An obvious, crucial, and (on this blog) overdue question -- how will the economic mess affect classical music?In the short run, it won't be pretty. Yesterday I recorded a short broadcast for the BBC, about the state of the arts in the US, on the eve of the election. This was a discussion -- me, Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment, and Karen Stone, who used to run the Dallas Opera, and now runs a company in Germany, along with a BBC radio host. We all agreed the economic downturn would hurt. Maybe in the long run, it'll help arts … [Read more...]


1956. London. British theater is very conservative, audiences are old. Then comes the premiere of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger. Things change. One observer writes:It is a matter for special remark that Mr. Osborne alone should have captured the young imagination and with it the fisher-sweatered noctambules from Espresso-land [here follows a rather mannered list of hipster types from the era]...Almost the worst thing about the English theatre is that it has lacked for so long the support of the young intelligentsia. Audiences are apt to … [Read more...]

New culture (3)

On the value of social networking, consider this, sent to me via Facebook, from a new friend there, Charles Brooks. He's a cellist from New Zealand who's now in Taiwan:As a musician who travels (auditions) a lot Facebook has been a life saver. I have reconnected with hundreds of old friends from New Zealand and Australia, mostly musicians from the various universities that I studied at. I have found old acquaintances scattered throughout Prague, Malta, Shanghai, Taipei, Malaysia, Seoul, Shenzhen, Moscow, Hyogo, Tokyo, Oslo etc that I had no … [Read more...]

How to promote a concert (aka more on FSU)

(We could also call this "Solutions 3," another in an occasional series of posts -- here and here -- that offer solutions to classical music problems.)Another happy memory of my wife's and my visit to Florida State. I mentioned in my earlier FSU post that we helped a faculty chamber ensemble plan an upcoming New York concert. Here's what we did. This ensemble will make its New York debut in a respectable venue late this spring. They wanted to know how to get reviewed, especially in the New York Times. Anne and I had to tell them the sad truth. … [Read more...]

Me on Twitter

Whetstone, in a comment on my last post, pointed out that I didn't link to Twitter in the best way. i linked to the main site, not to my own page, so people who want to follow me have to search for me. Which only underlines my point about how much many of us have to learn about the new online world. You can reach me directly on Twitter right here.[Added later:] And thanks, everyone, for the lovely small explosion of Twitter followers and friend requests on Facebook!Also note, in the comments to my last post, the people who say they first got … [Read more...]

New culture (2)

First I should say that you can find me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter. If you're on Facebook yourself, I'd be happy to be your friend. Just look for me, and friend me. I like what I've learned about social networking. I've made friends, reconnected with old friends, and done some useful networking. And the communications we all set up are a lot quicker, a lot more direct, and also a lot more fun than plain old e-mail. In at least one professional situation, I've strengthened contacts with some of the younger people involved much more … [Read more...]

New culture

Yesterday I was running errands in my car, and listening to Soundcheck, the really fine afternoon music talk show on WNYC (the public radio station in New York). They were marking a milestone in music video -- the cancellation of the only remaining show on MTV that still showed music videos.So what was the state of music videos now? Here's what I learned. Music videos have largely migrated to YouTube. They aren't pushed to music fans by any central provider. Fans seek them out on their own. And often the best and best-known videos aren't made … [Read more...]


Here's a very sweet opera translation. Not quite English, but very honest, and supremely true to the spirit (if not the literacy) of the original. (Go here and here for previous posts, with terrific comments, about opera translations.) This is from liner notes to an aria recital album by the soprano Fabiana Bravo. It's an English (sort of) version of the first lines of that wonderful operatic chestnut, "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana," from Catalani's La Wally (otherwise known as the aria from the film Diva):Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,Come va l'eco della … [Read more...]

Short Talks

A week ago three little pieces of mine were played in Washington, DC -- or actually the first three I've written from a projected longer set. They're for piano, and the pianist also plays a drum. They're based on prose poems by Anne Carson, her Short Talks. Somehow I think there will be 11 of them in all, which is one of those artist's intuitions that's based on pure instinct. It's not as if I've gone through the poetry, and picked eight more texts. No, the number eleven just asserts itself, inside my mind. The pianist -- the pianist-drummer -- … [Read more...]

Snapshot of the new culture

My Wall Street Journal piece on Lukas Ligeti and Gabriel Kahane is out. Follow the link to read it. It's about two composers with mainstream classical fathers,  but who write music that isn't wholly classical. In this, they're very much citizens of our new culture. Younger people (which by now means people 40 or younger, and maybe even many people older than that) don't make distinctions between high and popular culture, or at least not distinctions of value. That includes what used to be thought of as high culture values, like being … [Read more...]

Generational change

Tomorrow -- Saturday, October 18 -- I'll have a review in the Wall Street Journal, about CDs I like a lot, Lukas Ligeti's "Afrikan Machinery," and a self-titled debut from Gabriel Kahane.What ties these CDs together is an intriguing back story, about the emergence of a new generation of classical musicians, with new ideas. Both the artists I reviewed have famous fathers, Ligeti's being the Ligeti we all know, and Kahane's being Jeffrey Kahane, the pianist and conductor who's music director of the Colorado Symphony. And both artists combine … [Read more...]

Smart and honorable

Amazing, heartening followup to my recent post, about my students' ideas for what should have happened in Cleveland. I'm told that the Detroit Free Press, back in the '80s, actually did what my students recommended. Their critic back then gave bad reviews to the music director of the Detroit Symphony, who at that time was Gunther Herbig. That wasn't a comfortable situation, and symphony supporters made a fuss to the newspaper's publisher. But instead of caving in, the paper did something wonderfully smart and honorable. It brought in three … [Read more...]

Cleveland ideas

Yesterday, in my Juilliard class on music criticism, we talked about the critic mess in Cleveland. And two of my students, Vanessa Fralick and Ethan van Winkle, had really good ideas. They noted, as we all did, that it's really disgraceful for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to demote Don Rosenberg, its respected classical music critic, just because they're uncomfortable with his negative reviews of the Cleveland Orchestra's music director. The fullest, most plausible defense of what they did is in a column by Ted Diadiun, the paper's reader … [Read more...]


A week ago Saturday, October 5, the Wall Street Journal ran an essay by Leon Botstein, college president and conductor. Title? "The Unsung Success of Live Classical Music." Theme? Classical music is healthy, and not at all declining. Content? One myth after another. I couldn't post about this here, because I didn't have time. But the myths have to be exploded. For instance: ...looking out at the audience at most classical music concerts in the United States, one sees a crowd that is largely middle-aged, verging on the geriatric. This has … [Read more...]

Terrific time

We're back -- my wife Anne Midgette and I have finished our whirlwind three-day residency at the College of Music at Florida State University. Anne, as of course I've said here many times, is the chief classical music critic at the Washington Post. We had a terrific time. And then, as soon as I got back, I conferred intently with people from a notable music school, and then had a performance of my music. But more on those things later.What Anne and I (and in a couple of cases one of us separately) did at FSU:    • spoke to … [Read more...]