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 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:

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 and read more. Also, 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.

John C. Adams pens an autobiography

John Adams’s autobiography, Hallelujah Junction, received a glowing review from Charles McGrath in The New York Times of October 8, 2008.

Bayreuth succession struggle and Gerard Mortier’s bid

As reported in the The New York Times on October 3, 2008, Gerard Mortier’s bid for the leadership of the Bayreuth Festival came as an unwelcome surprise to the Board of the New York City Opera. Though he protested that it “was a signal that I wanted to be rescued,…that I saw myself as drowning”, Susan L. Baker, the Board’s chairperson, observed that “sending public signals is ‘not the way we have communicated with our artistic leadership’ in the past.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"piano lessons" on Wiki

I was quite surprised at what I found when I searched for "piano lessons" on Wikipedia:  a page on a song of this title by a British progressive rock band called Porcupine Tree.  It was definitely not what I was expecting!  Anyhow, I am quite interested the topic of piano pedagogical methods, and currently there appears not to be a substantial body of information on Wiki, so I am certainly going to do some more investigation on that now!
This will officially be my sell-out post. I'm sorry that this isn't as well-thought out or as well-researched as other posts have been (thereby NOT representing the caliber of this blog :-) ) but Valerie's post made me think of something.

This clearly shows the power of song (even though it is a pop song - and an old one, at that - it still is a powerful song).

I promise this will be the only cutesy post I do:

Hope you enjoy!

Zarzuela on Wikipedia: could use more

I suppose it was presumptious of me to think there might not be a wikipedia on zarzuela, which I was asked to report on in class. Here’s the link, but I’ll summarize as well:

Zarzuela is a lyrical dramatic style of theatre that took the place of opera both in the Baroque and Romantic periods (although they stretch the romantic right up to 1950, so it is not held to the same standard as the rest of Europe). Interestingly enough, the hunting lodge called “La Zarzuela” for which the form was named after originally entertained more than just lyric theatre, they had everything from high-brow classical art, to low-brow slapstick amusements like jugglers and clowns.

I still don’t fully trust wikipedia, so I dug deeper and cross referenced their article with “” which gives a much more in depth look at the form.

I find it particularly interesting that the style spread to central America, particularly popular in Cuba. I wish that I had had the opportunity to see it first hand: I had visited Cuba in the winter of 2004 and neglected to go to the theatre. To be honest, considering the economic status of Cuba I am surprised that the arts still thrives there. It would be interesting to see what contemporary forms have emerged from the culture.

It also makes me curious as to whether this form spread to the Dominican Republic, which is where my family is from. Obviously, the wikipedia article on “Music of the Dominican Republic” makes no mention of classical forms, limiting the stylistic choices to rock, reggaton, and merengue. Another potential option for a wikipedia article, I think.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Classical Music Dress and YOU

Lately Sandow has been writing a bit in his own blog about the dress code for classical music performers. Basically he thinks people should be more fashionable, but you can check that out for yourself. He has several more entries on the topic if you browse the basic time frame.

Reading, I can't help but be intrigued by the topic because I feel that it is an aspect of music that is changing in some arenas but remaining stagnant in others. On the one hand, we are experiencing, as Sandow describes, much variety in dress, but on the other hand my experience as a student is to always be told how what I am wearing to perform does not fit into the code.

In our reading by Cook (25-26), he describes musicians as dressing much like waiters, meant to be unnoticed conveyors of the goods to be consumed, but I wonder if this idea is changing.

Sandow notes: "And new music... doesn't go well with formality. Bill, I think, implied something like that when he cited the Kronos Quartet as an ensemble that defines its brand -- so to speak -- and also supports its art by dressing in an individual way. Which reminds me that, as far as I know, very few chamber ensembles -- and certainly very few made up of young musicians -- dress formally for concerts. For new music, white tie and tails (and the women's equivalent) really doesn't seem to fit. Especially if a piece sounds and moves with echoes of pop culture, or is a happy or devastating assault of noise. What's the meaning then of tails? Irony wouldn't begin to be the word that might describe the disconnect" (

Here we see the trend of individuality that has permeated society as a whole. Wasn't it Time magazine that gave "You" the honor of person of the year? They might have even said person of the era. It is no coincidence that now is when the writers of YOU: the Owner's Manual find it lucrative to lavish upon us installment after installment of their book series dedicated solely to each individual in the world. Every person matters as a person. I say all this as I sit blogging, a new word made up to describe our new ability to actually participate as individuals in the media rather than as observers.

Performing cannot possibly sit apart from this phenomenon forever. I believe that dress is one way the idea of the individual may be presenting itself, and I predict much more change. We don't want to dress how everyone has always dressed before. We want to dress as ourselves. We are not just the portrayors of an art created by someone else. We are the art.

I wonder how else might the "You" obsession creep into our performance practices.

CBC/Wikipedia/Canada and the Arts

I thought that it might be a good idea to talk about the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) for a bit this week. Here is a link to the wikipedia page: CBC. The CBC, for many Canadians is the main source of news and music. It is a crown corporation, which means that it is government owned and funded. The best part of this for me, this means that there are no, or very few commercials during the different shows that are on. Indeed, if I am at home, my radio dial is always tuned to either CBC Radio 1 or 2 and it is the news station that I watch on T.V. It is also the host for Hockey Night in Canada (Go Leafs, Go!).

On the Wikipedia page, one can find a lot of information on the CBC, including information on its history, services, unions, the corporation, even controversies. Last week in class we began to discuss a more recent controversy that is not yet included in the Wikipedia page. This had to do with CBC Radio 2 completely cutting out classical music. I would like to direct everyone to this article from La Scena Musicale, a lovely, free Canadian music magazine: This is a very important article that explains cuts to the CBC. This article also mentions a colleague of mine from McGill University who created a facebook group, which I also joined and am still a member of called “Save classical music on CBC Radio 2.”

Cut backs on the CBC to classical music began at the conservative government took power in 2006. I would like to share another article recently published in the Toronto newspaper called, “The Globe and Mail:” My father sent this article to me last week. This article discusses the arts as an election issue. It talks about the various cutbacks that Prime Minister Steven Harper’s government has made, including a witty, yet disturbing line saying “nobody died of too little opera.” Steven Harper is quoted saying, “ordinary Canadians” would not care “about a bunch of people at a rich gala… claiming their subsidies aren’t enough.” Many people may not realize that Canada, too, is holding a Federal election this year. There have been other articles on this matter as well. I am not sure that people really think about the arts as an election issue but it really is one in a country like Canada, where government funding is the bread and butter for many artists. I posted this article on my facebook page in hopes to have other people realize what a mistake it is to cut classical music and the arts, in general, out of Canadian society. Since then I was invited to join another group on facebook called “Ordinary Canadians do support the arts, Mr. Harper, you are dead wrong!” Who knows if it makes a difference.

I am pessimistic about the election in Canada this year and as someone trying to enter the musical world, I’m a bit worried too. Many Canadian artists live off of grants from the government. When there are cut backs on a medium as important as the CBC, everyone is affected.

Man of Many Talents

Hi everyone,
I know I know...I'm sending all sorts of links this week (okay only two) but this one is incredibly important to me. I graduated with Caleb, and I think it's important, and encouraging to read articles about our peers and colleagues. I can remember when Alarm Will Sound was just think that we could be invovled in something big too. We only need one great idea, and some commitment. But I know we already know all of that!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wikipedia/random thought

Hi all- I started working on a wikipedia entry for the school where I did my undergrad, seen here. I *think* I did everything properly, but I'm not quite sure what I'm doing with this whole wikipedia thing. So let me know if it disappears or doesn't work or anything.

Also: In one of my classes, a girl happened to mention pop music and then qualified her comments with "but I don't really think that's music." And we wonder why classical music is dismissed as snobbish and elitist...

after you get off of youtube!

This isn't about Balinese gamelan, but I thought that you might all find it ties in somewhat with some of our reading from last might hear some four part chorales at your next rock concert....or at least if you ever see the Chili Peppers. Flea is a great musician, but I definitely give him props for going on ahead. I'm just wondering if he has to take private lessons as well. I mean Flea is one hell of a bassist.....that would be interesting to hear...and see.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MTT and Bernstein

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are in New York's Carnegie Hall for a three-month Leonard Bernstein celebration (who would have been 90 years old this year). You can read more about the 'out of town' tryout in San Francisco here. Their spectacle in New York will include big name soloists such as Dawn Upshaw, Yo-Yo Ma, and Thomas Hampson.

Don't feel too bad if you can't make it to the actual concert - PBS will broadcast it on October 29. Here's to hoping a kind soul uploads it on YouTube...

Skip the line at the bar during intermission!

Did you know that you can purchase your drinks at the bar at the BSO concerts in advance online?