The Friday post

Last week, when I talked about Jed Distler’s piece for grand piano and 128 keyboards, I neglected to say that it’s part of a terrific one-day festival — happening today! — called Make Music NY, which advertises “over 1,000 concerts on streets, sidewalks, and parks” in all five boroughs. Go here for links to what they all are.

And Distler’s isn’t the only massive one. There’s a piece by R. Murray Schafer, for 144 singers in rowboats and 11 trombones on shore, unfolding on the lake in Central Park. Plus 21 other mass extravaganzas like Distler’s, for so many instruments, cellos, toy pianos, guitars, you name it, all open to anyone who plays. Music by the people!

What a wonderful festival. Which — hint, hint, hint — any classical music organization anywhere, any orchestra, any opera company, any ensemble, could organize some version of, in any city or town anywhere. Maybe not on Make Music New York’s scale, but you could do it! Thereby bringing fun and (in an age when “community, community” seems to be the mantra for everyone in classical music) bring musical joy to your area, thus moving you closer to everyone you’d like to reach.

Very neglectful of me not to mention the full festival. If my friends who publicize it had berated me, I would have eaten humble pie.

And let me not forget: NPR has a role in this, a followup to what they did last year, when they commissioned Philip Glass to write a choral piece to be sung by anyone who showed up in New York’s Times Square.

This year, they’ve brought installation artist Eli Keszler together with So Percussion, to create a piece that’s partly played on the Manhattan Bridge, one of the three bridges connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Which of course fits in with Joseph Bertolozzi, a composer I mentioned last week, who’s already done a piece with a bridge, and now is creating one to be played on the Eiffel Tower.

Classical music these days — and for many decades, actually — takes many forms, many of which you’ll never encounter in the concert hall. So let’s get the concert hall people out in the streets, out in the countryside, making and hearing all the music available!


tao blogMore briefly, 18 year-old pianist/composer Conrad Tao organized a three-day UNPLAY festival, in Brooklyn, which happened earlier this month. The programs were new music, probing, edgy, fun.

Again I apologize — I should have mentioned this before it happened. I’m mentioning it now, not just for how good it must have been, but because Tao records for EMI (follow the link above to find out about his album), a major classical label, and they were promoting his festival. So here we have the newest stuff possible, stuff that, once more, you’ll never hear in the formal classical concert hall, infiltrating the mainstream. Times are changing.

Tao, by the way, is one of the musicians on the Artist Sessions series Lara Downes produces, which she blogged about here.


And finally, Cynthia Johnston Turner, who conducts wind ensembles at Cornell (just one of the many things she does), is one of the people Google picked to explore Google Glass, the new technology which gives you glasses you can use like a compute, to get information displayed right in front of your eyes, or — and here’s where it gets interesting — to film/photograph/record whatever you see out in the world.

Here’s what Turner wrote me about it. She, just like all of us, can’t be sure what might come from what she’s going to do, but it’s certainly new, and potentially stunning:

You might be interested to know that I’m one of the Google Glass “explorers”–chosen to experiment and report on what Glass can do. My ideas range from wearing them during concerts and project live stream what I see as the conductor to the audience. Similarly, giving Glass to a musician in the ensemble during a concert. We also have ideas for teaching conducting (embedding a metronome, a condensed score, etc.) A small team consisting of me, an IT specialist, and an undergraduate music major/technology fan has been assembled to do some research. There is a new blog if you are interested. We are also linking it from site. Google is interested in the research and we are crowd-sourcing ideas.

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