Getting people involved

I’ve often said — and often told my students — that I think classical music works too much from the top down, at a time when our culture is going in the opposite direction. All the talk in popular culture these days is about people participating, creating art on their own, making mashups of existing art.

While classical music still mostly serves up the same old masterworks, in a format (the standard concert format) that encourages (if not compels) the audience to sit silently, and absorb what’s good for them.

How can we change this? Here’s an idea I thought of, when I was reading a paper by Talia Dicker, a student in my Eastman course this winter. Thanks, Talia, for getting me to think of it!

Suppose an orchestra — or an opera company, or a chamber group, or a performing arts center — had a performance coming up, and encouraged mashups and remixes, in advance of the event. Suppose it put on its website recordings of the music that would be performed. And suppose it offered software to allow for mashups.

It wouldn’t even need complete recordings. It could post just a few highlights. Along, maybe, with software, that made slicing and dicing and mixing and matching easy to do. Anyone really ambitious could even allow genuine remixes. A string quartet could post recordings of each instrumental part. So could an orchestra! And people who came to the website could remix the recording, leaving some parts out, making some more prominent, or less prominent. Whatever!

Soon we’d have some remixes — if, that is, the whole thing were promoted well. We’d have, maybe, a mashup of all the big climaxes from a Tchaikovsky symphony, overlaid on a Bach solo violin piece. The possibilities are truly endless. The results could be a lot of fun.

The organization of course would post everything that anybody did, on its website. And then would pick the best submissions, and feature them in every way possible. Highlight them on the website. Set up a kiosk at the concert hall or opera house, where people could listen. Play the best mashups at the concert! Make them downloadable. Whatever! I can’t believe this wouldn’t get people more interested in the organization, the upcoming concert, and the music itself.

And of course the mashups could continue after the event, if people were inspired to come up with something after they heard the music live.

I know there are hurdles to jump. Rights, for instance. You’d have to find recordings you could do all these things to, legally The recordings of separate parts, curiously, are less of a problem, because the musicians could either create them specially for this project (not for the entire piece, I’d think, but highlights would work just as well). Or else you could make the parts electronically, with samplers, the way TV scores often are created.

I’d love to see someone do this. I’d be happy to help get the project off the ground. And has anyone ever done anything like this? I’m thinking that they have. I’d love to know about it. If anyone knows any examples, please tell me!

(Jennifer Foster, at WDAV in North Carolina, made some terrific mashups of music played on a WDAC live performance show.

(And this idea shouldn’t be limited to arts organizations. Individual musicians could do it, too, on their websites.)

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  1. says

    Well, I recently saw an example of the latter category (individual artist doing a mashup): David Krakauer and some other Montreal buddies just came through my area to do a program that included a live performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time AND a remix/mashup of that group’s performance (not from that same night, but an audio feed from the BANFF premiere) with electronics, samples, and beats. It was quite lovely, and appropriately executed.

    Though I feel my example is a stretch because the mashup was part of the performance itself, rather than a piece for promotion/interaction/interest.

    No problem, Eric. I think it’s directly linked to what I was saying — since mashups/remixes are a phenomenon classical music has to open itself to, in more ways than I specified.

    And what better way to encourage other people to make mashups, than for the artists to do it themselves?

  2. says

    This is such a good that bands like Radiohead (who don’t need much in the way of promotion)have engaged their fans in this kind of thing for the last couple of years, providing loops drawn from Radiohead songs to fans on their site, and inviting submissions. I think one of their most recent videos was also a winner of a submissions-only contest. Mark Mobley over the Delaware Symphony is someone you ought ot be in touch with; he’s a cutting-edge kind of community-interactivesness kinda guy.

    The idea brings a certain number of a certain type of music listener, and, though I’m not sure how this might translate into the orchestra world, @ From The Top, we’ve been running a ‘Make Your Own Radio Show’ educational program in many of our 250 markets. This not only involves and fosters respect for the performance of art music, but includes and engenders interest and allows kids to explore untold aptitudes in all the areas surrounding a radio show: logistical, audiotechnical, editorial, stagecraft. So, while it proselytizes on behalf of the music, it also lets kids in on all the variously important activities surrounding an artistic event that, while they don’t necessarily lead to picking up a trombone for the first time, certainly require an interest, enthusiasm and sense of a common pursuit of excellence.

    Thanks, and nice to see you here! Of course you’re one of the biggest Radiohead fans around, on top of everything else you do. And thanks for heads-up about Mark Mobley. Very good to know about him.

    Seems like videos, even for the biggest bands, are now largely a fan activity. MTV doesn’t show them any more (and actually it’s been years since MTV showed them in any quantity). So the place fans find them is on YouTube — and more than likely the videos there have been made by other fans.

    Would be interesting to think about what From the Top could do to engage and enlarge its audience. My sense — which could easily be wrong — is that the show moves more cautiously than it might. Is there a way to get listeners — and people who might be listeners — to have some hands-on involvement with the music? By making mashups or videos for it, for instance. But you may already be doing this, so I should speak cautiously!

  3. says

    The LSO Discovery (education) programme of the London Symphony Orchestra runs a course called Remix the Orchestra, using Garage Band and extracts from LSO Live CDs, which we of course own. This course is offered to school groups and the after-school Digital Tech group (c.16 year olds). An offshoot has been LSO musicians coming in to perform some of these along with the electronic elements in ‘end of term’ concerts.

    At the moment these aren’t used promotionally nor are they available for the general public to be inspired by, but we’re working on something webby to launch this year… watch this space.

    Also check out the Philharmonia’s Sound Exchange website which has samples of music recorded by the players and a sequencer:

    Thanks so much, Jo. Glad we made contact. You’re a good person to know!

    Is the UK ahead of the US in all of this. Sounds like it!

  4. Michael Daniels says

    Honestly, I think the whole idea of performing music as written is completely irrelevant to the times in which we live and has no place In our postmodern world. To take it a step further, even the act of composing original music is old-fashioned and serves to reinforce the existing hierarchy of society. By contrast, creating mashups and remixes is more democratic; it allows for the convergence of different cultures and styles. Plus, it brings music written by elitist, stodgy, uptight, extremely wealthy, white European old men into the present. As a young person, it is very difficult to listen to music nowadays without a strong backbeat. Hip-hop is, arguably, the only the valid form of expression in the modern world. Why listen to Beethoven’s Ninth (the ultimate example of self-indulgent, capitalist art) as written if you could add a beat to it? Music is a strictly communal activity, and music that doesn’t encourage social activities such as dancing is utterly worthless. I’d be interested to hear your comments on this, especially yours, Mr. Sandow.

    It’s hard to know if you’re serious, but I don’t agree with any of this. It strikes me, in fact, as a truly totalitarian opinion — only one thing (the thing you yourself like) can possibly be valid. Life is much more varied and much more complicated than that. And surprising connections get made, like Spike Lee adopting Copland for the soundtrack of He Got Game, a film about basketball in the projects near Coney Island in NY. Lee thought Copland’s music spoke for all America, including all the hiphop fans in the projects.

    But then, I’m not sure you’re serious. And if you are, I don’t have the time, quite honestly, to argue with you. Should we blow up the pyramids, because they were built by slave labor, under the command of repressive Egyptian pharaohs? Should we imagine that hiphop fans never listen to any other kind of music — and, even worse, _should_ never listen to any other kind of music — or that hiphop artists don’t and shouldn’t? That would be ridiculous, and would seriously trash so many things (diversity, openness, curiosity, interest in things outside one’s own experience) that make live valuable.

  5. Charles Biggins says

    Honestly, I think the whole idea of performing music as written is completely irrelevant to the times in which we live and has no place In our postmodern world. To take it a step further, even the act of composing original music is old-fashioned and serves to reinforce the existing hierarchy of society. By contrast, creating mashups and remixes is more democratic; it allows for the convergence of different cultures and styles. Plus, it brings music written by elitist, stodgy, uptight, extremely wealthy, white European old men into the present. As a young person, it is very difficult to listen to music nowadays without a strong backbeat. Hip-hop is, arguably, the only the valid form of expression in the modern world. Why listen to Beethoven’s Ninth (the ultimate example of self-indulgent, capitalist art) as written if you could add a beat to it? Music is a strictly communal activity, and music that doesn’t encourage social activities such as dancing is utterly worthless. I’d be interested to hear your comments on this, especially yours, Mr. Sandow.

  6. Charles Biggins says

    You may have noticed that the preceding two comments, which are identical, were posted under two different names. That’s because I used a pseudonym at first but then decided that it would be best to post my comment under my real name, in the interests of a more open and honest discussion.

  7. Mark Pemberton says

    Hmmm. “Hip-hop is, arguably, the only the valid form of expression in the modern world”. How sad to dismiss in a single sentence the richness and diversity offered by music, theatre, dance, poetry, literature and the visual arts. And to dismiss all that is past; all mankind’s artistic creation prior to one single, contemporary musical style. That isn’t democratic. It’s cultural fascism.

  8. Robert Berger says

    I certainly hope that the comments about classical music of the “written” kind being “old-fashioned, elitist, stodgy,uptight etc” and “dead European composers” being “wealthy capitalists” etc are tongue in cheek.

    But unfortunately, many people, not just young ones actually believe this garbage. The innovations you mention Greg sound intriguing, and I would be all for them if they would work.

    I am sick of all the politically correct drivel that has circulated so long about classical music. Why can’t people just accept this kind of music on its own termsrather than demanding that a beat be added to Beethoven’s 9th etc. Do we still have to draw mustaches on the Mona Lisa? Enough of all this childishnes masqerading as serious talk about culture.

  9. Charlotte Landrum says

    Greg, this is an interesting point, but I think the primary barrier, really, is copyright and our collective frustration and confusion about how to compensate recording artists in the face of the reality that 95% of music downloads are illegal. (Most recent number I’ve seen.) Recordings are no longer a profit-making enterprise, and the sooner we can wrap our heads around that and use them, instead, to generate audiences in the concert hall, the better off we’ll all be.

    This would be one way to leverage recordings, and there are Creative Commons licenses that could be used to facilitate sampling and remixing. I gave a talk this past fall at Carnegie Mellon’s Technology in the Arts Conference about just this topic, and my favorite example of the kinds of great things that can happen when we open up music in this way is Nine Inch Nails’ site:

    There remains, though, discomfort in the arts about allowing nonprofessionals to really engage in the creation of art, to consider their contributions to be as valuable as those of professionals. Institutions like museums are predicated on the concept that curators know best; it is a primary function of arts organizations as they currently exist to be professional interpreters, and handing some of that power over to the consumer is scary. What will our role be then, some may ask?

    We need to get back to a culture that includes amateur music-making as a vital, symbiotic component of the survival of the professional nonprofit arts. Remixing is how some younger audiences would relate, but playing the piano, singing, and enjoying house concerts are all pieces of the puzzle, too.

    Charlotte, I nodded my head in agreement as I read this, until I got to your last paragraph. And there I wanted to say, simply, that amateur music-making is a huge feature of contemporary life, outside the world of the professional nonprofit arts, or, really, outside the arts in any traditional definition of them. So many kids play in bands in high school, and write their own songs. So many people play music for fun, so many people make dance tracks on their computers, so many people are (like a consultant friend of mine) suited professionals in the daytime, and singer-songwriters by night.

    In fact, in pop music it’s hard to know how to draw the line between professionals and amateurs. Nobody has to go to school to learn pop music, nobody has to go through gatekeepers who define entry into the profession, unless you count people who book shows for clubs. You start out making music, and once you start playing it on any regular basis for other people — or recording it, and circulating your recordings — you’re a professional. You might not make money at it, which wouldn’t be a surprise, since it’s harder to make money in pop music than it is in classical. (A fact we shouldn’t lose sight of, just because the top people in pop make a lot more than anyone in classical music does.) But you’re a professional.

    What are the non-profit arts supposed to do about that? I don’t know, but the first thing, I’d think, would be to acknowledge the truth of what I’ve just said, and welcome the outburst of creativity that makes so much amateur music-making possible. Without too much regret that these people — our friends, relatives, children, neighbors — are playing guitars and electric keyboards and laptops, rather than pianos. (If I’ve misinterpreted what you said, Charlotte, please tell me!)

  10. Charlotte Landrum says

    PS. I would be very interested in hearing more about what you’re thinking in terms of a first project, and would be curious to see how I could be involved. I always wanted to do this with my podcast at the Gardner Museum, but people just weren’t quite ready to take the leap.

    What a lovely thought, Charlotte. I don’t have a first project, but would love to talk with anyone who’d like me to try one with them.

  11. says

    Greg — The Martha Graham Dance Company launched the Clytemnestra ReMash Challenge last week. Check it out at We’ve posted 5 solos from Graham’s ballet “Clytemnestra” online and are challenging competitors to remash the videos to connect the character from Greek legend (Helen of Troy, Electra, Cassandra, etc) to someone in the news today. It is designed to address many of the issues you outline — notably connecting with the YouTube audience and partnering with them to discover relevent connections to the ancient Greek characters and, of course, to Graham’s potent American take on the ancient story. We’ll screen the winning videos at our NYC season in May and hope to create lobby displays and other uses for the videos as we tour the world with “Clytemnestra.” Deadline for submission is March 31. Should be interesting.

    Thanks so much, Janet. I’m learning so much from all of this.

  12. says

    Remixes are great. NPR’s brilliant music producer Tom Huizenga tried out some a couple of years ago on the Performance Today staff, and we had a great time with them.

    But remixes are still just taking someone else’s creative ideas and cutting and pasting. It’s not the same as coming up with a truly creative, original idea yourself.

    Granted, that “elitist, stodgy, uptight, extremely wealthy, white European old man” Georg Frideric Handel borrowed a lot of other people’s tunes in the 18th century. But he still produced some 17,000 pages of original music that is still being performed and recorded today.

    I would challenge the creative masher-uppers to write some original music. I’ve tried it and I can’t do it for beans. I have a profound respect for people who’ve written music that’s good enough that others still want to listen to it 300 years later.

    It’s a pretty broad world out there, and I suppose there’s room for all of us in it. It may be, after all, that hip-hop is not the only valid form of expression in the modern world.

    There’s room for professional music making, and there’s room for amateur music making. There’s room for dancing to music, and if some people want to sit quietly and just listen, I’m good with that. Hip-hop is fun. So is Indian tabla music.

    What I love best about the modern music world is that we have every variety available to us, which is something that no other culture before us has had. That’s why I don’t think we necessarily need to change classical music. Can’t it just be one of our many choices?

    Hi, Marty. Nice to hear from you. Thanks for commenting.

    Glad to know that Tom did remixes. I’ll have to ask him about it. I just met him in DC this past weekend, and it was terrific to connect a face to the name.

    Your view of remixes puts you somewhat at odds with a fair amount of current thinking, in pop music, anyway. Many people would say they’re highly creative, and original, even if they don’t strike you that way. Or, more to the point, they vary all over the place — just like newly composed music. After nearly 40 years in the new music world, as a composer, critic, and listener, I’d have to say that a lot of newly composed music has nothing especially creative about it. That was true in past centuries, too, as any of us can verify by listening to some of the forgotten names.

    As for classical music, of course it is — and can be — one of many possible choices. The problem comes when fewer and fewer people are making that choice, to the point where the field may not be able to sustain itself. And when a fair number of young classical musicians feel something is missing in their work. And when someone like me — after a professional lifetime spent in classical music — starts to find other areas of current culture far more gripping, even though I still love the music I always loved. (And am always discovering classical music i hadn’t known before.)

    Back to remixes, for a moment. Did you hear the Steve Reich remix album that Nonesuch put out? I thought that was quite wildly creative, but maybe that’s just me.

  13. says

    One thing that’s obviously missing from classical music right now (compared to virtually every other type of music in the world) is an emphasis on musical improvisation. There has been a steady decline in the activity ever since the Romantic and Post-Romantic eras to the point where most musicians aren’t even comfortable enough to do cadenzas without writing them out first. At least in the West, jazz and popular musics have largely taken this method over while classical music continued to place an emphasis on the importance of notational specificity.

    This has been my pet-peeve for some time now and if I ever get involved in some kind of music institution my goal would largely be to try to include improvisation as a core-curricula for music education programs. If there’s anything that will allow popular and classical musics to meld together, it will be this, because it forces the musician to internalize and refine their stylistic preferences on a very tangible, physical level. There’s something about approaching music in this way that connects very well to both audiences and performers alike.

    “Remixes” can be done in the context of an improvised performance as well, using ideas and themes from previously written works. Jazz musicians do this all the time anyway, and from what I’ve seen and heard, they are usually fairly effective. Young people naturally will try to do these sorts of things anyway, but the unfortunate thing is that a lot of music programs will try to erase these types of creative impulses in favor of making the students learn old masterworks of the past. Fortunately I think that at least in some parts of the country, schools are opening themselves up to this idea — hopefully it will become a fairly regular thing as time goes on.

    Hi, Ryan. Good points. I’d love to know some schools that are opening themselves to improvisation. I know this happens at DePauw University. But I’d love other examples. This information just doesn’t circulate enough.

  14. Jesse says

    As far as I am concerned, music is a social activity. I know what music I like and is relevant to me. I also know what music I do not care to listen to. It’s always nice to meet people with different tastes in music and have great discussions about music. I don’t particularly like country music, but if I meet a person who likes it and tells me why and how it is relevant to them, I become intrigued. Through this process of discussion, I may even take the time to listen to whatever it is that they are talking about.

    Now, let me tell you what I really DISLIKE: when I am told what to like, and what I “should” listen to.

    I am sure that I am not the only one with this opinion.

    Maybe this is why I don’t subscribe to an orchestra. I could care less for a lot of the music that an orchestra chooses to perform each season. If people aren’t buying tickets, they treat me as a walking dollar sign and they start promoting: “$20 for a concert is so cheap!” As a potential ticket buyer, I wouldn’t care how cheap it was. I’d rather spend my $20 on purchasing music that I want to listen to.

    I wish sometimes that an “orchestral experience” would be more like talking to a friend about music. I am more likely to feel connected through people than an organization/company. I would enjoy transparency. Maybe then I would start to become intrigued, begin to trust, turn loyal, and even eventually donate.

    So talking about the potential and possibilities of remixes…I have my doubts (though I am optimistic). In my experience, if an organization doesn’t value this kind of participation, what could have been amazing only becomes an “empty technique.” It’s about ticket sales and nothing more. Kind of like a friend with hidden intentions. I’d rather see this used by an organization that truly values social engagement as a part of their foundation before implementing something like this to a concert (or series of concerts). Could you imagine how amazing it would be? to feel truly engaged and a part of the orchestra? and not just another quiet body sitting in a seat? What an experience it would be!

    Honestly, currently I see a marketing/ticketing department at an orchestra only looking at how this will bring in short term ticket sales, rather than the long term effects that would pay for itself many times over. I have not yet been convinced by an orchestra to truly value their audience and to engage them. Take away all of these “cool techniques” and ideas, and underneath, the orchestra is still the same old orchestra. …Though, I have to say, I have been seeing some great things happen, and I feel it coming soon! I cannot wait for that day.


    Jesse, I think you’re 100% right. The biggest change we need is a change in attitude. Without that, everything else is hollow.

    That said, I think you’re right when you say that great things are already happening. Example: when I hosted a concert series with the Pittsburgh Symphony, their artistic administrator got the idea of having someone shave the head of a volunteer from the audience, while the orchestra played the Bacchanal from Samson and Delilah. He didn’t do that because he thought it would sell tickets, or make friends for the orchestra, or get some good press. He just loved the idea — as did the orchestra when we actually did it. (And got more volunteers, by the way — people raising their hands spontaneously, when I asked if anyone wanted their head shaved — then we could count.

  15. says

    You’re right about the remixing thing, actually. People listen to remixes because they want to hear something that they already like put into a different context. If they don’t have any particular affinity towards the original material, it’s not really likely that it’ll catch people’s attention, no matter how skillfully done it might be.

    It’s not about technique, it’s about content. I think that classical music culture tends to assume that they are entitled to people’s attention, due to its “high” arts status. Of course this idea has been absurd from the very beginning, especially since from America’s perspective, classical music is a cultural import from Europe. There are very good reasons why the music doesn’t fair very well here, which I think hasn’t been acknowledged by most people working in the medium as of yet.

    What really needs to be done is for musicians to ask themselves what they can do for the audience rather than the other way around. All too often I hear musicians talk about glamor, prestiege, careers, power — things which make us only human to want, but is largely irrelvant to writing good music. I do believe that the medium has something to offer people, but it will only come if they allow themselves to.

  16. says

    A composer or performance group could follow the lead of Fatboy Slim: Slim just held a make-your-own-video contest for jugglers only, to accompany his song “That Old Pair of Jeans”. The winning video, which became the official video, is phenomenal: .

    Worth noting is that Slim shows no evidence of doing this dutifully as an exercise in “audience building”, he seems to have done it because he loved the idea. You get the feeling he looked forward to watching all the videos and interacting with his fans. We don’t have to stick with jugglers, but getting this kind of energy going between classical composers, performers, and audience strikes me as what’s needed.

    Thanks, Eric. Great example. One reason it works is that most pop videos these days are made by fans. So Slim just tapped into what was already happening. Classical music can do the same. But only, as you so strongly say, if we’re eager to see what people produce, and don’t encourage them only so we can build an audience.

  17. yorgos says

    I think it is a great idea. It can make an audience be active and not just passive for a whole concert until its end. It is important that we make people feel that they are part of the music experience. I think this would certainly make classical music more attractive to lots of young people.

  18. Suzanne Derringer says

    Hi, Greg –

    Well, I’m still in Vienna and from this perspective, the “mash ups” I’ve heard over the past several years are essentially meaningless. Doing riffs, of sorts, on old classical chestnuts…seems to indicate a kind of social ambivalence about the pieces and their history. The musicians are familiar with the old pieces from their academic studies; the audiences at least know from schooldays that this or that symphony or song-cycle is famous, a sort of cultural cliche – and the point of the “mash up” is deconstruction, sort of acknowledging the cliche and putting it down, or clumsily trying to make it “relevant” in the contemporary society. This is futile. The work is NOT “relevant” or at any rate, not of this moment. It is what it is, an artifact of an earlier time.

    On the other hand, I just attended a stultifying performance of Haydn”s Creation at the Konzerthaus. This was a perfect museum-performance – not a reproduction of how it was done in Haydn’s time, but as it was done in in the late 19th century, the triumphal time of bourgeois classical music. The orchestra was large, Mahlerian; so was the chorus. The stage was crammed with musicians. One thought of Mendelssohn’s Bach oratorio performances in the mid-19th century, which would probably have surprised Bach. All the musicians were dressed in black, except teh soprano soloist, who wore a modest turquoise gown. The conductor and male soloists wore white tie: this was an Important Event. The performance was sold out, the audience, as I keep saying (tiresome of me) elderly and on their best behavior. The musicians sang and played correctly. No surprises. Alles in Ordnung. This was certainly an Occasion. But – why?

    I am not sure that classical music is anything but a cultural relic. Mashing it up doesn’t make it reflect the contemporary world.

    I think the Creation presents another problem, too. Exactly how do we relate to this prolonged retelling of the Christian creation myth? With a final section that’s an anti-climax (even in a performance I heard with Thomas Quasthoff singing Adam). I don’t say we can’t relate to it, but how exactly do we? This, I’d bet, isn’t a question many — if any — classical performers have ever asked themselves before rehearsing this piece, though any theater director would surely ask it. I guess we satisfy ourselves with Haydn’s tone-painting, which, nice as it is, surely isn’t enough to keep an inquiring modern mind occupied throughout the evening.

    As for mashups, I don’t see them as a way to make the music relevant. In fact, I’m wary of attempts to do any such thing. We’re still playing all this music. Many people still love it. So let them open up their connection to it — emotionally, in their thoughts — let them treat it as anything but routine. And then we’ll see what they come up with. Then we’ll find out how — or if — the music fits into our present world.

    I guess I must seem to be contradicting myself, since I’ve made so many specific suggestions. But, though I may not have made this clear (even to myself), they’re suggestions for paths to go down. I don’t claim to know where the path ends, and I think that only by going down it can we find out the ending.

    That said, I think mashups, like remixes, are a generational thing. Younger people these days take to them naturally. They don’t have to be deconstructive. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes they’re just fun. The point I was addressing is that people now (younger people above all) want a hands-on relationship with art and entertainment, and we should think of ways that classical music can give them that. Not to make any special point, but just to try to meet people in the world they’re living in. What points might be made (and here I’m back to what I said before) are something we’ll find out when people start to make them.

  19. says

    I recall reading Adorno when we were in music school, Greg. One of our mutual friends reacted by rolling his eyes and saying, “Oh, Adorno! I don’t know, Man.” Now I understand what he meant. Totalitarian is a pretty good description.

    Also, just read Before The Deluge by Friedrich, and his description of the cultural and political wars going on in Berlin in the late twenties and early thirties is chilling. Brecht was just as insanely egomaniacal as some of the villains he was trying to pillory.

    I guess I have adopted the ethos of Kato Havas, the great Hungarian violinist and teacher who suggested that students envision sending a music gift to someone in the audience when they performed. I believe that is probably the best way to involve the listeners.

  20. says

    Greg, Would love to know how you’d ” be happy to help get the project off the ground.” …”And has anyone ever done anything like this?” We are trying this now in Iowa with a project that I am sure our Director of Education will write you about.

    Concerning your response to Christopher O’Riley, “Would be interesting to think about what From the Top could do to engage and enlarge its audience. My sense — which could easily be wrong — is that the show moves more cautiously than it might.”, it is hard to believe that we are approaching our tenth anniversary. 10 years ago most people thought From the Top was a pretty bold, or maybe the correct word was stupid, idea. we are ready to be bold and would love to find a way to help make this happen on a broader scale.

    Hi, Jerry. Nice to see you here, and catch up with you again. (Jerry and I met almost 10 years ago, by chance, outside a concert hall in Havana. Concerts, I should add, weren’t common there at that time. If I remember rightly, Jerry and I were the only Americans in sight.)

    I’ll e-mail you about the question you asked. I’ve heard about your Iowa project. Someone from From the Top posted a comment about it some time ago, when I was carrying on about social networking.

    One quick answer to “being bolder” would be: social networking. Start an active relationship with people in your audience (and potential audience) with, for a start, Facebook and Twitter. But that’s a long story, for another time and place. (Probably some future posts, though I’ve blogged about this before.)

    Jerry Slavet

    Executive Producer

    From the Top

  21. says

    Hi, readers.

    The twist we are trying in Iowa on the mash-up idea involves asking youth 11-18 to make short (2 to 4 minute) multimedia responses to one segment of our TV series, From the Top at Carnegie Hall. You can find out more about it at We are not specifically asking them to create a musical response – the entire thing could be spoken, or written, for that matter. The idea is to ask kids to use media to engage with media.

    We’ll let you know how it goes.

  22. Yvonne says

    @ Jesse re:

    «If people aren’t buying tickets, they treat me as a walking dollar sign and they start promoting: “$20 for a concert is so cheap!” As a potential ticket buyer, I wouldn’t care how cheap it was. I’d rather spend my $20 on purchasing music that I want to listen to.»

    In all fairness, this “tickets from only $x” approach, which I’m seeing increasingly, isn’t so much about shifting tickets that can’t be sold as about undermining the perception that orchestral concerts are super-expensive events, only for the wealthy, and it’s about reaching an audience that might otherwise think these concerts weren’t for them. It can come across as a tad “retail” in tone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump to the conclusion that you’re regarded as a walking dollar sign.

    Elsewhere, and recently, there’ve been discussions about hearing concerts cheaply and how presenters frequently hide away information about their least expensive tickets. Your reaction is perhaps a good example of why they often do this – lest they be perceived as doing a heavy sell based on ticket price alone.

    Amazing that, at this late date, people in classical music should be afraid to acknowledge that they’re in the retail business. They’re hardly giving tickets away. It’s common practice, among retailers, to cut prices, either to attract attention, get new people to try the product, clear out product (in this case tickets to certain concerts) that hasn’t been selling. And for many other reasons. Why won’t classical music organizations try these things?

    Especially since, at least in the US, orchestras have raised and raised ticket prices for quite a few years, way above the inflation rate. Amazing that they can jack prices up so gigantically, and nobody accuses them of being commercial, while if they cut prices, they’d be seen as unworthy. I guess it’s crass, or something, to seek attention.

    Another problem, I suspect, is that orchestras (again in the US, at least) can’t afford to cut prices. Their budgets depend on selling tickets at the normal rate. So if they cut prices for any sort of special promotion, they first have to raise money to make up the money they’re going to lose.

    All of which hurts classical music organizations, I think. Because they really are engaged in retail, whether they like that or not, and so could benefit from normal retail strategies.

  23. says

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