Dreamer, with music by Jimmy López (the opera Bel Canto and text by Nilo Cruz (a Pulitzer winner for the play Anna in the Tropics), was commissioned two years ago by Cal Performances in Berkeley. In those two years, of course, quite a lot about the situation of the Dreamers has changed, and, as reporter Michael Cooper found out, that changed the piece itself.
With the appointment, Hope, a virtuoso soloist who also directs other ensembles as concertmaster, becomes New Century’s fourth music director, following Stuart Canin (1992-99), Krista Bennion Feeney (1999-2006) and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (2008-17.)
“Chad Smith, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s chief operating officer, … will take over in Ojai for Thomas W. Morris, who is retiring in 2019 after 16 years in the position. Smith will continue to serve in his post at the L.A. Phil while beginning work with Ojai’s 2020 music director, Matthias Pintscher.”
“[The work] is hung on a musical frame. But more saliently to most audiences, perhaps, it is religious, it is social, it is political. … Maybe the technical term for it all is simply this: groovy.” Peter Dobrin considers the new recording of Mass, released for the Bernstein centennial, by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra (and a whole lot of others).
“Little colored bubbles float ever higher, growing larger as they rise toward the sky. People drift into a circle of six towering screens, wearing high-tech 3-D holographic visors, like moon-walkers taking their first steps in an alien atmosphere. They reach out their arms and use their thumbs and forefingers to pinch the air in front of them. Each time they do, new bubbles appear, and each one emits a single, precise musical tone. The tones combine and dissipate; there is the sound of crickets chirping, and waves of white noise. This is Bloom: Open Space.”
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is thought to be the first professional orchestra in the world to form an ensemble of disabled musicians. The group is led by a disabled conductor, James Rose, who has cerebral palsy.
Austin, which has been struck by a series of handmade bombs in the last few weeks, is on edge, so when the promotion company Live Nation said it had gotten an emailed bomb threat, the police took it seriously. They “scoured the area around the Fair Market venue, where a ‘Bud Light x The Roots & Friends Jam’ showcase was scheduled for that evening, and found no threat. But Bud Light opted to cancel the event.” A suspect for the threat (but not for the other bombs) was later arrested.
Oh: “‘Southern folk music’s overwhelming dominance — for all its championing by non-Southern liberals — also subtly reinforces the ‘heritage not hate’ defenses of the Confederate flag and other antebellum and pre–civil rights nostalgia,’ Josh Garrett-Davis, the Gamble assistant curator at the Autry Museum of the American West, wrote recently. This cultural rebranding began after the North withdrew its troops, and the South, in destroying the apparatus of Northern occupation, played down slavery, and played up history and states’ rights.”
It’s been 50 years since the massacre, and since Hugh Thompson and his helicopter crew stopped it from being far worse. Now, as the opera plays around the country, traditional Vietnamese instrument expert Van-Anh Vanessa Vo explains why it’s so important. “As a child in Hanoi, Vietnam, Vo learned about the My Lai Massacre in school and uses instruments made out of old artillery shells in the opera, which she described as a memorial to the murdered civilians as well as Thompson and his crew.”
They tried to have a panel about it during SXSW. But even the panel showed the problem: “Issues surrounding sexual harassment and misconduct are one of the greatest challenges facing not only the entertainment business but the culture at large. Yet the single most topical panel at SXSW, an event that attracts more than 70,000 registered attendees over its 10-day run, was relegated to one of the Austin Convention Center’s smaller meeting rooms.” And most attendees of SXSW were at booze-fueled parties at the same time. What’s next?
Not in the way you might expect, though. “Everyone seems so excited by the fact that music is more accessible, people can find new artists more easily and it’s cheaper, without focusing on the potential negatives, not least of which is that idiots can more easily listen to your favourite music.”
Basically, women with money donate gowns, and the students at Juilliard get to go “shopping” when the racks of designer wear come in. The students “are expected to be outfitted in fancy attire at their many auditions and performances, as well as at galas and parties. These singers try to avoid being photographed in the same ensemble twice.”
Is it all a feint to ensure that the focus is off Levine as a sexual predator and instead focused on Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met? Or do Levine’s legal complaints have a basis in a disagreement between the two powerful men?
Well, it didn’t actually save itself. Instead, there was a dramatic discovery, a dramatic check delivery, a dramatic intermission meeting, a dramatic announcement – and then some fundraising, grantwriting, and more.
“So there I was, 26 years old (but looking 16), running a jazz department for one of the world’s largest record stores. The perks were manna from music heaven: I picked the music played in my section; I got promos galore; and, most importantly, I got on the guest lists to see jazz artists who played at Blues Alley and One Step Down—two of DC’s best jazz clubs. But it was so much more than those spoils for me, because it was at that position that I got to see the business of jazz from a multitude of perspectives.”
“The use of YouTube is no accident. The internet is a great way for fans to party contrapuntally. Online musicians have turned dozens of songs into fugues, from ‘Uptown Funk‘ to the ‘Star Wars‘ theme and ‘Old MacDonald‘.” (Even the fight songs of the two Super Bowl teams got fuguified.) “Others are making older pieces easier to understand. By adding scrolling videos to the music – each voice marked by different lines of colour – Stephen Malinowski lets fans follow the subject with their eyes as well as their ears.”
Just three days after the company fired the conductor for “sexually abusive and harassing conduct,” Levine has filed a legal action for more than $5.8 million. “It was only upon learning that the allegations would be published in the press,” argues the filing, “that the Met and Gelb, cynically hijacking the good will of the #MeToo movement, brazenly seized on these allegations as a pretext to end a longstanding personal campaign to force Levine out of the Met and cease fulfilling its legally enforceable financial commitments to him.”
People think that to appreciate jazz you have to take ten years of music theory. Really, jazz or any kind of improvisational music, when done right, is simply a conversation without words. If you think about your own conversations at parties, [they’re all improvisation].
Joshua Barone visits Koh’s apartment-cum-studio and watches her work on brand-new pieces by (and with) Vijay Iyer, Missy Mazzoli, and Lisa Bielawa. (includes audio)
Christian Merlin (in part two of an interview whose first half dealt with changes in music criticism): “I think we’re living in an era, at least in the West, where the cult of an individual is no longer in fashion: rather, we’re looking for integration, collaboration, involvement of everyone. The first person to really embody this change was Simon Rattle. There are 128 musicians in the Berlin Phil, and Rattle would always say ‘I am the 129th’. That doesn’t mean that there were no tensions; there were enormous ones – perhaps precisely because the musicians had been used to a conductor who decides everything!”
“Composed by [Shirley] Graham, who had studied at Oberlin … and would later marry W.E.B. Du Bois, the opera” – titled Tom-Tom – “tells the diaspora story of African-Americans, beginning in an unnamed West African village, traveling to a Southern plantation, and ending amid the Harlem Renaissance.” Why did it disappear? Says scholar Lucy Caplan, who re-discovered the score and hopes to see it produced, “Opera companies also would have been hesitant to put on a work by a black female composer affiliated with the Communist Party.”
Zachary Woolfe: “The centrality afforded to conductors makes them appear indispensable. It inclines institutions to look past obvious problems and try their best to make their relationships with their maestros work, at most any financial or moral cost. The way some conductors have abused their power — Charles Dutoit, like Mr. Levine, has recently been felled amid numerous accusations of sexual misconduct — is a function of being granted so much power in the first place.”
“I don’t believe polyphony is dead, but I do think the future of choral music will embrace techniques that preserve the horizontal approach to writing, while maintaining accessibility and not falling into anachronistic musical styles like traditional tonal polyphony. Such techniques are already arising in today’s choral music. Our traditional interest in polyphonic textures and increased harmonic complexity can, for instance, be satisfied with thick layers of otherwise tonal material. When done well, these layers create dense, multi-faceted textures, without demanding a high level of virtuosity from the singers. Instead, these techniques will engage choristers as thoughtful and musical artists.”
Justin Davidson: “These questions matter because the company’s future depends on its prestige and the goodwill of all those who buy tickets, perform there, or give it money. The company and its chief conductor were intertwined for decades, and each boosted the glory of the other. It’s simply not enough for the Met to say, We didn’t know! But, hey, it’s cool now: James Levine doesn’t work here anymore, and leave it at that.”
“At the end of 2017, US hip-hop star Nelly played a men-only concert in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; US country singer Toby Keith headlined a similar gig earlier in the year. These shows were flagged as landmark progress, in a strict Gulf state where music was apparently deemed ‘haram’. It’s certainly surreal to watch clips of Nelly pumping up a party where females are banned; in fact, pop culture has long reigned in this Kingdom – and its 1980s powerhouse was the Saudi bootleg cassette shop.”
Just days after the news arrived that the Russian conductor will become music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 2021, the London Philharmonic revealed that Jurowski will step down as its chief conductor when he starts in his new position.
The Teatro Massimo is not nearly as well-known internationally as those other theaters, but it is an opera house with a back story that few artistic venues can match. That in turn has contributed to bold experimentation in bringing high culture to a troubled community.
Christian Merlin: “What to make of the Internet? We tried to determine criteria, but it was difficult because, broadly speaking, none of the approaches worked. A press card? Even I’ve never had one. Remuneration? Most of the music criticism websites don’t pay their authors, so one might say that this isn’t a professional activity. The problem is that today, there are some really competent people writing on those sites. Some things have come out in the wash and the most serious and solid sites have come out in front, even if others are only moderately professional.”
These awards happened this weekend, and yes: “If the Grammys are out of touch, the iHeartRadio awards are almost too in touch, celebrating the most popular of popular music and rejecting stuff that’s unnecessarily hip or cool.” (Er … unnecessarily?)
“‘Katy Perry, please stop,’ [Sister Catherine Rose Holzman] said on Fox 11 in Los Angeles. Please stop trying to buy the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’s convent, even though the nuns had gone to court to block the sale. ‘It’s not doing anyone any good,’ Holzman said, then walked into a courtroom, collapsed and died.”