Cabaletta indulgence

A caricature of Donizetti

A surprise in Anna Bolena -- the same melodic climax shows up in both the slow part of one duet, and in the cabaletta. As far as I know, that's unique in the bel canto repertoire. To understand more what I mean (and, by the way, the duet is the one for Enrico and Giovanna in the first act), just think of the delectable way of shaping dramatic scenes that just about defines the music of bel canto opera. Every musical/dramatic unit -- an aria, an encounter between two people, a mob scene for the entire cast -- will fall into several sections. … [Read more...]

From another age

An early performance of Anna Bolena

What follows is long. But I didn't try to cut it down. It's about bel canto opera, which I love with a wild passion. It might be my favorite kind of music. So I just let myself go.  This -- my indulgence, my blogger's sweet tooth -- is all you might have from me for a few days. I'll be traveling to see family.  Anna Bolena, opening the Met Opera season, was pretty much a dud. And though that's not what I want to focus on here, I can't help thinking of another prominent Met production, last year's Die Walküre, which was also a dud. More or … [Read more...]

How I can help you write and speak

taking my course

I've mentioned that I'm thinking I should launch a business, in which I help people to write and talk about music. At the end of this post, I'll offer links to previous posts that touch on this, in various ways. But for now, in advance of any formal launch of the business, let me lay out the outline of what I can offer. First: who might benefit? People who want to be music critics, and would like to work on how to describe what they hear. Musicians, who want to talk more effectively at rehearsals, or talk more effectively to audiences, … [Read more...]

My book, improved

Rebirth, my book

Here's a revision of the first chunk of the final version of my book, Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music. After the end, I've said why I revised it. With examples, which maybe will help those learning to write.  I think this post is important, because the book is important. We all -- me included -- need a map, a guide to what's happened to classical music, and to where it's going. Many people have said that they want that. For years I've tried to provide it. And now (knock on wood) I'm providing it.  What follows is just the beginning. … [Read more...]

Beautiful musicians

Christopher Small and Neville Braithwaite

I love these photos -- there's another one on an earlier post -- of Christopher Small and his partner. As I said in that post, the two men radiate joy. And, as I wrote, Small was a joyful voice, looking toward the future of classical music. Here's a site with many tributes from him (including one from me, which you can also read in my earlier post). And here's another tribute: Erica and I have been reading "Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening" by Christopher Small. Mr. Small challenges his readers to consider leaving … [Read more...]

What I’m teaching today

taking my course

Today is the second meeting of my Juilliard graduate course on music criticism. I've blogged about the course before. Follow the link for details. But because there's been so much interest, maybe I'll go week by week, and say what I'm teaching. One thing I do each week is play music, and ask the students to describe what they hear. That's because a big focus of the course, as I've said here before, is learning to talk about music better. For me that means talking more precisely, more evocatively, more accurately, and in a more personal way. … [Read more...]

Another workshop

Workshops on writing and talking

I know I'm neglecting other things I might post about. But this subject seems pretty hot. Patience, if it's not your cup of…shot of…[fill in your favorite hard or soft beverage; I'm partial to bourbon]. This post is about a workshop I taught for the Pittsburgh Symphony. I'll be posting on other subjects shortly. Prelude (about how I've worked when I teach how to talk and write about music): A few [people in a workshop I taught] were timid…but when I teach something like this -- and very definitely in my Juilliard course on music criticism -- … [Read more...]

A workshop I’ve taught

Workshops on writing and talking

More on writing/talking about music, because as you'll see in another post, I'm inspired to start a business in which I help people do those things. In the past, I've taught workshops on these subjects. Here's one of them. I'll talk about others in future posts. Center for Arts Criticism, Minneapolis I did this workshop in the  '80s. I had 15 or more people to work with, both pop and classical critics. My method: We read Greil Marcus's famous chapter on Elvis, from his first book, Mystery Train (one of the classics of rock criticism), … [Read more...]

Talking about music more

Talking about music

Such an endless subject, how to talk about music. But also something we can all make progress on. There are so many things to say about how to do it well. Here's something I wrote to one of my Facebook friends, Ana Cervantes: I think there are four things to emphasize in teaching how to write about music. First, being very clear and honest and personal about what you hear. Second, talking about music -- describing music with speech. Much more direct than writing! Third, reading good writing about music. Which isn't necessarily by music … [Read more...]

Talking about music

Talking about music

Such gratifying response -- here, Facebook, Twitter -- to my thoughts about my music criticism course, and especially the part about learning to talk about music better. Seems to be something many people feel is needed. (If you read my post about the course,  you'll see that talking about music is a big part of it.) So, more thoughts on all of that. I said in my post that it's important to be both objective and subjective. To describe, as accurately and vividly as you can, what you hear. And then to say what you think/feel about … [Read more...]

A thought

taking my course

Some people have said they wished they could take my music criticism course. Conceivably, I could teach a version of it online. How that would work would have to be figured out. Maybe there could be a two-week immersion in what I teach. But I'm open to any ideas. I could do individual tutorials, too. And I'm available to visit schools, or other places, to speak about criticism. How can I help? Let me know! … [Read more...]

My music criticism course

George Bernard Shaw

The fall moves onward. I've relaunched my blog, my website (need to do a little work on it!), and my book. And today my Juilliard course started. This is a graduate course about music criticism that I've been teaching for many years. You can read the same course overview the students get, and the same class schedule. On which you'll find all the assignments, with links, so you can sample the reading and listening the students will do. I have to say that the response I got to this on Facebook really warmed my heart. Students who took … [Read more...]

A man to honor

Christopher Small and Neville Braithwaite

In the chunk of my book I posted here, you'll see I talk a bit about Christopher Small, a man we can't honor too much. I was saddened to learn that he died last week, aged 84. I wish I could find another photo of him I once had, sent to me years ago by a friend.  On the left is that photo, showing Small and his partner, Neville Braithwaite. Radiating joy. (My friend read the post, and resent the picture. Thanks, Susan!) Small was a profound and humane writer and teacher, whose three books are essential reading for people who care … [Read more...]

First chunk of the book

Rebirth, my book

[changes made since I first posted this] Late Friday night, maybe a little bit under the radar, I relaunched my book, Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music. I put a substantial chunk of it right here, at the end of this post. Shortly I'll make it available as a PDF download. Future plans? I'll keep posting chunks, until I have enough to sell as an ebook. I'm thinking there will be more than one ebook, and then maybe a larger, full-length book compiled from all of them. Not that I'd turn down a print publisher. But that's the future. … [Read more...]