Sandwiched in

mustaine blog

On April 12, the fabulous trash-metal guitarist Dave Mustaine — founder and leader of Megedeth — played with the San Diego Symphony. Two movements from The Four Seasons, Summer and Winter, and Bach's "Air on the G String." The link takes you to the Symphony's page on the event, but you can also read a feature article on the concert here. Mustaine might also have joined the orchestra for the "Ride of the Valkyries." As we'll see, they were a little coy in advance about whether that might happen. I'd assume it did. Too good an idea to pass … [Read more...]

Voice of a generation

Cobain blog

So now a followup to my post two days ago, in which I said that arts marketing won't reach a younger audience unless it treats the arts as popular culture as equals. Here's a further exploration of that. Not a how-to, but more about the point of view we need. A couple of weeks ago, the pop music critic of the Washington Post, Chris Richards, had a nice piece about Kurt Cobain. Not only was Cobain the voice of his generation, Richards said. He was also a seminal guitar player, so distinctive and so central to the music that came after him, … [Read more...]

Time to join the wider world

world blog

Sometime this fall, I expect to give a talk at an arts marketing conference. I was asked for a title and summary of what I might say, and came up with what follows, aimed at younger people who might be attending. "Time to Join the Wider World" was my title, and I think it's a concept that applies not just to the arts in general, but very strongly — very strongly — to classical music. How I happen, at age 70, to find myself on the younger side of a generational divide is a story worth telling sometime. Assuming, of course, that I myself … [Read more...]

Behind the veil

behind the veil blog

A week ago, the fabulous opera blog Parterre Box ran a study of the Met Opera's shaky finances. Which was by far the best thing I've read on the subject, and the kind of reporting we don't see nearly enough of in classical music. The writer was Dawn Fatale. Which of course isn't his real name. (Or hers, but most likely she's a man.) Not to go deep right now into the exuberant Parterre Box opera queen culture, but the doyenne of the blog, James Jorden (one of the sharpest observers of opera around), goes by La Cieca, a character in La Gioconda. … [Read more...]

Falling in love

camarena 2

…with a Mexican tenor, Javier Caramena. Not a young tenor. He's 37. Just making his Met Opera debut this season in La Sonnambula. But just watch and hear him sing "Una furtiva lagrima." In my last post I'd longed for the far-gone days when Mario Lanza sang without holding back, with full passion, without an overlay of classical-music respectability. I said I longed to go back in a time machine to be in a world where people did that, and where a large, popular audience responded. Caramena gives me that time machine. Well, not really. … [Read more...]

Why I cried

great caruso blog

I cried last weekend, when I watched The Great Caruso, the Hollywood film about Enrico Caruso's life, released in 1951, and starring Mario Lanza. I cried — spoiler alert — because of how unfettered Italian opera was when the film was made, and also for deeper reasons I'll get to, reasons that help explain why I do the work I do. But about the movie. It might be easy to dismiss, if you haven't seen it (or for some people, sadly, even if they have) as Hollywood fakery, sentimental and factually wrong. Caruso didn't die onstage (as he's shown … [Read more...]

Red herring

red herring blog

I blogged a month ago about an outburst of crisis denial — two highly emotional attacks on the idea that classical music faces a serious crisis. I commented only on the emotion, thinking that later I might rebut the arguments. But I lost interest in that. Seems like a distraction from what I think ought to be our main job, which is finding ways out of the crisis, a collaborative job that's spontaneously being taken up by people all over the western world. (Maybe Asia, too, though I know less about that.)  As someone who runs an iconic … [Read more...]

Hidden history

applauding

"A Young and Lively Audience: The Hidden History of Classical Music." That was the title of a talk I gave last week at the Doctoral Forum, a lecture series at Juilliard. The talk is now online, and you can listen to it. The title was meant to be provocative, of course. I talked about two things: how young the classical music audience was in past generations, and how lively the audience was in past centuries, reacting audibly while they listened, and applauding the moment they heard anything they liked. (Go here for a page on my blog site … [Read more...]

Crossing over

go go blog

There's a lot of buzz in classical music these days about community — reaching out, if you're a performing group, to the community you're in, involving the community in what you do. There are endless examples. The Cincinnati Symphony has been doing "One City, One Symphony" events, involving  a gala performance of a piece (they started with Beethoven's Ninth), and listening parties around the city, all built around the theme of "our common humanity." (The link goes to a Huffington Post piece about the project, since, incredibly, the orchestra … [Read more...]

Teaching

stavreva blog

My Juilliard course on the future of classical music is well under way, with a terrific group of students. Including four violists, which makes me wish we were giving a concert. Thirsting to hear music — maybe write music!  —for viola quartet. Such a sumptuous sound. I've offered to teach a shorter version of this course online, if enough people are interested. And we're almost there! Contact me if you'd like to join in. You can see what the Juilliard version of the course is about with these two links, to the course overview and to … [Read more...]

High Anxiety

anger blog

Emotions are running high. That's what I thought when I read the reactions of two writers I know, to the piece in Slate that I commented on here, at the end of last month. This was the piece that exaggerated classical music's troubles, with a title, graphic, and perky one-liners, all of which said that classical music wasn't just troubled, but was actually dead. You can read my reaction to see my own view, which is that classical music is plainly not dead, and that we need to be far more precise in talking about what its problems really … [Read more...]

Don’t say it’s dead

slate dead NO blog

There's been a lot of fuss online about a piece that showed up on Slate, about the death of classical music. Well, maybe it meant to be about the decline of classical music, and certainly included a strong array of facts and figures, more than I've usually seen in writing on this subject, no matter what point of view the writer take. But because the headline on the piece was "Requiem: Classical Music in America Is Dead"…because of the graphic I've reproduced here, which led off the piece (and which I've crossed out, because I disagree with … [Read more...]

The moral of the story

yesno blog

The moral, that is, of my critique of the Chicago Symphony's "Sounds and Stories" online magazine. It so badly disappointed me. Great idea, for an orchestra to provide the kind of classical music coverage we don't find these days in the media. But why make it so deadly dull? So drastically out of touch with the kind of lively media people find everywhere else? I was being interviewed by a British journalist about "Sounds and Stories." That's how I happened to look at the site, though I'm sure I would have looked at it on my own, sooner or … [Read more...]

Such a disappointment

CSO_Sounds___Stories blog

A British journalist wanted to interview me about the Chicago Symphony's  new "Sounds and Stories" online multimedia magazine. So of course I looked at it. And I was so very sadly disappointed. What a good idea, I thought, to launch an online magazine, so people interested in the CSO or in classical music can read things they'd never get in standard media, where classical music is covered less and less. From the moment I got the CSO's press release about this, I was cheering for them. But what they've done, I'm so very sorry to say, is … [Read more...]

Classical music in an age of pop

juiliard blog

That's the course I'm teaching at Juilliard this semester, as I have every spring since 1997. Which means I've been teaching this course — about the future of classical music — for 17 years. Which of course also means that there's been concern about the future of for 17 years. I gave a talk at Juilliard in 1996 as part of their Doctoral Forum, about classical music's future, and that lead to an invitation to teach the course. (I'm giving another Doctoral Forum talk next month, about the classical music audience, past and present. But later for … [Read more...]