I've gotten some pushback for my "Left behind" posts (here, here, and here). (Quite apart from two people on Twitter -- Danny Felsenfeld most amusingly -- who thought I might be playing off the Christian novels about the Rapture. OK, Danny, I'll buy into that! There's going to be a classical music Rapture. Don't get left behind!) Some of the pushback is about labelling music, or, rather, labelling alt-classical music. Nobody ever pushed back at me for mentioning serial music, or Baroque music, or Renaissance music, or New Age music, or death … [Read more...]

More ideas

This comes from Michael Gilliland, whom I've met on Twitter. I asked him to tell me more about something he tweeted, and this e-mail was the result. I'm copying it here with his permission, of course. You'll see that he starts with something the Fort Smith (Arkansas) Symphony did -- which sounds just marvelous -- and goes on to ideas of his own. Thanks so much, Michael! One event in which I was a participant was fun, and engaging for the young people in attendance. This event was staged by one of Arkansas' regional orchestras the Fort Smith … [Read more...]

Left behind (3)

Finishing my impulsive three-part series on how/why contemporary classical music -- as presented by mainstream classical music institutions -- isn't really part of current culture. In the first two parts -- here and here -- I showed how, both now and in the past, new classical music, and especially modernist new music, didn't connect with other cultural developments. How modernist literature touched on popular culture and everyday life, but new classical music didn't. How modernist music in 1960s Paris -- Boulez -- looms large in classical … [Read more...]

Left behind (2)

Continuing what I started in my last post. 3, Recent history, art and music. Music. Atonal composers started dominating composition -- in prestige, grant-worthiness, faculty hiring, and, retrospectively, in the way classical music history has been written -- sometime in the 1950s. (Though we know they didn't dominate --- outside the new music ghetto -- in the number of performances they got, or didn't get.) (I'd also say that this is a US-centric description. The atonal composers seemed also to lead in prestige in Europe, but I don't know … [Read more...]

Left behind

I'm going to write again about new music and orchestras, because -- in the present state of these discussions -- it's easy for me to be misunderstood. This isn't my fault, or the fault of the people who misunderstand me. It's more, I think, because the discussion is very new, and the context I mean to put it in is (naturally!) more familiar to me than to others. So no blame to anyone here. I'll try to explain why (at least as I see it) I'm not simply voicing a personal preference when I say that orchestras should do much more alt-classical new … [Read more...]

Third book riff

This one, you'll see, is a little different from the last two. I expand into some writing that has, maybe, the length and detail l'll have in the finished book. And no, this isn't the actual book text. Still just a riff, but partly expanded. You'll see that I'm asking you if my plunge into a new subject -- the classical music tradition, and what's not just good, but profoundly wonderful about it -- makes sense, at this early stage of the book. Remember that I'm riffing my way through the first chapter. The plan: maybe one more first … [Read more...]

Long overdue

No, not my next book riff, though that's coming very soon. What's long overdue are two things -- first, major classical music institutions seriously acknowledging alt-classical composers, and, second, a little celebration, here in my blog, for the Chicago Symphony doing just that. A month ago! I should have posted this much sooner.So what happened? The Chicago Symphony appointed Mason Bates and Anna Clyne as its two composers in residence next season. Here's their press release. In it, they say:Both Mason Bates and Anna Clyne are artists who … [Read more...]

Terrific idea

Janis, who comments often on my posts (and who wants to be known here just by her first name), e-mailed me with a fabulous idea. In a moment, I'm going to turn this post over to her, and simply show you what she e-mailed. (Abridged a little, but I didn't leave out anything crucial. And of course i'm doing this with her permission.) But before I give her center stage, I want to say that I went to the Star Wars Uncut website she mentions, and believe me -- it's everything she says it is, and more. Such an outpouring of fun and creativity, from so … [Read more...]

This fall at Juilliard

I've been forgetting to mention my course at Juilliard this fall, about music criticism. The link takes you to the week by week assignments, which include classical music criticism by George Bernard Shaw and Virgil Thomson, as well as some rock and jazz criticism, and some unusual writing about music, by Nick Hornby, Tom Johnson, Jack Kerouac, and E.M Forster. (That last link takes you to my blog post about how wonderfully Forster wrote about music.)Each week, one of the students brings a New York Times music review to class each week, and … [Read more...]

No-star game

Last night I went to the gala season-opening show at the New York City Opera. That was a night with special meaning, obviously, because the company was coming back from the dead, with a new directo, a refurbished theater, and a new point of view. Let's wish them luck. But in past weeks I also went (without addressing them here) to the season openers at the Met and the New York Philharmonic, which of course are the other two big classical music performing institutions in New York. And, looking back, as I sat in the audience last night, it struck … [Read more...]

Quotation of the day

From my wife Anne Midgette's probing review of classical music in the White House, in today's Washington Post: ...what becomes clearer, in this presentation, is that classical music no longer automatically holds a position of predominance among today's power elite. The day's message was, "Look, classical music can be fun," even though this message is also a tacit admission of the widespread assumption that it isn't. President Obama reflected that, indeed, in his opening remarks, joking that newcomers to classical music shouldn't worry … [Read more...]

Unexpected classical music

In Zombieland (a delectable movie), there's a scene where the four dysfunctional people we're learning to love smash up a store full of tacky western-style souvenirs. And have loads of fun doing it. They're allowed to, because as far as we and they know, they're the only human beings left in the US. It's them against millions of zombies. And what do we hear on the soundtrack while they're smashing the souvenirs? The Marriage of Figaro overture, sounding like wild, crazy fun, just as it ought to in the opera. (It would work even better in the … [Read more...]

Crossing cultures

Three quick notes about things I learned in Tunis. First: Composers in Guatemala incorporated Afro-Caribbean music into their compositions -- in the 18th century! I learned this from Dieter Lehnhoff, an Austrian violinist and conductor who's been living in Guatemala for many years, and has studied, published, and recorded Guatemalan compositions from past centuries. There are recordings of some of these pieces with the Afro-Caribbean influence, but they're not (I gather) available outside Guatemala. Dieter says the composers used pizzicato … [Read more...]

Future of, international edition

We hear a lot about classical music in Finland -- about how many orchestras they have, how they train and nourish musicians, how many fine composers they have. Etc. But apparently they have no more luck getting younger people to go to classical concerts than we do. Timo Cantell, an arts management professor at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, gave a paper in Tunis about this. He interviewed people in their 20s and 30s who don't go to classical concerts. He asked them, among many other things, about advertisements for classical concerts: "A … [Read more...]

International music politics

Two more posts on Tunisia, before I get back to business as usual, including my book. (My other posts on the Third World Forum on Music, held in Tunis, and which I spoke at, are here and here.)I'd mentioned international issues in music, and discussed -- a familiar subject here -- music advocacy, which the organized international music community likes to talk about. Another one, more important, I think, is cultural diversity. Countries around the world want to preserve their local musical cultures, whether that's their ancient musical … [Read more...]