My Eastman speech

I’ve gotten an audio recording of the commencement speech I gave at Eastman, back on May 17, and with the school’s permission, I’ve put it online. Just click on the link to hear it. It’s 24 minutes long, and if you don’t want to sit streaming it for that long, you can download it. I’m sure many Windows users know the procedure — right click and choose “Save Link As…” (or the equivalent). Sorry that I don’t know the Mac procedure.

Feedback welcome. I’m in the midst of writing an outline of what I said. I make notes, and then speak from them, making up the actual text as I go along. Which of course makes it easier to prepare a talk. But I’d have an easier time making my speeches available afterward, if I’d write them out in advance!

Here are some other talks I’ve given since the fall:

  • a presentation on the future of classical music at a conference at DePauw University
  • keynote address at a conference on the future of classical music in Seattle
  • presentation on the future of classical music — and especially about the young audience of the future — at a private gathering of music directors from more than a dozen public radio stations
  • presentation about the artistic future of orchestras, at a private conference at Princeton University about what research about orchestras social scientists and others should do

And next Thursday, June 12, I’ll be speaking about the future of orchestras to the young musicians at the National Orchestral Institute, at the University of Maryland. I should record all these talks (and I’ll try to record the one next Thursday). Then at least I’d have audio recordings to post.

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  1. says

    Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed hearing it and putting a voice with your words. By the way, have you ever seen the Heifetz movie scene that Hahn cites? You can find it at about the 27:50 mark in the Bruno Monsaingeon film, The Art of Violin. (For now, the scene is on YouTube here.) I imagine Hahn remembers it because she’s one of the main talking heads in that film. As I’m sure she realizes, the scene could not be more staged or artificial – although perhaps the collaborative pianist in me is just offended that they do the “Hey guys, Heifetz is giving a free concert inside!” thing during the piano interlude, when, of course, nothing interesting is happening. Anyway, it makes “Leave it to Beaver” look like a Frontline documentary. There’s a bunch of videos available of Heifetz, Rubinstein, Piatgorsky, etc. that incorporate such staged reactions, including a goofy scene in which Rubinstein’s gardener is secretly listening in to a rehearsal. Funny stuff, but not likely an example of the way things were.

    Hi, Michael! Thanks so much for this clarification.

    I do think, though, that these films, while staged (and silly), aren’t entirely misleading about what musical life was like back then. No more than Leave It to Beaver was. Nobody would mistake ’50s TV shows for accurate representations of what life in the ’50s was like, and yet they tell us a lot about what people expected. I’m old enough to be able to rewind — all the way back that far — both external media and my memories of real life back, and I can see how the two correspond. Not perfectly, but they don’t violently contradict each other. Take, for instance, the representation of women and African-Americans on ’50s TV, and in the movies. When, in one of the old Alan Freed rock & roll movies, some black rock & roll stars (Frankie Lymon and LaVerne Baker, to name two) emerge from backstage to perform at a high school event, and then disappear backstage again, having been the only African-Americans visible at any point during the entire film — well, that’s not accurate in any literal sense (an accurate view of the ’50s in most places would have shown at least a few black people on the street, and the rock & roll stars actually had lives; they didn’t just appear from limbo, and disappear back into it). But it”s an accurate gauge of what race relations (as seen by white people in denial) were really like.

    Similarly, I’d think, with staged shots of college kids rushing to hear Heifetz play. Maybe such things didn’t literally happen. But they’re in those movies because they wouldn’t have seemed completely implausible. No one, I think, could make a film with a scene like that now, because people would hoot at the implausibility of it. But back then, what the films showed was (at the very least) consistent with ’50s iconography.

    Besides, there’s data from the ’50s that makes the films seem more plausible. One survey of college students in Atlanta tracked their favorite kinds of music. Classical ranked fourth, out of about 20 genres — high enough so that the people conducting the survey thought they should ask who the students’ favorite composers were. (Beethoven and Debussy.) It wouldn’t happen that way now, to state the obvious, but the data is at least consistent with the thought that enough students liked and possibly even followed classical music — at least they’d know who the big stars were (especially someone like Heifetz, who’d been in movies) — to generate a striking response if they were told Heifetz was about to play just a short walk away.

  2. says

    Regarding documentaries, that was basically how they were all done at that time until Cinema Verite finally made its way over here. WWII news footage was all staged for example (including battles!), as were faux-“documentaries” about Eskimo tribes and the like. I think if naturalistic footage had been put on screen no one would have known what to do with it, as hard as that is for us to imagine. One can Wikipedia “documentary film” for a basic sketch of the history.