachers and by other players of that instrument. The more impassioned and original a … [Read more...]

More followup

From my faithful correspondent Joseph Zitt (and originally posted as a comment on my book site): One useful buzzphrase: when I took a performance workshop led by Deborah Hay in Austin, one thing that she insisted on for all performers was that they "Invite being seen." Performers have to be conscious that they don't become invisible once they stop sounding, and that, unless they are playing in the dark or physically obscured from the audience, they will been, and what the audience sees as their state affects how things are heard. A while … [Read more...]


As a followup to my last post, about my students, here’s the conclusion from a very useful paper, "Some Thoughts on Consumer Behavior,” originally published in ArtsReach(a magazine for arts marketers) and reprinted in Platform, a publication of AEA Consulting, which is where I saw it. The authors are Alexis Frasz & Chris Lorway. Here’s how they conclude. People who’ve been reading me ought to find these thoughts familiar: The world has changed dramatically and will continue do … [Read more...]

This week in class…

In my Juilliard graduate course, that is, called “Classical Music in an Age of Pop.” It’s about, guess what, the future of classical music. We were talking about how concerts might change, so they’d be more likely to attract an audience (especially a new, young one). And, I might add, so they’d be more interesting for the musicians playing them. That’s something the students insisted on. Greg Anderson, a pianist, described what sounds like a stunning concert he gave in the Twin Cities. I’m not going to venture a description myself. Maybe I’ll … [Read more...]