Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Last Post

I wanted to write one more post to say how much I enjoyed blogging with you all. This class has illuminated so many elements of the current classical music world, and I was glad to have a chance to learn from my fellow students as well as professor. You have great insight and newsfinding abilities. Thank you!

Also, if anyone even checks this blog again... I thought I would point you to my own blog, especially after the conversation we had a couple weeks ago about advertising ourselves. It's just a little blog about being a singer. My goal is to fill the void of information about what it's like to be young and starting out, but I don't think anyone reads it. Maybe someday.... I hope you check it out, though.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Groves via BLP & references on Wiki

I just (re)discovered that along with the OED, you can access from any internet connection, a gazillion varieties of online resources via the Boston Public Library, using your library card.  Most notable among them are the music resources, including Groves Music Online!  One less item to rely upon the benevolence of the wireless gods of the Longy "Zabriskie Library" network!

I have also figured out how to make footnotes and references on Wiki, and posted a message on each class member's user discussion page.  In case you didn't see it, here's a link to the template I created.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

kids concerts

I am so glad that Valerie posted about children's concerts. This is something that I've been thinking about lately. At the school where I teach, we try to encourage concert attendance. The students and parents have other little projects to do outside of class, but concert attendance is high up there on the list. When they attend a concert, they have to bring in the program or ticket stub and they get a little prize of some sort (pencils, notebooks, bookmarks...etc.)
The other day, I was handing in a project that one of my students had completed. It was about Grieg. I decided to look through all of the papers, curious to see what the students had done.
Almost all were on different composers, and there were no concert attendance.
In my opinion, the concert attendance seems the easiest. Although, I admit that taking a child into the city, or anywhere, and worrying about time, and if they will behave, etc, are all major issues. Lately, I've been giving them concert ideas. I advertised the Longy family series, and many have already bought tickets, I've advertised the Nutcracker (I know it's not a concert...but the ballet still counts in my mind), but I need to know where more are. It seems that parents just don't know where to look. I've pointed them in the right direction, but does anyone else have any ideas? I know this is something we've been sort of discussing in class.
Help! My parents will greatly appreciate it and I"ll share some of the chocolate and coffee that I'll get at Christmas with you! Trust me...I get tons.....

my progress on wiki

This week I have been browsing around on Wiki for pages related to "Piano pedagogy", a page that currently does not exist, and one I'm currently constructing.  I noticed that there were many stubs on different musically related terms that exist off in various corners of Wiki, but many provided ill-constructed presentations and misinformed knowledge by people who seemed to merely know the names of the terms, but did not really understand the details of topics.  I'm presenting a partial listing of my work in progress below, so as to show my work this week, and also to spark interests among the pianists in the class to contribute to the listing at their leisure.

-Create "Piano pedagogy" page
*Use "Vocal pedagogy" as model (this page was a very helpful discovery!)
* Provide link to "Pianist" page --> which needs great rewriting!!!
-- I'm tempted to start a "Piano playing" page in the future, and model it after the "Singing" page

-On the "Pedagogy" page
*disambiguation page on "Pedagogy" 
-- create "Pedagogy (musical)" link, w/ brief discussion on musical pedagogy, and links to different pages of pedagogies of different instrumental groups, e.g. "Vocal pedgogy"

-Make contributions and links to following lists:
- Classical piano repertoire
- Classical piano repertoire written for children

BLO promotions

I opened up my email this morning to find a promotional email from Boston Lyric Opera. "Two Great Ways to Dazzle Your Kids!" exclaimed the subject. Inside were advertisements for two upcoming events: a family-friendly performance of Magic Flute and a backstage look at Rusalka targeted at kids ages 11-17.

Curious, I read up on the Magic Flute performance. They are presenting a fully-staged, abridged version in English. Their blurb describes "Magical instruments…A wicked queen…An imprisoned princess…A courageous prince… Will Prince Tamino’s magic flute be enough to protect him on his quest to save the lovely Princess Pamina? The ultimate adventure opera!" A later description written to appeal to parents promises fairy tale elements celebrating courage, virtue, and wisdom.

This promotion seems to fit in with what we've been discussing all semester: trying to figure out ways to bring in new audiences and appeal to the public in new ways. I think it's great that BLO is aware of this need and doing what it can to "reach out." They even offer some PDF "study guides" as well that offer background on Mozart and a plot summary of the opera, which is great. Most of these seemed fairly well-done, although the "Magic Math" definitely needs some help (or perhaps just to be eliminated all together). I'd be curious to see how they cut Magic Flute to fit into an hour and how audiences respond. I know Magic Flute is supposed to be one of Mozart's great works, but I've always found the plot a bit lacking and decidedly sexist (though Mozart should, I suppose, not be blamed for being a product of his time). But all the same, kudos to BLO for exploring ways to make opera more accessible to kids and families.

some thoughts on the future

I think having a Wikipedia support group is a great idea. Thanks for suggesting it, Jessica.

I have wanted to put my own recordings on the internet for a sometime now. After this week’s class discussion, I thought I would go ahead open a myspace page. I have to say, it was the most frustrating half hour of my week. I was able to set up an account but could not figure out how to add my music. When looking at the frequently asked questions page I clicked on the question: “How do I upload my music?” The answer was: “They way you have always uploaded your music.” I could not believe it. It ended with me deleting my account. I just expected it to be user-friendly. I do know a lot of people who have put their music up and I they will be receiving phone calls. I have not given up and am determined to post my recordings only before the New Year.

I do think that it is important for musicians nowadays to be aware of all of the different tools available to us. I think that the future of classical music may have a lot to do with self-promotion. There is nothing wrong with that, I guess even if it seems a bit unnatural. I feel like we have to be really creative now. Some of my colleagues from McGill, for example, have created an opera company. Everyone is under the age of 30 and they perform full-scale operas in bars. I wish that I could remember their name. Their audiences usually include many people who would not go to the opera for various reasons but end up staying to listen. The acoustics are always bad, people are loud and possibly intoxicated but it is an enjoyable time and way for these young singers to perform in public. I think there are a lot of different ways in which we can get our music “out there.” We just have to keep an open mind. I’m doing my best.

Psyched into it

I finally worked up the courage to post the plot summary for Goyescas onto the page. It was easier than I had hoped. Trying to put my references at the bottom (and cite them in the text) proved to be more difficult. I still cannot believe that an Internet savvy cat like me can't handle this easy task.

I did, however, find some information on posting images. Even better, there's a Wikipedia cheatsheet that creates a shorthand list of all the editing procedures in a comprehensive manner, and it'll change your life.

It has been a pleasure struggling through this monster of an assignment with you all. I certainly won't stop working on this over the break, and as I learn new things about wikipedia and blogging (and life in general!) i will be sure to keep you informed.

Thanks for an awesome class!

Monday, December 8, 2008

YouTube Symphony - Follow Up

I've found the official website, or YouTube Channel, of YouTube's Symphony orchestra which can be viewed here. They have a vide of the London Symphony Orchestra performing the short orchestral piece written by Tan Dun (warning, it is a bit schmaltzy), which as you may recall users from all over the world can download the instrumental parts, practice it, record it, and upload it onto YouTube wherein it will be judged.

They also have an impressive roster of 'YouTube Symphony Ambassadors,' first of which is Lang Lang, a superstar pianist. They also have a video of conductor Valery Gergiev talking about the project.

Another interesting thing to note are the four logos of Carnegie Hall, the London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Lang Lang on the front page, which to me are some of the most recognizable and famous names in classical music.

Browse around the site! There are loads of other interesting stuff to see.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hey Valerie et al. –

In this post, I
1. give info about my website
2. propose we form a wikipedia support group
3. invite you all to lunch next Tuesday

Here’s my website: www.JessicaSchaeffer.com. I had it designed when I moved to California after graduating from NU and decided to establish myself as a freelance musician. I’ve done everything from weddings to new music premiers to recordings to rock concerts and the website has been helpful in sharing that information quickly and easily and has also played an important role in getting the gigs that pay (weddings). Please keep in mind it hasn’t been updated in, oh, four years (if anyone knows anyone who does website work, I am wanting to hire someone to do work on it...) but it looks good, puts forth a certain image, and has musical samples, which clients always want. Remember too, this website is intended for a particular audience – those who would want to hire a harpist for a private event. If I wanted to promote myself to a different target audience, there would be a different spin on the whole thing (i.e. if I wanted to promote myself as a soloist, my bio probably wouldn’t mention my expertise in wedding ceremonies!).

More important than the website itself, though, was the actual process of designing it and answering questions like – how do I want to position myself? What is the image I want to portray? What kind of clients do I want to attract? What is important? It makes you look at yourself objectively and makes you realize that you determine your image. I also had to realize that I was trying to be a business and, as such, I needed to sell my image and playing as a package deal. The visual component is just too important to disregard.

If you want to know specifics about how I had this built, costs, pictures, etc., and also how I reconciled my sense of musical integrity with the realities of trying to make a living as a musician, let me know!

Secondly, as I was recounting my major victory on wikipedia (creating one successful citation in an hour) to a friend, she suggested that this particular undertaking might be made a lot easier if we did it collaboratively. I think that’s a great idea! I imagine all of us in the library or somewhere with our laptops (do we all have laptops? The library has laptops you can check out...) figuring out Wikipedia together. For instance, I now know that I can help you all with creating footnotes and citing a website! I also know there’s a lot I don’t know! Let me know if this is something anyone might be interested in and perhaps we can find a time over the weekend or next week to get together.

Along those lines, and forgive me if I sound sentimental (not by Hewett’s standards, I hope!), but I have really enjoyed being in class with all of you this semester and always wish we had more time to discuss this, that, and the other thing. I can think of no better way to end our Tuesday meetings than to invite y’all over for lunch after Tuesday’s class. I know not everyone can make that time (come later!) but I think that’s probably the best time to do it. Emily can attest that I live, literally, a minute from Longy (29 Concord Ave.) so it will be convenient and easy. I’ll make the lunch (sorry, no five course meal) and I have rehearsal at 3:30 so, unfortunately, there will be no celebratory cocktails either. I can promise food for all, though, just let me know if the 12:30-2:30 time frame works for you!


Jessica, can you send me the link to your website?

Also, the choir I work for needs a harpist. If you're interested, can you let me know? Sorry to post this here, but I realized I don't have any other contact info for you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Boston Symphony...insulting marketing?

I've already started this post many different ways, this story in the Sunday paper has just gotten me to think about many different things. You can read the story here...http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2008/11/30/thoughts_on_a_missing_maestro_at_the_bso/
At first glace and skimming over the article, I admit (I was reading the article outloud to my roommate) that I added in, "what a diva" about the conductor. I mean isn't it quite the typical behavior of a "diva" to just walk out when not getting top billing? Maybe he could have just trashed the dressing room of Lynn Harrell instead? I'm not sure which is worse.
However, I would like to think that although what the BSO did could have been seen as insulting, we have to remember that they are still a business. A business that relies on people and their money. I was embarrassed to find that I had never heard of conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky but I'm sure that had I been at the concert, I would have read his biography and been impressed. But I had heard of cellist Lynn Harrell. That is what would have drawn me to the concert instead.
This may be "American style marketing", and I'm not saying whether or not it's any good, and it's starting to make me think that I really shouldn't only rely on big names (Sarah Corrigan is not a big name after all....), but that's the kind of world that we live in.
I say that if it gets classical music out there, and it helps it sell, then by all means do it. However, I'm not exactly for a label cover with a scantily clad girl and a strategically placed violin.....that's another post.

Unexpected Success!

This is fantastic! I wanted to find some information on the other performances of Goyescas, and I found the original 1915 press release of the NY Times! Thank you, Internet!

Produced by Mexican writer Francisco Gandara, the article describes Granados as a hesitant but dignified public figure, with a brilliant mind and a shy demeanor. It plays up the world premier of Goyescas in New York, which was supposed to be presented at the Grand Opera House in Paris, before the war postponed the performance indefinitely. When Giulio Gatti-Casazza, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, extended an invitation to bring the opera oversees, Granados agreed. It was a decision that would eventually end his life.

Gandara recalls first meeting Granados, at the inaguration of the Granados Concert Hall in Tividado, Barcelona. Catering to the demands of the crowd, Granados busted out his sketch for the tone poem “Dante” which was still a work in progress at the time, but was still effective in setting off the crowd.

He then recalls a private meeting with the composer in his study. Granados shows him all the Goya paintings that inspired him to write first the piano suite, then the opera. I think the article provides a great insight into Goyesca’s personality. I know I should focus on the opera in wikipedia, but I am tempted to use this article to beef up the page on him as well. It’s something else to do.

A Debate on Arts Education

ArtsJournals.com is currently hosting a debate on blog through Dec 5 on Arts Education.  The following is the list of its distinguished bloggers.  Please do check it out!

Sam Hope, executive director, The National Office for Arts Accreditation (NOAA); 
Jack Lew, Global University Relations Manager for Art Talent at EA; 
Laura Zakaras, RAND; 
James Cuno, Director, Art Institute of Chicago; 
Richard Kessler, Executive Director, Center for Arts Education; 
Eric Booth, Actor; 
Midori, Violinist; 
Bau Graves, Executive director, Old Town School of Folk Music; 
Kiff Gallagher 
Bennett Reimer, Founder of the Center for the Study of Education and the Musical Experience, author of A Philosophy of Music Education
Edward Pauly, the director of research and evaluation at the Wallace Foundation; 
Moy Eng, Program Director of the Performing Arts Program at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; 
John Rockwell, critic; 
Susan Sclafani, Managing Director, Chartwell Education Group;
Jane Remer, Author, Educator, Researcher
Michael Hinojosa, General Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District 
Peter Sellars, director

to review or not to review... a little bit about bemf

This past weekend, I had the privilege of seeing the Boston Early Music Festival. They performed a double feature that included Venus and Adonis by John Blow and Acteon by Charpentier. I thought it was phenomenal, possibly the best show I have been to in my fifteen months of living in Boston. The singing was just marvelous, as was the baroque dancing and the orchestra… oh the orchestra, what can I even say? It was the kind of performance that made want to invest some real time in early music repertoire. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised that I recognized some of the singers who were from Montreal and Toronto (this is something I needed to mention. I have been recently told that we Canadians are a nationalistic bunch). All of this is to say: the concert was awesome. Rock on BEMF!

Here is the conundrum: after the first opera had concluded to roaring applause I turned to my friend launched into my admiration of the music and the performers. I felt a great sense of satisfaction. There was nothing that could take me away from that happy-place. During the intermission we decided to stretch our legs and ended up speaking to one of the many “experts” sitting in the audience. He did not share my opinion. I was slightly irritated when he said, “I didn’t like that piece, it was really weird.” I am not saying that people must always share my opinions on music but little consideration for those who were trying to enjoy themselves would not hurt. On top of that, I felt like this person was expecting us to agree with him and in this case people did. That is what really bothers me. All of a sudden, it turned into a discussion about the faults in the music. I think that we had all heard that piece for the first time and I think that is very easy to be swayed into opinions like that. I don’t think it was the time or place to have such a discussion and tried my best to ignore it for fear that it would color my perception of the second half. I guess that is something that has always been important to me. I like having a fresh perspective on this. This is to the point of always reading program notes where on my way home from a concert rather than before or during. Everyone has their own ways of connecting to a performance.

Here is another conundrum: I have been guilty of the same thing! I remember leaning over to a friend as the applause to another concert was going on and say, “jeez, he sure took a lot of liberties in that…” I was giving my “educated” opinion on the performance. The person next to me was not impressed at all. She had every right to be, I guess, just as I did. Sharing the experience of art feels so important and I think it gets lost in moments like these. I was more upset on Saturday night because I felt alone in my enjoyment of the performance. In the second instance, I had alienated my friend. The moral of the story is not “if you have nothing nice to say, it is better to say nothing at all” but that maybe sometimes it takes a little bit more effort and sensitivity to share a musical (or any artistic) experience. Otherwise, why not just attend a concert alone? I am happy to do it when I travel by myself but it always makes me feel like there is something missing. It’s that connection with other audience members.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Get to Carnegie Hall... via YouTube (?)

Today, the New York Times ran this article on an online project called the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Marketed by Google, this project will allow instrumentalists from all over the world to audition for this symphony orchestra through videotaping their performances and then uploading them on YouTube, where they will be judged by industry professionals (i.e., members of the New York Philharmonic).

There are two parts of the project. Firstly, Tan Dun, a Chinese composer (most famous for his music to Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), wrote a four-minute orchestral piece. YouTube users can then download the part for their instruments, record themselves performing the parts, and upload their renditions. When all of the entries are judged, the winning videos will be put together for a final YouTube version of the piece.

Secondly, musicians from all over the globe will be able to upload auditions from a prescribed list (orchestral excerpts), and these will be judged by a jury to include members from some of the best orchestras in the world (London Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, etc.) The panel will create a list of finalists and YouTube users, much in the mode of American Idol, will choose the winners who will be flown to Carnegie Hall in April to appear in a concert conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony.

Sounds a bit nutty? Well, in the article, Ed Sanders, YouTube's project marketing director, said that “The idea is to put together the world’s first collaborative online orchestra”... “It’s collaboration in a way and a medium never seen, both with sound and video.” Another aim is the “serendipity of discovery... It would be a dream come true to find a trombone player in Hong Kong who had a rare talent, but nobody knew.”

I think this project has an interesting indication in recognizing the legitimacy of YouTube as a source and repository of 'highbrow' art. Also, it is recognizing it as a vehicle of finding undiscovered talent (hopefully). I imagine that critical opinions of this project would point out the undesirable marriage of commerical/corporate interests (Google & YouTube) and classical music (which many think should be kept locked in its ivory tower). I for one am tickled by this idea of the online symphony orchestra because YouTube, for me, is an invaluable source for all of my classical music needs, and then some. I listen to rare recordings of Richter's piano recitals, and I watch the latest episodes of America's Next Top Model... because I can. I hope this project succeeds, it will be interesting to see where it goes. Plus, anything that Michael Tilson Thomas is involved in is always wonderful :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Just an update on my wikipedia article: I've finished up most of the text for my article and posted it in my sandbox.

I still need to fix/add citations and possibly figure out how to put in some pictures, although I'm not quite sure where to get pictures that I can legally use. I don't think the ones on the school website are in public domain...

Communal Music Making

The idea of making music together has come up several times on here in recent weeks. I had several experiences over the break that reminded me of the conversation, so I thought I'd pass them along.

Several siblings/friends of my two roommates were staying with us for thanksgiving. The six of us were hanging out after eating breakfast together thanksgiving morning, and my roommate, Katie asked me if I would play something on the keyboard we have in our living room. I played some Beethoven and Schubert (definitely not quite the same on a keyboard, no matter how nice it is, but that's another post all together). Katie and her siblings all took piano lessons as kids, but are by no means professional musicians. In spite of that, they all ended up playing for the group.

As cheesy as it sounds, it made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside to play and listen in a setting where no one really cared how badly you messed up. The point was just to play and listen and share the music we knew.

But at the same time, I found it impossible to shut off my inner critic. As Katie's brother played, I couldn't help thinking a constant stream of critiques: "Voice that chord to the top... crescendo more there... the sixteenth notes are a little muddy here..."

I can see how, as music has become a more specialized field and recordings become more widespread, amateur performances in the home would also decrease. Why bother listening to an amateur play live when you can listen to a recording of the same piece by the likes of Rubenstein or Horowitz? And really, it must take a very confident amateur to play knowing that those of us with more musical training will most likely find ourselves unable to keep from analyzing the smallest details of the performance.

I think to a certain extent, we as musicians are shooting ourselves in the foot with our high standards. There's certainly a time and place for pushing ourselves as close to perfection as we can, but I know that I, for one, tend to allow that quest to stop me from sharing music with others and from devaluing the contributions of so-called "non-musicians." There's more to music-making than technical, and even musical perfection.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An argument for culture?


Could you post the title and author of the book you mentioned at the end of class? So far I'm not having any luck finding it.

bad behavior at concerts

This is in response (sort of) to Sarah's post - and I think I told her about this (so sorry if you're hearing this for a second time, Sarah).

A few weeks ago, I saw Keith Jarrett, which was an amazing concert. My friend and I were late, (which, I'll admit, is bad behavior in itself). We patiently waited and watched the first song on the TV moniters they had at the hall, and were let in before the next song started. There were, of course, two people in our seats who either didn't realize they were in the wrong seats, or didn't want to leave those seats - we've all been there, leaning over other people, whispering angrily in the dark, and upsetting everyone's experience for those few minutes.

However, once we got settled, the thing that began to bother me the most were all of the cameras around us. Although there weren't flashes exactly, there were the lights and small sounds of digital cameras constantly going off. The younger members of the audience seemed to be the bigger culprit, but there were enough that it was a problem (this was a packed house at symphony hall - there were a lot of cameras).

Jarrett performed two encores, which was great. The audience, of course, kept cheering, and he came out for what seemed to be a third encore. He almost sat down at the piano, but then went to the microphone. He referred to the "blue light guy" and the "orange light guy" and expressed his extreme disappointment at the behavior of the audience. Part of his frustration was his surprise at how frequently this has become a problem - and in his decades of being a performer, he can't understand this sudden facination - he said he's had many discussions with his colleages, and they've never known anything like it. He did not play a third encore, but instead left the stage.

It was an unfortunate note (no pun intended) to end the concert with. I was happy, though, that he brought it up. This is a way in which modern technology can be really detrimental - with MySpace and Facebook, people fetishize artists in a way they have been before. It's as if you can't just brag about seeing a cool musician; pictoral documentation must be present as well. Why is this? Shouldn't you just be there to listen?

a broken string...

Last week I attended the Pacifica quartet concert. I went specifically to see them perform the Beethoven string quartet and also to hear them play "Black Angels". I've only ever heard recordings of the latter, and was definitely eager to hear them. I must say it was a great performance. I'm not going to review it or recap everything that happened or how I felt listening, or what I think of them as musicians. Instead, I was just wondering about your feelings on audience etiquette.
During the beginning of "Black Angels" I noticed that the violist had broken a string. Now not being a string player, I definitely had to look twice, just to make sure. The quartet ended that section and the violist got up, pointed out his broken string and went to door. An announcement was made, just to keep everyone posted, and as the violist went up to open the door, he found it locked. Instead of staying quiet, the audience laughed. It was embarrasing I felt as a student here, that the stage hands weren't right back stage and ready to help. I'm sure it was very disheartening for the performer. Although, as a professional he was quick to change his string and was back on stage in no time. At this then the audience cheered.
For some reason this really bothered me. The tone of the piece was set, and it's definitely a serious piece where laughter isn't very appropriate. The quartet was able to just get back on and finish the piece with the intensity that it requires. It really was great. But shouldn't an audience be quiet during those mishaps? Maybe they felt as if they were supportive. However, it all seemed incredibly inappropriate and "lowbrow", forgive me, I had to. Perhaps it's more my problem. But it isn't fun when things like this happen, but I'm sure that they do. I would just rather the audience deal with it quietly and not laugh, and then cheer. Really? What do you think?

In response...

This is a response to both VER and Shilpa –

You’re both hitting upon something that I think about a lot: the huge gaping hole where everyday music-making should be.

Between kids taking music lessons and professional musicians (from all genres), there’s not much in between. Besides karaoke (and Marie’s Crisis – which sounds like a step up?) and wii music (and all its relatives), and maybe community choirs, the opportunities for casual, communal music-making are rare.

This fall I joined a “performance group” that meets monthly. It’s basically a loose collection of musicians who need an outlet to share music they’re working on or have performance anxiety. We met on Saturday and this particular gathering included a cellist, two classically-trained pianists (one learning jazz), two guitar playing singer/songwriters, and myself.

The afternoon started off somewhat strained. There was an immediate polarization of those who fell on the classical side of music and those who fell on the…other side. After everyone had played, I suggested we do some improvisation, since that is what I have been working on these days. I set up a chord progression, we began to play, and the whole energy of the group shifted. We came together in that way that only playing music together can do. From separate individuals, we became a unit and by the end of the meeting, we were just making music together, at whatever level each of us were comfortable with. The exuberance was palpable. Our host said it best in her follow-up email:

Hey all!
Great group Saturday! For those of you who weren't there, we had a mix of jazz, folk, classical, free improv, and an ensemble jam on a couple of pop songs!!! Quite the musical gathering! Where else can you hear a song about murder and prison time followed by a Beethoven sonata! Or an ensemble of cello, violin, piano and 2 guitars playing U2???

I don’t know what it is, and I wish I was more articulate about this, but experiences like these seem so ‘true’ to me, and are of ‘now’. All these stories remind me that music is participatory in nature; it is a communal act. The improvisatory nature of an evening at Marie’s Crisis is necessary for us, and something we need – music woven into everyday life, where there’s not a stage, there’s not an audience, and there’s not a program; there’s just people making music together.

Marie's Crisis

This weekend I was going through my journal and came a across my entries from my most recent New York City trip in October. For me, this city is paradise. I have felt this way my entire life. This most recent trip sold me again for many reasons but I would like to share the music related one. My friend and I went to the bar “Marie’s Crisis.” Perhaps some of you have heard of it. It is a basically a big Broadway sing-a-long. There is a pianist who sits in the middle of a small room playing any and all of the Broadway tunes you can think of. He does medlies from varying shows anywhere from Cabaret to The Sound of Music without a score in sight. Everyone there is singing at the top of their lungs. It is truly a special place. Everyone once in a while regulars would do breathtaking solos. It really made me remember how expressive musical theatre can be. I was there singing “Climb Every Mountain” with the best of them. The pianist also knows how to gage his audience. When Chorus Line started to bomb, he moved on. At one point an audience member asked one of the bar’s staff if they could request “Les Misarble.” The staff member curtly replied, “It’s not gonna happen, honey.” Eventually, this request did reach the ear of the pianist and he did indeed oblige his audience and with absolutely no snobbery. It was fantastic. I wish that classical musicians did this more often. In undergrad we did it much more but recently. I remember saying things like “let’s see if I can hit the Queen of the Night high F.” No, my teacher would not have approved. My group of friends and I have become so serious and so precious about music. I miss just messing around and sight-reading for the sake of it. If you get the chance to visit NYC, check this place out, even if you’re not big fan of musical theatre it may just surprise you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

FYI: BSO, GEB, OED, & Wiki


Here's a bit of news on our neighbor across the river.  Did you hear of how a guest conductor walked out on the BSOthis past weekend?  77-year-old Russian conductor Gennady Rozhedstvensky refused to conduct the four performances that were scheduled for the past weekend due to his outrage against the BSO marketing strategy.  Julian Kuerti stepped in for these performances instead.  Check it out.

I mentioned a Hofstadter in class last week when we spoke of writers who use fancy words.  It's actually someone whom my boyfriend knew of through his graduate work on artificial intelligence.  In fact, my boyfriend admires this thinker greatly, and has gotten on my case--too many times now--about how I must read this man's work on creativity and the human mind.  So here I am, sharing this post with you and making the bf happy. ;-)

This is Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University in Bloomington, best known for his pulitzer-award winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.  He is an immensely fascinating person and has produced even more immensely fascinating works.  I'll leave you to read about him and his work on Wiki.  Just click on either of the links above for their respective Wiki pages.


I did some quick research on the term "pastiche" on the Internet.  Wiki summarizes it as having two distinct meanings: a "hodge-podge" or an "imitation".  Here is the Oxford English Dictionary entry:
A. n.
   1. a. A novel, poem, painting, etc., incorporating several different styles, or made up of parts drawn from a variety of sources. Cf. PASTICCIOn.b. A musical composition incorporating different styles; a medley. Cf. PASTICCIO n. 1a.
2. a. A work, esp. of literature, created in the style 
of someone or something else; a work that humorously exaggerates or parodies a particular style.
    b. The technique of incorporating distinctive elements of other works or styles in a literary composition, design, etc.

1. Composed as an imitation or parody of a particular style or artist. 
2. Exhibiting or incorporating an amalgam of different styles. 

None of these things so far seem to suggest an overtly negative connotation to the term "pastiche".  Its Italian ancestor, "pasticcio", however, seems to be the culprit for its derogatory aspect.  Here's the OED entry on "pasticcio" : (my favorite is, of course, the last definition) 

1. a. Music. An opera or other work consisting of a medley of pieces from different compositions or by different composers. 
   b. A work of art or architecture imitating an antique or older style;  one incorporating elements taken or copied from antique or classical works; this style in art or architecture. 
   c. A confused mixture, a hotchpotch; a mess. 
2. An Italian pie usually containing a mixture of meat and pasta.

And, lastly, "Pastiche" is also a fine desserts & cafe place in Rhode Island.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wii music

I happened to spot an add for Wii music while watching TV online the other day. It brought to mind our class discussion of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. This would seem to be the Wii version of these games. Based on the video clips they have on their website, it would seem to be pretty elaborate. They have something like 60 instrument options ranging from piano and violin to electric guitar, cowbell, and beatbox. One play mode seems to allow groups to play together, creating their own "arrangements" of pieces like Ode to Joy.

I'm rather curious about how all this works, actually. I can see how the gestures for instruments such as drums or violin could be a fairly close approximation of reality. But what about piano or trumpet? How do you "play" these instruments realistically with a Wiimote? In the arrangments, how much control does the player have over things like dynamics, pitches, and tempo?

I will grant that it seems like a fun concept, and given the opportunity, I'd probably enjoy playing it a bit. But part of me feels rather strongly that if Wiimusic is what friends and families turn to when they want to create music, we're loosing out on a lot of the richness of music making. The sound quality in their ads was pretty awful- at the very least, I wish they'd made recordings of actual instruments instead of what sounds like a bad midi file. Much as I hate sounding like some old woman yearning for the "good old days," I kind of wish we could go back to a time when playing music together was a common leisure activity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wiki Idea: Futurism and Music

I am ripping out a page from Sarah's book by proposing to add substantively to the wikipedia article concerning music and Futurism. The link to the wikipedia article on this subject is here and could contain more information. Since the thesis of our class revolves around pondering the future of classical music, I thought it would be interesting to focus my project on a branch of a 20th century philosophy that championed noise as music in the early 1900s. I also think that the Futurists laid the foundation for experimental art and music of the future (particularly in the 1960s), and just to provide a snippet of what they created:

With the Russolo's invention of the new instruments of orchestra, the "intonarumori";[5] he and Marinetti gave the first concert of Futurist music in 1914. The program of "four networks of noises" with the following titles:

1. Awakening of Capital.
2. Meeting of cars and aeroplanes
3. Dining on the terrace of the Casino and
4. Skirmish in the oasis.

The future of orchestra?


A friend of mine sent this to me. It is literally a virtual orchestra. Each orchestra member has a laptop instead of an instrument. Each "instrumentalist" designs their own "instrument" using a computer program, and the conductor merely provides visual cues for the "musicians". The group is SLORK, Stanford's laptop orchestra.

Having taken a bit of computer music myself, there is quite a variety of sound manipulation that is possible live, during a performance.

It would be interesting to see such a group.

A few words on recording

I am currently deep into the application process for the next steps in my education. As a soprano, and really as female voice, I have to submit recordings for prescreening purposes to almost every school I am applying too. I was looking into recording studios in the past I have regretted it because of the dead acoustics. The thing that I found really interesting and comical was how much the recording engineers are able to manipulate. I suppose I always knew about certain things like pitch correction and reverb. If I want to sound like I was singing at the Met, they could easily do that for me. If I wanted something a little bit more intimate, they could make me sound like I was singing in the Kammermusiksaal in Berlin. Of course, these things are a little bit uninteresting to me because at this point, not only do I find that aspect of recording a kind of odd, it’s really not allowed in an audition CD. It makes me wonder how much manipulation goes on in a classical recording. Certainly, editing is an essential part of the process. I don’t judge it in a professional CD but it could be seen as less “authentic.” In the August 2008 edition of Classical Singer magazine Eric Cutler talks a little bit about his experiences with recording. He said that it was a place where he felt like he could present the best parts of his voice because of editing. Glenn Gould used to say similar things. Perhaps it is just a different way of thinking about music.


Music critic Greg Sandow just made a post on his blog about hearing Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time at a club, Le Poisson Rouge, in NYC.  He writes about his experience of hearing Messiaen's piece programmed between two sections of ambient music with electronics, and saw that it received a very enthusiastic response from the crowd.  He describes the reason for the effectiveness of the program is that the music surrounding the Messiaen piece puts the audience in a similar mood to the center of the program, so that the Messieaen "gets put in a space where they're read to hear him".  My favorite line of this entry is thus:  

"there's something really wonderful about playing classic pieces for people whose silence and applause are completely spontaneous."

So I encourage you to check out this entry.  Most importantly, make sure to read the comments at the bottom, because they go so well with many ideas about what and how to talk about classical music which we have been sharing in class this whole semester.

I definitely recommend checking out the link to the venue, which is dedicated to "offering the highest quality eclectic programming" to which they invite people to "bring open mind and drinking shoes"-- certainly makes me want to make sure to check out when I get the time to visit the city!

Monday, November 17, 2008

First I would like to admit that, yes, I was thinking about this class while at a bar. I am that nerdy. Moving on.

While I was out this weekend at a bar with music playing, someone among my party inquired what the song was. Another of the party then brought out his iphone, held it above his head, looked at it, and informed everyone it was Suchandsuch by the Soandsos. I seen this technology advertised but never seen it in action or given it much thought.

In light of our recent reading of Hewett, I did give it much thought. At first it seemed this phenomenon was directly related to the formal aspects he talks about on page 15: a specific song could not be identified as separate from others if songs themselves had not, at some point, been given mobile identities. I do think this fact is only partially true.

But there are also very immobile factors here, which causes me to wonder if music in this case is being treated more as it used to be, as a singular, though replayable, event. As I sat there, fascinated, I began to wonder what factors of the sound the technology is picking up. Is it pitch, key, melody, timbre, rhythm, what? What would happen if we transcribe it? Speed it up? If it is another voice singing? Use a live version? I suspected, and still suspect, any of these changes would cause the technology to consider the sound a different song.

I did some research on the internet and found the iphone utilizes a technology called Shazam to read the sound's acoustic fingerprint, which is apparently the end result of the code that digitally stores the sound. There is some leeway in matching acoustic fingerprints, accounting for differences in the file storage and audio quality, but it is based off a master recording. Therefore, the technology would not be able to identify two people singing the same Schubert song, for instance, as the same, or I suppose anything live at all.

So here, a piece of music becomes one unchangeable event. It is certainly different from the days when music and function were inherently tied, but I see similarities; and I certainly see differences from the idea of complete mobility within the same musical identity.

Lest this post turn into a dissertation, I will end it, but I leave you with the next step: What does this idea do for the concept of authenticity?

Help with Chapter 6?

Hit a mental roadblock in the reading and wondering if any one might like to take a stab at clarifying some of the themes Hewett explores in “Authenticities”:

1. Page 156, top of the page, first paragraph. Could anyone speak more to the criteria that at one time made art music legitimate?

2. Page 156-7, the paragraph that starts, “Authenticity is what everybody looks for in music…” He then goes on to ask whether the plurality of authenticities each match up with their own practice or if they span across different practices. I’m having a difficult time imagining how these two conceptions are exemplified in the world. Can anyone give an example or speak to this?

3. EXPRESSIVITY – what is Hewett actually trying to say? More about this idea in general? Where does expressivity figure into music today and how? What is expressivity? What is being expressed? Why is this significant?

Sensless Waste of Time

This is a cop out. I spent so long on wikipedia trying to figure out what on earth was wrong with my sandbox, I didn’t have time to post an article. I do apologize.

The good news is that I did, and I’m almost done with the plot summary for Granados, and so I will have two posts this week to make up for it. Pardon my dust.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In our Own Backyard...

If you do nothing else Monday from 10 – 11:30 am, go to the Strategic Plan Task Force in the Wolfinsohn room. Not only will you get a nice hand out and chat with Karen Zorn (who has a great sense of humor), but you’ll have a chance to see the kind of thinking that is propelling this institution forward and, moreover, be a part of it! I bring it up here because, in light of our reading, I see it as breaking out of the same ideologies that we have been examining and enacting a new paradigm that, I think, is and antidote to music’s past and analogous to music’s future.


First, the process itself – The entire student body is openly invited to take part in the visioning of Longy. Right away we move away from a hierarchical dictatorship into a collaborative relationship. (The analogy being the top-down, one way street hierarchy of composer -> performer -> audience).

The common theme that runs throughout the vision is PARTNERSHIP. In that same boat are the ideas of community, connections, and diversity. This idea of partnership comes out of the desire to meet the needs of the community- to offer what is needed. I find this significant because it is a reversal of the intention that gave rise to the modern symphony orchestra (as recounted by Levine); that intention being the desire to no longer have to rely on the support of the community and therefore, no longer have to meet or fulfill it’s wants and needs.

I think too, we can see how that thinking was taken up by other musical institutions: conservatories and schools set apart from the community, aspiring to things far greater (an aesthetic ideal) than the provinciality of the community in which it is set – perpetuating exclusivity and sacralization.

Contrast that with Longy, who receives more than 2/3 of its budget from tuition (that includes conservatory students, prep and continuing ed. students). Longy’s endowment is small ($8 Million) and so relies very heavily upon support (money or otherwise) from those who wish to study at or support Longy. To survive, then, it MUST remain relevant to the community. By association, we, as students, have the opportunity to orient ourselves to this communal-minded spirit and can become a part of enacting this particular paradigm.

What is of value, what is the living force of Longy, then, is the work that is being done as opposed to the focus on the production ‘works’ (‘works’ being in the form of awards, won auditions, published articles, and other quantifiable measures). Again, I see a significant correlation here between Cook’s perspective of looking at music in terms of what it DOES, rather than what it represents. Using the analogy of music, Longy is not a static ‘work’, yoking its initiated participants to its immovable tradition. Longy has a vision where those involved are creating the institution; giving it it’s meaning and significance (not the other way around).

Karen Z. said it best when she said (I am paraphrasing), “We want Longy to be not just a great education but a great experience.” That’s something everyone can be a part of!

Now, where did I put that application for Director of Public Relations at Longy…

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

wikipedia, continued

I'm continuing to work on my article about my alma matter- everything is still in my sandbox at this point, but I added a section on Facilities today. I spent some time looking at the talk page for the Longy page to give me an idea of what problems to avoid in creating my page. I also tried to upload some photos but discovered that you have to make a certain number of edits or something before the wiki gods will approve you to add photos. So those will have to come later.

Warm fuzzies


A quick post: Alex Ross has posted a video taken at Union Square on the day of the election. In the wee hours of the morning, the crowd broke out into the national anthem. Bob Dylan also, apparantly, once Obama was announced, played "Blowin' in the Wind." I thought, since we have discussed the ways in which song can be used politically (as a unifying force) that this was relevant.

It is cheesy on my part, but it really does give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

If you want to see the video, just go to Ross's website (therestisnoise.com) and scroll down.

new wiki....

I've decided to change my wiki topic (as some of you others are doing as well!), not that Balinese gamelan doesn't interest me. On the contrary, having played in one, I absolutely love it and just could not do justice to creating a new page. There is just already so much information out there about it. I will however, complete my page by listing some gamelans around the country for anyone that is interested. Maybe there's one that is close by to your hometown that you had never known about!
Back to my original reason for this post, another great interest of mine... I'm going to be creating a page about music in the DADA movement. There is already quite an extensive page about DADA on wikipedia but not much about music. Compared to the artwork and literature that came out of the movement, there is not as much in terms of music. Music that we perform and listen to. Usually the composer Erik Satie is mentioned, but that is just about it. There is alot about DADA out there, and it's ideas are still prevalent in the arts world today.
I feel that this is much more exciting as there is so much that I could add to a page that is already in place, as well learn so much more about a movement that I'm so eager to find out about! In case you aren't sure about DADA here's a link to Tristan Tzara's Dada Manifesto http://www.391.org/manifestos/tristantzara_dadamanifesto.htm.

A brief research update

I’ve decided to refocus my work on Wikipedia to Edwin E. Gordon – an apparently influential force in the field of music education but someone I’ve never heard of. I will be giving a brief presentation on his theory at the end of the semester in another class so I figure I’ll make the most of my research efforts and kill two birds with one stone.

Much like Wikipedia’s Dalcroze article, the Edwin E. Gordon article is more of a stub and only references outside sources. I can envision expanding his biography as well as writing a related article on his music learning theory and other aspects of his work.

I had been having trouble finding any substantial information on Gordon until I hit the informational mother lode in the form of the Edwin E. Gordon Archive, housed by the University of South Carolina. They have a comprehensive collection of Gordon’s work as well as articles pertaining to Gordon’s work and all the sources are listed on the website.

Research resources:

For those of you doing any research relating to educational topics, eric.ed.gov is an AWESOME resource for articles. Access is unrestricted and each entry includes an abstract of the article in addition to the article title. If you register (free), you can save your searches and articles.

Also, the Bakalar Library page has a list of all the online resources we mentioned in class (JSTOR, RISM, RILM, et. al) but they can only be accessed through Longy computers or through Longy’s wireless network.

Getting to know Wiki

I spent some time this week reading through the history and talk pages of the Longy Wiki pages, as well as the pages for other Boston area music schools.  I did that so to get my bearings in the Wiki world, before I start contributing anything to the existing pages.  Among other things, I learned about "peacock terms"-- words that "reflect unqualified opinions", which Voceditenore helped us to correct on the Longy wiki page.  However, I did spot numerous occurrences of peacock terms on the pages of our neighboring music schools, and plan to raise my hand at those as soon as I figure out how to use the right editing codes.

Happy belated birthday to Mary Morrison!

Happy Birthay to Mary Morrison, soprano! I fortunate that I am able to write this entry just two days after her I wanted to just say a word about this important Canadian soprano and pedagogue. Ms. Morrison was born on November 9, 1926 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She received and Artist Diploma from The Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada in 1948. She has performed in the major orchestras in Canada. Her roles include, the countess, Pamina, Marguerite, Mimi, Marie in The Bartered Bride, Fiordiligi among others. Besides singing opera, Ms. Morrison’s most significant contributions are in contemporary Canadian art music. She has sung premieres by many composers including Jean Papineau Couture (who studies with Nadia Boulanger at Longy for a short time) and Oscar Morawetz. She played Sarah in the opera Louis Riel. She has also done Canadian premieres of European and U.S. works of Berio, Cage, Crumb, Peter Ligeti, Takemitsu, Xenakis and others. Mary Morrison married the composer Harry Freedman. She has taught in many Canadian universities and is still teaching at the University of Toronto. In 1983, she was made an officer of the Order of Canada.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Boston Lyric Opera's New General Director

I attended the opening night of Boston Lyric Opera's production of Jacques Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffman" (or "The Tales of Hoffman") on Friday night, which was a fantastically fanciful production with phenomenal singers (especially the soprano who played Hoffman's four loves). Tonight, I stumbled upon this interview with Esther Nelson who is the newly appointed general and artistic director of the BLO. The interviewer brought up the issue of the physical limitations of the Schubert theater, and Ms. Nelson responded:

"Yes. As many theaters as Boston has, to my disappointment, we don't have a single perfect opera house. It's unusual for a city of the size of Boston, with its level of cultural integrity, to not have an opera house where you can do grand opera. That for me is a major handicap, a sadness, because it eliminates certain work that, as the largest company in New England, we should be able to do. We can't do Wagner or "Otello" the way it's meant to be done."

To me, part of the charm of BLO is its small size and similarly moderate productions. I think that in restraint and limits can come an enormous capacity for creativity and resourcefulness. I've enjoyed all the operas I've seen put on by the BLO, even though they may not be ridden with elaborate machinery or big-named stage directors, they are always of top quality with wonderful singers.

Ms. Nelson mentions how it is impossible for the BLO to mount large productions such as Wagner and "Otello," well now in this economic recession, that may be an advantage, as this article from the Washington Post describes the first casualty of the economic downturn being Wagner's "Ring" cycle which the Washington National Opera has postponed indefinitely.

Let's hope we get out of this recession soon so that all opera productions both big and small can be enjoyed by everyone :)

My Week's Work

This week I took one more stab at tracking down my 16th century friend. I looked through several online archives, searching the name that was given as the author of the book I had. Then I found a source listing the author as having a slightly different name, as in one letter difference. Apparently my friend is known as ConfortI as well as ConfortO. I should have tried that spelling before because I had heard it said that way but figured it was a mistake because I have seen the book.

So, I was then happy to find Mr. C does in fact have a page on Grove, which is a wonderful starting place. I also found a couple other citations that I will try to track down.

And yes, I do feel very silly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The presidency and the arts

In honor of election day, here is an article from yesterday's The Times (London), titled: "What will the new president do for the arts?"  It only briefly talks about the cultural activities in the US during the Bush years, and comments the current presidential candidates have made about the arts.  The article mentions films, books, plays, popular music, visual art, musical theater, etc.  Though not too surprising, I was quite disappointed to notice that nowhere in the article mentions classical music and related performance arts.  Nor does it mention anything about arts education in public schools.  Furthermore, I was also struck by this comment found after the end of the article by a reader:

"Who CARES?...We are in survival mode right now. Anyone concerned with the Presidents role in the arts has got to be economically unaffected, or someone whose job is "arts dependent" 
If for one moment you think that the Arts are important enough to even be discussed right now, than get real."

I thought to share this on here, so to hopefully start a discussion on the relationship between the arts and politics in the US.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lois McDonall -- new wiki idea

Lois McDonall is a Canadian, Operatic soprano. I have decided to devote a Wikipedia page either to her to Mary Morrison, who is another Canadian Soprano. I take special interest in both singers because not only are they important to me as Canadian singers but also, I have studied with each. This week, I would like to talk a little bit about Lois McDonall. Lois McDonall was my first mentor and in many ways, continues to be. She was born in Alberta in 1939. She was a semi finalist in the 1967 Met Auditions. This was the same year that she made her Canadian Opera Company debut. Ms. McDonall became a resident artist at the English National Opera and spent much of her career there. Her major roles include, Tosca, Constanze, Elsa from Lohingrin, Marschalin from Der Rosenkavalier, Donna Anna, Violetta, Freia, Miss Jessel from Turn of the Screw and many more. She is an expert in the music of Donizetti and Mozart. She has sung some rarer operas by Donizetti, such as the title role in Maria Padilla. Ms. McDonall has also premiered contemporary operas singing the title role in Anna Karenina (a role which was created for her) by Ian Hamilton and Mrs. Medlock in Stephen McNeff’s, The Secret Garden. In 1984, Lois McDonall thought at the Banff Centre and in the next year began to teach at the University of Toronto, where she retired from in 2001. She continues to teach in her private studio in the Toronto area. Many of her students have gone onto notable opera houses around the world, including Othalie Graham. Lois McDonall also has an extensive list of recordings which can be purchased online, if anyone is curious.

Just for the record

I posted a comment on Jessica's posting called "What music does..." It's down the page a bit, and I wanted to make sure to get credit for making a post this week.

Sarah Palin's Soundtrack

It's the night before election day, so I couldn't resist writing an election-themed post! This Youtube video of pianist Henry Hey accompanying a portion of an interview given by Sarah Palin to Katie Couric made me laugh so hard. Please watch it, it's super short (only a minute long) and it'll put a smile on your face, whether you're a Palin supporter or not.

Go out and vote tomorrow if you're registered in MA :)

We are not snobs.

As I was reading the Hewett, of course putting it on top of my previous reading of Cook, it occurred to me how bitter I was getting from all our transparent assumptions and canons and all. I know our authors here have written these books out of a love for music; it goes without saying, which is why they do not emphasize it. Without it, however, it is rather easy to see the whole view as more destructive than constructive criticism. Cook has this optimistic view, but mostly explains it at the end. The point is to know why we think what we think rather than deplore everything we think. I have been reminding myself of this fact.

For one thing, transparent assumptions are inevitable. Seeing them or not seeing them is functionally moot, because they have to occur for society to exist. If we did not assume composers were more important than performers then we might assume the opposite or something completely different, but we would assume something nonetheless. Hewett talks about a Malian wedding song being a whole, where Westerners assume music to be made of separate parts, but the indivisibility of the Malian song is also a transparent assumption. The music is sound just like any music and could be broken apart or kept together just the same. It is simply important to be aware that these assumptions exist in order to broaden our ways of thinking.

My second consolation is that the existence of the "canon" is not actually a bad thing. None of our authors have told us to toss it out. It is simply a thing, and they want us to know why it exists and, even more importantly, how it exists. I see the canon as a good thing, in perspective. It gives us a history, something against which to understand ourselves. Beethoven made good stuff. He is not divine, and the point is to understand why we might think he is and to open ourselves up to the possibility there are other things out there.

None of these are new to you, I know, but articulating them makes me feel better about the life of classical music, both past and future.

Posting links

I told someone I'd post an explanation of how to include links in blog postings, so here goes:

1. While you're creating a new post, highlight the text you wish to link. You can use any word or a web address: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Futureclass
2. With text selected, click on the "link" button- 5th from the left, picture of what I believe is an earth with a paper clip (or something)
3. This will bring up a dialog box that says: "Enter a URL" with a space for you to type. Type in the address you want to link to.
4. Click "OK"
5. The text you selected should now appear purple and underlined in the edit box. When you publish or click preview, it should show up as a link.

Hope this helps!

She's got a chicken to ride...

While reading Cook’s second chapter on words and music, I was interrupted by a fellow passenger (which happens a lot) who was interested in what I was reading. As I gave them the short version of the "Words, words, words", they brought up songs they knew, in which they misheard the lyrics and it completely changed the songs meaning. There is so much more that goes into the experience of listening to music, and words are only a part of it. Something as external as “what did I do today” can influence how we respond to what we hear.
Cook says that the moment we try to isolate the purely musical, we are “forced into the realm of metaphor”. I certainly notice that the first connections I make when I hear a new piece is the imagery the music makes me feel. I have to wonder if television is to blame. As a child of educational program, I have always had a visual element in the learning experience, and visuals are a powerful educational tool. Is it so surprising that, when listening to music, the first thing that pops into my brain is an image?

Maybe I just watched too much Loony Tunes.

On the subject of misheard lyrics, this might make you chuckle warmly. It is a comfort to know that many people impose their own meaning on music to the point where it changes what they hear.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Something's Cook - in' (sorry, I couldn't resist)

In order to find inspiration for my post this week, I decided to open up International Piano, a magazine about...well...piano. One of the articles, titled "First Among Equals," (written by Tully Potter) discusses the playing and recording life of Rudolf Serkin.

What I found interesting was that, according to the article, Serkin's reception by the U.S. was unlike that of Schnabel, Horzowski, and Petri, because Serkin was actually accepted and became quite well known.

I don't know how accurate this author's account is of the other pianists - I was aware that Horzowski never became incredibly famous in the U.S., but was surprised to find that the same was true at first of Schnabel. This made me think of Cook's comments about music and critical theory.

Horzowski and Schnabel are, of course, not the only pianists (or musicians, for that matter) to have met this fate. Many have attained a higher status in other countries and not here. It raises the question: who makes this decision? What is it based on? How could a European or Russian audience be riveted by a player and not a U.S. audience? In most cases, my guess is that the audience doesn't get much of a chance to have a say. If the players that are revered in the U.S. become what is important in performance, what players like Schnabel have to add is what becomes absent in the discourse. This, is, of course, problematic - not just according to critical theory, but I think, on principle.

On a much smaller note, Potter also calls Serkin's playing of Mozart "masculine" and "sometimes even muscular". This, of course, also made me think of Cook.

Finally, for those of you aren't aware, The Rest is Noise is now available in paperback. Yay!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yo-Yo Ma on Colbert Report

Yo-Yo Ma was the guest on the Colbert Report on Monday night.  Click here to view the full episode.  He is featured in the last 5 mins of the show.  He was quite entertaining, and I also found the rest of the episode to be very funny.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Plans to update Longy on Wiki

I am currently taking and thoroughly enjoying Dr. Faina Bryanskaya's piano pedagogy class this term.  She has published a series of her own piano method books and is a frequent lecturer at pedagogy conferences.  In fact, she teaches a summer piano pedagogy program here at Longy every year.  I checked on the Wiki and did not find anything about her name, her works, and anything at all about any of the summer programs at the Longy on its Wiki page.  

In tandem with that, I also found the Longy Wiki page to be lacking in regards to the information on so many things that are so excitingly unique about our school:  our vision, the mind/body department, focus on chamber music, the Dalcrose program, the prep & continuing ed department, etc.  

So I think I've found myself a number of items here that I could contribute to now:  namely, 
1) A page on Dr. Bryanskaya and her pedagogical works, (though I haven't told her anything about this idea yet) 
2) Expanding the Longy Wiki page to include the school's special features and its summer programs

Selling out?

While thumbing throught the arts section of the New York Times this past weekend, I was surprised to find a full-page ad of Lang Lang. Seeing anything classical be advertised in such grandiose proportions was unexpected for me, but what was even more surprising was that it was not an ad for Lang Lang, but for Audi.

I am perhaps behind on this, but I was unaware of Lang Lang's official sponsorship by Audi. After a little investigation, I found that he is required by his contract to show up to all of his concerts (including his performance at the Olympics) in an Audi vehicle. Moreover, the (weak) connection they try to make is that their "virtues" are the same - dynamic performance, perfected execution, and so on.

This makes me wonder - could the future of classical music include sponsorship of artists that is akin to that of athletes? Corporate sponsoship of music is not a new concept. Festivals, concert series, and even music schools (Longy has actually thought of turning to corporate sponsorship to help ease its financial strains) have all had corporate sponsors in the past. However, I have never known an individual performer to be touted in this way.

It shocked me. I have never appreciated the amount of money that goes to organized sports in this country. And more importantly, where does a lot of that money come from? Corporate sponsorship. I have always lamented the fact that professional athletes make so much more than most professions (obviously not just musicians) and that people will prefer tenfold to see a baseball game over a Schubert concert.

However, with this ad, I felt confused. I'd always hoped that a classical musician could attract the attention and praise on a level that was equal to that of sports, but seeing this left a bad taste in my mouth. I realize that there aren't a lot of other options to bring attention to music at such a national level, but what could this lead to? Kissen signed by a multi-million dollar deal with an energy drink company trying to make a connection between their drink and his "energy" in his playing? Schiff coming on stage and unveiling a Steinway tattoo? (remember Tiger Smalls?)

I realize I am going off the deep end, but I do want to open this up to the class. I'm not sure how to feel about this. I feel hypocritical supporting corporate sponsors for programs and not individual musicians - and I don't think individual musicians aren't deserving of that kind of money, but somehow this wasn't what I envisioned. What do you all think?

What music does...

Of all the many challenging ideas Nicholas Cook puts forth in Music: A Very Short Introduction, the one that keeps turning over in my head is this idea of looking at what music does, not merely what it represents. That music can actually be a force in the world, that it can change things, is revolutionary but at the same time, it seems so self-evident! Does anyone else have that feeling? Like the truth has been there all along, we’ve just distracted ourselves with other things?

Here is something that speaks to me of this perspective. What do you you think?

Community Musicworks
– A string quartet has taken up permanent residence in the middle of Providence and offers free music lessons. More so than just lessons, everything they do is with the intention of weaving this center of music-making into the community, not something set apart. They do this by hosting performance group/potlucks where they gather together over food and music. I am also told they broadcast their rehearsals over loud speakers into the street.

Here is a FANTASTIC article Alex Ross wrote about CM (go to the last half of the article):


Below are links to CM’s home page and a particularly telling blog entry. Notice in the blog posting the location of the concert – it ain't no musical museum, that's for sure!



Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lame Marketing

Amanda Greer writes a blog on artsjournal.com on the marketing of classical music, called "Life's a Pitch".  She posted an entry on the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, commenting on how atrocious the marketing style of the group is for an otherwise really innovative orchestra.  I took a brief visit to the overly pink and cutesy website, which, at first glance, reminded me of the websites of companies targeting their products at pre-adolescent/teenage girls.  There is a video page that introduces some really fantastic projects that the BP presents; yet unfortunately, the form of presentation of the videos is really lame!!! (In my opinion, at least)  The first one is titled "I love BP".

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Singer Seeking Refuge in America

Only a small bit of my wikipedia work made it to print, so I thought I would throw a little bit of current events on the blog.

I found this article and was intrigued by the junction between politics and music. I believe Cook speaks to the point as well, that westerners tend to think of music as completely separate from the surrounding world, but of course this is not the case. Here we see a singer forced to leave his home country because of death threats. He is not simply being criticized as we see in America, which is why America is where he turned. Aren't we lucky to only have the threat of people not liking our music?



I have been doing a little research on the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra on the official website and the Wikipedia page.  I will update on my thoughts on it later.


I was just reading two music reviews of Yundi Li's Carnegie recital on Saturday and about Leon Fleisher's 80th birthday concert last Friday in Jordan Hall.
I was actually looking for a review of Leon Fleisher's concert because it was really interesting to me if someone (music critic) would mention anything about a few very surprising to me things that happened during the concert ( Leon Fleisher and Johnatan Biss got lost midway beacause of a really bad page-turn; and Leon Fleisher and Yefim Bronfman had to start the same piece twice after not being able to start it together ). But I couldn't find anything about it which is also interesting to me beacause at the same time I read a review of Yundi Li's recital which was not very nice (it sounds to me like the writer was looking for the smallest mistake, rushed passage, not "authentic" performance, etc...). These are the two reviews:
And also: http://news.bostonherald.com/entertainment/arts_culture/view/2008_10_01_Botox_is_key_to_success_for_80-year-old_pianist_Leon_Fleisher

Another difficulty with money

I thought I'd post/talk about this article, titled "WTF" by Greg Sandow:


For those of you who don't know, the New York City Opera will be laying off 11 of its members, which is 13 percent of its current staff. I'm sorry to keep bringing up monetary problems in the music world, but I think it is interesting to see how various companies deal with their shortcomings. Although they are not completely cancelling part of the season, as did the Columbus Orchestra, they aren't putting on as many performances, and the performances are referred to by Sandow as not being "normal."

Sandow brings this point up, for his question is - how is this going to solve their financial difficulties - they will lose out on ticket sales.

I found some of the other questions that Sandow asks both relevant and important to those of us soon entering the music field. Perhaps we all need to do research into the stability of companies/studios we might be entering. Clearly, being hired for a position does not neccessarily mean that we will be needed for that position after all..... Eeek!

Balinese Gamelan

Although Balinese gamelan is on my mind alot, especially since we have this wikipedia project, and well because it was my most favorite musical experience in my life so far, it really came to the forefront of my thoughts when I was reading the Cook this week. We all understand, at least somewhat and we continue to learn, about Western Art Music and the relationships between performer, composer, and listener. Cook writes that "reception based approach says that we best understand music by being in the middle of it". Throughout chapter 5, the idea of community and communal music is brought to light. Although we often work in ensembles and collaborate with others, gamelan as I have learned is music that can only be performed and worked on as a community.
The music of gamelan, whether it be Javanese or Balinese, is based on interlocking rhythms and melodies, so therefore, there is never one soloist and throughout the music, one member is only one half of the melody. The music is often so fast that one person would not be able to play one melodic line on their own. There is no such idea of the "virtuoso" or "soloist" in gamelan. There isn't even the idea of a conductor. You learn to follow a drummer and their cues for different sections and tempos but this "leader" is not viewed with our traditional Western idea of a conductor. There is no heirarchy in this community ensemble. The person who has composed a piece of music does not not have the means to write it down, because there is no "traditional" notation for gamelan music, and is only learned aurally. So therefore, music can only be learned and performed as an entire community. Traditionally, the instruments are not to be moved individually either, and one instrument is never to leave it's family of instruments.
This is only the tip of the iceberg concerning gamelan music. Hopefully this just peaks your interest and you can read more, when I get this on wiki, but in the meantime, go to the American Gamelan site http://www.gamelan.org/ and read more. Also, http://eamusic.dartmouth.edu/~gamelan/directoryusa.html#MA has been gracious and given us an entire list of gamelan's (including their type!), in the US. If you have a chance and want to "be in the middle" of music making, you should check it out, even go to a rehearsal. They'll probably have you participate in some way.

Agra Gharana -- Indian Classical Music

I thought I would talk a bit about Indian Classical music this week, since that is what I think my Wikipedia contribution may be. Indian Classical music is an ancient and varied tradition. I would like to specifically talk about the Agra Gharana. Agra is the city where my mother (who, comes from a family of musicians and herself is one too) is from. It is in the state of Uttar Pradesh and is home to the Taj Mahal and other very important historical monuments and sites. A “Gharana,” according to Wikipedia is: “a system of social organization linking musicians or dancers by lineage and/or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style.” The Agra Gharana, according to Wikipedia is: “a tradition of North Indian Classical Vocal Music descended from the Nauhar Bani. Who is Nauhar Bani? I would like to be able to answer this question in time. There is very little said about this particular tradition on Wikipedia. There, of course, very much to be said on this topic. Right now, the only thing I really know is that if it were not for this tradition of music, I may not be a musician. Here is the link to the wikipedia page: Agra Gharana

Monday, October 13, 2008

Creative Commons

"CC" has come up in our class discussion before, and this is the introduction its website gives:  "Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry."

On October 11, 2008, the Wall Street Journal featured an article titled "In defense of piracy" by Lawrence Lessig, the co-founder of Creative Commons.  The article calls for reforms of copyright laws to allow more freedom for creative expression by amateurs.  Its discussion alludes to YouTube, Wikipedia, MySpace, and... John Phillip Sousa!  A highly recommended read.


Dear friends,

I've been doing some preliminary research about Wikipedia itself in preparation for making a contribution of my own. I am finding the sheer volume of information (endless information, it seems) just about structure and editing alone a little overwhelming!

I’ll share with you some of my findings and hope it will help you frame your own work and get the information you need.

1. We all received a message from Voceditenore welcoming us to Wikipedia and sharing with us some very useful links. Here are the two that I recommend frequenting:
a. WP:LAYOUT – tells you how to lay out an article and also has a side bar with the Manual of Style and its subpages, which include music. The music Manual of Style (MOS:MUSIC) tells you how to get notation into your article and discusses style issues particular to musical subjects.

At the bottom of this page is a box containing the following links: “Writing better articles”, “Article Development”, and “The perfect article”, which are helpful places to go for additional information.

b. WP:FA – Wikipedia’s Featured Articles. This is a collection of articles that exemplify the ideal Wikipedia article. They are really helpful examples of how different articles may be formatted. In particular, the article on Toru Takemitsu is very clear in structure and contains all of the elements Wikipedia encourages in an article.

2. There are many ‘wikiprojects’, which, to the best of my knowledge, are groups of editors dedicated to improving articles around a particular area in wikipeda. For instance, I have joined the wikiprojects:Classical Music (WP:CM) and its banner appears of my user page. I’m still not entirely clear how it works, but I think it’s probably a good idea to see what’s out there and how your article might link up through one or several categories.

Ok, that’s the best I have so far. If anyone else has some illuminating insights to share about Wikipedia and how to navigate this labyrinth, I’m all ears!

A second major hall for Troy, NY

The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, long recognized as one of the nation's most acoustically perfect halls, has a new neighbor. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson has spearheaded the design and construction of the Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, here reported in The New York Times. The hall opened last week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alex Ross talks about Stockhausen

Our favorite music critic has another piece in this week's New Yorker magazine about the performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Gruppen" in a hangar at Tempelhof Airport. You can read the article here, it's rather short and as always, a great read.

"Gruppen" was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic, split into three orchestral groups, and conducted by three conductors, including Simon Rattle. The audience was centered under the horseshoe of the orchestras and were encouraged to switch seats between performances for different acoustical experiences. But before that, the brass, wind, and percussion players performed Messiaen's room-shaking "Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum" and altogether, created "the most gripping orchestral concerts [Ross has] attended in recent seasons."

From reading his article, I can't help but wish that I was at that performance!

Three major features on new opera

On Sunday 12 October, The New York Times “Arts & Leisure” featured Anthony Tommasini’s “New Opera? Great Idea. Good Luck!” Inspired by a student’s question (“A thoughtful student asked me why I dislike most new operas”), the writer discusses the perceived failings of Howard Shore’s The Fly and Stewart Wallace’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter (based on a novel by Amy Tan). Drawing apt comparisons with Wagner’s Ring, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater (2006), Tommasini gives us a fine overview of two of this season’s premieres.

Meanwhile, John Adams’s Doctor Atomic opens at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday 13 October. Matthew Gurewitsch draws cogent parallels, in today's Times between Peter Sellars’s “vintage” staging of the Amsterdam performances and Penny Woolcock’s new production for the Met, noting, however, that Ms. Woolcock “has never directed for the stage”.

Gurewitsch reviewed Douglas C. Cuomo’s Arjuna’s Dilemma late last month. Drawing into his piece references to Doctor Atomic and an appraisal of Philip Glass’s Santyagraha, the review pairs well with Tommasini’s considerations of music’s ability to depict mysticism and the dangers that inhere.