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MARCH 2001

Friday March 30

JAILED FOR LA FENICE ARSON: Two electricians have been convicted of setting Venice's La Fenice opera house on fire in 1996. "Enrico Carella and his cousin, Massimiliano Marchetti, are believed to have set the building ablaze because their company was facing heavy fines over delays in repair work." BBC 03/30/01

PAYING THE ARTISTS: Music stars are banding together to fight the music industry. In the wake of debates about Napster and who gets paid for what they've suddenly realized what a bad deal they're getting from the recording companies. "Should these artists prevail, their collective bargaining efforts would radically rewrite the economics of the music business in the same way that unionizing actors and baseball players revolutionized the film and sports industries." Los Angeles Times 03/29/01

WAGNER V WAGNER: Board members of the famed Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth have intervened in a rancorous dispute among members of the Wagner family and ordered the festival’s 81-year-old director, Wolfgang Wagner, to cede the post to his estranged daughter and the composer's great-granddaughter, Eva Wagner-Pasquier. Mr. Wagner has insisted for many months that his only fit successor is his wife, and has already pledged to disregard his termination. New York Times (AP) 3/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

APPEARANCES COUNT: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram evidently didn't like the negative review of a Boston concert by Van Cliburn written by a freelancer the paper had hired. So a few days later the paper printed another review - a positive one - by Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer. Isn't that the same Dyer who's a judge at this May's Cliburn Competition? Boston Globe 03/29/01

LADY SOUL GOES CLASSICAL: Two years after stepping in for an ill Pavarotti to give an unrehearsed performance of Nessun Dorma at the Grammy awards, Aretha Franklin has announced plans to record her first classical album later this year. "I hope to record Nessun Dorma. I just love Puccini." BBC 3/29/01

SUMMER FESTS ON HOLD: With one festival already on hold, many of the rest of England’s popular summer festivals are in jeopardy of being canceled, due to fears of spreading the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. "Million pound losses through cancellations and possible bankruptcy ride on the Government’s ability to tackle the epidemic." The Times (London) 3/30/01

Thursday March 29

THINK OF IT AS CLASSICAL KARAOKE: A jacket wired to a computer is helping music students learn to conduct. Sensors in the jacket read the student's movements and transmit that information to the computer, which correspondingly controls a synthesizer output. "[J]ust like the real thing, the cyber-orchestra only plays well if it's conducted properly, with the conductor's right arm signalling volume and the left arm beating time." New Scientist 03/28/01

BOSTON REBUILDS: Okay, so maybe on the face of it, it's just an appointment of a new oboe player. But the Boston Symphony's choice of John Ferrillo as its new principal oboe signifies to some observers a desire by the orchestra to rebuild its ranks and reputation as a first-class ensemble. Ferrillo, comes from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra where he has held the principal's job since 1986. Boston Globe 03/28/01

FOOT-AND-MOUTH THREATENS FESTIVALS: England’s foot-and-mouth disease outbreak is threatening a number of this summer’s largest music and dance festivals. One has already been postponed, and the fates of several more are currently up in the air. BBC 3/28/01

HOW DO YOU GET TO CARNEGIE HALL? After interviewing 100 candidates, Carnegie Hall has chosen Robert J. Harth, longtime chief executive of the Aspen Music Festival and School, to head Carnegie Hall. Carnegie's current director is making an early retreat after a controversial tenure. New York Times 3/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Wednesday March 28

WILL SING FOR FOOD: Romania's National Opera never downsized from its Communist-era bloat of the 80s. Now the company is in financial crisis - its director has resigned and the company is facing big money woes. The company's 702 employees have been asked to return meal vouchers. Ottawa Citizen (AP) 03/28/01

LA SCALA STRIKE: Musicians strike at La Scala, shutting down a performance of Falstaff. Nando Times (AP) 03/28/01

LOOKING GLASS: This summer's Lincoln Center Festival will focus on the music of Philip Glass. Nando Times (AP) 03/27/01

RECORDING INDUSTRY VS NAPSTER - ROUND 436: It's beginning to feel like something from a Dickens novel - interminable legal wrangling which benefits no one but the lawyers. Latest move: Napster, claims the Recording Industry Association of America "is failing to fully comply with an injunction to screen copyright music from its song-swap network." Nando Times (AP) 03/27/01

  • SOME DAY IT MAY ALL JUST FADE AWAY: A study by a web research company reports that Napster has lost a quarter of its users, now that it is [or is not, depending on whose story you believe] filtering access to copyrighted material. Maybe they can't find what they're looking for any more. Or maybe they've already copied it. ZDNet 03/27/01
  • THE MILLION GEEK MARCH? Demonstrations are a way of life in Washington. Still, something new may be in the offing. Napster is trying to mobilize its supporters to attend teach-ins and a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "First, however, Napster has to get past the U.S. Capitol Police, who lack any sense of humor about protests - geek or other. The police say that any gathering of 20 or more people that wants to walk from Union Station to Capitol Hill must take a number and stand in line." Wired 03/28/01

Tuesday March 27

THE BOCELLI PHENOMENON: So what is it about Andrea Bocelli that can inspire such rock-star-like adulation in the public and such revulsion in critics? As the blind tenor kicks off his first U.S. tour, two critics try to understand it all: "It's not that he's a bad opera singer; he's just a really good wedding singer. If you think about him in those terms, the appeal is obvious." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/27/01

LOCKING IT UP: The recording industry is preparing to debut a new system of copyright protection which would make it impossible to "rip" tracks from a CD into digital MP3 files. However, the system would also make the discs unplayable on many CD players, which might not go over well with consumers. Inside.com 03/27/01

SHOCK OF THE NEW: Why are English opera companies so reluctant to stage new operas? The Times (London) 03/27/01

MAKING MUSIC THE HARD WAY: Some of the most original and well-received new music being written today is coming from Chinese composers who have mastered the technique of blending Eastern and Western musical traditions. One possible explanation for the public interest is that many Chinese composers have overcome tremendous obstacles to be allowed to practice their art, and their work reflects that struggle. New York Times 03/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BAIL-OUT ISN'T ENOUGH: Last week the Scottish government bailed out the financially troubled Scottish National Opera with a £5 million grant. But an internal government report says that an even bigger grant was needed to get the company solvent again. "We came to the general conclusion that Scottish Opera is underfunded and there was no getting around that fact. If one tries to put off addressing that, the same problems will occur again and again."  Sunday Times 03/25/01

  • GOVERNMENT TO SCOTTISH OPERA - LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS: "We are happy to support publicly funded arts, from traditional Scottish arts and music to opera, but there has to be a balance. When it comes to Scottish Opera, if it cannot survive on the £6.5 million a year it receives from the taxpayer, we cannot afford it. That is the harsh reality." The Observer 03/25/01

RETRACTION OF THE WEAK: The Vienna State Opera takes back some of the disparaging things it said last week about the Vienna Boys Choir. Gramophone 03/26/01

  • Previously: VIENNA DISCORD: Vienna State Opera on why it's abandoning the famed Vienna Boys Choir: "We can no longer have a situation where we invite the choir to rehearse, train a boy for a certain part and then find on opening night he has been flown off to sing in Tokyo and another boy has taken his place." The Scotsman 03/20/01

WHITHER JAZZ? As a new generation of jazz artists comes of age, and the last one begins to slip into the role of veterans, several of the best have begun to break out of the mold of "traditional" jazz. The future may be something like the fusion efforts of the 1970s, or possibly more new-wave, a la Bela Fleck, but it will definitely be different. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/27/01

THE NEW CALYPSO: "While calypso has always been a means for Trinidadians to critique the political elite, some singers are crossing a longstanding boundary and using their songs to advocate for the political parties." Christian Science Monitor 03/27/01

Monday March 26

DOUBLE ANNIVERSARY: Two of Great Britain's finest concert halls are celebrating anniversaries this year. The Royal Festival Hall, which anchors the South Bank arts complex, turns 50 in 2001, and the Royal Albert Hall, which has played host to the world-famous BBC Proms since 1941, is 130. BBC 03/26/01

NO. 3 WITH A BULLET: A group of English nuns recorded a disk of Latin chants and it's shot up the UK music charts. "The album reached number three in just a week, and is also in the top 100 in the pop charts. Under the slogan "Get the nuns to number one", the canonnesses have a marketing budget equivalent to a Madonna campaign." The Independent (London) 03/23/01

Sunday March 25

MAYBE THEY'RE AFRAID OF THE BURNING RIVER: Cleveland is exceedingly proud of its orchestra, and rightly so. The Cleveland Orchestra is arguably the finest orchestra in the U.S. at the moment, and has ranked among the world's greatest for decades. But despite the enthusiasm the local ensemble generates, outside orchestras rarely make stops at Severance Hall, leaving the city's primary critic wondering how Clevelanders know that their band is best? The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/25/01

WHY JAZZ IS DYING? "Jazz in the jazz club is too often a plain bore. And an expensive one at that. The fact that the clubs are inhospitable to younger people may be one reason they’re having such a difficult time surviving." Newsweek 03/15/01

MAKING OPERA MAKE SENSE: In this age of period performances and constant nostalgia movements, it is curious that a large percentage of critics and musicians continue to be virulently opposed to opera being performed in any language other than the original. The practice of translating opera lyrics into the local dialect is as old as the hills, and even with supertitles now an option, there is still a place for it. The New York Times 03/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NAPSTER HITS BACK: Napster has filed court documents claiming that the recording industry is intentionally making it difficult for them to filter copyrighted music. "While Napster engineers have added 200,000 musicians along with 1.2 million file names into its filter, the...industry has sent over incomplete lists of artists and songs that leave Napster to sort through hundreds of thousands of files." Wired 03/23/01

Friday March 23

SILENCING THE GREAT VIOLINS: Violins aren't just musical instruments, they're also - unfortunately for musicians - art. Increasingly, only banks and investors can afford to own them. Are musicians just out of luck? Arts Journal 03/23/01

TRYING TO REBUILD A CLASSIC: In 1996, Venice's famed La Fenice opera house burned, and despite promises that it would be swiftly rebuilt, five years have passed, and the company that occupied the theatre is still performing in a tent on the riverbank. Now the mayor has delayed the restoration yet again, amid questions over the bidding process and the cost. BBC 03/23/01

PARIS SUCKS. BY PIERRE BOULEZ: Paris is a great place for museums, for dance and opera and theatre. But music? "Paris has lousy venues for orchestral music. 'Paris has a worldwide reputation for cultural excellence and money is poured into the opera, theatre and museums,' says composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. "Classical music gets a raw deal. There isn't much interest among government leaders for our musical heritage, never mind contemporary compositions'." The Guardian (London) 03/23/01

THE WHINING CONTINUES: The recording industry plans to file a complaint in federal court next week that Napster is not adequately complying with the court's order to filter copyrighted material. Napster says they're doing their best, and that the lists of songs provided to them are "riddled with errors." BBC 03/22/01

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU: The recording industry has been threatening to attack online music piracy (Napster-style swapping) "at the source," meaning the user doing the downloading, rather than the company facilitating it. A new report claims to have screen shots of an unobtrusive program that tracks the movements of individual users who are illegally transferring copyrighted material. The Register 03/22/01

MUSIC FOR REAL PEOPLE: Seeing a classical music performance has become ridiculously expensive in recent years, and more and more concertgoers are disenchanted with the remote sameness of most traditional classical concerts. But there is serious music to be had elsewhere, and churches have become adept at taking up the slack. Not only do many churches present professional-quality programs, but they are generally more likely to embrace the music of minority groups that are often priced out of the concert hall. New York Times 3/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HOW TO WRITE A HIT: Composer Joan Tower is quite well-known within the walls of the music world for her forays into multiple styles of composition, and her enthusiasm for the profession. But audiences might never have heard of her, had it not been for the title of a 1987 work. Tower confesses that she doesn't think it's a very good piece, but like it or not, "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman" has become a phenomenon, and a huge hit for most orchestras that perform it. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/23/01

THE REAL CROSSOVER ARTIST: When Hong Kong was preparing to be reunited with China, officials wanted a Grand Musical Event for the occasion. They turned to Chinese composer Tan Dun, who has showed a unique flair for the interweaving of musical styles, and an enthusiasm for large-scale works. Next Monday night, Tan could walk off with three Oscars for a recent film score, and "[he] couldn't be more delighted." Boston Herald 03/23/01

ORPHEUS IN THE BOARD ROOM: The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is one of the most respected ensembles of its kind, not only for the quality of performance they regularly achieve, but for their unmatched skill at "leaderless" communication. (Orpheus has no conductor.) That skill is of great interest to the business world, and a new book and series of seminars delve into the "Orpheus Model." The Christian Science Monitor 03/23/01

TRYING TO KEEP UP: Ken Burns's recent PBS documentary on the history of jazz sent record sales for the genre soaring. But most of the albums being sold are big-name, big-label recordings that "Jazz" drew heavily on, and smaller jazz labels worry that there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in exploring what else is out there.One Chicago company typifies the role of the small record label trying to get listeners interested in its stable of musicians. Los Angeles Times 03/23/01

Thursday March 22

THE WOMAN CONDUCTOR: Marin Alsop is arguably one of today's most prominent women conductors. "Alsop claims to have reached this important stage in her career without ever noticing any bias against her because of her sex. 'My success is probably due to the fact that I've never interpreted any rejection as gender-based'." The Telegraph (London) 03/22/01

  • Previously: WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN? "Conducting is a competitive field, but some say that for women, it seems bitterly so. America's best-known female conductors have little to show for decades of effort. None of the 27 American orchestras with the largest budgets has appointed a woman music director, and many insiders expect a woman president to be sworn in long before a female takes the helm of one of America's top orchestras." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/17/01

A QUESTION OF MARKETING? Philadelphia's new $265 million performing arts center is opening in December. The first season features a lineup of local and touring orchestras, theatre troupes, and other performers. But the Philadelphia Orchestra, the main tenant of the RPAC (and the reason for its construction) asked not to be included in the wave of promotional material released yesterday. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/22/01

LA BOCELLI TOURS: Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor has overcome the disdain (and sometimes outright hostility) of music critics to become an arena-size sensation. He's starting his fifth U.S. tour, accompanied by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. But although he speaks confidently of his abilities and shrugs off the criticisms, Bocelli will be skipping New York, just as he has avoided the world's other operatic centers. Nando Times 03/22/01

THE WAGNER PROBLEM: "How can we enjoy the output of artists whose personal lives or private beliefs are reprehensible? To say that private behavior shouldn't affect public estimation is noble but naive: It does affect it, no matter how much we might wish it didn't. We can't unlearn what we already know. " Chicago Tribune 03/22/01

PACIFIC SYMPHONY GETS A BOOST: "The Santa Ana-based Pacific Symphony has been awarded a $1.3-million grant from the newly formed Hal and Jeanette Segerstrom Family Foundation, orchestra officials said Wednesday. The grant, the first to be made by the foundation, will be given over five years. Funds will underwrite the 20 classical subscription concerts presented yearly at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa." Los Angeles Times 03/22/01

FAMOUS LETTERS: London' s Royal Philharmonic Society has a collection of composers' scores and letters (including one by a dying Beethoven, promising a 10th symphony). Now the RPS is selling its collection to bring in money to commission new music and set up an education programme, and there are fears the collection will leave the country. The Independent (London) 03/22/01

BUT IT'S REALLLLLY HARD! Napster is complaining that complying with the court order to block all access to copyrighted material on its song-swapping service is turning out to be, well, every bit as difficult as everyone had expected it to be. The recording industry is, understandably, not terribly sympathetic. Wired 03/21/01

Wednesday March 21

CUTTING CONTEMPORARY: Berlin's Music Biennale is where serious new music comes to be heard. This year "all 22 concerts were well attended. Many were sold out, and on three occasions there were dramatic scenes at the box office when customers were turned away. One performance began with a half-hour delay to allow more chairs to be brought in. Contemporary music performances are hardly the usual venue for such brouhaha." So why are German cost-cutters canceling the festival? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/21/01

NEW AGE FESTIVAL: The controversial Gerard Mortier is leaving the toney Salzburg Festival to start up a new enterprise in rural Germany. "A world apart from the elite refinement of Salzburg, the Ruhr Festival will reflect the proletarian ecology in dance, rock and sports-related events alongside opera and classical music. 'I have to consider how to make the culture belong to the people.' Although his plans for 2003 are still sketchy, it sounds like one of the brightest arts ideas for years, and one that will assuredly shed glamour on the grimy region." The Telegraph (London) 03/21/01

Tuesday March 20

THE NEXT FREE MUSIC: It works like this: "There are thousands of streaming-audio radio stations online at any given moment. You tell the BitBop tuner what band or song you want to listen to and the software searches for stations that are either playing your song at that very moment or likely to do so soon. The BitBop Tuner will not only play the song for you immediately, but will also make a permanent copy of it on your hard drive." Salon 03/20/01

BONDING: British composer Monty Norman was awarded £30,000 in libel damages for a Sunday Times story that said he did not write the theme for the James Bond films. Norman claimed the story trashed his career. The Guardian (London) 03/20/01

VIENNA DISCORD: Vienna State Opera on why it's abandoning the famed Vienna Boys Choir: "We can no longer have a situation where we invite the choir to rehearse, train a boy for a certain part and then find on opening night he has been flown off to sing in Tokyo and another boy has taken his place." The Scotsman 03/20/01

WATER MUSIC: Just as a rehearsal was to get underway, a water pipe bursts over the heads of the musicians of the Boise Philharmonic. "It was a downpour of black, filthy water. One of our musicians was wearing a white sweater, and she looked like a Dalmation after the downpour." Idaho Stateman 03/19/01

THE NEW QUIET: Pop music is changing. "It feels like a sea change. The new quiet is music of serene melodies and smoldering seductions, of desolate scenes and less-is-more orchestrations. It rarely gets agitated, and it makes few Limp Bizkit-style "pay attention" demands on listeners. It buries its provocations beneath oceans of calm. It is the work of artists who, in rethinking much of the architecture of pop, have come to value sleekness over density, restraint over vented rage, single lines over thick layers, European cool over American heat." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/20/01

BETWEEN THE GRAMMIES AND THE OSCARS, there's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No cute name for the award yet. This year's winners included Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, Queen, Aerosmith, RiTchie Valens, and Steely Dan. (Didn't they just win something?) The Nando Times (AP) 03/19/01

Monday March 19

MET REJOINS LINCOLN CENTER EFFORT: Two months ago the Metropolitan Opera unexpectedly announced it was pulling out of plans for a $1.5 billion makeover of Lincoln Center. Now the Met is rejoining the project, but under an arrangement that gives it much greater say. The New York Times 03/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SACKING THE CHOIRBOYS: The Vienna Boys Choir has been beset by critics of late. Now it has lost its most important affiliation. "The Vienna State Opera said last week its agreement with the 500-year-old choir would not be renewed when it expires in 2004. The opera plans to establish a rival choir." Sunday Times (London) 03/18/01

MUSIC + IMAGE = In some serious circles, describing a music score as "film music" is meant as derisive. But "there is a growing feeling that music in the context of film, performed as a live event, could be the most exciting new art form of the era. We have begun to notice that the combination of music and the filmed image can seduce us at the deepest level, with its ability to mimic the form of a dream." Financial Times 03/19/01

ARDOIN DEAD: John Ardoin, for 32 years music critic for the Dallas Morning News, and an expert on the life of Maria Callas, has died at the age of 66. Dallas Morning News 03/19/01

Sunday March 18

WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN? "Conducting is a competitive field, but some say that for women, it seems bitterly so. America's best-known female conductors have little to show for decades of effort. None of the 27 American orchestras with the largest budgets has appointed a woman music director, and many insiders expect a woman president to be sworn in long before a female takes the helm of one of America's top orchestras." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/17/01

HERE'S ONE OF THE MEN: When the Cleveland Orchestra selected the relatively young and unknown Franz Welser-Möst as its next music director, eyebrows were raised all over the music world. But as the director-designate prepares to take the reins in 2002, critical perception is softening, and some are even whispering that Cleveland may have found their Bernstein. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/18/01

WORLDWIDE WEBCASTING: The big problem of streaming audio and video on the web is that such webcasts cross international boundaries, and require multiple sets of legal permissions. "To figure out what licensing agreements a business needs to launch a legal, digital music company is like searching for the beginning of an M.C. Escher painting –- everywhere you look, it seems like you've found the start of the maze, until you look somewhere else." Wired 03/17/01

FORGETTING VERDI: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the great Italian operatic composer Giuseppe Verdi, and the music world has cranked up for the occasion to deliver... well, next to nothing, actually. Why the hesitance to program some of the finest operas ever written? For one thing, Verdi's stuff is just excruciatingly difficult to sing, and most of today's stars are loath to take the chance. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/18/01

CAN'T GET NO RESPECT: This week, the Metropolitan Opera premieres a new production of Prokofiev's rarely-heard and much-reviled "The Gambler." That the Met is performing the work at all begs the question: just what went wrong with Russian opera in the twentieth century? The world's leading expert on Russian music weighs in with the opinion that Prokofiev and his contemporaries were simply too disdainful of operatic convention, and too far ahead of their time. New York Times 03/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HOW I FOUND A MISSING MOZART: A previously unknown Mozart arrangement of Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabaeus was found in Halifax, West Yorkshire last week. "The Halifax score is a beautiful piece of work - a fair copy, with scarcely any erasures or crossings out." The Guardian (London) 03/17/01

THE CHANGING IRISH: For centuries Ireland has been a homogeneous country - a country people left to find a better life rather than a destination for others in search of their dreams. But Ireland's newly prosperous economy has changed all that, and the face of Irish music is changing too. Christian Science Monitor 03/16/01

SMALLER IS BETTER? The classical music recording business continues to wilt. But while larger labels have a tough time, a number of smaller recording companies chalk up successes. Christian Science Monitor 03/16/01

ATTENTION PAID: Mildred Bailey is hardly a household name, even among jazz aficionados. But throughout the 1930s and '40s, Bailey was as big as stars got in the world of the big band. A stunning singer and legendary diva, she later developed a terrible overeating disorder, and died in obscurity in 1951. Now, a small New England-based record company has re-released her complete recordings for Columbia. Hartford Courant 03/18/01

Friday March 16

SAVING THE BOLSHOI: "The Bolshoi was a facade of the Soviet empire; and sure enough, when the empire collapsed, the facade started to crumble. The chaos which engulfed the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union could not have left the Bolshoi untouched." Now it is damaged and discredited. Now conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky has stepped in to try and save the day. Financial Times 03/16/01

IF NOT NAPSTER… Digital song-swapping is down almost 60% since Napster introduced its filters Wednesday to block copyrighted material, with the number of downloads per individual user down from 172 files each to 71. But "anecdotal evidence already indicates that users were switching to other peer-to-peer song-swap systems. It is only going to be a matter of days before Napster users start migrating to those systems in large numbers." Inside.com 3/15/01

  • HAVING YOUR CAKE AND EATING IT TOO: Having successfully crippled Napster (at least partially), record labels are turning to coopting the song-swapper's mission, and preparing to launch their own streaming/downloading sites. Wired 03/16/01
  • IX-NAY ON THE EVER-CLAY ICKS-TRAY: The website "Aimster" has removed, at Napster's request, a program that allowed users to translate song titles into Pig Latin to circumvent filtering software designed to stop illegal downloads. Nando Times (AP) 03/15/01

CROSSOVER ALBUM, HOLD THE CHEESE: Elvis Costello is no stranger to the world of classical crossover music, having recorded a full-length album of his vocals backed by the Brodsky Quartet nearly a decade ago. Now, the iconoclastic pop singer has teamed up with soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, and the result is an album that may actually give crossover albums a good name. National Post (Canada) [from the Daily Telegraph] 03/16/01

CROSSING BOUNDARIES: Think "jazz orchestra," and you probably think of the classic Big Band, or perhaps a Dixieland ensemble. The New Black Music Repertory Ensemble thinks a jazz orchestra is these things and more, and their unique method of weaving the disparate sounds of early jazz, hard-edged bebop, and the avant-garde into a single evening is winning converts to serious African-American music of all kinds. Chicago Tribune 03/16/01

APATHY ALL AROUND: There’s still plenty to rail against in the world, so why isn’t anyone singing about it? "Never mind where have all the flowers gone; where have all the protest singers gone? The Falklands gave us Elvis Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding’ and Billy Bragg’s ‘Island of No Return.’ But the Kosovo conflict has produced nary a B-side." The Times (London) 3/16/01

Thursday March 15

PLUGGING THE HENZE: With a major new Henze opera set to debut and dismal advance ticket sales, London's Royal Opera House is taking to some old-fashioned PR to try and generate buzz. The company is comping TV celebs to the production, hoping to get them to plug the opera on their shows. The Independent (London) 03/15/01

A LITTLE THING LIKE FILTERS? As Napster attempts to filter copyrighted songs from its service, an army of free Pig-Latin encoder/decoder programs proliferates on the net. What are they? They translate music file names into Pig Latin so they escape the filters...Wired 03/14/01

PAY FOR PLAY (ISN'T THIS ILLEGAL?): "Listeners may not realize it, but radio today is largely bought by the record companies. Most rock and Top 40 stations get paid to play the songs they spin by the companies that manufacture the records. But it's not payola -- exactly. Here's how it works." Salon 03/14/01

PRICED OUT: Young string players are facing an instrument crisis. "In the past 10 years, prices of violins have more than doubled. My generation faces the prospect of never owning a violin without the help of a patron." Philadelphia Inquirer 03/15/01

Wednesday March 14

A DELICATE BALANCE: Running the clubby Glyndebourne festival has always been seen as a plum opera job, but that may be changing. New director David Picker, whose appointment was announced this week will have to keep a delicate balance between "those who hanker after the days when opera at Glyndebourne was an entertainment for a large extended family, and those who want to see it more at the cutting edge of the art form." The Guardian (London) 03/14/01

A NEW "GLORIA": An unknown choral work by Handel (believed to have been written in 1708-9, when the 22-year-old composer was in Rome) was recently discovered in London's Royal Academy and will receive its world premiere Thursday night. "It is worth emphasising that this is not a ‘new Messiah.’ But there will be a race to get the first recording out. It really is that good." The Times (London) 3/14/01

NEW MOZART: A new work by Mozart - an adaptation of Handel's oratorio "Judas Maccabaeus" dating from the 1780s - has been found in a Yorkshire council records office in England. BBC 03/14/01

TWICE DISPOSSESSED: A wave of talented Russian composers fled the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s for new lives in Britain and throughout Europe. But the thriving composing community they envisioned hasn’t reestablished itself, and for the most part their work - some of it very good - goes unplayed and thus unknown. "Shunned by compatriot conductors, undiscovered by westerners, Russia's emigré composers are the unheard ghosts at Europe's over-subsidised feast." The Telegraph (London) 3/14/01

A BALANCING ACT: Following on the heels of Nicholas Snowman's abrupt resignation last fall, Glyndebourne’s new director David Pickard (formerly of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) will have a tough act to follow. "Pickard's role will be to keep the balance between those who hanker after the days when opera at Glyndebourne was an entertainment for a large extended family, and those who want to see it more at the cutting edge of the art form." The Guardian (London) 3/14/01

SEATTLE SCORES: Seattle has become one of the busiest places outside L.A. for recording film scores - a sign of increasing "runaway production," the practice of hiring movie talent outside Hollywood to cut down on costs. Last month alone, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra played 26 soundtrack jobs, a total of 100 soundtracks last year. Needless to say, L.A.’s musicians are not pleased to see their work moving north. NPR 3/13/01 [Real audio file]

DO YOU HAVE AN EAR FOR MUSIC? If you do, you almost certainly inherited it. Research shows that you can't learn to judge musical pitch; it's in your genes. If you're not sure, there's an MP3 file to download which will help you find out. The New Scientist 03/08/01

ELEVATOR MUSIC WITH A 20 SECOND REVERB: An enormous grain elevator in Montreal has been turned into a giant musical instrument. With the help of high-speed internet connections, the Silophone "transmits and receives sounds sent in from around the world, which are transformed, reverberated, and coloured by this historical hulk, leaving a cacophony of haunting echoes. Those echoes, in turn, are captured by microphones and rebroadcast on phone lines to Web and telephone users." The Globe and Mail (Canada) 03/14/01

Tuesday March 13

EXTRAVAGANT CLAIM: "It is only a decade-and-a-half since the London Symphony Orchestra hit rock-bottom, and now it is unquestionably the leading British orchestra. On a good night others can match it, but no other British band is playing consistently at the LSO’s level, and only the LSO could claim to have knocked America’s biggest heavyweights off their pedestals. Indeed, the LSO has surely become the first British orchestra to be mentioned regularly in the same breath as the Berlin Philharmonic and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw." The Times (London) 03/13/01

BACH IN BLACK? Classical music has always been influenced by popular tunes, although "serious composers" are often loath to admit it. Still, at a time when pundits are continually proclaiming the death of serious art music, it can be difficult for a composer who openly embraces the work of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison to be accepted by his peers. Even when he's a professor at Princeton. Boston Herald 03/13/01

NAPSTER TO GET LEGAL: The CEO of Bertelsmann says Napster will be relaunched in July and that "a re-launched Napster will likely charge $2.95 to $4.95 a month for a basic service and $5.95 to $9.95 for a premium service. Bertelsman, which owns the BMG label, has invested in Napster as part of a bid to convince music companies to drop their lawsuits and support a 'legal' version of the service." Wired 03/12/01

  • GUILTY PLEASURES: So Napster As We Know It is dead. The new Napster is yet to come. By law, now, trading music files without paying royaties is officially wrong. So how did so many users decide that it wasn't? And what has the experience done for the millions who participated? For some, it has meant a guilt-free way of exploring the music they'd be too embarrassed to buy at the store. Boston Globe 03/13/01
  • FREE FLOW: A group of programmers dedicated to keeping the flow of free internet music going is hard at work on son-of-Napster, which they say will circumvent the crackdown on Napster. "The Freenet programme is similar to the popular Napster file sharing software, but uses a different storage and retrieval system which maintains no central index and does not reveal where the files are stored." BBC 03/13/01

Monday March 12

PAEAN TO ALBERT HALL: London's Albert Hall may not be perfect acoustically. But inside it is magnificent. "We feel queasy about Victorian buildings, almost as we do about Victorian cooking. Nostalgia is a corrupt function of memory, but Albert and Fowke were not indulging in sentimental histrionics. They were mapping the known world with confidence and conviction. It is the resonance of this spiritual energy that makes us sometimes feel uncomfortable with Victorian buildings." The Independent (London) 03/08/01

TECHNOLOGY CHANGES EVERYTHING: "The music industry is far too focused on the debate over MP3, Napster and music theft, and is missing out on the point that not only is their business model changing, but their current technological foundation - the CD - is just about obsolete for many people." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/12/01

A NEW HANDEL: A work by Handel is newly rediscovered in London's Royal Academy. "The seven movement work for soprano and strings is thought to have been composed in Rome in 1707, when the composer was about 21 years old." BBC 03/12/01

Sunday March 11

TRYING TO BE NEW: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette music critic takes the Pittsburgh Symphony to task for its conservative ways. So the orchestra invites him to a planning session, just to see the planning difficulties involved in programming new music. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 03/11/01

CLEVELAND CANCELS SOUTH AMERICA: The Cleveland Orchestra this week suddenly announced the cancelation of a major tour of South America. Why? "Presenters in South American didn't schedule a sufficient number of performances for the tour, especially in Buenos Aires, to make the trip viable." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/09/01

WHEN WOTAN RAN THE MOB: There's something operatic about HBO's "The Sopranos," something Wagnerian, something Nibelungian. Boston Herald 03/09/01

SALONEN STAYING: When big prestigious music directorships come open Esa-Pekka Salonen is often mentioned as a candidate. But he's staying put in LA. "In his time in Los Angeles, Salonen has observed the orchestra's audiences becoming younger and more racially diverse. He has witnessed a major personnel changeover (almost 30 players) in the orchestra, and he finds the playing level at auditions 'absolutely stunning'." San Francisco Chronicle 03/11/01

Friday March 9

BUSONI? WASN'T THAT BACH'S LAST NAME?: "He could play louder and faster than anyone alive, and his Liszt interpretations had 'chords like cast bronze.'" He heard Brahms play and hung around with Schoenberg. He scared people with his intellect, and sometimes with his music. That was Ferruccio Busoni, who is remembered, if at all, for Bach transcriptions and for an unfinished Doktor Faust. Maybe it's time for a re-evaluation. The New Republic 03/12/01

RUMORS OF ITS DEATH ARE GREATLY EXAGGERATED: Napster has been shut down. No, it is being shut down. What we mean is, it's in the process of being treated as if it might eventually be in a position which someone with minimal Internet skills might mistake for shut down. "So basically Napster is still a free-for-all for everyone -- unless, that is, you are a fan of Roy Orbison... much to the chagrin of at least a couple Napster users, the service has started blocking people who have Roy songs in their libraries." Wired 03/09/01

Thursday March 8

CLEVELAND BAILS ON TOUR: The Cleveland Orchestra has canceled its upcoming tour of South America, only two months before it was scheduled to kick off. Management did not immediately provide a reason for the cancellation, but the move calls into question the status of the orchestra's planned 2001-02 European tour. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/08/01

CATALOGUING THE KIROV: It has long been suspected that the Kirov-Mariinsky Opera in St. Petersburg is sitting on one of the world's greatest archives of musical material. Financial considerations had previously prevented the opera from any attempt at cataloguing its stash, but now, with the help of the U.S. Library of Congress, scholars may finally get a look at the countless scores that were previously a part of the Tsar's personal archive. Washington Post 03/08/01

ABBADO ILL: Conductor Claudio Abbado recently had his entire stomach removed because of cancer. "Those who saw photographs of the conductor over the past few months were shocked at how emaciated and miserable he looked. This naturally gave rise to a great deal of speculation. This was even more of a strain upon Abbado than the illness itself, which was indeed serious, so much so that he took the step - which must certainly have been difficult for him - of countering all the speculation." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/08/01

END RUN THROUGH NAPSTER: The judge may have ordered Napster to start filtering out copyrighted songs, but Napster users are resourceful. They're finding ways around the filters and traffic is still robust. Inside.com 03/07/01

BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER: Don't think the other music retailers out there on the web aren't cheering the looming demise of Napster. In particular, EMusic, which has joined the list of companies suing the embattled song-swapper, is hoping that Napster's loss will be its gain. Wired 03/08/01

PAYING FOR IT: Next season, the Philadelphia Orchestra moves into its beautiful new hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. But new digs cost money, and apparently selling the hall's naming rights to a phone company (really, now: "Verizon Hall"?) didn't cover everything. Ticket prices will jump a mind-boggling 16% next season, and the ever-mysterious "ticket surcharge" will double. Philadelphia Inquirer 03/08/01

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE: Jung-Ho Pak, the conductor who has been largely credited with resurrecting the San Diego Symphony from the ashes of bankruptcy, has announced that he will step down as the orchestra's artistic director and principal conductor after next season. (First item) Los Angeles Times 03/08/01

TAKING A STEP BACK: Minnesota-based University of St. Thomas is making budget cuts, and the 15-year-old Conservatory of Music is one of the casualties. Although it was certainly not a major musician training ground, the conservatory had gained respect for its dedication to community music, and was one of the more popular programs at the university. Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/08/01

BEHIND THE SCENES: Audio artist Janet Cardiff has been awarded Canada's $50,000 "Millennium Prize," one of the largest arts awards in the history of the country. Cardiff's latest piece, "Forty Part Motet," consists of a massive array of 40 speakers, and very little else. "Each of the speakers emits the sound of a distinct voice singing one part from . . .a 12-minute choral work written by the British composer Thomas Tallis in 1575. During the performers' intermission, we hear the singers chatting, working out difficulties in the score, or discussing their various jobs and interests before the performance resumes again." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/08/01

WHAT ARE THE VILLAGE PEOPLE DOING HERE? The NEA and the recording industry have published a list of the "best" 365 songs of the 20th century. Why? Because everybody loves lists, that's why. You love lists. Yes you do. Don't argue with us. You want to argue, argue about whether "YMCA" (#86) ought to be ranked nearly 50 spots above Frank Sinatra (#144). Dallas Morning News 03/08/01

MUSIC GETS A NEW LOOK: The University of Illinois has unveiled an exhibit that focuses on the visual side of the music world. "Between Sound and Vision" is no high-tech, cutting-edge, multimedia effort - what the creators of the exhibit have done is take the truly "inside baseball" parts of the contemporary music world (scores by John Cage, unconventional in the extreme, make up the lion's share of the exhibit) and displayed them as artworks that stand on their own. The idea is to explore the ever-expanding definition of music. Chicago Tribune 03/08/01

Wednesday March 7

NAPSTER BITES: As ordered by a judge, the file loader has three days to remove copyrighted songs from its trading lists. Or else. Wired 03/06/01

    SPLIT ENFORCEMENT: Judge rules recording industry must share responsibility for monitoring copyrighted songs over the file-share service. Inside.com 03/06/01

OPERA VS SPORT - AN UNFAIR MATCH: In the UK it now costs less to buy a ticket for Covent Garden opera than for a Premiere League soccer match. Does that mean Opera will become a mass entertainment? Not hardly. "Sport has the kind of mass appeal that art can never attain, by reason of its child-like simplicity. In Italy, crucible of opera, Venice and Bari have had their theatres burned down and citizens have not taken to the streets to demand restoration. If a Serie A soccer ground were to be shut down, there would be a bloody revolution." The Telegraph (London) 03/07/01

THE BEST JAZZ ALBUM EVER? Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" has sold 5 million copies since it was released in 1959, making it the biggest-selling album in jazz history. But the recording has had a major influence on subsequent generations of jazz artists as well. The Independent (London) 03/05/01

ROLL OVER HEIFETZ: Violinists have always gloried in their ability to dazzle audiences with fingerboard pyrotechnics and needlessly speedy performances of blatant showpieces. But a new stage show takes showing off to a whole new level, using the wildly popular "Riverdance" model as a starting point. Needless to say, audiences love it, and critics are dubious. Los Angeles Times 03/07/01

THE HONEYMOON BEGINS: When the Cleveland Orchestra announced that the young Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst would be its next music director, many critics jumped on the organization for moving too quickly, and settling for less than it deserved. But as Christoph von Dohnanyi's tenure in Cleveland draws to a close, the orchestra and its leader-to-be seem genuinely appreciative of one another. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 03/07/01

BRINGIN' IT TO THE PEOPLE: Composer and San Francisco radio host Charles Amirkhanian is on a mission to unite the creators of new music with an increasingly skeptical public. His unique program on KPFK-FM makes few judgments, and refuses to cater to one particular style of composition. The resulting mish-mash of modern music has garnered an unlikely following for what Amirkhanian calls "outsider music." San Francisco Bay Guardian 03/07/01

BUT HE DIED SO YOUNG... Fans of dead pop stars are fanatical in their devotion. "These fans are a gentler breed than the celebrity stalkers of the living. Although a few do skirt the edges of parody at times, they reveal more clearly than any conventional star biography why rock music can mean so much, and also how far from normality it can take you." The Guardian (London) 03/07/01

Tuesday March 6

HOW MANY WAYS CAN YOU SPELL GUILTY? Napster started blocking access to copyright-protected music Monday by implementing new name-based filters. One problem: the slightest typo can go undetected by the filter, leaving songs in question still available to all. Example: "Metallica/Enter Sandman" is no longer available, but "Metellica -- Enter Sanman" is. "It seems safe to assume that Napster's professed hope for an amicable working relationship with the labels on screening will likely go unfulfilled. One reason is that the number of possible file names is so large." Inside.com 3/05/01

WHO NEEDS WHOM? Free-music fans continue arguing that Napster doesn’t harm the music industry; it actually serves it well by letting consumers sample before they buy - and then buy even more. "The music industry wouldn't last two weeks without Napster." New York Times 3/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

HOW GOOD WAS MENDELSSOHN? Audiences love him. Critics often don't. Shaw criticized his "kid-glove gentility, his conventional sentimentality, and his despicable oratorio-mongering." Other commentators routinely categorize him as a "minor master." Is this any way to treat the composer of the E-Flat Octet for Strings, the Scottish Symphony, and the E-Minor Violin Concerto? Commentary 03/01

MORE THAN JUST MOVIES: Ennio Morricone is well known for his film scores, but few fans are aware he’s also been composing classical composition all these years. Are there differences between composing for movie audiences and chamber halls? "In writing a film score you are absolutely aware of the public, and of writing music the audience understands. I would never think of distracting a film audience with complicated music. The audience for movies does not usually have a high musical culture." The Telegraph (London) 3/06/01

Monday March 5

MUSIC CONTINUES FLOWING: Napster had promised it was going to start filtering out copyrighted music this weekend. But "all the top 10 songs listed on the Billboard Hot 100 list were available on the company's servers late yesterday, including the No 1 Stutter by Joe featuring Mystikal. Songs by longtime Napster foe Metallica also showed up in searches." The Age (Melbourne) 03/05/01

    NAPSTER CLONE? As Napster's wings get clipped, a Canadian entrepreneur prepares to "clone" Napster's program and base it off the coast of Britain, where he believes it will be untouchable by meddling authorities. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/05/01

OH YES, IT'LL BE GREAT: The English National Opera's production of David Sawer's opera "From Morning to Midnight" is new. How new? "With rehearsals due to start this month, its penultimate scene is still being faxed, page by page, to waiting singers desperate to familiarise themselves with the score." The Independent (London) 03/05/01

BATTLING THE MUSIC BIZ: Courtney Love believes the music recording business is rotten to the core. So "she is suing her recording company, the Universal Music Group, to release her from her contract and what she sees as a form of coercive indenture that she never asked for and feels she never deserved. Unlike plaintiffs in previous suits, she is not merely in it for herself; she has every intention of bringing the whole edifice of the music business crashing down all around her." The Independent (London) 03/05/01

EASY LISTENING: Michael Torke is one of a generation of composers coming into its own for whom listenability is a primary goal. "My generation is trying to bring back the relationship with the audience. We love the audience, we need the audience. The audience is made up of wonderful, intelligent, vital, vibrant people and I want my music to communicate." The Scotsman 03/05/01

Sunday March 4

THE IDEAL SOPRANO: They say there are no more Verdi sopranos. "What Verdi required in nearly all his operas was a soprano with a dramatic color and weight of timbre and wide compass; stamina in the high range; both boldness and delicacy in coloratura; vigorous and flexible attack in the low, middle and high range; a voice capable of conveying tenderness, aggression and conflicting feelings; an artistic personality of imagination, temperament, passion, imperiousness, nobility and warmth. And since Verdi's time, another requirement has been thrown into the mix: linguistic authority." Now what could be difficult about all that? Opera News 03/01

GETTING AROUND A CRIPPLED NAPSTER: Millions of music fans jammed onto Napster's servers this weekend to try and beat court-imposed filtering out of copyrighted songs. Alternative music file-trading services also had big surges of users as traders explored alternative means of getting music they wanted. Dallas Morning News (AP) 03/04/01

    NAPSTER LOSES - WILL BEGIN FILTERING SONGS: The recording industry and motion picture association have succeeded in lawsuits against Napster and MP3.com under provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This weekend Napster will begin filtering out copyrighted songs available through its service. Wired 03/02/01

THE MEZZO WHO WOULDN'T QUIT: Frederica von Stade is 55 and said to be winding down her career. But some new operas have got her attention - she's commited to some revivals of Jake Heggie's "Dead Man Walking" and anxious to participate in a new Richard Danielpour effort. That takes her to age 60. And then... Boston Globe 03/04/01

Friday March 2

ATTACKING THE CRITIC (ARE YOU NUTS?): Are Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra trying to get Washington Post music critic Philip Kennicott fired? "The NSO attacked Kennicott in a stinging letter posted on its Web site, calling him "irresponsible" and insinuating that he had concocted a quote." The Post, meanwhile, has nominated Kennicott for a Pulitzer. Washingtonian 03/01

WHO TO BLAME? Did Arnold Schoenberg bring on the end of music? Is he to blame for the current predicament of contemporary music? The evidence is rather thin. Maybe he merely represents the end of a way of thinking that art is a linear process in which "improvement" is the goal. The Independent (London) 03/02/01

THE ESSENTIAL NAPSTER: Wondering about the fuss over Napster? Check out ArtsJournal's annotated primer on the subject. It should surprise no one that the issue is neither about the sacred principle of intellectual property rights nor about the need for fair compensation to artists. It’s about who gets to keep the profits of a lucrative worldwide multi-billion-dollar business. Arts Journal 03/02/01

Thursday March 1

WIN? WIN WHAT?  So the recording industry beats Napster. "The music industry (by which we mean the five companies that supply about 90 percent of the world's popular music) is dying not because of Napster but because of an underlying economic truth. In the world of digital products that can be copied and moved at no cost, traditional distribution structures, which depend on the ownership of the content or of the right to distribute, are fatally inefficient." The Nation 03/12/01

LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD TENORS: The Three Tenors have been classical music’s hottest act (not to mention cash cow) since their debut in 1990 - but Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras are all "approaching their 60s and will soon need walking frames to reach those high Cs. So what happens when the fat lady finally sings? The world's major record companies have embarked on a mad, expensive scramble to locate and groom the musicians that could succeed the Titanic Trio." Time (Europe) 3/05/01

BOHEMIAN GROOVE: What is it about the music of the Bohemian composers (Dvorak, Janacek, et al) that listeners find so captivating? Maybe it’s the politics? "Unlike German musical nationalism, which was founded on the idea of the unification of disparate political states, Czech music has always been about freedom of speech and autonomous expression." The Guardian (London) 3/01/01


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