What the numbers say

From a story in the New York Times business section two days ago, August 29 ("The Metropolitan Opera's New Stage," by Julie Bosman): For 30 years, the Metropolitan Opera has wrinkled its elegant nose at advertising campaigns, preferring discreet sales tactics like direct mail and phone solicitations. But next week, it is entering the mass marketing fray with ads in the most conventional places: telephone kiosks, lamp posts, subway entrances and the sides of city buses. "It never needed to market itself because tickets were always sold out," … [Read more...]

Me on the radio

A couple of weeks ago, I had a delightful time being interviewed on the phone by Chris Johnson from KUHF, Houston public radio, about my book, and more generally about the future of classical music. We talked for 35 minutes, he's since told me, and he thought he'd only be able to use a small part of that. Which of course would be normal, and hardly a surprise to me. What did surprise me, though, was Chris's news this week. He'd talked to me for an arts magazine they broadcast, called "The Front Row," and the program's executive producer just … [Read more...]

A lesson

Yesterday I had business phone calls for most of the morning, and a business meeting in the afternoon. I guess fall is here, in spirit, if not on the calendar; I'm reentering my normal work life. This is hard to do. I spent all of July tucked away in a rural spot in England (between Dent and Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales), part way up a hill overlooking a valley, surrounded by sheep. I'd get up at 8:15, compose till 1 or 2 PM, then lunch, then pleasure for the rest of the day. Not everyone, I guess, would start their vacation by getting up … [Read more...]

Comments problem fixed

Many of you have had a problem posting comments; you got a blank screen in response to your entry, which understandably made you feel that your comment hadn't gone through. Thanks to ArtsJournal's reigning prince, Doug McClennan, this problem now has been fixed. Thanks, Doug! Comments now are properly acknowledged. … [Read more...]

Ariel’s new blog

Ariel Davis (see my "Success Story" post, below) has a new blog. It's here, and includes all the contents of the old blog she mentioned in the e-mail I quoted. I've fixed the post to include this link; this present post is for anyone who read the earlier one, and wished they could see Ariel's blogging. … [Read more...]

Success story

Here's something really heartening, from Ariel Davis, a student who found that her local orchestra was reading her blog -- and taking it seriously. She e-mailed all this to me, and I'm posting it with her permission (though we took out specifics about exactly who's involved, because the orchestra in question may not be expecting any public discussion of what they've done): Greg, I know you get tons of e-mails, and I've e-mailed you several times before (and made a few comments on the first version of your book). I don't mean to take up a lot … [Read more...]

New music and meerkats

More thoughts about hearing new music, this time from Nathan Botts, a terrific trumpet player who took my Juilliard course on the future of classical music two years ago. Posted of course with his permission: I've never understood why "new music" is placed within the same taxonomic grouping as "classical music."  Perhaps they're of the same family, but certainly not the same genus and heaven forbid the same species.  Just because a whale, meerkat, antelope, and dairy cow are hairy and breastfeed their young, does that make them all very … [Read more...]

A young musician speaks

Mark Simpson, 17 years old, was named the BBC's Young Musician of the Year in Britain this summer. He's a clarinetist, and also a composer; is principal clarinet with the National Youth Orchestra in Britain; played the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto at the major Sage Gateshead concert hall. And he's working on some major compositions, including one for the new music group of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. And here's how he was quoted, when I read about him in The Guardian on July 17: I've stood in front of audiences, including at the … [Read more...]


We could and should violate the orderly logic and discipline of the story, but we must never ever violate what constitutes the exclusive and essential character of a person, that is, his personality, his way of being, his own, unmistakable nature. This is from José Saramago's novel The Cave. One meaning it has for me is that art is relentless. Every artwork develops (in the course of its creation) its own exclusive and essential character, its own personality, its own way of being, its own, unmistakable nature. If it doesn't have that, what's … [Read more...]

Hearing new music

Today I got very thoughtful e-mail about my last post, from someone in the business who'd prefer not to be identified. I have the sender's permission to reproduce it here: Your blog got me thinking about how I've experienced new music (or NOT experienced it) over the years. I have always found that the people (not including music academia) who get the most out of "new" music are often painters, architects, poets, or simply people with a love of jazz (your mention of Ornette Coleman seemed very apt). Sadly, even as a composer, I never quite … [Read more...]

Mark and Boulez

If you've read the first version of my online book (the second link goes to the current version), you might remember "Mark," a jazz fan who sometimes buys classical CDs -- especially piano music -- and gets baffled by what he sees in the Tower Records classical department. (He goes to the downtown Tower branch in New York.) Last week, he told me he'd bought two classical CDs: Maurizio Pollini playing Chopin, and playing Debussy and Boulez. (Probably the DG CD of Debussy études and the Boulez Second Sonata.) Mark doesn't know anything about new … [Read more...]

New magazine?

I've gotten e-mail from Alexander Mills, a student in London, with some questions he'd love answers to. He hopes to get some from readers of this blog, so with his permission, I've simply copied his e-mail here. I've edited just a little, to keep it focused on the questions. Before I begin, I would just like to say how fascinating I have found your blog. I stumbled across it earlier whilst doing research and have put it straight to the top of my favourites list. Particularly interesting were the discussions about MUSO magazine, and the … [Read more...]


Back from vacation. A month in a quiet place in England, composing. Much to say about that, about how few mammals there are in the British isles (quite seriously), and about what I've learned about my daily routines by living without them for a month. And then there's the piece I worked on, which might get me excommunicated from classical music. But later for much of this. I thought I'd jump back in with something about the classical music world. I didn't much keep in touch while I was gone, and neglected my e-mail happily. But I did check out … [Read more...]