Wrong family

I got a press release by email from the Philadelphia Orchestra, announcing among other things a "Free Neighborhood Concert," to be given on Dilworth Plaza outside Philadelphia's City Hall. And to quote the release:Program includes:Glinka Overture to Ruslan and LyudmilaTchaikovsky Excerpts from Swan LakeSibelius FinlandiaBizet Excerpts from CarmenBernstein Overture to CandideAn evening of favorite classics for the whole family! Which made me wonder what kind of family they had in mind. The one I thought of was a family from the 1950s, the kind … [Read more...]

Passionate cause

As long as I'm giving space to people who disagree with me, let me give AC Douglas a shout. When he last commented here, on June 22, he put the old debate about the comparative value of pop and classical music in what, for him, is its most important context:It's NOT a question of "best" or "better-than". It's a question, rather, of comparing the artifacts of two essentially incommensurable aesthetic hierarchies which can "no more be compared than one can compare, delectable-wise, the proverbial apples and oranges on the same delectability … [Read more...]

Comments restored

I've restored the comments I deleted by mistake. It's a rough and ready restoration -- links, for instance, are no longer clickable in one comment (though the URL is there, so you can copy and paste it).But the comments are back. As I've said many times, they're an invaluable part of the blog. … [Read more...]

Mea culpa

I was deleting spam comments, and -- due to slip on the touchpad -- deleted some real ones as well. I've checked, and there's no way to bring them back. That's one of the annoyances about the Movable Type software we use on this blog, but later for that. Right now I apologize. This was my fault, and valuable comments disappeared.I can restore them in another way, though. I get email notifications of every comment that appears, with the full comment text. I'll take the vanished ones, and either make them a new blog post, or (a better idea) new … [Read more...]

Old story

Of course I know that Cathy Shefski's book -- and my post on it -- take their place in an ongoing cultural debate. New culture vs. old culture, high culture vs. popular culture, traditional hierarchies vs. newer thinking. The notion that piano students are better off writing their own music, or making arrangements of pop songs, instead of practicing a Beethoven Sonatina -- that's going to set some people off, people who think Cathy and I are throwing away any hope of quality. And while (as I said) I'll mostly refrain (or maybe entirely refrain) … [Read more...]

Terrific book

My online friend Catherine Shefski has written a terrific -- and important -- book. It's an ebook, not very long, called Go Play, and it's about piano teaching. I'm going to be very direct about this: everyone should read it. First, consider Cathy's subtitle for the book: "Motivating a New Generation of Pianists and Other Young Musicians."And now read her introduction:"Go practice."These words no longer mean anything to our piano students.They are growing up in a world where instant feedback is the norm and random access to information has … [Read more...]

A great honor

Some years ago, out of the proverbial blue, I got email from Trish Brandt-Robuck, who breeds llamas. She'd bred a gorgeous little baby llama, completely black, and wanted to name him after a black opera singer. Children often visited her llama ranch, she told me, and she liked to give her llamas educational names. Was there, she asked, some black male opera singer, whose story would be something the kids could learn from?I suggested Roland Hayes, not an opera singer, but a deep and masterful recitalist, and supremely important in the history of … [Read more...]


In my last post, I talked about the music criticism course I teach at Juilliard. One thing that happens in the course is that I bring recordings to class, and ask the students to describe what they hear in them. This is an exercise in, very simply, describing music.And I included a link to the music I was going to play in class on Wednesday, which I didn't identify. I didn't tell the students what it was, either. Then I offered -- well, not really a challenge, more like a curious inquiry. Would readers of the blog care to listen to the music, … [Read more...]

Describing what we hear

Today -- Wednesday, the 15th -- my Juilliard class in music criticism starts. This is a graduate course, which I've been teaching for years. You can go here to read the overview I give the students, describing what the course will be about, and here to see the detailed, week by week schedule, which includes links to all the reading and listening assignments. As the overview explains, it's not a course on how to write criticism, or how to be a critic. Instead it's about what critics do, especially looked at from a musician's point of view. But … [Read more...]


Three more things I'm doing this fall, beyond the Maryland project I described a few days ago. First, of course, there's the graduate course I teach at Juilliard, which in the fall is about music criticism. The first class is Wednesday. Shortly I'll post a link to the web page I'll make for the students, so you can see what the course is about, and, if you like, do all the reading and listening. Then early next month I'll travel to the midwest (that's the American midwest -- I mustn't forget that I have international readers). There I'll begin … [Read more...]

About comments

A reminder about comments on this blog. I have to approve them before they show up online. That's not because I'm going to censor any, but because many spam comments appear, and some, on my blog and others  -- a number of months ago -- almost brought down the ArtsJournal site. The details of that are a long story. But the upshot is that the captcha process -- in which you'd identify words in a graphic, to prove that you're a human being, not spam-sending software -- was defeated by the spammers, and comments have to be approved.This can … [Read more...]

Launching my year

As the fall gets under way, yesterday I spent the day at the University of Maryland at College Park, starting this year's work on my project there, which is to work with students at the music school, encouraging and helping them to find an audience their own age. The most obvious place to look, of course, is on the College Park campus. I met with some of my collaborators on the faculty and at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, and talked to all the students in the school's symphony orchestra, whose wonderful conductor, Jim Ross (one of … [Read more...]

Speaking for herself

More music I loved this summer: Maya Beiser's new album, Provenance, on the Innova label. If you know her playing, of course you want to hear the album. She's a soulful cellist, to say the least, and powerfully so. She wails. But there's also always a marvelous sense of both exploration and control. This album is based on a vision of medieval Spain as a place where cultures coexisted -- Christian cultures, Jewish cultures, Muslim cultures. And so the music evokes the Middle East, with haunting pieces by composers from Iran, Armenia, Israel, and … [Read more...]

Lang Lang sounds like Beethoven improvising

Back from vacation. Always a little bittersweet, coming home agai, because home means the tumult of work. Many people wonder how I keep up with everything I have to do, and that's a good question. I find myself getting more organized, or rather having to get more organized, and rising as best I can to the challenge. Using Gantt charts in project management software is my latest way of keeping track of time, future time, in this case. It's endlessly helpful, with too much to do, to have projects, trips, and major milestones laid out on a … [Read more...]

Old book

My book: Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music. For a while I unfolded it bit by bit online, posting drafts, or improvisations, or riffs on what the book might say. My idea was to promote the book, and to spread the ideas in it around. To get reactions to the ideas, and to how I put them. This was invaluable, but I was never happy with how the book unfurled. It seemed like something improvised, not like something planned, something with structure and a goal. The oldest versions of the book are still online. They're thoroughly superseded … [Read more...]