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May 30, 2003

Contemporay Music Over The Net Want to explore contemporary music, but don't have the opportunity to catch it in a concert? The American Music Center has a service called NewMusicJukebox, and "this month it’s featuring an unusually intriguing webcast from Juilliard’s Focus 2003 Festival titled 'Beyond the Rockies: A Tribute to Lou Harrison at 85'."
New York Sun 05/30/03

Pop Goes The Weasel "The British music industry is in the midst of yet another crisis. As ever, the wounds are mostly self-inflicted. Against a backdrop of falling sales, the industry has undermined the singles chart to the point where few know or care what the current Number One is. The short-termism that led to the explosion of manufactured pop acts is coming home to roost." London Evening Standard 05/30/03

The Singing Pianists What's with all these pianists who can't seem to play without humming along? Vocalising obviously helps with articulation - and is part of the profound relationship between piano-playing and singing, part of the alchemy whereby a series of hammer-blows on steel strings can be made to sound like bel canto. But humming can be even more than that. 'When I play, I am making love to the audience,' said Arthur Rubinstein; well into his 80s the Polish virtuoso maintained an aristocratic composure at the keyboard that excluded any audible manifestation of pleasure. But if pianists, especially more mature ones, start to hum, and if there is an amorous quality to that humming, should we be embarrassed?" The Guardian (UK) 05/30/03

May 29, 2003

Birth Of The Blues (And So Much Else) It's amazing how much of American culture is traceable back to the blues. "Without the blues, we wouldn't have jazz, rock, gospel, soul, R&B, country, or rap music - or even George Gershwin's masterpiece, 'Rhapsody in Blue' (note the word "blue" in the title). The way we dance, dress, and speak, the music used to sell cars on TV - even our very concept of coolness - can be traced to the blues and its African roots." Christian Science Monitor 05/29/03

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Renegotiates Its Future The financially-struggling St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has negotiated a pay cut with its musicians. As well, "in a fundamental shift modeled by some European orchestras, the orchestra is transferring responsibility for core artistic decisions away from the artistic director and into the hands of a new 'artistic vision committee'." St, Paul Pioneer-Press 05/29/03

Duopoly More and more hit recordings are featuring more than one performer. "In 1993, not a single tandem recording appeared among the 25 top sellers in the U.S. Five years back, there was just one such record in the top 10, and five in the top 25. Last year, two of the top 10 and four of the top 25 were recorded by multiple artists." Recently though, "at least 10 of the Top 25 have paired performers — five in the Top 10 and three in the Top 5." Toronto Star 05/29/03

May 28, 2003

Need Concert Hall, (Or) Will Move The Florida West Coast Symphony wants to build a new home and had the city of Sarasota to donate land and parking for a 1,600-seat hall. And if the city won't? Then the orchestra will move out of town. Oh, and PS, the city's got only until Saturday to approve the deal... Sarasota Herald Tribune 05/28/03

Apple, Downloadable Music, And The Hackers So far music fans have downloaded 3 million songs on Apple's new iTunes music store. "This is an impressive figure considering the limited access that music fans now have to the service. Less than 1 percent of the country's home computers are Macintoshes that are compatible with the iTunes Music Store, and only a fraction of those have a broadband connection to the Internet." But now there are complications. Hackers have figured out how to copy songs from one computer to another, and now Apple is disabling features... The New York Times 05/28/03

Won't Someone Please Sponsor The Met? Richard Cohen is a lifelong listener to weekly radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. But the broadcast's sponsor dropped the program after 63 years. "All the accounts of why ChevronTexaco decided to drop the Met mentioned that the company has come upon hard times. Its CEO, David J. O'Reilly, has taken a 45 percent pay cut, and the stock price has dropped. Still, the company made $1.132 billion last year; $7 million represents less than 1 percent of its profits. Put that way, its decision to drop the broadcasts is a bit harder to understand." Washington Post 05/27/03

Boston Opera Chief Stepping Down "Leon Major, artistic director of the Boston Lyric Opera since 1998, has stepped down from his position but will remain active with the company as a stage director... Throughout his tenure at the Lyric, Major commuted between Boston and Maryland, where he heads the Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland, while maintaining an active schedule as guest stage director with many American and Canadian opera companies." Boston Globe 05/28/03

Finally, A Download Price War! "Facing competition from Apple Computer's iTunes service, Listen.com will lower the price to download songs from its Rhapsody music service by 20 cents to 79 cents, marking the latest move by paid music services to attract and retain new ears. For the price, listeners can download and burn from among more than 200,000 songs. Unlike users of Apple's iTunes, who only pay 99 cents per song, Listen.com customers also pay a $10 a month subscription fee." The news is significant, because it indicates that the public is interested enough in legal download services to make the price war necessary. Wired 05/28/03

Philly Orch Exec: Kreizberg Chat Was Routine Last week, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Peter Dobrin reported that the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra had taken aside conductor Yakov Kreizberg, who had been called in at the last minute to replace Wolfgang Sawallisch on a major international tour, and asked him to cut down on the podium histrionics and stick with Sawallisch's tempos. The orchestra's top artistic executive agrees that the meeting took place, but insists that Dobrin overplayed the drama. "In our view, conversations between the concertmaster and conductor are a normal part of healthy music collaboration." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/28/03 (second item)

  • Previously: Orchestra To Maestro: Take It Down a Notch Orchestras are not in the habit of telling conductors how to do their jobs - it's supposed to be the other way around. But with Yakov Kreizberg stepping in at the last minute to fill in for the ailing Wolfgang Sawallisch on the Philadelphia Orchestra's South American tour, the orchestra has taken the unusual step of asking the maestro to tone down his 'antics' on the podium, and to leave the tempos where Sawallisch put them. Kreizberg, by all accounts, has taken the chiding in stride, and Peter Dobrin says that the unusual talking-to seems to have done some good. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/20/03
May 27, 2003

Tower Records For Sale The troubled Tower Records is looking for a buyer. "Tower has been particularly hard hit by the decline in sales of recorded music. For the six-month period ended January 31, Tower's sales fell 8.2%, to $306.9 million, and the company had a loss from continuing operations of $33 million, compared to a loss of $10.7 million in the first half of fiscal 2002." Publishers Weekly 05/27/03

May 26, 2003

The Case Of The Conductor Who Stabbed Himself Onstage "David Tilling, of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, thrust the baton through his hand while rehearsing Land of Hope and Glory, by Elgar. He finished conducting the piece but then collapsed. Some of his bandsmen feared he was having a heart attack. A few may even have been aware of a disturbing precedent: at a concert in a Parisian church in 1687, the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully stabbed himself in the foot while conducting. Gangrene set in and killed him..." The Guardian (UK) 05/27/03

Lure 'Em In With Something New When times are tough, how do you lure in audiences? "Two theories are doing the rounds. One says the only way to lure back the crowds is by going shamelessly populist. The other, unhelpfully, states the opposite: that you are most likely to prise open wallets when money is tight if you offer them something unusual, unrepeatable and unmissable. There can be no argument as to which camp the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra belongs in. In an amazing four-day festival in Birmingham from Thursday it offers (in conjunction with its sister ensemble, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group) no fewer than 18 big, bold, bracing blasts of contemporary music, most of them composed in the past five years." The Times (UK) 05/27/03

Moving San Francisco Across Europe What does it take to move the San Francisco Symphony across Europe on its $1.8 million tour? "In between transatlantic flights on commercial airliners, the tour schedule includes six chartered flights, two train rides (including one on Eurostar, the new high-speed train that runs from London to Brussels through the Channel Tunnel) and three bus trips for short run-outs to cities such as Brighton and Dusseldorf. But that's just the humans. Running in tandem, in two climate-controlled trucks, is the cargo - almost 11 tons of evening clothes, cellos and basses, trombones and bassoons and harps and cymbals." San Francisco Chronicle 05/26/03

Britons Agonize Over Why No One Liked Their Song Britain has won five Eurovision Song Contests. So Britons are furious that their representative this year didn't pick up a single vote. politics to blame? Maybe a "post-Iraqi backlash"? Or were viewers in Europe "engaging in political voting against a country out of step with the rest of Europe?" Maybe there an "element of vote-rigging going on, with geographical allies voting for each other." The Scotsman 05/26/03

  • Eurovision - Did We Not Try Hard Enough? "We are still left with a bad song that was not as bad as some other songs, but nevertheless everyone liked the least. We are still left wondering why, with our thriving industry of schlock pop and so much prime-time telly given over to the creation of more of it, we can't compete with Bosnia Herzogovina. I think the answer lies in the very timbre of our outrage. We know we can make good pop. Everyone else knows we can make good pop. But when it's just for Europe, we don't see why we should bother. We aim low, and we never field our biggest hitters." The Guardian (UK) 05/27/03

May 25, 2003

Study: Downloaders Actually Buy More Music Than Others People who download music over the internet are said to be the reason that CD sales have declined in the past few years. "But a study released this month shows that people who download music are more than twice as likely to buy CDs as people who don't download. That makes sense. People who spend hours - and it takes a lot of time - scanning the Internet for music to download are likely to be eager music fans, looking for a new kick, a bit of rare trivia or even a cut they heard on the radio and wanted to hear again." San Francisco Chronicle 05/25/03

Inside Pierre Boulez Just how do you learn to play a Pierre Boulez score? "The leaps are awkward. The spacings of the chords are often large and dense, and there are many, many notes on every single page. As with lots of contemporary music, the patterns, the pitches are nothing like what we grew up practicing. The scores are the kind of music that someone who doesn't really read music would say [are just] full of black dots and circles. The page is covered with specks." Los Angeles Times 05/25/03

England Scores A Goose Egg (Oh, The Shame!) In this weekend's Eurovision Song Contest, Britain's entry scored no points. None. Nada. Zip. "An estimated 150 million viewers across the length and breadth of the continent witnessed this national humiliation. They not only watched it; they conspired to bring it about through telephone voting. One German newspaper was quick to grasp the true significance of what had occurred: 'England, motherland of pop, in last place!' This is what is known in English as schadenfreude." The Guardian (UK) 05/26/03

Colleges Become Music Police Colleges are cracking down on students who download music. At Colorado State University, "four or five times a day, college computing administrators receive a message from recording-industry download police giving the specific computer, song and time of a rogue copy made by a student in campus housing. They must pass the message on to a dorm rules enforcer, who in turn must unplug the computer in question and scold the owner that trading in copyrighted songs over the Internet is against the law. Strike two means a formal meeting with a disciplinary officer. Strike three at CSU means the student is denied access to the Internet as long as the wrongdoer remains in campus housing, for the rest of the student's college career." Denver Post 05/25/03

Jerry Springer Is America? " 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' couldn't be a bigger London success if you dipped it in chocolate and threw it to the lesbians, as one of its few reprintable lyrics suggests. What happened, exactly? This: The world now believes America is Jerry Springer, and Americans are Jerry's guests. The world believed it long before there was a 'Jerry Springer Show,' in fact; the show merely solidified that belief, giving justifiable anti-Americanism a name and a face - that of Springer's mild, jaded, half-smile of effrontery." Chicago Tribune 05/25/03

Upscale Melbourne, Downside For Music Melbourne has a lively music scene. "But it's a scene that is in danger of dying, according to some venue owners around town. The pub proprietors say that as house and apartment prices in the inner city have soared, home owners' expectations have changed. The new, more affluent residents have important jobs, peaceful lifestyles to live. They don't want to be kept awake at night by guitars and drums. Their complaints about noise to councils and liquor-licensing bodies are increasingly being taken seriously." The Age (Melbourne) 05/26/03

Open Minds Through Opera Manuela Hoelterhoff writes that the value of broadcasting opera every week throughout America is hard to calculate. "All I know is that I am not unique, and countless children must have listened to those opera broadcasts and gone on to become mathematicians, Supreme Court justices, stock brokers, teachers and captains of industry (if not, I guess, at ChevronTexaco)." The New York Times 05/25/03

May 24, 2003

Turkey Wins Eurovision Contest Turkey's Sertab Erener has won this year's Eurovision song contest with the song 'Every Way That I Can.'Belgium's Urban Trad came in second and Russia's Tatu in third. Erener is one of Turkey's most popular singers, with album sales of over four million. BBC 03/24/03

Got The Hall, Got The Players. Why Not Start An Orchestra... Denver could use a good chamber orchestra, writes Marc Shulgold. Most of the pieces are in place to create one. All it takes is a little money. "Who doesn't like Bach, Handel and Vivaldi? Who wouldn't enjoy a Mozart or Haydn symphony played as originally conceived? What's not to like in those sumptuous string-orchestra pieces by Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Grieg and Dvorak? Particularly when they're played with professional polish?" Rocky Mountain News 05/24/03

Spano's NY Phil Debut - A Preview Of The Future? Robert Spano finally makes his New York Philharmonic debut. The Philharmonic has been "catching up with the younger generation of American conductors lately, perhaps with too great a sense of dutiful deliberation, and Mr. Spano's debut lets it check off another name on its list. But there is also a sense that the orchestra is scouting out talent for its eventual search for its next music director — a process that would have to involve establishing relationships with the potential candidates. Mr. Spano's name, along with David Robertson's and Alan Gilbert's, has been mentioned as a possibility, although mostly in the context of critics' wish lists, not by the orchestra itself." The New York Times 05/24/03

Visa Rules To Keep Cubans From Attending Grammys US visa rules in effect since 9/11 mean that Cuban artists nominated for Grammys will not be able to attend or perform in the Grammy ceremony. "The new rules mean that, with only six weeks between the announcement of the Latin Grammy nominations on July 22 and the Sept. 3 show, it will be virtually impossible for any Cuban artist to get a visa in time." Miami Herald 05/24/03

Can Opera Survive On The Radio? Now that ChevronTexaco has bailed out of a 63-year sponsorship of Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, and "with classical-music institutions facing financial difficulties and dwindling audiences across the continent, is opera on the radio an idea whose time has passed? Does the Met still have the influence to attract the interest of large corporations? Does opera still have the cachet and prestige it once did? These questions will be answered in the coming year." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/24/03

May 23, 2003

Music Downloads Becoming Real Business A new study suggests that music fans are beginning to buy music legally online. But they're more likely to buy CDs online than to individual tracks. And still, by far, the free music swapping services remain the most popular music sites. BBC 05/23/03

Exploring The Meaning Of Beethoven's 9th The manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony sold for £2.133 million this week. So why is this music so valuable? "The work preoccupied the 19th century, and that is because it seems endlessly suggestive, to raise musical possibilities which even it could not entirely fulfil." The Spectator 05/24/03

Bad Writing - Not Racism - Is The Real Jazz Scandal Is jazz critic Stanley Crouch right about racism and jazz critics? The issure recently got him fired from JazzTimes. "The real scandal in jazz criticism isn't race - it's bad writing. Jazz, which arose at the same time as that other revolutionary twentieth-century art, film, has failed to generate a comparable body of criticism. Most jazz magazines are only slightly more readable than airline glossies, and serve roughly the same purpose. Whatever one thinks of Crouch's views, he is one of the few jazz critics worthy of the name. And this, sadly, is another reason why he no longer belongs in the pages of JazzTimes." The Nation 05/22/03

  • Previously: Dear Stanley: You're Fired Stanley Crouch's last column in JazzTimes was blunt. In it he "accuses white critics of elevating white musicians 'far beyond their abilities' to 'make themselves feel more comfortable about . . . evaluating an art from which they feel substantially alienated.' Crouch also claims that white writers, who were born in 'middle-class china shops,' ensure 'the destruction of the Negro aesthetic' by advancing musicians who can't swing at the expense of those who can." And with that, the magazine fired Crouch... Village Voice 05/13/03
May 22, 2003

Florida Phil: We Tried Everything The chairman of the board of the now-bankrupt Florida Philharmonic says he's proud of the efforts his board made to save the orchestra. He said "the high-profile plea for donors to come forward to save the Philharmonic netted only $770,000, far short of the $4.5 million necessary to see the orchestra through the 2003-04 season. That amount was barely a fraction of the original $20 million requested as a sign of the community's willingness to support the orchestra. 'We didn't even get close to that figure, which made a bankruptcy filing inevitable'." The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) 05/22/03

The Gay Side Of Opera "Gay and lesbian subtexts frequently hover beneath the surface of opera. The singer's sex may not be the same as the sex of the character he or she is playing, while cross-dressing within plots can lead to erotic mayhem. That there should be a disparity in the way gay and straight composers have had to approach erotic subjects is ultimately a sad reflection on the normative proscriptions that have dogged social history and continue to do so. Yet opera also asserts a communality of experience that both contains and bypasses gender and sexual orientation." The Guardian (UK) 05/22/03

Bocelli Big Winner At Classical Brits Singer Andrea Bocelli Andrea Bocelli was the big winner at this year's Classical Brit Awards, beating out the quartet Bond. The Guardian (UK) 05/22/03

Whither Met Opera's Broadcasts? It is difficult to overstate the impact that the national broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera have had over the years on musicians, opera fans, and the general public. But with ChevronTexaco having pulled its sponsorship of the series, the Met is left with the unappetizing task of trying to find someone else willing to shell out $7 million or so every year for the privilege of having its name set before a few million opera lovers. The devastating blow comes as the Met is at the absolute top of its artistic game, says David Patrick Stearns, and the prospect of depriving the nation's airwaves of the series is unthinkable. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/22/03

Solicited Advice Finding a source of reliable constructive criticism can be difficult when you're a musician waiting for your big break. After all, what friend or relation would dare to crush the dream of a lousy wannabe rock star who truly believes they'll be on MTV someday? Enter garageband.com, burster of delusional bubbles: "Once an Internet darling bent on shaking the foundations of the crusty old music industry, Garageband is home to over 325,000 musicians and new-music hunters who review original songs in an ongoing round-robin tournament." The New York Times 05/22/03

Musicians Decry FCC Consolidation Move Members of two prominent American rock bands have joined consumer groups and media watchdogs in blasting the FCC's plan to further relax rules on media ownership in the U.S. Mike Mills of R.E.M. and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam described the effect that media consolidation has already had on the American music scene as catastrophic, and said that the continuing domination of radio, advertising, and ticket distribution by mega-companies like Clear Channel "makes it very threatening for any band that wants to make statements contrary to the proper American way of doing things." Denver Post 05/22/03

Beethoven's 9th Fetches a Joyful Sum It has been suggested that Beethoven's 9th Symphony is the most significant work of Western music ever composed, and even today, most people on the street could hum you a bar or two of the 'Ode to Joy' if you asked. But the 9th is a huge score which represents something far more significant than a single pretty melody - it was one of those pieces that broke through old taboos, advanced composition into a new phase, and inspired (and intimidated) a generation of younger composers. Still, when the only known working manuscript of the 9th hit the block at Sotheby's this week, bidding went slowly, with the score eventually selling for £2.133 million to an anonymous phone bidder. Sotheby's had hoped for more, but the sum was one of the highest ever paid for such a work. BBC 05/22/03

May 21, 2003

Classical Music - Chronicle Of The End "Welcome to the death of music, or that genre of it we define as classical. For more than a century it has captured the hearts and minds of millions, inspired the building of great concert halls in hundreds of cities, sustained thousands of musicians and created a discography that seemed timeless and enduring in its appeal. Well, timeless and enduring until now. For, despite private patronage and lashings of public funds, concert performance and ticket sales are in free fall. Little wonder the latest attempts by Sir Brian McMaster, director of the Edinburgh Festival, to halt and reverse the decline in concert going are being anxiously watched round the world. For there is a growing fear that the decline in classical concert attendance now looks unstoppable." The Scotsman 05/17/03

Pavarotti Says He'll Return To The Met When fans thought that Pavarotti was singing his last performance at the Metropolitan Opera last year (before he canceled) they gladly paid as much as $1,875 per ticket to be there. Now the tenor says he'll return to the Met next March. "My great friend, Joe Volpe, and I have been talking for some time now to try to reschedule the performances I unfortunately had to cancel last year. I'm so delighted to be returning to this great, great opera house to sing in 'Tosca'." Nando Times (AP) 05/21/03

Swing Back To The Future Take a big band sound, add banks of electronics, blend in sampled sound and a little rave culture, and you get an experiment in the old time. "By taking a dated musical style - big-band jazz - and marrying it with the kind of electronic processes usually reserved for cutting-edge dance music, Matthew Herbert has made the world's first experimental yet traditional album. If the Institute of Contemporary Arts held a pensioners' tea-and-modems morning, this would be its soundtrack." The Telegraph (UK) 05/22/03

Death March - Getting To Know You Why the fascination with the final moments of great composers? Do these accounts illuminate the music in some way? Not really. "The root, I suspect, is social rather than art-critical. It has something to do with the function that classical music fulfils for many listeners in a secular age, its surrogacy for a forsaken Christian faith. The mortal agonies of a great composer have come to represent the sufferings of a saviour figure, a ritual of veneration. We observe in awe, anticipating redemption." London Evening Standard 05/21/03

Might Regulators Approve Giant Recording Company Merger? Recording execs are convinced that courts might approve a merger between recording giants AOL Time Warner and Bertelsman, even though the idea was rejected two years ago. "A combination of the labels would shrink the number of global record distributors from the current five, providing new muscle and cost-saving opportunity for some players in an ailing music industry — while potentially threatening others. But the executives believe that recent legal rulings and the industry's weak condition would bolster their cause in persuading regulators, particularly in Europe, to greenlight a deal." Los Angeles Times 05/21/03

Pittsburgh Musicians Facing Huge Cuts The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which has been facing choking deficits and cash-flow problems for much of the last two years, has opened negotiations for a new contract with its players by proposing that the musicians' pay be slashed by $10,000 and that benefits be severely cut back. The PSO has cut costs already this year by reducing its cello section to ten players (twelve is standard,) and some musicians are already taking other auditions in anticipation of what many consider an inevitable downgrade in artistic quality. But the orchestra's cash crunch is real: last year, then-executive director Gideon Toeplitz raised eyebrows across the industry when he threatened that the PSO would file for bankruptcy if community support did not increase. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 05/20/03

  • Musicians Not Panicking You won't see the Pittsburgh Symphony musicians screaming over management's proposal to slash their salaries and cut benefits - at least, not yet. The musicians' negotiating committee yesterday turned down the PSO's proposal, but made a point of saying that they understand that the orchestra was only making a first proposal in what is expected to be a long negotiating process. Both sides will likely continue to tread carefully, at least in the near future. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/21/03

Auctioning Off A Masterpiece "In an era when the publishers of such ephemera as comic books and trading cards routinely set aside a few thousand copies as prefabricated 'collectors items,' a spectacular rarity is set for auction at Sotheby's in London tomorrow. It is nothing less than a near-complete manuscript of what may be the most celebrated work of music in the repertory -- the Symphony No. 9 in D Minor by Ludwig van Beethoven." Washington Post 05/21/03

Orchestra To Maestro: Take It Down a Notch Orchestras are not in the habit of telling conductors how to do their jobs - it's supposed to be the other way around. But with Yakov Kreizberg stepping in at the last minute to fill in for the ailing Wolfgang Sawallisch on the Philadelphia Orchestra's South American tour, the orchestra has taken the unusual step of asking the maestro to tone down his 'antics' on the podium, and to leave the tempos where Sawallisch put them. Kreizberg, by all accounts, has taken the chiding in stride, and Peter Dobrin says that the unusual talking-to seems to have done some good. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/20/03

Cutting Out The Middleman The recording industry is going after a website based in Spain, which claims that it has found a legal way to offer downloadable music without the consent of the labels which control its distribution. Puretunes, which plans to offer unlimited downloads for a much lower price than many comparable services, says that it will pay royalties directly to the artists, and will take advantage of a loophole in Spanish copyright law to bypass the corporate side of the industry. Not surprisingly, the industry has a very different interpretation of Spanish law. BBC 05/21/03

May 20, 2003

Texaco Pulls Out Of Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts After 63 years, ChevronTexaco says it is withdrawing its radio sponsorship of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Texaco's sponsorship was the longest in commercial broadcast history. "Beginning in 1940 Texaco was the sole sponsor of the broadcasts, which are now heard live from the Met stage at Lincoln Center 20 times a year on 360 stations at an annual cost of about $7 million. Broadcast December through April, the broadcasts reach an estimated 10 million listeners in 42 countries." The New York Times 05/21/03

Singing The Legal Blues "Over the past five decades, singers, bands, record labels, managers and songwriters have formed a special bond with the judicial system, particularly in the US where they breed 'em litigious. Given music is such a volatile, mollycoddling, temperamental, creative, high-stakes business, it's not surprising the lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank." Sydney Morning Herald 05/21/03

Chicago Lyric Opera Posts Deficit Despite selling 97 percent of its tickets, the Chicago Lyric Opera will end its season with a "deficit of $1.1 million, on an operating budget of $48.6 million. The deficit ends a 16-year winning streak in which the company posted operating surpluses every season. Expenses for 2002-03 exceeded budget by about $700,000, including charges related to revising next season's repertory, while ticket revenues fell $400,000 short of expectation." Chicago Tribune 05/20/03

Nevada Opera Lays Off Staff, Cuts Production After canceling a production, Nevada Opera has laid off three of its four full-time employees. "The Nevada Opera’s financial problems reflect a national trend among arts groups faced with declining donations and grants. Last year, one of Reno’s longest-running arts groups, Nevada Festival Ballet, closed its doors under the pressure of debt. 'Unfortunately, we had to make some very difficult decisions. It’s like taking an organization, stripping it down to the bare bones and then slowly building it back up'.” Reno Gazette-Journal 05/20/03

Making Music As Kid's Play MIT's Tod Machover has developed a set of toys to help teach children how to make music. "Toy Symphony's toys, developed by the Media Lab's musician-computer whizzes, enable children to "make music" without having to learn notation or engage in the arduous physical and mental process required to play a musical instrument. Through computers, their users can explore musical concepts that are more sophisticated than their actual knowledge would otherwise permit. Music Shapers, soft cloth balls whose sounds are controlled by squeezing, and Beatbugs, which repeat and subtly alter rhythms that are tapped on them, are improvisatory performance instruments. With Hyperscore, a composition software program, the user creates color-coded musical motifs, draws them onto a grid, and plays the score back. If desired, the program will provide a variety of harmonies and modulations. With a little help from its MIT creators, this graphic "score" can be transcribed into conventional notation for acoustic instruments." OpinionJournal.com 05/21/03

Death Of The Single Why are record singles dying? "There's no question in my mind that when record companies sign kids up now, bar a very few exceptions, it's a case of 'bring 'em in, squeeze 'em dry, and throw 'em out again'. And if you tell the teenyboppers today that some band is the latest, greatest thing, eventually they get sick of being manipulated and stop buying the records - which is exactly what is happening. The sale of singles fell by 42% in number and value in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year, and experts are predicting that the top 40 may soon be based on radio airplay, rather than how many singles people buy. " The Guardian (UK) 05/20/03

May 19, 2003

Are You Good Enough To Sing Underground? London has licensed performers who work in the subways. "London Underground says the public wants high quality musicians who are guaranteed not to be confrontational. Complete with blue busking licences - after auditions, police background checks and a refundable registration fee - the first official buskers are among 256 approved performers who will occupy 25 pitches at 12 stations." BBC 05/19/03

Choral Union - Where New Music Thrives Where's the action in American contemporary music? Choral music. "In terms of concert music, choral and 'educational' music represent the lion's share of most titles that are commercially published each year. There is a significant and constant demand for new works for chorus that significantly surpasses demand for new string quartets or symphonies or operas. Choral unions, community choruses, professional choruses, and choirs in faith communities regularly commission new works?oftentimes, there are numerous commissions each year. The premiere of a new work is a matter of course for hundreds of thousands of American choir members every year." NewMusicBox 05/03

May 18, 2003

The Orchestra Cycle: Program Continuity or Overdoing A Good Thing? Why do orchestras constantly make a point of programming season-long strings of works by the same composer? What is it about, say, a Beethoven cycle, that is so irresistable to programmers, and is the idea really backed up by sound artistic and financial reasoning? "The investments go beyond time. Orchestras hold preconcert lectures and discussions with audiences to help put a series into context, and many work with theater companies and museums to create stage productions and visual-arts exhibitions connected to the series theme." Saint Paul Pioneer Press 05/18/03

Cautiously Pessimistic in Charleston The Spoleto USA chamber music festival is one of the nation's best-loved summer institutions. But even a festival which continues to set records for attendance and ticket revenue is not immune from the ravages of the current American economic climate. Corporate sponsorships for Spoleto are down sharply this year, and while no one is talking about any major cuts just yet, the prospect of a return to massive debt and layoffs for the festival is certainly the proverbial elephant in the boardroom at the moment. Charleston (SC) Post & Courier 05/18/03

Florida Phil Fans Enraged By Shutdown Long-time subscribers of the Florida Philharmonic, which filed for bankruptcy last week after several weeks of pie-in-the-sky fundraising attempts, are reportedly furious with the way the orchestra urged and cajoled them to renew expensive subscriptions for a season which the orchestra knew might not be played. Now, the orchestra says it hasn't decided whether to issue refunds to subscribers. "The Philharmonic has managed to alienate its bedrock supporters. It's given the appearance of courting donors capable of seven-figure gifts while putting the squeeze on ordinary people who faithfully bought tickets." South Florida Sun-Sentinel 05/18/03

  • Previously: Doing The Math - Money Questions Don't Add Up In Miami Plenty of blame to go around in the collapse of the Florida Philharmonic. There are many questions about the size of the orchestra's money woes, the way the orchestra revealed its problems, and its strategy for dealing with them. Then there's the way the orchestra alienated people with money who had offered to help over the years... Miami Herald 05/15/03

Conlon To Head Ravinia The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has tapped James Conlon to head its summer festival at Ravinia, beginning in 2005. Conlon, an American who has made his name as one of the world's top conductors while working mainly in Europe, will succeed Christoph Eschenbach. Competition for the much-coveted Ravinia job was stiff, with such rising stars as Marin Alsop, Robert Spano, and Leonard Slatkin in the mix. One musicologist's description of Conlon would seem to fit well with the style of the CSO's summer festival: "His highly serious approach to music is offset by an almost childlike delight in performing it." Chicago Tribune 05/18/03

Confessions of a File-Swapper "I know it's wrong. I'm trying to stop. It's just that the temptation is too great. I love music. And every song I ever wanted is out there for the taking. I am a downloader... I know I'm supposed to just say no. And I know the record industry is cracking down. My attempts to download one popular song led me to a bunch of bogus files; I assume they were part of the record companies' covert attempts to disrupt the downloading services. I know Big Brother is looking for me... I need help." Boston Herald 05/18/03

May 17, 2003

Louisville Symphony Misses Another Payroll The ailing Louisville Symphony has missed another payroll. "The cash-strapped orchestra missed all of yesterday's $170,000 payroll and has not said when it expects to meet that obligation. Partial paychecks were sent to orchestra employees last week, and earlier this week the musicians agreed to perform three concerts scheduled for last night and tomorrow." Louisville Courier-Journal 05/16/03

Boston Symphony Sues Group Over "Jewish Tanglewood" The Boston Syhmphony has filed suit against a Connecticut arts group who has been billing its event as the "Jewish Tanglewood." "A New England Jewish Music & Arts Festival spokesman said yesterday the title was really a nickname of sorts, given to the six-year-old event by a New York reporter who called the two days of music 'the Jewish Tanglewood' in a story a few years ago." Boston Globe 05/17/03

May 16, 2003

New Names, New Responsibilities The L.A. Opera is hoping that a few changes in title will spark renewed enthusiasm among its staff and patrons, even without anything much changing in the way of personnel. Placido Domingo, who has been top dog at the company for several years, will now be the 'general director,' and Kent Nagano goes from 'principal conductor' to 'music director,' a move designed to draw him closer to the day-to-day operations of the company. "In many respects, the [Domingo] promotion formalizes a shift in power that became apparent in late 2001, when the opera's then-executive director, Ian White-Thomson -- nominally Domingo's equal in the company hierarchy -- abruptly resigned, complaining that the tenor's frequent travel made collaboration impossible." Los Angeles Times 05/16/03

  • Domingo In Demand On the same day that he accepted his new title as general director of the L.A. Opera, Placido Domingo was named to the same job with the Washington (D.C.) Opera, a company where he has been artistic director since 1996. But unlike L.A., no one in Washington seems entirely sure of what, if anything, the change in title will mean for Domingo or the company. Washington Post 05/16/03

Atlanta's New Hall "For its new Symphony Center, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has approved a risky, radical interior design that departs from traditional concert halls. The unorthodox plan... features surround seating and a ceiling that moves up and down, one of the few of its kind in the world. The center -- expected to open in 2008 -- is intended to lift the 58-year-old orchestra up from its acoustically atrocious Symphony Hall." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05/15/03

Happy With Their Choice The Cleveland Orchestra must really like its new music director. Just a year into the Franz Welser-Möst era, the orchestra has extended the young conductor's contract through 2012, a nearly unprecedented move obviously designed to showcase the organization's confidence in him. Welser-Möst's appointment was somewhat controversial, as might be expected when a young and relatively unknown conductor takes the helm of an ensemble widely regarded to be among the top five in the world. But the musicians are reportedly more than happy with Welser-Möst's leadership, and he is now guaranteed a place in Cleveland for the next decade. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/15/03

Pittsburgh Sym To Stay Home In 2004 The board of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has canceled a major European tour planned for summer 2004. The PSO's continuing budget crisis prompted the move, and the orchestra insists that it still considers international touring to be an essential component of its mission. The PSO estimates it would have lost as much as $200,000 had the tour gone on as scheduled. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 05/15/03

May 15, 2003

LA's New Disney Hall - Could It Be Great? "After 16 troubled years and a seemingly endless series of setbacks and reverses, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, which many predict will be one of the world's greatest concert halls, is at last on target for its twice-postponed dedication, now scheduled for October 23. The gloriously dramatic, undulating expanse of shimmering stainless steel is finally almost completed, gleaming on a 3.6-acre city block at the corner of Grand and First Streets in the centre of Los Angeles. It is expected to become a landmark which will bring new life and vitality to the area as well as providing a striking addition to the city's cultural and architectural landscape and a new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic." The Telegraph (UK) 05/15/03

An Exclusive Opera Institution Force To Advertise Glyndebourne is the UK's most exclusive festival. So why is it advertising? This year "for the first time, Glyndebourne promoted its festival season. Indeed, it actually placed - shudder at the vulgarity - discreet advertisements. Why place the ad now? Well, last year Glyndebourne underperformed at the box office. This seems odd, since tickets are famously hard to come by. Traditionally, most are snapped up by festival society members, who have priority booking. However, when a faintly unconventional season such as last year's (which featured two rarely performed works and a much-seen revival) was not leapt upon by the Glyndebourne faithful, the public didn't even know about it." The Guardian (UK) 05/16/03

Stuck With The Tux - Orchestra Fails To Find Alternative Concert Wear Britain's Halle Orchestra had hoped to find a new concert costume for its players - something not so stiff and formal. "But for the 2003-04 season, details of which were announced yesterday, the Hallé's men will continue to wear the white ties and tails that males have worn for 150 years. 'We have talked about this a lot. But we got stuck. We could not really find a practical alternative'." The Guardian (UK) 05/16/03

In search Of Rach 3 What made 41-year-old Jonathan Phillips remortgage his house, buy a Steinway - and decide he wanted to play Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3? With an orchestra. In public. The Guardian (UK) 05/16/03

New Opera - This Is A Test How do you test out a new opera? (they're too big and expensive to take many chances on lesser-known composers). New York City Opera staged a showcase of operas in progress, presenting scenes from operas in progress with the hope of generating interest in them. "These were only workshop tryouts, of course, and not ready for full critical assessments. Still, several of the works (I heard 6 out of 10) left strong initial impressions, good and not so good." The New York Times 05/15/03

Doing The Math - Money Questions Don't Add Up In Miami Plenty of blame to go around in the collapse of the Florida Philharmonic. There are many questions about the size of the orchestra's money woes, the way the orchestra revealed its problems, and its strategy for dealing with them. Then there's the way the orchestra alienated people with money who had offered to help over the years... Miami Herald 05/15/03

May 14, 2003

Munich's Big-Bucks Play For Culture Capital Munich is spending big to sign up stars to direct its music institutions. The city is vying to be a cultural capital. "But music is not one of those spectator sports whose results can be rigged by wealth. It is a mind-game, often a minefield, in which sprightly left-wingers run rings around the sorry hulks of expensive defensive walls, and dinky British orchestras have a gratifying habit of outmanoeuvring the mighty spenders. Munich's mistake was to play by a set of rules that has been rendered obsolescent by the collapse of classical recording. Today, when hardly any maestros get past studio security, orchestras are trapped between picking a fossilised relic of distant recorded memory or risking an unknown prospect." London Evening Standard 05/14/03

The FBI's Extraordinary Harassment Of Aaron Copland The FBI investigated composer Aaron Copland for 20 years. Yes he was political, but he has also, for decades, been considered one of America's most recognizeable musical voices. "The extent of Copland's political engagement is neither a secret nor a surprise. Copland never hid his essential political sympathies. But what these documents tell about the US treatment of Copland is as much the story of the harassment of 20th-century composers as anything that happened to Dmitri Shostakovich in the Soviet Union or to Kurt Weill or Ernst Krenek in Nazi Germany. " The Guardian (UK) 05/14/03

Russian MPs Protest McCartney Concert Members of the Russian parliament are protesting a planned concert by Paul McCartney in Red Square next week. "More than 100 have signed a petition protesting at the place where the Soviet leaders Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev, and the pioneer cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, lie buried in Moscow being used for a rock concert which carries, they say, 'a covert political meaning'." The Guardian (UK) 05/14/03

Why New Music Doesn't Play Why don't orchestras play more new music? Especially now when some contemporary composers seem to be picking up buzz. There are plenty of reasons, writes Greg Sandow. There's the audience, for one thing... NewMusicBox 05/03

Columbus Running Deficit The Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra is the latest regional ensemble to announce a substantial deficit for the current season. The CSO is reportedly seeking ways to alleviate a $300,000 shortfall, but is in no imminent danger of shutdown. The Columbus deficit is significant because the orchestra has been a model of fiscal reponsibility in recent years, even while paying its musicians relatively well and keeping a high artistic standard as its top priority. CSO officials are blaming the down economy and a slump in program advertising and corporate giving as the main reasons for the shortfall. Columbus Business First 05/09/03

Not Quite Dead Yet? Musicians and management at the near-defunct Florida Philharmonic are reportedly still talking, in an effort to find some way of preserving or reinventing the ensemble. There isn't a great deal of optimism at the moment, but orchestras in other communities have risen from the ashes, and some at the Florida Phil appear to think it can do the same. But any new orchestra would likely face the same problems - funding, haphazard management, and audience apathy - as the current group. Miami Herald 05/14/03

  • Previously: Florida Philharmonic Ceases Operations The Florida Philharmonic has laid off "all but five of their 111 employees and suspended operations Friday, saying the symphony had run out of money. The Philharmonic's 80 musicians and the rest of the orchestra's employees received their final paychecks Friday, two weeks before the scheduled end of the season. Eight concerts were canceled." Miami Herald 05/10/03
May 13, 2003

A Crisis In American Orchestras America's orchestras are slipping away. "Nearly a dozen orchestras across the country have either closed or are in danger of doing so. This season's first orchestral casualty was the San Jose Symphony, which shut down in November. The Tulsa Philharmonic, the Colorado Springs Symphony and the San Antonio Symphony followed. In February the 49-year-old Savannah Symphony Orchestra canceled the rest of its season. It was $1.3 million in debt, had gone through five executive directors in seven years and was unable to meet its payroll." The New York Times 03/14/03

Dear Stanley: You're Fired Stanley Crouch's last column in JazzTimes was blunt. In it he "accuses white critics of elevating white musicians 'far beyond their abilities' to 'make themselves feel more comfortable about . . . evaluating an art from which they feel substantially alienated.' Crouch also claims that white writers, who were born in 'middle-class china shops,' ensure 'the destruction of the Negro aesthetic' by advancing musicians who can't swing at the expense of those who can." And with that, the magazine fired Crouch... Village Voice 05/13/03

After Growing, Latin Music Sales Down Until this year, Latin music sales had been growing in the US. Now it's flatlinedor declining, just like the rest of the music industry. "All these economic problems - with the Internet, with radio - minimize the company's efforts. The No. 1 effect is you don't launch so many artists, or as many new artists. You have to lower your production budgets. Everything has to come down to the reality of the marketplace." Chicago Tribune 05/13/03

All The Hits - Picked Scientifically Get the feeling that Top 40 songs are sounding more and more alike? Here might be one reason: computers. "Hit Song Science is a high-tech music analysis system that compares new songs to a massive database of chart-topping singles and predicts hit potential based on shared attributes. In other words, the more your song has in common with Usher's 'U Don't Have To Call' or Santana's 'Smooth,' the better your prospects for stardom. All five of the major record companies - BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. - are using the service." Chicago Tribune 05/13/03

Plenty Of Blame For Florida Philharmonic Failure So the Florida Philharmonic has slipped under the waves, the latest American orchestra casualty. "Blame for the philharmonic's misfortunes can certainly be spread around. Uninspired, unmotivated, unprepared, unrealistic and sometimes simply petty administrators and board members would surely get their share; some myopic musicians who fanned adversarial labor relations over the years wouldn't escape, either. (It's not surprising that a disillusioned Judd departed a few seasons ago.) Ultimately, though, it's the well-oiled in the community that have to take the heat, the folks who could have stepped up to the plate way back when the first deficits appeared. The arts don't come cheap." Baltimore Sun 05/13/03

May 12, 2003

Dissing Jerry Springer... Like He Doesn't Deserve It... Jerry Springer - The Opera has been getting glowing reviews. But Arnold Wesker writes that the praise isn't deserved. "I have no religious sensibilities to offend but I do have an intelligence that can be offended. It's not the poor black actor looking absurd in shit-filled diapers that offends, or the fat lady having no greater ambition than to pole-dance which so obviously is beyond her size and weight; it's that in both the live Springer show and this celebration of it we are invited not to understand but either to laugh at them - which insults them - or, because they are all rather intimidatingly jolly about their offbeat desires, to laugh with them - which is patronising!" The Telegraph (UK) 05/13/03

Decline Of A Chicago Classic Chicago classical music fans recall the time not so long ago when radio station WFMT was "the most cultured radio station in North America." But "much of what made WFMT truly distinctive seems to be eroding in slow but perceptible degrees, a decline driven by the difficulties of making classical radio commercially viable but also by economic reverses suffered by the fine-arts station's corporate parent, Window to the World Communications, which also owns and operates public broadcasting station WTTW-Channel 11. The Arbitron ratings evidence a decline of another sort... Chicago Tribune 05/12/03

May 11, 2003

The New New Composing A new music learning program - a toy - teaches kids about composing music. "Hyperscore, the composing portion of Tod Machover's 'Toy Symphony' trinity, is a sophisticated musical tool in the guise of a simple computer game. Children position drops of sound and colored lines on the screen, building up layers and length into a texture that is as complex as they can manage. It is not, however, just a matter of drawing a picture and getting a pretty tune..." Newsday 05/11/03

MPR's New Take On Contemporary Music MPR's new "American Mavericks" series explores contemporary music. "In some ways as daring as the composers it brings to life, the show departs from the standard classical-radio recipe, using sound effects from train whistles to ocean waves to shrieking cats. It plays rock and art music in the same episode. It deftly moves music from background to foreground and back again. It tells complicated stories with a breezy, youthful irreverence underpinned by airtight research and writing, courtesy of Village Voice music critic Kyle Gann." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 05/11/03

Saying Goodbye To LA's Dorothy Chandler Esa-Pekka Salonen gives his final performance in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with the LA Philharmonic before he and the orchestra move to the new Disney Hall in the fall. None too soon, writes Mark Swed: "I have attended Philharmonic performances in the Chandler every season since, and it was there that I learned much of the orchestral repertory. But it has never been a good symphony hall. One gets used to it, learns to listen through the acoustical limitations, but when you see cellos sawing away and don't hear them, as can happen from the orchestra seats, you are forced to choose between believing your eyes or your ears." Los Angeles Times 05/12/03

Municipal Opera That Works Opera Holland Park is summer opera on a budget. But good opera. "With top tickets at £40 this year, Opera Holland Park has found itself in the curious position of not being taken seriously on the bucolic summer opera circuit because it’s too cheap. Yet it enjoys some of London’s boskiest greenery in Holland Park, including a Japanese water garden, strolling peacocks and the picturesque ruin of the Jacobean Holland House. OHP may not be dressy — in fact it’s determinedly democratic — but last year saw more hampers and popping corks than ever before." The Times (UK) 05/12/03

Online Music - Industry Trying To Catch Up The success of Apple's music downloading service has surprised recording industry execs. But why? "People in the entertainment industry are traditionally Luddites - they don't understand technology and they don't use it. They didn't perceive the danger [from file-trading sites] until too late in the game, and now they're trying to play catch-up." Chicago Tribune 05/11/03

  • Sampling The Legal Online Music A reporter tries out various legal online music services. It's a mixed success. "Should I take it as a sign that trying to sample the wares of several of the leading legal music sites for PC users crashed my computer and wiped out its hard drive?" On the other hand, some of the sites are downright fun. Chicago Tribune 05/11/03

A Good Reason To Tour "For most of the last two weeks, North Dakota's major cities, and nooks and crannies all around, resonated to the strains of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington and its individual members. The visit was part of the orchestra's American Residencies program, which has so far consisted of 11 tours to 12 different states over a dozen years." The New York Times 05/11/03

  • Previously: What's The Point Of An Orchestra Tour? The San Francisco Symphony is off to Europe on tour. Robert Commanday wonders why? "A decade or two ago, the received rationale was that such tours were necessary for the promotion of record sales. Whatever truth there was in that — and no convincing evidence was ever offered — that reason certainly doesn’t hold today in today’s marginalized record market. It was also argued that the orchestra as collective instrument benefitted from the repeated performances. Again, that might have been true 20 or 30 years ago, but the current level of today’s orchestral ensemble is not going to be significantly heightened by touring." San Francisco Classical Voice 05/06/03

What Makes A Great Piano? "Yes, pianists grouse that Steinways are not what they used to be. Yes, pianists ascribe whatever faults they found in whatever Steinway they just played to every Steinway. And no, the majority would never play anything but. Steinway knows all this. Every new piano that rolls out of the Steinway & Sons factory — in Astoria, Queens, next to oil tanks that block the view of the Rikers Island jails — is an attempt to refute the notion that the only good Steinway is an old Steinway." The New York Times 05/11/03

May 10, 2003

The Music Critic Problem - Hearing It On Radio Is Better What's wrong with contemporary music criticism? "The customary practice is that anyone can be approached for his or her opinion on the latest film, play, novel or exhibition. Behind the convention is an ideology: that the less you know about the subject in advance the better, since your ignorance connects you to the audience." On radio, however, one can hear and compare the music and be guided by someone who knows what they're talking about... The Guardian (UK) 05/10/03

Remembering The World's Greatest Jazz Concert Ever "It has been called 'the greatest jazz concert ever.' On May 15, 1953 - 50 years ago this Thursday - alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Bud Powell, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach assembled at Massey Hall in Toronto for their first and only time as a unit..." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/10/03

Florida Philharmonic Ceases Operations The Florida Philharmonic has laid off "all but five of their 111 employees and suspended operations Friday, saying the symphony had run out of money. The Philharmonic's 80 musicians and the rest of the orchestra's employees received their final paychecks Friday, two weeks before the scheduled end of the season. Eight concerts were canceled." Miami Herald 05/10/03

  • Region Without Orchestra The shutdown of the Florida Philharmonic leaves South Florida without a major symphony orchestra for the first time in decades. The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) 05/10/03

  • Previously: Florida Phil Prepares For Bankruptcy The Florida Philharmonic prepares to go out of business. "The Philharmonic changed the locks on its rehearsal hall Wednesday and faxed a legal notice to the governor's office and mayors of the municipalities where it performs, advising officials of its intention to file for bankruptcy. That notice stated that the Philharmonic "has developed plans to permanently shut down" and that "employment separations are expected to commence on or about May 9." The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) 05/08/03
May 9, 2003

What's The Point Of An Orchestra Tour? The San Francisco Symphony is off to Europe on tour. Robert Commanday wonders why? "A decade or two ago, the received rationale was that such tours were necessary for the promotion of record sales. Whatever truth there was in that — and no convincing evidence was ever offered — that reason certainly doesn’t hold today in today’s marginalized record market. It was also argued that the orchestra as collective instrument benefitted from the repeated performances. Again, that might have been true 20 or 30 years ago, but the current level of today’s orchestral ensemble is not going to be significantly heightened by touring." San Francisco Classical Voice 05/06/03

  • Detroit's Remember-We're-Here Tour Instead of traveling abroad, the Detroit Symphony is spending $900,000 to tour the state of Michigan. "While international touring is about building prestige and flexing the orchestra's artistic muscles, the 2-week swing through Michigan has another agenda: reminding audiences statewide that they, too, have a stake in the DSO." Detroit Free Press 05/09/03

"Handmaid's Tale" American Premiere In Minnesota Minnesota Opera is staging the American premiere of Poul Ruders' "A Handmaid's Tale (based on the Margaret Atwood book). Company officials have already cast "The Handmaid's Tale" as a "financial bath. They couldn't attract a corporate sponsor, and while the opera comes from a popular book, it's not from a beloved one. 'Maybe it was just a backlash of the times, with the war and all, but make no mistake, we created something extremely volatile and controversial. You have illicit sex, perversion, betrayal, hope and love and such heartbreaking loss. But if audiences are going to be trapped for three hours, you have to grab and entertain them, and this does that quite well'." St. Paul Pioneer-Press 05/09/03

May 8, 2003

Florida Phil Prepares For Bankruptcy The Florida Philharmonic prepares to go out of business. "The Philharmonic changed the locks on its rehearsal hall Wednesday and faxed a legal notice to the governor's office and mayors of the municipalities where it performs, advising officials of its intention to file for bankruptcy. That notice stated that the Philharmonic "has developed plans to permanently shut down" and that "employment separations are expected to commence on or about May 9." The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) 05/08/03

Why Orchestras Are Hurting... New Jersey orchestras are struggling in the recession. So why do orchestras seem to do so poorly when times are bad? "Everybody knows this is a tough environment. This will be a hard year to even come close to a balanced budget. Every time there is a recession, by definition, orchestras do badly. We are labor intensive - 80 percent of what we do goes to product, and we plan years in advance. There's not much flexibility." Newark Star-Ledger 05/08/03

Louisville Mining Its American Legacy The Louisville Orchestra was the first American orchestra to set up its own recording company. It recorded American - one of the most ambitious promotions of American composers ever. "By 1959, when the commissioning component of the Rockefeller grant came to an end, the Louisville Orchestra had commissioned, performed and recorded 116 works by 101 composers." Now the orchestra is in financial difficulty, and its trove of historic recordings offers an opportunity... Louisville Eccentric Observer 05/08/03

Florida Phil Moves the Goalposts Again The Florida Philharmonic said last month that it needed to raise $20 million immediately, or it would fold operations. When the absurdity of that goal became clear, the Phil revised the fundraising goal to $4 million by May 10. Now, employees at the Fort Lauderdale-based orchestra have been told that they will lose their jobs unless $500,000 is raised by the end of the week. The fundraising has not been going well, with many donors seemingly fed up with the orchestra's constant financial crises. Miami Herald 05/08/03 (first item)

  • Phil Faces Sad, Angry Public The plight of the Florida Philharmonic has some members of the public seeing red over the constant pleas for a bailout. In a sampling of letters to the Miami Herald, one reader called the Phil a "bottomless pit," forever looking to cure its own incompetence with other people's money. But other letter-writers are begging the orchestra to find a way to stay solvent, lest South Florida be left without a professional-caliber orchestra. Writes one, "The next performance for the Philharmonic would have been Mozart's Requiem. How fitting." Miami Herald 05/08/03

Passing The Hat For The File-Swapping Four "The four university students nabbed by the Recording Industry Association of America for copyright infringement owe thousands of dollars to the music group following a recent settlement. Pledges of support have lit up message boards, but how much help they actually will receive remains to be seen." Wired 05/08/03

May 7, 2003

San Francisco Symphony's Golden Glow The San Francisco Symphony is visiting London, and Geoffrey Norris says thaat the orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas is vibrant in the way that the City of Birmingham Orchestra was under Simon Rattle. Says Tilson Thomas: "What I felt was important was to give the audience a wider view of what contemporary music could be. I introduced contemporary music that was much more tonal, established some of the minimalist composers and figures from neo-classicism and neo-romanticism, and, now that we're turning to Ligeti, Boulez, Murail, Scelsi and Berio, people are excited, amused, outraged by what they are hearing, but they have something to talk about." The Telegraph (UK) 05/08/03

Scottish National Orchestra Chief: Our Critics Are Wrong Critics are blasting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, saying the organization is in deep trouble. But Simon Crookall, the orchestra's executive director deflects all worries. "His robust attitude permeates every aspect of his analysis of the orchestra: denying players are deserting the RSNO; defending his choice of programmes in the new season; resisting the accusation that he is sacrificing any need for freshness, challenge, or innovation in the RSNO's repertoire at the altar of the box office; and that the orchestra is being led inexorably down the road of commercialism." Glasgow Herald 05/07/03

Opera For Prudes An Opera Colorado production of Mozart's Don Giovanni has been ordered 'toned down' after a group of home-schooled students viewed a dress rehearsal, and complained about the overtly sexual nature of a scene in which "a woman - dressed in a one-piece bustier, fishnet stockings, garter belt and high heels - [cavorted] with a sometimes shirtless Don Giovanni." Since the entire plot of this particular opera is based on the sexual exploits of its title character, one might have expected the company to tell the complainants to get bent. But the president of the company was apparently similarly shocked to discover that there is sex in opera, and ordered that the show be sanitized for audience protection. Denver Post 05/07/03

Next Stop On The Orchestral Crisis Train: Louisville The latest hot spot in the increasingly shaky world of American orchestras is Louisville, Kentucky, where musicians of the Louisville Orchestra are filing for unemployment (in tux and tails, no less) and refusing to attend rehearsals after the orchestra's management missed payroll and demanded that a permanent pay cut be adopted immediately. The musicians insist that they were willing to play regardless of whether payroll was met, but balked when management refused to allow them leave to seek other employment while the crisis continues. The orchestra is looking at an estimated $800,000 deficit on a budget of $6.1 million for the current season. Louisville Courier-Journal 05/06/03

  • Unfair Practices or Critical Lack of Cash? "The Louisville Orchestra's musicians have asked the National Labor Relations Board to cite the orchestra's board for unfair labor practices. They allege that -- by not paying them or giving them immediate permission to seek other jobs -- orchestra management is illegally locking them out... Meanwhile, the orchestra's cash position is becoming ever more desperate. As of yesterday afternoon, only $3,240 remained in its bank account." Louisville Courier-Journal 05/07/03

May 6, 2003

Pittsburgh Symphony Tries To Sell Concert Hall Strapped for cash, the Pittsburgh Symphony is trying to sell its home - Heiz Hall - for $40 million. "That amount would erase the symphony's pending deficit and revive its falling endowment, which has dropped from $132 million in 2000 to $90 million. The plunge is due to the stock market and a 6.5 percent annual draw that goes into the symphony's budget. The symphony, which has owned Heinz Hall for 32 years, wants the new owner to lease the structure back to it at a very nominal rate. Sources said that token gesture called for $1 annual rent. The problem is finding a buyer." Pittsburgh Business Times 05/02/03

Let's Dance Wid Dubya Several musicians have fallen in love with Dubya's voice and have sampled his words into dance music. "Bush's speeches to the American people, particularly those concerning the Iraq war and September 11, have proved a popular source of material for a number of dance music producers and a host of releases featuring the voice of George W are now available." The Guardian (UK) 05/07/03

Are Recording Studios Obsolete? "In just a few years, the commercial recording studio has become an endangered species. Between a troubled record industry and new technology that makes studios and their expensive equipment all but obsolete, only a handful are still able to stay in business. With the extraordinary capabilities of the digital recording system called Pro Tools and the rapidly dropping cost of hard disk storage and blank CDs, musicians can set up their own recording studios for a fraction of what it used to cost to make albums at commercial facilities. The days are over for a pure music recording studio." San Francisco Chronicle 05/06/03

Over One Million Served: Apple Music Downloads A Hit In its first week, Apple's new music download service (99 cents a song) sold one million downloads. "In less than one week we’ve broken every record and become the largest online music company in the world,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. Apple 05/05/03

May 5, 2003

Where Operas Come To Be Born New York City Opera's annual opera workshop is the place new operas come to to be seen - a kind of coming-out party. "Portions of 10 new American operas be presented, including one by Lou Harrison, who died in February. This year's other composers range from the young and unknown (Patrick Soluri, 28) to the decorated (the Pulitzer Prize winner Bernard Rands). All events are free and open to the public, offering a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the country's operatic future. From a performer's perspective there is nothing else quite like it in the country. Opera scouts and industry insiders have been present in past years, and there are stories of works being picked up at the Vox and slated for full production." The New York Times 05/06/03

Violent Lyrics Linked To Violent Behavior A new study conducted by researchers in Iowa and Texas, finds "a link between listening to violent song lyrics and feelings of aggression and hostility, bolstering arguments that such content can lead to violent behavior - a finding that belies the notion that violent music provides a cathartic release for anger and negative feelings." Hartford Courant 05/05/03

Is The Chicago Symphony's Plight Dire? Jeremy Grant reports that the Chicago Symphony's financial fortunes are precarious and worrisome. "Due to factors mostly out of [music director Daniel] Barenboim's control, the CSO faces possibly the most serious financial crisis in its 112-year history. With the US economy in recession, ticket sales are flat and subscriptions are falling. Plunging stock market values have eroded the value of the orchestra's endowment fund and new corporate and individual sponsorships have all but dried up. This year's budget is likely to balance, but only because of a one-off draw-down from the endowment. Management predicts the orchestra is likely to swing into a deficit of about $4m-$5m (£2.5m-£3.1m) next year, having slumped to $6.1m in 2002." Financial Times 05/02/03

San Francisco Music Scene Dies Off "After more than a quarter-century of being one of the centers of the pop music world, the famous San Francisco scene has crumbled. While underground rock still percolates in warehouses and lofts around the Bay Area, this insular constituency breeds few mainstream breakouts. For years, the Bay Area music industry nurtured a steady procession of new and exciting rock talents - from Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead to Metallica and Green Day. Today, what's left of the local industry has disappeared into a crater left behind by the dot-com crash and struggles of the recording business. The dissolution of the area's music scene has occurred for two reasons: the economic hard times besetting the record industry as a whole, and the creation of new technology that has made recording studios all but obsolete." San Francisco Chronicle 05/05/03

See The Concert, Buy The Music Clear Channel, which dominates the American radio business and is also a major concert promoter, is offering a new deal - go to the concert, then five minutes after it's finished, buy a recording of the concert you just heard. "Although initially modest, involving only small-audience clubs and theaters in the Boston area, the venture could eventually extend beyond radio and concerts into music distribution. And that could prove troubling to critics, who already complain that the company's rigidly formatted radio stations prevent diverse artists from reaching the airwaves and that its dominance of the concert business too often forces touring acts to accept unfavorable deals." The New York Times 05/05/03

NPR Offers New Classical Music Service National Public Radio has teamed up with KUSC in Los Angeles and CPRN in Colorado to begin offering a new classical music service. "NPR will offer the service to its 732 member stations, 472 of which already carry classical music. "We're giving them more to work with. The service's economy of scale will enable even small outlets to have high-quality announcing and programming." The music service will compete with existing networks produced by Minnesota Public Radio and Chicago's Beethoven Network. Los Angeles Times 05/05/03

Dallas Opera Chooses New General Director The Dallas Opera has chosen Karen Stone – an English native now Intendant (general director) of the combined opera and theater operations of Graz, Austria – as its new general director. Dallas Morning News 05/03/03

May 4, 2003

Pittsburgh Symphony - The Big Search The Pittsburgh Symphony is searching for a new music director to replace Mariss Jansosn. What is the orchestra looking for? "Whereas maestros Andre Previn, Lorin Maazel and Jansons were picked because they could be marketed, the next music director will have to do the marketing. At least, that's the case in mid-sized markets such as Pittsburgh. A large part of the perception of the orchestra and its marketing ability flow through the podium. Previously, the maestro's reputation leaked into marketing in an indirect way; now, he or she will be on the front lines of fund raising and ticket selling." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/04/03

  • Pittsburgh - Buy American What should Pittsburgh be looking for in a new music director? "An established star would garner respect and bring the orchestra to Europe, but he'd be expensive and unlikely to show up at chicken dinners to raise money. An energetic young American would come with a smaller price tag and the understanding of what it takes to market an orchestra, but he'd lack connections to soloists and venues as well as the name value to sit comfortably with the likes of Reiner, Steinberg, Previn, Maazel and Jansons." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/04/03

  • A Pittsburgh Wishlist Andrew Druckenbrod runs down a dream list of candidates for the next director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Dohnanyi? Slatkin? Dutoit? Tilson Thomas?... Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/04/03

New Jersey Symphony - A Job Too Big For One? The New Jersey Symphony hs been looking for a new music director since 2000. Now the orchestra "is considering whether the job of music director has grown larger than one person. 'Life has changed; we need to get more people involved in artistic programming, and we also need to come to the realization that no one person can fulfill all the things needed of artistic leadership. We have evolved." Newark Star-Ledger 05/04/03

Is It By Rossini Or Anon? A debut performance of an elaborate wedding cantata billed as being composed by Rossini 171 years ago has angered some Rossini experts who dispute its authenticity. "The performance will take place in his name despite calls from some Rossini experts - who doubt the work's authenticity - for the piece to be billed as by Anon, writing in the style of the composer best known for The Barber of Seville." The Guardian (UK) 05/04/03

The Florida Philharmonic's Bleak Prospects With an annual budget of $10 million, the Florida Philharmonic is the state's largest performing arts institution. But after failing to raise $20 million in emergency funds by last Friday, the orchestra could go out of business at the end of next week. Friday the orchestra gave itself a one-week reprieve, saying it had to raise $4 million by then to remain open. The prospects are not good. Palm Beach Post 05/04/03

Looking For Mr/Ms Right The St. Lawrence String Quartet is one of chamber music's rising young stars - the group has a prestigious residency, a recording contract, and plenty of concerts. But when its founding cellist decided to quit, the search for a replacement was arduous. Now, a year after taking in a new player, the group is beginning its search all over again... The New York Times 05/04/03

May 3, 2003

Florida Philharmonic Extends Deathwatch Deadline The Florida Philharmonic didn't make its self-imposed deadline of raising $20 million by Friday; it came up with only $3 million. So is it filing for bankruptcy, as threatened? Not quite. The orchestra has stopped selling tickets for concerts after next weekend, said it needs to raise $4 million to keep going instead of $20 million. And it extended a self-imposed deadline for a bankruptcy filing. "The Philharmonic's board has authorized management to shut down the symphony `as early as May 10 . . . unless there is a groundswell of public support providing immediate commitments of at least $4 million'." Miami Herald 05/03/03

  • Previously: No White Knight For Florida Philharmonic (So Far) So far no one has stepped forward to help bail out the Florida Philharmonic, which needs to raise $20 million by Friday so it can stay in business. "The Philharmonic, which has run deficits ranging from $900,000 to $3.6 million each year since 1999, needs about $4 million right away, Lewis said. The orchestra can make its May 9 payroll but will run out of money before it can pay employees on May 23. 'What is difficult for me as a potential donor . . . is to hear that the orchestra has been so badly managed before and now we should trust you to make a better orchestra." Miami Herald 04/29/03

Making Pops Sing Again Attendance for the Milwaukee Symphony's pops concerts seems to be waning. Partly, its a problem of headlining stars who are getting older and appealing to fewer people. Many younger music stars just don't seem right for the pops. Tom Strini proposes not getting rid of the pops, but reforming how the concerts are mounted... Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 05/02/03

St. Louis Symphony Digs Out The St. Louis Symphony, which earlier this season said it was in danger of collapse if a major emergency fundraising campaign wasn't successful, says it has raised three-quarters of the $40 million it needs to survive. "With $30 million pledged or in hand, the Symphony has 20 months left to bring in the remaining $10 million. But to be really healthy, the Symphony needs more than the $85 million to $90 million in endowment that it will have by the end of the campaign - somewhere more in the neighborhood of $150 million." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 05/02/03

May 2, 2003

Florida Phil Didn't Make Fundraising Goal The Florida Philharmonic is $17 million short of its fundraising goal, and its deadline for the money is today. "Philharmonic executive director Trey Devey said the group raised about $3 million of its goal of amassing $20 million in 10 days, which ends today. The money would have put the perennially cash-strapped orchestra on the road to financial stability, orchestra officials said. Without the $20 million, the 52-member board must choose from three options..." Miami Herald 05/02/03

May 1, 2003

Opera Australia Cuts Season Opera Australia is cutting its season in response to lower funding. "The number of operas in next year's autumn season will drop from five to four, reducing its length by about three weeks. It used to do six." The Age (Melbourne) 05/01/03

Buffalo, Rochester Orchestras Discussing Merger? Are the financially-ailing Rochester and Buffalo Philarmonics discussing a merger? That was the indication this week from Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello. “There have been conversations between Buffalo Philharmonic and Rochester Philharmonic about joint ventures or merging. Those are some difficult issues.” But the orchestras say nothing's in the works. Rochester Democrat & Chronicle 05/01/03

Jazz - A Dying Breed "As jazz settles into its second century, the number of musicians who qualify as living legends diminishes each year. Even in the 1970s — when the music was arguably at its lowest commercial ebb — many of the greatest names in its history were still rumbling around the five-star circuit. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus: all commanded the biggest stages. Today, it is harder and harder to find those living links with the past. The recent death of the showman Lionel Hampton was another reminder of how few titans are still with us." Is the era of the jazz concert coming to a close? The Telegraph (UK) 05/02/03

Recording Industry Settles Downloading Lawsuits With Students A recording industry trade group says it has settled lawsuits it brought against four college students for music downloading. Settlements range from $12,000 to $17,500 each, with four college students the industry claimed had been operating illegal song-swap networks on campuses. Yahoo! (Reuters) 05/01/03

Change Is In The Air In Pittsburgh The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is in full red alert mode. The PSO is facing enormous deficits, little community support, and its search for a new managing director appears to be dragging on a bit, even as other major orchestras begin to snatch up promising candidates. Furthermore, the orchestra's musicians have no input into the search process, which is highly unusual among major orchestras, and no one seems quite sure where the organization is headed. But everyone involved seems to agree that, whomever the PSO settles on as its new chief executive, a major change in the way the orchestra does business is a must. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/01/03

Sawallisch Does Carnegie, But Cancels In Philly It seems that Wolfgang Sawallisch's tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra is coming to an end none too soon. The 79-year-old maestro, who has been battling severe fatigue lately, managed to muster the strength to conduct his final Carnegie Hall concert with the Fabulous Philadelphians this week, but his exhaustion has forced him to pull out of this week's concerts back in Philly, and the orchestra is making no guarantees that he will even be on hand for his farewell concerts next week, or for a taxing 3-week tour beginning immediately thereafter. All this is unfortunate, says Peter Dobrin, but "Sawallisch's last Carnegie concert will stand as a stunning and poignant musical memento." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/01/03

  • Previously: What Sawallisch Means To Philadelphia "As Wolfgang Sawallisch ends his decade with three weeks of concerts that started last week and a forthcoming tour, he is as firm a personification of the Philadelphia Orchestra as Leopold Stokowski or Eugene Ormandy. He restored the Philadelphia Orchestra's famously velvety sound, erasing the more generic, international svelteness Muti imposed. He could be a fiery podium presence - sometimes. He didn't shrink from tough decisions, and several controversial moves only helped to concretize his leadership." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/26/03

Edmonton's Other Orchestra Evolves Metamorphosis, an Edmonton-based chamber orchestra, has had a good first season after being born from the ashes of the relationship between the Edmonton Symphony musicians and their management. Grzegorz Nowak, the conductor who was deposed from the symphony's music directorship only to announce that he would stay in town and start his own orchestra, has backed off his original brash plans of competing directly with his old employer, and crafted a much-needed niche ensemble. In fact, starting next season, the smaller group, which will be renamed the Canadian Chamber Orchestra, will be playing its concerts at the same hall occupied by the Edmonton Symphony. Edmonton Journal 04/30/03

How Cheap Does Music Have To Be? Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the company's long-awaited new music downloading service this week, with a single song going for 99 cents. That's a good price, but many observers are already saying that it isn't nearly good enough to lure consumers away from peer-to-peer file swapping services, where they can get the same songs for free. There seems to be no shortage of opinions on what the proper price of a song really is, but no one really knows how Apple will fare, since their unique non-subscription-style download service hasn't really been tried before. Wired 05/01/03

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