The Friday post


A passionate new music fan -- and donor to new music groups — in Washington has said, maybe wistfully, that the core audience for DC new music concerts is 50 people. That bears out what I've seen at DC new music events, and I'm sure others elsewhere in the US would say the same for their cities. But there's at least one big exception — Milwaukee, where Present Music has for 31 years been playing new music, and for much of that time to really large audiences. How do they do it? I'm going to be talking to their founder and artistic … [Read more...]

The Monday post

callas 1 blog

In the US, it's our Memorial Day holiday. So in my Monday Post I'll remember Maria Callas, the great, vulnerable soprano. And her audience! In this brief excerpt from a live performance of Bellini's Norma, Callas sings a gorgeous soft high C (not something she could manage every day) — and the audience audibly reacts while she's singing it. Which takes us back to the 19th century and earlier, when audiences routinely made their feelings known in the middle of the music. I apologize for not knowing which performance this comes from. I ripped … [Read more...]

The Friday post

human req blog

What we want to do is to show people that "classical" music is a living, vibrant tradition that is far from being the museum art of dead men played incredibly formally by people dressed very uncomfortably. That's a statement by Armano Bayolo, director of the Great Noise Ensemble, which might be Washington, DC's leading new music group. It's printed in the program book for the concert they gave a week ago. And this is the first of my Friday Posts, in which I'll pass on things that I've found out about, mostly things that show how quickly — … [Read more...]


ives fourth blog

On hearing all four Ives symphonies on a single concert (Spring for Music, May 10, the Detroit Symphony, Leonard Slatkin): The fourth, despite its bristling reputation — so much dissonance! needs more than one conductor! full of wild collages! — is the easiest to hear. Maybe some people in the old-line classical audience would find it difficult, but for anyone who swims in contemporary culture, it's a rapt and sometimes romping soundscape. You just sit back, and let it flow. The other symphonies, by contrast, will make most sense if you … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: New sheriff in town


On the musical frontier, all around the country, there's a new sheriff in town. Increasingly, many performing musicians, including several of my close friends and colleagues, are taking charge and instating a new order in the dual role of performing artist and concert presenter, in communities nationwide. People like cellist Zuill Bailey, who's building a nationwide franchise of imaginative chamber music festivals, transforming towns from El Paso, TX to Sitka, AK with a vision of bedrock-deep community engagement. Like pianist George Lepauw, … [Read more...]

The Monday post

symph hall blog

From Janet Baker-Carr's Evening at Symphony: A Portrait of the Boston Symphony Orchestra: During the first [Boston] performance of Brahms's Third Symphony the audience left the hall in hundreds.…During the last movement of the first performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 (1887) there were more people on the stage than in the audience.…[One critic] suggested that in case of fire Bruckner's Seventh should be played so that the hall would empty instantly. Do most of us know that new music could be greeted this way, decades before modernism? I … [Read more...]


s4m 2 blog

So who is Spring for Music for? If you go to the concerts, the answer seems obvious. This festival — which finished its third season at Carnegie Hall last week — features orchestras from around the US, some of which haven't played in New York before, or haven't done so for years. Their hometown fans (sometimes more than a thousand at a time) flood Carnegie Hall, waving colored banners. So that's who the festival in practice is for, the people who most visibly come to it, the ones who most clearly care. The hometown fans. But I don't … [Read more...]


detroit blog

Three posts, in reaction to Spring for Music, an orchestra festival at Carnegie Hall, now in its third and next to last year. I've been to only two of the concerts, because I no longer live in New York. But the one I went to last Friday — the Detroit Symphony, under Leonard Slatkin, playing all four Ives symphonies, which I very much enjoyed  — certainly made me think. So first my reaction to the concert's audience, to the Detroitness of the whole thing, because one feature of this festival is the excitement of the hometown audience for … [Read more...]

The Monday post

skok blog

Introducing something fun — posts every Monday with classical music surprises, often from our forgotten history. Today, two orchestra tales. When Leopold Stokowski was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra he somehow discovered that the Philadelphia police force had a motorcycle officer who was an expert xylophonist.  So he invited him to a children's concert and made him the centerpiece of a surprise charade. Stokowski himself opened the program with Mozart's Marriage of Figaro Overture. But he played it at a mile-a-minute clip — … [Read more...]

Two paths

OAE blog

This is a post about assumptions. We all make them. And we couldn't do without them. None of us approaches anything we do as some kind of blank slate. We have opinions, preconceptions, things we like and things we don't, and all of this colors everything we do. Even research. If you want to find a new audience for classical music, and do research to find how best to do that, the direction of your research — and even your conclusions — will blow with the winds of the assumptions you made at the start. To show what I mean, here are two … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: Walking the walk

LD Artist Sessions

When I walked onstage at Yoshi’s San Francisco last Wednesday night, it was with a completely new version of butterflies in the stomach. This time, after a lifetime of going onstage as a concert pianist, I was going on as a concert presenter, welcoming the audience as Artistic Director to the very first program on my new series The Artist Sessions. I was launching the series with the West Coast release party for my new CD Exiles' Cafe, and I'd invited the genre-bending Quartet San Francisco as my guests, along with a co-host, Rik Malone from … [Read more...]