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July 31, 2003

Developer: NY City Opera Still In Runninbg For WTC Site Developers deny a story that ran in the New York Times earlier this week that the new hall to be built as part of the performing arts center at the World Trade Center site would be too small for New York City Opera. Crain's New York Business 07/31/03

Touched By The Music A new electronic music interface makes creating music easier and more physical. "In terms of the style of play it encourages, it's easier to improvise a more expressive style of play. Because it's physical, there's also a dynamic that engages the audience. They can actually see what the performer is doing. The Audiopad is projected on a special table equipped with radio sensors that track the position and movement of half a dozen plastic discs, or 'pucks.' Most of the pucks control a series of preprogrammed tracks - the rhythm, the bass line, the melody and so on." Wired 07/31/03

Report: Online Music Sales Won't Make Up For CD Declines Sales of online downloadable music are picking up. But a new study says the sales won't make up for the decline in CD sales. "Online analyst Jupiter Media has slashed its estimates for the amount record companies will be able to generate from online sales in 2003 to $800m (£490m). Although the figure refers only to the more developed US market, it spells bad news for record companies hoping to shore up declining CD sales worldwide." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/03

Opera House At Ground Zero Looking Unlikely It's looking more and more unlikely that New York City Opera will find a home in the performing arts center planned for the World Trade Center site. Space for the center has been reduced by 20 percent. "Given the reduction in the space available and the footprint that City Opera says it needs, it would seem that a significant change in plans would be needed to accommodate an opera house. The opera has proposed a new house with a 60,000-square-foot footprint, Paul Kellogg, general and artistic director of the opera, said in an interview yesterday — so 40,000 square feet would appear to be severely inadequate." The New York Times 07/31/03

July 30, 2003

Tokyo Concert Hall Goes Free (For The Right Orchestras) Tokyo's Metropolitan Art Space was built in 1990, but has failed to attract the top international orchestras it hoped to book. So it has decided to offer the hall free to orchestras. Managers said "it would place short-term profits on the back burner and seek to attract top orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras." Yomiuri Shimbun 07/31/03

Does BBC Pump Out US Tunes Over Homegrown? Does BBC Radio 1 favor playing established American hits over British performers? That's the charge. "It is easier for programmers to play proven American hits rather than gamble on new UK tracks. I would question whether it was good for the UK music industry, the British public or for the BBC in the long run."
The Telegraph (UK) 07/31/03

Suing The Opera Company You Love... What does the lawsuit against the Metropolitan Opera on behalf of one of the company's biggest donors mean to arts philanthropy? "Anybody who ever bought tickets for a production that turned out disappointing may be inclined to toast the plaintiffs. More seriously, individual donors will sniff an opportunity to increase their already dominant positions, if only after death." Fi9nancial Times 07/30/03

Get The (Jazz) Label "Ask a member of the general public what label their favorite musician records for, and they're not likely to know. To many it seems an arcane detail, and in some sense it is. Labels are commonly viewed as a means to an end, as mere conduits rather than shapers of musical culture. We are aware of individual artists but often take for granted the aural and visual worlds that labels create through their catalogs.Today, many believe that the 'golden age' of jazz has passed. But there are probably more jazz labels than ever before. The vast majority are small, independent operations." NewMusicBox 07/03

French Arts Strikers Shut Down Casals Concert Striking arts workers forced cancellation of a concert at the Pablo Casals Festival in the French Pyranees. The "announcement of the cancellation infuriated the audience. As they left the venue, attendees shouted insults at the intermittents, who reportedly had to wait in backstage areas for over half an hour before being able to leave the area in safety." Andante (AFP) 07/30/03

July 29, 2003

The Met Opera Donor Who Didn't Get What She Would Have Wanted Did the Metropolitan Opera use funds from a donor for a production of which she would have disapproved? That's the charge from representatives of the estate of Sybil B Harrington. "He who pays the piper calls the tune, even if that tune comes from beyond the grave. It's matter of trust, and arts organisations should take great care that cavalier interpretation of testamentary wishes doesn't end up putting potential donors off. Meanwhile, the Met can ill afford either the Harrington executors' demand for restitution of $5 million or the attendant bad publicity." The Telegraph (UK) 07/30/03

Recording Industry Threats Don't Deter File-Swappers Music file-swappers seem to be unfazed by recording industry threats of legal action against them. "Just 17% of swappers ages 18 and over say they have cut back on file sharing because of the potential legal consequences, according to a survey released by Jupiter Research at the company's annual Plug.IN digital music conference Monday. And 43% see nothing wrong with online file trading; only 15% say it's wrong." USAToday 07/29/03

Suing For The Music - Two Thousand Years Of Lawsuits If it's really true that 60 million Americans are swapping music files, and the recording industry has issued 900 subpoenas with the intent of suing every file swapper out there, how long will it take to get to all the "pirates?" According to one calculation: 2191.78 years to subpoena each person. The Inquirer 07/28/03

Sonic Mush At The World's Biggest Chamber Music Festival Ottawa's International Chamber music Festival is the largest chamber music festival in the world, with 110 concerts in two weeks, featuring some of the best chamber groups playing today. This is the festival's tenth anniversary, and to celebrate it staged a concert with 16 pianists performing on ten pianos... resulting in a bit of a sonic mush, writes Colin Eatock. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/29/03

What Becomes A Pirate? The recording industry wants to protect its copyrights and outlaw file-sharing. But file-sharing is a slippery technology that evolves quickly and beats circumvention. "The only solution, some say, is to legitimize the new technology, just as old record-copying technologies have been legalized, and to license file sharing itself, while also offering pay services that are far superior to peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa. The trouble right now is that technology companies like Kazaa have been trying to get licences for this music. They want to do it legitimately. They want to pay artists. The trouble is that the five multibillion-dollar record companies have refused to give them licences for the past five years..." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/29/03

Ravinia Denies Chicago Symphony Report Chicago's Ravinia Festival - longtime summer home of the Chicago Symphony - says it doesn't plan to "drastically reduce its number of Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts in future seasons, despite a report suggesting otherwise in Monday's Crain's Chicago Business..." The festival says that "ticket sales in Ravinia's 3,200-seat pavilion are down 5 percent so far for CSO concerts compared with last summer. But reducing the number of CSO performances is only one option to be considered when the orchestra's contract with Ravinia comes up for renewal after next season." Chicago Sun-Times 07/29/03

  • Previously: Ravinia Rethinking Its Orchestral Partnership To most music lovers in the Midwest, the Ravinia Festival is nearly synonymous with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But the partnership betwen the two organizations has seen far better days, and since the CSO does not own the festival - a nearly unique situation among major American orchestras - Ravinia is considering serious changes to its schedule which would deemphasize the orchestra's participation. Ticket sales for CSO performances at Ravinia have been off sharply for the last several years, and that has the festival seriously considering a plan which would cut the number of performances the orchestra puts on at Ravinia each summer. Crain's Chicago Business 07/26/03

Recording Industry Buys Political Insider We don't want to be cynical, we really don't. But Monday's announcement by the Recording Industry Association of America that its new leader will be US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's former chief of staff gives us pause at a time when Congress is trying to decide new rules for the digital age and the recording industry is lobbying for laws to keep an old power structure in place. Former RIAA head Hilary Rosen left the job earlier this year. She "had close ties to the Democratic Party, but that turns out to be not so useful now. If we get a new law relating to digital copyright, it will come through Republican-dominated committees." Wired 07/29/03

  • Recording Industry Goes After Consumers "The RIAA, the Washington trade group that represents the world's biggest record labels, has filed more than 900 subpoenas since June 26 to gather information to file civil lawsuits against hundreds of users of file-sharing programs. Legal experts say this is the first time copyright law has been used to crack down on average consumers. Previously, copyright battles have typically pitted companies against other businesses, or against people who have intentionally tried to make money pirating copyright-protected material." San Francisco Chronicle 07/29/03

Making The Case For Russian Opera Alex Ross writes that conductor Valery Gergiev is "the fiery angel of the Russian repertory, who has seemingly sworn not to get a full night’s sleep until Glinka’s operas are as familiar as Puccini’s." His recent orgy of Russian operas performed at Lincoln Center wasn't the biggest attendance driver but it made an excellent case for the golden era of Russian opera. The New Yorker 07/28/03

July 28, 2003

Day-Oh... Opera Company Presents Pop Concerts To Raise Money With a deficit of $1.3 million and a $6.5 million budget to feed, Atlanta Opera needs to raise serious cash. How? "When the Atlanta Opera recently announced plans to present pops concerts - concurrent with its main opera season - it seemed to highlight the staggering difficulties ahead." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/27/03

July 27, 2003

Replacing Gary Graffman Gary Graffman embodies the Curtis Institute of Music. Just as the Philadelphia-based school is simultaneously one of the world's leading musical academies and one of its best performance showcases for young musicians, Graffman, the institute's director, is both a consummate educator and a revered performer. He is also 74 years old, and Curtis has officially begun the search for his successor. Curtis is a unique school, housed in an old Philadelphia mansion and offering little in the way of non-musical academics, and it is an old institute tradition that the director must be an acclaimed musician first, and a manager second. Philadelphia Inquirer 07/27/03

Seattle's New Populist Opera House Opera audiences tend to be a fairly conservative bunch, artistically speaking, and opera houses have generally followed their lead. But in the Pacific Northwest, the newly renovated home of the Seattle Opera has risen in a mass of populist glass and metal, inviting comparisons to the Gehry-designed shrine to Jimi Hendrix located mere blocks away. "Metallic scrims cross the plaza in front of the hall and extend into the spacious multilevel lobby, in a further gesture meant to break down the barriers between opera and the public. At night the scrims will glow with colored lights keyed to the music being performed." The New York Times 07/27/03

The Golden Age of the Pipe Organ The pipe organ is not generally thought of as a sexy instrument. After all, organs are huge, bulky, loud, impractical, and completely unportable - precisely the opposite of the 21st-century definition of alluring. The fact that most of them reside in churches probably doesn't help the image, either. But 100 years ago, the pipe organ was the very height of musical cool, and audiences flocked to hear their awesome power. Department stores installed massive organs as a sign of prestige, and the wealthy even had organs in their homes and on their yachts. Radio, TV, and recorded music may have been the biggest enemies of the organ, but some see a comeback in the offing. Los Angeles Times 07/27/03

Indie Record Stores Continue To Thrive The music industry is in a horrible slump. Really. Just ask any CEO of a big corporate record label or mega-CD chain. But owners of many of the country's independent record stores continue to thrive, and their proprietors say that the big, impersonal chains have no one to blame but themselves. "Without the resources of the big national chains, independent and mom-and-pop stores might seem ill-suited to weather the tough sales market. But free from the big-business mindset of corporate labels and the chain stores beholden to big releases by bigger stars, independent record stores are increasingly in a position to succeed where so many big companies and chains are failing or faltering, finding unique and creative ways to trump the slump." Chicago Tribune 07/27/03

  • The Radio Clear Channel Can't Touch With the corporate megalith that is the music industry closing ranks around the nation's independent radio stations, it has become increasingly difficult to hear an original mix of truly diverse music anywhere in America. So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that, as companies like Clear Channel continue to gobble up stations faster than Pac-Man eats dots, the raw and edgy world of college radio is becoming increasingly popular with listeners. Denver Post 07/27/03

Are You On The RIAA's Most-Wanted List? Yeah, yeah, we know. You have a lot of down time at work, and so, for the last couple of years, you've been using your high-speed internet access to download a few hundred of your favorite songs without, technically, paying for them. Now the recording industry says it's hunting down people like you, and you haven't slept in a month wondering if you're headed for a court date. But there's hope: a new web site allows you to plug in your file-sharing username and match it against a list of subpoenas filed by the RIAA. Wired 07/26/03

City Opera Cut Out of Ground Zero Plans "The municipal corporation overseeing the redevelopment of ground zero has determined that there is no place at the site for an opera house, a decision that all but dashes the New York City Opera's hopes of moving there from Lincoln Center." However, there appears to be some confusion as to whether City Opera has been officially informed of this development. City officials swear they contacted the company last week, but NYCO's director insists that, as far as he's concerned, a move to the site is still very much on the table. The New York Times 07/26/03

  • Previously: Booking Space At Ground Zero "More than 10 well-known New York arts and cultural institutions are working on plans to be part of the new center that will be built at Ground Zero. The proposals, from institutions ranging from off-Broadway theaters to museums, are in response to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.'s recent request for formal expressions of interest from cultural groups that wish to be part of the site." Among the groups which have already declared their wishes to relocate to the site are the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York City Opera, and the Joyce Theater. Crain's New York Business 07/21/03

Ravinia Rethinking Its Orchestral Partnership To most music lovers in the Midwest, the Ravinia Festival is nearly synonymous with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But the partnership betwen the two organizations has seen far better days, and since the CSO does not own the festival - a nearly unique situation among major American orchestras - Ravinia is considering serious changes to its schedule which would deemphasize the orchestra's participation. Ticket sales for CSO performances at Ravinia have been off sharply for the last several years, and that has the festival seriously considering a plan which would cut the number of performances the orchestra puts on at Ravinia each summer. Crain's Chicago Business 07/26/03

July 25, 2003

Playing The Parent Card The new generation of teens and pre-teens are, naturally, more computer-savvy than any previous bunch of kids. And that means that they do a tremendous amount of file-sharing, and they know exactly where to find the free (and illegal) music. Furthermore, they do not appear to be terribly responsive to begging or threats. So the recording industry is trying to get to them in the only way they think might have an effect: they're calling the little pirates' parents. Wired 07/25/03

  • Universities Seek A Middle Ground On File-Sharing "University officials are working with the music and movie industry to find a peaceful solution to the piracy problem, even as they're fighting a firestorm of subpoenas seeking information on their file-swapping students. The universities are exploring technologies that would control illegal peer-to-peer file sharing. In addition, they are working with digital music and movie companies to offer downloading services tailored to universities." Wired 07/25/03

July 24, 2003

Met Opera Defends Itself The Metropolitan Opera has responded publicly to a lawsuit by the estate of a Texas oil heiress which claims that the company has been misusing funds donated for specific purposes. Met Opera president Joseph Volpe issued the standard boilerplate denials, and assured the press that the Met would be fighting the suit in court. Harrington had her run-ins with Volpe and the Met in life, as well, and was reportedly a donor who expected to be granted a considerable role in the creative decision-making process in exchange for her generosity. The New York Times 07/25/03

In Time Of Trouble, Do We Still Sing? Some people respond to horror and tragedy by turning to music. To others, pain is best dealt with in silence. This spring, as the US and the UK marched off to a war opposed by a large percentage of the public, John Woolrich asked several prominent composers to do what composers so rarely do these days: write a piece in direct response to current events. "What should we sing in the dark times? There are as many musical reactions to public events as there are composers... ranging through music of anger, defiance, loss, remembrance, near silence, transcendence, nostalgia and mourning." The Guardian (UK) 07/25/03

Downloading's Legal And Profitable Future Not everyone in the record industry views downloading as the apocolyptic end of an era. Peter Jamieson, executive chairman of the British Phonographic Industry, looks at the success of pay-per-song download services and sees, among other things, the potential for the revival of the "singles" chart. Jamieson also believes that, if current trends continue, downloading (the legal kind) could become more popular than CD-buying within five years. BBC 07/24/03

Are Orchestras Really Committed To Their Cities? Last month, the Philadelphia Orchestra nearly had to call off a series of free "neighborhood concerts" for lack of sponsors. A last-minute sponsor stepped in, and all was well, but Peter Dobrin has a question. Shouldn't we be able to expect that an orchestra, which spends a good amount of time asking for financial and moral support from the community, be committed enough to its home city to put on a few free concerts every year, regardless of sponsorship? "Maybe it's too easy to interpret this situation as one of those rich-sticking-it-to-the-poor episodes, but what the orchestra has done with this year's cancellation interlude, intentionally or not, is to reinforce the old cliche that classical music is something only for the wealthy." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/24/03

Not Going Down Without A Fight Orchestras and their music directors part on less-than-perfect terms more often than not, but generally, industry tradition insists that all sides keep up a show of mutual respect, no matter how bitter the split. But in Fairbanks, Alaska, the former music director of the local orchestra has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages for her dismissal in 2001. Madeline Schatz claims that members of the Fairbanks Symphony Association deliberately undercut her authority and defamed her to the dean of the college which sponsors the orchestra. Schatz had been accused of throwing chairs and music stands during a youth orchestra rehearsal, and a petition of the musicians had called for her removal. Fairbanks News-Miner (Alaska) 07/24/03

Those Catty, Catty Violinists "A member of a German orchestra has been fined more than £300 for fighting with a colleague who failed to hit the right note. The Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn was holding a rehearsal in front of members of the public at the Beethoven Hall in the city when one of the first violinists played the wrong note. A fellow musician pointed out his colleague's mistake but when the violinist failed to hit the right note for a second time a fight broke out." Ananova.com 07/24/03

Stratford's Other Festival These days, when you think of Stratford, Ontario, you probably think of the town's famed Shakespeare festival. But the Stratford Festival was originally supposed to be a multi-disciplinary gathering, and John Miller, the creator of the three-year-old Stratford Summer Music Festival, is convinced that the town has room for more than just plays. Rather than compete with the theater crowd, Miller schedules his concerts around the Shakespeare, and treats the unusual showtimes and locations he must use as selling points rather than detriments. In return the Stratford Festival has been quite supportive of its new "little brother," with organizers of the theater fest donating money and equipment to the cause. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/24/03

The Trouble With Music As Competitive Sport The Kapell Piano Competition gets underway in Baltimore this month. Competitions are a time-honored tradition of the classical music landscape, and it is almost unthinkable for a promising young soloist to skip the competition circuit. But do the juries at such high-pressure events actually award the top prizes to the best musicians? Some think not, pointing out that "the process of judging with numbers can result in a neutral person getting the best score. If a pianist does something extreme, chances are someone on the jury will disagree with it, and you end up with a very low score. Solid and straight playing then wins instead because it doesn't offend anyone." Baltimore Sun 07/24/03

Met Opera Sued Over Misused Contribution The estate of a Texas philanthropist is suing the Metropolitan Opera, claiming that the Met misappropriated and misused part of a major contribution. Sybil Harrington donated at least $27 million to the Met in her lifetime, and her estate gave an additional $6 million after her death. The suit "alleges Met representatives have made false claims concerning the status of funds Harrington donated to the Met and disposition of other contributions after Harrington's death in 1998... The suit also seeks an accounting of all funds donated by Harrington and a special trust created for further contributions after her death." Amarillo Globe-News 07/23/03

July 23, 2003

Teachers Strike Met Opera "About 30 teaching artists employed by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Metropolitan Opera Guild went on strike Tuesday, demanding pension and health benefits." The teaching artists train classroom teachers in opera education, and also teach children about the genre. They are seeking to have their status at the Met upgraded from independent contractors to full employees, an issue they say that Met Opera officials have refused even to discuss. They also wish to be represented by the American Federation of Musicians union local, a right granted to many other Lincoln Center employees. Newsday (AP) 07/22/03

Trying Anything To Get The Kids Involved A new educational initiative sponsored by the Chicago Symphony's Ravinia Festival combines the classics with modern pop music overtones, in the hope of making the genre less intimidating. It's a strange effect, but John van Rhein says that if it works, it's worth it. "If such tactics are what's needed to turn on kids to a 173-year-old symphonic masterpiece, so be it... The project is one of many comparable initiatives undertaken by classical music organizations across the nation... In so doing, they are taking up some of the slack from an educational system that has failed miserably to keep classical music in the public school curriculum." Chicago Tribune 07/23/03

And It Never Hurts To Have A Backup Profession At a lakeside resort in Central Maine, the wait staff are no ordinary foodservice types. Quisisana, a resort catering to New England's well-to-do, decided to kill two birds with one stone by recruiting its service staff almost entirely from the nation's top music conservatories. Students from such prestigious institutions as Juilliard and New England Conservatory bus tables and wash dishes by day, then throw on tux and tails in the evening to provide entertainment for the resort's guests. It may sound a bit exhausting, but for music students who would otherwise have to sacrifice their summer practice time in order to make money, it's the perfect summer job. Boston Globe 07/23/03

Refusing To Roll Over For The Record Industry One of the recording industry's recent efforts to stem the flow of illegal music downloads on the internet was to issue subpoenas to dozens of American colleges and universities, demanding that the schools turn over the names and addresses of students known to be trading copyrighted material on school servers. But this week, two Boston schools have filed motions to quash the subpoenas, claiming that the industry failed to give the schools a reasonable amount of time to inform their student bodies. One Boston College administrator insists that the motions to quash are not designed to protect students engaged in illegal file trading, but to make sure that the law is followed to the letter. Wired 07/23/03

  • Spain Gets Tough With File-Swappers. Really Tough. "In what is being touted as the largest legal action of its kind, a Spanish law firm has announced plans to file a copyright-violation complaint against 4,000 individuals who allegedly have swapped illegal files over peer-to-peer networks in that country." The law firm says it will demand the maximum sentence for every software pirate it convicts. That sentence is four years in prison. Wired 07/22/03

July 22, 2003

The Little Label That Could When Robert von Bahr started recording classical music 30 years ago for his own label, BIS, he hauled his own equipment, begged record stores to carry his products, and generally did all the things that plucky little doomed labels do to try to stave off their inevitable demise. But the doom part never happened, and today, BIS is one of the most respected labels in the world of classical music. It has an astonishing array of high-quality artists and repertoire in its catalog, a commitment to new music and little-known composers, and a reputation as the leading purveyor of the music of Jean Sibelius, thanks in large part to an ongoing partnership with Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, considered to be the leading living interpreter of that composer's work. The Herald (Glasgow) 07/23/03

Is The Mercury Prize Passé? "The Mercury Music Prize is on the way to becoming the wounded beast of music awards ceremonies. Its raison d'etre is to reflect the best in British music, not just that which sells, but perhaps it has not yet recovered from Alan McGee's lambasting of the 2000 shortlist as a bunch of 'bedwetters'... But a bigger problem for the Mercury is the public's dwindling trust in it as a recommendation of what to buy. It seems ages since a Mercury victory could propel a relatively unknown artist to national success, but the panel has only itself to blame for rewarding a series of worthy but unlistenable albums." The Guardian (UK) 07/22/03

NY Phil Makes Its Colorado Debut "To call the first in a series of New York Philharmonic summer residencies at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival a milestone in Colorado's classical music history does not overstate the magnitude of the event." The Phil has come to Colorado under a new agreement which, the festival hopes, will see it performing in Vail for decades to come. Kyle MacMillan reports that, despite some lackluster playing in the opening concert and the familiar acoustical problems associated with outdoor amphitheatres, New York's legendary band is a stunning addition to the state's cultural scene. Denver Post 07/22/03

Mercury Shortlist Released The shortlist for this year's prestigious Mercury Music Prize is out, and it includes pop music acts from Radiohead and Coldplay to soul duo Floetry and club mixer Dizzee Rascal. Although most Americans are unaware of its existence, the Mercury Prize, which is judged by a panel of music industry experts, is often a springboard to mainstream success in both Europe and the U.S. BBC 07/22/03

July 21, 2003

It's No 'Orange Blossom Special,' But It'll Do This week, Spiro Patanikolatos made his solo debut at the Hamptons Music Festival in upstate New York. His instrument of choice was a 10-car locomotive. "The westbound 8:05 p.m. train out of Bridgehampton and its 20-second-long roar have become something of a festival tradition, one that soloists... have tried to somehow 'play around' by adjusting their phrasing." But this year, the festival held a competition in which composers wrote works specifically designed to feature the rumbling train. "The audience of several hundred watched the train go past and cheered. Mr. Patanikolatos sounded its long, loud whistle, and the featured instrument of the evening disappeared down the track." The New York Times 07/22/03

New Chairwoman, Familiar Problems When Dame Judy Mayhew takes over the reins of London's Royal Opera House, she will have her work cut out for her. The head job at Covent Garden has always been a notoriously tricky one politically, and the ROH is not exactly flush with cash at the moment, either. Mayhew is upbeat about the future, but realistic about the short and long-term challenges that lie ahead of her: "The reality is that we have to find a way of squeezing another £1.4m out of next year's Covent Garden budget, and we have to find ways of doing it without damaging the core product." The Herald (Glasgow) 07/22/03

All Right, Erik, You Got Us A widely reported story that the rock group Metallica was suing a little-known Canadian band for trademark violation over the use of the chords E and F (in that order) has turned out to be an elaborate hoax by a Canadian satirist and aspiring musician. Erik Ashley got the story (very realistically masquerading as a news item on MTV's web site) past dozens of radio news directors, the online news source Ananova, and (sigh) not one, but two ArtsJournal editors. The beauty of the hoax, of course, is that the story is preposterous, yet, given Metallica's litigious history, entirely plausible as well. No word on whether Metallica plans to sue Ashley for defamation. CNN 07/21/03

They're Old, But They're Smart, Too A new study by the National Endowment for the Arts finds that audiences for live classical music events grew slightly in the last ten years, but that a slightly smaller percentage of the public attended concerts than in 1992. "At 49, classical music audiences have the highest median age of any of the categories in the survey... Classical and opera audiences have also become more educated. About 85 percent of concertgoers had at least a partial college education in 2002, up from 77 percent in 1992." Andante 07/21/03

  • Why Most Companies Just Do Aida Every Year "Presenting a new opera always comes with higher costs and higher risks than showcasing the tried-and-true. Even though the opera combines the familiar history of China's Cultural Revolution with fictionalized events, Madame Mao remains an unknown quantity. The production, which employs eight dancers and elaborate costumes, has a budget of $1.5 million, half again as much as the Santa Fe Opera average." Los Angeles Times 07/20/03

All Music Is Local, And It May Just Be Ethnic, Too One of the biggest challenges of programming an orchestra's season is finding a reliable way to gauge the interest's of a local audience. Even in an industry so dominated by a "standard repertoire," the tastes of concertgoers vary widely from city to city, and what goes over brilliantly in New York may well flop 100 miles down the road in Philadelphia. "Theories abound about what formulates and maintains local taste - theories nearly as disputable as they are defendable. The collective consciousness of any community isn't all that collective and is constantly shifting. The theory that seems to carry the most weight is ethnicity." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/20/03

July 20, 2003

Madame Mao Goes To The Opera Jiang Qing led the type of life so dramatically implausible, so full of power and corruption and disgrace and misery, that it could only ever be fully realized on the operatic stage. The wife of Mao Zedong, who was known in China as the White-Boned Demon, was already memorialized in song by John Adams in his opera, Nixon in China, but now, composer Bright Sheng has made her the title character in his latest work, Madame Mao, which premieres this weekend in Santa Fe. Sheng's opera presents Jiang Qing as a conflicted and multifaceted woman, to the degree that she is actually portrayed by two different singers representing the two distinct stages of her life. The New York Times 07/20/03

Music The Healer, Music The Benevolent Even in our post-religious society, music is frequently described with the sort of reverence generally reserved for prayer, says composer James MacMillan. Of course, the ties between religion and music are long and well-documented, but isn't there a more fundamental reason why we view serious music with such awe? "It is not only theologians who see a wider context for the discussion of music. The English composer and agnostic Michael Tippett several times made the bold claim that there was a connection between music and compassion. This is fascinating since that was precisely the belief of the medieval music guilds of Europe, which venerated Job as the patron saint of music before Saint Cecilia came along." The Guardian (UK) 07/19/03

The Only Opera That Requires Rocket Scientists Next year, Australia will stage its first ever performance of the complete operatic cycle of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in the southern city of Adelaide. The Ring Cycle is not just a lot of music to perform in a short time period, it is arguably the most massive physical production any opera company could ever attempt to stage. "The size of the backdrops... is so vast and their technical demands so complex that they are being worked on in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Technical expertise has been brought in from... the University of Adelaide and United Utilities Australia, a major water company. They are being designed by the team that constructed the cauldron that launched the 2000 Sydney Olympics." Sydney Morning Herald 07/21/03

Feeding At An Empty Trough in Pittsburgh? The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which has been mired in financial quicksand for more than a year, is asking a municipal funding agency to nearly double the amount it contributes to the orchestra. The Allegheny Regional Asset District gave the orchestra $725,000 last fiscal year, on a request for $900,000. This year, the PSO says it needs $1.5 million, which will likely be a hard sell at a time when states across the U.S. are strapped for cash themselves. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/19/03

Concerto For Imagination The world probably isn't in desperate need of a bunch of new kinds of musical instrument, but sometimes necessity is the enemy of invention, and the participants in a Massachusetts residency sponsored by the Bang On A Can folks aren't letting a lack of public clamor for their work discourage them. Among the new instruments now on display at Mass MOCA is the whirlycopter, which looks like "a cross between a helicopter and an electric chair," yet sounds "like an Orthodox choir, chanting somewhere over in the next valley." The idea, of course, is to make new music more accessible and, dare we say it, fun, as well as to free up the musical imaginations of the participants. Boston Globe 07/20/03

Glimmer Of Hope In San Antonio Mike Greenberg isn't predicting a rebirth for the bankrupt San Antonio Symphony just yet, but he's encouraged by the involvement of the city's mayor, and the work of a new task force charged with developing new strategies for orchestral success in South Texas. "In 1994, a similar task force... worked for several months and produced a report that said essentially nothing of value. The 1994 report set cost and revenue goals, most of which the symphony achieved in the short term, but failed to address the fundamentals of the orchestra's program and its relationship with the larger community. The current task force, it seems, intends to avoid that mistake." San Antonio Express-News 07/20/03

Balancing Past, Present, And Future In Cincinnati Despite the large number of news stories devoted to the financial crunch facing the orchestral industry, plenty of orchestras are doing just fine, thank you. Case in point: the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which is using a combination of cutting-edge marketing strategy and reverence for the history of the industry to stay on the right side of the financial ledger. And budget-slashing boards at other major American orchestras also might want to make note of the fact that the CSO is accomplishing all this while continuing to make recordings, appear on nationwide TV broadcasts, and mount extensive (and expensive) national and international tours. Cincinnati Post 07/18/03

  • Cincinnati By The Numbers Even with an orchestral success story like Cincinnati, the continued economic malaise has taken its toll. "Since the stock market decline, the CSO endowment has shrunk from more than $94 million to $61 million. To help make ends meet, the CSO has increased its endowment spending rate from 6 percent to 8.35 percent... Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the players' two-year contract." Cincinnati Post 07/19/03

Seattle Opera Stays In The Black "Despite a shortened season and fewer ticket sales than usual, the Seattle Opera ended the season on a high note... For the 11th consecutive year, the opera has ended the season in the black. For 2002-03, the opera spent exactly what its budget projected: $14.3 million." Not all the news was bright - slumping ticket sales are always a concern - but the company's board says that prospects for the future are brighter because of the financial conservatism the company has adopted for the present. Seattle Times 07/18/03

July 18, 2003

Newly Discovered Debussy Work To Be Performed In Sweden "A piano piece by French composer Claude Debussy found two years ago will be played officially for the first time in a small church in central Sweden today. Debussy, the founder of the Impressionist movement in music, wrote the piece in 1917 during the First World War." The work, which was discovered in a trunk in Paris two years ago, is less than three minutes long, and seems to have been written as a musical thank-you note to the composer's coal supplier. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/18/03

Not Exactly Tanglewood Just Yet Christopher T. Dunworth has resigned as executive director of the brand new Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts in northeast Pennsylvania, raising further questions about the viability of the center, which was to become the summer home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this year. "Originally delayed from opening Memorial Day weekend by poor interior roads, the center will make its debut a day later than announced," and the PSO has halved the number of concerts it originally planned to play there. Dunworth isn't giving any reason for his departure, and Mountain Laurel officials have already announced his interim replacement. The Morning Call (Allentown, PA) 07/15/03

Florida Phil Seeks More Time To Resurrect "The uncertain saga of the Florida Philharmonic goes into federal bankruptcy court this morning, where the musicians union is expected to give its permission for a group of reorganizers to continue its efforts to raise money and generate community support in its bid to bring the orchestra back to life." There has been no shortage of energy from the volunteer choristers who have been trying to save the orchestra from extinction, but they have yet to raise anywhere near the amount of money they need, and there just doesn't seem to be a whole lot of community support for the ensemble, which collapsed this spring under a weight of ugly debt. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07/18/03

Buffalo Phil Aims For The Black The Buffalo Philharmonic is a month away from closing out its books for the fiscal year, and, to the surprise of some, things are looking awfully good. In fact, the BPO, which ran a whopping $1.2 million deficit last year, is on the verge of breaking even in a year when many large orchestras are well into the red and many small ones are shutting down for lack of cash. Key to the turnaround seems to be improving ticket sales, which have jumped 15% in Buffalo from last season to this one. Buffalo Business First 07/18/03

RIAA Filing Suits As Fast As Attorneys Can Type The Recording Industry Association of America is filing supoenas as quickly as it can draft them for ISPs, compelling them to turn over names of suspected copyright infringing downloaders. "This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Filing information subpoenas is exactly what we said we'd do a couple of weeks ago when we announced that we were gathering evidence to file lawsuits.' The trade group said it would probably file several hundred lawsuits this summer." Wired 07/18/03

Recording Industry - Our Of Touch With Consumers? Is the recording industry's aggressive attack on music downloaders doomed to fail? "What has emerged through numerous interviews in person and over the phone is the voice of a new generation that says the industry is out of touch and needs to get with the times - stop charging so much for CDs, move its business online where millions of consumers already are, and stop trying to make criminals out of people who love its product." Christian Science Monitor 07/18/03

July 17, 2003

Proms Time Again They're back. London's Proms concerts are the summer music fest every critic seems to love to hate. Big, showy, popular and rippling with gaudy nationalism, they also seem to grow each year. "As though to reinforce its paramountcy, the BBC has announced a season, to open on Friday, with more concerts than ever, more special events and an expansion of the Proms in the Park to embrace all four UK nations for the first time." London Evening Standard 07/16/03

Britten In Words A trove of Benjamin Britten's writings show how he tracked success through his career. "Although the sound and shape of Britten's prose remained consistent throughout his life - a sturdy, knockabout style befitting an intelligent former public schoolboy - its function changed dramatically. Unlike his letters, which were never conceived as public proclamations, the tone of his published articles illustrates his evolving reputation." The Guardian (UK) 07/18/03

New Symphony In San Jose It's unlikely that the San Jose Symphony - which closed almost two years ago - will reopen for business. So a new orchestra has been formed from an orchestra created for the area's ballet company orchestra. "The latest incarnation of the symphony is yet another attempt to keep symphonic music in San Jose. San Jose Symphony, which had been in existence for 123 years, closed in October 2001. Symphony San Jose Silicon Valley was formed under the auspices of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley 10 months ago and employed the old symphony's musicians. That symphony, which last year played four concerts, is now changing its name to Symphony Silicon Valley and becoming a separate non-profit organization." San Jose Mercury-News 07/17/03

July 16, 2003

European Director Angers Japanese Singers With Upgrade Plans Overseers of Tokyo's New National Theatre wanted to improve the quality of their opera productions and decided that they needed to hire a European to accomplish it. But the Austrian director hired for the job has angered Japanese musicians and singers with his internationalist outlook. Daily Yomiuri (Japan) 07/17/03

Next On Springer... I Love It! Jerry Springer, The Opera is a big hit in London, and Ben Brantley loves it. "Who could possibly forget that exultant song of self-celebration that begins, "This is my Jerry Springer moment . . ."? That number, performed by a grown woman in baby clothes on a swing, comes from "Jerry Springer: The Opera," the four-alarm fire of a show at the National Theater, and I find myself singing it while doing household chores, the way my mother used to with melodies from "Oklahoma!" and "My Fair Lady." The scary part is that though it's a song about parading your exotic sexual tastes on national television, I don't think, "What a camp," when I remember it; instead, I feel kind of starry-eyed." The New York Times 07/17/03

NY Phil Votes To Pursue Carnegie Merger The New York Philharmonic board has voted to pursue a merger with Carnegie Hall rather than becoming a tenant at the hall. "That the Philharmonic even considered a tenancy arrangement after it had not been mentioned indicates the level of concern among some trustees that the orchestra might sacrifice its independence by becoming part of Carnegie Hall." The New York Times 07/17/03

A Sweet Romance We all know what Romantic music is. Even romantic music. But what does it mean to play it romantically? "The distinction is not trivial, for it is possible to play any kind of music—including the intensely subjective music of such romantic-era composers as Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt—in an infinite number of ways, some of which do not sound “romantic,” just as it is possible to “romanticize” the music of pre- and post-romantic composers. Yet the music itself remains unchanged, even when it is being performed in what we may perceive as an un-idiomatic way." Commentary 07/03

Washington Concert Opera Close To Shutdown Washington Concert Opera, an unusual company dedicated to presenting rarely heard gems of the operatic literature, is on the verge of financial collapse, and will "have to be restructured, hugely" if it is to survive, according to its board president. WCO ran a $200,000 deficit on an overall budget of $500,000 last season, and the board is unwilling to go into debt to keep the company singing. Washington Post 07/16/03

New York Phil Suddenly Unsure About Carnegie Merger The New York Philharmonic's merger with Carnegie Hall was supposed to be a done deal, with both sides thrilled with all aspects of the new partnership. But the Phil may be balking at the prospect of pooling its assets with Carnegie permanently, and orchestra officials are now openly talking about the possibility of merely becoming a tenant of Carnegie. "The very nature of this evaluation suggests that at least some board members have serious concerns about combining the two organizations. Indeed, the Philharmonic has been pulling back from its characterization of the merger ever since it was announced on June 1 as a fait accompli." The New York Times 07/16/03

Wait 'Til the Musicians' Union Hears About This! An Australian opera singer claims to have invented a computerized orchestra which can follow a conductor's beat, making it the perfect alternative to a live pit orchestra for ballets and operas. Critics and musicians are predictably dismissive of the cyber-orchestra, which basically involves one guy with a laptop following a conductor with his mouse, but small ballet and opera companies which can't afford to hire full orchestras are excited to try it out. BBC 07/16/03

Florida Phil Rescue Effort Sputtering Musicians and supporters of the nearly-dead Florida Philharmonic have been scrambling to put together the funding necessary to save their orchestra or, at the very least, give it some financial breathing room until a more permanent fiscal plan can be realized. But after starting strong, the rescue mission has stalled badly, and its organizers admit that they're running out of time. By the end of this week, the orchestra's board, which many musicians have accused of running the organization into the ground, may decide to convert the company's bankruptcy filing from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, which would mean a final, permanent shutdown. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07/16/03

The Orchestra Healer To suggest that classical musicians are physical workers, like athletes, is to invite a wave of snickers and snide jokes about the fat guy in the back of the second violins. But the repetitive motion of playing a string instrument, for example, is tremendously stressful to the muscles involved, and increasingly, orchestra musicians have been sustaining career-threatening injuries from the simple act of pulling a bow back and forth. Enter Janet Horvath, who is on a one-woman crusade to teach orchestral musicians how to avoid such injuries. Horvath's credentials: she's a cellist who, back in college, was hurting so badly that she couldn't turn a doorknob, but who has now served as associate principal cello of a major American orchestra for 20 years. Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP) 07/15/03

July 15, 2003

Did Bob Dylan Steal His Word? (Couldn't Be) "The discovery last week (first reported on the front page of The Wall Street Journal) that Mr. Dylan may have lifted as many as a dozen lines for his remarkable 2001 album, 'Love & Theft,' from Japanese writer Junichi Saga, and his 1989 book 'Confessions of a Yakuza,' is a nonstory. The singer, as anyone with even a passing interest in pop music and American culture of the last 40 years knows, is both playful musical archaeologist and sly trickster - a man of many masks." OpinionJournal.com 07/16/03

Tuned In... The art of piano tuning is becoming more scientific. "The Kansas City, Mo.-based Piano Technicians Guild says computers are now used by at least half the 10,000 tuners who service America's 18 million pianos." The debate about the quality of tuning manually versus that using technology is about equally split... Los Angeles Times 07/15/03

Opera Buff-a "Onstage nudity is costing Opera Australia nearly three times the going rate, as it gears up for the production of the passionate Richard Strauss opera Salome. During the Dance of the Seven Veils, four dancers will unveil just about everything, at a total cost to the company in nudity payments of $140 per performance." The Age (Melbourne) 07/16/03

The Little Opera Company That Could Producing new operas is a mostly-miss proposition. But tiny Central City (Colorado) Opera "hasn't fared too badly with its handful of commissioned, Colorado-oriented musical tales. Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956) remains in the international repertory. Same thing, on a smaller scale, with Henry Mollicone's Face on the Barroom Floor (1978). Robert Ward's The Lady From Colorado (1964) bombed - but two out of three ain't bad. So, with the premiere Saturday at the Opera House of Mollicone's Gabriel's Daughter, one question was unavoidable: Could Central City make it three out of four?" Rocky Mountain News 07/15/03

File Trading Declines After Industry Threats Recording industry get-tough threats to music downloaders seem to be having an impact on the number of people downloading music on the internet. "Kazaa and Morpheus — two popular file-swapping services — had 15 percent fewer users during the week ending July 6, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The decline translates to about 1 million fewer users on Kazaa. About 41,000 fewer users signed on to Morpheus and the iMesh file-sharing service that week." Washington Post 07/15/03

July 14, 2003

Glyndebourne - A Report Card Things are looking up considerably at Glyndebourne. Artistically the offerings are getting better, and new management is steering a progressive course, and... no one seems to be fighting about which direction to charge... The Telegraph (UK) 07/15/03

Lament For Big Music Traditional big recording companies are in a tough way these days. They're getting tougher on consumers who illegally copy their music. But they're also going after government to make tougher laws. Trouble is, they're becoming so broke, finding a solution they can afford becomes tougher and tougher... The Guardian (UK) 07/14/03

Opera Goes Back To Its Patron Roots In Europe, where recent arts tradition has the state responsible for funding most of the cost of highculture, a shift is taking place. "Opera, the most expensive of art forms, is increasingly turning the clock back a couple of centuries and looking to individuals for patronage. Corporate sponsorship is becoming elusive and is likely to remain so at least until the next boom economy. At Covent Garden, about half the annual contributions from well-wishers now come from private patrons..." Financial Times 07/14/03

Pair Sentenced For Burning Down Venice Opera House Two Venetian electricians have been sentenced to six- and seven-year prison terms for negligence in starting the fire that burned down Venice's La Fenice Opera House seven years ago (it still hasn't reopened). "A court last year decided that the two electricians had negligently laid electric cables, which short-circuited, and the two were found guilty of arson. A number of high-ranking city officials, and the director of the opera house, were acquitted by the same court on charges of negligence." BBC 07/14/03

Recording Out Of The Mainstream The digital music-copying phenomenon isn't hurting music outside the big pop genres. Indeed, the ability of small do-it-yourselfers has been a blessing. "Now, a substantive majority of music that merits repeated listening—whether classical, jazz, or even alternative rock and so-called world music (another meaningless genre name), is being released only on independent labels. And, ironically, many important back-catalog items once issued by the majors are only available now on independent label imprints, which these labels have painstakingly licensed from the majors." NewMusicBox 07/03

Kennedy - Is It All Affectation? Violinist Nigel Kennedy still swears up a storm, even if his punker affectations have been worn off. "Many critics have forgiven me and think I'm a good boy now because I'm middle of the road compared to people like Vanessa Mae and Bond - at least I didn't put drum'n'bass behind Vivaldi". The Telegraph (UK) 07/14/03

Why Music? Scientists Want To Know Why is music - pleasurable to be sure, but hardly essential to life - so ubiquitous to every culture? "Archaeologists have found evidence of musical activity dating back at least 50,000 years. Even babies as well as some animals, such as birds, whales and monkeys, have a built-in sense of tone and rhythm, according to a set of six papers on the origin and function of music in the July edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience. 'Every culture we've ever looked at has music of some sort. But why that is so is a puzzle'." Philadelphia Inquirer 07/14/03

When Popularity Makes You Unpopular "Norah Jones has replaced Diana Krall as the artist jazz critics love to hate. But if that bothers Jones - who will give a sold-out concert Tuesday evening at the Fox Theatre - she can take comfort in the fact that being a jazz pariah is nothing new. Traditionally, critics and fans have turned their backs on artists who pull off the trick of clicking with the masses. Over the decades, the list of performers whose artistic credibility has been questioned because of their commercial success has included..." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 07/13/03

July 13, 2003

Shaking Rattle At Beethoven Putting your stamp on Beethoven's nine symphonies has traditionally been the great conductor's calling card. It happens less these days, but Simon Rattle is the star of the day and he's got a new set of recordings of the symphonies. Tim Page reports that "this would hardly be my first (or, for that matter, my 10th) choice for a complete Beethoven. Rattle has attempted to meld historically informed performance practice with old-fashioned orchestral grandeur, which means that the tempos tend to be on the quick side while the sonorities are full and lush. So far, so good. But Rattle places such an emphasis on drama and ferocity that many of the gentler and more expansive qualities of Beethoven's art are lost." Washington Post 07/13/03

The New Glyndebourne The Glyndebourne Festival in the late 90s had fallen upon considerable disrepeair. "Now, with a new, young leadership team in place, the future of Glyndebourne looks generally bright. Such a popular and excellent festival is not likely to self-destruct. Still, whether the new administration can find a way back to what now looks like a golden age of a decade ago, or whether in the name of fiscal sobriety it will shy away from innovation, remains to be seen." The New York Times 07/13/03

Music - Better On Your Own Recording labels have generally been ruthless in dropping artists that haven't sold as well as expected. Now the tables are being turned. "These days, with the entire music biz in flux, a growing number of major-label artists, from Pearl Jam to Natalie Merchant to Jimmy Buffett, are biting the hand that doesn't feed them enough. They're finding that they can start their own record labels and do just fine outside the big-label structure, that going independent and using technology to their advantage can pay off both financially and creatively." Denver Post 07/13/03

July 11, 2003

Am I Blues? (Not So Much Anymore) America's national chain of House of Blues music clubs has been booking fewer actual blues acts these days in its clubs. Last month at the Boston HOB, "of the 29 acts that headlined the Cambridge House of Blues, only four are artists that make their living moanin' the blues." That's a far cry from a decade ago. So is blues dying as a popular artform? Townonline (Massachusetts) 07/09/03

Concert Attendance Soars In First Half 2003 Pop concert attendance is up 24 percent for the first half of 2003, and baby boomer artists account for half the tickets sold. "Fans bought 13.1 million concert tickets to the top 50 concert tours from January to June, compared to 10.6 million sold during the same period last year, according to Pollstar, the industry trade magazine. Gross receipts were up 26 percent to $678 million, up from $538 million in 2001." Baltimore Sun 07/11/03

July 10, 2003

Finland - A Musical Utopia? Finland sounds like a musical Utopia. And certainly Finnish musicians are making their mark internationally. So what nurtures such a positive musical environment? The country has "30 state-funded orchestras in the country, with as much as 90% of their income coming from the public purse. This extraordinary provision is for a total population of five million, less than that of London." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/03

Reinventing Opera For The 21st Century London's Almeida Theatre is embarking on the Genesis Project, commissioning new operas with the hope of reinventing the form for the 21st Century. "Genesis is trying to kick opera into the 21st century and give it a wider appeal to people like director Jean-Frédéric Messier, founder of the Montreal theatre company Momentum, and a man who is more likely to be found listening to Frank Zappa than Puccini. 'Maybe opera does have a future if it can become a free open space where people can try anything'." The Guardian (UK) 07/10/03

What's The Point Of Public Performance In An Age Of Recording? Charles Rosen explains: "For the modern sensibility, the public performance is the final realisation of the work of music. In spite of the rich tradition of private and semiprivate music making in the centuries before our own, it is with the presentation in public that the performance of a work comes completely into its own, attains its full existence. We must rephrase the question "for whom does one play in public?": the odd aesthetic objectivity, real or mythical, demands the form "for what does one play?" One plays for the music." Andante (Independent on Sunday) 07/10/03

Download Nation: We Boost Music Sales A new survey reports that music downloaders actually buy more music than non-downloaders... "A total of 91 per cent of file-sharers download individual tracks, but more than two-thirds go on to buy the album, with even the heaviest downloaders saying they like to own real CDs. Only half of people who download music illegally from the internet believe they are doing something morally wrong. Almost half of the people who responded to the survey were "heavy downloaders" who obtained more than 100 tracks. However, surprisingly, 34 per cent of them said they were buying more music than ever before." The Scotsman 07/10/03

Squeezing Life Into The Old Accordion Is the accordion making a comeback after being left in the closet by rock 'n roll? "There's a new age of accordion players now. It used to be mainly traditional German and Polish stuff, but people have really started doing more rock 'n' roll and swing." Yahoo! (AP) 07/10/03

Need To Get Around A Pesky Law? God Can Help. Willy Pritts owns nearly 150 acres of open land in Pennsylvania, and thought he'd like to start holding concerts there. But his property isn't zoned for such events, so local officials told him he'd have to scrap his plans. But Pritts is a resourceful fellow. He turned right around and incorporated as the Church of Universal Love and Music, which is - surprise! - "committed to spiritual growth through music." County officials are not amused, nor are some of Pritts's neighbors, who claim that the church's "services" can be heard for miles around. Washington Post (AP) 07/10/03

New Life For Album Cover Art? Since the near-demise of the vinyl LP, consumers and critics alike have lamented the concomitant death of the art of the album cover. But the connection between the contents of an album and its packaging may be making a comeback. "Computer graphics are making album covers -- some of them, anyway -- all the more intriguing, even in the age of the criminally scaled- down cover art of CDs. An album cover has no business not being a work of art." Still, with single-song downloads seeming to be the wave of the future, how can album art possibly adapt? San Francisco Chronicle 07/10/03

Look, Another Windmill To Tilt At! The record industry is apparently not yet tired of its seemingly unending quest to rid the world of already-defunct file-trading services. The latest already-dead victim: Puretunes, an online service that offered users unlimited song downloads for a flat fee. Puretunes, which was based in Madrid, lasted about three weeks, then shut down without explanation, but the industry wants blood, anyway, suing the owners of the service in a Washington court. Los Angeles Times 07/10/03

40% of CDs Are Illegal The global market for illicit copies of CDs has exploded, according to a new report from the record industry, and "the illegal music market is now worth $4.6 billion globally." New technologies have made it possible - and simple - to copy not only the contents of a traditional CD, but the cover art and liner notes as well, and the industry estimates that, for the first time, the number of illegal CDs in existence has topped a billion. According to the report, two of every five CDs sold are illegal copies, often without the knowledge of the buyer, and there is no end in sight. BBC 07/10/03

July 9, 2003

The Bad Reviews Are In (Aren't They?) When Greg Sandow wrote about the declining fortunes of classical music in last month's NewMusicBox, he sparked a furious debate on the website. This month he's back to address some of his readers' comments. "When I talked about the decline and possible death of classical music, I was talking above all about classical music institutions. Classical radio stations are disappearing, classical record companies are in major trouble, media coverage of classical music is getting scarce (compared even to where it was 10 or 20 years ago). Will orchestras be next, along with opera companies, string quartets, and music schools?" NewMusicBox 07/03

  • Previously:

    Sandow: A Critic's Manifesto Is classical music dying? Maybe. But maybe music critics are partly to blame. "We shouldn't be boosters. We shouldn't pretend that everything's wonderful and glorious, because, first of all, it isn't, and, even more important, nothing in the world is. I'll grant that some people idolize classical music, or at least the idea of it, and honestly believe that all classical concerts are wonderful and that there's no ego or careerism in the classical music world. (Let's have a moment of silence for that last idea, which I first heard from the bass player in a long-ago metal band, Kingdom Come.) But most of us are more realistic than that, even about things we don't know much about. So it's crucial, at least in my view, that classical critics pull no punches when they talk about bad concerts." NewMusicBox 06/03

Are Laptops The New Accordians? Laptop jamming - it's musicians getting together in public, plugging their laptops into a sound system and creating "a kind of electronic music using new sounds and ambient textures. People can just pick up and do it just using the software. Laptop music may have an aggressive beat that sounds warped and filtered, or the atmospheric outer-space effect of ambient music; like electronica, it borrows samples from many different styles of music. When a group starts playing, the sound can be jarringly cacophonous because it takes a while for the performers to get in sync with one another." The New York Times 07/10/03

Your Music Collection - What It Tells About You Want to know what a person is really like inside? A new study says looking at a person's music collection will give you the best idea. "Almost anything about a man or a woman - from their looks, intelligence and fitness, to politics, wealth and even conversational ability - can be gleaned from the tunes they enjoy most. In the study, psychologists from the University of Texas questioned 3500 people about their individual musical preferences and then matched them with their personality traits." The Age (Melbourne) 07/10/03

Making Headway In Pittsburgh The financial crunch at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra may be easing a bit, with orchestra officials announcing that they have closed their budget gap for the fiscal year just concluded, and are having good success with new fundraising tactics designed to make donors feel more involved in the PSO's season. "For donors of amounts under $250, we used to just give them a receipt for taxes. Now [we give] them thank-you cards and invitations to events and prints their names in programs or on its Web site. We are doing some very simple things better, and for a fund-raising program in transition, with a lot of staff turnover, it is a big success." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 07/09/03

Big Effort, Small Results in South Florida When a small band of plucky choristers and musicians from the nearly-disintegrated Florida Philharmonic launched an independent effort to save their orchestra, they raised a million dollars in pledges in only a couple of weeks, and their apparent success was trumpeted across the region. But now, with a bankruptcy deadline fast approaching, the revitalization effort has seriously stalled, with an additional $1.5 million still needed to bail the organization out. Miami Herald 07/09/03

Adler: Louisville Ain't Fixed Yet When the Louisville Orchestra struck a last-minute contract deal with its musicians last month, everyone involved cheered publicly, and congratulated each other on their success. But Andrew Adler sees little to get excited about. "We've heard all of this so many times before, whenever castastrophe for this orchestra has been barely averted. A contract is signed, three or four years of labor-management-board harmony is promised, a new day is at hand, etc., etc." Labor peace aside, the Louisville Orchestra's endowment remains far below what it needs to be, there don't seem to be any real big-money donors for classical music in the city, and artistically, the ensemble has chosen an infuriating "play it safe" strategy which sacrifices anything but the most innocuous music. Louisville Courier-Journal 07/06/03

The Remains Of An Orchestra The San Antonio Symphony had less than $500,000 in assets when it filed for bankruptcy protection last month, and more than $1 million in unpaid debts, according to court filings recently released to the public. Creditors include a telemarketing firm, an instrument insurance company, and radio giant Clear Channel. San Antonio Express-News 07/08/03

Downloading Helps, Not Hurts, Album Sales? A new survey conducted by a market research company suggests that people who illegally download music online are more likely to buy recorded music later. "The survey's findings oppose the music industry's long-standing argument that internet downloading is responsible for a slump in CD sales, with album sales falling 5% in the last year... Asked why they download music, the respondents were most likely to say it was 'to check out music I've heard about but not listened to yet' (75%) and 'to help me decide whether to buy the CD' (66%)." The recording industry has a survey of its own, and claims that 65% of respondents download music 'because it's free.' BBC 07/09/03

July 8, 2003

A "Whoopie-Cushion" Of A New Concert Hall Montrealers get their first look at plans for a much awaited new concert hall. So what's it look like? "The design selected for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra looks like a cross between an office building and a big-box store. Music is imaginative and airy, qualities that many concert halls try to evoke architecturally. But this design squats rudely on de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Jeanne Mance St. like a massive whoopie cushion." Montreal Gazette 07/03/03

Burning With Criticism French pianist Francois-Rene Duchable plans to "destroy two pianos and set his formal recital clothes on fire in a three-concert finale to his professional life, starting at the end of this month. He'll bring the first program to a close "with a grand piano crashing into Lake Mercantour, the second with his suit in flames and the third, in August, with the explosion of a piano in mid-air." Why?... Baltimore Sun 07/08/03

Indianapolis Latest Orchestra With Money Woes The Indianapolis Symphony joins the growing line of orchestras in financial difficulty. But then, the orchestra is not alone. The American Symphony Orchestra League reports that "72 percent of the nation's 25 major orchestras - including the ISO - chalked up deficits in fiscal 2002. The deficits averaged 3 percent of the orchestras' budgets last year. The ISO's deficit is less than 2 percent." Indianapolis Star 07/0603

Jazz Sales Up In Canada Sales of jazz and blues recordings in Canada have gone up, says a new report. But all other genres of music have experiences declining sales. "Sales of recordings by Canadian artists totalled $138-million in 2000, down 10.4 per cent from 1998. Canadian artists continue to represent about 16 per cent of the market, by sales, a situation Statistics Canada said has remained a constant since the mid-1990s." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/08/03

July 7, 2003

Did Da Ponte Steal Don Giovanni From Stoker? "An article published yesterday on the front page of one of Italy's leading national newspapers draws attention to some remarkable parallels between the story of Bram Stoker's seminal Gothic villain Dracula and that of the archetypal Latin cad Don Giovanni depicted in Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto more than 100 years earlier." The Guardian (UK) 07/07/03

The Curse Of Middle-Of-The-Road Opera Is opera becoming too much the same wherever you go? "Travel to New York, Paris or London, and the similarity of the performances can make it difficult to tell one night at the opera from another. This is "international" opera - the type that could happen anywhere, any time, anyhow. Today's top singers travel around with their latest roles in their baggage just as much as their illustrious predecessors did. No, the real problem today is that singers on the lower rungs of the ladder have started to travel just as frenetically. Those companies that still want to retain a resident ensemble are finding it impossible to hang on to the singers they need."
Financial Times 07/04/03

Berlin Saves Its Opera Houses After fierce battles for a year, during which cash-strapped Berlin considered closing one of its three opera houses, the city has decided to continue funding all three. "At a packed press conference last week, federal cultural minister Christina Weiss announced the funding of a long-term rescue package to enable all three embattled institutions to continue independent operations under a corporate-type umbrella structure, the Berlin Opera Foundation, to be set up Jan. 1." Chicago Tribune 07/07/03

July 6, 2003

Your Concert Buddy Would it be nice to have someone with you at a symphony concert explaining what's happening with this music? "Still in the testing stages, the Concert Companion provides written cues to guide listeners through a concert hall performance, moment by moment, as it's happening - in real time, as they say. Conceived by a former Kansas City Symphony executive and designed in conjunction with two Silicon Valley software firms and a UCLA musicologist, the Concert Companion is creating a buzz in the symphonic world." San Jose Mercury-News 07/06/03

Yesterdays Are Made Of... Where did Paul McCartney get the tune for "Yesterday"? "The origins of 'Yesterday', which has been recorded by more than 2,000 artists and played on the radio more than six million times, has always been a mystery - not least to McCartney himself. He woke up in his flat in London in May 1965 with the song in his head. He realized that he might have borrowed the arrangement from another song and asked friends if they could suggest any similar tunes. They convinced him it was his and that it had come to him in a dream. Now musicologists have identified echoes of Answer Me, the 1953 U.K. hit for both Frankie Laine and David Whitfield, which was later covered by Cole." Calgary Herald (Times of London) 07/06/03

Goodbye To The Rock Bass? The electric bass has been a staple of the rock band. "In the past, the bass has played a role in most rock bands of any consequence. Music history has given us legendary bassists from Paul McCartney and Sting to Geddy Lee, from Bootsy Collins to Chris Squire." But the trend today is bands without basses - and the instrument may have hit a low point... Boston Globe 07/06/03

The Largest Jazz Fest On The Planet The Montreal Jazz Festival has become a monster. "More than 500 concerts featuring 2,000 musicians on 20 stages attracting 1.7 million visitors for 10 days and nights of the biggest and best jazz festival on the planet. As it approaches its 25th anniversary (next year), the Montreal International Jazz Festival - which ends Sunday - has become the model toward which all other world-class jazz soirees aspire, or ought to." Chicago Tribune 07/06/03

Lloyd Webber: Lay Off The Negative Classical Music Stories Julian Lloyd Webber is tired of all the doom and gloom about the classical music bhusiness. "In this country only one small orchestra – the Bournemouth Sinfonietta – has closed in the past 30 years. Meanwhile, over the same period, membership of the Association of British Orchestras has increased by 38 orchestras, 19 of which are new. How come the 'grim reapers' don't write about that? Then again, I suppose good news is not news." The Telegraph (UK) 07/07/03

Musicians Protest Licensing UK musicians are protesting a new musician licencing law passed in parliament last week. "It means that venues catering for audiences of 200 or fewer will have to obtain a licence to stage concerts - with the exception of unamplified ensembles such as string quartets. The government says public safety is at risk from unlicensed events, citing more than 1,500 fires in pubs and clubs in England and Wales in 2001. But the Musicians' Union says its artists are being singled out - while performers such as stand-up comics and novelty acts are exempt." BBC 07/06/03

July 3, 2003

State of the Music Industry: The Public View Participants in a large interactive panel discussion on the future of the British music industry believe that the pop single is on its way out, that the talent pool has been overshadowed by the bland, lifeless, mediocre pop stemming from reality TV shows, and that the 'dance culture' popular among British youth has created a generation which is much less likely to buy traditional albums at all. Singer Beverly Knight summed up the feelings of many in the discussion: "Back in the day the chances were that unless it was a novelty record, it was a really good song. It's hard to sit at home and watch bands you know have been put together by a TV show. It's mediocrity dressed up as greatness." BBC 07/03/03

July 2, 2003

Classical Recording - Disfunctional Scarcely Describes It Even when recording a classical artist seems to make economic sense, it's not happening anymore at the big recording labels, writes Norman Lebrecht. And of course there's no tolerance for developing new talent or helping to make careers. So what's a talented young violinist to do? London Evening Standard 07/02/03

I Sing Of Ireland Just as England has been wondering about the health of its pop music business, there are those who wonder if Irish music has also taken a dive. But, writes Neil McCormick, "reports of Ireland's musical demise have been greatly exaggerated. Ireland is a musical country, something that shows no sign of abating. There is intense activity on every level..."
The Telegraph (UK) 07/03/03

First Impressions At Disney Hall The Los Angeles Philharmonic won't officially open its new Frank Gehry-designed digs until the fall, but a special open rehearsal/performance by the Phil this week allowed musicians and critics their first shot at assessing the acoustics of the much-anticipated space. The hall will have to be "tuned," of course, a process which will last months if not years, but Mark Swed was encouraged by the "plentiful bass, crystalline clarity and forceful immediacy" of the orchestra's new home. Los Angeles Times 07/01/03

Cleveland Orch Goes In-House For Top Hiring "Gary Hanson, who was responsible for the restoration of Severance Hall as associate executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra, will become executive director when Thomas Morris retires from the position on March 1... Hanson's biggest project - and triumph - was the $36.7 million Severance Hall restoration, which both improved existing areas of the orchestra's home in University Circle and added needed administrative and public spaces. Hanson managed the $17 million renovation of Blossom, which opens Saturday with a gala concert conducted by Music Director Franz Welser-Möst." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 07/02/03

And Could The Conductor Wear An "Everybody Loves Raymond" T-Shirt? Apparently, the "1812 Overture" is just too much music for CBS's tastes. The network, which is supposed to be televising the Boston Pops' annual 4th of July concert, has decided that it only wants the big, loud part of the Tchaikovsky overture - y'know, the part everyone can sing along to - and so it will 'cut in' to the performance near the end of the work, just in time for the cannons and the fireworks. The 1812 is approximately 20 minutes long when played without cuts, roughly 15 minutes longer than television executives believe that Americans are capable of paying attention to anything. Boston Globe (3rd item in the column) 07/02/03

Spoleto USA Packs 'Em In "Spoleto USA says the just-ended 2003 festival was the highest-grossing ever, with ticket sales surpassing those of the previous record year, 2001. The Charleston, South Carolina-based festival, which ran from 23 May to 8 June, says in a press release that it sold $2.5 million worth of tickets and half of its performances sold out." Andante 07/01/03

How Does A City Become An Orchestra Magnet? Why do some cities attract regular visits from touring orchestras, while others almost never see anyone but the hometown band? The answer is largely about money and resources, and it explains why many medium and large cities across America missed out on, say the Philadelphia Orchestra's recent tour, while small college towns like Lincoln, Nebraska, packed a hall to enjoy the Fabulous Philadelphians. The fact is that, if your city has a decent-sized concert hall that's going unused a lot of the time, and some spare funds to pay the orchestra's costs, you have a better chance of landing a touring orchestra than a big city with a thriving music scene where the performance spaces are already booked. Denver Post 07/01/03

Temirkanov Walks Out On French Opera Production Yuri Temirkanov, the well-regarded music director of the Baltimore Symphony and the St. Petersburg (Russia) Philharmonic, has walked out on a production of Tchaikovsky's opera, Queen of Spades, which he was to have conducted at the Opera National de Lyon in France. Temirkanov isn't talking about his departure, but his translator says that he was infuriated by what he considered to be distracting and unnecessary staging, and changes to the original Pushkin storyline. Temirkanov issued a statement after his departure, saying that the Lyon production "does not correspond in any way to my own cultural heritage, nor my love and my understanding of the work of Tchaikovsky and Pushkin." Baltimore Sun 07/01/03

But CDs Are Still $18, Hmm? Who would have thought that a 20-cent price cut could make such a difference? In the month since the (legal) digital music service Listen.com cut the price of its downloads from 99 cents to 79 cents, it has nearly doubled the number of songs it sold. The price cut was initially a response to the much-ballyhooed new download service offered by Apple, but Listen.com (which is owned by RealNetworks) wound up with 11 million songs downloaded from its servers in the month of June. Wired 07/02/03

Zinman, Davis, Conlon Reportedly Top PSO's Wish List As the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra moves closer to hiring a new executive director, its list of candidates to replace Mariss Jansons as music director is slowly narrowing. No one expects a decision before next spring, but some intriguing names have emerged as serious candidates, while others have fallen by the wayside. Reported to be at the top of the PSO's list of potential MDs are David Zinman (formerly of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra,) Sir Andrew Davis (who led Toronto in the 1990s,) and James Conlon, whose reputation is firmly established in Europe, but has yet to take on the top job at a North American orchestra. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/29/03

July 1, 2003

Strad-Tagging Each year 1 million string instruments are stolen, and only 2 percent are ever recovered. Now there's a plan to track them. ISIS (Instrument Security Identification Systems) embeds atiny electronic tag into instruments. The company "will send out an alert if a musical instrument has been reported stolen. Part of this business will involve implanting RFID tags in stringed instruments - from violins to cellos and from cheap student instruments to million-dollar antiques that are still being played. The implanted RFID tags will make the tricky business of identifying instruments foolproof." Business 2.0 06/26/03

King Of The Air-Guitar (No Kidding) Okay, so these guys don't make a sound, but they do have attitude. "The U.S. Air Guitar Championships were held Saturday at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip, and by the end of the night, a national air god emerged. Finally, the United States will be sending a representative to the (eighth annual) World Air Guitar Championships, held in Finland..." Los Angeles Times 07/02/03

The New Collectible: CD's Vinyl records have been collectors' items for years. But CDs? "Although a few die-hard vinyl specialists will complain bitterly about the fact, the silver disc has now established a significant place within the collectors’ arena. A large number of collectable CD albums and singles are included in the listings, and while their values cannot compete in general with those of the most collectable vinyl items, the fact they are there at all is a demonstration of the way which the market for collectable recorded music is continuing to develop." The Scotsman 07/01/03

File-Traders Fight Back So the recording industry is going to track down music downloaders and sue them? Not for long. Software developers have been working away to make users of the file-sharing services anonymous... "Any technology that allows people to communicate is a step in the right direction," Soto said. "This isn't just about exchanging music, this is about the right to create technology and enjoy the right to privacy." Wired 07/01/03

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