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February 29, 2004

Pop Music's Changing Demographic Used to be that kids bought the most music. But "for the first time, people in their 40s are buying more albums than teenagers. According to recent figures from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the 12-to-19 age group accounted for 16.4% of album sales in 2002, a sharp fall on 2000 (22.1%), while 40- to-49-year-olds went the other way, rising from 16.5% to 19.1%. Buyers in their 50s (14.3%) are not far behind. Soon, half of albums will be bought by people who have passed their 40th birthday." The Guardian (UK) 03/01/04

Dancin' In Miami At The Winter Music Conference Miami Beach is hosting the 19th Winter Music Conference for thousands of dance music fans. "More than 3,000 deejays and musicians perform at some 250 events - some tied to the official event, but most of them not." New York Post 02/29/04

At The Chicago Symphony - What Next After Barenboim? There is ambivalence about the Chicago Symphony's Daniel Barenboim stepping down as music director. "Unsettling questions remain to be answered. By allowing Barenboim to walk out the door - a musician with a unique combination of intellectual curiosity, profoundly creative engagement with the process of making music and wide involvement with the world beyond the podium - the CSO has redefined, for better or worse, the role of music director." Chicago Sun-Times 02/29/04

Baroque On The Record Boston Baroque's recordings with Telarc will never earn back the money it takes to make them. But there are other advantages: "The records have invigorated our audience, and the reception the records have earned -- including three Grammy nominations -- has changed us from a local into a national and international ensemble. The recordings have led to invitations to tour in Europe and in America. We have five weekends a year to say `Come and hear us,' but the recordings can introduce us to people all the time. And the recordings have had a tremendous impact on the musicians. The intensity of the recording process is a lot different than rehearsing a concert and presenting it. And of course through recordings, the group can hear itself." Boston Globe 02/29/04

The Sampling Debate - Legalities Aside... Internet protests over Danger Mouse's "The Grey Album" last week show that "there's really no way to resolve the legal issues surrounding sampling. It's a subjective thing: It makes sense for Vanilla Ice or P. Diddy to cough up some cash and a co-writing credit when they appropriate "Under Pressure" or "Every Breath You Take" more or less in bulk to build another song, for example, but does a single snare loop or sampled "Yeah!" from an ancient funk record deserve to be treated the same? Where do you draw the line?" Toronto Star 02/29/04

In RoadTrip: End Of The Tour Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: "There are those who would say that it’s foolhardy to schedule back-to-back concerts in Scotland and Finland, that the odds of everything going right with the travel, the cargo, the instrument trunks, the time change, and the weather are just too slim. These cynics are unquestionably right, and we needed every ounce of good luck we could get today for this concert in Lahti to come off as planned..." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/28/04

Revising The Birth Of The Blues In the popular mythology of the blues, Robert Johnson has been credited with a pivotal role in creating the music. Yet a new book suggests that Johnson was really a minor figure, and that his "primacy was largely a creation of white fans and music critics of the 1960's. "Very little that happened in the decades following his death would have been affected if he had never played a note." The New York Times 02/28/04

Royal Academy Buys Menuhin Archive The Royal Academy of Music has bought the archive of papers, photos and memorabilia of the late Yehudi Menuhin. "The archive contains important musical manuscripts by many of the composers who worked with Menuhin, including music from his collaborations with Ravi Shankar and Stephane Grappelli. In addition to detailed correspondence with Edward Elgar, Bela Bartok and Benjamin Britten, the archive includes letters from such non-musical figures as Einstein and Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru." BBC 02/28/04

February 27, 2004

A String Quartet That Records Everything (And Sells It Too) For about a year, the Borromeo String Quartet has been recording all its live preformances and making them available for sale over the internet. "We had done enough recording that I had started to learn about the techniques and some of the issues involved. I began to carry around a little suitcase of equipment, a mobile recording unit, to take down our concerts because I thought it was too bad that so many just vanish into thin air. If something went wonderfully, we love to study just how and why it happened. It is also important for us to study what didn't go so well." Boston Globe 02/27/04

February 26, 2004

Kennicott: Something "Refreshing" About Sam's RoadTrip Blog Along with many ArtsJournal readers, the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott has been following violist Sam Bergman's RoadTrip blog. "There is something that is remarkably refreshing, given the sadly hamstrung public relations front that the professional orchestra community presents to the world. There are signs of intelligent life and unselfconscious candor. Bergman found a voice that spoke articulately from inside a world that has become all too reticent, nervous and polished in its nonmusical communication with the public. That his blog, which made the facts of a musician's life fascinating, should be so successful suggests that the professional orchestral world has become so self-absorbed that it no longer knows what is interesting about its own microcosm." Washington Post 02/27/04

  • In RoadTrip: Some Final Thoughts On A Tour Well-Spent Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: The orchestra wound up its three-week European tour with a concert in Finland Thursday night. Friday, the orchestra flies home to Minneapolis, and Sam expects to blog this weekend on his thoughts about the tour RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/27/04

The Golden Age Of Music (It's Right Now) There's no end of doom and gloom about the music business these days. But that's just the business. "There's never been a better time to be in the music industry? Try telling that to the thousands of music workers who have been laid off over the past couple of years. Universal slashed its workforce by 11% last year. Tower Records filed for bankruptcy in the US two weeks ago. But with album sales rising and the phenomenal growth of ringtones and legal downloads, plus record-breaking years for merchandising and publishing rights, it seems the death of the music industry has been greatly exaggerated." The Guardian (UK) 02/26/04

Acousti-Guard - How Do You "Fix" Royal Festival Hall? London's Royal Festival Hall has a big problem. "The main problem is the hall's acoustics. They're awful. Simon Rattle once said that playing there 'saps the will to live'. Even the RFH's resident orchestras, who have historically been defensive about their home, now openly admit it 'leaves a lot to be desired'." But doing anything about the sound is more problematic than a mere acoustical upgrade... The Guardian (UK) 02/26/04

Report: Nagano To Be Named Director Of Montreal Symphony The Montreal newspaper Le Devoir reports that Kent Nagano will be named as the Montreal Symphony's new music director, succeeding Charles Dutoit. The orchestra won't comment and says it will anounce the choice in March. Le Devoir (Montreal) 02/26/04

  • Celebrating 25 Years Of Nagano At The Helm Conductor Kent Nagano celebrates 25 years as director of the Berkeley Symphony. "He transformed it from a group that shunned tuxedoes and played in street clothes at unusual locations such as art museums into a sophisticated symphony known for performing challenging modern music. The fare has stretched from the works of Frank Zappa to an improvisational jazz trumpet concerto by Jeff Beal." San Francisco Chronicle 02/26/04

A Music Downloading Fee? Big Music Doesn't Like It An idea to solve the music downloading problem? How about music fans paying 'a small monthly fee - perhaps $5 - to share files with impunity, using whatever software they like. The money could be collected by a central organization and then distributed among those who own the rights to the songs, based on popularity. The idea has worked before. Broadcast radio stations paid a similar flat fee..." But the music industry has rejected the idea out of hand. Wired 02/26/04

Making It In The Jazz Club Biz "Parisian jazz clubs have had historical and sentimental—and temporary—relevance since Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Bud Powell and the others played in those dank, smoky Left Bank caves not because it was romantic but because it was their only option. They deserved to be playing in Salle Pleyel. It's much better for the deserving in the jazz business now, so it is ironic that more musicians with the clout to play prestigious halls are choosing to go back to multiple performances in smaller, more intimate clubs instead." Culture Kiosque 02/23/04

In RoadTrip: A Quick Stop In Scotland Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: The orchestra swings into its last two stops, beginning with Glasgow. "Musicians, particularly orchestra musicians, tend to be competitive by nature. The process by which we audition for our jobs is far too harsh an difficult for anyone without at least a trace of competitive fire to make it through. Even after we have our jobs secured, we tend to constantly look over our shoulders, wondering how other bands are doing, and how we stack up against them. Playing in the home of another orchestra, with the conductor a familiar commodity, we have a lot on the line, and the desire to measure up to expectations is ridiculously high." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/26/04

America Gets Its National Opera Company The US Congress has marked the changing of the name of the Washington Opera to the "National Opera." Congress decided in June 2000 that the 48-year-old company whould be renamed. "According to Placido Domingo, the company's general director, the new name is a reflection of "the fact that it is in the nation's capital and therefore touches a wide national audience." Washington Post 02/26/04

February 25, 2004

Classical Music - Too Old? Too Abstract? What's wrong with classical music, asks Greg Sandow. "The classical music world, on the whole, has no discernable relation to the present day. The music is mainly talked about in scholarly terms, as structures of abstract musical elements, or else as history. Or if emotion ever enters the discussion, there's a tone of piety, or sometimes vague inspiration, a feeling of transcendent exhilaration that, upon examination, has nothing to do with any specific piece that might be played. It comes from classical music as a whole." NewMusicBox 02/04

Philadelphia Orchestra Gift And Its Obligations A $50 million gift to the Philadelphia Orchestra came with some strings. "The Annenberg grant is the biggest in the ensemble's history and is believed by orchestra leaders to be the second-largest gift ever made to an American orchestra. Taken as a whole, the 12-page agreement, which is signed by Annenberg and orchestra leaders, outlines a broad set of institutional ambitions for the world-famous ensemble - some new, others tried but hobbled in the past by a lack of money. Still, all of the programs outlined in the 12-page agreement cannot be paid for with the interest and other income eventually generated by the $50 million nest egg." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/25/04

A Canadian Choral Fest's Glaring Omission A Canadian choral festival arranged to present the country's professional choruses together, made a major omission - it forgot to invite the country's "only professional choir dedicated to Afrocentric music. The concerts are taking place this weekend in Toronto, during the final days of Black History Month." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/25/04

February 24, 2004

"Gray" Tuesday Web Protest Draws RIAA Warnings On Tuesday, numerous websites staged a protest against EMI who moved to try to block distribution of a remix of the Beatles' White Album. "The protesters billed the event as "Grey Tuesday," calling it "a day of coordinated civil disobedience," during which more than 150 sites offered the album for download. Recording industry lawyers saw it as 24 hours of mass copyright infringement and sent letters to the Web sites demanding that they not follow through on the protest." The New York Times 02/25/04

Making Miami PAC Whiz Bang "In a bid to turn Miami's Performing Arts Center into one of the world's whiz-bang wonders, students from the MIT Media Lab are spending this semester figuring out how to incorporate digital technology into the center's opera, concerts and ballet." Miami Herald 02/24/04

In RoadTrip: A View Of Music Critics From Inside The Orchestra Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: We're getting more press on this tour than we ever have. But it reminds us how little relationship we have with critics when we're not on tour. "The upshot of this dumbing down of the arts press is that most orchestra musicians have little to no contact with their local cultural reporters, and the vast majority could probably not pick the critic who reviews their concerts out of a police lineup. Only maybe half of musicians bother to read the reviews, anyway, since so often, most papers will spare only a few paragraphs for such elitist claptrap, and even a well-constructed column is always in danger of being brutalized for space by some overzealous editor who has to make room for the latest installment of the five-part series on Janet Jackson’s Super Boob." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/24/04

February 23, 2004

Betting On The ENO The English National Opera is about to move back into its newly renovated home. But the company has been plagued with problems in the past two years. And even getting back into its home has proven problematic. The New York Times 02/24/04

Going Back To A Beethoven Piano Beethoven heard a different piano than the ones we use today. Now some Australians have turned back the clock. "The separation of sound quality between note textures is so significant on these old instruments, and it's something Steinway has tried to minimise. With the Stuart we are going back to the sound concept of the 17th and 18th centuries, when instruments were far more clearly transparent. We are dealing with the age of enlightenment. Nothing is hidden, everything is open. This instrument is sublimely suited for this repertoire. This is the sort of thing Beethoven would have wished to have had in his time." The Age (Melbourne) 02/24/04

CD Sales Reverse Declines, Now Five Months Of Increses After a couple of years of sales downturns in the recording business, the industry has just racked up five straight months of sales gains. "So why are so few people in the music world ready to celebrate an industry comeback? 'The past four or five months has turned the predictive ability of all of us on its head. I think people are holding their breath'."
The New York Times 02/23/04

In RoadTrip: Struggling With A London Concert Hall Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: The orchestra plays Barbican Hall in London, a place the critics hate, and musicians find difficult to play in. "The audience is listening to the big picture, and we're working to create an understandable canvas, but the tiny muscle movements and mental adjustments required dictate that we must spend an inordinate amount of our time and effort on the seemingly insignificant details of our instruments and our surroundings. It's a bit like the paintings of George Seurat - huge, beautiful depictions of idyllic scenes, all created from tiny dots dabbed on the canvas one at a time. The artist obsesses over the dots..." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/23/04

At The Philhamonic: Giant Video The New York Philharmonic, like many orchestras, is experimenting with giant video screens. "Just as, if you go to a football game, the camera focuses in on the face of the athlete. You wouldn't want to go to a movie and just look at the back of Cary Grant. You want to see his face." But the orchestra's players aren't enthusiastic so far: "It just seems like a bit of a sellout. Better we should spend the money on a hall that brings the audience closer to us. People might as well stay home with their big-screen TV's. It's going the route of MTV, and I'm not sure it's the way to go."
The New York Times 02/23/04

February 22, 2004

Celebrating The Out-Of-Tune As rap music became more commercial, it sounded more produced. So in the spirit of "keepin' it real", many of today's performers are eschewing the "fixing" of things like pitch and tone. And guess what? There's a lot of offkey singing... The Observer (UK) 02/22/04

Sentenced To Listen - The Music We Don't Like Recently a Florida judge sentenced a man who was playing his music too loud to listen to opera. Andrew Mueller believes this is enlightened thinking: "It is time, surely, to update the legal code in this country, to enable judges to sentence the noisy to a punishment that fits their crime. Few things are as distressing to the spirit as music we don't wish to hear." The Guardian (UK) 02/21/04

Wanted In Chicago - An Ambassador Of Music Conductor Daniel Barenboim paid close attention to the music as Chicago Symphony music director. But he was unwilling to be the orchestra's ambassador to the community. "In shirking the role of community ombudsman and de facto fundraiser that the CSO board had envisioned for Barenboim when large deficits are an almost yearly occurrence, he created an untenable position for the institution, in the view of the trustees. Rather than face compromise or divert himself from his main concern -- making music -- the controversial, 61-year-old musician chose a graceful exit." So what kind of director does the famed orchestra need? Chicago Tribune 02/22/04

Singing The Praises Of Singing There are hundreds of thousands of choruses and choirs in North America. "For all the developments in symphonic and operatic music in recent decades, choral singing remains the most pervasive musical activity in the country, whether in churches, schools or concert halls." So what is the allure of opening your mouth to make noise? Toronto Star 02/22/04

Classic Zappa - Understanding The Avant Garde "The wary romance between Frank Zappa and the classical world was never fully consummated. It also never really ended. A decade after his death, Zappa is still a surprise guest at concerts by classical musicians, who can rent his published works almost as easily as they can music by Richard Strauss or John Williams. Some treat Zappa as a naughty kindred spirit, while others seem to deploy his works as props for the construction of a hip image." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/21/04

In Road Trip: Rattling Around In A BIG LOUD ROOM Sam Bergman and the Minnesota Orchestra perform in Leeds' Town Hall, and it's a terrifying experience. "It's a Big Loud Room, is what I'm saying here, and Big Loud Rooms (hereafter referred to as BLRs) are probably the hardest places for an orchestra to play, since we depend on our ability to hear each other to stay together. The overall sound of an orchestra playing in a BLR can actually be quite effective from the audience's point of view, since the acoustic can obscure some minor mishaps which might stick out in a drier space, but from the perspective of a single musician, it can be just terrifying." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/22/04

February 20, 2004

In RoadTrip: Osmo Loosens Up Sam Bergman on tour in Europe with the Minnesota Orchestra: "It rarely occurs to musicians that conductors must feel the same pressures that we do, and in considerably greater measure. But if the expectations were high for this orchestra on this tour, they were stratospheric for Osmo, who is being asked to prove his reputation on a global stage with an American orchestra, in the very first year of his tenure with us. Now, Osmo is not the type of conductor who buckles in the face of pressure, and he's been more or less rock solid on the podium throughout the trip. But where his demeanor in the early rehearsals was fairly stern and even a bit domineering, we now see him cracking jokes and trading quips with the musicians during the evening touch-ups." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/20/04

Death of The Pop Album For decades, the pop music album has been considered a work of art in its own right, at its best mixing songs into a coherent and interesting whole. But more and more critics are suggesting that the album as an artform is dead. "To say the least, the idea of what constitutes a proper album is unravelling, and the artists, as always, are causing a lot of that change themselves." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/20/04

Barenboim To Quit Chicago Symphony Conductor Daniel Barenboim has told Chicago Symphony officials he'll leave the orchestra after 17 years as music director. "Barenboim, 61, cited the toll of travel between Chicago and his home base in Berlin and the increasing "non-artistic'' demands being made on music directors of U.S. orchestras to expand audiences as key factors in his decision." Chicago Sun-Times 02/20/04

  • Why Barenboim Is Leaving Why is Barenboim leaving the Chicago Symphony? One official suggested that "there have been ongoing conflicts with the administration and trustees regarding the 'non-artistic' side of his directorship, including questions about his taking a firmer hand in fundraising, community outreach and maintaining a more regular community presence." Chicago Tribune 02/20/04

February 19, 2004

Detroit - Where Chamber Music Thrives Chamber music series all over America have been struggling. But the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, celebrating its 60th birthday, has never been doing better. Its budget has doubled in the past decade, it has a record number of subscriber, and it consistently sells out its concerts. Detroit Free Press 02/19/04

Who Will Lead Them? Who will take over the top jobs in New York's top music administrative jobs? There aren's a lot of good candidates. "The dearth of leadership material is not a consequence of poor remuneration. It is, rather, the fault of a system which diffuses authority in too many directions. The boss of most opera houses and concerthalls (Carnegie excepted) has an artistic director who makes the fun decisions and a board of big givers who double-guess everything else. The boss’s hands are manacled. Initiative is stifled and financial setbacks swiftly punished. The manager of a tyre plant in Denver has more power to transform the product than the president of any US arts centre or opera house." La Scena Musicale 02/18/04

Scottish Opera Ring Won't Hit Disk Last year's acclaimed Scottish Opera production of Wagner's Ring cycle is blamed for helping precipitate the company's financial crisis. There was a recording made, but it appears the company isn't likely to release it. "Making and releasing a recording of the Ring Cycle, with its four separate parts, would be a major undertaking in a shrinking market for new classical recordings. But it is clear that a recording would have been widely welcomed by opera fans in Scotland and worldwide." The Scotsman 02/20/04

Australian National Academy Heads In New Direction "The winds of change are blowing through the Australian National Academy of Music in South Melbourne as a new team takes charge following the abrupt departure of the former director, Englishman Frank Wibaut, five months ago." The Age (Melbourne) 02/20/04

The CD Will Be Dead By 2007 "New studies show that young people have little interest in owning prepackaged music when just about every recording they want can be had as a download. For people stricken with the collecting disease, this plastic-free vision of the future sounds a little alarming. Sure, we smirked when Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin was urged to go into plastics in "The Graduate." But we've really come to love our plastic, especially when it contains the audio and visual stimulation we crave." San Francisco Chronicle 02/19/04

February 18, 2004

In RoadTrip: High And Dry In Dusseldorf Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: "The first element in Düsseldorf is always the concert hall. The Tonhalle is quite striking, visually, with an all-wood design, a conical ceiling that gives the whole room something of an observatory look, and every seat located quite close to the stage. However, this is probably the dryest hall we will play on the tour, and everyone in the orchestra remembers it from previous trips. Sound seems to die six feet in front of the stage in Düsseldorf, and the loudest, most resonant chord can dissipate so quickly that you feel as if you're performing in an airlock." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/18/04

Norah Jones' Blockbuster Week Norah Jones' second album has sold more copies in its first week than any other release in the past 2 1/2 years. "Ms. Jones's second album, "Feels Like Home" (Blue Note), sold 1,022,000 copies during the week ending Sunday, the best performance since 'N Sync released "Celebrity" in July 2001, according to Nielsen SoundScan." The New York Times 02/19/04

English National Opera Trying To Get On Track The English National Opera has had a rough couple of years. Perhaps it's coming out of its slump (and a string of bad luck). But there's plenty of work needed to recover. "It seems crucial for the company to strengthen its sense of purpose and identity, particularly at a time when not only is the Royal Opera on a high, but impresario Raymond Gubbay is launching his cheap and cheerful Savoy Opera in the West End, featuring young voices performing opera in English." The Guardian (UK) 02/19/04

Encouraging Minority Strings The Sphinx Competition was created to help encourage African-American and Latino string players. "This year, some 20 major orchestras — the Detroit Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra among them — will showcase Sphinx winners in solo appearances. Meanwhile, the number of competition entries jumped to 80 this year from “the 40-50 range” in 2003." Detroit News 02/18/04

February 17, 2004

Music Industry Sues More Downloaders The biig music industry companies sued 531 more music downloaders. "Like the 532 people it sued last month, the RIAA identified its targets by the 'John Doe' process, where the identities of these alleged file swappers are unknown. The defendants are listed by their Internet Protocol address. Those identified had shared an average of 800 copyright files, the RIAA said." Wired 02/17/04

Orchestra May Close For Lack Of $20,000 The Saskatoon Symphony is asking the city for a loan of $20,000. "The symphony has been steadily dipping into the red since the 1990s and this season is carrying an accumulated debt of more than $180,000. Because of its debt, the symphony cannot borrow money from a bank. Without the loan, the symphony may have to close." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/17/04

In RoadTrip: Leaving Berlin With A Cheer Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: "We're more or less at the midway point of the tour now, and fatigue is starting to become the rule rather than the exception. Today, we'll fly from Berlin to Cologne, hop a bus to Düsseldorf, play a concert, and head back to the hotel in Cologne. It's one of the most exhausting days of the trip, and we're changing up repertoire as well, including the addition of a piece which we have barely rehearsed, and which involves some brutally intricate string playing. Keeping a cool head will be paramount, and if things don't go well, a sense of perspective will be necessary as well." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/17/04

Women Barrier - The Vienna Philharmonic Will Seiji Ozawa's presence in Vienna help add more women to the orchestra's ranks? "The Vienna Philharmonic will doubtless fall back on the assertion that change can only come gradually: It can't be expected to alter the male-to-female ratio overnight. So let's look at the employment numbers for six years from 1997, when the orchestra proclaimed a new, enlightened policy of hiring women, until 2003. It's men, 21; women, 3. How's that for even-handed progress?" Straight Up (AJBlogs) 02/16/04

Ontario Orchestra's Board Quits Over Controversy The entire board of the Kitchener-Waterloo Sympny resigned Monday before a meeting of the orchestra's 2,400 members could vote on whether to remove the board. "The resignation of the 14 board members is just the latest instalment in a series of crises flowing from the board's decision Nov. 27 to fire the KWSO's principal conductor, Berlin-based Martin Fischer-Dieskau." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/17/04

February 16, 2004

The Rehabilitation Of Franz Welser-Most When conductor Franz Welser-Most led the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the early-90s, he was not liked by his musicians, who dubbed him 'Frankly Worse than Most." He was soon run out of the job. A decade later he is the much-loved leader of the Cleveland Orchestra. So how did musicians and critics get Welser-Most wrong the first time around? La Scena Musicale 02/12/04

Korean Wins Top Composer Prize The $200,000 Grawemeyer Prize is one of the top awards for composers. "The 2004 winner is the Korean composer Unsuk Chin - the third woman to take the Grawemeyer. Like the rest of us, composers come in all shapes and sizes, but Chin isn't quite what you'd expect a modern composer to look like: she's petite, delicate, almost weightlessly graceful, with the kind of sultry, heavy-lidded eyes that you see on James Bond's sexier villains." The Independent (UK) 02/16/04

Toronto Symphony Musicians Win 11 Percent Pay Raise Breaking from a trend in the rest of the orchestra industry, the Toronto Symphony has given its musicians an 11 percent pay raise. "Andrew Shaw, TSO president and chief executive officer, described the increase as "moderate and prudent," citing a surge in sales that is expected to swell annual attendance by at least 50,000 seats over the level reached two years ago." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/16/04

Canadian Recording Companies Hunt Down Downloaders "Last week, the Canadian Recording Industry Association went to court to force Internet service providers to surrender the names and phone numbers of 29 people suspected of uploading music for illegal digital dissemination." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/16/04

In RoadTrip: Of Acoustics And One's Place In An Orchestra Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra in Frankfurt: "When our principal, Tom Turner, had a family emergency and had to miss the first week of the trip, I was vaulted up to third chair in order to fill in the gap. This was fine with me, since you can hear nearly the whole orchestra from the third chair, but when Tom returned to us last night in Frankfurt, I was sent back to the fifth stand, which is something like being moved from first base to left field and then being asked to call the balls and strikes." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/16/04

Where Music Is Just Music - Isn't It? Alex Ross ponders the attractions and liabilities of encounters with classical music. "The strange thing about the music in America today is that large numbers of people seem aware of it, curious about it, even mildly knowledgeable about it, but they do not go to concerts. The people who try to market orchestras have a name for these annoying phantoms: they are 'culturally aware non-attenders,' to quote a recent article in the magazine Symphony. I know the type; most of my friends are case studies." The New Yorker 02/16/04

EMI Blocks Beatles Remix From Being Sold Recording giant EMI is preventing a remix that includes songs from the Beatles' White Album from being sold. "DJ Danger Mouse created The Grey Album using Jay-Z's vocals and beats made by sampling music on The White Album. EMI, which releases Beatles records, has served cease and desist orders to the DJ and record shops stocking it." BBC 02/15/04

February 15, 2004

Can't We Applaud While We're Sitting? (Please) Timothy Mangan says enough with the standing ovations. "At every concert that I have attended for the past several years (and I do mean every single one), there has been a standing ovation (either by some in attendance, or all). The standing ovation is as ubiquitous as smog. Performers are beginning to smirk at it. When someone writes to me complaining about a review I wrote and asks, 'Didn't you notice the standing ovation? I laugh." Orange County Register 02/15/04

In RoadTrip: Of Orchestras And Big-Name Soloists Violist Sam Bergman and the Minnesota Orchestra play the legendary Musikverein in Vienna: "When the marquee sports the name 'Joshua Bell,' you can be sure of a full house, but you can also be sure of an audience that has come exclusively to see Josh play, and you therefore have some work to do to convince them to take an interest in whatever else is on the program." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/15/04

Playing Around With What Beethoven Wrote Modern audiences are used to performances that try to get as close as possible to a composer's intentions. So it will likely be a shock when Leonard Slatkin performs Beethoven in versions as interpreted by Mahler. M"ahler, like many before and after him, simply filled in places where notes were missing. The range of most of the woodwind instruments had increased, too, so Mahler used the added notes to keep the flutes, say, from having to drop an octave for a note or two." The New York Times 02/15/04

Vienna Embraces Ozawa A year-and-a-half ago, Seiji Ozawa finished up 29 years leading the Boston Symphony, and headed for Vienna to direct the State Opera. "Ozawa seems energized by all the change. Some critics and musicians felt that he had overstayed his welcome in Boston, that 29 years was too long a marriage for any conductor and orchestra. He acknowledges that it was a long time, adding that his style is to work slowly and methodically. But now he finds himself living in an even more musical city, associated with two of Europe's great musical institutions. And already Vienna has adopted him as its own." The New York Times 02/15/04

A Met Legend Departs Last week, Joseph Volpe announced that he was stepping down as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His departure will end a remarkable 42-year association with the Met. "Improbably, that association took a Flatbush-born high school graduate with no advanced education, no musical training and scant feeling for opera from an entry-level job as an apprentice carpenter to the general manager's office in 1990. It is sometimes said of a hands-on chief executive who has worked his way to the top that he knows every nail in the place. This is really true of Mr. Volpe, who hammered quite a few nails into the place himself." The New York Times 02/15/04

Music Under Glass - In The Museums "Over the past decade, popular music has decisively joined visual art and science as a subject for museum treatment. Just in time for the midlife crisis of rock 'n' roll, advocates of popular music and chambers of commerce found common cause: suddenly, music was not a diversion or an embarrassment but an asset. And these museums promise visitors an irresistible package deal: a pilgrimage, a party and some painless education." The New York Times 02/15/04

Conductor Berates Audience, Musicians From The Stage Conductor Daniel Gatti and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra had just finished a performance in Naples, Florida and the audience was applauding, when Gatti quieted the crowd: "Gatti, 42, began by apologizing for the quality of the performance, explaining that the orchestra had been on tour for two weeks. Then, in heated, broken English, he berated everybody there - the presenters, the orchestra and the audience - for a full two to three minutes." Washington Post 02/14/04

February 13, 2004

In RoadTrip: Tough Day In Vienna Sam Bergman on tour with the Minnesota Orchestra: After a great reception in New York, the orchestra moves on to Vienna, and Sam finds the orchestra in a funk before a concert in the Musikverein. "Like I said, you’ve got to learn to shake off the hard days, or they’ll eat you alive. Consider me well-shaken." RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/13/04

Harlem Boys Choir Dumps Leaders The Boys Choir of Harlem has decided to fire its executive vice president, Horace Turnbull, and strip its founder, Walter Turnbull, of his chief-executive duties. "It was like a ma-and-pa candy store," says one board member. "He [Walter Turnbull] viewed the choir as his creation and [acted as if] he deserved full entitlement. There were clearly problems which were addressed by the independent members of the board, but there were obstacles at every single step." New York Post 02/13/04

Washington Chamber Group Disbands After 36 Years The Theater Chamber Players, a "much-admired Washington ensemble that presented a brainy mixture of new and established music" founded by pianist Leon Fleisher and Dina Koston in 1968 is disbanding after 36 years. "The group elected to retire because of differing views on its most appropriate future direction." Washington Post 02/13/04

February 12, 2004

Carmen In The Round The first Seville International Festival next September is offering a $28.5 million production of Carment staged in the actual places they're set in the opera. "It will unfold in six hours and on three separate stages, all linked to the original sites described in what is hailed as the world's most popular opera." Yahoo! (AP) 02/12/04

New Hampshire Symphony Declares Emergency The New Hampshire Symphony says it will have to cut back its season and let some musicians go if it fails to raise more money in the next few months. "The symphony has already scrapped two planned performances, scheduled for late February, as a cost-saving measure. Officials say smaller monetary donations from corporations and individuals, reduced government support, and the level of ticket sales have contributed to the trouble." Manchester Union-Leader 02/11/04

Carnegie Hall Announces Next Season "Continuing its transformation into a full-fledged arts center from merely one of the world's most storied concert halls, Carnegie Hall next season will fill its three stages with 140 classical concerts, plus more than 45 jazz, folk, world-music, and even pop performances." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/12/04

Hip Hop: Coming To America "So far, foreign rappers have had little success in the United States. But that could change. Hip-hop has long spoken in foreign accents, even if Americans have turned a deaf ear. And if Americans assume that rappers from elsewhere are just copycats, merely translating rather than creating, they'd be wrong."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram 02/12/04

February 11, 2004

Promoting Classical Music On Its Strengths "Rock music, to adopt Nietzsche's famous distinction, is perceived as alluringly Dionysian - a surrender to instinct and emotion, an invitation to the orgiastic. Classical music, on the other hand, has become purely Apollonian: it represents restraint, structure, order and discipline." But, writes Rupert Christiansen, the way to incite the passions about classical music isn't to hip it up. Rather, play to the strengths...
The Telegraph (UK) 02/11/04

February 10, 2004

In RoadTrip: The Carnegie Reviews Are Out The reviews are in for the Minnesota Orchestra's Monday night Carnegie Hall performance. Violist Sam Bergman writes of concerts and place-kickers (yes, there's a connection) in his blog RoadTrip before getting on a plane Tuesday afternoon for the orchestra's European tour. RoadTrip (AJBlogs) 02/10/04

What Your iPod Says About You "The iPod records what songs have been played both most recently and most often, so it quickly becomes a record of the owner's internal aural landscape. Listening to someone else's iPod is thus an intimate, almost invasive activity. On the scale of personal exposure, it's not exactly trading diaries, but it's much more revealing than a mix tape." Village Voice 02/10/04

The Marketing Of Miss Jones After Norah Jones sold 18 million copies of her debut album and won eight Grammys, the conventional take on her success was that "she's a homegrown success who prevailed in an era of pre-manufactured and overmarketed pop stars. The truth is a little more complicated." Slate 02/10/04

Legal Download Sales Rising To The Top Sales of downloaded music in the UK are rivaling sales of singles-format CD's. "More than 150,000 downloads were sold last month, exceeding sales of 12-inch, seven-inch and DVD singles, the Official Charts Company reported. This included a record 50,000 downloads in the week after the 19 January launch of online music service MyCokeMusic. CD singles remain the most popular singles format, however, with 341,461 sold during that week." BBC 02/10/04

February 9, 2004

Volpe To Leave Met Opera Metropolitan Opera general manager Joseph Volpe announces he'll leave the company after 40 years. "He said he had been preparing to step down for some time. The workload and the demands of attending at least four performances a week had become taxing, he said." The New York Times 02/10/04

UK Music Singles In Precipitous Sales Decline Sales figures in the UK of record singles show a one-third decline, from "52.5m in 2002 to 35.9m last year. The drop is mirrored by a 'disturbing' increase in illegal in ternet downloads. But albums continue to rise in popularity, which means the total value of record sales remained steady." The Guardian (UK) 02/09/04

Brooklyn Opera Agrees Not To Use Virtual Orchestra Reversing a decision aimed at saving money, "the Opera Company of Brooklyn will no longer use a computer that replicates an orchestra in place of live musicians. A deal reached with the musicians' union explicitly bans the use of the computer, known as a virtual orchestra machine, or any other type of synthetic music, the union and opera announced Monday." Newsday (AP) 02/09/04

GarageBand - Clogging The Internet With Amateur Music Since Apple released GarageBand, its digital music creation application, the internet has become jammed with amateur musicians posting their musical creations. "The amount of creative energy that GarageBand is creating is staggering. Apple has created a monster.... As a pro musician/producer, I love this app. It puts the fun back into creating. I'm amazed." Wired 02/09/04

Florez - The Tenor As Rock Star Peter G. Davis is ready to declare 31-year-old tenor Juan Diego Flórez a star, after his New York debut. "There has been no shortage of agile tenors recently to handle the florid bel canto repertory, but none I’ve encountered offers this kind of total package. Flórez’s accurate articulation of coloratura and the sheer fizz of his passagework, without loss of tonal quality or definition, take the breath away." New York Magazine 02/09/04

Seattle Rakes In The Music Dollars A new study measures the economic impact of Seattle's music business. Figures show that the music business generates "more than $650 million in annual revenue and 8,700 jobs for the local economy, according to an economic impact study released last night by Mayor Greg Nickels. When combined with revenue generated by businesses that support the core music industry, the figure tops $1.3 billion." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02/09/04

Tower Records Files Bankruptcy Tower Records has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday morning. "The Chapter 11 filing caps a long period of financial distress for Tower, a chain of nearly 100 stores that sells music and video entertainment in various formats. Sources had said money-losing Tower was unable to find a suitable buyer." CNN 02/09/04

Grammy's Classical Winners Here's a list of classical music recordings that won at this year's Grammys. Andante 02/09/04

February 8, 2004

The Rap On Bankrupcty (The Creative Kind, That Is) Rap has clearly established itself as a major cultural force. "What's less clear - but no less true - is that rap's cultural ascendence happens to coincide with the music's creative bankruptcy." Hartford Courant 02/08/04

Beyonce, Hiphop And Yo-Yo Ma At the Grammys... Beyonce and Hiphop rule at the 47th Grammy Awards. "For best classical album, two recordings of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 were competing. The version conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas won over Mr. Boulez's, though the Boulez album took the honor for best orchestral performance. Winning three awards was Yo-Yo Ma's Obrigado Brazil." The New York Times 02/09/04

Classical Independents Day It looks like classical recording has died - if you look at the gimmicky, anemic "big" labels. But the smaller independent labels are producing some good stuff. "It’s that emphasis on repertoire rather than cult celebrity that marks out the independents from the corporate big boys. And how they’ve grown." The Scotsman 02/08/04

The End Of Grammys As We Know Them Enjoy Sunday's Grammys? Well, lock it away in memory, because "while it may look like any other recent Grammy telecast, this one will be historic. It will be the last to be driven by MTV music videos, compact-disc sales and broadcast radio. Technology is going to change the Grammys, just like it's changing everything else about the recording industry. By this time next year, legal music downloading, music DVD sales and Internet and satellite radio stations will greatly influence the Grammys." Seattle Times 02/08/04

February 7, 2004

Your Local Record Store's Days Are Numbered Traditional record chains are hurting and going out of business. "A recent study by Forrester Research, which examines technology trends, predicts that in five years fully one-third of all music will be delivered through modems, and the CD itself will be passe, if not obsolete, in the years after. This isn't necessarily bad news for the record labels, but it could be lethal for brick-and-mortar stores." Washington Post 02/07/04

Scottish Opera Borrowing On The Future "Finances at Scotland's national opera company are in such a state that the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) has agreed to advance it more than half of next year's budget to keep it afloat. Critics blame arrogant management for the crisis which could see up to 80 of its staff of around 200 lose their jobs. Although Scottish Opera enjoys huge critical acclaim for its onstage productions, it is almost as famous for its equally tumultuous off-stage dramas. In the latest twist for the opera company, it has been forced to seek £4m from the SAC in order to keep its doors open." The Guardian (UK) 02/06/04

Philadelphia Orchestra Asks Staff, Musicians To Take Pay Cuts Trying to stem a deficit expected to exceed $4 million, the Philadelphia Orchestra has asked all its employees to help cut the red ink - including asking salary cuts for musicians and a ten percent cut in guest artist fees. "We are asking for voluntary help from all of the people who make this great art form happen, all the people who have benefited from its success over the years." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/07/04

Recording Industry Raids Aussie File-share Offices The recording industry has conducted raids on the offices of the owners of file-sharing networks in Australia. "The raided sites included the office of Kazaa owner Sharman Networks, the homes of two of the company's executives, three Australian universities and Internet service providers." A spokesman for the recording industry said "the recording industry would launch a civil action against Kazaa in the Federal Court on Tuesday." Wired 02/06/04

Urban Music Rules What's the world's most popular music now? "The urban scene - broadly covering hip-hop, rap and R&B - is firmly at the heart of mainstream culture in 2004, with its music and imagery impossible to ignore. Urban music is officially the most popular style in the US - overtaking rock in 2002 and now accounting for 25% of sales. Another landmark was reached in October 2003 when, for the first time, all the artists with top 10 singles in the US were black." BBC 02/07/04

New Music - The Popularity Problem How can classical music become popular when there seems to be no consensus what popular is? Frank Oteri: "The problem nowadays is that it's very difficult for anyone to attain any kind of universal popularity since everything is so fragmented. We decry the majority of our populace and even many in the so-called serious music audience for not knowing the names of living American composers. Yet how many of us in the new music world know the names of all but the most prominent people in popular music?" NewMusicBox 02/04

February 5, 2004

Rough Draft - Should Singers Try For More? Are today's young singers too cautious with their voices? Too timid to take risks in their singing? John Rockwell: "Common sense would tell us that singers (and their teachers and conductors and advisers) need to preach some limits. But they can't be too timid. A climate of excessive caution has robbed opera of the animal excitement it needs to thrill a large audience." The New York Times 02/06/04

Pod People - The iPod Revolution "The average music fan's attachment to the iPod might go no further than the sensual appeal of its sleek good looks and alluring promise as it rests expectantly in one's hip pocket. But the iPod is currently the most visible, legal example of what is nothing less that a radical change in the fabric of popular culture." San Francisco Bay Guardian 02/04/04

MTV Picks A Fight With European Record Companies MTV is fighting with independent music labels in Europe, demanding more music for less money. "MTV Networks Europe has warned independent labels, which produce 22% of the European music market, that their stars' videos might not be shown unless they sign a deal that halves their payments for the music. MTV owns VH1 and its own branded channels and has been accused of 'bully boy tactics' over the dispute." The Guardian (UK) 02/05/04

Digging Out In San Antonio "San Antonio Symphony officials unveiled a slimmed-down budget and debt repayment plan Wednesday that would allow for a 26-week season beginning this fall, if the symphony's creditors — including its own musicians and season subscribers — accept the proposal." The ensemble shut down last spring and filed for bankruptcy protection, sparking a wave of angry recriminations from SAS musicians and supporters. The 2004-05 season will be 13 weeks shorter than the 39-week schedule it used to have, and a new strategic plan calls for a wholesale change in the way the SAS markets and presents itself, as well as an overhaul of the fundraising process. San Antonio Express-News 02/05/04

Best of Both Worlds When orchestras go looking for a new chief executive, the first question that must be answered is whether the ensemble wants to hire someone with intimate knowledge of the music world, or a numbers expert with proven experience balancing budgets. The Fort Worth (Texas) Symphony, however, has decided to go with some of each talent in hiring Katherine Akos as its new CEO. Akos is a violinist, daughter of a Chicago Symphony musician, and also an experienced fund-raiser in the non-profit world. She joins an orchestra which is in comparatively good financial shape, but is struggling to avoid a deficit for the current season. Fort Worth Star-Telegram 02/05/04

February 4, 2004

Scottish Opera Facing Cuts Scottish Opera is holding meetings with an idea of reinventing the scale and scope of the company, after it was told it must pare down to live within a budget. "Potential job losses could be as much as 80 from its staff of around 200, although the unions involved – Equity, Musicians Union, and Bectu – have not been told what losses are expected." Glasgow Herald 02/05/04

What Happens When Musicians Control Music Production? A new union of rock stars might seem like a good idea (really?). And trying to get more money for artists for digital downloads is a good thing. But "the issue of artists taking complete control over their music is a long standing and extremely thorny one. Most acts want to free themselves from the malign interference of money-obsessed record companies and follow their muse where'er it may lead. A nice idea in theory, but a vast body of evidence suggests that it is a disaster in practice." The Guardian (UK) 02/04/04

February 3, 2004

Death Of Classical Recording? Nahhh! Norman Lebrecht predects the end of the conventional classical recording business. But Anthony Tommasini begs to disagree: "Smaller labels like Nonesuch and Naxos, which once just filled in the gaps with records of specialty repertory and adventurous artists ignored by the majors, are proving that it is possible to release important recordings at midrange prices and still pay the bills. And though the financial repercussions from the downloading of CD's have the recording industry feeling besieged and impotent, some bold orchestras have, like many rock groups, taken matters into their own hands and released self-produced CD's, recorded live and available on the Internet." The New York Times 02/04/04

  • Previously: Lebrecht: The Sky Is Falling, And I Mean It This Time Norman Lebrecht has been proclaiming the death of classical music recording for some time, and now, he is confidently predicting that 2004 will be the last year of the classical recording industry's existence as a distinctive branch of the music business. Classical records have become a niche market, says Lebrecht, and haven't even begun to utilize the new technologies available to them. Worse yet, the labels themselves have abandoned any effort to invest in new talent for more than a paltry few albums, thus making it impossible for emerging musicians to develop an international following. La Scena Musicale 12/31/03

Study: Singing Is Healthy For You A new study by researchers at the University of Frankfurt reports that singing is good for you - that it boosts your immune system. Andante (DPA) 02/03/04

At The ENO - Plenty Of Questions As the English National Opera gets set to move into its renovated home, some big questions have yet to be answered, writes Norman Lebrecht: "The critical public issue for ENO is, as it has been for a decade, the question of identity. The company is not English, except inasmuch as its singers mangle the vernacular. It is not National, lacking the resources to tour. And it is desperately keen to shed the corsets of Opera in the quest for new audiences and fresh relevance. It is, in sum, a product in need of rebranding, a relic of a very different society that has failed to adjust to post-industrial demand." La Scena Musicale 01/31/04

Crippling Classical Music On iPods Digital music players are great... for pop music. For classical? Well, the way music is indexed on these things makes it impossible to sort and search. It's a nightmare. "It's enough to make you scream. Before classical music is ever going to take off in digital downloads, the whole classical-recording database--this is a mammoth job, but it's got to be tackled--will have to be rejiggered. Music has to show up correctly labeled, and fully searchable, by composer, composition and performers (with each artist's role correctly specified)." OpinionJournal 02/04/04

Judge Sentences Man To Opera A judge in Miami Beach sentenced a man to listen to opera for 2 1/2 hours after convicting him of breaking the city's strict anti-noise ordinance by playing rap music loudly in his car. Said the judge: "You impose your music on me and I'm going to impose my music on you." Ananova 02/03/04

February 2, 2004

Saving The English National Opera "It is easy, when meeting Seán Doran, to grasp why English National Opera sees him as its potential saviour. He only has to open his mouth and you feel he has the gift of the blarney. When you listen to him expounding, in a lilting Irish accent, his visions for the future of opera, the least you can do is nod and agree..." Financial Times 02/03/04

Now In Church - Monty Python At The Organ Apparently some British church organists are having fun with their church service performances, spicing them up with tunes from decidedly secular fare - from Monty Python to pop tunes. "The tunes - reported to range from the EastEnders theme to Dambusters at a Remembrance Day service - are usually disguised and intended to amuse only those in the know." BBC 02/02/04

Adagio For Sick People Simon Rattle and the Philadelphia Orchestra dedicated Saturday night's performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings to Robert Harth, Carnegie Hall's director who died Friday. The orchestra was in the middle of the performance when a man in the audience stood up, having a heart attack. After the man was taken out, the music started again, and another audience member came up sick... Philadelphia Inquirer 02/02/04

February 1, 2004

Lincoln Center's NYP Rapprochement Observers of the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center have been watching to see the repercussions of the Philharmonic's aborted move to Carnegie Hall. "Lincoln Center had been widely expected to make the orchestra pay a price for its flirtation with Carnegie Hall. Instead the center appears to be the one trying to make amends, and the Philharmonic, rather than being weakened and chastened, continues to show a strong hand." The New York Times 02/02/04

Sydney Opera House Looking To Lower Floor The Sydney Opera House may be an architectural icon, but its acoustics have needed upgrading. How to accomplish it? One plan would be to lower the floor. "It is understood the project would cost more than $300 million but would vastly improve the theatre. A lowered floor would mean more cubic metres of volume, which in turn would make a huge difference to the acoustics of the Opera Theatre." Sydney Morning Herald 02/02/04

Here's $50 Million And $15 Million More After recently giving the Philadelphia Orchestra $50 million for its endowment, Leonore Annenberg comes through with another $15 million for an endowment for the Academy of Music concert hall, owned by the orchestra. "The gift from the Annenberg Foundation is for the Academy's endowment, to be placed there in perpetuity, generating income each year for capital improvements to the 147-year-old landmark." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/01/04

On Conductors - In Praise Of Age Conventional wisdom says that orchestras must find energetic young conductors to revitalize the art form. But as a series of recent performances in New York demonstrate, some of the best, most assured performances come from the most well-established conductors... The New York Times 02/01/04

Taking A Byte Out Of Live (Performance) Debates have raged for years about whether it's okay for performers to lip-synch while performing live. "But now, after decades of derision and outrage, audiences are warming up to the fakery." Indeed, some fan "not only don't mind a little gimmickry — they prefer it. They may have no choice: live pop performances rely on an ever-more-intricate mix of live music, prerecorded sound and high-tech tricks, including new programs that produce the same flawless sound as a lip-synched performance, even if the person singing is jumping around, hanging upside-down or just plain out of tune." The New York Times 02/01/04

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