“Two guys” identified

In my post a while ago about Chris O'Riley's terrific concert of Radiohead and Shostakovich, I neglected to mention the graphics that were a notable part of it. Steve Smith, in a comment, asked me what I thought of them (a compassionate way of pointing out my omission!), and, explaining what had gone on, I talked about "two guys with laptops" sitting on stage, creating the effective graphics in real time.And then the two guys e-mailed to tell me (again very politely) that they had names. Which I should have mentioned! So apologies to Stephen … [Read more...]

Reaching a young audience — from a student

A while ago I posted the response from one of my Eastman students to a question I gave my Eastman class on a takehome exam. How would you design a concert to reach students your own age? Leah Goldstein thought she'd get people in the audience to help write the music. (The course, by the way, is on the future of classical music. It's a shorter version of the one I teach at Juilliard.)So now here's another answer from Kara LaMoure -- long, detailed, smart, and passionate. Of course I'm putting it here with Kara's permission. I'll let her speak … [Read more...]

Moment of truth

We're all concerned, I'm sure, about the impact of the economy on classical music organizations. And we've seen some trouble. Groups going out of businesses, big orchestras making cutbacks. The same thing, no surprise, as we see elsewhere, in the profit-making world. The same economic factors are in play. But here's something to look for very soon. Large classical music institutions are finishing their subscription campaigns. They're trying to get new people to subscribe, and, above all, they're trying to get current subscribers to … [Read more...]

Game, promotion, scavenger hunt

Out of friendship and admiration for Bang on a Can composer Michael Gordon and his publicist -- that would be my friend Amanda Ameer, whose "Life's A Pitch" blog is essential reading -- I'm helping publicize a performance this Wednesday at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. On the program: Michael's very nice piece Trance. To hear a sample of it, the very last track of the CD, just go here. To hear the previous track...well, it's a puzzle. Think of music blogs you might have visited, and go to the one that licks its lips, metallically, in the dark … [Read more...]

YouTube (sigh) Symphony

I wanted to like the YouTube Symphony, whose concert disappointed me. I really did want to like them. Their backstory is irresistible, obviously. Musicians from many countries audition by video, professionals pick finalists, the world votes to decide the winners, everybody (some barely able to believe that it's real) come to Carnegie Hall, the Mecca of classical music, to play a concert. And this is, in many ways, good for classical music. Press from many countries thronged the press conferences, interviewed musicians, came to rehearsals … [Read more...]

You Tube clubbing

Last night at Le Poisson Rouge (the NY club where I seem to go all the time, to hear classical music) a cellist named Joshua Roman came on stage. He said hello, in the friendliest, most club-appropriate way, and then said he'd play the prelude from the third Bach cello suite. "If you know it," he added (or words to this effect), "you know what I mean. And if you don't know it, you're about to hear it!" Then he played it, with just about irresistible verve. He's a cellist from the YouTube Symphony, whose members had come to New York from … [Read more...]

Democratic composition

At the end of my Eastman course on the future of classical music -- a shorter version of my Juilliard course on the same subject -- I asked my students to imagine a concert that would attract people their own age. Leah Goldstein came up with a fabulous idea, which I'm quoting here, exactly as she wrote it, with her permission:   Hypothetical Concert for People My Own Age It occurred to me that one of the ways musicians try to encourage audiences to find relevance in Classical music is by bringing the composers of that music to … [Read more...]

The arts, but… (plus a new way to finance recordings)

In today's Boston Globe (Sunday, April 12), a librarian named Karen Zundel is quoted, talking about why she loves the arts:"The arts are what sustain us and bring individuals and communities together and help us to connect with our innermost beings," Zundel says. "A new car won't do that. When you buy a new car or a new outfit, you get that little thrill that lasts very temporarily, and then it's gone. But I think art really sustains me. It lasts."Nicely put, and of course it's exactly the kind of thing professional arts advocates like to … [Read more...]

Concert for the future

Christopher O'Riley, at Miller Theatre, in New York, on March 27. He played Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, along with some of the Radiohead transcriptions he's played many times before. Full house. Young audience. Radiohead fans, I'd guess, but they applauded really hard for Shostakovich. So why was this so important? Seems to me it gives us one model for putting classical music in the same world as popular culture, in this case by putting the two literally next to each other. And don't think the combination didn't work! Chris didn't … [Read more...]

For those who read the RSS feed…

If you take the troubleto read this blog on the Web, you get one thing the RSS feed can't give you. (And believe me, I understand the convenience of RSS feeds.) What you'll get are the comments from so many people, which are often more compelling than my posts. Extensive discussions go on, with people debating and amplifying each other, as well as me. The comments, as I've often said, are one of the best things about this blog. … [Read more...]

Question from a music teacher

I had a lovely comment at the end of March from Adrienne McKinney, a piano teacher in Lexington, KY. She'd read my "Two Things I've Written" post, and my recent piece in the Wall Street Journal on alt-classical music. I'm touched that she took me seriously, and replied like this:In reading your piece here and the WSJ article, the general idea seems to be that if we want to save classical music we need to 'let it go,' in a sense, or at least loosen up a bit. We need to be willing to embrace something different that has a chance of attracting … [Read more...]

In the DNA

I've been pondering the reasons why the composers I call alt-classical seem to strike a nerve with the new young audience I keep talking about. It's not just because these composers sometimes write music with a pop-like beat. First, the pop-like beat might not be steady, and might just pop up here and there. But second, and much more important, the music might not have a pop-like beat at all. And yet it feels like it fits into the culture where pop-like beats dominate. How does that work?I got some insight into that, I thought, when I … [Read more...]

Performance of my music

While I work on longer posts...On Monday night in New York there'll be a performance of two pieces of mine. This is at Symphony Space (95th and Broadway) at 7:30, with a pre-concert discussion at 6:30. I'll be speaking. It's all part of Victoria Bond's Cutting Edge festival.My pieces: Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano, and Short Talks, a work in progress for a pianist who also plays a drum. The performers will be Charles Neidich, clarinet, and Jenny Lin, piano and drum. Both pieces are short and, at least to me, packed full of detail. The … [Read more...]

How to advocate the arts (2)

Time to grapple with this. Continuing from my last post on arts advocacy...3. What we should doWell, first, what we shouldn't do. We shouldn't talk as if the arts are better than popular culture, or as if they're the sole or main source of meaning in our society. First, those things aren't true.  (See two previous posts, here and here.) Second, attacking popular culture -- aka what other people like --  wouldn't exactly be a productive way to bring people to our side. "Hi! Support the arts! They're far better than all that … [Read more...]