Not connecting (first draft)

I'm making a list -- and checking it twice -- of all the ways in which classical music doesn't connect to our larger culture. This'll eventually be a detailed blog post. I'd love comments. Can anyone add to the list?1. Most of the music at classical concerts comes from the past. So we're rarely engaged with contemporary life. (Is this one reason the people who go to these concerts like them?)2. Formal dress looks archaic, and out of touch.3. The musicians don't talk to the audience. In our culture today, people expect musicians to talk.4. … [Read more...]


Here's a comment from Eric Lin, a college student, to my "Why I'm Here" post. I'm giving it a post of its own, because I think it's important:There is some overlap between the theater folks and the classical music folks at the school I currently attend, and I happen to have worked and know people in both circles. This season, student dramatic productions include works by Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, Sondheim, a Mac Wellman play from the mid-1990s, and The Front Page, a comedy from the 1920s. This is not including the bi-annual productions of … [Read more...]

Pushing the boundaries

More from the current Rolling Stone, featuring their list of the 100 greatest rock singers. This is from Jonathan Lethem's introductory piece, an overview of rock singing:...what defines great singing in the rock-and-soul era: that some underlying tension exists in the space between singer and song. A bridge is being built across a void, and it's a bridge we're never sure the singer's going to manage to cross. The gulf may reside between vocal texture and the actual meaning of the words, or between the singer and band, musical genre, style of … [Read more...]

Truth or hype?

I'm willing to smile at PR exaggerations. But what about this one, from a Detroit Symphony press release?Hundreds of music artists across every genre - R&B, rock, pop, jazz, blues, techno and classical - have called Motown home and now, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) welcomes another music superstar - Leonard Slatkin - to its ranks as the DSO's 12th Music Director. Is this plausible? Does Leonard Slatkin rank with Aretha Franklin, Motown Records, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye? And if not, does the DSO look silly for implying that … [Read more...]

Quotation of the day

...while I work on a larger post about what classical music would look like if it really did connect with the world around us. Bono on Bob Dylan, from the current issue of Rolling Stone:When Sam Cooke played Dylan for the young Bobby Womack, Womack said he didn't understand it. Cooke explained that from now on, it's not going to be about how pretty the voice is. It's going to be about believing that the voice is telling the truth.I read this today to my Juilliard class on music criticism. My question to them (and to everyone in my blog … [Read more...]

Why I’m here

I want to thank everyone, and really warmly, for all the responses to my query earlier, and for all the comments you post here every day. You encourage me, teach me, tell me things I didn't know, make me think more deeply, and just generally make me glad to be blogging. This isn't just my blog, i've come to think. It's in some way all of ours, mine and yours together. We're all engaged in a grand joint effort, to rethink classical music, and to change it and make it better.But I also want to say that not all the queries spoke exactly to what … [Read more...]

Seeing the future

Sunday night at Le Poisson Rouge, the new NY club where lots of good music happens. Among much else, it's the new home of the Wordless Music series, no surprise, since Ronen Givony, who founded Wordless, books classical music at Le Poisson Rouge. I'm there Sunday to hear my friend Bruce Brubaker, along with Elissa Cassini, Susan Babini, and Ben Fingland, play Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Opening the show is Goldmund, who plays ambient music on piano, with electronics, and closing is Sylvain Cheveau, with more ambient music, mostly … [Read more...]

Niche markets

We hear a lot these days about niche markets, and often enough -- as happened just a few days ago in a comment to one of my posts -- someone talks about classical music as a niche market, and therefore likely to thrive in the emerging niche culture.But I don't think that's right. Oh, it's a hopeful idea, with (if it were true) an encouraging payoff. Classical music wouldn't have to change, and it wouldn't matter if we never reach a new audience. Our own niche audience would be all that we'd need.Think about that, though. A niche market is, more … [Read more...]

Don’t even think of trying this!

In a new and most unfortunate development, an otherwise reputable orchestra the American Symphony Orchestra tried to advertise a concert by posting a comment on my blog. And also on Amanda Ameer's, and no doubt on other blogs, too on at least one other ArtsJournal blog. These comments were nothing but advertising copy. I deleted the one on this blog the moment I saw it, and sent a stern e-mail to the orchestra's marketing director. [I was kind, and didn't name the ASO in my original post. But Amanda outed them, so there's no point in saving … [Read more...]


For my in-progress book on the future of classical music, I'd love to know about classical performances that engaged a community, reaching far beyond the normal orbit of classical music fans. And I'm especially interested in classical performances that reach to the heart of our current culture. It's a point I've often made, in talks I give on the future of classical music, and here on the blog as well -- classical music doesn't seem to speak for our current culture. It doesn't (to be a little grandiose) go out and forge the uncreated conscience … [Read more...]

New mission for orchestras?

Had a drink last night with someone in the orchestra business, and found myself challenged to change the way I think. "Admit it," this person (whom I like a lot) said to me. "When the New York Philharmonic plays a concert in the park, you think that's less valid than their concerts in Avery Fisher Hall." I had to admit that he was right, at least in the sense that I think the parks concerts are less interesting. (And no, my friend doesn't work for the Philharmonic.) But why do I think that way? My friend kept pointing out that orchestras are … [Read more...]


I'm sure I should have blogged yesterday about the election, if I were going to do it at all. But I was drained -- drained from excitement, happiness, even crying when the outcome was clear, and at other times, too. And while I've read so many stories about reactions to what happened, I can't resist one of my own. This morning I went down from my NY apartment to buy newspapers, as I do every morning I'm there. At the local deli, I bought the Times and the Daily News. The guy behind the counter -- Ethiopian, I think -- said hello, as he and I … [Read more...]

Must reading

No, not this blog post. But rather Ron Rosenbaum's blast at Dr. Atomic, on the Slate site and linked today from ArtsJournal. The picture it paints is pretty devastating. Smart, educated, cultured writer isn't an opera fan, but respects opera. He goes to the Dr. Atomic premiere at the Met, expecting serious art, and instead thinks he's seen something empty and pretentious. Of course, you might say that this is just his own take, and you also might damn him for leaving at intermission, which means that he's disqualified (by the normal standards … [Read more...]