From a Washington Post review of Mark Minkowski's new recording of Haydn's London Symphonies, on the Naive recording:Want to be surprised by No. 94, the "Surprise"? Minkowski borrows a joke from the Hoffnung Music Festivals of 50 years ago: When it is time for the famous fortissimo, the orchestra delivers exactly -- nothing. And that really is a surprise, although not the one Haydn intended. So Minkowski plays the lead-in to the "surprise" again, and this time the orchestra shouts instead of playing. Only on the third go-round does the music … [Read more...]

Banging some music

As an important adjunct to my posts on this year's Bang on a Can marathon -- this post and this one -- I should add that what in the end makes the event so fabulous is the music. Without music that people want to hear, no crowds, no year after year success, no event. Of course, just because large crowds enjoy this music, that doesn't mean the music is necessarily good, that you'd like it, or that I'd like it. But I've always liked it very much. Not every piece; of course not; life doesn't work that way. But overall I'm happy to hear what shows … [Read more...]

Why salsa dancing is good for us

I've liked the response so far to my idea that Carnegie Hall's top management -- if they're going to bring the benefits of classical music to minority communities (see my posts on this, here and here) -- might also bring some minority music into their own lives and work. By, for instance, learning salsa dancing. You can take my idea, if you like, as a tongue in cheek allegory, but here's why it might be more serious than some people might think. One of the issues involved here is white vs. non-white culture, and involved with that is the … [Read more...]

Strange and interesting people/music

From the Bang on a Can marathon's program book (see yesterday's post about this year's marathon):What is it about the world we live in? It's full of strange and interesting people. And all the strange people of the world make strange and interesting sounds, some of them beautiful, some of them dark, some of them welcoming, some of them very rude. In this world we also have a lot of filters to separate the sounds into categories -- we say disco or classical or ez jazz or mainstream or experimental and we immediately know what kinds of sounds get … [Read more...]

Never gonna happen

Yesterday (in a post called "Missionary Work") I quoted passionate testimony about what's actually a pretty famous piece of classical music outreach -- a joint Berlin Philharmonic/Carnegie Hall project to bring Stravinsky's Rite of Spring to "inner city youth" (in the words of the passionate statement). This is a parade it's painful to rain on, because kids were dancing to the music, and classical music people who watched them were quite literally in tears. "This music is and must be for everyone," said Clive Gillinson, who runs Carnegie Hall. … [Read more...]

Seeing the future (again)

It's hard for me to go to the annual Bang on a Can marathon, as I did yesterday, and not get impatient with the classical music world. We talk and talk,.and talk and talk, about finding a new young audience, and there -- at the marathon, in the Winter Garden in downtown New York, a big and friendly space where palm trees grow (tall ones) -- was that very audience, more than a thousand people, sitting happily, listening to new music of many kinds. including, while I was there, one 40-minute piece (Fausto Romitelli's Professor Bad Trip) that … [Read more...]

Missionary work

Yet another post -- or the first part of one -- on why classical music people should respect pop music, and shouldn't think classical music is by nature superior to it. This starts with something I read on the League of American Orchestras' Orchestra R/Evolution blog. This was in a post about (among many other things) whether classical music is "millionaire's music," and -- since it shouldn't be -- how it might reach further into our communities. Here's the part that caught my attention:The Berlin Philharmonic came to New York and embarked … [Read more...]

Long, challenging, instrumental, beatless

Previously, in this series of posts: a piano teacher talks about how much independence and creativity kids in bands have. The subject of this series is attitudes toward pop music in the classical world, and how a disdainful attitude isn't just wrong, but hurts classical music. Here's the second installment, posted by Kate Nielsen in her blog God Help Me, I've Started Blogging. Earlier in the post (full disclosure here), she says nice things about me. Thanks for that, Kate, and thanks especially for emailing me to tell me about your post. What … [Read more...]

Walmart teacher? (Pop/Classical, first footnote)

I predicted my last post would stir up a storm, and it did. I linked to my latest book riff, in which I rough my way through half the chapter in my book in which I'm going to refute the myth of classical music superiority. And now I hope those who think I'm beating a dead horse will, first, read the comments on the post, and see that the horse -- the belief in classical music's superiority, especially over pop -- is alive and foaming at the mouth. Such anger, from people who want to put pop down! Such disdain!  And, I must say, such … [Read more...]

The myth of classical music superiority

Aka a new book riff, or half of one -- the first half of the chapter in the book that fights the idea that classical music is better than other kinds of music. And especially that it's better than pop. (I can imagine the outrage! Maybe we'll have another visit from AC Douglas, showing us why he needs to do some work on anger management.)Not that everyone isn't free to think, on a personal basis, that classical music is the best music, which in the end means the best music for them. But to argue that it's the best music that exists, as if such a … [Read more...]

Collaboration — beginners, audience, and professionals

What follows came today as a comment on my post about pieces a whole community can play, from my friend John Steinmetz. It's well worth sharing with everyone. And it's another solutions post. I especially like John's descriptions of the pieces he's written, where professionals collaborate with the rest of the world. I'd love to hear them -- and watch them on YouTube. John ends, by the way, by saying he'd like to see more examples of these collaborations. So would I! Send them in, via email or blog comments, and I'll post them here. Since James … [Read more...]

“Revolutions are NOT begun by the Establishment!”

On the League of American Orchestras' Orchestra R/Evolution blog, I posted something that won't exactly take my regular readers by surprise. I suggested that the most important thing orchestras can do is to see themselves as those who don't go to orchestra concerts see them. Or, more broadly, to start functioning in the larger culture that classical music fled from over the past two generations. I got a wonderful response in a comment from Rick Robinson, a bass player with the Detroit Symphony. I'm posting it here with his permission. Eloquent, … [Read more...]

Subway series

This came in a comment to one of my solutions post, from Katy Clark, the Executive Director of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, in New York. Thanks, Katy! I feel free to post it here, because as a blog comment, it's already public:I'd love to have more reports, from more people.Here's what Katy wrote. It's another solutions post:Orchestra of St. Luke's just did a project that might be of interest here. As an Orchestra that has always been itinerant, this year we decided to do a musical "Subway Series". Five free concerts over five days in the five … [Read more...]

Things that worked

Worked, that is, to reach an orchestra's community. Or simply to make an orchestra more attractive to people who might go to its concerts. A solutions post. And also a crosspost from the League of American Orchestras Orchestra R/Evolution blog.Play music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers. Delta David Gier did this in his first season as music director of the South Dakota Symphony. He wanted to play new music, a lot of it, but understood that his audience might not be as excited about that as he was. So he got the idea of featuring, on … [Read more...]

A piece for the whole community

Another post I made to the Orchestra R/Evolution blog, again suggesting a way for orchestras to get more involved with their communities. Here it's another "solutions" post. Does anyone know Britten's marvelous opera, Noye's Fludde? It's the story of Noah and the ark, with a text from a medieval mystery play. And it's written for the musicians of an entire town to perform. Noah and Mrs. Noah need to be trained singers, Noah ideally an accomplished professional. The voice of God is a speaking part, and thus can be done by a community personality … [Read more...]