Saturday, September 13, 2014

Study Questions for Cook, "Music: A Very Short Introduction"


Foreword
In what regard does music function as an agent of meaning?

Chapter 1
1.  What are some defining characteristics of musical authenticity in rock? In its construct, who is privileged and who is disparaged?  What cultural work do such distinctions do?
2.  What are our some of our transparent assumptions about music?
3.  How do they reflect the structure of a classic industrial economy?

Chapter 2
1.  What role does music play in the early nineteenth century’s construction of bourgeois subjectivity?
2.  How does Beethoven differ from his predecessors?
3.  What is the Beethoven cult?
4.  Which two aspects of the Beethoven cult does Cook discuss? What is their significance beyond Beethoven?
5.  What components of music’s mystical qualities does the Beethoven cult celebrate? How?
6.  How does such spiritualization affect the historic relationship between words and music?
7.  What irony ensued?

Chapter 3
1.  How have 21st-century realities inverted the basic assumptions of 19th-century musical culture?
2.  By what process did modern music become “modern music”?
3.  In Cook’s view, what are some signs of vitality in classical music?  Which aspects are “beyond resuscitation”?

Chapter 4
1.  What is the abiding paradox of musical notation?
2.  Discuss the following statement: “[N]otations…transmit a whole way of thinking about music.”
3.  Why were 19th-century writers inclined to believe specious incidents attributed to Mozart and Beethoven?
4.  What is the underlying root metaphor of Western musical culture?
5.  What does Cook see as the “basic paradox” of music?
6.  How does Cook apply Dawkins’s “river of genes” image to music?

Chapter 5
1.  How do our perceptions of “Nikosi Sikelel iAfrica” differ from our perceptions of the “Hammerklavier”?
2.   What hierarchy ensues from the traditional understanding of classical music?
3.   How does a reception-based approach alter our perception of music?

Chapter 6
1.   Why is the concept of a definitive edition problematic?
2.   Why can there be no certifiably “authentic” performance?
3.   Conversely, how do “authentic” performances mirror our own time?
4.   How did musicologists and theorists come to realize the necessity for engagement that had previously been the exclusive province of ethnomusicologists?

Chapter 7
1.   What is a transparent system of beliefs? Examples?
2.   What applications does critical theory find in music?
3.   What is Cook’s antidote to Tomlinson’s extreme pessimism?

Conclusion
1.  Comment on the following quote from Philip Brett:  “[Music is] an enclave in our society—a sisterhood or brotherhood of lovers, music lovers, united by an unmediated form of communication that is only by imperfect analogy called a language, ‘the’ language of feeling.”
2.  In what regards does music have “unique powers as an agent of ideology”?

Technology in classical music: when is it no longer our ally?

This June, I had the privilege of being a ringer with the Bard Conservatory Orchestra on their Eastern European tour. The many new and different things and beautiful concert halls were fascinating. It was a culturally enriching trip, just as I had hoped my first trip to Europe would be. I also had the opportunity to experience the dynamic of the Bard College Conservatory’s student body, which was intensely interesting to me. Many students contribute to various causes in the school just as one might expect student government members to contribute. However, I detected no trace of a student government, committee, or association-- just perhaps Bard’s tendency to attract leadership-oriented youth. One such example of these leadership tendencies were the students’ seemingly collective determination to create outlets for official documentation of the tour. One mathematician-violinist told me she was recording all the tuning A’s from every performance and rehearsal to see if our concept of “in-tune” changed over time, and how much we were influenced pitch-wise by tuning to a piano every other concert for performances of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (played captivatingly by Bard’s and Longy’s own faculty member Benjamin Hochman). Many students took pictures from the various stages around Europe, or even during sightseeing tours, to post on Instagram with a Bard Conservatory Tour hashtag. One student made an announcement at the beginning of the tour that he had somehow contacted Google and obtained two Google glasses for use during the tour, and that any interested member of the orchestra was permitted to wear them during a concert or rehearsal. The idea of this, as far as I could ascertain, was to create a series of videos giving an insider perspective of the students’ experiences on the tour.

This was my first contact with the idea of using Google Glass or classical music-related purposes. Apparently, however, the Google Glass phenomenon was already a pre-existing bandwagon upon which the Bard Orchestra chose to jump. According to Ivan Hewett of Telegraph (United Kingdom), there are a number of Google Glass-related trends cropping up around the world. There are not only music videos being posted to YouTube that primarily feature footage from the Google Glass-view of one performer in an ensemble, audiences are donning Google Glasses while attending live performances to experience the perspective of one performer in an ensemble (at least, in one corner of their vision). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/11028302/Why-watching-classical-music-through-Google-Glass-is-a-waste-of-time.html

Hewett condemns this practice as everything near an abomination, positing that there’s no point attending a live performance this way, because the reason to attend a live performance is to absorb the entire musical product that is being delivered to you. Furthermore, we are tainting the concept of live performance itself, and reducing concert to mere documentary. I can see a certain truth in that. Documentaries are wonderful and informational when they are on your living room television. However, perhaps live performance should be held dear in this day and age of technoeverything. As an audience member at a live performance, part of the experience is allowing your attention to drift where the music beckons you. Your eyes move freely around the stage as you hear something interesting and you want to find the source of that something interesting. There’s something magical about the moment you locate the instrument making that beautiful sound that seemed to come out of nowhere. There’s something beautiful about seeing musicians react to each other in real-time on stage, spinning a rich musical dialogue. Maybe the sea of synchronized bows is mesmerizing, or maybe watching the string basses athletically maneuver around their giant instruments is what’s interesting. I think there’s something to be said for letting the audience members notice at their own pace. With the introduction of the Google Glass into concert halls, perhaps we are tampering with the very essence of what makes a live performance, live. With the rise of the recording industry and the availability of synthesizers, I think this is an issue that should be examined carefully.

I suspect there might be an appropriate and fruitful relationship to be cultivated between classical music and Google Glass, just as there is that possibility for all technology. Perhaps in a live performance is just not the best place. It is evident that we live in a world where this precious art form is dying. We who make our living in classical music would do well to make friends with technology in ways that will help keep our art relevant. Seeing into the rehearsals of a Bard Conservatory Tour could make audience members more interested in the finished product of a concert. There might be people who just have always wondered what it would look like to be that person playing the harp. There might be a conductor-to-be somewhere who is drawn in and fascinated by the up-close view of a baton in the video Hewitt linked in his article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqi5bRgvWP4#t=99. Despite these possibilities, though, I think every musician should be careful to weigh the up- and downsides of using something like Google Glass. The last thing we want is to further supplant the concept of live performance-- for without our live audiences, our art has nary a chance of survival.

An Unlikely Spot II


I went to this art party.  It was Boston kids, with the usual festering ganglion of Brooklyn transplants.  The place was grungy, with a black-lit smoking room, stuffed to the brim with bums and floozies.  The floor was strewn with half inflated, half-painted balloons stuck between anvil army boots and crumpled up business cards, forgotten, and never to be followed up on.  With much effort, I craned my head above the smug and noticed the elevated corner stage, oh’ sweet reprieve, something to do besides feign appreciation for bloody collage heaps.  The bands were to be expected; metal, noisy, pointless, banging on trashcans with drumsticks (the meat kind).  I was about to make my sincerest exit, perhaps by jumping off the roof, when I saw the next band take the stage.  There were 15 of them and they were all carrying what looked like real instruments, and sheet music?  They were formally dressed, some more elaborate than others, but they were a good-looking crew with their cellos, saxophones, boas, and top hats.  Needless to say, I decided to stay a moment longer to see what madness would ensue.

They set up, taking their time to properly squish their entire ensemble on the tiny corner stage.  The leader of them was scrappy and dashing,  the kind of rock star that is born out of a tuna can.  He wore circle sunglasses and a slung guitar, weaving across the stage with an intoxication for his fretted baton.  They started off with a tuning.  Ah’ lovely! A tuning!  I had never been so impressed.  They jammed into their first piece; an instrumental funk, with a polka up-swing.  The wonted diva entered next.  She was a fragile blonde, off-kilter and poignant, but her voice boomed.  She ornamented the music with drops of Calexico fragrance, blipping the sonar high notes on a dime.  It went, cantata after symphony, getting noticeably sloppier as they downed their libations between entrances.  Even in their waxing drunk, they swept the building with musical pheromones, captivating the stuffy loft of disgruntled art types.  I, being one of them, loved it.  

Afterwards, I approached the maestro to get the scoop.  Turns out they were students from the New England Conservatory, hence the obviously borrowed NEC music stands.  The frenzied frontman spoke with a pinned grin as he orated their mission to bring a new setting of classical music to the masses.  It seemed, so far, they had been successful in this endeavor, judging by the audience’s clamor of hooves and heels and what I read about them later.  I was impressed.  I told him, with a mixture of jest and jealousy, I may be interested in auditioning for a spot.  He politely informed me I must attend the school to join the band.  Oh well, we trade one barrier for the other.  Still, I am pleased I stayed a bit longer to witness this band, even if it meant I had to endure a few more moments in the pit of artistic despair.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Field of Dreams - Music Entrepreneurship II

"Location, Location" written by Dean C. Minderman sums up a few main points: Music is being used to create an economy for the geographic locations that are willing to take a risk by stepping out of the box.

Music has been used as a means to boost the economy by creating jobs as well as its appeal to create tourism.  Because of music, people are finding a reason to move to a certain area for a job or visit a certain area for a vacation. Minderman mentions the Mizzou New Music Initiative as an example. The Mizzou New Music Initiative has been promoting new music while creating a way for musicians to earn a living by creating a concert series, hosting the International Composers Festival, as well as engaging in compositions written specifically for prominent landmarks around the area such as the Missouri Botanical Garden.

After I read this article, I thought of Rockport, Massachusetts, where I had been a summer marketing intern for Rockport Music. The town of Rockport, MA is the definition of grassroots musician entrepreneurship. In 1981, the Rockport Chamber Music Festival began with the vision of singer Leila Deis and composer-pianist David Alpher.  Small concerts were held at the local art gallery, then came the educational components, and finally the Shalin Liu Performance Center was built in 2010--- And if you haven’t been able to see this beautiful music venue that overlooks the ocean, then you should consider finding the time to do so! Rockport Music has grown so much from starting off as a twelve concert series of chamber music. The entity now produces a jazz festival as well and hosts concerts throughout the year.

It goes to show that with a lot of elbow grease, the world can be a better place. If you build it, they will come.

An Unlikely Spot

I went to this art party.  It was 20% Boston and the rest were Brooklyn oh' Brooklynites.  The place was grungy, with a black-lit smoking room, half inflated, half-painted balloons stuck between army boots and crumpled up business cards.  When I noticed the elevated corner stage, I gasped a sigh of relief, something to do besides feign appreciation for bloody collaged art.  The bands were expected; mostly metal, experimental, banging on trashcans with chicken drumsticks (yes, really).  I was about to peace out of there, maybe by jumping off the roof, when I noticed the next band consisted of more than two people, actually, more than five people, there seemed to be about fifteen of them.  More interestingly, they were lugging around real instruments.  Cellos, violins, saxophones, a tuba, needless to say, I decided to stay a moment longer and see what all this could mean.
They were set up, squished on the corner stage, in what I can assume could be a small orchestra formation.  The leader of them was a scrappy, but quite dashing young fellow, who wore circular sunglasses and a slung guitar.  They started off, with a bit of an introductory jam, and who shall step in from the side, but the diva of all divas if there ever were to be no divas.  She was fragile blonde and slender, but her voice was booming.  The band, or rather, orchestral varietal, played their choreographed numbers, most of which had a polka feel with a classical dengue fever.  The maestro pointed to soloists, with a sloppy guitar neck jut, the diva bopped along with a solo cup of god knows what, and they all played together, smoothly, organically, like they had done it a thousand times.  I quite enjoyed them, and I have never experienced that kind of performance before.
Afterwards, I approached the frontman to get the scoop.  Turns out they were students from the New England Conservatory, hence the obviously borrowed NEC music stands.  Their orchestra was an attempt to bring classical music or rather a classical setting of music, to a different venue and audience. So far, they seem to be successful as they have been gaining recognition all over.  I told him, somewhat in jest, that I would be interested in auditioning,  and he politely informed me that I must attend the school to join the band.  Wah-wah, we trade one barrier for the other.  Still, I am grateful to have been present for that modern-classical performance in the pit of artistic despair.      

Let's Try and See What Happens? Updated

The music field is not generally one that people would think of as filled with risks. Ask someone who is not a musician to list careers that come with a high level of risk, and professions such as doctors, firemen or military would probably top the list. But in all truthfulness having classical music as your day job does come with a risk factor. Not because someone could die from our bad intonation or world peace hangs in the balance of how successful the next Boston Symphony Orchestra concert is, but because what was once certain in the field of classical music has become less of a guarantee.
We have all heard in the past 10 years that the world of the concert hall is changing and that we as classical musicians must adapt in order to have our art form survive. The ways in which we are to adapt are not always spelled out for us and moreover, when we sit down to collaborate on how to make our concerts resonate more with the general public, risk is the word that most of us would more than likely prefer not to use. But we need to be willing to take risks and more importantly, we must recognize that this is what we are doing. Because like it or not, taking risks is a necessary part of being a musician..
In the New York Times on Sept 5th 2014, Phillip Lutz wrote the article A Conductor Promotes Risk-Taking in Music Programs about one well-known member of the classical world who is openly taking risks. Toshiyuki Shimada, music director and conductor for the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and the Yale Symphony Orchestra isn't afraid of approaching things from a different angle as he works to present music that he hopes will attract the younger generation to the concert hall.
In the upcoming season for the Eastern Connecticut Symphony he is programming many contemporary works, four of which the composers are still alive, such as “The Canyons Curved Burgundy,” a world premiere by William Brittelle, a graduate of Yale. This piece calls for synthesizers, string section, pop style electric guitar and vocals. It was in fact, Mr. Shimada who suggested to Mr. Brittelle that he include electric guitar and he expects his orchestra to be willing to embrace his out of the box methods. Mr. Shimada is also purposefully programming works that are shorter in two concerts called "Classical Shuffle" to be more like what the audience is use to with their ipods.
Some might think that he is lowering his expectations too much and over simplifying his concerts to make it more palatable. There is some truth in that statement as Mr. Shimada is working to meet his audience half way but this will, in all likelihood, go much farther than the opposite approach of continuing to play the well-known works without caring about the kind of audience you are attracting or where that audience will be 50 years from now. Mr. Shimada is aware that his plans could backfire on him but he is willing to try anyway, as he stated in the article “let’s try and see what happens.”
What could we, the next generation of classical musicians accomplish if instead of living in fear of our audience dying out or worrying about the right action to take, we adopt Mr. Shimada’s simple strategy of “let’s try and see what happens?”
For more information see the article referenced at http://nyti.ms/WZd5fc

An extraordinary opera- Anna Nicole (Updated)

     This opera describes the porn star, Anna Nicole, and her legendary life. This incredible story includes scenes about breast enlargement, pole dancing, gold-digging, drug abuse, and death, which are difficult to be associated with the traditional opera. It is both a comedy and a tragedy, presented by the brilliant and colorful scenes of the charming leading lady, which brings a great deal of dramatic effects and makes the audience feel conflicted in vision and hearing. Comparing with the classical opera, Anna Nicole is a revolutionary opera, which describes a real person and her life on the stage.


 In the historic context of so many popular operas, you see that these were woman caught in an entrapped society, and at the core of Anna Nicole Smiths life you see that out of the need to escape where she was throughout her life, she made choices, but they were not the right ones, said Joseph V. Mr. Melillo, executive producer at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Born in Texas in 1967, Anna Nicole Smith was a single mother, making a living by stripping. At 26, she met a billionaire, J. Howard Marshall, who was 63 years older than Anna. After their marriage, she got her breast implants and shaping in order to enter the entertainment world. Then, Anna became a Playboy model and reality TV show star.

 However, the tragedy of Ms. Smith began by her husbands death. Mr. Marshall died in the 13th month after their marriage. Due to a large amount of heritage, Ms. Smith spent a long time fighting over the estate with Mr. Marshalls heirs and children. In addition, Ms. Smiths 20-year-old son died of a drug overdose. It all became so empty and lonely with her. The only real love she ever had was for her son, and when he died, that was it for her. That kill her, said by Eva-Maria Westbroek, the Dutch soprano in the leading role of Anna Nicole. A few months later, Ms. Smith also died of a drug overdose.

The world premier of Anna Nicole, was performed in February 2011 in London, garnered tremendous popularity and positive reviews. Later, it was also staged by New York City Opera in September 2013. However, because of the financial issue, NYC Opera shut down after this work. Now, the opera will return to London for six performances during Sept. 11-24.

For more information, please read:

For the trailer, please watch:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7EWAQbfp00

Friday, September 5, 2014

Technology in classical music: when is it no longer our ally?

This June, I had the privilege of being a ringer with the Bard Conservatory Orchestra on their Eastern European tour. The many new and different things and foreign cultures and beautiful concert halls were obviously fascinating, and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I also had the opportunity to see how the Bard College Conservatory student body works. They are really a unique bunch of people, and it was intensely interesting to me how many of the conservatory students took it upon themselves to document the tour in some way. One mathematician-violinist told me she was recording all the tuning A’s from every performance and rehearsal to see if our concept of “in-tune” changed over time, and how our pitch was influenced by tuning to different pianos for performances of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (played captivatingly by Bard’s and Longy’s own faculty member Benjamin Hochman). Many students took pictures from the various stages around Europe, or even during sightseeing tours, to post on instagram with a Bard Conservatory Tour hashtag. One student made an announcement at the beginning of the tour that he had somehow contacted Google and obtained two Google glasses for use during the tour, and that any interested member of the orchestra was permitted to wear them during a concert or rehearsal. The idea of this, as far as I could ascertain, was to create a series of videos giving an insider perspective of the students’ experiences on the tour.

This was my first contact with the idea of using Google Glass or classical music-related purposes. Apparently, however, the Google Glass phenomenon was already a pre-existing bandwagon upon which the Bard Orchestra chose to jump. According to Ivan Hewitt of the Telegraph (United Kingdom), there a number of Google Glass-related trends cropping up around the world. There are not only music videos being posted to YouTube that primarily feature footage from the Google Glass-view of one performer in an ensemble, audiences are attending live performances and dawning Google Glasses to experience the performance through the perpective of one performer in an ensemble (at least, in one corner of their vision).  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/11028302/Why-watching-classical-music-through-Google-Glass-is-a-waste-of-time.html

Hewitt condemns this practice as everything near an abomination, positing that there’s no point attending a live performance this way, because the reason to attend a live performance is to absorb the WHOLE musical product that is being delivered to you. Furthermore, we are tainting the concept of live performance itself, and reducing concert to mere documentary. I can see a certain truth in that. Documentaries are wonderful and informational when they are on your living room television. However, perhaps live performance should be held dear in this day and age of technoeverything. As an audience member at a live performance, part of the experience is allowing your attention to drift where the music beckons you. Your eyes move freely around the stage as you hear something interesting and you want to find the source of that something interesting. There’s something magical about that moment you locate the instrument making that beautiful sound that seemed to come out of nowhere. There’s something beautiful about seeing musicians react to each other in real-time on stage, spinning a rich musical dialogue. Maybe the sea of synchronized bows is mesmerizing, or maybe watching the string basses athletically maneuver around their giant instruments is what’s interesting. I think there’s something to be said for letting audience NOTICE at their own pace. With the introduction of the Google Glass into concert halls, perhaps we are tampering with the very essence of what makes a live performance, live. With the rise of the recording industry and the availability of synthesizers, I think this is an issue that should be examined carefully.

Like all new technology, I suspect there is somewhere a happy medium for Google Glass’s relationship with classical music. Perhaps in a live performance is just not the best place. It is evident that we live in a world where this precious art form is dying. We who make our living in classical music would do well to make friends with technology in ways that will help keep our art relevant. Seeing what goes into the rehearsals of a Bard Conservatory Tour could make audience members more interested in the finished product of a concert. There might be people who just have always wondered what it would look like to be that person playing the harp. There might be a counductor-to-be somewhere who is drawn in and fascinated by the up-close view of a baton in the video Hewitt linked in his article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqi5bRgvWP4#t=99. Despite these possibilities, though, I think every musician should be careful to weigh the up- and downsides of using something like Google Glass. The last thing we want is to further supplant the concept of live performance-- for without our live audiences, our art has nary a chance of survival.

To close or not to close, that is the question (EDITED)



A recent New York Times article detailed the latest news regarding operations at the San Diego Opera. 

In March of this year, the San Diego Opera announced that it was closing following 49 years of operations.  The announcement shocked both the San Diego community and the opera world at large, particularly as no advance warning of this action was given. Following an outpouring of support, the Board of Directors - now numbering 26 instead of the 57 who voted to shut everything down in March - voted again in May to reopen.   Enough funds were raised to ensure continued operations, but not enough to continue what had previously been the status quo. Swanky offices were downsized, jobs were eliminated, the scope of the 2014-2015 program was reduced, and salaries were cut by 10%.  The current Board is cautiously optimistic that these actions will lead to fiduciary stability for the Company.

While the Company's immediate future is assured, one might assume that all parties to this situation would be happy.  That assumption would be incorrect.  Yes, the anti-closure side is happy to have achieved their goal of saving the Company.  However, the pro-closure side comes across as less than sympathetic.
Karen S. Cohn, who resigned as president of the board, said in an interview that she had no regrets about her decision to vote to close the opera, and that she was appalled at how the current opera board and staff members continued to criticize the last administration’s actions.

“I cannot support what is going on,” she said of the new coalition and its efforts. “This is a group of people who are not focusing on going forward. They are focusing on ruining people who spent 31 years doing wonderful things for San Diego. I don’t want to ruin their chance of going forward, but I don’t appreciate how they have handled this.”
Prima facie, Ms. Cohn's comments are bizarre. Should any administration (arts or otherwise) shut down operations of something that is not moribund, those who manage to keep the lights on would undoubtedly have harsh words for their predecessors. Likewise, commenting that those who saved the San Diego Opera Company from closure are "a group of people who are not focusing on going forward" seems comically obtuse.
 
Narrowly, the San Diego Opera's continued existence is certain as spelled out by this article.  However, the substantial question remains: what is the role of opera in American life going forward?  Is a bit belt-tightening all that is required to ensure that San Diego and other opera companies remain afloat, or is opera's fall into obscurity unstoppable over the next few generations?

Where opera should be heading

I do not think opera or classical music is a dying art form, though there are many with that mindset. It is an important question to ask ourselves however, how does opera stay relevant in today's over saturated market.   There is no denying that in the past few years many opera companies have closed or have come close to closing.  We have gotten to a point where it has become easier to write opera off as an expensive showcase for the one percent of the world. People say that opera is an art form for the wealthy and don't believe that it is relevant in today's market.  My belief is that us in the opera world have forgotten what opera is really about.  We have forgotten that at the heart of opera it was always an art form for the masses. Opera was about its story and that is why crowds of people flocked to opera as an outlet in its earliest of days. 

Lotte de Beer is someone trying to change today's image of opera.  She agrees that opera in its purest form is about the story.  She believes that opera is for everyone. While she doesn't think we should forget about the audience that opera already has, she isn't afraid of upsetting older audience members.  When she directs an opera, she strips it to its barest bones so that the story can shine through.  She did just this in her recent production of Cosi fan tutte.  Where she did away with the chorus, the expensive props and lighting and focused on the best way to tell the opera's story. She doesn't see the point for expensive wigs, lighting, huge ornate sets, if they don't help move the story along.  It is her belief that those older interpretations have become boring and are no longer relevant to opera audiences.

As the saturation of music, television and art become greater in each passing day, opera needs to find a way to make itself viable and draw new and old audience members to the theatre. We can no longer rely on old standbys if it only brings a few people to the theatre.  Ms. de Beer's goal is bringing newer generations to opera.  She wants to keep opera fresh and attainable without water down a beautiful art form.  


For more information please read
Breaking the Rules of Opera for a New Generation by Nina Siegal

The State of the Music Industry, by The Oatmeal (EDIT)

Isaiah asked me to make a post about this comic on The Oatmeal, a site with comics and infographics about life and issues. This particular comic features three main characters: a musician, a music consumer, and a blob-like corporate entity with a nametag that says "Hello, my name is EMI Universal Warner Sony." In the first panel, titled "How it was for a very long time," the corporate blob blocks the consumer's way to the musician, saying they have to pay to go any farther. In the second panel, "How it was in 1999," a Napster character leads the consumer past the corporate blob. The corporate blob complains about the huge sum of money it should have gotten from a CD sale, and the musician also complains... about not getting their 23 cents. The third panel, "How it is now," has the consumer sitting down with a computer on their lap. The computer has a cord coming out of it that leads to the musician, but the cord is held up by characters representing iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and YouTube, all claiming their respective fees or ad revenue. Meanwhile, the corporate blob is advertising concert tickets at very high prices. Finally, in the fourth panel, "Where it needs to go from here," the consumer makes a deal to buy music directly from the musician while the corporate blob cries in a corner. The comic draws on the well-known fact that corporations have been controlling the music industry and making vast sums of money in comparison to the musicians they claim to support, and hopes for a world in which musicians can gain control over and profit from what they create.

This is not so much a commentary on classical music as it is on music in general. In the age of the Internet, it takes no effort to find a song to listen to on a site like YouTube and almost no effort to save it to a computer and an MP3 device. And in a generation plagued by debts and low income, people dislike paying very much for anything. Copyright law can protect musicians, but it can only go so far. At some point, musicians have to draw their own line between keeping their music to themselves to avoid theft and relying on the respect of their audiences. Almost all independent musicians have this problem, which includes finding the right sort of license under which to release their music online - should they reserve all rights and put permission to spread their music under lock and key, or should they use a Creative Commons attribution license and get more chances for popularity but risk someone else making large sums of money on their creation? The corporations used to have control over the publicity as well as the money, and now many musicians must make themselves known through social networks and sources like the ones in the third panel.

The considerations are different when this analysis is applied to classical music, or so-called "art music." People nowadays tend to find art music boring or unworthy of their time, which is something that, for example, DePauw's 21CM program is trying to change (or at least circumvent). Classical concerts and recordings do not have the same sort of attention that vernacular music has. Though art music performers and composers still have a devoted audience, that audience is diminishing in size and increasing in age. The art music industry is pressured to find new ways of reaching a broader and younger audience. Classical musicians still rely on corporate publicity, be it from publicly funded ensembles like orchestras or from businesses like record labels, or else find their way via short-term gigs. Unlike pop music, which is firmly in the third panel of the comic, classical music seems to be split halfway between the first and fourth panels... but the audience is much smaller in size, a literally smaller consumer character. Will tweaking our performance of classical music to make it more accessible and fun for current audiences get it towards the third? And would this be a good thing?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Towards a 21st-century Repertoire

Enter works as comments in the following format:

     Composer, Title (Year). Genre. 
     Remarks

Levine, "Highbrow/Lowbrow" Study Questions


Prologue
1.      Our current hierarchical system of cultural categories (highbrow, midbrow, lowbrow) seems fixed and immutable.  What cultural work is done by a historian who maintains these categories?
2.     What error might ensue?

Chapter 2
1.      What was the status of opera in Walt Whitman’s New York?
2.     What does the prevalence of parodies and arrangements suggest about a popular familiarity with opera?
3.     How had the perception of opera changed by the end of the 19th century?
4.    What was the relative status of bands and orchestras in the middle of the 19th century?
5.     When Jenny Lind, and other eminent European soloists, toured mid-century America, whom did they appeal to?  How did Adelina Patti’s experience differ?
6.    How were typical mid-century orchestra programs constructed?  How did sacralization affect this paradigm?
7.     How did Theodore Thomas manage to draw crowds for his New York concerts?  How did his philosophy change when he went to Chicago?
8.    Since the founding in the 19th century of our country’s major orchestras, what has remained their abiding fiscal reality?  Who now employs the Chicago Symphony’s funding model?  How has that funding model changed, if at all, over the last century?
9.    What are some of John Sullivan Dwight’s basic beliefs concerning the sacralization of art?
10.  Through art’s sacralization in the course of the late 19th century, what were some of the changes wrought in the public’s perception of music? musicians? the concert experience?
11.    After a hundred years’ time, which of these perceptions have remained in place?

 Chapter 3
1.      Faced with industrialization and increasing cultural diversity, how did America’s cultural elites respond at the end of the 19th century?
2.     How might one characterize 19th-century audiences?  To what extent did arbiters of culture attempt to modify audiences’ behavior, and succeed?
3.     What unintended consequences did more docile audiences create?
4.    To what ends did 19th-century champions of culture maintain and disseminate pure culture?
5.     How did the Columbian Exposition’s Midway Plaisance and White City symbolize a growing gulf in American culture?
6.    How was American culture perceived to compare with European examples?
7.     What racial and cultural dimensions did the ideology of culture assume?
8.    How did Matthew Arnold contribute to our understanding of Culture?
9.    How did our invented notions of culture conflict with reality?
10.  As cultural categories codified, how were new forms of expressive culture characterized?  With what results?

Epilogue
1.      What reactions have been provoked by the growth of cultural pluralism in the late 20th century?
2.     What is the logical fallacy of the cultural categories that we embrace?





Monday, April 28, 2014

A point of view on Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra

A point of view on Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra
The Concerto for Orchestra is a five movement orchestral composition written by Bela Bartok in 1943. This piece is one of his best known works. In it one can see many aspects of his musical style and compositional techniques.
This piece has an arched form and is symmetrical. Symmetrical structure is featured often in Bartok’s music. It has five movements. The whole piece uses two main motives. Bartok shows them in the very beginning of the piece, one is the ascending fourth, the other is the conjunct motion of the second. The first, third, and final movements are the supporting movements, while the second and fourth movements are episodes of folk music. The third movement’s form mirrors the form of the entire piece: A-B-C-B-A. Therefore, we can find the similar elements of musical images or moods between the second and fourth movements, or the first and fifth movement. For example, in the fifth movement, measure 5-42, the chords played by string pizzicato part are from the intro of first movement. Bartok alters the horizontal fourths to vertical fourths changing the the main motif from melodic to harmonic. The rhythm in Measures 44-46 is the same as the bassoon melody from the second movement; In measures 161-187, the most important pitches are shaped from the first movement’s tone element. In measure 188 a folk music melody appears. The musical material and expression has the same sense and feeling as the second and fourth movements.
Folk music plays an important role in Bartok’s melodic construction. He has his own spectacular and particular ways to approach. He created something new based on the old. It would be a new type of folk music given a new imprint. The folk melody is like a symbol to represent a kind of spirit of atmosphere, but has a wider and deeper meaning. 
The intervals, chords, modes and tonalities have a special importance in Bartok’s harmonic language. He combines the chromatic and pentatonic scales together. We can hear similar harmonic techniques used by Debussy. Like Debussy, Bartok’s chords are not always defined by their third, which is often replaced by a forth or second. This blurs the modes he uses with a colorful type of harmonic expression.
In Bartok’s instrumentation, we can hear the influence of Ravel’s instrumentation techniques. The significance of timbre has been enhanced, meanwhile, the importance of melody has been reduced. The conversation between different timbers is everywhere.

Bartok did reserve some traditional things in his music like sonata form, traditional harmonic language, and the way to use a few motives to create a whole piece.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Summer Plans, Karr Kamp

This summer I will be attending Gary Karr's Karr Kamp.  Gary Karr is known to be the worlds leading double bass soloist.  He was actually the first bassist to pursue "soloist" as a main career.  His debut was with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.  In June of 2001, Gary played his farewell concert in front of over 800 bassist at the International Society of Bassist convention, which he also founded that organization. I became aware of Gary while studying at The Hartt School, where he taught double bass before my former teacher, Robert Black of Ban on a Can All-stars.  Gary was actually the former teacher of Robert Black when he attended the Hartt School.

This summer I will have the pleasure of studying with Gary for the last time in history, during the last summer of his four week bass intensive camp in Victoria, BC.  The camp is held on the beautiful University of Victoria campus.  Bassist are chosen on a first come first serve basis, and rage in age from 18-97.  There is no audition, but you must have a serious love for the double bass.  Each morning we will have class from 9am-4pm, starting each morning with a 90 min intensive technical double bass work out, in which Gary will instill his approach to the bass in all of us.  The rest of the day will consist of student performances and master class style lessons.  In the afternoon we will all play in the bass ensemble, getting us ready for what has become one of Victoria's most popular events, Basses Loaded!

Review of Basses Loaded  

While we are there, we will also get to explore the many offering of Victoria as well as taking an annual trip to the Butchart Gardens.

This is truly going to be a life changing experience, and I am excited to hear how my playing is changed by the amazing Gary Karr.


West - Eastern Divan Orchestra

West - Eastern Divan Orchestra 

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a youth orchestra, ages range from 15-35, in which players from both Israeli and Arab nations come together to form a very interesting human project.  In 1999, Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said had the idea to create the orchestra.  The orchestra would and still does rehears outside of Israel and Palestine in places such as Germany and now Spain.  

This orchestra is all about different people of different cultures coming together in this sort of human project of music.  The players have a strong curiosity to meet each other while putting all politics aside. They listen to each other and search for a strong musical consensus.  Obviously, they players do have heated discussions about their political views and over who is entitled to live on the holy land, but one thing they all do agree on is that military action is not a solution.  This isn't a fight between two nations, it's a fight between two peoples who are deeply convinced about their own views.

So, what an interesting set up for a great orchestra, two kinds of people that hate one another, but can get together in an exclusive musical way and create amazing music.  As the players accept these differences and they put compromises behind them,  An orchestra gives them the right all together, as a unit to create together.  This orchestra isn't quite the emblem of peace, nor do they strive to ever get along, but rather it is an example of how we can get along.  The two sides are actively disagreeing and hating one another, but not killing each other.  This human orchestral experiment shows how two opposite sides can cope with one another.

I cannot imagine disagreeing with some of my ensemble members on that deep of a political level, whereas our peoples are killing each other the same time we are rehearsing Beethoven.  This is a great step towards human acceptance, not to much compromise, but acceptance.  



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Torelli, Lalo, Menuhin - April 22 Anniversaries

On April 22 the musical world commemorates anniversaries of several important figures in the history of Western music. All of them are indeed worth of mentioning. Encyclopedic entry on important events of this day informs us that exactly 356 year ago an Italian composer of late  Baroque Giuseppe Torelli was born in Verona. Torelli is known predominantly for his contributions to the development of concerto grosso and for  his pieces for string and brass instruments. Another composer who celebrates his anniversary today is Edouard Lalo. Edouard Lalo was an important French romantic composer. His most famous work is Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra. The third internationally known and recognized musician with connection to today's date is the US born violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. He was born April 22 1916 in New York, two years before the end of the first world war. After the war Menuhin went to study in Europe and became one of the most important and praised violinists of the century. In 1983 he founded the renowned Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for young violinists. He was a highly regarded teacher as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1zx52XscbQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohl-ZRMXaxg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7BZV1btlK4

John Luther Adams Wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. And as the polar ice melts and the sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that, once again, we may quite literally become ocean.

John Luther Adams
The 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on April 14th, and John Luther Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his piece Become Ocean, a haunting post-minimalist evocation of the surging tide and the relentless threat of global warming-induced rising sea waters. The other John Adams – of Nixon in China fame – was nominated for his oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a depiction of the last period of Jesus’ life with intriguing orchestration carrying the impassioned music, “sometimes forceful, sometimes lyrical.” The final nominated piece was Invisible Cities by Christopher Cerrone, an opera based on Italo Calvino’s novelization of Marco Polo delighting Kublai Khan with stories of legendary cities.

Become Ocean was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and premiered in 2013. It contains a largely diatonic harmonic framework with a constant, subtly driving rhythm. The piece peaks and ebbs like the endless ocean. The ensemble, broken into three small orchestras playing different music, coalesces at crucial moments for climactic effect. Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, notes that the beauty of Become Ocean comes not from demonstrating a complex form, but from creating a sonic landscape through which to wander. The listener becomes part of nature and disappears into the seascape created by the piece.

Adams states, “My hope is that the music creates a strange, beautiful, overwhelming – sometimes even frightening – landscape, and invites you to get lost in it.” His music is largely inspired by the landscapes in Alaska, where he resides. At the premiere, audience members wrote notes to the composer such as “The brass led me through the ocean like a giant whale, lumbering and determined,” and “To be at a world premier is a ‘divine encounter.’” What little I could glean from the bits posted online confirms these observations. I am glad the prize selection committee chose a piece with a social message, though I hope it stands on its own just as a piece of music. The Seattle Symphony performs in Carnegie hall on May 6, and I plan to be in the audience to here the now Pulitzer-winning work.

Learn more:
NPR's Tom Huizenga interviews John Luther Adams
The Seattle Symphony explores Become Ocean (YouTube)