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September 30, 2003

Florida City Bans Suicides At Concert The St. Petersburg, Florida city council passes an emergency ordinance making it "illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, or to host, promote or sell tickets for such an event." The council was responding to plans by a local heavy metal band to feature the death of a terminally ill person at a concert this coming weekend. "I'm sickened that we even have to entertain such an ordinance. While I'm reasonably sure this is just a publicity stunt, we can't just sit idly by while somebody loses their life." St. Petersburg Times 09/30/03

The Ken Burns Effect PBS' Jazz series two years ago was a big success. Will the same happen for the new Blues series? "The dust from Ken Burns's Jazz has settled enough after 2½ years to allow some consideration of its impact - its successes and its consequences - now that Martin Scorsese's The Blues is on the air. Foremost among those successes are the sales for the Burns series CDs on the Verve and Columbia/Legacy imprints - a five-disc boxed set and 22 single releases devoted to individual artists..." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/30/03

September 29, 2003

Iraq Symphony To Perform At Kennedy Center The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra will perform in Washington DC's Kennedy Center. "The orchestra, which was formally organized in 1959, will play on Dec. 9 at the center with the National Symphony Orchestra with music director Leonard Slatkin and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The concert - with a program still to be determined - will be free. 'I want to put a spotlight, not just on them, but Iraqi arts and the needs of Iraqi arts . . . and encourage the building of institutions, bit by bit'." Washington Post 09/30/03

Tribute Must Be Paid - The Soundalike Bands Can't see Elvis or the Beatles or the Eagles or ABBA in person? How about their soundalikes? "Overlooked for years in rock-music circles and most often dismissed by critics as schlocky Las Vegas lounge acts, tribute bands are increasingly becoming headliners at nightclubs, concert halls and state fairs, all of which see them as lucrative draws. They span the musical alphabet, from Abba to ZZ Top. There are dozens of Beatles tribute bands alone." The New York Times 09/30/03

Are The Blues Dead? "The blues are a bore. Played currently by a well-meaning array of half-talents and schooled fakers, the music has taken on a bland, generic display, performed to audiences of doughy complexion by uninteresting players of minor status. The blues has lost its soul." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/29/03

RIAA Settles With 64 Downloaders "The Recording Industry Association of America says it has reached settlements with 64 people accused of downloading copyrighted music over the Internet as music companies try to combat piracy they say cost them $700 million." Earlier this month the RIAA sued 261 people for file-trading. Denver Post (Bloomberg) 09/29/03

In Defense of Tough Criticism After the Akron Beacon-Journal's music critic blasted the Akron Symphony's first concert of the season, readers wrote in to protest. Why so harsh, they wanted to know, particularly when the performance got a standing ovation? The Beacon-Journal's public editor writes that the orchestra must be held to a standard: "If it wants to charge major league prices for tickets, it shouldn't expect to deliver minor league performances and not be called on it. Readers deserve honest reviews from the music critic, not flattering boosterism." Akron Beacon-Journal 09/28/03

September 28, 2003

The Ailing Blues The US Congress may have declared this the year of the blues, and a new PBS series focuses attention on the music. But "you rarely hear a blues song on the radio, and it's hard even to find the CDs in stores. Sales of blues records this year dwindled to only 1 percent of the US market, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures. Yet fans and industry insiders are hoping against hope that a change is coming. Can you say 'blues revival' one more time?" Boston Globe 09/28/03

Nagano - The Berkeley Connection Kent Nagano, writes Joshua Kosman, is one of the top 10-20 conductors in the world. So why is he still conducting the Berkeley Symphony - a community orchestra - after 25 years? "Nagano's dedication to the BSO has occasionally had a far more concrete impact on his activities. Because of a scheduling conflict with a Berkeley concert, he says, he had to turn down an invitation to make his first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic - not once, but four times before he finally debuted with the orchestra in 1997." San Francisco Chronicle 09/28/03

The Essential Opera? Readers Offer Their Lists Last month, Tim Page offered a list of 25 opera recordings he felt could give a listener a good overview of the artform. Not surprisingly, (are there any fans more rabid than opera fans?) Page's readers scrambled to modify his list. "A few recurring themes can be isolated: Neither baroque nor modern opera seems to be especially popular with many operaphiles (although there are listeners who take to these genres more quickly than they do to much of the standard repertory); it was widely believed that Mozart, Verdi and Wagner should have been represented by more than two operas apiece (and Puccini and Richard Strauss by more than one); and, more than a quarter-century after her death, Maria Callas may still be the world's most popular opera singer."
Washington Post 09/28/03

Sing Off - Who Needs It? Luciano Pavarotti comes to Philadelphia offering to help start a singing competition. So far, though, no one's taken him up on the offer. "Young singers don't need glaring spotlights. They need greenhouses to keep them incubating until they are sturdy enough vocally to survive the international-opera treadmill, with the bad airplane air, unsympathetic conductors, and high-concept stage directors that go with it. Competitions are more suited to instrumentalists. They aren't nearly as vulnerable to the kind of permanent damage an overused voice can suffer." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/28/03

Music Piracy Outside The US - What Are The Tactics? "Music executives abroad are scrutinizing the American industry's legal campaign against people who share files on the Internet. But many doubt such tactics would work in their countries, given the relative weakness of laws protecting copyrights and the ubiquity of the activity. 'People in their 60's are burning CD's at home. Housewives, who should be cooking, are burning. It's not like we can go after 80-year-old men or 12-year-old kids. We have to find the right approach'." The New York Times 09/26/03

Philadelphia Looks To Shore Up The Future The Philadelphia Orchestra is indisputably one of the world's great musical ensembles. But behind the scenes, the much-admired Philadelphia Sound has often been eclipsed by a perception that the orchestra is perpetually mismanaged on the financial side. Its fund-raising machine has always lagged far behind those of other "Big 5" orchestras, and in fact, Philadelphia's endowment is more comparable to those of second-tier orchestras in Minneapolis and Washington than it is to its peers in New York and Boston. This year, the Philadelphians have announced plans to change all that, with a massive endowment drive off to an impressive start. Peter Dobrin has heard this type of boast before, but the early results show that Philly may finally have its eye on the ball. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/28/03

Classical Crossover: The Fabricated Genre This week, New Zealand teenager Hayley Westenra became the latest classical singer to muscle her way onto the pop charts with an album of so-called "crossover" tunes. But what is crossover, really? We're talking about a genre of music that exists mainly to please the musically retarded, a market-driven style that depends on trend research and technological innovation to churn out pap that appeals to the lowest common denominator of music consumers. "Crossover once took place on a peaceful side-road. Now it swirls round a vast Spaghetti Junction. There are no traffic lights, and a shocking number of fatal pile-ups…" The Telegraph (UK) 09/27/03

Clearing The Pipes Boston's Symphony Hall is widely regarded to be one of the finest concert halls in the world, both acoustically and architecturally. And this past summer, one of the most distinctive features of the hall, the 1900 Hutchings organ, underwent a historic tuneup. "In February, [organ builder] Foley-Baker removed the innards of the organ, took apart the electro-pneumatic engine that makes the whole thing work and has been analyzing and rebuilding the elegant old machine. It's the first major reconditioning since '49, and includes installation of many of the pipes [that a previous restorer] planned to use in the first place." Boston Herald 09/28/03

Inventing American Music In the 19th century, as America began to grow from an infant nation into a world power, its musical development lagged far behind that of Europe, and no one had yet succeeded in capturing the distinctive musical voice of the New World. It took the keen ear of the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak to identify the native melodies which would become the American Sound, and to begin incorporating them into his own music. "In a famous interview, he declared: 'Inspiration for truly national music might be derived from the Negro melodies or Indian chants.' The response from some composers was racist outrage," but the next century of American music would eventually belong to Dvorak's populist vision. The Guardian (UK) 09/26/03

Bayreuth's Legacy: Building Big In A Good Cause Opera fans are known for their devotion, and it's a good thing they are. What other art form regularly requires entire buildings to be erected, solely to stage the work of a single composer? Such is frequently the situation confounding anyone who wishes to put on a truly impressive production of Wagner's infamous Ring cycle. In fact, the composer himself had to convince his benefactor, King Ludwig, to build the famous opera house in Bayreuth before he could stage the first Ring. As Toronto prepares a similar undertaking, William Littler paid a visit to Bayreuth to see how the monument to operatic self-indulgence has held up. Pretty well, as it turns out. Toronto Star 09/27/03

Musicians Walk Out Of Charlotte Talks Striking musicians of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra returned to the bargaining table on Friday, but walked out again two hours later, when it became clear that the CSO's management had made no substantive changes to their original proposal, which included wage cuts and a shortened season. No further talks have been scheduled, and the Charlotte strike is now three weeks old. Charlotte Observer 09/27/03

September 26, 2003

Building A Firm Foundation In Louisville When the Louisville Orchestra was in danger of folding this past summer, the orchestra's board claimed that it simply couldn't raise enough money to pay its operating costs. Three months later, the ensemble is back on track, and money is rolling in from a group of local developers who have pledged to lead the way in making the orchestra fiscally secure. The Home Builders Association of Louisville has already raised more than $400,000 on a $465,000 pledge, and they say they won't stop there. Louisville Courier-Journal 09/26/03

September 25, 2003

Blues For "The Blues" Mike Figgis' "The Blues" series for PBS chronicles an important shift in audience, then ignores it. "The accretion of whites in Mr. Figgis's film reflects both the majority of the public-television viewership as well as the largest audience for the blues these days. The London blues-rock stars who heard the music as teens in the 1950's and 60's — like Eric Clapton and Eric Burdon, who are both featured in Mr. Figgis's film — exposed it to the rest of the record-buying world: suburban kids who now keep it alive. It's a sad fact that 'The Blues,' devoted to the cumulative power of a cultural phenomenon, tends to ignore the racial shift in the music's fans. Such a lack is like overlooking a roasted tree stump that was rocked by lightning." The New York Times 09/26/03

Germany's Posh New Opera House A lavish new opera house in Germany has ambitious aspirations. "Lavish the new opera house may be, but its start has not been painless. It was meant to be part of a new deal for opera, theatre and ballet involving Weimar (pop. 65,000) - whose Deutsches Theater (where Germany's first democratic constitution was launched) is a mere 15 minutes train ride away. Under this so-called 'Weimar Model', Erfurt was to specialise in opera, touring to Weimar, while Weimar specialised in spoken theatre, it being the city of Goethe, Schiller and Herder. However, the people of Weimar strongly objected to the loss of their opera ." Financial Times 09/26/03

The Truth About Illegal Downloading File-trading is unquestionably illegal. It is very clearly an act which closely approximates stealing. So why can't the recording industry get any support for its efforts to stop the piracy? Simple, says Russell Smith. Corporate slimeballs who ignore good music in favor of brainless pap don't deserve any sympathy, and everyone knows it. "File-sharing is a rejection of the social power of bland culture. Why should we pay for crap?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/25/03

  • Recording Industry Withdraws Lawsuit Against Grandparents The recording industry has withdrawn a suit filed against granparents who say they've never downloaded music. "They use a Macintosh, which cannot even run the Kazaa file-sharing service they are accused of using illegally'. "This is what happens when you sweep away all the due process protections and all the privacy protections. Those are the kinds of things that would stop this before it gets to the stage where you sue some nice old lady who did nothing wrong." Wired 09/24/03

Music? Check. Press? Check. Public? Ummmmmm... The media covered it, the critics sang its praises, and the organizers went out of their way to book quality acts. But the Equinox Music Festival, a jazz fest based in Boston, somehow never managed to sell the public on its concert series, and this week, the festival shut itself down and cancelled all remaining shows. According to the festival's president, "The early events were extremely poorly attended, and the remaining events had extremely poor advance sales. It just came to the point where we had to pull the plug and stop hemorrhaging money. It's most unfortunate, because we had a really phenomenal lineup." Boston Globe 09/25/03

Talks To Resume In Charlotte The striking musicians of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are set to return to the bargaining table after more than a week of stony silence. The musicians walked out earlier this month after the CSO's board demanded that they accept a hefty pay cut to assist the orchestra in dealing with a $650,000 deficit. A federal mediator will assist in the renewed negotiations. During the strike, the musicians have been staging their own concerts in an effort to garner public support. Charlotte Observer 09/25/03

September 24, 2003

Michener: Should NY Phil, City Opera Stay At Lincoln Center? The New York Philharmonic and New York City Opera both want to jump out of Lincoln Center to new homes. But "given the proposed alternatives—for City Opera, a pie-in-the-sky move downtown; for the Philharmonic, a schedule-gobbling takeover of Carnegie Hall—I’m beginning to think that it would be better for the health of the two deserters, not to mention that of the city’s musical life, if they stayed put. Both organizations are doing fine where they are." The New York Observer 09/24/03

Pittsburgh Musicians Ratify Contract "The musicians of the deficit-ridden Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra ratified a three-year contract yesterday that calls for a 7.8 percent wage cut for the first two years and a major wage increase in the 2005-06 season. The third-year increase - considered risky by some - will bring the PSO musicians' salaries to 95 percent of the average of the wages at the Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia orchestras, all of whom negotiate contracts in the next year." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/24/03

File-Share Company Sues Recording Companies The company behind the Kazaa file-sharing software is suing recording companies who are trolling Kazaa for copyright violators. "Sharman said the companies used Kazaa Lite, an ad-less replica of its software, to get onto the network. The lawsuit also claims efforts to combat piracy on Kazaa violated terms for using the network. Entertainment companies have offered bogus versions of copyright works and sent online messages to users." The Star-Tribune (Mpls) (AP) 09/24/03

September 23, 2003

EMI's Play For Warner Not Playing Well With Banks Recording giant EMI confirms that it is in talks to buy Warner Music. But analysts say that EMI's enormous debt is an imprediment to the deal, and its creditors are ready to downgrade its borrowing capacity. "They have very limited debt capacity and if they were to buy a valuable and profitable business it would have some earnings with it, but our concern is that there is not a lot of scope to increase the overall debt leverage." The Guardian (UK) 09/23/03

Malaysia Lowers CD Prices The Malaysian government has decreed a new maximum price for CDs sold there. And it's a significant cut in price from the previous ceiling. Artists are trying to be philosophical: "Without compromising on quality, we can still release a good album. But instead of recording 10 songs at the cost of RM50,000, we can produce five songs under RM25,000. It's just a matter of choosing between quality and quantity. After all, who said an album should comprise 10 songs? And for this new format to work, the industry should work together and not go against one another." New Straights-Times (Malaysia) 09/24/03

Hot Ticket Item: Stars Come Out For Disney Hall The three opening galas in late October for Los Angeles' new Disney Hall are the hot ticket of the season. "The first night is virtually sold out. Sure, the performing arts community is feeling pressure to attend the Disney galas — it can't be easy to send regrets. 'I wouldn't want to be sitting home those nights. I'd feel so left out!' But mostly the events are selling themselves, say organizers, who hope to net $7 million." Los Angeles Times 09/23/03

Zankell Hall - The Roar Of The Subway Carnegie Hall's new Zankell Hall has the potential to change New York's music scene. But there's one rather large problem (as practically every critic who's written about the place has mentioned): the rumble of subway noise. "The problem is doubly frustrating because Zankel's intermediate size and clear acoustics favor music in the quiet to moderately loud dynamic ranges, and that's when the noise is most audible, especially on the auditorium's right side." OpinionJournal.com 09/24/03

The Six Hour Symphony A listener to a 6 1/2 hour Toronto performance of British composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji's "Fourth Symphony For Piano Alone" is exhausted. Imagine what the pianist felt like. Toronto Star 09/23/03

September 22, 2003

New Hall, New (Almost) Orchestra Tenant - Carnegie Goes For Makeover Carnegie Hall is "trying to turn left and turn right simultaneously. It wants to bring in a downtown-ish clientele while acquiring a stable base of Philharmonic subscribers. This urge to absorb everything typifies the modus operandi of Sanford Weill, the chairman of the Carnegie board, who is also the outgoing chief executive of Citigroup. Weill made his name in the financial world by engineering a series of spectacular mergers; he ingeniously erased the distinction between brokering and banking by combining Salomon, Smith Barney and Citibank under one roof. He now wishes to apply the philosophy of synergy to New York’s artistic life. The sort of logic that brought us AOL Time Warner is creating Philharmonic Carnegie Zankel." The New Yorker 09/22/03

Child Star Tops Classical Charts Sixteen-year-old "New Zealander Hayley Westenra has beaten the first-week sales set by artists like Pavarotti, Charlotte Church and Russell Watson with her UK release, Pure. Pure has shot straight to number eight in the UK pop chart and to the top spot in the UK classical charts." BBC 09/23/03

Seoul's Opera Wars "Seoul has witnessed the opera wars of 2003, a war waged mostly by over-the-top outdoor productions such as "Aida" and "Turandot," financially and logistically ambitious campaigns designed to shock and awe audiences into submission. But an indoor opera has finally returned fire, a production boasting nudity, orgies, and violence with artistic credibility to boot." Korea Herald 09/23/03

Aida In Workers' Stadium A giant open-air "Aida" lumbers in to Beijing's Workers' Stadium. "The main stage covers about 6,200 square metres, upon which stands a 40-metre-high pyramid and an 18-metre Sphinx. The 20-ton pyramid is equipped with 800 small tires at the bottom so that it could revolve freely. On the two sides of the main stage also stand two 18-metre-high pharaohs and 10 18-metre-high Egyptian temple pillars. And off the stage there are 40 4-metre-high Sphinxes. The ending scene will be a spectacle with thousands of butterflies flying into the sky, with 400 torches kindled." China Daily 09/23/03

Recording Companies Who Cheer On File-Traders (And The Musicians Who Love Them) The recording industry isn't solidly against file-sharing. Indeed smaller labels benefit from file-trading. "File sharing, these owners say, helps their small companies compete against conglomerates with deeper pockets for advertising and greater access to radio programmers. 'Our music, by and large, when kids listen to it, they share it with their friends. Then they go buy the record; they take ownership of it'." The New York Times 09/22/03

The Detroit Symphony's Miraculous Turnaround A dozen years ago the Detropit Symphony was destitute, a once-proud institution reduced to penury. But "the $60-million Max M. Fisher Music Center, which opens Oct. 11, puts an exclamation point on what experts say is one of the most improbable turnarounds in the history of U.S. orchestras. The DSO pulled itself up by its financial bootstraps, rebuilt its neighborhood, forged innovative civic partnerships and reinvented itself as a model 21st-Century arts institution. The DSO has woven itself deep enough into the fabric of the city that nearly everyone has a stake in its future."
Detroit Free Press 09/22/03

Another Leeds, Another Pianist...So... Hmnnnnn. There's a new winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition. And he plays well enough. But where is the next Murray Perahia? "Cool competence" doesn't exactly get us running for our credit cards... The Telegraph (UK) 09/22/03

EMI To Buy Time Warner Music? Recording giant EMI says it is in talks to buy AOL Time Warner's music business. "British-based EMI, which tried and failed to merge with AOL Time Warner's Warner Music three years ago, stressed that the talks were not advanced and a deal may not materialize." Yahoo! (AP) 09/21/03

Lloyd Webber & Elton John Team Up Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber is teaming up with Elton John to record a "classical" version of John's "Your Song." "I got the number of Elton's manager and asked whether he would come on this disc with me. I thought that would be it, but to my surprise he said he would love to do it - as long as it was in E flat major." BBC 09/21/03

September 21, 2003

New World, New Ideas Miami's New World Symphony is a training orchestra that thinks different. "New World places great emphasis on being different, as it performs some of the most edgy repertoire in music. This season, New World will be performing works by John Cage, Steve Reich and Luciano Berio - in a preview of New World's scheduled performance in Rome - and Sibelius' Fifth, works typically never even penciled into a regional orchestra's schedule. 'We have never been in competition with anyone for audiences because we do very few programs. We're not scared of putting on an evening where we only have 300 people there if the repertoire is as extreme as it sometimes can be." Miami Herald 09/21/03

The Rap On The New Hip-Hop "At its core, hip-hop is about bragging; ostentation and one-upmanship have played a crucial role in a music that confers upon its stars the means to walk their talk. In the South, though, a new school of artists has largely rejected such mainstream models. As new albums by Bubba Sparxxx and Nappy Roots demonstrate, country charm is just as viable as urban grit, and these rappers are retrofitting hip-hop to their purposes and experiences." The New York Times 09/21/03

Whither The Blues? "Can a media blitz save the blues? Do the blues need to be saved? And if the blues were to be saved, what would be their 21st-century role?" These questions have arisen because of a congressional proclamation, a PBS documentary, and the general perception that traditional blues music is fast become a museum piece. "The blues was once as audacious as hip-hop, as intimate as emo and as insubordinate as punk. So there's never a bad time to recognize the blues." The New York Times 09/21/03

Trying To Hold On To An Orchestra's Paper Trail The now-defunct Florida Philharmonic will soon begin liquidating its assets, signaling the final demise of the organization. But many are hoping that, as has been the case in so many other cities where orchestras have failed, a new ensemble will rise from the ashes of the old one. The musicians are still around, for the most part, and a new board could be cobbled together fairly quickly. But there is one piece of the old orchestra that almost has to be preserved if a replacement group is to get off the ground successfully: the library. An orchestra's library is its paper trail, the only physical directions its musicians have. But the Phil says that no one in the area has yet come forward with an offer sufficient to acquire the library. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 09/20/03

Pittsburgh Musicians To Vote On Roller Coaster Contract The musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which has fallen on difficult economic times in the last few years, are set to vote this week on a new 3-year contract. The agreement calls for a hefty wage cut in the first year in order to allow the PSO to get its financial house in order, but by the third year of the contract, the musicians' base salary would rise to 95% of the average of four of the highest-paid orchestras in the U.S., a percentage which could guarantee each musician a raise of nearly $20,000 in 2005. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/20/03

  • PSO Taps Tamburri As contract negotiations with its musicians were drawing to a close, the Pittsburgh Symphony also closed a deal which will bring New Jersey Symphony CEO Lawrence Tamburri to the Steel City as the new president of the PSO. Tamburri has a reputation as an administrator who places a high priority on building consensus among musicians, staff, and board members, but his skills will be severely tested in Pittsburgh, writes Andrew Druckenbrod. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/19/03

The Bottom Line Hits Bottom The fabled Bottom Line music club in New York's Greenwich Village has fallen on hard times, and is facing eviction from its legendary NYU location. The club is reportedly $185,000 behind on its rent, and the university which owns the building wants to turn it into classrooms. A court hearing this week could decide the matter. Philadelphia Inquirer (AP) 09/20/03

The Steinway Mystique "Steinway is the great name of the piano world, as anyone will tell you - not least, Steinway. This year is its 150th anniversary, which is worth celebrating if only because few companies survive making the same product, in the same way, for so long... And although Steinway isn't the largest piano company in the world (it makes 5000 instruments a year, as opposed to Yamaha's 100,000), it has certainly cornered the top end of the market - despite a top-selling price of $250,000 for the sleek, black, two-metre concert grand (the Model D) that only serious pianists, concert halls and bankers get their hands on." The Age (Melbourne) 09/20/03

When Soloists Cancel Last week, soprano Dawn Upshaw, who is famous for never cancelling engagements, cancelled an engagement with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, due to a vocal cord injury. It may be unusual for Upshaw to bail on an orchestra, but other soloists do it all the time, for any number of reasons. Some soloists are even as famous for their cancellations as they are for their performances. As for the jilted ensembles which are left to scramble for a replacement, many arts administrators pride themselves on their ability to come through in just such a situation. The Age (Melbourne) 09/21/03

September 19, 2003

Canadian Blank CD Tax Generates $19 Million For Music Industry A Canadian tax on blank CD and audio cassette sales is expected to pay out $19 million to composers, performers, publishers and record labels in the next three months. "The payments are calculated from two measurable factors - the airplay songs get on radio, TV networks and individual music programs, and the record sales logged and reported by labels." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/19/03

September 18, 2003

At The NY Phil - The Maazel Question "As he begins his second season as music director, Lorin Maazel, 73, and the New York Philharmonic's board are grappling with some urgent issues. Naturally the proposed merger with Carnegie Hall has drawn most of the attention. But the more immediate question concerns Mr. Maazel's future. If the merger happens as planned, the Philharmonic will relocate in the fall of 2006, by which time Mr. Maazel's current four-year contract will have run out. Will he be reappointed? Or does the orchestra envision playing its first concert in its new home under a new conductor?" The New York Times 09/19/03

Big Recording Companies Jockey For Ownership Music recording giants BMG and Warner seem on the verge of forging an alliance worth $2 billion. EMI, which has been circling Warner and appears to be gearing up for another run at the company, would likely find the alliance too costly to swallow. The Guardian (UK) 09/18/03

Fort Wayne Symphony Fights Off Money Challenges The Fort Wayne Symphony in Indiana has frozen wages for all its employees and is looking at restructuring to fight off budget problems. "A weak economy, lagging ticket sales and a decrease in foundation giving all have taken their toll. The new $4.3 million budget for fiscal year 2003-2004, which projects expenses exceeding income by $219,000, was passed by the Philharmonic board at its monthly meeting Tuesday." Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette 09/18/03

Pittsburgh Symphony's Uncertain Opening The Pittsburgh Symphony opens its season this weekend. But a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the opening. The musicians' contract expired, and it's clear that compromises will have to be made because the orchestra is struggling financially. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/18/03

Shifrin Steps Down From Lincoln Center Chamber Music After 12 years, David Shifrin steps down as director of the Chmaber Music Society of Lincoln Center. "New York's loss may be Portland's gain. Shifrin is a familiar figure here, having directed the city's Chamber Music Northwest festival each summer since 1980. By shedding his New York position, he will be able to devote more time to Portland as well as to his solo career as a clarinet player, to his family (he has a 10-year-old son) and to teaching music at Yale University." The Oregonian 09/18/03

NEA Offers Help To Small Orchestras The National Endowment for the Arts has started a new program to help struggling mid-size and small orchestras. "The program will award a total of $250,000 to 25 orchestras, including the Augusta Symphony in Georgia, the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra in Biloxi, Miss., the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, the Stockton Symphony Association in Stockton, Calif., and the Virginia Symphony in Norfolk. The NEA, the country's largest supporter of the arts, does not expect the individual grants of $10,000 to solve financial shortfalls in themselves. The idea is to boost programs that might attract other donations." Washington Post 09/17/03

Saving Classical Radio In South Florida When Miami station WKAT-AM changed formats from Spanish language to classical a year ago, classical fans were ecstatic. "The first three months were a honeymoon with the audience. They were appreciative that classical was back. And they had a high level of tolerance for what we were doing. But a few months later, the hero worship was morphing into anger: Listeners didn't like that the playlist included non-classical works and that many of the classical pieces the station did play were truncated..." So a makeover was in order... Miami Herald 09/17/03

September 17, 2003

My Lunch With Tony Hall Tony Hall has been running London's Royal Opera House for a couple years now. "There might have been a time when running an opera house presented unique opportunities for leisurely lunching, schmoozing with business grandees desperate for a favourite seat in the orchestra stalls, perhaps the odd feisty exchange with the prima assoluta of the day. But that was then and this is now, and Hall is the epitome of the modern manager: brisk, fast-talking, affable and relentlessly upbeat." Financial Times 09/18/03

Carnegie's New Hall - A Lot At Stake "Carnegie Hall has decided that the best way to break down the barriers between classical and pop music, jazz and rock is to mix everything up in a brand-new hall situated below the Isaac Stern Auditorium and above the Seventh Avenue subway. Carnegie’s new real-estate venture, which opened Sept. 12, is an early test: Will this game of musical chairs yield real artistic and commercial dividends? Will it reinvigorate our civic concert life?" New York Observer 09/17/03

NJ CEO Is Top Candidate For Pittburgh "Lawrence Tamburri, president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, has emerged as the leading candidate for the managing director position at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra." Pittsburgh CEO Gideon Toeplitz left his post in May, and there have been multiple rumors about who might replace him. For a time, it seemed that Douglas Gerhart, of the San Diego Symphony, was a shoo-in, and Gerhart even resigned from his San Diego position in order to focus on his candidacy, but the match never panned out. Pittsburgh is facing significant financial challenges, and is nearing a September 21 deadline to reach a new labor agreement with its musicians. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 09/16/03

Detroit Symphony Keeps Raking It In "Just three weeks before the grand opening of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's new Max M. Fisher Center, the symphony has received $8.7 million more in gifts from philanthropist Fisher and several other donors. Fisher kicked in another $5 million, bringing his contribution toward the refurbished and expanded Woodward Avenue concert venue and entertainment complex, which will now bear his name, to $10 million." Detroit News 09/17/03

Appeals Court To Scrutinize RIAA A federal court is challenging the recording industry's assertion that consumers who have copyrighted material available to others on their home computers are guilty of illegal distribution. Judge John Roberts is asking the industry to clarify how such practices are any different from an open library door. But the judge also has some tough questions for the telecommunications companies who have been subpoenaed by the RIAA, telling the lawyer for Verizon Communications, "You make a lot of money off piracy." Wired 09/17/03

  • Now You've Done It! You Woke Up Congress! Senator Sam Brownback has had about enough of the recording industry's legal crusade against illegal file-swapping, and, since he makes laws for a living, he's making a law intended to make it tougher for the industry to keep up its pursuit. Among other things, "the legislation would require owners of digital media to file a John Doe lawsuit to obtain the identifying information of an Internet user, rather than simply requesting a subpoena." Wired 09/17/03

September 16, 2003

Opera That Can't Work So impressario Raymond Gubbay is planning to stage operas in London in competition the the Royal Opera and English National companies. But the plan is to present in a small theatre, and the numbers don't work out. Gubbay can't make it work out financially. So what's the point? The Telegraph (UK) 09/17/03

La Scala Fight Ensnares Muti A fight is brewing between La Scala director Riccardo Muti and the company's general manager. "Mr Muti did not attend the official launch of the 2003-4 season, and on tour in Japan this week he was quoted as saying that La Scala was 'at risk of decline'. The danger is that, unless Mr Muti gets what he wants, the great conductor will go elsewhere. Though still unspoken, it has been enough to sow alarm among the loggionisti, La Scala's devotees, who sometimes queue all night for the cheap seats in the loggione, the equivalent of 'the gods'." Some see the flap as a power play with Italy's volatile prime minister. The Guardian (UK) 09/16/03

The Bugler's Digital Assist It looks like a bugle. Sounds like a bugle. But "it is a bugle discreetly fitted with a battery-operated conical insert that plays the 24 notes of taps at the flick of a switch. It is all digital, with no human talent or breath required. All you do is hold it up, turn it on and try to look like a bugler." The New York Times 09/16/03

  • Honor At The Press Of A Switch "The $500 electronic bugle is a necessity, the Pentagon insists. There are about 500 active-duty buglers, but more than 1,500 veterans die every day. Even the countless buglers at VFW and American Legion halls across the country can't make up the difference." OpinionJournal.com 09/16/03

Sound Of The Universe What do the heavens sound like? Music, report scientists - specifically a B flat — "a B flat 57 octaves lower than middle C. The 'notes' appear as pressure waves roiling and spreading as a result of outbursts from a supermassive black hole through a hot thin gas that fills the Perseus cluster of galaxies, 250 million light-years distant. They are 30,000 light-years across and have a period of oscillation of 10 million years. By comparison, the deepest, lowest notes that humans can hear have a period of about one-twentieth of a second." The New York Times 09/16/03

Philly Orchestra Raises $76 Million The Philadelphia Orchestra confirms a $50 million gift and another $26 million raised towards an endowmwnt. "Leonore Annenberg, the widow of philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, has pledged $50 million to the ensemble, orchestra leaders acknowledged. The gift, first reported in The Inquirer two weeks ago, is believed by orchestra administrators to be the second largest ever made to an American orchestra. Also yesterday, the orchestra announced that it had gathered an additional $26 million in pledges to its endowment campaign, whose goal is $125 million. Orchestra officials said the new money would give the ensemble the resources to make its ambitions, often hobbled by financial ills, into reality." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/16/03

Toronto Opera House To Be "Tops In The World?" Plans for Toronto's long-awaited opera house are unveiled. It's a $150 million 2000-seat theatre. "Our ambition is to position this opera house among the top two or three in the world. If you look at what has worked for 400 years, you have a reasonable chance of success. Once you go over 2,000 seats (Roy Thomson Hall originally sat more than 2,800 people), you have made an unacceptable compromise." Toronto Star 09/16/03

Plans For A Music Museum Organizers are trying to raise money for a $220 million museum of music. The National Music Center and Museum Foundation would be built in Washington DC. "At the convention center site, the planners are envisioning a facility on two acres with three theaters and a museum. The 3,200-seat performance hall could accommodate Broadway roadshows and musical acts. A second theater would have 750 seats, more than any of the Smithsonian's current theaters and lecture halls. The third would be a 250-seat black-box venue for dance and experimental theater. The museum would have 50,000 square feet of space for both temporary and permanent exhibitions." Washington Post 09/16/03

September 15, 2003

RIAA's Failed Strategy The recording industry is doing itself n o favors with its war on music file traders. "In its current action, the RIAA, which is claiming damages of thousands of dollars per download, may have the law on its side, but that will matter little in the end. Indeed, it's far from clear whether the group's legal threats will even have any, let alone much, impact on unauthorized file sharing. There's no mass exodus [from file-sharing services], that's safe to say. Ironically, usage this week and this month is up... More important, even if the RIAA is somehow successful in actually stamping out file sharing (which it won't be), that doesn't mean that CD sales will necessarily pick up. "Many of these individuals [who use file-sharing services] have gotten out of the habit of buying CDs. They think CDs are too expensive." Reason 09/15/03

Suing Kids -Maybe Not The Most Sympathetic Strategy The recording industry could have made itself sympathetic - all those people downloading and stealing music. But suing music lovers... and a 12-year-old girl no less... "Suddenly, the trade association - in its effort to squelch illegal music sharing over peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa and Grokster - looked more like a schoolyard bully." San Jose Mercury-News 09/15/03

Music That Describes Our World "Tone-painting differs from musical expression in that it seeks tangibly to conjure physical things in tone. This idea has been around as long as music has. An ancient Greek story tells of a master of the aulos, the classical double-pipe instrument, who improvised a description of a battle so hair-raising that people were talking about it for the next 200 years." Bach was the ultimate master of it, but Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner and Brahms were expert at painting scenes with music. The Guardian (UK) 09/13/03

Music & Politics - Not An Obvious Connection Music and politics don't mix, do they? So why have music and politics found themselves so frequently intertwined? Jay Nordlinger enumerates political influences, then decrees that there's nothing inherently political about music: "Music dwells in its own realm, unless it is freighted with words that constitute political baggage." National Review 09/15/03

Royal Conservatory Branches Out Beyond Classical Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music has long set the standards for music instruction, helping educate generatations of young classical musicians. Now the RCM is widening its focus, offering world music as part of its curriculum. "The Conservatory is supposed to be the institution of Canadian national music, and we've caught up to the reality that there are huge numbers of people living in this country who were not raised in the Western classical-music tradition. We have to reflect the diversity." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/15/03

Where Is All The New Choral Music? "Why is there so little new choral music? The choral tradition is more traditional, even more popularly oriented than orchestral, chamber music, solo and operatic traditions. Plenty of vernacular, indigenous, folk, and gospel music has become standard fare. In a piano or chamber music recital, the performance of homely vernacular music would not be accepted or even tolerated, yet it has become a common practice in choral performances." NewMusicBox 09/03

September 14, 2003

Music Without Flavor These days, you can walk into a WalMart and buy a CD full of classical music carefully chosen to pair perfectly with your Sunday brunch. Or your Saturday night date. Or a quiet dinner with friends. "All of this would be funny were it not for the wasting disease it represents. Call it silence deprivation. One of the reasons music tastes less good for a lot of us these days is that it increasingly lacks beginnings and ends. It is the blank spaces that surround music that give it shape — allow it to breathe. Music not framed by the absence of music really isn't music. Nor is music at dinner. Works of Brahms are not well served when they accompany pork chops. It is not fair to the pork chops either." The New York Times 09/14/03

Period Performance Comes Of Age The "authentic performance" movement was once viewed as a rebellious collection of obsessives, at once fascinating and annoying, but nothing that threatened to invade the larger world of classical performance. But these days, historically-informed performance is the norm for most ensembles, and while you don't see a symphony orchestra tuning its instruments down to play Mozart, the days of hacking through 18th-century music as if it had been composed by Gustav Mahler are over. Meanwhile, the true period purists, such as the Toronto-based Tafelmusik, continue to soldier on, devoted to their idealistic view of music in context. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/13/03

Why Doesn't Australia Like Touring Orchestras? Australia is a huge country with multiple cosmopolitan cities boasting thriving arts and music scenes. So why do so many touring orchestras find themselves playing to half-empty houses in Melbourne, Brisbane, and other Aussie cities? Some say that high ticket prices are to blame, while other "observers point out that the quality of some of the touring orchestras has not been absolutely first-class at a time when the Melbourne and Sydney symphonies are playing in top form, and that marketing for the touring groups was patchy." Regardless of the cause, the slumping sales will probably mean that fewer touring orchestras will be stopping off Down Under. The Age (Melbourne) 09/15/03

Proms Wrap Up With Pomp And Passion The traditional Last Night at the BBC Proms went off without a hitch this weekend, as 6,000 people gathered to hear the BBC Symphony pump their way through such traditional Last Night tunes as 'Jerusalem' and 'Rule, Britannia.' In a slight departure from the norm, intended to placate critics who dislike the 'classical lite' atmosphere of the annual show, a new work by a young British composer was premiered as well. The concert was broadcast nationwide on television and internationally on radio, and the BBC's various orchestras performed their own concerts throughout the UK in conjunction with the Last Night celebrations in London. BBC 09/14/03

Charlotte Talks Make No Headway With a federal mediator attempting to bring the Charlotte Symphony's striking musicians and management closer together, two days of contract talks have apparently gone nowhere. Talks broke down this weekend after the orchestra pulled several conciliatory portions of their latest offer off the table, and reverted to a flat demand that the musicians accept pay and benefits cuts to make up a $650,000 deficit. Charlotte Observer 09/13/03

September 12, 2003

Musicians Have Bigger Brains "Mozart increases mental mass. Scientists revealed yesterday that members of a British symphony orchestra had more little grey cells than ordinary people in a part of the brain known as Broca's area... [A researcher] examined the brains of musicians under the age of 50 and found that they had added to their grey matter. Then she looked at non-musicians under the 50, and found an age-related decline. Where musicians still played fortissimo, non-musicians were beginning a diminuendo." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/03

No Breakthroughs In Charlotte Strike A federal mediator has stepped in, and talks are going on around the clock, but there is still no end in sight for the Charlotte Symphony musicians' strike. This weekend's season-opening concerts have been cancelled, and no one involved in the talks seems to think a breakthrough is near. At issue is the orchestra's desire to cut back the number of paid weeks per year for which it contracts its musicians, in order to make up a $645,000 deficit. The musicians claim that the deficit, the orchestra's first in seven years, is an aberration, and that no salary cuts should be necessary. Musicians in the Charlotte Symphony currently make $31,200 per year. The proposed cut would knock them back to $28,860. Charlotte Observer 09/12/03

Montreal Symphony Lacking Leadership? The Montreal Symphony Orchestra opened its season this week without a music director (Charles Dutoit, who departed the post in a huff just shy of his 25th anniversary last year, has yet to be replaced,) and Arthur Kaptainis says that the lack of leadership and direction at the MSO is beginning to be alarming. The concert had the orchestra pushed to the very back of the stage to accomodate one short work in which a pair of dancers were featured, and the entire program had the effect of implying that the musicians were the least important part of the show. "The directors of the MSO (many present for an opening-night bash) should remember that it is possible to accumulate an artistic deficit." Montreal Gazette 09/12/03

Lawsuits No Deterrent To File-Swapping The recording industry was hoping that the 261 lawsuits it filed against file-swapping music fans last month might have a chilling effect on the whole online piracy problem. But in fact, the opposite seems to be true: according to one independent research firm, "the number of people using these file sharing services in the first 10 days of September is up more than 20 percent from the August average." Of course, the industry will be going ahead with the lawsuits, regardless... BBC 09/12/03

Recordings And Porn - A Reason To Object? The recording industry seems to be hitching its objections to file-trading to the porn industry. "It said that peer-to-peer file-sharing - the technology used by Internet sites like Kazaa and Morpheus - was bad not only because citizens could share music without paying for it, but also because it was used to swap pornographic images. One odd thing here: If you tweak that sentiment just a little bit, it becomes: We join our friends the child pornographers in deploring file-sharing of protected works of art." San Francisco Chronicle 09/11/03

September 11, 2003

The New Carnegie - Expanding Musical Tastes Carnegie Hall's new hall allows it to expand its musical tastes. "The first thing is that when we present a series curated by musicians like Caetano Veloso or Emmylou Harris, you are not seeing those artists replacing the traditional recital or orchestral series that we do. We're not sacrificing one for the other, we're adding something new. But also, as audiences develop and change, I think you find people who love Emmylou Harris and also go to hear the Berlin Philharmonic." The New York Times 09/12/03

  • More On Carnegie's New Hall "Described by the architects as a mining operation as well as a design project, Carnegie Hall's new performance space sits within a cavity carved out of Manhattan schist. Parts of the bedrock are exposed, actually, in backstage areas and in a public stairwell." The New York Times 09/12/03

Sorabji The Recluse Composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was a difficult artist. "Cut off from the world and supported by a private income, he composed dauntingly huge pieces which were regarded as all but unplayable. He forbade the performance of his music lest inferior musicians ruin it. He remained alone, despising the trivial productions of others, in his artistic castle of ideal, Platonic complexity, a lone voice in the wilderness until his death." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/03

How To Give Away A Strad In Canada The Canada Council's recent competition to loan rare string instruments to young musicians is a quintessential Canadian exercise. "All of these musicians had international careers by the time they were in their teens. They are already playing with great symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles, and already recording classical CDs. These lovely instruments are, for the three years of their tenure, going to further their careers, giving them richer sounds and greater delicacy of tone and enabling them to impress even more audiences and producers." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/11/03

September 10, 2003

A Test Of Carnegie's New Hall A closed concert takes Carnegie Hall's newest auditorium for a spin. "Naturally, the question buzzing about the hall during this varied program was: How are the acoustics? I think a pass is called for on that one until I hear some full-fledged programs this weekend, though my very initial reactions were mixed. The sound seemed bright but not especially warm; details and definition came through better at soft volumes..." The New York Times 09/11/03

  • Teachout: Mixed First Impressions Terry Teachout has mixed first impressions of Carnegie's Zankel Hall. "I'm sure it's obvious that Zankel Hall didn’t make as favorable an impression on me as I’d hoped, but I long ago learned that first impressions of a new auditorium can be deceptive. What seems problematic on first hearing often proves less so later on (and vice versa)." About Last Night (AJBlogs) 09/11/03

Another London Opera Company London is getting a third opera house. The impresario Raymond Gubbay, the commercial arch-rival and a bitter critic of subsidised opera, is to mount year-round productions at the Savoy Theatre. He will begin in April with two guaranteed crowd pleasers, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Rossini's Barber of Seville." The Guardian (UK) 09/10/03

The Censorship Of Space Kyle Gann writes that music criticism has been reduced to shorthand that renders it toothless. "We critics are told that it’s up to us to defend classical music in the public marketplace - but the newspapers have taken away our tanks, bazookas, and machine guns and left us armed with garbage can lids and pea shooters. The space crunch is everywhere, in every publication. It used to be, when I’d write for the New York Times, they’d ask me one of the sweetest questions a writer can hear: 'How many words do you need?' No longer. Articles that would have once garnered 2000 or 2500 words now get half that. And according to what editors tell me, this is true across the board." PostClassic (AJBlogs) 09/05/03

The "Neo" Blues Like most labels, the term "neo-Romantic" is problematic and inaccurate. "The problem with words beginning with the prefix "neo-" is that there is an implication that what it signifies is somehow a regression to something that has previously existed and is a reversion back to a something that had been discarded and was forgotten. Of course, most composers who have been categorized as "neo-romantics," both those who accept and reject the term, do not view their work as a reactionary anachronism but rather as an appropriate up-to-date sound world that is more contemporary-sounding than the now older modernist tradition they have been deemed apostates from." NewMusicBox 09/03

Twelve-Year-Old Settles Download Suit The mother of the 12-year-old music downloader sued by the recording industry has paid to settle the suit. "Brianna LaHara, of New York, was one of 261 people served with a lawsuit by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA). She has admitted swapping music online, and her mother has agreed to pay $2,000 to settle the case." Wired 09/10/03

September 9, 2003

  • Recording Companies Sue 12-Year-Old A 12-year-old girl was among those sued by the recoding industry for music file swapping. "I got really scared. My stomach is all turning. I thought it was OK to download music because my mom paid a service fee for it. Out of all people, why did they pick me?" Fox News 09/09/03

Big Music's Problems Beyond The File Traders File trading is only one of the recording companies' problems. "Among the problems they cited were the consolidation of radio stations, making it harder to expose new bands and records, and the lack of a widely popular musical trend like teen-pop, which relied on stars like Britney Spears and `N Sync to drive young people to record stores. They also blamed a poor economy and competition for the limited time and money of teenagers and young adults, their main customers, who often find that they prefer buying DVD's, video games, sneakers and more. Indeed, thousands of music retail stores have closed recently, and the ones that are still open have given shelf space to competing products, like DVD's and video games." The New York Times 09/09/03

  • News Flash: Customers Don't Like You If You Sue Them Prosecuting file traders isn't likely to win recording companies many fans. "Some music industry analysts and file-trading fans question whether the strategy will do much to further the RIAA's goal of boosting legitimate music sales. If you're trying to instill fear, you may have success. But if you're trying to increase CD sales by getting people to stop sharing music, I don't think it will have any effect at all." Wired 09/09/03

The "Booker Prize" Of Music? The Mercury Prize was "conceived in the early 1990s by Jon Webster, then MD of Virgin Records, who envisaged it as 'the Booker Prize of the music industry'. It would be independent of both the record companies and the music retailers, but endorsed by both. Its serious image would encourage ageing music fans to explore new albums as well as buying CD copies of their old vinyl favourites. And it would promote modern music as 'art'. But it's the sheer unpredictability of the Mercury that makes it so charming. Don't ever believe anyone who says they know who is or isn't going to win. And has it achieved its original objectives?" The Guardian (UK) 09/09/03

Charlotte Symphony On Strike Players of the Charlotte Symphony have gone on strike. "The talks have gone on in the wake of a $650,000 deficit that the orchestra generated last season - the first red ink in seven years. When the group's management announced the deficits in July, it cited a drop in donations, a decline in income from its endowment fund and a surge in health-insurance costs as prime causes." Charlotte Observer 09/09/03

CD Price-Cut Is Desperation Play Not hard to figure out why Universal is cutting CD prices. "After years of gouging customers, the recording industry is desperate. Sparked by Napster, and continued through such file-swapping services as Kazaa, Morpheus, and Grokster, the free-music revolution has left the major labels reeling and hemorrhaging. And CD prices, which despite promises to the contrary have steadily increased through the years, turned off even those who weren't inclined to sit at their computers downloading their favorite tracks. Now, with CD sales already down almost 16 percent this year - after a 9 percent decline in 2002 - the industry is so rattled it has had to resort to something it has arrogantly avoided for years: a move that will benefit, instead of undermine, music consumers." Boston Globe 09/09/03

Orchestras In Uncertain Times The new orchestra season begins. But "don't be surprised if you see orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, reopening labor contracts, well before expiration dates, in search of budget savings. Such measures, once unthinkable, may soon be common as organizations struggle to get their houses on solid ground. And all the usual things, like cut-backs in performances and costly repertoire, will continue, too. But let's not get overly gloomy. At least not yet." There are some bright spots... Baltimore Sun 09/09/03

September 8, 2003

Universal Price Cut - Just Desperation Universal's decision to cut prices by 30 percent is a blockbuster. "It's a historic move - the first time prices have been trimmed across the board by a major label in the 20-year history of the CD - but it comes at a time when the music industry as we know it is fast becoming history." The price cut is too little too late. Chicago Tribune 09/08/03

Sibelius Songs Found The scores for four long lost songs by Jan Sibelius have been found. "Although the existence of the scores was known, it was thought they were lost because there was no record of their whereabouts." BBC 09/08/03

Recording Industry Files Lawsuits Against File-Traders The recording industry began filing lawsuits against file-traders. Monday 261 suits were filed. "On average, the music traders had made over 1,000 music files available to others on P2P networks like Kazaa. The most egregious offender sued had shared over 3,000 files." Wired 09/08/03

A File-Trading Amnesty You Should Resist "Should you take the RIAA up on its amnesty offer? Maybe not. The "Clean Slate" program promises that the RIAA won't pursue legal action against P2P pirates who send in a notarized affidavit declaring that they've wiped all copyright-infringing materials from their disk drives and who vow not to file-share again. But lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco say there are multiple reasons to sit tight for now, rather than rush to sign and deliver what amounts to an admission of guilt." Slate 09/08/03

The Real Bach. Really. No, We Mean it "We've seen more releases of Mozart, Beethoven, and beyond with original instruments. In the process we hear scholarship go right and we hear it go wrong. Sometimes, we hear it go nuts. After all, research can take us only so far. We can't really know what music sounded like before recordings arrived, and the historical data is vague and contradictory. The older the music, the more uncertainty." Slate 09/08/03

Arranged Marriage - Eschenbach And Philly Christoph Eschenbach takes over the Philadelphia Orchestra. "The most optimistic forecast for the Eschenbach era is that he will deftly charm big bucks from rich patrons, give a new mission and a social conscience to the orchestra's board and administration, and achieve a new level of visibility and stature for himself. Musically, Eschenbach could animate the magisterial qualities of the Philadelphia Orchestra with the personal vision and originality that have marked his best work." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/07/03

September 7, 2003

Cleveland Institute Expands The Cleveland Institute of Music is embarking on a $26 million expansion. "If the expansion turns out as well as it's starting to look, it could strengthen an important institution, reinforce the prominence of the arts in the local economy and boost the allure of University Circle, the cultural and educational district four miles east of downtown. That's good news in an otherwise depressing season for architecture and development in Cleveland, epitomized by the failure of local civic and political leaders to move ahead with a new downtown convention center." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/07/03

In Development - An Opera That Matters A new opera set to premiere in 21 months has a lot of people watching already. "The combination of high-profile creators and a commission shared by three major companies - Opera Company of Philadelphia, Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit and Cincinnati Opera - could make the stakes high for all parties concerned. With luck, there will be national sponsorship to help defray the commission and development costs, plus the $4.8 million cost of the production, which will first be seen in May 2005 in Detroit and continue in July 2005 in Cincinnati and February 2006 in Philadelphia. With legs like that, the project is a likely candidate for PBS. But such matters are barely in the talking stage." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/07/03

Carnegie Hall's New Hall Carnegie Hall's new performance space, down in the basement, offers new flexibility for the groups that have traditionally performed at Carnegie. "Zankel Hall, with 644 seats, opens on Friday, and its eclectic inaugural season, with some 90 events, makes good on Carnegie Hall's promise to provide an alternative space suitable for the widest range of contemporary repertory, including world music." The New York Times 09/07/03

First Prize - A Strad... The Canada Council has awarded two young musicians instruments from the council's instrument bank. "For the next three years, Kaori Yamagami will play the 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello, the most valuable instrument in the Instrument Bank, valued at approximately $6.1-million. Violinist Hou won the use of the 1729 'ex-Heath' Guarneri del Gesù violin, valued at about $4.3-million." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/06/03

Supremes Make Opera Debut Who says Supreme Court justices are all law, no show biz? Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthong Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, despite their limited performing arts resumes, made rare special appearances, with non-singing roles, in the Washington Opera's season-opener 'Die Fledermaus' on Saturday night." Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 09/07/03

Universal Strings For CD Price-Cuts Universal's plan to cut the suggested retail price of its CD's comes with some strings that won't endear it to retailers. "Universal's cut turns out to be a complex proposal that comes with many conditions for retailers. In order to get a wholesale price cut, retailers would have to make concessions to Universal. Those concessions include such items as guaranteed shelf space and special promotions for the company's releases." Minneapolis Star-Tribune 09/05/03

  • Discount Pressure Influenced Universal? Universal's price cuts sound good, but the company was likely influenced in its decision by discount chain stores. "Universal executives downplay the notion that giant discounters directly forced the world's largest record label to lower the wholesale price of most CDs by 25% and the suggested retail price by as much as 32%. But it was certainly more than coincidence that the amount Universal suggests consumers will now pay for its CDs — around $10 — is the same one that has become common in the weekly circulars distributed by big chains such as Best Buy." Los Angeles Times 09/05/03

Downloader Amnesty - But There's A Price The recording industry is ready to offer amnesty to music downloaders. But there are conditions. "To be eligible, sources said, people would have to cleanse their computers of all the tunes they downloaded without permission and destroy any CDs they burned with those songs. They'd also have to submit a notarized form to the RIAA, possibly with some official identification, pledging not to run afoul of copyright laws again." Los Angeles Times 09/05/06

  • Privacy Fears May Doom Amnesty Plan Will downloaders take up the music industry's offer of amnesty? Not likely. "I would think that many of the people who have downloaded music would be concerned about their privacy rights. To put identifying information into a database that the RIAA owns will turn people off, and therefore the program will not succeed." Wired 09/07/03

The Killing Of Classical Music Radio Programming gets less interesting, audiences fall off, and classical music exits the radio dial. "Public radio, following the commercial lead, adopted similar 'lite' strategies to attract daytime audiences. But there's an obvious paradox. 'The more it sounds like background, the less people will be committed to your station. After all, you're encouraging them to not pay attention to it; then you ask them to pay for it at fund-raising time. It's a Catch-22. If your strategy is to be as uninteresting as possible, how can you ask for support?" Atlanta Journal-Constitution 09/07/03

Why Opera Australia Is Pulling Back Why is Opera Australia retrenching? And why is opera in Melbourne such a tough go? "We know that our performances need to be 40 per cent underwritten in Melbourne for us to break even, but in Sydney it only needs to be 28 per cent funded. We sell 25 per cent to tourists in Sydney but in Melbourne the tourism sales are negligible." The Age (Melbourne) 09/07/03

September 5, 2003

Chicago Lyric Makes Agreement With Musicians The Chicago Lyric Opera has made a tentative contract agreement with its musicians. "Salary increases, 5 percent annually during the last contract, would be lower. The orchestra's annual average base salary, according to the union, was $50,050 for the 2002-03 season. Adding in overtime and premiums such as bonuses for length of service that increase every orchestra member's paycheck, Lyric management says the actual average salary is $79,409 per year." Chicago Sun-Times 09/05/0

CD Price Cut - Great Move or Too Little, Too Late Reactions are mixed to Universal's announcement that it will cut CD prices by 30 percent. "It as been hailed by some observers as a move guaranteed to revitalize the moribund recording industry, and by others as an act of capitulation by a giant brought to its knees by the revenue-sucking effects of illegal Internet music file-sharing and copying on home computers." Toronto Star 09/05/03

An Opera About A Newscast It may have some superficial similarities to "Jerry Springer The Opera", but "Newsnight The Opera" has its own rhythm (and special problems". "There's an inherent problem in using reports as the basis for an opera: by their nature, they describe events that have occurred "off stage", and the evening runs the risk of feeling like a string of messenger speeches." The Guardian (UK) 09/05/03

Study: CD's Will Die A new study says that CDs will go the way of vinyl, to be replaced by downloadable music. "On-demand services are the future of entertainment delivery. CDs, DVDs, and any other forms of physical media will become obsolete." CNN.com 09/04/03

September 4, 2003

Universal To Lower CD Prices by 30 Percent As CD sales have dropped 15 percent in the past two years, recording companies have become more shrill in their contention that piracy is hurting their business. On the other hand, maybe CD prices are just too high. So Universal - one of the Big Five - is dropping its album prices. Come October, the company will lower the "suggested" price in the US for most CDs to $13 - down from $17-19. BBC 09/04/03

  • EMI Exec: CDs Aren't Overpriced An EMI exec defends the pricing system for CDs. "The gap between the perception of how record companies like EMI work and the actual reality is now a chasm. I sometimes wonder if it's because music is intangible that people forget that there are many more costs involved than merely manufacturing a piece of plastic." BBC 09/04/03

Alarm Bells, Stravinsky, What's The Difference? The opening night gala at the San Francisco Symphony was going off beautifully, with 2,700 patrons enjoying the glitter and glitz of the evening, not to mention some fine music. Over 1,500 supporters had dinner at Davies Symphony Hall, and the orchestra was reportedly in top form for the performance under music director Michael Tilson Thomas. And then, in the middle of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, someone pulled the fire alarm. San Francisco Chronicle 09/04/03

The Calgary Model As orchestras around North America struggle to stay afloat or, in some cases, rebuild, a split is developing over the issue of what type of management is best for a symphony orchestra. Some orchestras are turning to corporate-style managers with little musical background, in an effort to make fiscal responsibility the first priority. Others are actively steering away from that course, stressing the importance of an understanding that the main focus of the organization is music, and not profit. In the former camp is the revitalized Calgary Philharmonic, which has risen from the ashes of bankruptcy as a bare-bones organization with a skeleton staff, little overhead, and, as it happens, booming ticket sales. La Scena Musicale 09/03/03

  • Orchestras Fighting Back All this talk about symphony orchestras dying has some orchestras feeling unfairly treated. "The impatience orchestras are showing with continued talk of crisis is perhaps indicative of a sea-change in their own philosophy toward their situation. And Orchestra Canada representatives say it's high time to shift the focus from fighting the short-term fires to eradicating the deep-rooted problems that have been fuelling the flames for decades." La Scena Musicale 09/03/03

Whither The Record Industry? "The popularity of Apple's iTunes song service has demonstrated that customers like to pick and choose their songs online. New statistics from the music industry indicate that labels are shipping more singles to stores, too. But whether the stats signal the return of the single is still a bit of a puzzle." The industry denies that it is making any sort of concentrated effort to market the single more heavily as an alternative to illegal song-swapping, but "faced with falling CD sales for the third year in a row, it's to the music industry's benefit to offer music in formats that consumers will pay for." Wired 09/04/03

  • CD Prices To Drop The world's largest producer of CDs has announced that it will drop the price of the average disc sold in the U.S. by 30% this fall. Universal, which has suffered from a 3-year slump in album sales, will lower the retail price of an average CD from $17-$19 to $13, and lower the wholesale cost from $12.02 to $9.09. The price cut is seen as an acknowledgement by Universal that the problems of the industry go beyond the phenomenon of online piracy, and that consumers are no longer content to pay inflated prices for pop music. BBC 09/04/03

September 3, 2003

Detroit's New Cultural Campus The Detroit Symphony is moving into a renewed home this fall. But that home will be part of a new complex of cultural groups - a new Detroit High School for the Fine, Performing and Communication Arts be built there. "The $122.5 million high school is under construction, and after it opens in 2005, its 1,200 students will study in closer contact with symphony musicians than almost any students anywhere. Detroit Public Television will open a studio there, and there will also be a 50,000-watt AM radio station." The New York Times 09/04/03

A Fight Over A Bequest A battle is brewing over a $1.7 million bequest made to the Victoria State Opera, which was taken over by Opera Australia in 1996. Opera Australia believes it is entitled to the money, but others believe the bequest ought to b e divided among other small Australian opera companies. The Age (Melbourne) 09/03/03

A Rush To The Bargaining Table? The Philadelphia Orchestra's contract with its musicians doesn't expire for another year, but the orchestra's board chairman wants to reopen negotiations immediately, and to get a new labor deal in place before the start of the season later this month. According to chairman Richard Smoot, the orchestra is pursuing some massive financial gifts, but donors are only willing to lay their money on the line if the organization can bring its financial situation under control. Among the management proposals being floated are plans to reduce the size of the orchestra through attrition, to replace unionized substitute players with students, and to delay scheduled raises for the musicians by a year. Philadelphia Inquirer 09/03/03

Shakespeare The Librettist No writer in the history of the English language has had as many operas, ballets, and other musical works written around his words than William Shakespeare. But there are some rather big stumbling blocks in the path of any composer attempting to add his/her imprint to The Bard's work. Says one director, "It's almost like trying to choreograph a Beethoven symphony... It's already there; you don't need to add an extra level of music onto it." Kansas City Star 08/31/03

Pirates Fighting Back When the recording industry began going after individuals for the practice of illegal online 'song-swapping,' many predicted that the pirates would not be cowed. At least one target of the industry's lawsuits is indeed fighting back: a US woman known as "nycfashiongirl" has filed suit against her pursuers, claiming that the industry's tracking of her internet usage violates her right to privacy. BBC 09/03/03

September 2, 2003

Jazz Star Disorder A researcher reports that jazz greats are "eight times more likely to have suffered from drug dependency. Dr Geoffrey Wills also found that mood disorders appeared to be four times more likely among this group of jazz greats. The psychologist said that he was not trying to imply that all jazz musicians had such problems, but that they shared the same vulnerability to mental health problems as other creative types such as writers and artists." BBC 09/02/03

Miami And The Latin Grammys This year's Latin Grammys are being held in Miami. "For years the Latin Grammys have been mired in a debate centering on whether arts and politics associated with Cuba can ever be separated. If the event succeeds, it could greatly bolster Miami's position as the Latin entertainment capital, organizers say. If it doesn't, it would be another strike against a city that for years has struggled with an image of intractable political strife over Cuba." The New York Times 09/03/03

New Era For Dallas Opera Dallas Opera has a new leader in general director Karen Stone, who takes over at a challenging time. "It's a company doing major-league work on a $10 million budget, half that of comparable operations in Houston and Seattle, but with nearly $800,000 in accumulated deficit. But it's also a company preparing for a snazzy new opera house being designed by Foster and Partners for the Dallas Arts District." Dallas Morning News 09/01/03

September 1, 2003

My Day As A Conductor Pianist Susan Tomes is pressed into service as a conductor unexpectedly: "At first I stood at the foot of the stage with the score propped on a chair, and gave an upbeat. Astoundingly, they all came in together and, even more astonishingly, they kept playing; all the musical fragments fitted together in the correct places. I even found that I could make them speed up and slow down where indicated without losing them. There was something poignant about being the only person in possession of the whole map..." The Guardian (UK) 09/01/03

Latin Music's New Global Beat There's something new apparent in the lists of nominees for this year's Latin Grammys. "Call it the globalization of Latin music. Not in the sense of a particular Latin genre hitting it big with non-Latins, i.e. salsa being hot in Europe or Latin-flavored American pop hitting it in the United States. This is about Latin music taking its place as an essential part of the world pop music pantheon." Miami Herald 09/01/03

Visa Holdups Derail Cuban Musicians' Visits For Grammys The Cuban government says the US is holding up visas for Cuban music stars who have been invited to the Latin Grammys. "Nominees including Latin jazz stars Chucho Valdes and Los Van Van are unlikely to attend Wednesday's ceremony because they have not been given visas. But US diplomats say visa requests were delayed by the Cuban government." BBC 09/01/03

Was Lester Bangs The Best Rock Critic Of The 70s? A new book makes the case. But Sasha Frere-Jones maintains that making the case is problematic. "Picking an All-Time No. 1 in any category is an exercise that's generally more fun than scientific. This is especially true when picking top critics, a breed who succeed precisely by being in and of their time. There's a good chance Bangs owns the '70s but carving him in marble for all time does his gifts no service." Slate 08/29/03

Chicago Lyric Opera Contract Looming Chicago Lyric Opera is down to the wire negotiating new contracts with its musicians and chorus. Will the contract be wrapped up before the season is scheduled to start? We're sure it's going to happen. We just don't know what time of the day or night." Chicago Sun-Times 09/01/03

  • City Opera Strike? New York City Opera costumers have voted to authorize a strike against the comnpany. "The vote, at the union's headquarters on West 45th Street, means that the union could strike at any time, though both sides said yesterday that talks were continuing. The union's contract expired in November." The New York Times 08/30/03

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