Classical music is easy

vf blog

Many of us think classical music is difficult, inherently difficult. That complexities of form and musical process aren't readily heard, without education in classical music, and that this is why people -- so many of them --  don't care to go to classical performances. But a survey conducted in March by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair suggests otherwise. You can read the results in the June issue of the magazine, the one with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. (Look for page 56.) More than 900 people all over the US were asked which type of music they … [Read more...]

Marketing the Met — a real strategy

hunger games blog

Maybe my last post -- about the new-audience strategy I don't think the Met Opera has -- looked a little theoretical. Or impractical. Or way out in left field. The Met's strategy, I said, evidently is to create buzz, and then hope the audience shows up. Instead, I said, they should go out and actively find their new audience, and then work overtime to keep the people they reach excited about what the Met does. Left field? Not at all. Just look at a New York Times story on the marketing campaign for the Hunger Games film! It's jaw-dropping. … [Read more...]

Peter Gelb and the missing strategy

met blog

Much has been written, and rightly so, about Peter Gelb's folly -- his moves to censor writing that strongly critiques his reign at the Met. As I'm sure most of us know, Peter got so much protest that he had to reverse himself. And there's much to discuss here. My take -- beyond all the strong points my wife made in her blog post (where my first link takes you) -- goes beyond the perils of suppressing discussion. What I'm wondering is whether, despite all his famous innovations, Peter really has a strategy for moving the Met into the future. … [Read more...]

Branding my students

fingerprint brand

This was one of the happiest times I've ever had as a teacher -- an exercise in my Juilliard course on the future of classical music, in which my students took some first steps in branding themselves. This worked so well that I have great hopes for the branding workshop I'll be teaching next week for professionals. (And -- by the way -- I've got enough interest to make a second workshop possible, if just a few more people sign up. Email me!) Here's what happened. Of course we're not talking about commercial branding -- slick slogans, snappy … [Read more...]

Video of that magical Faun

faun 13 blog

A video of the Debussy performance I raved about is now online, right here.  This was Afternoon of a Faun, danced by student musicians from the University of Maryland, while they play the music from memory. What moved me especially, as I watched the video, was the music. I should apologize for what I wrote in my earlier post. The playing, on the video, comes across far more touchingly than I said it did, even though I praised it. And the moments of not-quite-together playing I thought I heard near the start -- where are they? Now I don't … [Read more...]

My branding workshop is happening

blue and yellow brand blog

I'd blogged awhile ago about teaching an online workshop, about branding for classical musicians. And administrators, if someone wants to brand an institution. The response was terrific. I needed six people to make the workshop possible, and got them easily. Plus more who'd love to do it. Plus some in Australia, whom I'll count separately, because -- thanks to the time difference -- I'd have to teach them as a separate group. It's hard enough scheduling six busy people in the US, but to also include one or two from such a radically different … [Read more...]


liz lerman blog

If I'd known what I was going to see, I might not have believed it. Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun, played by the Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland School of Music, with choreography. But not choreography for dancers. Choreography for the musicians, who danced the piece as they played it (from memory), rising from the floor, flowing across it, falling, sometimes spinning, rarely grouped by sections, moving in ways organized visually, and also musically, with movements that began with the students improvising them. If someone … [Read more...]

My Shostakovich (continuing)

shos soccer blog

So I was listening to Jenny Lin's recording of Shostakovich piano preludes and fugues, and thinking back to my graduate school days, when Shostakovich was a nonperson among atonal composers. But, far more, I was hearing how vital the music is. Preludes and fugues seem like archaic forms, and you'd think anyone writing them in 1950, when Shostakovich started his, would have the weight of Bach bearing down on him. But of course the music doesn't sound archaic. It's the usual Shostakovich mix, which -- and I just love this about him -- … [Read more...]

Terrific pianist

Jenny blog

In my last post, I mentioned Jenny Lin, the terrific pianist whose Shostakovich preludes and fugues I'd been listening to. I should mention that she's played two pieces of mine, a fiendish little Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano, and (maybe equally fiendish) Short Talks, a set of piano pieces based on Anne Carson's poetry, in which the pianist also plays a drum. The Sonatina is fiendish because the first two movements have independent parts for the clarinet and piano, which play independent pieces that happen to fit together. (In the first … [Read more...]

My Shostakovich (1)

jenny shostakovich blog

I was listening to my friend Jenny Lin's strong recording of the Shostakovich piano preludes and fugues, and it made me think about my graduate study in composition at the Yale School of Music, from 1972 to 1974. And how Shostakovich was a nonperson. We never talked about him. He was bad. He wrote tonal music. Likewise Benjamin Britten. Like Shostakovich, he didn't count. In 1974 (after I got my degree) Britten's last opera, Death in Venice, played at the Met. It overwhelmed me. I saw the error of my (and Yale's) ways. (Funny: I'd sung in … [Read more...]