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MARCH 2000

  • JUST DIFFERENT: New technologies are changing the music business. Musicians can play along, or they can fight it. But just because the economics are changing doesn't mean it's a catastrophe. "Rather than insist that the way the music world does business today is the only way imaginable, it behooves artists to take a longer and more imaginative view. It's not as if the status quo has served them so well." Salon 03/30/00

  • DON'T LIKE IT? BLAME THE AUDIENCE: A composer/scientist has undertaken a series of performance in Zurich with his computer-generated music. The computer "reads" the audience - fidgets, coughs, shifting in the chairs - and translates the variables into music. New Scientist 3/28/00

  • A RESPONSIBLE ACTION?: Despite the fact that much rap music contains lyrics that are violent, degrading to women, Jews, whites and blacks, record labels have stood silently by while they have raked in millions of dollars from top-selling rap artists. Now Universal Music Group has told its "rap recording group the Murderers that it wouldn't release their new album until they removed anti-police and anti-gay slurs from their lyrics." If they're being so responsible, some rappers have pointed out, why don't they object to the "N-word"? Los Angeles Times 03/27/00

  • STUCK ON STOCKEN: Tonalist composer Frederick Stocken talks about life in the looking-back lane. The young British composer values tonality and tunality, but finds it difficult to escape his anarchist image. The Idler 03/27/00

  • SINGER X IN Y RECITAL: After Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Voigt cancelled her performance with the Y Music Society (which presents only one singer each season on its Carnegie Music Hall recital series) untested soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian filled in to take her place. The 25-year-old Canadian "is much in the news, in fact, as she will make her New York operatic debut this week in a concert version of Herold's rarely-heard 'Zampa.'" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/27/00

  • THE REHEARSAL PROBLEM: Classical musicians are under pressure to produce better music with less rehearsal time. "Conductors could argue that they go into rehearsals with lower expectations because of the time pressures. What we are talking about is not shoddy workmanship; it is a culture in which routine music-making has become a fixture in the artistic climate and orchestral economy." Sunday Telegraph 03/26/00

  • THE POPE'S MUSICAL WORLD TOUR: The Pope has hired London's Philharmonia Orchestra to play a world tour of concerts promoting peace. BBC 03/26/00

  • BOMB SCARE: Seji Ozawa's performance with the Vienna Philharmonic in Paris Friday night was delayed because of a bomb threat delivered in protest against current Austrian politics. Boston Globe 03/24/00

  • TAKING IT IN STRIDE: The little-known symphonic compositions of jazz pianist James P. Johnson (who perfected "stride" piano, "so-called for its distinctive, striding, left-hand patterns, and imitated by thousands of keyboard players") have been unearthed by American conductor Marin Alsop. She has secured the first modern performances of much of it with her own Concordia Orchestra. The Herald (Glasgow) 03/24/00

  • MUZAC: THE UNAVOIDABLE PLAGUE: A British member of parliament has instigated a bill to ban muzac from public places. "'Piped music, muzak, or canned music is increasingly despised. All music is devalued if it is treated as acoustic wallpaper.'" The Chicago Tribune (Reuters) 03/23/00

  • MASUR TO FRANCE: After much speculation, outgoing New York Philharmonic conductor Kurt Masur has been named music director of the Orchestre National de France. San Francisco Chronicle 03/23/00

  • BRAND "X": The Zefiro Ensemble is part of a growing trend among "authentic" performers of Baroque music: unlike the traditional chamber orchestra model of a "group of musicians that rehearses in a particular city on a regular basis and sets out from there to give concerts," Zefiro's players reside in countries throughout Europe and consider themselves "as operating under a brand name." Sounds awfully 21st century for a group whose mission is to recreate the sounds of the 17th-century masters. Ha'aretz (Israel) 03/23/00

  • PRETERNATURALLY YOUNG: Philadelphia-based recording engineer Ward Marston has made it his life's work to recreate the magic of opera's "golden age" of vocals. Enthralled by turn-of-the-century singers like Adelina Patti and Enrico Caruso, "the first generation of performers to be able to record their voice, or their art, for history," Marston has transferred more than 400 historic recordings, including 23 on his own label, from their original wax cylinders and 78s to CD. The Age (Melbourne) 03/23/00

  • PLAYING FOR PEACE: For the first time in ten years, an orchestra from border-conscious North Korea will perform in Seoul next month. "We hope that the concert will help promote peace between the two Koreas," said the head of the entertainment company promoting the cross cultural duet. The Times of India 3/22/00

  • MUSICIANS are finally beginning to collect some royalties for their music being streamed on the internet. Wired 03/21/00

  • "A" IS FOR ALLAH: Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, has returned to the studio to record his first children's album, a spoken-word recording using the Arabic alphabet to "spell out the fundamentals of his Islamic faith." BBC 3/22/00

  • STILL SOARING: Legendary French composer/conductor Pierre Boulez, still vital and idealistic at 75, is throwing his musical and fundraising weight behind the London Symphony Orchestra's ongoing residency in New York. "The American connection is an important and logical one, since the LSO was the first British orchestra to tour the United States--that 1912 visit nearly didn't happen, as the band had originally been booked to sail on the Titanic--and has maintained a link through close collaboration with Bernstein, Copland, Previn and, more recently, Michael Tilson Thomas." London Times 0 3/21/00

  • PAIN RELIEVER: Musicians of  Canada's National Arts Center Orchestra have suffered an unprecedented number of injuries this season. So the orchestra will cut down on the performances it gives next year, in hope of reducing repetitive stress ailments. CBC 03/19/00 

  • SPIRIT OF INQUIRY: March is when many orchestras announce their lineup for the following season. Traditionally, music directors of major American orchestras concentrated on the three B's, conducted a lot of M and dabbled in a couple of H's. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Handel and Haydn were the core of the orchestral literature. "But in an average Tilson Thomas season, one of the B's may be Bernstein or Berlioz rather than Brahms, the M is more likely to be Mahler than Mozart; the H will probably be Lou Harrison, rather than Haydn or Handel." San Francisco Examiner 03/20/00

  • HOW CAN YOU BE "WORLD CLASS?" When the Province of Ontario withdrew funding support to build a new opera house, it thwarted Canadian Opera Company plans that have been brewing for decades. CBC 03/19/00

  • NOT QUITE YET: Every American composer seems to be writing opera these days. But despite some high-profile conservative efforts ("Gatsby," "A View from The Bridge") American opera hasn't yet come into its own. Don't despair though -  "Prior to World War II, it was widely felt that British work was dead beyond hope of revival; the last opera by an English-born composer to enter the standard repertoire had been Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, composed in 1689." Then in 1945, Benjamin Britten wrote "Peter Grimes" and a new era in British opera commenced. Commentary 03/00

  • SO WHO NEEDS ANOTHER PLANET? Gustav Holst had four years to add a Pluto movement to his suite "The Planets" before he died. He didn't do it, of course, and the suite has never suffered in popularity for it. Now the Halle Orchestra will premiere a "Pluto" movement, newly composed by Collin Matthews, and some are asking if it's just a publicity stunt. In fact, a bit of a mini-trend is brewing in finishing dead composers' works. The Scotsman 03/17/00

    • Composer dedicates "Pluto" to Holst's daughter: "I suspect she would have been both amused and dismayed by this venture," says Matthews. BBC 03/17/00

  • SILENT VOICES: The "most famous record store in the world" is closing. HMV's Oxford Street store, for almost 80 years at the center of the retail recording business, is calling it quits - and with it a lot of history fades away. London Times 03/17/00 

  • THE TYRANNY OF THE AVANT GARDE: Composer Frederick Stocken is no fan of Pierre Boulez. Stocken acknowledges that Boulez was a revolutionary in his younger days, fighting to throw off the repression of tonality. But as the 20th Century progressed, "it was the old story of the revolutionaries becoming as repressive as the masters they had sought to overthrow. In the musical world, the Young Turks became a powerful, "anti-establishment" establishment in which all that was subversive was acceptable and anything deemed traditional was banned. Far from fulfilling its emancipatory promise, atonality became just another dogma, an "official" art. If the parallels between communism and modernism have any truth, how is it that the Marx-influenced aesthetic of Boulez did not collapse with the downfall of communism?" New Statesman 03/17/00

  • A RELATIONSHIP WITH STUFF: "My music collection, in principle, remains on my shelves, but increasingly it lives in my computer." Part of the pleasure of collecting something is establishing a physical relationship with objects. What happens when the object of a collecting mania disappears into the ether? Feed 03/14/00

  • THE STREETS ARE ALIVE… Is that Julie Andrews you hear singing in the streets of Leicester? Yes! Along with scores of Londoners singing along to the 1965 film as it’s being displayed on a huge outdoor screen with accompanying karaoke-style lyrics. Also available at the event are sing-along kits, which include “a foam nun (to wave during the opening nun sequence), a fake edelweiss flower (for Christopher Plummer's solo number) and Ricola mints for the ensuing sore throat.” Singapore Straits Times (USA Today) 03/16/00  

  • HOME NO HOME: The Ontario government has withdrawn from a deal with the Canadian Opera Company to sell a prime site for construction of a new opera house. CBC 03/15/00

  • BATTLE OF THE PYGMIES: In the wake of protests over what music gets to be listed on Britain's classical music sales charts, some are wondering: so what is classical music anyway? Who cares? The Guardian 03/14/00

  • SONG OF FREEDOM: In the 1970's a group of musicians in Chile set the revolution to music by forming the New Song movement - a mix of folk music, contemporary protest song, popular poetry and added Andean pan pipes, flutes and the charango, a tiny mandolin-style guitar. The Pinochet regime quickly banned all instruments associated with the movement, and one singer was murdered.  Pinochet's return to Chile has brought fear of oppression, causing musicians to raise their instruments again in protest. The Scotsman 03/13/00

  • SONIC SOUVENIR: Like that concert you just heard? Want to take it home with you? Now London's South Bank Center will make it happen. If you want a CD of that performance, South Bank will deliver it to you within an hour of the end of the concert. Appreciating music, after all, is about being able to hear repeat performances. London Times 03/14/00

  • SYMPHONIC JUMBOTRON: If it's okay for rock bands and sports teams, why not for symphony orchestras? Beginning next month the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will project itself on an enormous screen above its stage (no instant replays or super-slo-mo for now, though). New Zealand Herald 03/14/00

  • OF INSTRUMENTALISTS AND MUSICIANS: Franz Welser-Most, director designate of the venerable Cleveland Orchestra, on the difference between American and European orchestras: "American orchestras come prepared, which European orchestras mostly don't. You must be a really great instrumentalist to play in an American orchestra. In Europe, there is a different angle: good musicianship first, and then the technical side hopefully will be there as well. This is one reason why a lot of marriages between American orchestras and European music directors have been very happy and successful." Los Angeles Times 03/14/00

  • NEW MOZART OPERA: London's Hampstead and Highgate Festival will present a recently rediscovered opera, "The Philosopher's Stone" which Mozart was a collaborator on. The production, scheduled for May, will be the first time the opera has been heard in Europe since 1814. BBC Music Magazine 03/12/00

  • PRINCESS DI OPERA: An opera inspired by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, debuts in Germany. Called "A Lady Dies," it is a savage indictment of the news media. BBC 03/12/00 

  • THE VIENNA PROBLEM: Artists have been announcing protests and boycotting commitments in Austria to protest the Freedom Party's ascent to power. But the Vienna Philharmonic has been silent on the matter. One critic asks the orchestra why. And by the way, he wants to know - what about only having one woman in the orchestra? The Guardian 03/10/00  

  • THE KEYS TO MY SUCCESS: No one knows for sure the exact year the piano was born, but the Smithsonian has settled more or less on 1700. The Smithsonian has put together a suitably impressive birthday celebration for the most popular instrument in Western music. Washington Post 03/10/00

  • CAN PASSION BE TAUGHT? Conductor Seiji Ozawa thinks so. He's set up a school in Japan and hopes to teach students to express their passions by exploring and performing Mozart's operas. "He hopes the undercurrents intended by the 18th century composer--be they romantic, melancholic or tragic--will stir the students enough to overcome their cultural reserve and play with more zeal." Los Angeles Times 03/09/00

  • LIKE MY WORK, LIKE ME? Do you really have to like the artist behind a work of art? Approve of what he thought or how he lived? Certainly not. "We might have to face the fact that Shostakovich was a mediocre human being possessed of staggering musical ability." New York Times 03/09/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • BATON BUZZ: Myung Wha-Chung back in Paris as head of Radio Phil and Kurt Masur said to be set to take over the Orchestre National de France. London Telegraph 03/08/00

  • CLEANING HOUSE: Violinist Pinchas Zukerman has taken over directing Canada's National Arts Center Orchestra: "I've been cleaning up the place, it's filthy," he said. "It was basically the wrong people at the wrong time, or the right people at the wrong time, or the wrong people at the right time. It's just never been right." One thing you won't hear him perform is music in period-instrument style: "I hate it. It's disgusting," he said. "The first time I heard that shit, I couldn't believe it. It's complete rubbish, and the people who play it. . . . Maybe one or two or a half-dozen have wonderful musical minds. But I certainly don't want to hear them perform." Toronto Globe and Mail 03/08/00 

  • LLOYD WEBBER to make Bollywood musical called "Bombay Dreams." BBC 03/08/00

  • YOU ARE WHAT YOU LISTEN TO? Today's theory is that you can tell a lot about your future president by what music he listens to. George W is partial to Van Morrison and the Everly Brothers, John McCain likes the Platters, Al Gore goes for Bob Dylan, and Bill Bradley is rumored to have a thing for Bruce Hornsby. And what should that tell you? Oh well, there goes another theory. Washington Post 03/07/00

  • "SHOCK" OF THE NEW: Only a few months into the 21st Century, all manner of contemporary classical music for the new millennium is bursting out in Ireland. Irish Times 03/07/00 

  • WHAT NEXT? Elliott Carter has written his first opera at the age of 90. Rate this NGC: Not for General Consumption. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/07/00

    • "What Next" is a nonlinear, non-narrative grab bag of ideas couched in a conceit of six characters reeling from some never-specified catastrophe they have just survived together, like a Samuel Beckett play backward: 'Recovering from Godot.' " New York Times 03/07/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • A VIEW TO THE FUTURE: It won't be long before music lovers embrace pay-as-you-go service, much like cellular telephones, making music accessible everywhere. Artists on independent labels will get as much attention as superstars signed with what are now the Big Four record companies. MTV pioneer Thomas Dolby Robertson says we are entering a new era in music that will have as much impact on this generation as The Beatles did in the '60s, and will replace the sea change brought on by MTV. National Post 03/06/00

  • PLAY THE HITS MA'AM: Opera audiences might be growing, but the number of operas they want to see is getting smaller. "Of the literally hundreds of operas in circulation, beginning in the 1500s and ranging up to the present day, no more than 25 or so can today be called reliable box-office hits." Hartford Courant 03/06/00

  • GUNNING FOR THE TOP: The Dallas Symphony is 100 years old this year, and it's got big dreams. "The board has a mandate to get Dallas within America's top-tier orchestras. It's a long-term project. I think it will take 10 years. And another five before the world notices." Money helps. The orchestra regularly sells out its concerts, and is raising $100 million for its endowment. Is it possible to buy a tradition as something more than a good, solid, middle-of-the-road American orchestra? New York Times 03/05/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • NURTURE THIS: A prestigious series presenting promising performers in the world's "dream" concert halls hits a few bumps. What should the criteria for "promising" be? New York Times 03/05/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • ON THE ROAD TO MARRAKESH: There's a revival of Western interest in North African music. "Long before India and the hippy trail, Morocco provided a springboard into the exotic, right on Europe's doorstep. As Westerners from Cecil Beaton and Joe Orton to William Burroughs and the Rolling Stones came here in search of easy drugs and risky sex, so Moroccan sounds fed into Western pop." London Telegraph 03/04/00

  • THE "ART" OF THE PIANO: Artur Rubinstein had one of the longest careers as a pianist in the 20th Century and one of the greatest. Now a 94-CD 106-hour collection of his recordings is being released. The pianist's recordings were said not to have given the full measure of his talent, but they do map out an extraordinary career. Washington Post 03/05/00 

  • THE ORCHESTRA THAT WOULDN'T DIE: It's been decades since the Shanghai Symphony has been "the best orchestra in the East." But it certainly gets the prize for most persistent. New York Times 03/05/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • POST-APARTHEID RAP: No that isn't Snoop Doggy Dogg you hear thudding down the streets of Johannesburg - it's Kwaito, South Africa's latest musical craze. The lyrics, written in Zulu, Xhosa, and tsotsi taal (gangster slang) are dedicated to describing life in the townships and the experiences of the post-apartheid generation. The Economist 03/04/00  

  • THE POLITICS OF TRADITION: A jury has awarded a judgment against the London Times for accusing composer Keith Burstein of disrupting concerts of atonal music. Burstein is on a campaign to bring back traditional harmony to classical music and has made no secret of his disdain for music without tonality, especially that of Harrison Birtwistle. The Guardian 03/02/00

  • ANOTHER ORCHESTRA CLOSES: On the heels of South Africa's National Symphony Orchestra going out of business earlier this year, the National Chamber Orchestra has announced its demise for lack of funding. Heavily subsidized by South Africa's former white governments, the country's large cultural institutions are having a tough time with reduced support from the new governments. Daily Mail and Telegraph (South Africa) 03/03/00 

  • A POPULAR GHETTO? On the eve of a big World music festival in London, a critic wonders if the music of Africa has come of age in the West or is it still the lure of the exotic that attracts. London Times 03/03/00

  • THE UNIFIED ALIEN THEORY: No other way to explain it, really. After watching last week's Grammy Awards, one critic has figured it out. Mariah Carey and Celine Dionne? Nothing human about them. They're aliens! The Age (Melbourne) 03/03/00

  • MUSICAL MID-RANGE: In olden days composers wrote plenty of music for all levels of skill at the piano. Not modern composers. So a new commissioning project aims at helping to fill in the intermediate range. New York Times 03/02/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • IN-STORE E-MUSIC: Traditional music stores have turned to e-tech tactics to try to fend off extinction. Wired 02/29/00

  • SECOND CHANCES: Peter Oundjian was a solid member of the Tokyo String Quartet until hand problems forced him out. Now he's reinvented himself as a conductor. Ottawa Citizen 03/01/00


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