New book episode

There's a new episode -- the 13th - of my in-progress book on the future of classical music online. Or my in-progress improvised draft of a book. But whatever I call it, the response has been wonderfully warm, quite enthusiastic, really, from all kinds of people who e-mail me. Or who talk to me out in the physical world. I'll refrain from quoting any of the reactions, so this blog won't read like a movie ad, but I'm warmly grateful. (And now I'm going to be precise, and say that this is the 13th episode of the second version of the book, since … [Read more...]

Bowling Green

Last week -- as regular readers know from the schedule of my travels that I posted a while ago -- my wife Anne Midgette and I were at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. This was a happy visit. The two of us were in residence, thanks to the Dorothy E. and DuWayne H. Hansen Musical Arts Series Fund, which brings people in the arts to Bowling Green to work with students -- and, as it turned out, faculty as well -- at the university's college of musical arts. So here are the headlines. We met with students in four classes, one in music, one … [Read more...]

My music at Bowling Green

I've saved this for a separate post. Bowling Green programmed two pieces, both by chance world premieres. One was a fiendish little sonatina for clarinet and piano, just four and a half minutes long, and bristling with difficulty. The first two movements have the clarinet and piano playing separate pieces at the same time, with independent forms, independent phrase shapes, and bar lines and constantly changing time signatures that rarely intersect. The challenge is to forget your normal ensemble instincts, and keep the two parts independent. … [Read more...]

Delay in posting comments

I'm going to be busy at Bowling Green State University -- where my wife and I will be in residence -- for the rest of this week. So I might not have time to post the comments some of you might make to my blog posts. But I'll get to them Monday for sure. Which means that I want you to fire off all the comments you like. I love reading them, and they often lead to lively discussions. Just be patient with me till I approve the comments, and they appear on the site. (I have to approve every comment, because an amazing number of spam comments show … [Read more...]

The Met (continued)

I went to a Broadway show (The Drowsy Chaperone, a wise and delightful musical), and noticed that the Metropolitan Opera had an ad in the playbill. If I remember correctly, they didn't use the word "opera" at all. Instead, they listed the directors from stage and screen who'll be doing new productions this year, and encouraged everyone to come to the opera house to see some theater. Then there was an ad in the Times, featuring the singer who's playing the devil in Faust, looking superbly theatrical. And then earlier this week, there was … [Read more...]

Indian classical music

I've been exchanging e-mail with Raghu Tambe about Indian classical music. Among other things, I asked him what the status of this great art might be in India today, and here's the thoughtful, informative, and encouraging answer he sent (posted with his permission): The status of and outlook for Indian classical music is, in my experience, pretty good despite a number of our senior performers thinking otherwise and predicting its down fall. I suspect their fears arise from the usual problem of the older generation predicting the down fall in … [Read more...]

Celebrating who?

(This is a revised version of what I originally posted. I didn’t think my original made its point very well.) Headline on a music review in today’s New York Times: A Song-and-Dance Salute to the Sun King Now, I know that Times critics don’t write headlines, and I also know that headlines are often written in a hurry, not always with deep thought about their implications. But a salute to the Sun King? Why is anybody saluting Louis XIV? Of course, the concert being reviewed featured music from Louis XIV’s court, but that’s not the same as … [Read more...]

Eleven more weeks

That's what one of the people at the cash register was telling customers last week, in the classical department of the Tower Records store near Lincoln Center in New York. "Please come back and see us. We'll be open for 11 more weeks." Tower Records, which had flirted with bankruptcy for years, is now formally bankrupt. All that's left is to liquidate the stock (to raise cash), and then every Tower store will close. And maybe now it'll happen before 11 weeks. This past weekend, Tower put up "Going Out of Business" signs at its stores. I read … [Read more...]

Richard Powers ending

I've finished the Richard Powers book I talked about earlier, The Time of Our Singing. And what I could only guess at (because I hadn't finished the book) in my earlier post turns out to be true -- this is a long and serious novel (by a MacArthur prizewinner, yet) one of whose themes is the future of classical music. Or, rather... !!!! WARNING !!!! SPOILER AHEAD -- DON'T READ WHAT FOLOWS IF YOU'RE GOING TO READ THE BOOK, AND DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS ...or rather classical music's lack of a future. Because classical music loses in the … [Read more...]

Classical vs. popular — the book continues

The new episode of my book is now online. It's about the conflict between classical and popular music in the 19th century. Popular music was Rossini and Paganini; classical music was Beethoven and Schumann. Eventually the two worlds came together, which is why we now think The Barber of Seville is classical music, and put the aura of art around it, something that never would have been done when the piece was new. The next episode -- in which I'll start to explore the effect modernism had on the current state of classical music -- will be out … [Read more...]

Book delay

The next episode of my online book on the future of classical music --scheduled for Monday, October 9 -- will appear on Wednesday instead. This is due to scheduling and workload issues beyond my control. The new episode continues with the historical background to the problems we have now. I've been describing how three things helped establish the current isolation of classical music from contemporary life: the rise of the very concept of classical music (as something removed from everyday life), which dates from the early 19th century; … [Read more...]

Smart thought

This comes from my friend Christopher Stager, an expert marketing and audience development consultant, who works with arts organizations, especially orchestras. He also knows music in genuine, enthusiastic depth. Chris and I were talking over lunch, and the subject of orchestra programming came up -- not gigantic questions, like how much new music an orchestra can dare to do, but something smaller, the way sometimes there's a panic about one piece on a proposed program, something maybe a little obscure, which (or so it's feared) will stop … [Read more...]

Quotation of the week

New York magazine has a feature called "Party Lines," about events where celebrities are spotted. This week they feature the Metropolitan Opera opening, along with the premiere of The Departed (the new Martin Scorcese film), and a gala for New Yorkers for Children. Each entry features a quote. The Met's quote comes from model Maggie Rizer, who says: You know, I've never been to the opera before. [She's asked why not.] I never really hear anybody talking about it. It seems to me that it's a very traditional thing for older people. If it was … [Read more...]

Greg sightings

For those who might want to find me in the real world, here are places I'm going to be this month: October 6 and 8 -- in Pittsburgh, doing a multimedia presentation on Shostakovich before two Pittsburgh Symphony concerts. It's an all-Shos program, excerpts from The Bolt ballet suite, the Piano Concerto No. 1, and the Fifth Symphony. Feltsman is the pianist, Sinaisky the conductor. I'll post more on my thoughts about Shostakovich. October 18-22 -- at Bowling GreenState University, in Ohio. I and my wife Anne Midgette (the New York Times … [Read more...]