Images in a dream

I have to smile when I read that Mahler's Ninth Symphony uses, however distantly, familiar structures like sonata form. To the extent that I hear those structures, they loom like the silhouettes of ruined castles, dimly seen in a fog. Because there's nothing stable in this piece.As I was sorting CDs in our DC apartment, I found Roger Norrington's recording of Mahler's Ninth. I was curious to hear it. I know Norrington has recorded lots of Mahler, but I've never heard any of it, and was curious to hear how his typically objective approach to … [Read more...]

London revelations (3)

Previously: the London Symphony presents alt-classical new music, to a giant audience...the Guildhall School of Music and Drama teaches classical music students to improvise, has them work with actors, and does research on what professional music education (and music-making) really means. And now...The RoundhouseThis terrific performing arts center -- which, back in the 19th century, was a place where steam locomotives turned around -- is, where music is concerned, essentially a pop music space. But it also presents classical music, and … [Read more...]

London revelations (2)

Guildhall School of Music and DramaI was invited to visit Guildhall, and was greatly impressed by three things:Every classical music student is required to study improvisation for two years, with two more years optional. The only other music school I know of that requires improvisation, for classical students, is DePauw University, in Indiana. If there are others please let me know!Classical music students work with actors and (if I remember rightly) teachers from the drama school, on their stage presentation.The school has a research … [Read more...]

London revelations

Second way that the UK might be ahead of the US:The London SymphonyI've known for a while that this orchestra has mastered social media, in ways that most orchestras haven't. For one example of their wonderfully personal approach, see this post from their tour blog. But what really knocked me out was their embrace of the music I call alt-classical. During my visit, I went to a concert curated by Gabriel Prokofiev, maybe the leading alt-classical figure in London, a composer, DJ, and creator of a record label and club night called … [Read more...]

Why they might be ahead

Why -- very tentative thought, here -- the UK might be ahead of most of us in the UK, as we move toward classical music's future.First: posters. Maybe I shouldn't read too much into this, but I just loved some posters I saw for classical music events. For instance this, from the London Symphony (rough photo, which I took from my iPhone): So much fun, so personal, so impossible to resist. And -- to say the least -- two very serious artists. And note the text, not easily readable in my photo. Uchida says:"A desire to experience music is … [Read more...]

Fun in England

After six whirlwind days in England, I get the idea that they're ahead of us in some ways, as we all move toward the future of classical music. But more on that in another post. First, the now-famous debate I took part in (famous, to judge from the media/online/Twitter mentions of it). The proposition being argued, at the Cambridge Union Society, was that classical music is irrelevant to younger people. I was one of four people taking the affirmative side, and -- when the audience, mostly of Cambridge University students -- voted on which … [Read more...]

Black-tie splendour

I'm using the British spelling in honor of my hosts at Cambridge University.And of course I'm talking about what the male participants will be wearing, in the debate I'm taking part in, in Cambridge on Thursday, May 12, under the sponsorship of the Cambridge Union Society. But the content is surely more important than the dress. What we'll debate is the relevance of classical music to young people. I'll be arguing that it isn't relevant -- or, at least, not without extensive changes. Go here for details.But then my loyal readers surely … [Read more...]

Cost squeeze — further thoughts

Lying behind almost all the difficulties classical music has (and especially orchestras) is growing lack of interest. I'm fascinated to see that I'm not the only one saying this. It's just about become a mantra, when classical music trouble develops. It was cited, for instance, as one cause of the New Mexico Symphony bankruptcy, the end of the Syracuse Symphony, and the drastic decline of freelance work for classical musicians in New York. Or, to use the words people involved with these things used: In New Mexico, the orchestra suffered … [Read more...]

A bridge to the future

That's what I said -- in my talk at New England Conservatory -- that the graduating students are. It's their generation who'll build that bridge. And, so importantly, can also build a bridge to the world outside classical music. They can do that because they live in that world. In so many ways, they're just like others their age who don't play classical music, or listen to it. They share the same culture. So if they can't build a bridge to the outside world -- and specifically to people their own age -- who can?That's one key part of what … [Read more...]

Trust the young

I've taken my title from Tony Woodcock, the President of New England Conservatory, who used the phrase in his blog, and right at the start of something he wrote for a lively NEC student publication, The Penguin. (So named because the penguin -- because of classical music's white tie and tails -- is NEC's mascot.)And in The Penguin he says the phrase is now his mantra. Remarkable, I think, for the head of a classical music school. He trusts the future of classical music to his students. He knows they'll change the field. And he's helping … [Read more...]

The cost squeeze — expenses

As I noted before, the orchestra cost squeeze is truly a squeeze. Or, in other words, it's not a flat phenomenon, a simple matter of income declining, because ticket sales and donations are falling off. No, it's got another dimension: expenses are rising. And the falling income/rising expense squeeze gets worse over time. Previous posts: the overall situation, declining ticket sales, declining donations. Here's the rising expenses part of the story.Expenses rise, first of all, for all of us -- businesses, nonprofits, … [Read more...]

The cost squeeze — donations

Some years ago, a major figure in the orchestra world told me a story. Foundations, he said, were losing interest in funding orchestras. So he and a colleague went to an annual foundation gathering, to try to stir up some interest. At this gathering, he said, anyone could invite foundations to a meeting, to discuss funding projects. Normally, he said, 20 to 30 foundations would show up whenever one of those meetings was called.So he and his colleagues invited foundations to talk about funding orchestras. Only five or so came -- a … [Read more...]