When opera was popular

I've heard people say that the Met Opera live screenings in movie theaters show that opera is popular. I don't quite see that (the people who come are older, and the Met's data show that virtually all have been to an opera before). But even if the screenings did demonstrate some kind of opera popularity, it would be a very modest, very watered-down kind. Compared, that is, to what we'd see if we traveled back 100 years, to the days when classical music ruled unchallenged both in high and in popular culture, and when its audience was … [Read more...]

Classical Music in an Age of Pop

That's my Juilliard course on the future of classical music, which I teach every spring, on Wednesdays. You can go to the class webpage, and see the full schedule, as well as all the assignments. Which, if you're interested, or curious, you can do yourself. All the reading and listening can be done online. The course this year -- at least for me -- has been bedeviled by weather. Now that I don't have a NYC apartment (as one change in my life created by my fulfilling NY-Washington lifestyle), I have to come into the city from my place in … [Read more...]

Quotation of the day

A footnote to yesterday's post on the classical music aura, from Richard Pevear's introduction to the rightly acclaimed new translation of War and Peace (which he made in collaboration with Larissa Volokhonsky):The first thing a reader today must overcome is the notion of War and Peace as a classic, the greatest of noveIs, and the model of what a novel should be. In 1954, Bertolt Brecht wrote a note on "Classical Status as an Inhibiting Factor" that puts the question nicely. "What gets lost," he says of the bestowing of classical … [Read more...]

The classical music aura

Shortly I'll resume my posts about culture (aka how classical music hasn't kept up with the rest of it). And I'll respond to some of the comments. But here's something that struck me on Friday, when I was making my last post, about the composition/conversation contest hosted online by Southwestern University. (If you follow the link, scroll down to find out what the contest is, and how it works.) If you read the post, you'll remember that I got excited about a video of a Hermann Prey performance, in which the spirited … [Read more...]

Conversation contest

This hard-to-resist photo -- taken at the French Cultural Center in Khartoum, Sudan -- is an entry in a photo contest, for photos showing conversations. It's a semi-finalist, a contender for the prize. But let me backtrack, because I'm part of this. The photo contest is a spinoff from a symposium held every year at Southwestern University, near Austin. This year's topic -- the dates are February 23 to 25 -- is salons and conversation, and I'll be taking part, first as part of a salon discussion titled "Arts - Sciences - Religions: Conflict or … [Read more...]

Culture change 2 — Hide/Seek

This past weekend I went to the see the now-famous -- or should that be notorious? -- Hide/Seek show at the National Portrait Gallery, the show that offers images of gays and lesbians in American art from the 1880s to the present. It's notorious, to some people, anyway, because under pressure from religious groups and the political right, a video was removed that showed, however briefly, ants moving on a Christian cross. But that's not what i thought of when I saw the show. I thought about the history of gays, their hiding in past … [Read more...]

Joyful noise, troubled silence

That's the title of a very fine piece of writing on the current state of classical music, written by Brian Wise, an editor and producer at WQXR, the classical music station in New York, and posted on the WQXR website on December 26. I've just caught up with it. (Thanks, Brian, for sending me the link!)It's full of things I didn't know, and you may not either, most notably some stats that show the steep -- even drastic -- decline in the number of performances some of our largest classical music institutions are giving this season. Which fits … [Read more...]

A death in my family

My cousin's husband died today, a man I was close to. He died peacefully at home, after being diagnosed with stage four cancer some months ago. He was a physicist, who worked for years in Los Alamos. Over the past few years, now retired, he devoted himself to art, taking studio classes and doing marvelous work. I'll resume my posts on culture change on Monday. Today, in Carl's honor, i'm going to write some music. Bless him -- he was a fine spirit, and both his devotion to art and the fine work he did were inspiring.  … [Read more...]

Culture change 1 — Glee

I said in my last post that I'd start blogging about changes in our culture that spell trouble for classical music -- because classical music hasn't kept up with them. And I thought I'd start with Glee, the hit TV show about high school singing groups. Out of curiosity (on my own, I'm more likely to watch Project Runway, Caprica or The Walking Dead), I went on Hulu and watched an episode ("Special Education," which aired November 30). And I liked it. But not only that. I thought it threatened classical music. A little … [Read more...]

Into the new year

Back from my holiday. Refreshed. And, with any luck, focused. Hope you all had good holidays, and happy new year, everyone! Hope it's a good year for you, for me, and for classical music.In in the past, I've begun new years with a post I'd often call "Where we stand," in which I'd sum up the evidence for trouble in classical music. Here's a revision of one of those posts, which I've used as an assignment in my spring semester Juilliard course on the future of our field. (More on the course when it begins, on January 12.) This year … [Read more...]