The new New York audience (more)

An email from Marian Skokan, publicist at Lincoln Center, helpfully reminds me that their White Light festival, earlier this season, is designed to draw the same kind of new audience the Tully Scope festival did, as I've been describing in recent posts. (Here and here.) By which I mean people who don't normally go to classical performances, but do go to these festivals. These two festivals are the two bookends, fall and spring, of Lincoln Center's flagship Great Performers series. Which means quite a notable change in how Lincoln Center is … [Read more...]

Shrink or diversify?

Continuing from two days ago (and apologies for not delivering the post I advertised for yesterday)...The Tully Scope festival lasted from February 22 to March 18, and offered 13 concerts, ranging from mainstream classical events (Emmanuel Ax playing Schubert, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlighenment, with Roger Norrington conducting C.P.E. Bach). And early music (Jordi Savall and Les Arts Florissants). And six events featuring new music (sliding over into alt-classical, in one case featuring a star from a hot local indie band). Which is a lot … [Read more...]

So satisfying

A wonder. An epiphany. A piece of the future. I'd heard good things about Lincoln Center's Tully Scope festival, but hadn't gotten to any of the concerts. So I made sure to go to the last one, this past Friday, where two long pieces by Heiner Goebbels were played by two substantial British ensembles, the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. And -- leaving aside for the moment anything about the music -- the wonder, epiphany, and piece of the future was (crossing my fingers) the audience. Here we had a … [Read more...]

Why I haven’t…

...been blogging. Because I've been on vacation, a blessed vacation, in Barbados. Great place to go -- no crushing poverty, as on many other Caribbean isles, and no private beaches! You can sunbathe right in front of the most exclusive hotels, if that's what you'd like, or (better choice) on the beach right next to the hotels, with nobody on them. There's not an inch of beach on the island that anyone can bar you from. And they have monkeys. Blog posts did show up here while I was gone, because I wrote them in advance. But then, when … [Read more...]

Something I love

It's an art piece at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But not by an artist on display. Instead it's by someone on the museum's staff, the Senior Library Assistant, Rachael Morrison. The piece is called "Smelling the Books." Morrison has been working her way through all the books in MoMA's library, smelling every one, and recording the smells in a handwritten journal, which we can read on the web. "Used bookstore, faint smokey smell." "Late summer rain, old paper." "Dusty attic, under the couch." These descriptions are precise … [Read more...]

Objections to Michael Kaiser

In a previous post, I linked to one of Kaiser's blog posts, in which he forthrightly says that popular culture is more fresh, daring, and inventive than what happens in the arts. So people might object to this. I won't bother with objections from people who think pop culture is worthless. I'm tired of those debates. But one key objection might be that terrific, fresh, daring things do go on in the arts, but just mostly not at the big institutions, Kaiser's own Kennedy Center among them.That's a fair criticism. I've been excited, for … [Read more...]

Looking for mavericks

wieden lobby blog

This was the first in what turned out to be a long series of posts, in which I and many readers highlighted people, groups, and institutions making new departures in classical music, doing things in new ways. This wasn't even close to a complete list, but it was an exhilarating start, especially because this information simply isn't available. Classical music has been changing at an almost explosive pace, and yet most of the changes happen just below the radar, maybe talked about in the media here and there, but never catalogued, so there's … [Read more...]

Opera acting footnote

Forgot, in my earlier posts about opera acting, to mention Carlo Bergonzi, one of my dearest, most loved opera actors. Which is interesting, because on stage he was more or less a lump. I remember seeing him late in his career in Ballo at the Met. When he first entered, you'd be forgiven if you wondered if he even knew he was on stage. Or supposed to be acting.Then he started to sing, and (especially if you knew the opera) you'd be mesmerized. Such truth, such revelation, such honesty, and such moment-to-moment acting detail in his … [Read more...]

Gerald Klickstein: Music education and entrepreneurship


“To be a musician in the service of music is not a job; it is a way of life.”    –Isaac Stern, violinist (The Musician’s Way, p. 299) The music education community is swirling with talk about how best to prepare university-level students for modern-day careers. And for good reasons. The music business is undergoing economic and technological upheaval, and many musicians and colleges are struggling to adapt. Actually, some musicians appear to be thriving – those with entrepreneurial mindsets. Entrepreneurial Musicians Entrepreneurial … [Read more...]

Support for pop culture

Silly title for a blog post. Since, after all, the whole world swims in popular culture. It's only in the arts that people seem to have trouble with it. So, following on my post about art (and art-making) spreading into popular culture, and in fact into our whole society, here are endorsements of more or less that concept, from prominents arts people. Michael Kaiser, who of course runs the Kennedy Center (and is maybe the most prominent arts administrator in the US) said in his blog that the arts can't compete with popular culture, … [Read more...]

Four keys to the future

Japan Photos

Here, as promised, are the key things we need to do, if we're going to give classical music a future. When I wrote this, I was thinking of people who present classical performances. But I think it applies to all of us — for instance, to people who write about classical music, for whom the last point might be rejiggered as "write vividly." But enough introduction. Here's my manifesto: We’re in a new era. To adapt to it, and build a new audience, here are four things you should do: Understand and respect the culture outside classical … [Read more...]

Erica Sipes: Words before Winterreise


[From Greg: A followup to Erica's guest post yesterday, about the performance of Winterreise she did in a small town. Here she tells us what she said before the performance, to introduce the piece to an audience that doesn't know classical music. This may be the best introductions to a classical piece I've ever seen, including all that I've made. An inspiration, in my view, for us all.] Ed and I are so glad that you have joined us here today.  I’ve had the opportunity to perform this incredible set of songs before but I was struck today, as my … [Read more...]

Democratic pop

When -- at the Southwestern University symposium I've blogged about -- I said what I outlined in my last post, I got some pushback. One academic on stage with me said, rather pointedly, I thought (and she had every right to speak pointedly, if she wanted to), that it wasn't a good idea to equate artistic worth with popularity. Is that what I got because I said good things about popular culture? There's an ingrained belief among some reasonably large number of arts people that popular culture is, basically, defined by commercial success. … [Read more...]

What art is

Here's something I said at the Brown Symposium at Southwestern University, a gathering I raved about in my last post. What I said wasn't a formal presentation, since there weren't any, in the conversations I was part of. But it's what I wanted to add to the discussion. Our moderator, for the symposium on "Ethics, the Arts, and Public Policy" posed some questions we might want to address. (He was Paul Gaffney, Professor of Theater at Southwestern, and dean of their Sarofim School of Fine Arts. And also quite a fine actor, to judge from how … [Read more...]


Last week I had a lovely time at Southwestern University, in Georgetown, TX, near Austin. I'd mentioned earlier that I was taking part in their annual Brown Symposium, and judging a composition contest that was part of it. And now it's over. This was the 33d Brown Symposium, titled "Think -- Converse -- Act: The Salon and Its Histories." Three days of concerts, lectures, and discussions, plus a gallery show. The lectures, three of them, were about the history of salons, fascinating stuff, delivered by expert academics. My role, apart … [Read more...]