Following a hunch

Not long ago I looked up the biographies of all kinds of people who worked with Motown in the '60s -- stars (Diana Ross, Mary Wells, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye), members of vocal groups (the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Marvelettes), songwriters (Lamont Dozier, Brian and Eddie Holland), and sidemen (James Jamerson). I wanted to know where all these people lived when Motown found them, and thought that I could guess the answer. And my hunch was right. Almost everybody lived in Detroit, where Motown was located. Most were … [Read more...]

Attention spans

Brian Wise, the producer of the Soundcheck show on WNYC in New York, brought up a worthwhile point in a comment to my music education rant. He notes that classical music -- or maybe more specifically classical concert etiquette -- requires people to sit in one place when they listen, while at a Grateful Dead concert, even if the jams were as long as a Haydn symphony, people could get up and walk around. That's true. But when I read it, a little light bulb went off in my mind. That classical audience -- are they really paying attention? I don't … [Read more...]

The myth of music education

Or, rather, the myth that people have to be educated to like classical music. This is a common, and deeply held belief. I ran into it a couple of times during the visit my wife and I made to Bowling Green State University. We took part in panel discussions on the future of classical music, and sometimes people said -- speaking with pure, and deeply felt sincerity -- that people wouldn't start liking classical music until they learned about it, maybe even learned to play a classical instrument. I sympathize with the people who believe this. … [Read more...]

A visit to New Orleans

Last weekend (that's October 27th and 28th), the Lousiana Philharmonic did a notable weekend of new music. I was part of it, as one of the judges of a composers' competition. But lying behind everything they did -- and making it even more important -- is (of course) the situation in New Orleans, which is really sobering to see. More on that later, though it might be the most important part of this post. But the orchestra! They called their weekend "Festival of Living Composers," which (speaking affectionately, as a friend) I might say is just … [Read more...]