Though I’ve been known for many years as a critic, most of my work these days involves the future of classical music — defining classical music’s problems, and finding solutions for them.
To find solutions, I’ve worked with individuals and institutions, often as a consultant, sometimes as a friend, often as a speaker (keynote speeches at conferences, commencement addresses at Eastman and the Longy School of Music). I teach at Juilliard– I’m on the Graduate Studies Faculty — and I’m doing a project at the University of Maryland, in which I’m working with students at the music school there, to develop concerts that can appeal to people their own age.
And one of my most important projects is my book, Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music. I’ve been rolling out versions of it here on this blog, and also directly by email, to people who subscribe to my updates. You can find everything I’ve written so far here. To subscribe, just send me an email with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.
The book’s title tells you what I’m saying in it — that classical music won’t die, that instead it will be reborn. It’ll reconnect it with our larger cultural life, and become a truly contemporary art. The changes needed, before these things can happen, will be major, but they’re already under way. I’m tremendously helped in this work by a network of people honeycombed throughout the classical music business — musicians, composers, orchestra managers, administrators, marketers, radio broadcasters, publicists, teachers, students, members of the audience, critics, and more — who think that classical music needs to change. It’s amazing how many of these people there are. They aren’t necessarily in touch with each other, and many of them may underestimate how many like-minded people there are. But their number, as far as I can see, is growing, and I’m expecting a tipping point in the not very distant future, when suddenly people with strong ideas for change find themselves in the majority
When I was a critic, I wrote about classical music for the Village Voice, when it was the leading weekly paper in New York, and also for a variety of other publications, especially the Wall Street Journal. And I also wrote about pop, for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Entertainment Weekly, where I was first music critic, and then senior music editor. You can read much of my writing on my undergoing-a-redesign website (and does it ever need the redesign).
I’ve also been a composer, and once even was a singer (bass-baritone; my biggest operatic roles were Balstrode in Peter Grimes, and Alberich in Das Rheingold). I’ve revived my composing career, and it goes very well when I focus on it. I’m not doing that now; I’m concentrating on my book. To hear my music, and see my scores, go here.
In my private life, I’m happily married to Anne Midgette, the extraordinary chief classical music critic for the Washington Post. We live partly in Washington (where we just bought a terrific apartment in Adams-Morgan), and partly in Warwick, NY, a peaceful town about an hour north and west of New York City, where some years ago we built a lovely house. If you Google me, or read my Wikipedia entry, you might find that for a while I was involved in UFO research. I’d call myself a believer who demands scientific proof, but that’s a story for another time. Right now I’d rather talk about the future of classical music.