Holiday warmth

First and most important — best holiday wishes, warmest holiday greetings, to everyone who reads this blog. I’m grateful for your interest, your support, your disagreement, your e-mail, and your comments, whether on my side or not. As many of you have been kind enough to say, we’ve had some good discussions here, and I’m sure they’ll continue through 2008.

Next year should be interesting for me. (Understatement!) As many of you know, my wife, Anne Midgette, is going to be interim chief classical music critic for the Washington Post, replacing Tim Page, who’ll be on leave to teach at USC. She’s been a star for seven years as a freelancer for the New York Times, and this new job is a wonderful honor for her, recognition for her terrific writing, her terrific thinking, and her terrific ear. I couldn’t be more proud. She starts early in January.

And what will this mean for our lives? For the last few years, we’ve been living in two places, our Manhattan apartment and our house in Warwick, NY, a town just over an hour from the city that’s still refreshingly rural. So now we’ll be living in three places instead of two. We have friends, colleagues, and contacts in Washington, and also in Baltimore and Philadelphia, cities between Washington and New York that’ll be easy to visit. Just step off the train! I’ve been scouting for work along this corridor, and of course I’d appreciate any leads. The main thing, though, isthat both Anne and I are opening our lives to new possibilities, personal and professional. This new year is going to be newer than most.

I have many projects going. It’s a time of transition in many ways. Some of the work I’ve done with orchestras over the past few years has stopped. But new possibilities are dawning, which might involve teaching, consulting, writing, and — especially delightful for me — composing. I have two sets of piano pieces under way, and while I shouldn’t say much about them just yet (and one is tied up for the moment as a snag has developed about the rights to some photos the pieces are based on), but these are pieces not quite like anything else I’ve written, with paths already opened to performances by exactly the pianists I hoped would be interested.

Many people have asked about my book (about the future of classical music, of course, and drafted in online installments during the past few years). I’m revising everything I’ve done, and hope in January to resume online posting, at least of the first chapter, the book’s introduction. I can’t plan to go beyond that just yet, because I’ll also need a strategy for print publication, and making the book available online might (at least for some publishers) interfere with that. Or not! We’ll just have to see.

And now one more thing to be happy about, this holiday season, the amazing success of Alex Ross‘s book, The Rest is Noise. This — as I’m sure many of you know — is a serious and passionate account of classical music in the 20th century, aimed at non-initiates. And look at the acclaim it’s gotten! Not just rave reviews, but placement on top 10 lists in the New York Times Book Review and Time. Plus impressive sales. The book, in short, seems to be reaching its intended audience, and in fact my wife and I can see for ourselves that it has, because of the reaction of some of our non-classical music friends.

So what does this mean? Will the success of the book translate into new interest in classical music, coming from smart, maybe younger people who’ll take the 20th — and of course the 21st — century as their starting point? Or, better still, does this success show that new interest has already dawned? I’m crossing my fingers, and hoping that the answer to both questions is yes, and that this will be a tangible step toward the reshaping of the classical music world into something livelier and more contemporary. Congratulations to Alex, of course. The book helps redefine classical music’s past as well as its future, and he deserves its success.

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