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JUNE 2001

Friday June 29

TOWER OF DOUR: Tower Records, which has been, in many parts of the US, the most comprehensive place to buy recorded music, looks to be on the verge of bankruptcy. The company has closed down its book business, closed 10 of its music stores and laid off 250 employees. Los Angeles Times 06/23/01

  • HARD TIMES: "Tower Records, once the best place on the planet to find the obscure music that helps make life bearable, today reminds me of the record department at K-mart." Public Arts 06/28/01

SWEET HOME, PHILADELPHIA: It's been weird for some time; Philadelphia has been building a new $260 million performing arts center, but none of the arts groups for whom it was being built has signed up to use the hall. But after two years of negotiations, the arts groups - including the Philadelphia Orchestra - have agreed to be tenants. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/28/01

A CAUTIONARY TALE: Roger Norrington was music director; Jonathan Miller and Nicholas Hytner directed; the group appeared at major festivals, ran summer concerts, and set up its own education program. Still, the Kent Opera collapsed after twenty years when the Arts Council withdrew funding. A new book traces the fate of a small opera company. Gramophone 06/01

CUP, NO HANDEL: Is a recently discovered score, touted as a long-lost work by Handel, really by the composer? Some experts insist not, now they've heard it. Christian Science Monitor 06/29/01

LET'S PLAY THE FEUD: Richard Wagner's descendants are a ruthless and driven lot. Cosima and Winnifred were obsessed. Wieland was a genius. Wolfgang doesn't know when to quit. It's hard to separate the family from the music, and little wonder the Battle for Bayreuth is so epic. Los Angeles Times 06/24/01

Thursday June 28

NEW BOLSHOI CHIEF: Wasting no time after Gennady Rozhdestvensky's resignation as conductor of the Bolshoi earlier this month, the government has chosen Alexander Vedernikov as chief conductor. "Apart from serving as chief conductor of the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra, Mr Vedernikov, 38, has performed at La Scala in Milan and the Royal Opera House in London." BBC 06/27/01 

LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT: John Mauceri has a good job and a great resume. What more could he want? Publicity, for one thing. Tours. Recording contracts. But as long as his Hollywood Bowl Orchestra is trapped in the shadow of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, things are not likely to change. Los Angeles Times 06/28/01

IT'S NEW! IT'S IMPROVED! (IT'S STILL NAPSTER): Filters on the old version of Napster are finally working. They work so well that Napster traffic on the Internet has come to a virtual standstill. But wait! What is that dazzling new software before us? Why, it's... it's the new Napster! Just in time for the Fourth of July. Or whatever. CNET 06/27/01

HE WRITES THE SONGS. HERE'S HOW: Barry Manilow has a gift for melody. Not that it's what he always wants to do. "I would love to write one of those twisty Stephen Sondheim kinds of songs that you can't sing fast and has all this dissonant stuff going on underneath it, but I just can't get discordant. For some reason, I just like melody." Chicago Tribune 06/24/01

Wednesday June 27

OUT OF THE ARCHIVES: In the days before hi-fi, and long before anyone had ever conceived of a CD, some of the world's best classical recordings were put out by a scrappy little label called Westminster. Quirky, unpredictable, and with a commitment to recording young, underappreciated artists, the company was the darling of music aficionados until it folded in the early 1960s. Now, Universal Records is reissuing a large chunk of the Westminster catalog, to the delight of collectors. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/27/01

BOSTON BUYS A BANK: "The Boston Symphony Orchestra has purchased the land and bank building on St. Stephen's Street across from the Symphony Hall stage door. The purchase price was not disclosed. In the short term, the Sovereign Bank property provides additional office space and parking for 20 cars. In the long term, the land could play a crucial role in the BSO's master-plan-in-progress for refurbishing the hall." Boston Globe 06/27/01

MP3 TO GO: "Motorola and SimpleDevices want to do for the car what TiVo has done for the TV set, and connect the home stereo to the Internet at the same time. The companies plan to release a system in September that will wirelessly link a computer with home and car stereos, allowing all three to share music files." Minneapolis Star Tribune (NYT News Service) 06/27/01

COMMON CAUSE: Not since the Vietnam protest era have American pop musicians united so passionately around a political cause. The U.S.'s continued reliance on the death penalty as an integral part of the nation's justice system has sparked a new wave of protest songs, many of them centered around one or two famous death penalty cases. The New York Times 06/27/01

Tuesday June 26

RATTLE TO DO BERLIN: Last week star conductor Simon Rattle said he might not take over as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic next year if the management structure of the orchestra wasn't changed. Last weekend the Berlin government agreed, and Monday Rattle said he'd take the job. Andante (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) 06/25/01

ONE TENOR DEFENDS BEIJING: Luciano Pavarotti, speaking to reporters after dining with Chinese president Jiang Zemin, said that he supports Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympics, despite the actions of the police outside the Three Tenors concert in the Forbidden City last weekend. Although the concert itself was without incident, civilians outside were beaten, and a journalist was assaulted. BBC 06/26/01

CUSTER'S NAPSTER'S LAST STAND: "Online song-swapping service Napster has failed in a last ditch effort to win a reversal of the copyright clampdown which has prompted a sharp decline in its user numbers." BBC 06/26/01

NOT JUST AMERICAN: What is it about the need of Americans to have their classical music come from "outside?" "The current version of this import-philia is the very public assimilation of non-Western music into an 'American' idiom. The United States is a rich and diverse land, but now identity politics, with an eye to the market, has entered into concert programming." Andante 06/26/01

Monday June 25

HEALING MUSIC: A new groundbreaking study says that patients who have suffered brain injuries can recover significantly faster by listening to music. "If this were a drug intervention, people would be clamouring for it. Patients like it, it's cheap and effective and it has no negative side effects." National Post (Canada) 06/25/01

WAR OF THE MUSIC MAGS: The publisher of Gramophone Magazine accuses BBC Music Magazine of inflating its circulation figures, making them look like they'd gone up when they had actually than down. The Independent (UK) 06/24/01

OPERA ON A SHOESTRING: The Welsh National Opera is currently undergoing the agony of scrutiny for an Arts Council stabilization grant. Yes, it's in a bit of financial difficulty, but "WNO is a close-knit, sparely run, but immensely productive company of true international standing." The New Statesman 06/25/01

INTERACTIVE MUSIC: A 23-year-old Columbia University student composer has launched a phone service which callers can use to generate music based on the sounds of their own voices. The New York Times 06/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday June 24

TENORS AND TRUNCHEONS: The Three Tenors performed in Beijing's Forbidden City this weekend, and Chinese officials hoped that the huge event would demonstrate to the International Olympic Committee that Beijing is capable enough to host the 2008 Summer Games. Of course, the IOC may have a few questions about China's crowd control methods: at least one concertgoer was beaten and dragged away by police, who also assaulted a news photographer. Nando Times (AP) 06/23/01

NEW HOPE FOR ELITISM: "Scientists believe they may be closer to understanding why some people like pop music and others like classical. Psychiatric consultant Dr Raj Persaud of Maudsley Hospital in London believes his studies of dementia patients show a link between taste and 'hard-nosed intellectual function' - in other words, appreciation of classical music may require more brain power." BBC 06/24/01

LOSING A LIFELONG PARTNER: "When the Houston Symphony toured Europe in 1997, double bassist David Malone got a rare chance to play the delicate solo in the third movement of Mahler's First Symphony. He still remembers the way his 308-year-old Italian instrument sounded. Now that bass, a Carlo Giuseppe Testore model worth about $100,000 but priceless to its owner, is in pieces, probably ruined by the great Houston flood of 2001." Dallas Morning News 06/24/01

HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN MAESTRO: The dearth of top-quality conductors of American extraction is a favorite subject of U.S. critics, particularly at a time when many of the nation's top orchestras have been appointing new music directors. But while the press complains, the National Conducting Institute quietly continues its quest to train, enourage, and give exposure to America's top conducting talents. The New York Times 06/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • KNOWING GREATNESS WHEN YOU HEAR IT: Robert Spano is one of the few rising young stars of the American conducting ranks, and his decision to sign on as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, rather than make a run for a more prestigious position in the Northeast, surprised many in the notoriously provincial classical music world. But Spano's first CD release with Atlanta proves what many already knew: he is a star no matter where he hangs his hat. Boston Herald 06/24/01

ON THE DISABLED LIST: Most audience members never think of the performers in a symphony orchestra as athletes, but every year, countless musicians see their careers threatened, or even ended, by severe muscle strains, crippling tendonitis, and other afflictions. The fact is, the physical strain of performance is often as taxing as the mental component. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/24/01

TOO MANY PRIZES, TOO FEW SINGERS: "The number of singing competitions around the world continues to rise. . . The five finalists in the 2001 Cardiff Singer of the World, held last week, had already won 10 prizes in other important competitions between them - and those are only the ones listed in their brief biographies in the programme. At this rate every singer of a certain standard has a reasonable chance of striking it lucky sooner or later." Financial Times 06/24/01

THEY KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE: Opera has undergone a transformation in the last couple of decades. It is no longer enough to stand onstage and belt out the notes - today's directors demand cutting-edge staging, head-turning costumes, and actual acting from the principals. In Italy, however, such things are considered distracting and unnecessary. The first nation of opera likes its staging minimal, its acting nonexistent, and its voices big, booming, and boastful. The Independent (UK) 06/24/01

REALITY IS BORING: For as long as filmmakers have been making movies about classical music, musicologists have been complaining about the lack of historical accuracy. But now, a historically perfect film about music has arrived, and it is so boring that no one cares how truthful it is. Is there a middle ground, or are these musical biopics doomed to be exercises in either fantasy or monotony? Minneapolis Star Tribune 06/24/01

NEW HOPE FOR ROOTS MUSIC? This summer, a film called "Songcatcher" will have industry experts on the edge of their trend-chasing seats, but they could care less whether the movie itself is a success. "[T]hey are watching to see how the Vanguard soundtrack does, believing its success may reveal whether ''O Brother, Wher Art Thou'' which has sold more than 1.2 million CDs and spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the country chart (longer than any other CD this year), is a fluke or the bellwether of a trend toward American roots music." Boston Globe 06/24/01

CLASSICAL MULTITASKING: Thomas Zehetmair is one of those musicians who never seems satisfied with his own accomplishments. Having risen to the ranks of the top violin soloists, he decided to form a string quartet. When the quartet met with early success, Zehetmair turned to conducting as a further sideline. Moreover, he seems determined to learn the baton-wielding craft the right way, refusing to use his reputation as a soloist to secure conducting engagements that he's not ready for. Financial Times 06/24/01

Friday June 22

TENOR TICKET TEMPEST: The Three Tenors are going to sing a concert in Beijing's Forbidden City, in a plan by the Chinese to prove they can host major events (as they try to become host of the Olympic games). "But seat prices of between $60 (£42) and $2,000 (£1,420) are beyond the reach of most Chinese although one online retailer reports they are almost all sold, with many of the tickets being snapped up by the Hong Kong Chinese." BBC 06/21/01

PARTING SHOTS IN TORONTO: "He won't say it was a mistake, and he insists that the good memories outweigh the bad. But Jukka-Pekka Saraste, the outgoing music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, says he might have stayed in Europe had he fully understood the depth of the ensemble's problems. . . His departure ends a seven-year tenure in which bold promise was often frustrated by dire circumstance." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/22/01

WINNIPEG IN THE BLACK: As most North American orchestras struggle to maintain fiscal solvency, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra appears to have found a winning formula. The orchestra has announced that its books are balanced following the just-ended season, thanks to a combination of increased box-office revenue and corporate and patron support. The WSO is known for putting on one of the world's most successful annual new music festivals. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/22/01

AUSSIE ANTHEM ATTACKED: A senator in the Australian parliament is demanding that the national anthem, largely ignored by the public in favor of the better-known Waltzing Matilda, be scrapped "before we all go to sleep singing it." Although it was only adopted in 1984, the anthem is quite dated, with multiple references to "British spirit." Gramophone 06/21/01

BLUES LEGEND DIES: John Lee Hooker, whose growling baritone and masterful guitar playing made him one of the most-beloved stars of the blues genre, died in his sleep yesterday. Hooker had his first hit record in 1948, and was still touring as late as last weekend. BBC 06/22/01

Thursday June 21

THE GREAT VIOLINS: By the time he died in 1992 Gerald Segelman had collected one of the great troves of precious violins. His "is a tale of the violin trade at its most excessive, with large sums hanging on whether a violin was made in one year or another. And it is the latest chapter in the biography of the most enduring icon of Western musical culture, the violin, with some of the most coveted instruments increasing in value 300 times since Segelman began collecting them." Chicago Tribune 06/17/01

ONE WAY TO GET A CONDUCTOR: Want to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic? Some guy named "esa-pekka" has an item on eBay you might be interested in - a chance to conduct the Star Spangled Banner at the opening night gala at the Hollywood Bowl next week. It's valued at $8000, but though it's been up for auction since June 15, there's not yet one bid . Only four days left. eBay 06/15/01

THE NAPSTER EFFECT? The music industry has been worried that digital piracy was eating into profits. But royalties paid to British musicians went up 4-7 percent for the past year. So much for the Napster effect. BBC 06/21/01

Wednesday June 20

LESSONS NEEDING LEARNING: Last week the Bolshoi lost its director, while Simon Rattle warned the Berlin Philharmonic he might not be its next music director unless the orchestra reinvented. "Both the Bolshoi and Berlin should have learnt from the unravelling of Covent Garden that, in modern times, it is not enough for an elite ensemble to have traditions and vision. It needs to nurture its roots in a fast-changing society, to be conscious of its responsibilities to those who do not share its privileges." The Telegraph (UK) 06/20/01

WHERE THE PIANO MATTERS: The piano recital is dying as an artform. But no one's told the people in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The Klavier Festival Ruhr is the world's largest annual piano festival with 83 soloists performing at this summer's edition. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/19/01

PIANIST OF THE FUTURE? When Canadian pianist Peter Elyakim Taussig lost the use of his hands several years ago, he turned to the computer. Now he's set his musical sensibilities to programming a computer that can play the piano with more nuance and technical skill than he ever had as a performer. National Post (Canada) 06/20/01

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN... Did the Philadelphia Orchestra choose a music director too soon? The orchestra really wanted Simon Rattle, but he committed to the Berlin Philharmonic. Now that that marriage might not work out, Philadelphians are wondering about what might have been... Philadelphia Inquirer 06/20/01

CAN'T TELL THE PLAYERS WITHOUT A SCORECARD: The audio players, that is. The recording industry won its legal battle with Napster, but Napster was only the high-profile beginning. Also in the fray are WinMX, MusicCity, FastTrack, IMesh, BearShare, and Aimster. Among others. Fortune 06/25/01

SINGING IN THE SHOWER IS FOR PIKERS: If you want to throw yourself a nice birthday party, be sure to include good music. Hire an orchestra and chorus, in fact. And because it's your birthday (and your money), you can hum along. Or sing along. In fact, take a solo. But... the bass role in Verdi's Requiem? Sure. Washington Post 06/18/01

Tuesday June 19

MUSICAL PROTEST: Players of the Berlin Philharmonic staged a musical protest Sunday, walking off the stage one by one in the final movement of Haydn's Farewell Symphony. "The gesture was meant as a protest at the German capital's current financial and political crisis - which now threatens to jeopardise the appointment of Sir Simon Rattle as the orchestra's new chief conductor." BBC 06/19/01

SAVING THE BOLSHOI: "The Bolshoi Opera has to be saved, but how beggars imagination. State funding has evaporated. The theatre itself is near physical collapse, its foundations eaten away by the famous underground river. In this country it would be condemned. A Unesco-supported restoration programme was announced as long ago as 1987, tendered and costed at £250 million in 1999, but has since stopped — the money simply ran out. Working conditions (and pay) are horrendous." The Telegraph (UK) 06/19/01

WOLFGANG WINS: Eighty-one-year-old Wolfgang Wagner has won the latest power struggle for control of the Bayreuth Festival. "This obtuse and power-hungry patriarch is still insisting that his contract for life be honored to the letter, no matter how many derisive write-ups his own productions may reap or how much damage his autocratic regime is likely to cause. Unbending to the last, he has made it clear that he will not go of his own free will. And as bizarre as it may sound, his behavior is not without moments of grandeur." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/19/01

DEFINING PLAGIARISM: When composer Tristan Foison was recently caught trying to pass off someone else's Requiem as his own, his response was breathtakingly audacious: he simply denied the charge outright. Even more shocking is that no one has yet been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Foison is lying. The fact is that music's tradition of "borrowing" and its overall abstract nature make it extremely difficult to catch composers who cheat. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/19/01

GRAND PLANS: "The Grand Canyon will serve as the panoramic backdrop for a single performance combining music, dance and theater in one of six huge-scale projects announced Monday by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts." Nando Times (AP) 06/19/01

Monday June 18

BOLSHOI EXPLANATION: Gennady Rozhdestvensky, who quit last week as head of the Bolshoi Theatre after one season, says he quit because the company didn't have the resources to keep the quality of its productions up. He said "his singers kept deserting rehearsals for better-paying jobs abroad. 'It's impossible to condemn these people. They want to eat'." Nando Times (AP) 06/18/01

WHERE ARE THE CANADIAN CONDUCTORS? American orchestras aren't quick to hire home-grown conductors, but in Canada the situation is even worse. To look at the rosters of Canadian orchestras, you'd think that the species of Canadian had yet to make an appearance on the earth. Why? "We would still rather hire a third-rate European than a second-rate Canadian." Montreal Gazette 06/16/01

DEEP JUNGLE OPERA: "The Amazon has always attracted people with madcap schemes. The unlikeliest folly of all, is the 670-seat Teatro Amazonas, with its pink and white neoclassical facade and a golden dome that towers over the scruffy jungle port of Manaus. The opera house, immortalised in Werner Herzog's film Fitzcarraldo about an Irishman who dreams of Caruso performing in the jungle, has become a success again, more than a century after it was built." The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/01

THE SCIENCE OF POPULAR MUSIC: Scientists have analyzed thousands of songs trying to identify the popular "DNA" that makes them appealing. "The Music Genome Project is a computer assisted method of identifying songs that will appeal to particular tastes, regardless of conventional ideas of genre or style." New Scientist 06/18/01

Sunday June 17

RATTLE MIGHT PASS ON BERLIN: Superstar conductor Simon Rattle says he may not take over the Berlin Philharmonic after all if the German government doesn't agree to a series of changes he wants to make in the way the orchestra runs. These include an extra $1.5 million to bring players' salaries up to par with other top orchestras, and a measure of self-governance for the orchestra. The Guardian (UK) 06/16/01

  • BERLIN FALLS: Berlin's city government collapsed Saturday amidst a sea of scandal and corruption. The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/01

WAGNERIAN SUCCESSION: After months of infighting among descendents of Richard Wagner, Eva Wagner-Pasquier was named to head the Bayreuth Festival - that shrine to Wagner's music. But now Wagner-Pasquier has said she doesn't want the job after all because her father Wolfgang refuses to give up control... Baltimore Sun (AP) 06/17/01

GETTING PAST THE CONTEXT: Is music the ultimate chameleon art form? Should we not listen to Carmina Burana because someone suggests it might have been conceived in a Nazi context? "Words and visual images are, by nature, specific, particularly when representing or expressing an idea. Not so music. It's a splendid vehicle for emotion but fares badly with the specificity that ideas require." Philadelphia Inquirer 06/17/01

SUMMING UP THE CLIBURN: What does the recent Van Cliburn competition tell us about the current state of piano playing? "All told, the 11th Cliburn Competition suggested that the technology of piano-playing – the speed and power – may have reached unprecedented heights. What I often missed was a sense of style and scale. And charm was in seriously short supply." Dallas Morning News 06/17/01

PERIOD-SIZE AUDIENCES: Is the early music movement dying? "In New York as elsewhere, the early-music movement has to some extent fallen victim to its success. For a time, when it had the weight of the major record labels behind it, it managed to stake an exclusive claim on repertory up to the Baroque and beyond plausible enough to scare away conventional performers, including symphony orchestras, with their incredible shrinking repertories. So, as a small, specialized audience developed, mainstream listeners tended to lose touch with Handel and Bach, even Haydn and Mozart." The New York Times 06/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

IF YOU KNEW MOZART... Think you know Mozart? "The Chronicle's Ultimate Mozart Quiz is designed to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff and the true Mozart experts from the mere poseurs." San Francisco Chronicle 06/17/01

Friday June 15

FLORIDA PHIL GETS THE AX: Citing the "chaotic nature of the Philharmonic's performance calendar," the Florida Grand Opera has decided to discontinue using the troubled South Florida Philharmonic for opera performances. The Philharmonic has a $2 million debt and loss of the opera will cost the orchestra $450,000 a season in income. The opera will form a freelance orchestra. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 06/14/01

YOUNGEST CONCERTMASTER: After months of speculation, Washington's National Symphony has picked a new concertmaster. She's Nurit Bar-Josef, 26, "currently the assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She will become one of the youngest players in this country to be concertmaster of a major orchestra." Washington Post 06/15/01

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO TODAY? "Microsoft ultimately hopes to offer music subscription services on its MSN site, charging customers a monthly fee. But the record labels have been wary of handing it too much power over their online plans. Nevertheless, the company has been able to use the growing influence of its Windows Media audio and video technology as leverage over the rest of the industry." CNET 06/15/01

Thursday June 14

OH, NO, WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE? Microsoft and its "MSN Music" service have struck a deal with a major music encoding company, and appear to be poised to make their download service as indispensable as all of Microsoft's other products. Meanwhile, MP3.com added its millionth song to its online library, and introduced a new premium service. Wired & Nando Times (AP) 06/14/01

DUMBING DOWN JAZZ: "The annual downpour of summer jazz across North America is a reminder of how little attention this continent's first distinctive contribution to world culture gets in the other three seasons. The bucketload of funky, swingin' but barely improvisational music on offer makes you wonder how well we remember what jazz is, or was." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/14/01

  • CLAP TRAP: "Perhaps the weirdest thing about jazz concerts is the clapping. Back in the smoky past, someone was overcome by enthusiasm for a solo, and at its conclusion applauded vigorously, despite the music still being in full swing. Enthusiasm being as contagious as measles, others emulated the outburst, until the exception became the rule and it was mandatory to clap solos. Now they are clapped regardless of merit." Sydney Morning Herald 06/14/01

Wednesday June 13

LOVE AFFAIR: "How much does the San Francisco Symphony love John Adams? Enough to announce a 10-year commissioning agreement today with the Bay Area composer, which will result in the creation of four new works for the Symphony and its Youth Orchestra." San Francisco Chronicle (first item) 06/13/01

FINDING NEW LIFE IN SONG: The movie O Brother, Where Art Thou, Joel and Ethan Coen's tale of rambling and redemption, was something of a disappointment at the box office last fall. But the soundtrack, which features gritty, retro-styled folk melodies from the likes of Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, has gone gold, and spawned a Carnegie Hall concert and a documentary about the artists who contributed to the disc. New York Post 06/13/01

TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH: You probably think that you appreciate a fine stereo system as much as the next guy. You have no idea. That is, unless you are one of the select few audiophiles who has ever spent more on a home sound system than most people spend on a house. Call it a fetish, call it a subculture, call it insane overkill - these enthusiasts live to find the perfect sound. Washington Post 06/13/01

EAST MEETS WEST: For centuries, the musical traditions of Asia and Europe were so different as to defy any attempt to bring them together. But as art music struggles for survival in the West, it is often innovators from the Pacific Rim who are reinvigorating the form, bringing Eastern ideas to "classical" convention. Audiences and musicians alike are seeing the enormous potential in such cross-cultural partnerships. Andante 06/01

Tuesday June 12

PIRATE BOOM: A new study says that "36 per cent of the global market for recorded music is now taken by pirate recordings. Worldwide sales of pirate CDs rose from 450 million units in 1999 to 475 million in 2000." Gramophone 06/12/01

Monday June 11

CLIBURN WINNERS: For the first time, there are two gold medalists at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Stanislav Ioudenitch of Uzbekistan and Olga Kern of Russia have won the 11th Van Cliburn in Fort Worth. Dallas Morning News 06/11/01

THE FEMALE BARRIER: Amazingly, American conductor Marin Alsop is the first woman to land a top job with a British orchestra - the Bournemouth Orchestra. "It's exciting and horrifying at the same time," she says. "Her horror is at the fact that it has taken until this year to appoint a woman as chief conductor of a British symphony orchestra." The Guardian (UK) 06/11/01

JUNGLE CULTURE: The jungles of Brazil have "charms indeed, but classical music generally has not been considered among them. Until now." Thanks to a wave of immigrant musicians from the former Soviet Union, "the rain forest has a new repertoire. They are the new stars of the Amazonas Filarmonica, a 65-piece professional symphony orchestra that is making headlines, not to mention joyful noise, in an unlikely setting." Newsweek (MSNBC) 06/18/01

NOT YOUR TYPICAL STRING QUARTET: "If Bond's life on tour sometimes sounds like Spinal Tap with a twist of Vivaldi, that was almost the original idea. Bond have been touring the planet since last September, just like a teenage pop band. No awards show, interview or TV variety show is too trivial, and any appearance likely to scoop a bucketful of publicity is eagerly undertaken." It drives classical music purists crazy. The Telegraph (UK) 06/11/01

ATTACKING MP3: "The MP3 format finds itself under attack from the major record labels. Almost every company intends to launch a digital music subscription site this year. 'Legal Napsters,' most of the companies are calling them. But none intend to support the format that 99.99 percent of the 75 million-plus digital-music listeners are using today. Quite the opposite actually: most companies would prefer to see the MP3 format disappear." San Francisco Bay Guardian 06/30/01

HOW MOZART DIED? There are about 150 theories about how Mozart may have died. The latest? A tainted pork chop. "The composer, who died in 1791, showed the symptoms of a disease caused by eating badly-cooked pork infected by a worm, an American doctor has said." BBC 06/11/01

Sunday June 10

PRICING OUT THE MARKET: Attendance at Chicago Symphony concerts has been dropping for several years. Ticket prices have risen - to a top price of $185 a seat - to make up the income, and the orchestra has started a price/demand system, where ticket prices rise or fall depending on the demand. The idea isn't going over very well with some fans... Chicago Tribune 06/10/01

  • HEARING WHAT YOU PLAY: When Chicago's Orchestra Hall was refurbished in 1997, its acoustics were improved. For the audience. But orchestra players complain they can't hear one another, so acousticians have been tinkering with the stage... Chicago Tribune 06/10/01

ARE YOU HEARING WHAT YOU'RE HEARING? "Although it remains an issue that most venues prefer not to discuss, the use of 'electronic enhancement' is widespread. No euphemism can disguise the fact that what audiences hear is, in part, relayed through speakers." The Telegraph (UK) 06/09/01

QUEL SCANDALE! Want to get the latest academic dish on musical dirt? The New Groves Dictionary pokes its nose into the stories behind the music. "Sex – at least sex outside conventional marriage – is now considered an essential element in biography, a defining characteristic. Academic scholarship being as trendy as hemlines, The New Grove II, as it's being called, is plugged into the zeitgeist." Dallas Morning News 06/10/01

COUNTING THE MUSIC: Recording sales used to be measured in a highly suspect fashion, open to the biases and manipulations of those in the recording business. But ten years ago Soundscan brought science to the process and completely changed the ways sales are counted. Los Angeles Times 06/09/01

Friday June 8

CATCHING ON: What becomes a catchy song? No formula, writes a musicologist in a new book on the topic. But it help if there is an "expressive melodic contour, attractive rhythm, and, not least, text (lyrics)." Christian Science Monitor 06/08/01

FROM THE SIDELINES: Why do Americans "continue to marginalize the work of American composers and all but ignore the fact that there are other classical music traditions in the world besides the one that evolved in Europe over the past 800 years? NewMusicBox 06/01

LESS THAN HARMONIOUS: "Duet, the alternative internet music system that hopes customers will pay to download sound, has criticised a deal between its rival MusicNet and the online song-swapping service Napster. The deal, which aims to make Napster a distributor for MusicNet, is unviable according to the boss of [MP3.com,] one of the companies that make up Duet." BBC 06/08/01

  • SUE HIM? THEY SHOULD HIRE HIM! A Princeton University professor has found a way to crack the recording industry's latest online copyright protection, and he'd like to talk about how he did it at a technology conference. He's asking a New Jersey appeals court to give him legal permission ahead of time, in hopes that the industry won't sue him later. Nando Times (AP) 06/08/01

A PRODIGY COMES OF AGE: Pianist Lang Lang is used to getting attention. He won his first competition at age 5, and just finished touring his native China with the Philadelphia Orchestra. But as Lang, now 18, attempts to make the transition from child prodigy to mature virtuoso, he finds that there is much still to be accomplished, and overcoming the music world's skepticism of former child stars is at the top of the list. Boston Herald 06/08/01

BEATING THE TIC CODE: Jazz pianist Michael Wolff has achieved no small measure of success, and has done so despite a disability that has sidelined countless other peformers. Tourette's Syndrome is one of the most misunderstood conditions out there, but in the eccentric world of jazz performers, Wolff has had no trouble being accepted. Washington Post 06/08/01

Thursday June 7

CATCHING A PLAGIARIST: In the world of new music, plagiarism can be hard to detect, and harder to prove. Composers borrow themes from each other and from their own previous works all the time, and who is to say where the line is drawn? And since most new music is not widely heard, many experienced musicians may be unaware that a plagiarized work has been performed elsewhere under a different name. In Washington, D.C., it took a member of the audience to catch a composer's deception. Washington Post 06/07/01

TOWER SQUEEZES CLASSICAL INDIES: Record store giant Tower Records is trying to set new terms for small independent labels of classical music. The chain has been losing money, and now it wants the labels to wait longer for their money. The indies say the changes would ruin them. The New York Times 06/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BEAT THE ELITE: London's Royal Opera House has been fighting charges of elitism for years. Now management has ordered a ticket price freeze." Prices for cheap seats will be frozen so that more than half the tickets on sale will cost less than £50." BBC 06/07/01

REAL SECURITY: "RealNetworks appears on the verge of controlling the digital music security platform after the company brokered a deal between three major labels and Napster... When RealNetworks and MusicNet CEO Rob Glaser said 'if you combine the reach of RealNetworks, AOL, and Napster, we have a very far reach,' he might have made the understatement of the year. By a conservative estimate, the new service could reach over 100 million users." Wired 06/07/01

LOOKING AHEAD: Ottawa's recent "Strings of the Future International String Quartet Festival" made a point of celebrating not only the classic sound and unique musical mesh of the form, but the time-honored tradition of pushing the limits of what two violins, a viola, and a cello can do. The future may sound very different than what we're used to, but quartets plan to be around, regardless. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/07/01

HARTFORD ORCHESTRA SELECTS CUMMING: "Edward Cumming, resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, will take over as music director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra beginning in the 2002-03 season. Cumming, 43, was selected from more than 280 applicants." The New York Times (AP) 06/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)

JUST TRY NOT TO SMASH ANY OBOES: Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra will perform a world premiere concerto this week, with a member of the Cleveland Orchestra as soloist. Oh, and the concerto is actually a live version of an album by The Doors, and the performance will take place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 06/07/01

BEING PHILIP GLASS: "You spend your whole life pining for the moment when you can play as much music as you want to, and write as much as you want to, and interact and collaborate with anyone you want to, practically -- and it's taken me 40 years to get to this point from the time I was a student -- and the trouble with it is that it's a very demanding but very exciting life." CNN 06/04/01

Wednesday June 6

REMAKING THE ROYAL OPERA: "Over the past four years a succession of chief executives has pledged to improve access to the Covent Garden: cheaper seats, schools' nights, TV relays, giant screens in the piazza. And, to greater or lesser degree, they have failed." What makes new Royal Opera chief Tony Hall think he can do better? The Guardian (UK) 06/06/01

  • AN ENCOURAGING START: "As though flourishing a mission statement of consumer choice and value for money, Hall has produced a schedule that is by far the richest since Georg Solti's opening season in 1961." The Telegraph (UK) 06/06/01

THE FILE-SWAPPER THAT WOULDN'T DIE: Just when it looked like Napster was finally kaput, the company announced a deal that will allow it to legally permit file-trading. Inside.com 06/06/01


Tuesday June 5

FINALS LIST FOR CLIBURN RAISES EYEBROWS, AND HACKLES: Six finalists have been picked in the Cliburn Piano Competition, but the judges' choices were far from popular. "Flash will beat class every time," complains one critic. "Some of the choices are obvious," says another. "But some prompt the inevitable 'What on earth were they thinking?'" You can judge for yourself; audio clips of performances at the competition are available on line [Real Audio required], and another site provides biographies of all the competitors and the judges. And to wrap it up, there's the Cliburn Competition site as well. Dallas Morning News & Fort Worth Star-Telegram 06/05/01

YOU GOT RHYTHM: Research with a bunch of finger-tapping volunteers shows that people do have an innate sense of rhythm, and can adjust to changes in tempo which are too subtle to be perceived consciously. The next step is to see if these findings explain why musicians in a group can synchronize so well. The New Scientist 06/03/01

YOUNGER FASTER LOUDER: Yehudi Menuhin embodied the 20th Century child prodigy. But he "had an almost entirely negative influence on the culture of classical music, for he was the first child prodigy to live out his whole life as a media figure. He became the model for all who followed him, driving down the age at which one could qualify as a genuine prodigy. Without his phenomenal example, there might be no Sarah Changs—or Charlotte Churches. One can only hope they will escape the unhappy trajectory of his later career." Commentary 06/01

ABOUT THOSE LEGENDARY "MISSING" BEATLES SONGS: They aren't missing. They aren't even songs. Four "lost" numbers that fans have been trying to find for 30 years are a hoax. The man who brought it off has admitted as much... which only fuels demand for the missing songs. USAToday 06/05/01

Monday June 4

THOSE SOVIETS KNEW HOW TO TEACH PIANO: The Van Cliburn Competition narrows the field to six pianists - four are Russian or from the former USSR, one hails from Italy and the other from China. Dallas Morning News 06/04/01

BOTHER ABOUT BOND: The British string quartet Bond is controversial in the classical music world for their decidedly un-classical presentation. But "they are now No. 1 in the classical charts of 10 countries, including the United States, Australia, France, Italy and Sweden, and have sold more than a million copies of their debut, Born, worldwide. 'I think what's most misunderstood about Bond is how people keep saying we're dumbing down classical music. The thing is, we never defined ourselves as classical musicians. We're just playing what we like'." Singapore Straits-Times 06/04/01

Sunday June 3

LOUDER FASTER... After listening for a week to pianists in the first round of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, critic Scott Cantrell has some suggestions for wannabe competitors - playing loud and fast might get you applause - but applause isn't everything... Dallas Morning News 06/03/01

MIGRANT LABOUR: "British oboists, cellists, opera singers and ballet dancers are alleging that cut-rate and, many argue, second-rate performers from the former Soviet bloc threaten to cost British performers their livelihood." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/03/01

WHERE ARE THE BUYERS? Canadian recording companies are holding emergency meetings next week to discuss a dramatic drop in CD sales. What has happened? "Hundreds of thousands of music lovers are now using technology that punctures the formerly airtight box that bonded recording artist with record labels, retailers and customers. They aren't hard to find. Give them the protection of anonymity and they will tell you their stories of plundering." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/03/01

WHERE ARE THE NEW OPERAS? Britain's opera companies seem to be pulling in, playing it safe and not taking any chances. "Anyone perusing the plans of our principal regional opera companies for the 2001-2002 season might be forgiven for reading 'stabilisation' as Arts Council newspeak for swingeing cuts." Sunday Times (UK) 06/03/01

SO MUCH FOR ARTIST-FRIENDLY: Canada's Song Corporation opened for business two years billing itself as an "artist-friendly" record label and offering musicians "such rare perks as a dental plan and stock options. The company raised $15 million and got listed on the stock exchange. But after 21 months in business Song fell short of producing a hit record and has filed for bankruptcy. National Post (Canada) 06/04/01

HOME ALONE: Cincinnati has been dealing with a racially-motivated shooting this spring, and the Cincinnati Orchestra, whose home is in the middle of the city, is having to confront fallout from the shooting. The New York Times 06/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DOWNMARKET: The Pittsburgh Symphony is feeling the effects of Wall Street's downturn. "The PSO's endowment was a robust $133 million going into this fiscal year. The size of the endowment put the organization in the top 10 for American orchestras. As it nears the end of its fiscal year on Aug. 31, however, the endowment fund has dropped to $113 million." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/03/01

IS NAPSTER COOKED? "Back in early 2001, those signing on to the Napster music community could expect about 850,000 fellow music lovers and computer users sharing millions of files. Now finding more than 50,000 files available is rare. Retitling tracks in pig Latin or otherwise is a last-ditch desperate measure (Dyer Straights: "Sultana of Sving"), and it is not working. Napster has been abandoned." San Francisco Chronicle 06/03/01

Friday June 1

SO MUCH FOR REVOLUTION: Digital music on the net promised a new world for music fans. But "five years after it all started, the revolution is nowhere to be seen. The record labels, once railed against by those impertinent start-ups, now own their former enemies. Fiercely independent Internet companies have been picked off one by one by the same media conglomerates they once saw themselves as alternatives to. Through a brutal combination of business savvy, legal warfare and simple cartel power, the Big Five record labels have maneuvered the digital distribution industry into their control." Salon 06/31/01

STAR TURNS: The Classical Brit Awards honor the elite performers of the classical music world. The awards have gone pop. "Awards are handed out in the manner of the ceremony's bigger and brasher pop brother, with prizes for best male act, best female act and best album among others." BBC 06/01/01

FROM BAD TO WORSE: "Offering more bad news in the wake of failed merger talks, the head of German media giant Bertelsmann AG's music unit said his division wouldn't post a profit this year... Earlier this month, merger talks between BMG and British rival EMI Group PLC fell through, with EMI citing insurmountable regulatory hurdles thrown in the way by European and U.S. antitrust authorities." Nando Times (AP) 05/31/01


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