While we debate orchestra finances — or re-re-re-redebate them — the classical music world is changing. Changing quite a lot, I’d say.
For instance: a press release arrived this week, announcing this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in New York. The first highlight cited is an exploration of birdsong, featuring three Messiaen concerts (Messiaen, of course, since he’s the most prominent composer who loved and used bird songs). Plus preconcert birding tours in in Central Park, and a sound installation at the Park Avenue Armory.
This isn’t traditional Mostly Mozart fare (obviously), though in recent years the festival has moved in precisely this kind of direction. Nor is this typically what classical festivals do. Instead, it’s the kind of thing the art world does, which is to say that classical music is moving here to join the rest of the arts, developing its own kind of contemporary outlook.
The other highlights? A 12-part Schubert focus. Mark Morris and his dance company, doing Dido and Aeneas. (Of course not in traditional style.) And seven world premieres — musical ones, I mean.
Earlier, I got a press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, announcing next year’s season of classical concerts. Or what used to be classical concerts, traditional style. This is a venerable series, going back many decades, and until recently it was straight-down-the-middle classical, about as traditional as classical concerts get. But the museum hired Limor Tomer, a concert and radio producer with a long track record of doing new things, and the big event next year — the one most strongly featured on the press release — will be a year-long residency by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, a composer, multimedia artist, writer, and DJ.
What will he be doing? I’ll quote the press release:
In addition to five major performances, he will host a number of panel discussions, conversations, workshops, and gallery tours for audiences including New York City public school teachers, Met Museum curators and educators, young people, and the general public. Among the performance events are a newly commissioned work inspired by the upcoming exhibition Photography and the American Civil War; a concert inspired by Oceania’s musical legacy; a performance of DJ Spooky’s original re-score to the Korean film Madame Freedom with a film screening; and a participatory concert using DJ Spooky’s iPhone/iPad app.
This is the core of next year’s concert series. Again, hardly traditional classical stuff.
What else will happen? Patti Smith opens the season, with a salute to Andy Warhol (in conjunction with a show at the museum). Then there’s Tan Dun’s adaptation of The Peony Pavillion, a traditional Chinese opera (in conjunction with a museum show of Chinese garden imagery). A celebration of Charles Lloyd’s 75th birthday. (He’s a jazz sax legend.) Holiday concerts featuring David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion and Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus.
And then performances of all the Beethoven string quartets. But clearly, clearly this isn’t a traditional classical series. As if I had to say that again!
And this is just the proverbial iceberg’s tip. There’s much more, not all of it in New York.
One last point. Nobody’s doing these performances to reach out to a wider audience. They’re done for the best possible reason — because the producers of these events like to do these things. It’s a taste they share with their wider audience (meaning not the traditional classical audience, but other people oriented toward the arts, with more contemporary taste).
And since I mentioned Limor, let me also give a shout to Jane Moss, Lincoln Center’s Vice President of Programming. She’s done amazing things.