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...]

Rafa says no

Rafa opening his stocking

My little son, two years old, was taking CDs off the shelf where we keep operas. Looking at each one, and handing it to me. One he took down was the old Joan Sutherland recording of Rossini’s Semiramide, with Marilyn Horne, and Richard Bonynge conducting, I don’t think I’ve heard it since it came out in 1966, when I'd eagerly awaited it  — I was, and still am a big bel canto fan — but then was disappointed. Too many cuts, I thought. (I was a snob about cuts.) And apart from Sutherland and Horne the singers weren't great. Even Sutherland … [Read more...]

With best holiday wishes!

Xmas card for blog

To everyone who reads the blog, everyone who comments, all our guest bloggers, anyone who happens to see this — my best wishes for a warm and happy holiday season, and a terrific 2014. Changes have been gathering force in classical music, and I hope we'll all track them here, with hope and joy. My warmest thanks to everyone in this blog community, and everyone working for classical music's rebirth. We're all in this together, and together we can work miracles. I'm grateful to all of you. … [Read more...]

Brush the issues aside

doc wallace blag

Here's a thought from my friend and Juilliard colleague David Wallace, a violist, composer, teaching artist, and — as Doc Wallace — a Texas fiddler. And much, much more. His subject? All the issues he, I, and so many others thrash out, about classical music, its problems, its future, its place in our culture. Everything discussed in my blog. At some point…but let David tell it: At some point, self-marketing that surfs the "What's wrong about classical music wave, and why I'm not that" is going tobe blown away by marketing that simply … [Read more...]

American Voices, footnotes and letdown

was blog

Followup to my post on Renée Fleming's American Voices festival at the Kennedy Center (which featured classical, pop, jazz, country, Broadway, and gospel singing): Pop, jazz, and classical singers have some of the same problems. As I said in my previous post, I couldn't attend the masterclass for classical singers, which Eric Owens taught. But Anne (Anne Midgette, my wife, who did attend, and reviewed the festival for the Washington Post) said he told the students not to pump out a big operatic sound, but instead to build meaning from the … [Read more...]

The walls are coming down

ben folds blog

That's a phrase you might have seen me use, when I've talked about closing the gap between classical music and the rest of our culture. But the person who said those words at the Kennedy Center in Washington the weekend before Thanksgiving ago wasn't me. It was Renée Fleming, who of course is one of the most famous classical musicians alive, and who's knocked down walls herself by recording albums of jazz (here, here) and even indie rock. She used the phrase at the Kennedy Center because she was knocking walls down again, this time by … [Read more...]

Instead of a press release…

press releases blog

A colleague teaching an entrepreneurship course at a major music school emailed this question: I’m planning my entrepreneurship class for the spring and I used to have an exercise (using your blog actually) that required students to write a press release. This now seems kind of futile to me, since press releases, well, they are so analogue. Do you have any ideas about what I could replace this with? I like the notion of students having to publicize (and articulate) their projects. Blog post? Personal letter? Here's how I answered: You're … [Read more...]

Again, where’s Greg?

Colburn blog

It's been liberating, I have to confess — not writing the blog for a bit, while I keep up my intense travel schedule. New York (from Washington) every week, and then, from the second week in October, a trip to DePauw University to continue my work with the music school there, a trip to Dubuque to help a community music school evolve a strategic plan. And then Boston to speak (twice) at a conference (and serve on a panel). And last week DePauw again, and this week Los Angeles. There I'll be joining Doug McLennan, founder of ArtsJournal and my … [Read more...]