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Thursday August 31

  • DELAYED HEARING: It's been thought for some time that playing music to your child while it's still in the womb will result in a smarter kid. But expectant parents hoping to nurture the next Einstein can store the CDs for awhile. New research shows that fetuses don't develop hearing until the 30th week of pregnancy. National Post 08/31/00 

Wednesday August 30

  • ONE MAN’S MUSIC… Nearly 30 years after his composing debut, Steve Reich’s music still receives tumultuous receptions wherever its performed, splitting audiences between those who hear genius and others who just hear noise. “’Minimalist’ is a label he hates but how else to describe his music, much of which involves a great deal of repetition? Think of Andy Warhol with his repeated pictures of Campbell's soup tins and translate that visual image into sound. The Herald (Glasgow) 08/30/00

  • SHELL GAME: Heritage preservationists and music lovers are pitted against one another over the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s proposal to replace the famous Hollywood Bowl’s outdoor orchestra shell. The 71-year-old shell has notoriously poor acoustics and is so small sometimes one-third of the musicians have to sit outside. CBC 08/29/00

Tuesday August 29

  • WHERE MONEY TALKS:  “Everything boils down to money in Dallas,” at least in the eyes of conductor Andrew Litton who became music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1994 and has been fighting to bolster the DSO’s reputation ever since through an ambitious touring and recording schedule. London Times 08/29/00

  • COMEBACK DIVA: Banned from singing in public for the two decades since the overthrow of the Shah, Iranian singer Googoosh is finally taking the stage again, playing to sold-out, tearful crowds on her first North American your. “This is her power: the woman who encompasses for Iranians the resistance of John Lennon, the sensuous tragedy of Marilyn Monroe and the fame of Elvis. Time (Europe) 08/28/00

Monday August 28

  • HOW THE RECORDING COMPANIES TRIED TO STEAL COPYRIGHT: Last November the recording companies sought to "reclassify under the nation's copyright laws all sound recordings, like cassettes and CDs, as 'work made for hire'. That slight change would mean musicians would never again be able to own their recordings. Instead, record companies would become the sole legal owners of a record over its legally copyrightable life, currently 95 years." Salon 08/27/00

Sunday August 27

  • CROSSING OVER OR SELLING OUT? Crossover recordings, once a low-risk, easy-profit cash cow that the big classical companies employed to subsidize more serious and expensive recording projects, have become a primary lifeline for those firms now that sales of classical recordings have flattened. But as the stakes grow higher and the new releases pile up, the debate about crossover flares anew. Is it a healthy means of bridging the gap between the classical and non-classical public? Or a crass ploy to kick new life into a sagging market? Chicago Tribune 08/27/00

  • BICKERING IN BAYREUTH: For whatever the music and productions were at this summer's Bayreth Festival, most of the interest and attention was turned on the festivals' internal squablings for power. New York Times 08/27/00

Saturday August 26

  • NEW OPERA BLEND: Ishmael Reid has written what he calls a "gospera," a new term to describe a new theatrical form, a combination of gospel and opera. Ensconced at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, it has been attracting enthusiastic audiences for a month now. 'This was commissioned by the San Francisco Opera Company in 1992,' Reed says. 'The Opera wanted to present it as an opera, but I felt, considering the source, it would fit the story to add gospel voices'." New York Daily News 08/26/00

Friday August 25

  • STAND AND DELIVER: Conductor Leonard Slatkin took his lumps from female musicians after making sexist comments about the proper concert attire for women. The Guardian (London) 08/25/00

    • Slatkin's remarks "prove is that in the orchestra pit, as in every other walk of life, it is always open season on women. Men, by contrast, tend to be mutually protective of one another. We will know we have achieved true equality when they congregate anxiously at social events, sucking in their stomachs and asking: 'Does my belly look big in this?' " The Guardian (London) 08/25/00

  • ATLANTA BALLET TO REPLACE MUSICIANS: Musicians of the Atlanta Ballet orchestra have been on strike for 11 months. This week, six weeks before its season opens, the Atlanta Ballet says it will hire musicians from the Czech Republic for an October premiere and the annual holiday "Nutcracker." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 08/24/00

  • THE PROBLEMS WITH JAZZ:  "More and more prospective young instrumentalists and singers are attending jazz music schools, but find nowhere to play after completing their studies; clubs presenting jazz are finding it particularly difficult to fill rooms, and this goes for Manhattan as well as San Francisco." San Francisco Examiner 08/25/00

Thursday August 24

  • THE FUTURE OF MUSIC: "Within the music industry it is widely believed that much of the physical infrastructure of music - compact discs, automobile cassette-tape players, shopping-mall megastores - is rapidly being replaced by the Internet and a new generation of devices with no moving parts. By 2003, according to the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Investment Research Group, listeners will rarely if ever drive to Tower Records for their music. Instead they will tap into a vast cloud of music on the Net. This heavenly jukebox, as it is sometimes called, will hold the contents of every record store in the world, all of it instantly accessible from any desktop." The Atlantic 08/00

  • OPERA BOOM: The number of opera production in North America has doubled in the past decade, says a report by Opera America. "The 166 professional opera companies Opera America polled — including the Metropolitan Opera, the Canadian Opera Company and the San Francisco Opera — have increased their domestic productions from 31 in the 1990–91 season to 60 in the 1999–2000 season." Sonicnet 08/24/00

  • REAL-TIME REAL-PLACE TRAVIATA: Earlier this summer  a production of "La Traviata" was filmed in real time in various locations around Paris where the story might have happened. An all-star cast and a $25 million budget still don't make for a satisfying experience. The telecast tries to "convince you this is a real-life parallel universe where people happen to sing rather than speak. That is dishonest. And in coping with Verdi's sense of 'opera time,' which is a slower than normal TV time and even slower than real time, Griffi's camera zooms in and out for tight close-ups in a show of virtuosity that alienates you from the story." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/24/00

  • CYBER-ORCHESTRA: Last week Itzhak Perlman and the Philadelphia Orchestra performed the first live webcast under the new agreement with American orchestras to perform concerts on the web. How'd it go? Not ready for prime time, writes Detroit music critic John Guinn. Gloff.net 08/21/00

Wednesday August 23

  • CONDUCTOR SUES ORCHESTRA: A former conductor of a Montreal orchestra has sued the orchestra for breach of contract. He claims the orchestra board pressured him to fire some musicians and he quit instead. CBC 08/23/00

  • ODE TO PIERRE BOULEZ: "To those who whine, who doubt his importance to our times and to the future - a warning. To Boulez we owe the most influential musical changes of our lifetime - as a conductor, composer, educator, programme planner and superior being, he has embraced an international state of artistic achievement, and wrestled, built and triumphed on all our behalfs. He has educated a whole generation of musicians - and happily, ecstatically even, it was mine - evangelising for rhythm and form over mere miasma of sound or texture, and has been bold for all who would be creative, insisting on rigour in intellect, opinion, art and its practice." The Scotsman 08/23/00

  • DRESS CODES FOR FAT FIDDLERS: Leonard Slatkin spoke up this weekend about the proper attire for women violinists in his orchestra: "I tend to favour covered arms, especially among the violinists. You don't want to see too much flapping about. Then there's the problem of women in trousers. If you're slightly heavy in the rear end department, it does not look too good. Of course, not everyone acknowledges that and no one's going to tell them, which is why we need an across-the-board rule."  The Times (London) 08/23/00

Tuesday August 22

  • THE MAKING OF MAHLER: "Is there a case to be made against Mahler's legend, if not his music? How has his entry into Valhalla changed the way we listen and the way composers think? With his monumentalism, his fanaticism, his unstinting idealism, and his unstinting egotism, he has not always been what school counsellors call 'a good influence'. He left in his wake a series of inimitable, much-imitated masterpieces and a great deal of confusion about what a composer is supposed to do." London Review of Books 08/21/00

  • BORN TO LEAD: Where are all the great conductors? "Why has the field become so mundane? Perhaps the cult of the conductor is essentially a 19th-century phenomenon; perhaps post-war Western society, no longer able to believe in benevolent political dictatorship, has become wary of its musical counterpart, too." National Post (Canada) 08/22/00

  • TOMORROW'S STARS TODAY: San Francisco Opera's Merola Program graduates offer a peek at tomorrow's opera stars. San Francisco Chronicle 08/22/00 

Monday August 21

  • REDOING BEETHOVEN: Mahler significantly "reworked" six of Beethoven's nine symphonies. "Mahler's editing of Beethoven generally pleased performers. But he made his changes in red ink on the printed music. Critics saw a lot of red ink and they raised the roof." Now Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony plan to perform the remade 9th symphony. "For those who know this music well, you'll have fun spotting the differences." Chicago Tribune (AP) 08/21/00

  • SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: LA Times critic Mark Swed recently lamented that American orchestras don't play enough American music. Conductor John Mauceri responds in a letter to the editor: "While I totally agree with Swed and his passion for playing more American music, I would just hope he could find a way of embracing a larger vision of what constitutes important and vital music written on these vast and complicated shores." Los Angeles Times 08/21/00

  • PAVAROTTI SPEAKS: About taxes, about his new young companion, about his weight - "I am very chubby. I make a competition for very young singers. If someone comes out who is chubby like me, he must sing like a god." New York Times Magazine 08/21/00

  • SING ALONG: John Eliot Gardner is performing and recording all of Bach's cantatas this year. "Though Bach is best known now for his grand masterpieces like the "St. Matthew Passion" and the B minor Mass, it was the 340 cantatas composed during his five years, starting in 1723, as cantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig that drew the most notice when he died on July 28, 1750. They were the only pieces of music noted in the first paragraph of his obituary." New York Times 08/21/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • PERLMAN CONDUCTS: Itzhak Perlman has begun conducting, making his Tanglewood debut this weekend. "Of course, as a virtuoso violinist Perlman can do anything he wants to. As a conductor, Perlman is not a virtuoso, but he turns that into a virtue by approaching everything simply and directly, never attempting to juice things up or impose himself on the music, and by releasing the musicians to play as personally, responsively, and expressively as he has always wanted to. They in turn carry him over the rough spots, and they had to." Boston Globe 08/21/00

    • "That's not to say Perlman should quit his day job, should trade bow for baton, anytime soon - despite his appointment as principal guest conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra starting in 2001. His conducting style is certainly idiosyncratic." Boston Herald 08/21/00

  • MUSICAL UNITY: A North Korean orchestra has traveled to South Korea to perform a joint concert with a Seoul orchestra for the cooperative performance since the country was divided in two. Korea Times 08/21/00 

Sunday August 20

  • WHO WILL LEAD US: A few months ago there was a lot of hoping that Riccardo Muti might be persuaded to be the next music director of the New York Philharmonic. Here's one critic who's quite glad he didn't get the job. New York Times 08/20/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • THE BATTLE FOR SHOSTAKOVICH: Shostakovich is considered one of the giants of 20th Century music. But "the story of his life has been turned into a battlefield. Of course, everything and everyone is pulled into the line of fire. They shout obscenities on the Internet, publish articles and write books and plays about Shostakovich; someone even went to the trouble of composing an opera about him."  New York Times 08/20/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Thursday August 17

  • ORCHESTRA WEB: Tonight Itzhak Perlman and the Philadelphia Orchestra play the first-ever pay-per-listen orchestral concert over the internet, launching the new Classical Music Internet Agreement, the deal in which 65 leading ensembles worked out an agreement with the on-line network and the American Federation of Musicians. "In this era of dwindling CD sales and the lack of recording contracts by most prominent American orchestras (including the Philadelphians), this initiative may well be the prelude to a new future for musical organizations." Philadelphia Daily News 08/17/00

  • ACOUSTIC FIX: A British bank pledges money to redo the acoustics of Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall. "For years, musicians - in particular the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, one of the main tenants of Roy Thomson Hall - have griped about the quality of sound in the facility, designed by Vancouver-based architect Arthur Erickson and opened in 1982." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/17/00

  • ABBADO CANCELS: Claudio Abbado cancels out of a European tour with the Berlin Philharmonic because he's still recovering from emergency ulcer surgery last month. Ottawa Citizen 08/17/00

Wednesday August 16

  • WAR STORIES: Franz Welser-Möst survived his six-year tenure as conductor of the London Philharmonic - but just barely. Installed as music director at age 29, he made sweeping (and unpopular) changes, saw three managing directors unseated in his six years,  and was dubbed “Frankly Worse Than Most” by his critics. Now, four years after his departure, he’s back on top - head of Zurich Opera, and about to take on the Cleveland - and finally able to reflect on his difficult past. The Telegraph (London) 08/16/00

  • SYDNEY'S TALENTED COOKS: What became of the German Jewish musicians who escaped to Australia during WWII? Those who were not allowed to join State orchestras because they didn't hold Australian citizenship became cooks, confectioners, parachute zipper designers...and later went on to found some of Australia's finest musical groups. Sydney Morning Herald 08/16/00

  • BOON TO BEETHOVEN: Is the internet helping to increase the popularity of classical music? The music download site MP3 reported last month that "classical music was the fourth most popular music genre at its site, adding that its popularity is fueled by the fact that classic musicians are offering their music for free at the site." Digitrends 08/16/00

Tuesday August 15

  • THE MOST POWERFUL MARKETING FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE: Hollywood has the capacity to excite the public about just about anything - which is why NASA has been bending over backwards to help Hollywood make its space movies more authentic. It goes something like this: if people get space-crazy, NASA may get more support from Congress. The Age (AP) 08/15/00

  • ART OF PIANO: A new film video "shows 18 historical pianists in action - from silent black-and-white footage from the 1920s (Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Wilhelm Backhaus) to performances by the aged Sviatoslav Richter and Claudio Arrau, filmed in the 1990s." National Post (Canada) 08/15/00

  • THEY MUST LIKE HIM: Los Angeles Opera signed Placido Domingo to run the company and last week tickets went on sale for his first season. The company racked up record ticket sales - $186,263 in single tickets - on the first day they were available.  "This number marked an increase of some 74 percent over the previous record of $107,177, set on the first day of sales for the 1998-99 season." Orange County Register 08/15/00

  • BLAND SELLS: Why do singers rarely enunciate their words? "Here's my theory: Superficiality sells. Witness Charlotte Church and Andrea Bocelli, who sing in their respective native languages but with a single vocal emotion - girlish innocence in the former, Byronic longing in the latter. Forget shifting moods; Bocelli's linguistic commitment is so absent he sometimes seems to be singing phonetically. I'm seeing the phenomenon everywhere. Commercial classical radio plays only the smoothest performances of the smoothest pieces; opera singers are all but banned. In the composing world, the backlash to modernism seems to be music that sounds nice and means little." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/15/00

Monday August 14

  • THE SECOND-PRODUCTION PROBLEM: In 1714 Vivaldi premiered his new opera "Orlando Finto Pazzo." But it got such disastrous reviews, the composer put it away and it was never performed again - until now. The Guardian 08/14/00

  • ODE TO SANTA FE: After 44 years John Crosby is stepping down as head of the remarkable Santa Fe Opera. "His retirement this month comes close upon several more publicized recent or upcoming retirements - Peter Hemmings from the Los Angeles Opera, Lotfi Mansouri from the San Francisco - but it may be the more significant milestone." Washington Post 08/14/00

Sunday August 13

  • WHERE'S THE AMERICAN? "Most orchestras in this country do not know and do not care about American music, and they are convinced that you and I don't care or want to know about it either. They see their mandate as one of protecting culture, in this case, a culture produced in Europe 100 or 200 years ago. They therefore make it their business to protect us from ourselves." Los Angeles Times 08/13/00

  • MINIMAL FUSS: A dispute about the authorship of music boils up again. "That music is at the heart of an acrimonious 35-year-old dispute pitting Lamont Young against John Cale and Tony Conrad. In a nutshell, the debate centers on differing philosophical notions of authorship - for which there may be no right or wrong answer." New York Times 08/13/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

  • STICK APPEAL: Itzhak Pearlman is a great violinist. But now he's taken up conducting - he's principal conductor of the Detroit Symphony and he's seeking other conducting gigs. The attraction? ''It's the power, the sensation of power." Then his voice turns more serious. ''The real appeal is new repertory and new musical experiences." Boston Globe 08/13/00

  • THE TOP 50 OPERAS? A list. St. Louis Post-Dispatch 08/13/00

Friday August 11

  • BEETHOVEN AND BEYOND: Can there possibly be much left to say about Beethoven at this late date? The answer’s an emphatic yes for the players and scholars gathering at the Bard Music Festival for three upcoming weekends devoted to his work and to exploring recent scholarship. “One result of such explorations has been a radical revision of the notion of Beethoven as an Olympian figure removed from daily life, writing quintessentially absolute music, almost wholly abstract in its meanings.” New York Times 08/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: Rustling candy wrappers, coughing during quiet moments, and clapping between movements are well-known bugaboos of classical music audiences. Have these (oft-neglected) standards of etiquette always been the norm? “In Beethoven's day it was different. One clapped routinely at the end of every movement of a symphony. According to one eye-witness, the audience at the first performance of the Ninth Symphony were so impressed by the Scherzo that they applauded while the music was still playing.” The Guardian (London) 08/11/00

  • UNLIKELY ALLIES: The Artists Coalition, an artists’ advocacy group led by Don Henley and Sheryl Crow, reached an agreement Thursday with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the dispute over the recently enacted "works made for hire" law (an amendment to the 1976 Copyright Act). The law allows record companies to maintain ownership of an artist's recorded works for 95 years instead of the previous 35-year limit. The RIAA has agreed to join with the artists in petitioning Congress to repeal the law. Live Daily 08/10/00

  • DROPPING IN: Droplifters make their own CD's then drop them in record stores on the shelves for customers to find. It's "a form of culture-jamming prankery so quixotically low-tech it's charming. There's always a chance that the CD will help the Droplift bands find a larger audience. But sticking your CD on store shelves without the knowledge or approval of the store's management - then hoping against hope that somebody finds it, and then is curious enough to try to buy it - makes subway busking look like a killer business model." Inside.com 08/11/00

Thursday August 10

  • THE POWER OF PRINT: The new National Opera house in Beijing, designed by a French architect in the shape of an enormous titanium bubble, has sparked a raging debate in mainland China. Days before authorities are to make the final decision on the project, the China Daily newspaper publishes petitions by more than 150 Chinese intellectuals who believe the futuristic building is all wrong for China. China Times 08/10/00

Wednesday August 9

  • HOW JAZZ SURVIVED APARTHEID: "Jazz was the culture of the anti-apartheid struggle: in the popular mind, the black jazz scene of the 1950s--the era before Sharpeville and before the ANC was forced underground or into exile--was imprinted with a special verve and style; a lost golden age." Prospect Magazine 08/00

  • AFTER TWO DECADES Googoosh is touring again. "In Iran, Googoosh, 50, is not merely a pop star. She is a singer whose fame and post-revolutionary exile from the public eye have turned her into a national icon. For her thousands of expatriate Iranian fans, hearing Googoosh live after two decades of silence is a dream come true. Her fame has often been compared to that of Elvis Presley in the West." New York Times 08/09/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • MUSICAL WHIRLWIND: Karlheinz Stockhausen's  'Helikopter-Quartett' - just released on CD - "is just as it sounds. It's a string quartet written to be performed with each of the four players hovering above the concert hall in a separate helicopter. A 'click track' helps keep them together, and their individual parts, plus the ambient noise of the helicopters, is beamed down to the concert hall, where it is reassembled by sound engineers. In an ideal performance, the actual whir of the helicopters above the concert hall would be just barely audible, blending into the electronically received individual parts. It has not had many performances, ideal or otherwise." Washington Post 08/06/00

  • ANOTHER REASON THEY COST TOO MUCH: Twenty-eight US states have filed a price-fixing suit against five big manufacturers of compact disks. The suit contends that because of  the manufacturers collusion, consumers have paid $480 million more than they should have for recordings over the past five years. Variety 08/08/00

  • EMI says suit unfounded. BBC 08/09/00

  • CONSUMERS WEB: "But a general malaise appears to have gripped consumers; in part due to what many consider unfairly priced CDs. Consumers have flocked to file trading networks such as Napster, Scour, and the nearly 100 other applications that allow users to trade and sample music for free. Even as a federal court prepared to shut down Napster for violating copyrights, 3 percent of the entire Internet home population logged on to the application in search of free music." Wired 08/09/00

Tuesday August 8

  • KNOWING YOUR PLACE: "When you add up the radio stations, the dingy used-record stores, the $1.3 billion market for rap and the $1.9 billion spent on revivified country and western, music ranks among the largest industries ever to exist. In the midst of this fantastic investment in an all-enveloping cloud of sound, hardly anyone seems to remember that music stands fairly low on the scale of devices by which we try to understand human experience. A people that takes music as its highest expression has cut itself off from narrative, epic, allegory - the explanatory arts that could put to use the emotions that their music represents." New Statesman 08/07/00

  • SHOWDOWN IN BERLIN: Since he took it over eight years ago, Daniel Barenboim has turned the former East Berlin Staatsoper company into Berlin's leading opera house. But Berlin is broke, and Barenboim is demanding another 10 million marks for his budget as a condition of his staying. Last week drastic plans by the Berlin Senate were revealed to amalgamate the city's three major opera houses with Barenboim to be offered the job of general manager, or "intendant," of the new super-company. Chicago Tribune 08/08/00

Monday August 7

  • 98 CONCERTS in 15 DAYS: The world's largest chamber music festival finishes up with a 20 percent increase in attendance. Most popular concert? The Canadian Brass. Least: Ensemble Intercontemporain. Ottawa Citizen 08/07/00

  • ONLY THE FOREIGN-BORN NEED APPLY: The orchestras of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cleveland - the Big Five. "In a cumulative history totaling more than 560 years, these five orchestras have scrupulously avoided hiring American music directors with nearly complete success. The shining exception is a fellow named Leonard Bernstein, who ran the show in New York from 1958 to 1969." Sonicnet.com 08/06/00

  • DIGGING OUT DOWN UNDER: Opera Australia is at a crossroads. "OA is saddled with a $5.9 million accumulated deficit, largely the result of its 1996 merger with the debt-crippled Victoria State Opera, and there has been a run of poor box office returns in Melbourne." The company's future is threatened, and the government is reviewing the company's operations. But the "OA plans to sing and play its way out of debt." Sydney Morning Herald 08/07/00

  • PLAYING IN POVERTY: Why is Canada's National Youth Orchestra languishing? "The NYO is limping through the summer, barely recognized, tightening its belt at every stop. Its training period has been reduced from four weeks to three. Its annual summer tour schedule has been slashed virtually in half. Its government funding has been cut from 77 per cent of revenues to 48 per cent. And the size of the symphony has fallen from 105 members to 84." The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 08/07/00

Sunday August 6

  • FASCINATING YET DISCONCERTING: Composers have always experimented with new ways of producing music. So today's forays into interactivity come from a long tradition. "Yet these interactive inventions may someday put composers out of business, at least those who cling to the quaint idea that composing means one person in private putting notes and sounds together for later public performance." New York Times 08/06/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • BUT I WANT TO PAY: A reporter decides to go legal and try to purchase downloadable music through the internet. "Even if Napster and Scour were shut down tomorrow, nobody in their right mind would spend this much time and frustration trying to buy digital music online. Lawsuits and copyright issues aside, the music industry isn't anywhere near creating a system that customers will embrace; heck, it's hard enough trying to get them to take your money." Boston Globe 08/06/00

  • REPORTS OF MY DEATH... If Deutsche Grammophon and EMI Classics and Sony Classical were then to bite the dust, the sun would continue to rise each morning even i,f it meant that no one could buy yet another Beethoven symphony conducted by Claudio Abbado or yet another opera starring Placido Domingo. More than likely, those little record labels that already dot the scene would become more significant, fill in the gaps and keep the fires of classical music burning. Baltimore Sun 08/06/00

  • HARD MAKING IT AT HOME: There are some terrific British jazz musicians. But getting noticed at home is difficult. "With a few laudable exceptions, the greatest appreciation of British jazz comes from outside the United Kingdom." The Observer (London) 08/06/00

  • ON JESSYE NORMAN: "She is 54 now, and past her vocal prime. Time has accentuated her tendency to sing sharp, and the sheer brazen splendour of the sound she once produced is irrecoverably tarnished. As if to compensate, she has developed a grand manner on the platform - complete with radiant smiles, gracious waves and a rapt pose suggesting fervent prayer to the Almighty - which forcibly brings to mind the Irish adage of 'all gong and no dinner'." The Telegraph (London) 08/06/00

  • MARLBORO MATTERS: "Part artist colony, part musical monastery, part summer camp, Marlboro is the place where 80 or so musicians, from teenagers to septuagenarians, come together in this tough-love utopia to explore music at the greatest possible depth. The musicians are often those who stand to make a difference: those in the United States' Big Five orchestras." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/06/00

Friday August 4

  • ODE TO THE PIANO: "Electronics and metal alloys, computer chips and state-of-the-art plastics: all have been applied to the piano's design, but they don't improve the original appreciably. It is what it is, a perfect articulation of an idea that occupies a kind of cultural cul-de-sac. It's the ultimate expression of one strand of our mechanically clever culture (think of the typewriter or the computer keyboard) joined to our specific notion of music based on the diatonic scale. Its great genius is to translate the merely mechanical into the realm of music." The Guardian 08/04/00

  • ORCHESTRAL MAGIC: Jonathan Harvey had an orchestral premiere in London this week. "Harvey's music could well gain a cult following amongst the generation which spaced out to the wilder reaches of Pink Floyd or the more surreal moments of John Williams's score for Raiders of the Lost Ark. In one of his most spell-binding works, One Evening, an Indian tabla rhythm speeds up and rise in pitch, as if the recording were being accelerated, until it actually transforms into a rising musical note which swoops from one speaker to another." The Independent 08/04/00

  • LEARNING THROUGH MUSIC: Does having kids play and listen to music actually make them smarter? An oft-quoted study said yes. But there has been resistance to the idea. "Researchers are mustering data to counter those who are intent on debunking the 'Mozart effect'' - the theory that classical music makes the brain work better." Singapore Straits-Times (NYT) 08/04/00

  • ORCHESTRA CUTS CONCERTS: Canada's National Youth Orchestra brings together the country's top young musicians each summer and plays a tour across the country. But this year the tour has been cut back from 15 concert stops to eight because of funding cuts. CBC 08/04/00

  • WANNA WRITE LIKE A SPICE GIRL? Choosing from country music generators that know the long road from "flirt" to "hurt" or Goth-inspired generators that will search for that perfect rhyme for "pierced skin" ("fierce kin"?), phonetically challenged songsmiths and Web surfers looking for distraction can now pick up the mouse and sit back as the poetry springs forth from the computer screen. New York Times 08/03/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Thursday August 3

  • LEAVING SANTA FE: After 43 years John Crosby is stepping down from running the Santa Fe Opera. "A first-rate visionary and a second-rate conductor, Crosby has run his festival like a reasonably benign dictator, amassing an extraordinary record of significant premieres to counterbalance the tourist-attraction repertory. He has done much to cultivate domestic exposure to the neglected operas of his favourite composer, Richard Strauss, and has also helped discover several generations of important American singers. Glyndebourne was never like this." The Financial Times 08/03/00

  • THE HOCKEY OPERA: "I've lived with opera for a long time," composer Leslie Uyeda told Canada's National Post. "And one thing that a Canadian does not have when she watches opera is an intimate knowledge of the rolling hills of Italy — the landscape where [a typical Italian opera] takes place. I wanted to write something that North Americans would have no trouble relating to." Sonicnet 08/03/00

  • SEIJI TO THE RESCUE: After conducting "Falstaff" this weekend, Boston Symphony conductor Seiki Ozawa was driving home when he came across a car wreck. The car was on the edge of a cliff and Ozawa held onto it and stayed with the driver for 30 minutes until police arrived. CBC 08/03/00

Wednesday August 2

  • ALL OR NOTHING: The New York Philharmonic truly wanted Ricardo Muti as its next music director, but the courtship’s officially over - the Philharmonic decides now that what it needs most of all is a full-time musical director. So the search goes on… New York Times 08/02/00 (one-time registration required)  

  • MODERN-DAY ROMEO AND JULIET: The opera singers Marijana Mijanovic and Kresimir Spicer are “the couple of the summer,” having thrilled audiences at Aix-en-Provence’s popular summer opera festival. “But it is also because they are a real-life Romeo and Juliet: she is a Serb, he is a Croat, and they live together in Amsterdam. New York Times 08/02/00 (one-time registration required)

Tuesday August 1

  • THE COMPLICATIONS OF LOVE AND HATE: "Any number of classical music lovers will tell you with glee of the bad pieces they love to hate. But people who will tell you about pieces they hate to love, but love anyway, are somewhat more rare. Saying you've got a thing for Brahms' Hungarian Dances Nos. 4 and 5, for instance, especially if you've ever gone anywhere near a music school, is particularly dangerous - but only if you mean it sincerely. Irony does exist in classical music, but it's mostly in the ears of cynical (younger) beholders." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/01/00

  • BETTER THAN BLEEPING? It’s common practice today for record labels to create “clean versions” of albums with explicit lyrics, and some companies even ask artists to re-record versions without profanity. “"It's getting like we almost have a McCarthyism in the business, but the censorship isn't new; what's new is the fear and the compliance going on to this extent. And I think a lot of artists go along with it because they're afraid of being lost in the corporate shuffle and falling out of favor with their labels." New York Times 08/01/00 (one-time registration required)

  • UNFAIR HEARING: Turns out those infrared enhanced-hearing headsets provided by theatres for hearing-impaired patrons are the perfect bootleggers tool. "Bootleggers can simply request an ALD headset, which provides a high-quality feed of a live show via a low-level FM frequency broadcast inside a facility. The music pirates then steal the headset feed, giving them concert performances devoid of the usual bootleg problems such as random crowd noise or distortion." Seattle Times (AP) 08/01/00

  • UNESCO TO THE RESCUE (one-time registration required)

  • UNFAIR HEARING: Turns out those infrared enhanced-hearing headsets provided by theatres for hearing-impaired patrons are the perfect bootleggers tool. "Bootleggers can simply request an ALD headset, which provides a high-quality feed of a live show via a low-level FM frequency broadcast inside a facility. The music pirates then steal the headset feed, giving them concert performances devoid of the usual bootleg problems such as random crowd noise or distortion." Seattle Times (AP) 08/01/00

  • UNESCO TO THE RESCUE: UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational agency, is coordinating a $250 million international effort to rebuild Moscow’s 19th-century Bolshoi Theatre, which is crumbling and close to collapse due to years of neglect. Theatres from around the world have already rallied around the cause by sending in contributions equal to one night’s earnings. NPR 07/31/00 [Real audio file]

  • WOMEN’S WORK : This weekend’s British premiere of composer Judith Weir’s newest work, “woman.life.song,” is an unusual event in the world of classical music - the piece was conceived and written by women, and is based entirely on women’s life issues. The song-cycle is a collaborative effort among Weir, soprano Jessye Norman, the writers Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, and Jungian psychoanalyst and mythologist Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The Guardian (London) 08/01/00


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