One last thought…

...about the dead-horse essay I've been beating. The writer of this airy document, Heather Mac Donald, offers this notion:[Perceptions of a declining audience demand for classical music in our time], however valid, should be kept in historical perspective. Much of today's standard repertoire was never intended for a mass audience--not even an 1820s Viennese "mass audience," much less a 2010 American one. I've seen many people make this point. The reasoning, I guess, would be something like this: Classical music has never had, and was never … [Read more...]

The poor dead horse

To wrap up what I've been doing in this post, this one, and this one (dispelling some optimistic silliness about classical music's present state and its future)...I'd been enumerating the reasons given, if you follow the link, for classical music being not just healthy, but in a golden age. Those I've listed so far are: Performances are better (more technically accomplished) than they've ever been. Performances are more faithful to the composer's intentions. The early music movement has brought new energy to classical music. Classical … [Read more...]

Still in the clouds

Continuing (with apologies for letting it drop yesterday) my catalogue of reasons why Heather Mac Donald thinks classical music is in a golden age. Here's her essay to that effect, and here and here are my previous comments on it. And even if Mac Donald's essay is, essentially, fluff, remember that some of these arguments are made by others, too. I'm finding it helpful to put a lot of my answers to classical music optimistts in one place.Mac Donald's first argument was that performances are better than they've ever been. And from there, more … [Read more...]

Off in the clouds

So here are the main points made in the essay I talked about yesterday -- the main points as I think the author sees them, rather than the serious holes in both her data and her analysis that I noted in my post. This, remember, is an essay on classical music's new golden age, a golden age that the writer, Heather Mac Donald, thinks is happening right now. Anyone who doesn't agree, apparently, is a "declinist," to use the very cloudy term Mac Donald throws around, apparently applying it to anyone who thinks classical music might be in trouble. … [Read more...]

Cockeyed optimist

People have been sending me links to an optimistic view of the future of classical music -- an effusive essay that even says we live in the greatest age classical music has ever had. This is "Classical Music's New Golden Age," by Heather Mac Donald (that's really how she spells her name; the space after "Mac" isn't a typo), appearing in the summer 2010 issue of City Journal, a quarterly journal of urban affairs published by the Manhattan Institute. Of course I take a different view, and one person who sent me the link said, wittily, that Mac … [Read more...]

More that I said… Australia. This finishes my paraphrase of my keynote talk at the Australian classical music summit, as summarized from my notes. The story so far (you can read the first part here): our culture has changed, but classical music for decades didn't change with it. This is why the field is in trouble, why we're seeing declines in ticket sales, a sharp drop in the percentage of adults who go to classical performances, drops in funding, and other declines. Implications of all thisFirst: If classical music's problems are due to how far it … [Read more...]

What I said in Australia

I've said I gave a keynote speech at the Australian classical music summit, but I haven't said much more about my presence there -- here or here -- because what they did, I thought, was more important than what I did. But, for anyone curious, here's what I said in my talk. I'm paraphrasing myself from notes, and giving just a summary. Often I record my talks on my iPhone, but I didn't do it this time, and no other recording was made. Added later: Forgot to say here that -- in my talk -- I stressed that my thoughts were only about what I've … [Read more...]


Today I had the pleasure of talking for an hour with a group of journalists from Siberia and Central Asia -- Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. They asked (in Russian, through an interpreter) terrific questions about classical music in the US.(This was arranged by CEC ArtsLINK, which arranges exchanges of many kinds involving arts people from Russia and surrounding regions.)The question I found the hardest was a simple one. Which new or recent American classical piece did I think was most important? For a moment I blanked, and then four … [Read more...]

Six foot six

Peter Garrett -- formerly the hard-to-forget lead singer for Midnight Oil -- is Australia's Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and  the Arts. He's hard to forget because he's at least 6'6" (one Internet source says seven feet), imposingly bald, and, when he was a rock star, impassioned. Now he's a seasoned politician. He spoke at the Australian classical music summit I've been blogging about (scroll back to see). He dressed informally (open shirt, no tie; don't know if that's a rock thing, an Australian thing, or a Peter Garrett … [Read more...]

Deeper in Australia

More about the Australian classical music summit, where I gave a keynote speech, and which I started to describe (the summit, not my speech) here. The hard work of the summit was done in five working groups, on these subjects:advancing the repertoireadvocacy and researchaudience building [two working groups on this subject]community and regional developmenteducation: school and communityeducation: professional and studio ["studio" means private music teaching]mediaGo here for a summit document, with details on these groups. It's another example … [Read more...]

My brother in arms

The following -- a terrific classical music manifesto -- comes from Ken Nielsen, one of the founders of the wonderful Pinchgut Opera in Sydney, Australia. This is a company so happy, internally, that its chorus volunteered to raise money for a production they didn't sing in. And don't be misled because they call themselves a chamber opera company. They currently perform in -- and sell out -- a thousand-seat house. Ken reads my blog, and posts comments. He and I have emailed for a number of years, and it was a treat to meet him -- along with his … [Read more...]

Australian high

The peak of my Australia visit -- I got back on Friday night -- wasn't the warm hospitality so many people offered me. Or how seriously people took what I had to say, when I spoke to two groups in Sydney, and one in Melbourne. Or, for that matter, eating kangaroo, which I would have thought would be an absurd visitor's stereotype, but which Australians really do, and highly recommend. (It's leaner than beef, and kanagaroo feed has a lower carbon footprint than cattle feed. I found it on a Chinese takeout menu; it was tender and tasty.)No, the … [Read more...]

Ending the bias

Finally, about the flagrant pro-classical bias in the music Pulitizer prizes...(go here and here for my previous posts on this)...There really is a problem -- and I believe the powers in charge of the Pulitzers would agree -- because the top nonclassical artists aren't nominated for the music prize.What would change this? Beyond, of course, the absolutely essential, long-overdue change in the guidelines that I called for in my last post. Well, I'd support affirmitive action. For the next three years only give the prize to nonclassical music, … [Read more...]

While I’m away

Until I get back from Australia on July 17, I can't guarantee that I'll post or reply to comments every day. I'll do some blog posts. But if time is tight, and I don't get to the comments, I do apologize, but that's just how it is. I value the comments, and will do my best to post them as soon as I can. Apologies to all who post something, and have to wait a bit before seeing it online. … [Read more...]

Clear case of bias, round two

Here's where this started, with some thoughts on the Pulitzer Prize in music, and how, though theoretically it's open to nonclassical music, in practice almost all the awards (and all of the runners-up, who almost got the awards) are classical. One measure of how bad this is: If you look at the winners and runnersup during the past decade, many classical composers who normally wouldn't be ranked in the top tier of their field show up on the list. While almost none of the top names in rock, jazz, and other nonclassical genres are there. Clearly … [Read more...]