Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gilles Apap

Speaking of reaching out to other genres/trying to appeal to the audience, I don't know if any of you have seen this video yet, but there's a clip on YouTube of vioinist Gilles Apap playing a cadenza to the third movement of the Mozart G Major violin concerto (I think it's G Major). He really is an extraordinary musician. I really wish I could be this guy, and I think it'd be awesome to have more "classical" musicans like him around. To quote a youtube user on yet another video of him: ""this guy is a freakin' genius! breaking so many boundaries and traditions, although some people may find this offensive and unusual, we need more violinists like this today, to be able to be so creative, improvize and tap into so many different musical genres."

Even if you aren't familiar with the concerto or the cadenza, this will blow your mind. He goes through so many different genres, but he does it so tastefully, it's simply amazing. Part of what I love about this video is watching the camera occasionally focus on the facial expressions of various orchestra members during his cadenza, which range from amused and appreciative to loftily disapproving. If you haven't seen it yet, do check it out. I don't find it at all degrading to Mozart... after all, he was known to be a bit of a jokester himself, wasn't he? :)

Here it is:

Enjoy! I was in love with this video for at least a month!

Oh, and by the way, if you want to see a clip of him playing the first movement with a more traditional cadenza, here is the link for that:

marketing strategies

So many classics, and so little time. We developed a double standard in our society that "it is most definitely not OK never to read books. [But] it is OK indeed almost cool, never to go to the opera." For not going to the opera isn't a huge deal. But, not have read one of Jane Austen's classics it's a cultural offense.

From the Andante, an article: "Suggesting a shocking approach to marketing opera: Tell the truth" by David Lister. He observed how the English National opera tried to draw younger audiences to opera house by shifting their attention onto creating a story line that young people today can relate to.

The English National opera commissioned a new opera for young people, and the result was "something of a mish-mash, with sex, violence and drug dealing all crammed in."

The English National opera can look up to today's movies that put out by blockbuster. Instead of trying too hard to promotes operas that focus on "sex, violent and drugs." Perhpas they may have to shift their focus onto staging, and accessible translation.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I've been a big 19th century snob

Let me first apologize for my ballooning posts. Maybe the next one will be shorter. Maybe its length is part of a cyclical pattern, a sinusoidal one.

After reading Sarah's post, I realized that I am a total snob. A relic of the 19th century. I kept thinking about cultivating an audience. It's interesting because the strategy of these kinds of outreach is to reach a bigger, more diverse audience, to put it bluntly, to increase “sample size” to get more “hits.” I had an immediate, involuntary, adverse reaction to this. But why? I then realized that I had only thought about cultivating an audience. I kept thinking that education was necessary. But then again there are geniuses who don't seem to need education at all. There are many famous pianists who cite seeing even one performance of a famous pianist as a child as the major catalyst for their interest in music. When they started out, they didn't know anything at all about the mechanics of music. It was just good music. It's interesting because in my piano pedagogy class, we are talking about teaching methods that don't destroy a child's natural talent and in fact cultivate them. Musical feeling is often obfuscated and blocked by academic learning, so that there are approaches like Dalcroze that try to get back to the root of music. I think the quote from Ratatouille, “anyone can cook,” is very fitting.

And again, my attitude toward the Tchaikovsky performance, I thought that Symphony Hall would be better off if such performances never occurred. But who am I to judge the performance if the audience enjoyed it? To live in a market society, one must please the public. But then there are the critics that will bash the performance in the paper. But who will read it? Who will care? People who agree with the critic's assessment will probably not bother reading the review anyway. It is only important to the soloist who is trying to build a career within the established classical music institution.

But this (not necessarily but often) does set up a conflict between public taste and some standard of musical judgment, and I believe there are fundamental aspects of that standard that are not relative, being based on human psychology and psychoacoustics. One interesting view on this conflict is given by Aynn Rand, who expounds her philosophy in the novel, Fountainhead. Which basically says to be selfish, don't give in to the crowd, never compromise.

But what actually constitutes artistic integrity? I think there are actually many artificial constructions mixed into the concept of artistic integrity that were created by the classical music institution, mostly, I think, resulting from ignorance, inertia, and a self-preserving motivation. Like, “oh, only Beethoven is good music,” or something. My approach to music, at least, is to try to make great art. But I also believe popular art can be considered great art, or anything can be considered great art. I believe the requirement for great art is for a human to have a strong expressive intention, the ability or skill to realize that intention in some medium, and the motivation to actually execute it. As I am a fan of Japanese manga, I totally see a few examples of great literature in the comic medium, great expressive urges shining through. And they are popular, they are the most loved of the comic literature. Being a popular medium, the manga deal with themes that are accessible to the audience, and if they are accessible, maybe the audience is able to detect the human intention, the effort, the life behind it.

Maybe that's how art should be judged? (I would love to hear about different criteria if people have them) There are pieces of classical music that cannot considered great art to the extent that some manga can be considered great art, but nonetheless are accepted because they are part of that idiom. In a sense, the machinery for judging classical music has become more unwieldy than that for popular music. With popular music, if the masses like it, it's good. But with the classical music world, there are traditions, and preconceptions. The pressure is enormous to play correctly in order to be accepted. It has disconnected music from human feeling, which I think is what the nostalgia for rowdy audiences signifies. Glenn Gould actually seems to have an audience among some jazz listeners, since they cite the presence of a “beat” in his playing. Even though his playing was unconventional, there are certain musical truths in it that appeal to people.

One possibility to circumvent this is to appeal directly to the populus. This is the approach of Lang Lang and sellouts like Yanni (though I am not grouping them in the same category). Another is to change the content of what we play, to make the content more accessible, something the audience can relate to. But why change what we play? It's unsettling to depart from the established musical canon, but there is no good artistic reason not to. Maybe to specialize? If you are a good artist, your artist intent is obviously strong, so why not explore different means of expression through music, since our instrument is our skill? To be solely a classical musician is to bar yourself from a lot of great music. It's basically Yo-Yo Ma's approach, and like everyone and their ma knows Yo-Yo =P. I am still afraid of this thought, though. It's like I'm in new territory, and there's so much I don't know...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New opportunities

I am very excited to be starting a new part-time job as administrator of the non-profit organization, Bach With Verse. This organization uses double bassist Richard Hartshorne’s (Dobbs) unique performing skills to bring music to unusual venues and underserved audiences. His performances have brought him to prisons throughout the US where art programs bring renewed joy to hundreds of prisoners. He has also toured Palestine and Afghanistan and is planning tours to Africa, Ireland and Iran. You can learn more about his programs at

In my work with numerous non-profit music groups, I have always come across a struggle between what the musicians want to present and what the audience wants to pay to hear. Our reading talked about the musicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries dictating how audiences were to behave and what audiences were suppose to listen to. This worked remarkably well and transformed society. However, I think the pendulum swung too far to the side of giving the musician power. Society responded resulting in reduced audiences for classical music. In all things there needs to be a balance for sustainability and I think music groups are responding to this by swinging the pendulum towards giving the audience more control. Musicians more and more are meeting audiences in their comfort zone – going to where audiences already are at clubs, bars, and prisons, etc. or just trying to create a more relaxed environment in traditional venues, trying to make performances more “accessible.”

I think Dobbs is a great role model of how music can lead musicians to new and exciting places. Music is a part of everyone’s soul and great music can touch anyone. I believe the future audiences for classical music lie in the musician’s ability to swing that pendulum back towards giving the audience some control, meeting them half way so that great music can reach more people. This is not to say that audiences for the very traditional format of performance will die if we don’t reach out in this way. I just think it is incredibly exciting as a musician to have amazing opportunities to expand classical audiences and give more people the chance to appreciate this art form. It is up to the musician to maintain the quality of the music – who we are playing for does not change the quality. For many musicians (since there are now growing numbers of us) creativity in where we perform and who we perform for is going to be key to our survival in the future.

Go Ape on Opera

This past weekend, I attended a performance of Heart of a Dog at Boston Conservatory mainly to support one of my good friends playing in the orchestra. As I read the program, I noticed the group’s name, Guerilla Opera, and began to think about its implications.

First, here’s the information about this particular group:

Guerilla Opera is a collective of young Boston-based singers and instrumentalists dedicated to legitimizing and promoting a unique theatre-oriented brand of chamber opera featuring a repertoire of newly commissioned work. Each work is scored for a quartet of voices and a unique chamber ensemble featuring saxophone, viola, cello, and percussion.

The term guerilla warfare refers to the unconventional warfare with a small group of combatants. In art, guerilla could be used to insinuate the group’s purpose is to attack or question the status quo of American mainstream thought. In this particular case, here’s a group of eight musicians ( for singers and four instrumentalists ) modernizing chamber opera works for the mass audience. This is an example of how of a musical group breaks down the barriers of the rigid categories of opera, orchestra, and classical music.

For more information about the Guerilla Opera visit the website at:

Radio as a Dominant Force

After an extensive cultural research study about the relationship of classical music artists and institutions serving their audience through public media, radio was the most influential in the United States. The results showed listening to the radio was more popular than attending live performances or listening to records.

The Classical Music Initiative was formed and to stimulate a fresh and energetic dialogue about the relationship of classical music artists and institutions and the possibilities of reaching and serving audiences through public media.

When you visit the website, you can download Classical Radio 101 which is a guide to today’s classical music radio universe. Also, a paper was written about the course and results of this project's work from 2003 – 2006.

Classical Music Initiative

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

random thoughts

I’m not sure what to think about the whole High or Lowbrow… I made it through the book, and it was interesting, for sure. I especially liked Higginson’s quotation when he says he could hear every single note from Longy… Anyway, I’ve never thought about the emergence of European culture in the States before. It seems like an excellent example to study, because the whole infrastructure of Western classical music started at zero. But did a cultural hierarchy emerge?

Of course I know what Levine means when he talks about the change of the conception of Shakespeare. But there also must have been forms or types of culture in the time when Shakespeare was so popular that were considered as “low” or just “out”. Culture changes all the time, and there is never a possibility to talk about a former era without looking through of our time. Maybe I’m totally wrong, but I still try to compare some facts from the book with the European history.

Since I found out what highbrow actually means and where it comes from, (I think it’s only an English word can’t be translated into any language I know), I had to think about Mattheson and Schumann. Mattheson was a Baroque composer, he wrote several books about music theory in his time. He is one of the first musicians who complains about the decay of culture and demands a perfect musical education for those who want to become musicians. He already uses the words amateur and professional. Schumann published his magazine “Allgemeine Zeitung für Musik” to establish a circle of musicians and concertgoers who denied the common popular music in his time. He wrote numerous articles about the danger for the audience of his time to stick with easy, lovely melodies of popular composers instead of facing serious works by him, Bach or Berlioz. I don’t want to use the term high/lowbrow, but Schumann’s intention was to create music for an audience that was well educated in terms of TASTE and LISTENING. (This would be very complicated, but Levine didn’t talk about the “taste” of an audience and how it changed / was changed!) Reading his (Schumann’s) publications is very astonishing: they could have been written today. He’s complaining about the uncritical audience, about the vanishing interest of the public in classical music, about rich people who only show up to concerts for social reasons etc etc.

I’m wondering what has really changed between the 19th century and today. I’m wondering if they would have written about their culture from their perspective, as we do from our prospective today. It’s confusing. The only reason why I’m so sceptical is that I really dislike the terms highbrow lowbrow. They were created, as Levine shows, not from artists, but from the “arbiters of culture” who are not directly involved with culture – they just deal with it somehow. Anyway, I’m getting confused after all. I probably think something totally different tomorrow.

Just one last thing because somebody mentioned Greg Sandow: At first, I expected something different from the title of this class. I thought about it as the future of the composing of classical music. There is this really amazing collection of essays (including Mr. Sandow) called “The pleasures of modernist music”. I went through it briefly and loved the variety of ideas and arguments. Basically it’s about the question if there is a “classical music” of our time that has perspectives in the future. That is worth a discussion!

Concert strategy been done? (see last paragraph)

First of all, I think that it is okay for classical music to continue to pursue its current ideals. Classical music doesn't need to become something else in order to appeal to the masses in order to live on. I also believe that classical music in this day and age as performed in concert halls is a Highbrow institution. As the survey for the Columbus, Ohio Symphony Orchestra showed, the average age of the audience was over 50. Add to that students of classical music who regularly attend concerts, and we see the age of the frequent concert-goer is much higher. In a BSO concert I went there, I did see numerous attendees who seemed to be on their way to partying or something and were stopping by for part of the concert, and well as others who treated the concert as a social venue. There was this young soloist played the Tchaikovsky piano concerto, and I saw a man sitting on the opposite end of the row from who seemed to be nodding off and somewhat displeased with what he was hearing. I tended to agree with that assessment (the playing was complete crap) and thought that here was someone who actually knew good music when he heard it, as opposed to all the other idiots who listened rapturously to the virtuosic passagework (look, there I go judging the audience). But then at the end, he jumps to his feet out of his slumber and begins applauding very vigorously and shouting bravos, and I realized I was fooled. Anyway, that story was to show the mindlessly, passively appreciative audience that characterizes a venue of Highbrow art continues to exist today.

This attitude, Bloom summarized in talking about reading “the Book,” not the bible, “but without a book of similar gravity, read with the gravity of the potential believer.” I admit I read some books recently with that same attitude. I expected to feel more cultured and transformed, enlightened, after reading Jane Eyre, because after all, it was a great piece of literature. After I finished it, I was not particularly affected. It was a nice story about a girl growing up and getting married. I think I lacked the knowledge to properly appreciate the book. But my opinion of the book, Jane Eyre did not worsen in my mind afterward. This is the same reaction as average concert-goers have when going to concerts. In order to not mindlessly accept the worth of something, one must have a certain amount of knowledge to judge.

This reminds me of something I thought about a musical canon. That music is sacred, man. Bach is God, don't be messing with his music. Make every note perfect. I think other composers are the only people courageous enough to diss those composers. Probably because they have their own knowledge and ideas. I think it is very important to be able to critically judge a work of art, and for that, a certain amount of knowledge and awareness is needed. Only through a critical evaluation of a work of art can one properly appreciate the work of art. It may be lamentable or not that audiences now passively enjoy concerts, but I think that the only thing lamentable is their lack of mental participation in the music. In order to demystify music, one must be able to critically evaluate it. The quality of sacredness is fact to be impervious to criticism, I think. I believe this critical mindset can readily be cultivated in concerts now. Some strategies might include giving audience members more choice in programing, question and answer sessions, and maybe “what did you think of that performance” time after each piece. This will give you an opportunity to address different aspects of what the audience heard, and in justifying your artistic choices, the audience might learn something. The break pieces are probably welcome, and the audience will probably be more attentive to the next piece. You might also be able to improve your playing based on audience feedback. Educating people about composers lives is not very productive to a true appreciation of music, I think. It is merely a novelty and introduces confused emotional associations with the music.

It would be a shame to sit here discussing the future of classical music and not cite one of the largest proponents of the topic. I'm not sure how many others have done so, but Google "future of classical music" and the first hit is Greg Sandow. His name was mentioned briefly in our first class, but I believe his writings and works warrant further investigation.
As of this post I have only had time to scratch the surface, but I encourage everyone to check out his blog and home page. I'll include the links. The most exciting element of this is that he is drafting a book online. This means "...I'm going to write it, or draft it, or riff it online, one installment at a time, until it's done." There are even opportunities to comment, suggest, and criticize his work in progress. This link will also be included. Happy reading everyone!

Greg Sandow Home Page

Online Book in Progress

Online Blog

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Ramallah Concert

I just watched the DVD of the documentary about Ramallah Concert (2005) by the West-East Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim. This DVD describes about the long and difficult process of making a concert in Ramallah by the orchestra, which consists of musicians form Israel and form Arabic countries lead by Daniel Barenboim. Before watching this DVD, I didn’t know anything about this orchestra and his project. I was very touched by this documentary and impressed by the people who joined this project because it must have required a great deal of courage to join this orchestra. With all devastating situations going on in the world, this documentary gave the hope that impossible can become possible and I was glad to know that the music can be part of this process.
By the way, I’m following the news of the march of the monks in Burma.
I really hope that the democracy will be back in Burma!!!

portable music

Dear Ipod lovers and owners of other mp3 enabled devices.... so you know that you are listening to a 65-85 percent of what originally was music you listening to..... I mean that you are loosing a lot of bandwidth and audio information from recordings... If you want to find more just follow the links......

Comparison of audio codecs

FLAC (most advanced lossless format)

Story from fan of portable audio devices,134953-c,mp3players/article.html

For all Ipod owners who wants to listen more formats on their Ipods

P.S. listening to music trough speakers is less harmless than through headphones....

no answers.... only questions....

Hello, class......
I actually don't know what to write, because I have a lot of thoughts going in my mind, but none of them is solved by me... So, that means mine posts going to be mainly question for audience....
What matter me most(or "what really grinds my gear" quoted from Family guy) is:
"Will classical music stay alive as a genre and will we need classical musicians in future....?"
There is some points that guided me for such a though...

1.Most of the classical music right now is recorded.... as you now some of them accounted as a standard(I can't find appropriate word for french"etalon")... so why do you need to make it better if it is already "the best".....

2.It is a fact that average teenager will choose to listen to Maroon 5 or RedHotChiliPeppers over Mahler symphony. So classical music is unpopular. Question: is classical music for elite? Yes, I think so.... Classical music evolved from royal family's everyday must have to alone standing thing. Pop(Popular) music is basically the same peasant's folk songs with repeated motive in accompany line....

Quote from Urii Temirkanov"21 century humanworld is based on a word "easy"... Pop is easy to understand, it wakens up your primitive feelings... opposite to this is a classical music, you need to work hard to understand it and it brings very complex feelings".....

loud war.

Ever wonder why we can never seems to keep up with the current technologies?! Or maybe you do, but, the next best gaget is always just around the corner. First, there was the vinyl record, followed by Tapes, CDs, and now we have ipod, which has sold 100 millions world-wide. These devices maybe great for the current value. But, they're not for long term investment.

The ipod is an outdoor thing, and everyone is just hanging onto it for their convients, not for the quality. According to the article "The future of Music" by Suhas Sreedhar (sponsored by Spectrum). The records company are not looking for the next great vocalist, or the best bands that has wide dynamic range, or spectrum of tone colors. The music industries are having a "war, which refers to the competition among record companies to make louder and louder albums." The four record companies who are responsible for creating louder music are Warner Music Group,EMI, Sony BMG, and Universal Music Group. Their way to sell the most popular albums were to "overcompressed the dynamic range." Which means "the dynamic range of a song is heavily reduced for the sake of achieving loudness." This competition of loudness is needed because more people are "listening to songs in a noisy environment - such as in their cars, on trains, in airport waiting rooms, at work, etc. the music needs to be louder to compensate the outside noises." My first reaction is, we are too smart for our own good. The technological age not only driving me insane, but it also drving me out of control, and heighten my stress level. The pace of this society is getting faster and faster, and damn, if I don't get everything done in one day, I'm falling behind. (this is only my philosophy, so please disagreed and be angry).

In conclusion, although the loud war may still be continued, but other companies such as Replay gain, iTunes, enable a "playback at a consisten average level of loudness." Which elminates the change of being "too loud," when swtiching from classical music to pop music. Because, we are listening for the QUALITY, instead of the obvious. The loudness of war is up to us to end or to continued.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Additional Study Questions for Levine, "Highbrow/Lowbrow"

towards Session 3, Wednesday 26 September 2007

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?


  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?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Education is key.

I would agree that people need to be educated, at least a little bit, in classical music in order to understand it, follow it, appreciate it, etc. Of course, this is the same with other genres as well, including jazz, electronic music, Balinese gamelan music, what have you. Western classical music seems to always have a certain elitist quality or connotation associated with it, and in the Levine reading it did talk about how Italian opera (translated into English) became quite popular with the general public starting in the late 18th century, but in comparison with how it was viewed both before and after that period.

Accessibility is definitely a big issue, but I don't think it is much affected by the price of concert tickets or duration of performances, since there are always a ton of cheap or free classical music events happening, especially in bigger cities where a lot of people are, and also a lot of pop music or rock concerts that sometimes last for hours have tickets that get pretty pricey. Perhaps more widespread classical music education (as a regular part of grade school curriculum, although from a practical viewpoint it's doubtful how likely that is to happen, considering the cuts to arts funding in education that's been happening over the past decade) would do a lot to decrease the perceived class gap. The Levine reading mentioned that the reason why people started warming up to opera more was that they could actually understand them when translated, which broke down the barriers of "elitism" and allowed opera to more easily be integrated into the culture of a larger population, by using opera tunes in popular songs, and so on.

I actually think that recordings and iPods are a help rather than a hindrance to classical music in this day and age, especially since that's the kind of thing that society is built around--anything that makes it easier to get out to more people via the means that they are comfortable with creates familiarity and eventually appreciation. I also think that, since music is human expression, and the recordings out there are (mostly) polished renditions by artists who are good at communicating it, the essence of classical music is not lost, nor is the performer's connection to the audience. I've felt equally (and incredibly) moved by listening to a recording of Alfred Brendel playing a Beethoven piano sonata as I have in experiencing a good live performance. It's also true that classical music is integrated into today's mainstream culture through popular media and entertainment, such as video games, movies, and television commercials, and that's probably a step in the right direction. Familiarity often leads to liking (I think I learned that in Sociology class), understanding, etc. (This might apply to contemporary classical music as well.)

-Katrina Soo Hoo

The Transformation of Classical Music

Opera is the oldest entertainment form that is still around today. As Levine suggests in the reading, we have been preserving the original text and music ever since the late 19th century.


Music to support the drama we see on the stage in a theater, TV shows ( especially cartoons ), video games, and movies have never gone out of style. Classical music is still being used in all of these genres of the entertainment.

For example, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, 1st movement was used in the movies Die Hard, Hannibal, Lucky Break, and Moll Flanders. Cantata No. 147 Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, was used in Boogie Nights, Crush Flubber,A League of Their Own, Minority Report, Mona Lisa Smile, Paradise Road,Picture Perfect, Runaway Bride, and Stealing Home. To view a more complete list go to

I would argue that new composers reach a wide audience and gain recognition when they compose music for the movies. An excellent example of this is the minimalist composer Philip Glass who has composed sores for The Truman Show, The Looking Glass, The Hours, Dracula, The Illusionist, and Notes on the Scandal.

I especially remember watching Warner Brother cartoons that usually featured classical music at some point. In the classic cartoons there was:
Rhapsody in Rivets (1941, Freleng) Using Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, a construction crew builds a skyscraper. Freleng often used a classical/musical background to orchestrate an action piece.
Rabbit of Seville (1950, Jones)The entire overture to Rossini's Barber of Seville is used as a background for Bugs and Elmer's chase. Another favorite. I get tickled every time when Stalling throws in Mendelssohn's wedding march near the end, seamlessly. And the "Marriage of Figaro" (a Mozart opera) gag is priceless.
In a modern cartoon such as Pinky and the Brain there was: Cheese Roll Call (#P4, 1995) Pinky sings an ode to cheeses to the tune of Sousa's "Semper Fidelis."
Video games are still very popular with many children and adults alike. A classic famous video game -Tetris - features in the Game Boy version is an arrangement of Johann Sebastian Bach's French Suite No. 3 In B Minor, BWV 814, V. Menuett - Trio.

Classical music is reaching a vast audience – but most people are not educated enough to recognize the music. Since most children are taught that classical music is a high art that only happens in the symphony concert hall, it would never occur to them to listen for it in their movies, cartoons, video games, and other forms of entertainment.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Study Questions for Levine, "Highbrow/Lowbrow"

towards Session 2, Wednesday 19 September 2007

Study Questions for Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow


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? 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?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A call to arms!

After reading Levine's Highbrow/Lowbrow, I realized that many of the conventions established in the late 19th century are still practiced today. I believe it is up to us as the next generation of musicians to find out what is being done to reintegrate so-called 'high art' into our modern society. It would also behove us to brainstorm new possibilities. We live in a unique period of artistic freedom in which very little is strictly taboo, especially compared with the 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries. I will not go so far as to call for a complete de-sacralization of classical music, but the time is right to explore and implement new possibilities in every element of our art.

I think it would be fun if everyone who responds (whether or not you agree with me) would throw out one random, crazy, even impossible idea. I'll take a page from the history books and suggest programming 'popular' music on classical programs, such as Tchaikovsky and Tool, or maybe Grieg and Gorillaz.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Does classical music matter?

I think the "classical music" today has reached only a small percentage of the global's population. The fact that many musicologists, theorists, and performers have written substantial analysis that are so academically orientated that are tough to graps. (Maybe I am wrong). Many people are neglected to listen to classical music.

In today's society, the classical music does not reflect on today's soceity, envirnoment, the pace of lives etc. I think the classical music can be enjoyed by more people, when the communication is clear.

The communication between the performer and the audience should have a common ground. Whether, the music is from the past or present, it must be able to reach out to the public. This is where there will be a discreptencies on interpretations, such as tempi, articulations (instruments have evolved, and advanced itself), dynamics, techniques, nuances etc. throughout each centuries.


Please share your thoughts, insights, and observations in the form of a new post (unless you are commenting specifically on a previous post)! Thanks.

Great class!

What a great class! I hope that you enjoyed our first meeting as much as I did.

There follows the other half of our syllabus.

The Future of Classical Music
Fall 2007 Calendar
Wednesdays 1:30 – 3 p.m., Wolfinsohn Room
Instructor: Isaiah Jackson 617-945-0675 (before 10 p.m.);

Required Textbooks, sold at the Harvard Coop:
  • Cook, Music: A Very Short Introduction (2000) “VSI”
  • Hewett, Music: Healing the Rift (2003) “HTR”
  • Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow (1990) “H/L”
The three required texts are also on reserve in the Longy Library.

Our Wikipedia group page:

Our class blog:

For each of the first 2 weeks, please post one entry per week to this, our class blog. By the end of the month, I suspect that we will be ready for prime time, at which point we can follow Wayne Marshall's suggestions, to wit:

I think the best way to go would be for your students to post their articles each week directly to Wikipedia, either in the form of a new article that seems to merit creation or a substantial addition/edit of an extant article. You could form a group page under the "Future of Classical Music" banner, and students could link their contributions directly to the page. ….Have them post a link to the article on a class blog, along with some text of their own explaining and justifying their choices by tying it to the class themes. This is the sort of approach we'll be taking in Musi E-145 this fall, and I call it "self-interested" because I think your students could help improve Wikipedia to the greater edification of us all, and that seems good.
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Attendance is expected at all class sessions. No unexcused absences are allowed. If you believe that you have a valid reason for missing a class, please contact Isaiah Jackson before the class; otherwise, the absence will be considered unexcused. Excessive lateness will also result in the lowering of the final grade.

The final grade will be based on a total of 100 points (75 points for attendance, class participation, Wikipedia & blog entries + 25 points for the Final Wikipedia Project).

Each unexcused absence will result in a deduction of 5 points from the final grade. Excessive lateness will also result in at least one 5-point deduction.