Catching up (2)

Some things I've been thinking about....(And I'll have to add more in another post. Note that I'll be on vacation for a few days, and won't be able to post any comments till next Monday or Tuesday.) First, and most exciting, Terrance McKnight (and also here), the new host and programmer of the "Evening Music" show on WNYC, New York's public radio station. He started on March 3. I've been fascinated, over the many years that I've been commenting on the future of classical music, to see that future emerge. Fascinated, and delighted, too. I … [Read more...]

Comments will be posted!

I apologize to everyone who posted comments on my last few posts, but who hasn't seen their comments appear on the site. As I've often noted here, I have to approve each comment, because of the vast -- truly unspeakable! -- amount of spam that arrives. And since I like to reply to comments, I usually wait to post comments until I have time for the replies. Now, though, things have gotten out of hand, and I have a backlog. I do apologize, and the neglected comments (for which I'm grateful) will be posted shortly. … [Read more...]


My thoughts on professional music education - what schools should emphasize Hope for the future - what I told my Eastman class: My courses this spring - at Juilliard and Eastman - are about the future of classical music. You can read the Juilliard syllabus right here, and in fact I'll happily invite you to do that. (The Eastman course is the same, but much shorter. If you're curious to see how I abridged the Juilliard schedule, go here.) You'll find you can read everything … [Read more...]

Catching up

Well, it's been a whirlwind. Frequent readers - and my thanks to all of you - will have noticed that I haven't been posting much. Ever since January, my life has been a mashup. I've been back and forth between New York and Rochester, teaching at Juilliard and Eastman. I've been spending time in Washington, DC, with my wife Anne Midgette, who's been doing spectacular work as classical music critic with the Washington Post. I've been working with the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, helping to get their audience talking to them. (I'll be there … [Read more...]

A serious problem (interlude)

Here's something lovely and true about popular culture, from A. O. Scott's New York Times review of a new movie, Be Kind Rewind. In this film, a video store loses its stock, and - so they'll have something for their customers to rent - the staff of the store remakes classic movies, in their own homemade way. Which leads Scott to write: Commercial pop culture is, too often, understood as a top-down enterprise, its expensive, disposable products passively consumed by the public. And yet at the same time that stuff is capable of inspiring a … [Read more...]

A serious problem (2)

I said I'd talk about a Dana Gioa speech in this post but instead I'm going to spend some time (in this post and the next) with other things that classical music people - and arts advocates - wrongly say about pop culture. Maybe some of this might seem a little bit arcane, but remember: These are the ways that the high-church crowd keeps popular culture at bay, or tries to. So all their arguments have sharp (though hapless) teeth. Some years ago, a very fine classical music critic with a major newspaper told me that pop musicians "take no … [Read more...]

A serious problem

I want to write about something serious, something which - I think - is one of the most serious problems facing mainstream classical music today. And it's this. Classical music organizations are eagerly doing outreach and education, trying to rebuild the audience and cultural clout that they used to have. These efforts are passionate, intense, and deeply committed. The people engaged in them love classical music with all their hearts, and believe - again with all their hearts - that other people can love it, too. But there's one step they … [Read more...]

Pop vs. classical

This is a big subject. We've discussed it here before. (Here, for instance.) I myself don't like the "vs" part, since I enjoy pop and classical music more or less equally, with no thought of pitting one against the other. But I can see that many people don't think that way. In a recent discussion in my Juilliard class on the future of classical music, some of the students defined the value of classical music by saying that it was spiritual, or that it had a great range of emotion. I realized that in saying these things, they were also making … [Read more...]

A hidden cost of classical music

My last post sparked some lively discussion, including interesting comments from Ryan Tracy, who runs the Counter Critic site. One thing Ryan said left me thinking. He named (almost wistfully, I thought) Ani DiFranco as an example of an alternative rock figure with a small audience, and offered the hope that classical music, too, could accept small performances for relatively few people. Which of course -- in a way -- it always does. One quick (and crude) take on Ryan's point might be that classical music, compared to pop, is a niche genre, … [Read more...]

Solutions (first of an occasional series)

Problem: How to attract a young audience Solution: I've written about this before, here and here. You can almost infallibly attract a younger audience if you combine classical music with indie rock. (I'm assuming, of course, that you do this well -- that you choose the right indie bands, and produce the concert in the right way.) The London Sinfonietta proved this years ago, and (in the first link, above) I've talked about Wordless Music, a concert series in New York that also offers proof. Last year, their first, they offered just a few … [Read more...]

Holiday warmth

First and most important -- best holiday wishes, warmest holiday greetings, to everyone who reads this blog. I'm grateful for your interest, your support, your disagreement, your e-mail, and your comments, whether on my side or not. As many of you have been kind enough to say, we've had some good discussions here, and I'm sure they'll continue through 2008. Next year should be interesting for me. (Understatement!) As many of you know, my wife, Anne Midgette, is going to be interim chief classical music critic for the Washington Post, replacing … [Read more...]

Age of the audience, once more

Myth: The classical music audience has always been the age it is now. A lot of people still believe this. But -- as regular readers here know -- I've discovered that the myth isn't true. Reality: The audience used to be much younger. Source for this? Studies done in 1937, 1955, and the early 1960s, combined with statistics the National Endowment has been compiling since 1982. I've never seen any data -- any at all -- that supports the myth. Of course I've posted on this subject before, here and here. But now I've gotten something new. In … [Read more...]

Unasked questions

Now the New York Times has joined the New York City Opera party, adding "new details" (it says) to the story that just surfaced in an AP story, on the Parterre Box blog, and in one of my own posts about incoming director Gerard Mortier allegedly cancelling the 2008-9 season. The Times story has one curiosity. Mortier, reportedly, doesn't like City Opera's past productions. Asked about that, he says he might keep some of them, including Jonathan Miller's famous Little Italy Rigoletto, "which [says the Times] he called 'a famous production,' … [Read more...]

City Opera update

ArtsJournal had a link today to an AP story, which ran in USA Today. So my item on the company's startling plan was right on target -- the company really might cancel is 2008-09 season. City Opera's board chairman Susan Baker spins the thing very smoothly, making it sound like the most natural thing in the world, as if singers' managers (if we believe what Parterre Box reported) weren't being stonewalled when they ask about their artists' contracts for next year. Not that USA Today seems to have asked about that, though Parterre Box (which … [Read more...]


Stockhausen just died. I've always gotten a big kick out of his music. And I think -- maybe controversially -- that he's been underappreciated in the classical world, and found his most important fans outside it. How could he not be appreciated in the classical world, when any history of music after 1945 will tell you that Stockhausen and Boulez were the two kingpins of the European serial and post-serial avant-garde? In the '60s and beyond, everything Stockhausen wrote was recorded and released by Deutsche Grammophon. There were many books … [Read more...]