Solutions, continued

I’m going to need a new kind of title for these “solutions” posts.

But first — the “Solutions” blog page is now up, accessible in the “Resources” section of the blog, on the right. Or of course through the link in the last sentence. Many, many thanks to Douglas Laustsen, who was one of the people who volunteered to help with this, and who created the page and will maintain and update it. (And on the subject of volunteers. I’m developing a variety of projects, all connected with the subject of this blog, and I can always use help. Thanks to everyone who’s volunteered so far, and if anyone else is interested, just let me know. You never know what you might end up working on!)

Now for more solutions, more ideas and projects passed on to me by so many of you who read this blog. Thanks to everyone who’s contributed, and I promise that every contribution will make its way onto the blog and the “Solutions” page.

This came today, as a comment to my Ecosystem post, from Adam Matthes:

I’d just like to share one positive experience I had with a performance of avant garde music.  Some friends of mine prepared a quartet concert for a luncheon concert at Gensler, an architect firm in Houston; when word got out that I had Embellie, a solo viola piece by Xenakis, in my fingers, my friends asked me to contribute this piece to the concert.  After giving an intrduction to who Xenakis was and his dual career as a composer and architect, I was astounded by the enthusiastic response from the audience; they recalled their favorite moments, how it “tickled” them, and a number of people wanted to see the score to the music, asking, “what does that one part where you played behind the bridge look like on the page?” 

A few months after that, I participated in a “Classical Music Supernova,” where on every street corner, classical music is played for twenty minutes, in hopes of generating buzz for the opening concert of the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival in Corvallis, OR.  I was stationed outside a wine bar, and again I played the Xenakis piece as well as selections from the Ligeti Viola Sonata.  I was once again pleased to meet people who enjoyed the music, and I was able to hand out brochures for the festival to the curious listeners.  So these are just some examples of finding the right ecosystem for the music, as you’ve suggested. 

(To which I’d only add — our job, I think, is to create an entirely new ecosystem — or interlocking world of ecosystems — for all of classical music.)

And this — about something he did in New York — came from Eric Barhill, a pianist and much, much more, who took my Juilliard course the very first time I gave it, 13 years ago. (Eric, was it really that far back!?!)

I’m pleased to be part of a school that I think is implementing some fresh ideas. It’s a classical music magnet school for grades K-8 whose backbone is rigorous classical training. However one of the most popular offerings is the contemporary music ensemble “Face the Music”
which must be one of the youngest such ensembles in the country with an average age of maybe 12? They play a hugely eclectic and fun repertoire and at a lot of cool spaces. I teach theory/musicianship there and for the composition segments they are encouraged to innovate and cross over. For example for one harmony assignment they had a “pop song project” where they transcribed one of their favorite pop songs for classical ensemble and had to follow classical rules of part writing etc. I got Beyonce, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Pantera among others. I think we’re teaching them that being in classical music can mean a lot of different things and that the old categories no longer constrain people so much. I think we’re also taking the standpoint that the classical artist of the future has composition, improvisation, adaptation and open-mindednesss in their skill set. And we get to infect them while they’re young, (The school is called the Special Music School at Kaufman Center.)

And this, the last one today, from my friend Holly Hickman:

This is the type of programming that I think is HOT for orchestras (see below). It honors the past, yet is also relevant to today’s culture.
It’s unique, provides visual interest, is mixed genre, and just sounds fun. I would be there in a heartbeat. Kudos to Jason Weinberger and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra.

Here is a link to a blog post by Scott W. Smith, the guy who produced the multimedia part, describing the event:

And excerpts:

“Tonight the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert called ‘Kelley?s Blue’ that I had the opportunity to work on.

Part of the concert will be a 40 minute section featuring the music of Duke Ellington?s ‘Three Black Kings’ and George Gershwin?s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and visuals by artist Gary Kelley.

…My role in this concert came in the shooting and editing of 50 pieces of Kelley?s artwork that will be shown on a large screen for between 1,200 and 1,500 people.

…By the way, this won’t be your standard symphony concert tonight as conductor Jason Weinberger (a Santa Monica native who came to Cedar Falls via Yale & Peabody Conservatory) will also be incorporating music from William Grant Still and J Dilla (James Yancy), a Grammy-nominated record producer and one of the music industry?s most influential hip-hop artists.”

There’s a clear theme emerging in many of these projects — combining classical music with music of other kinds. Obviously something many people are thinking about, and doing. Part of the zeitgest, I’d say, even if major classical music institutions may not have caught up with it.

Other posts in this series:


Solutions II

Solutions III

Snow day solutions

Solutions, continued

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  1. says

    Hey Greg,

    Its my turn to proofread! Its Laustsen (without the extra T).

    I really love the Special Music School example. I think I’ll spend my evening reading through their website.


    Sigh. I stared so hard at the confluence of S’s, and the T, knowing how easily I could get it wrong. And — I should have copied and pasted! Sorry.

    The special music school is quite special, I agree. They have a performing ensemble of kids that plays some wild alt-classical pieces, and plays them very, very well.

  2. Bruce Brubaker says

    And then Greg I wonder if we can go so far as to say that “classical music” IS nearly always the taking of other musics and bringing them and their gestures and behaviors into the realm of highly scrutinized “art”? So, many of these new “combinations” really return to fundamental musicking rather than journey to a new address.

    What a good thought. And here’s a curious aspect of it that I’ve thought of. One large area of music we’ve brought under the classical heading is…European music before 1800, Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi, and all the other names we know. They had no concept of classical music, and wrote their music to be used. (To the extent that Mozart didn’t, his career was something of a failure.) But now we’ve imported it into our conception of classical. Your larger point goes way beyond this, obivioiusly.

  3. says

    This is not new–many musicians and composers have been doing this for some time. Back in the 1990s, combining styles in a classical concert format was happening. (Well didn’t Arthur Fiedler do this with classics, although ‘light classics’ and arrangements of popular tunes?) Lalo Schifrin, for one, wrote a crossover piano concerto to celebrate the 1992 500th anniversary of Columbus’ trek to the ‘New World’. How about Marin Alsop and her early ‘Metamorphosis’? For piano, I have combined Duke Ellington’s ‘New World A-Comin’ with the Liszt ‘Concerto no. 1’, and combine Leroy Anderson’s ‘Concerto no. 1’ or Keith Emerson’s ‘Concerto no. 1’ with Chopin in orchestral programs. For the new Trio21, we intend to mix styles, from Mozart to pop. I would like to see if composition students in the many conservatories would be inclined to compose in this ‘neo-contemporary’ style so the repertoire for soloists, mixed chamber ensembles and orchestras can be increased.