Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Thoughts on Classical Music in Film

After reading some of my colleagues' thoughts on film music, I wanted to add more thoughts regarding the inclusion of classical music in films. In Healing the Rift, Hewett postulates that perhaps we are returning to a Baroque philosophy on the inseparability of music with words and images (245), and that music has been transformed from a social to a solitary experience (246).
But is it really a negative that it is increasingly more common for music to be linked to words and images? Would not the association of classical music with a film bring the music into a larger shared experience and out of a completely autonomous existence?

Hewett remarks that much of the current philosophy of art music is that it "exists above history" (251). One could argue that the inclusion of classical music in films gives the music a certain historical and cultural association, even if that association is with a fictitious work. When classical music is included in a film, it gains a "place" in history and shared experience. Perhaps it may be used in a way that is symptomatic of tendencies towards expressivity or evocativeness. But it is not merely a personal experience, summoned by the listener, as Hewett describes.

Also, while classical music in films may lose some of its independent identity, it does gain a social function, rather than existing in a separate autonomous realm. Some may view this as a negative. But perhaps the reverence of the autonomous realm is already disappearing from the current perception of classical music. In a time when classical music performance is frequently accompanied by the use of technology for a visual experience, the "image" of the performer, and the tendency towards "boundary-crossing" performance, the close association of music with words and images is inevitable. Therefore, whether one chooses to view the inclusion of classical music in films as a negative or a positive, it is not a significantly different presentation from that found among the current trends of classical music performance.

Hewett, Ivan. Healing the Rift. New York: Continuum, 2003.

Contemporary Classical Music at the Movies

As a class, we’ve been writing and talking a lot about film scores recently: Nate and Aimée already posted on this topic this week, and I just finished my Wikipedia article on composer Richard Wernick, who has written both for the screen and the concert hall (unfortunately, there do not appear to be many sources documenting Mr. Wernick’s film career; I only have anecdotal evidence that he wrote music for The Bullwinkle Show).

Most of our thoughts on this topic have involved music written for the screen. Can film music stand alone as composition? Are pops concerts featuring movie music cheap populism or real outreach? Have film scores made the general public more receptive to the “dissonance” of contemporary classical harmony?

However, it’s also worth considering the instances in which music moves in the other direction, from the concert hall to the screen. Certainly there are plenty of examples of the standard repertory being used in film, but what about contemporary music? Penderecki’s concert music has been appropriated by many filmmakers, usually in horror films (The Shining, The Exorcist) or works that exploit the viewer’s sense of the surreal or the uncanny. Likewise, Ligeti’s music is featured in The Shining, Shutter Island, and 2001: A Space Odyssey (though it stands in sharp contrast to the better-known Strauss quotation repeated throughout the film). Here again, contemporary music augments the unsettling aspects of the film. It becomes unclear whether the filmmakers are doing the composers a service or not. On the one hand, these films present otherwise niche works to a mass audience; on the other hand, the compositions are being pigeonholed into relatively limited frames of meaning. We recall Hewitt’s critism of Stockhausen’s electronic works, that they seem unable to suggest anything other than space travel and dystopian angst. If these are the only images we are left with for such composers after their work has been used on screen, the notion of a free-standing work is destroyed. Of course, sometimes the problems go beyond aesthetics: Stanley Kubrick never secured the rights to use Ligeti’s music in 2001.

These examples suggest many of the same problems that arise with listening to music written for film as classical music – can the music retain an essential (authentic) identity, regardless of context?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Response to Nate: Distant Worlds are Coming to Boston

This past summer the Pacific Chorale (a professional chorus based out of Orange County) sang a concert series where the audience watched Peter Jackson's film "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" to live music. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of my favorite book collections and though I was a bit wary at first of what Jackson would do with such an epic fantasy, I was pleasantly surprised with all of it. As for the soundtrack, I think Howard Shore's score is perfect! In our last class before Thanksgiving break, Dr. Jackson was asking us about music in movies. Does a film's music have the ability to stand on its own two feet? When asked to think of examples of film music we connected with, my first thought was "Liz on top of the world" from Pride and Prejudice. However, when I went to describe the music itself, I found it difficult to do so without including (and explaining) the storyline. I then understood Dr. Jackson's point about film music's connection with the story and imagery of the film it accompanies. Can film music accompany a film's story and images and stand alone as non-film music?

I believe Howard Shore's score for the Lord of the Rings trilogy is able to stand by itself. There have been several instances where I have listened to the soundtrack just to hear the music. I do not necessarily remember exactly what part of the film it coincides with, but that is not why I listen to it. I listen to it because of the emotions that stir when I hear it.

During my time at CSUF, my school choir sang a Final Fantasty concert at Universal Studios. I did not know much about Final Fantasy (other than my dad enjoyed playing it on the weekends), and was shocked at how many people were at the concert. I was not privy to the storyline of the game and had a difficult time connecting to the music. Does this mean the music is not able to stand on its own? Or is this music simply not for me?

Distant Worlds are coming to Boston

Two of the composers of music from video gaming’s most beloved interactive series, Final Fantasy, are coming to Boston’s historic Symphony Hall. The music of Japanese composers Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu will be making its first appearance in New England for the 2012 tour titled “Distant Worlds.” The concert will take place at Symphony Hall on Saturday, March 10th of 2012 featuring the Boston based Video Game Orchestra and Mr. Hamauzu will be present for the performance and attending a meet and greet after the concert for audience members purchasing VIP tickets.

The program consists of selected orchestral works from the Square-Enix video game franchise that are memorable to anyone who has played the 26 year old epic series. For outside the world of gaming it presents an opportunity to hear some masterfully scored modern classical orchestrations.

A rehearsal of the opening to Final Fantasy VIII in Chicago

Tickets are now available on Symphony Hall’s new website. Standard tickets start at $43 and VIP tickets are $126. Its sure to be an event you won’t want to miss. For anyone wondering what the future is for classical music, this is a good place to start. Check out the links below for more information.

Distant Worlds

Symphony Hall, Boston

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rated M for Mature

Is it me, or are the “classical” music concerts becoming increasingly boring? I was thinking about this as I reflected upon my recent classical music concert experiences. It is not an original thought because I am aware of this presumption, sometimes bluntly expressed by my acquaintances. So, why not address the issue?

The audience, often sparse, varies the look of its cast. You will notice; the professors, the college students (nerds); the affiliates; the donors and trustees; the composers (depending on the concert); the usual suspects (white wigs); the performers; the visitor(s); the family and friends (supporters); the one family (with a child or two) and then me. I would like to consider myself an observer, the person who watches, that is entertained, and patiently awaiting that outer body experience that would enlighten my naive perception of contemporary classical music.

Who doesn't love a good experience? But why would you go to a classical music concert? I never ask myself this question. I attend these concerts because I want to. But, it is a good question when juxtaposed to another musical experience. Why go to these concerts when you can go to a comedy or night club where you can drink with your friends and laugh for 3 hours straight. Why listen to Beethoven in a hall when you can attend a rave, get F***** up on E and feel the bass of Skrillex's Kill Everybody Dubstep. It's not the 60's or 80's but we can not forget about the hippies rocking to some Hendrix on pot, and Emos doing coke while swaying to punk. (I wonder if people still get high while listening to minimalism?). The point is that you will not find drugs at a classical music concert. This is what the classical scene is up against [drugs and alcohol].

Apart of the experience of these concerts is to become educated, which is becoming, borderline, too dry and arduous of an experience. Many “professionally” organized concerts would have countless pages of program notes and bios, an exhausting hour of a pre-concert talk or lecture and the awkward silences that occur between the oddly paced and unorganized stage changes.

In the end, I have stated the facts, made comparisons, complained and probably came off as an asshole. But, can you see the problem? I do not support or condone the advertisement of hard drugs and alcohol. I am generalizing. But the lack of interest in these concerts can be found in the experiences that they provide. People experience things to escape loss, pain, suffering, and reality so that they can remember what it feels like to laugh, to sing and to dance. A concert experience should be a gratifying experience.

And, of course, anyone can go on and on about this topic, but this is not a paper, this is a blog.

A Recent dialog between a friend (19) and I (21):

21: I went to a concert yesterday.

19: Oooo...where did you go?

21: It was some concert at NEC.

19: Oh... I thought you meant like a real concert.

21: Oh?......... (dumbfounded)

Thank You for reading,

Kwaumane Brown

Longy School of Music
UD in Composition ('12)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Congress' Censorship Bill

Hello, all!

My sister alerted me about this last night. It is exactly what we were talking about in class last Tuesday. I strongly suggest we all look into it as it directly pertains to us as musicians and Future of Classical Music students!


See you all on Tuesday. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. =]


Upon my initial post, I failed to mention that this bill brought up quite the interesting discussion over our Thanksgiving table last week. There were several musicians present and it was interesting to hear the opinions on piracy vs. copyright infringement and ideas on how we are affected as musicians.

The topic rose again on Friday evening while at a rehearsal. Quite the popular topic of late. If you have not looked into this bill yet, please do. It does not only affect musicians, but blogging, youtube, and even facebook. The future of this Future class may depend on the whether or not this bill passes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not so passive

At least one listener took great issue with a recent Bruckner performance. Alex Ross discusses it here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Technology in Music: Combining the New and Old in Classical Music

I was reading PianoMorphisis, an ArtsJournal blog by Bruce Brubaker, the chair of the piano department at New England Conservatory, and found a link to a Boston Globe article about a recital he gave in February. The article, written by David Weininger and titled "Onstage, a grand piano and an iPod," is based on a phone interview with Brubaker, in which he discusses his programming for the recital.

His recital contained the Boston premier of composer Nico Muhly's "Drones and Piano," a piece written for Brubaker by Muhly. The drones mentioned in the title are tracks that have been pre-recorded by Muhly which Brubaker plays on a sound system through his iPod. The backing track also contains rhythmic punctuations, a viola solo, and additional layers of "odd sounds" as Weininger described them. Despite the variation contained in the backing track, the score does not specify how it should be coordinated with each section of the five-part piece. In fact, the piece is designed so that if one of the sections is finished before the track stops, the pianist can skip to the next track on the iPod.

In his programming, Brubaker did not follow the two paths Weininger says most performers would: he didn't create an entire evening of new music around Muhly's piece, and he also didn't use Muhly's piece as an introductory first piece that would be followed by a familiar program. Instead, he filled the rest of the program with a variety of old an new: Schumann's Fantasy Pieces Op. 111, nos. 1 and 2 were alternated with short works by Philip Glass (Etudes nos. 4 and 5), and works by Alvin Curran and more by Philip Glass made up the rest of the program.

Why the inclusion of the Schumann in a program of relatively new works? Brubaker says that the he noticed some "interesting connections" between Schumann and the Muhly work, including the presence of drones in one of the Schumann pieces. As Weininger says, "The point isn’t to suggest a clear lineage from the Muhly work back to the Schumann; it’s to create a listening experience where similarities can emerge subtly out of dissimilar parts." Brubaker elaborated on the combination of the seemingly "old" with new music on a program, mentioning that at the time of their composition, works of the classical repertoire were new music themselves:
that kind of programming allows us to be more comfortable with the new, but at the same time, to be a little less comfortable with the old. We start to recognize, actually, [that] all music is new music. It’s just that it ages and eventually becomes something we think we know.
Brubaker drew an interesting parallel between the use of technology and Liszt, mentioning that Liszt's recital programs from the 1840s rarely contained music of previous generations, but were presentations of "music of the moment," as Brubaker says. The connection to technology is that it was "new music delivered through the vehicle of the latest high-technology instrument — the modern piano." Therefore, perhaps the use of technology isn't something contradictory the classical music tradition. In fact, as Brubaker suggests, including the latest technology in new music performance may be an "authentic" way of adhering to tradition, and creates continuity between new and old when combined in a program with more "traditional" works:
“To really honor what Liszt did, or to really get in there and experience what that would be,’’ he continues, “well, you’d have to play with high technology, you’d have to play new music, and you’d sprinkle in something else to represent where it came from.’’


I attended a new music concert yesterday. The size of the audience was, in this case, respectable. Maybe ten people attended the concert. I often query, who was in the audience? But, maybe that is the wrong question. Perhaps the question should be, why was there only ten people here?

I expect the attendance to be lacking in quantity. I have attended many new music concerts, and the audience number is easily countable by sighting the sparsely seated attendees. These numbers do vary. College New Music had a performance in the Edward M. Pickman Concert Hall at The Longy School of Music, and the number of attendees dwarfed the size of the audience that I sat with yesterday. Perhaps Collage is more popular.

But, if we observe BMOP, which has become one of the most daring orchestras strictly dedicated to performing new music, we can find a common feature. Although they have established status, a cult following, and adventurous programming, they still fail to fill the bottom section of Jordan Hall.

It isn't sad anymore. I have grown to enjoy the intimacy of these concerts. It is interesting that you may find a nearly empty house at a new music concert, but meanwhile, in Jordan Hall, you may observe that there isn't one seat that is empty as people enjoy the performance of a Mahler Symphony.

Thank You for reading,

Kwaumane Brown

Longy School of Music
UD in Composition ('12)

Paying homage to Gorecki

One year ago on November 12th, the amazing Polish composer Henryk Gorecki passed away. I received a CD of Gorecki's Third Symphony, with Dawn Upshaw as soprano soloist, on my 20th birthday. After first listening to the Symphony, I cried and cried, lost in Gorecki's beautiful mournful tones. I was amazed at the connection I felt with this work though I knew nothing about Gorecki or his music. As a classically trained musician, my classical music exposure has been more intense than the average person of our popular culture. My connection to this piece, however was similar to the reaction mentioned by Kozinn regarding the 1992 release of Gorecki's Third Symphony.

Though Gorecki was relatively unknown to popular culture upon release of this CD, the recording sold around one million copies and was on the British pop charts. Gorecki's music is not exactly pop music but he struck a nerve somewhere, touching people in a way they needed. That is exactly what I experienced upon listening to this wonderful recording.

That being said, his death was greatly mourned. This year, he and his music was celebrated with a free concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. The two featured pieces were his Second String Quartet, performed by the JACK Quartet, and his "Kleines Requiem für eine Polka," performed by the Signal ensemble. Kozinn notes that 45 minutes before the concert, there was standing room only which attests to how much Gorecki touched people of popular and classical culture with his music.

Here is a link to the original article:


Monday, November 14, 2011

Copyright and the future of music

Last week, when Paul Brust was visiting class, he mentioned that he does not have a website. His reason was that he did not want to open up his music to theft and copyright violation by posting it so openly online. He cited other composers who have found bits of their compositions sampled in hip-hop beats after posting on their website.

On a side note, the fact that music by Brust’s collegues has ended up in hip-hop speaks nicely to one of Ivan Hewitt’s points this week. Addressing what he calls classical music’s “un-classical” side, he talks about non-functional repetition, first with regard to minimalism and rock, and then with regard to hip-hop and some art music such as Amelia, Flying (performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars). In the latter case, “even the bare requirement of euphony is dispensed with... Because the mere fact of 4x4 regularity is a sufficient defining feature, anything can function as a ‘lick,’ even a fragment of a Schoenberg tone-row.” (Hewitt 2003: 230-1) Indeed, Brust’s experience proves the point: non-tonal music can and has been appropriated into hip-hop.

Of course, Brust’s opposition to this is not that he believes that non-tonal classical music and rap shouldn’t mix. Rather, it is that these particular uses were not authorized by the composers themselves (though I would be curious to hear how various composers would react if a hip-hop producer requested the rights to sample their music - and was willing to pay accordingly. Perhaps this contains the makings of the next great underground mixtape; I’ll call it Kanye vs. Kurtag). The response I offered at the time was my summary of a blog post by Andrew Dubber, Reader in Music Industries Innovation at Birmingham City University. The short version is that the people who steal your music online were never going to buy it in the first place. This statement is a bit willfully perverse, so I will let Dubber explain. Dubber begins by explaining a distinction between “unauthorized copying” and “piracy.” While unauthorized copying includes burning a CD for a friend, or downloading a file from peer-to-peer networks such as Limewire, piracy means selling copies for personal gain. Actual piracy is much rarer than unauthorized copying, so the real question focuses around copying:

When asking ‘Should I be worried about piracy?’ the real underlying question is about whether there is a significant potential loss of income as a result of unauthorised copying. And here we’re talking about what’s generally referred to as the ‘Lost Sale’.

The Lost Sale is the idea that because someone came into possession of a track of yours as an mp3, then that is one less copy that will now be sold, thereby depriving you of your rightful income. (Dubber 2008: http://newmusicstrategies.com/2008/04/03/should-i-be-worried-about-piracy/)

One would do best to read Dubber’s entire post, as it is not very long. However, his three conclusions as to why the “Lost Sale” concept does not work are:

1) People who share your music are recommending you to people who respect their taste and opinion;

2) The vast majority of people who have unauthorised copies of your music would not have ordinarily paid for it anyway;

3) Do you really want for people who cannot afford your music to be prevented from ever hearing it? (Dubber 2008)

As a solution for those who are worried, Dubber suggests that if mp3s do not effectively work for an artist’s profitable distribution because of unauthorized copying, that the artist should instead use mp3s for promotion and use CDs or concert tickets as their profitable realm. This is all well and good in theory, but of course mp3s are the primary profitable source of music. We seem to have no choice but to take the risk of copying once we go online.

These concerns about artists copyright are, as we know, very old. The first music patents date back to the early renaissance. This said, the purpose of early music copyright was very different. Most of the earliest copyright agreements were in fact patents for music printing technology. The printers held the patent to ensure that no one else would have the technical means to print the music they were printing. The emphasis was on the means of production, rather than the artistic rights of the composer. Even in the renaissance, pirate copies abounded, especially as printing technology became more available. By the time William Byrd and Thomas Tallis secured their music patent, however, the emphasis in patent language was placed squarely on the composers. Currently, the democratization of computers and the internet allows anyone to become a publisher. Patenting the means of production has become a non-issue; on the other hand, unauthorized copies have become exponentially more available.

Technology and Music

I bet I’m not the only glowing with anticipation over the soon to be revealed, newly designed website for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The website went down on November 12th and will re-launch with a major facelift at 10:30 this evening (11/14/11). They aren’t the only orchestra that’s creating a new experience for their digital audience.

2011 is the year of technology in classical music. Nearly every performing group in Boston has a strong social media presence with Facebook and Twitter.

Probably the most interesting trend is live streaming. Companies like Live Station, Concert Window, and UStream allow events all over the world can be broadcast to anyone with a computer or smart phone. The New York Metropolitan Opera has even used this technology to increase sales. The stream from the Met is broadcast in over 30 countries in high definition at cinemas worldwide. The Boston Philharmonic also broadcasts behind the scenes videos on their site which add a new perspective on the orchestra world.

Since the plunder of Napster in the late 90’s, technology has been viewed very carefully and often seen as adversarial. The decade stands testament that advancements in technology can enhance the audiences experience without undermining the integrity of creative minds that forge them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Response to Sarah: Classical artists and media image

The media has definitely had a hand in the way audiences view classical musicians in the recent past. I remember looking at my parents' CDs and records and wondering why only some of them had pictures of the artist performing the music. Two I remember specifically were Mozart's String Quartet in Bb and a Sandi Patty record. Sandi Patty's record had a picture of her right on the front (as most of her albums do) whereas the Mozart had a picture of a star fruit....Two completely different images for two completely different kinds of music. But why would Sandi Patty have a picture of herself whereas the Mozart, played by the wonderful Quatuor Ysaÿe, had fruit on the cover?

My immediate reaction is one of confusion. Now when I looked into Quatuor Ysaÿe, I discovered that they did a similar cover with wood pieces on their recording of Mendelssohn's string quartets. Still, who would you find more accessible to the mainstream? One classical musician who stands out to me as one who's reached out to the larger public in recent years is Yo-Yo Ma. He is on the front of almost all of his CD covers. This act alone makes him a more tangible figure to the public because a face is now associated with the music he makes. Is this one of the reasons why we are drawn to more "popular" artists? Not only because they are more accessible, but because they are more tangible and "real" to us? As Boyle and Sarah mentioned, many classical artists are attempting to "bridge the gap" and cross over into the more popularized realm in order to spread awareness of themselves and their music. Some of them do remarkably well where others are not so successful.

Here is an example of a crossover by Renée Fleming.

Here is a wonderful video of Yo-Yo Ma working with dancer Lil Buck. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The plight of today's musicians is this: how do we maintain the "authenticity" and "integrity" of the music we perform while still maintaining our artistic freedom and not alienating our potential audiences?

Text, Graphics, Machines, Music

Nate recently posted on this blog about charting the influences of various styles of music, and has in fact supplied us with his own influence map that connects a variety of popular styles from Jelly Roll Morton to Justin Bieber (albeit with several degrees of separation between these two artists). His chart reminded me of the work of artist and music critic Andrew Kuo. Kuo’s love of text, graphics, and music in turn brings to mind some passages from Hewett’s chapter, “Text, Body, Machines.” Kuo’s work is frequently published in The New York Times. His “reviews” consist of highly complex diagrams and flow charts that express his moment-by-moment experience of a concert, or, most recently, a retrospective of early 1990s punk music. For those who are curious, here are some links:

“Reassessing the Year that Punk Broke” http://nyti.ms/sMu4LG

Archive of Andrew Kuo’s New York Times work: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/author/andrew-kuo/

Kuo’s charts are not particularly serious works. While the opinions represented are (presumably) true to Kuo’s own experiences, he makes no claims to authority. The language accompanying the charts is usually tongue-in-cheek. For example, in “Reassessing the Year that Punk Broke,” one segment of the chart is labeled “Wait, Did Punk Ruin My Life?” Beyond the language, the mind-numbing complexity of these graphics is in itself a joke. For all the information that Kuo supplies, much of it is incomprehensible, and ultimately meaningless (I still can’t figure out how to read the “Did Punk Ruin My Life?” section of the graphic). Complexity, Kuo reminds us, does not necessarily make for better analysis. While it may not be intentional, this seems like an appropriate skewering of both Schenkerian analysis and the Billboard music charts.

Kuo’s comedic use of complexity is reminiscent of what Hewitt sees as Ligeti’s unintentional comedy in his Cello Concerto. “The increasing complication of texture and detail goes hand-in-hand with an ever-increasing specificity of instruction to the performer, often expressed verbally. The tendency reaches an almost comic hypertrophy on the last page of Ligeti’s Cello Concerto, where there are more words than notes on the page.” (2003: 129) Hewitt uses this comic over-description of the music to suggest the slippage in the equation of “artistic quality” with “technical sophistication.” (Hewitt 2003: 122) Similarly, Kuo undermines the equation of technical sophistication with the proper reception and analysis of music. However, as Hewitt points out, rejecting modernist complexity leads in a variety of directions that are still rife with contradictions.

Monday, November 7, 2011

News from the Front: Image and the Young Classical Musician

This weekend I found an article from The Washington Post on ArtsJournal by Katherine Boyle titled "Young Classical Musicians Easy on the Eyes and the Ears." The article's title is a bit misleading, as the majority of the article is not spent merely reflecting on the attractiveness of today's young classical artists, but discussing the concept of image, especially as spread to the public through social networking and digital media. Specifically, Boyle focuses on how media has changed the way in which classical artists' images are presented.

The point Boyle dwells on the most is that of social and digital media's ability to make classical performers accessible in a seemingly personal way. "In today’s open-source, over-sharing, follow-and-friend frenzy, elite classical musicians, like every other sector of performers, are nothing if not familiar," writes Boyle. Besides the plentiful performance and interview videos found on YouTube of emerging young artists, there are also Facebook pages and Twitter accounts on which musicians can "reveal that they too can be ordinary" and make themselves identifiable as individual personalities, rather than stuffy, "highbrow" artists.

In fact, an individualized image is even necessary in the current climate, where being both a talented artist and having an authentic image is required for any kind of distinction:
Once respected for ethereal album covers and arresting performances taped for PBS, classical soloists are venturing into Rebecca Black's viral video territory. They share the stage with talking animals. They compete with political campaign managers who light up in jest.
Violinist Charlie Siem, one of the young artists featured in the article, commented on the necessity of marketing one's image with a personal touch: "You can now know the personalities, and you have to meet the audience halfway. In the past, people knew the music. Now, they might not, so you have to draw them in with something." The "something" could be anything from appearances in fashion magazines (Siem has appeared in Vogue) or personal minutiae shared on a Twitter account. Distinguishing oneself as an individual that audience members (especially younger ones) can relate to yet still view as an accomplished artist results in a quasi-celebrity status, unlike the reverence given to classical performers of previous generations. However, as Boyle remarks, "while the glut of virtual content exists to tease and lure in an amateur audience, it doesn’t bother the gray heads paying for prime orchestra seating." According to this statement, social and digital media may be the "magic formula" for promoting classical performers: it brings in new audiences, but does nothing to turn off the consistent demographics of classical music audiences. As Boyle puts it: "highbrow or lowbrow, everyone is pleased."

In the end, Boyle concludes that YouTube and Facebook may not be quite as much of a "seismic shift" as many believe, because they have not yet affected the process of filling concert hall seats in a measurable way. Of course, it is logical to assume that a musician who has a significant following through media is likely to draw some of that following to the concert hall, but to be booked as a performer in the first place requires more than internet notoriety. In the scope of classical music history, Boyle does not see digital media as completely revolutionary, which she expresses through her quip remark at the end of the article: "it's not like this technology replaced the harpsichord."

Investigative Series

Anonymous Letter Z423 #5
Recovered: February, 09 2009
Tract: Boston, MA (hyde park) 02136

- - - - -

Dear ,
I'm not sure what to say about music anymore. I think about things and I know, and often discover that what I believe is an original concept, actually has been conceived by a 14-year-old boy in New Castle, Australia four years ago. It does not surprise me.

Inspiration penetrates my soul, and through constant reflection, soul searching, contemplative silence and so forth - I deemed the possibility that I may have something new to say with my art. The reality of my situation has dawned a burden worth revealing:

"I have stumbled upon a rock - one unlike any other - until I walk a mile and trip over the relative."


- - - - -

Thank You for reading,

Kwaumane Brown

Longy School of Music
UD in Composition ('12)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On the Subject of Evolution

With the seemingly endless debate over evolution of species, it is not surprising that a similar debate permeates the music world. The fundamental problem with this debate is that it threatens each side’s belief systems. In the case of evolution of species it is thought to undermine the existence of a single powerful architect of the universe whereas evolution’s model is more akin to a line of dominos that keep splitting into more complicated designs. The dominos start somewhere but every subsequent domino falling is a result of the initial one, that is to say every creature is descendant of the creature that came before it.

When it comes to music, the same complications exist. What music came first? Where did it come from? For many in the classical and jazz world, pop music is threatening. It doesn’t observe many conventions of pure jazz and classical forms. If it isn’t readily recognized by musicians in classical or jazz then what is it and where are its origins?

To find possible leads to these questions, I made a map using the slightly modified concept of Rhizomes from A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri. The map map finaldoesn’t imply that connections are parents or children of one another. It instead represents influence. I started at the end of the map with Justin Bieber and found some illuminating connections. Even if you aren’t a fan of his music, the line connecting his influences speaks for itself.

Probably the only time classical or jazz has to feel threatened is when their scenes reject new music and young musicians. While it is agreed by most that Justin Bieber is certainly not jazz, the roots are strong and deep with the musicians he found influential and inspirational. By proxy, today’s pop music can be connected back to early jazz with relative ease. Musicians can either accept it or reject it but the truth is they partially responsible for the synthesis and proliferation of pop music.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wikipedia Topics

1. eighth blackbird (a new music chamber ensemble, featured in SONiC Festival - existing article is a stub needing expansion and citations)
2. Ahn Trio (piano trio of international fame - existing article is a stub with no citations)
3. Igudesman & Joo (classical music comedy duo - existing article is a stub with no citations)
4. Marilyn Nonken (pianist - article does not exist)

Possible Wikipedia topics

Here are the topics I have been pondering:

1) Ornamentation in Verdi's opera arias, specifically "Caro Nome" from his Rigoletto.
2) Breathing in singing - The existing section of the Breathing article needs expansion.
3) Body Mapping for the singer - New.
4) Eric Whitacre, composer - His existing article needs to be cleaned up.

Though these subjects are interesting, I will continue to look into additional possibilities.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wiki Topics

1. Jeremy Van Buskirk (does not exist)
2. Pro Musicis (does not exist)
3. Meta Instruments (does not exist)
4. Film scoring (add software)
5. Collage New Music (does not exist)

Topics for Wikipedia

Here are a few of my possible Wikipedia topics.

1. Pro Arte Orchestra page is outdated and doesn’t have the current conductor.

2. Norman Bolter doesn’t have a page at all.

3. Frequency Band (Norman Bolter’s trombone choir)

4. UML’s Marching Band page is marked for deletion as of 2010

5. Brockton High School’s Music Dept.’s page needs updates and citations.

On a Personal Note...

I don't like reading program notes that were written for a new work. I do enjoy reading program notes written for older pieces (e.g. The creation by Haydn). The obvious difference between the two is that today, the contemporary pieces are written by the living composers and the older pieces are written by someone else (e.g. a musicologist).

The advantage that older music has over new music is the context in which the music was produced. The creation was written between 1796 and 1798. That is a historic fact, and it is the history that will be provided, heavily, to complete the program note.

The composers program note dwell on theory, form, analysis and so forth – bordering the edge of complete boredom. Listeners today are smart, and can follow music, point out the obvious, and criticize. I'm not sure what it is, but many composer believe that they have to “geek” out and provide an excessive amount of information about their piece. I don't mean to generalize, but these things do commonly occur.

I chose this topic today because I have to write my own program notes. Personally, I hate talking about my music (describing its form, aesthetic and etc.) – I rather have the listener experience or hear these things, and if they can not, then I know that my music was not clear, and I have failed as a composer.

Program note for Eru Po ('11)

I revere Beethoven and Chopin. I used to sightread their piano repertoire, and listen to their music for hours. I loved playing their music, but I was an adequate pianist. I would struggle with the tempi and the voicing of chords – even playing forte was difficult. Most of my struggle came from the lack of power and technique I possessed. (I was always shy and nervous.) As the result of my frustration, passion, and impotence - filtered a new expression of their music. This piece embodies that emotion and expressive content I found within my own interpretation of their music. – Kwaumane Brown

Program notes written by Linda Mack: http://tinyurl.com/42c9t8v

Program note written by Phillip Huscher: http://tinyurl.com/3j3ygg5

Gnarly Buttons by John Adams: http://tinyurl.com/6h8tpcu

Thank You for reading,

Kwaumane Brown

Longy School of Music
UD in Composition ('12)

Pro Arte on a lovely Sunday afternoon

At 11:45 Sunday morning, I received a text message from Nate informing me that he had an extra ticket to the Pro Arte Concert that afternoon at Harvard's Sanders Theater. Was I interested in attending? Yes! As many concerts are quite expensive, and I am a "starving student" (and artist), I jumped at the chance to attend. The last orchestra concert I saw was the Longy Orchestra concert last year. It had been a while.

My husband and I have often driven past Quincy Street and wondered what the purpose of the large red building on the corner was. There were no signs to give us clues, but today I have discovered it! The building is Harvard's Sanders Theater. Upon entering, I was taken by the sheer size of the space. I do not know what I was expecting, but I was not disappointed. Upon entering the concert hall (my tickets were on the side of the top balcony), I was taken by the beautiful wood and the light from the windows. Not often are there windows in concert halls, at least in my experience.

Before the concert began, the artistic director emerged, welcoming the audience to the concert. She acknowledged that concert attendance was down according to statistics (I am unsure as to what source she was specifically referring) and she was pleased with the size of Sunday's audience.

The concert began with the overture to Rossinni's Barber of Seville. (I was first introduced to this opera as a child through Looney Tunes: http://tinyurl.com/69hcdr4.) The second work was Strauss' Serenade for Winds from his Opus 7. I only recently discovered Strauss' orchestral abilities, specifically when I began to study the Lieder "Amor" from his Opus 68 which is orchestrated.

My first observation about the concert audience was the fairly wide range of ages. Though the majority of concert attendees were between the ages of 40 and 70, there were several younger audience members including a number of remarkably well behaved children.

After the Rossini, the conductor turned and welcomed the audience. His first request: if you were a first time attendee of one of their concerts, please raise your hand. He then had the audience give themselves a round of applause. I was pleasantly surprised! One of the first things I noticed upon his entrance was that he wore a suit rather than the usual tuxedo. His suit and friendly address of the audience made for a welcoming environment for the audience which I greatly appreciated.

As we have discussed in our class sessions, concerts are often stuffy and can be awkward to those who are not within the "inner circle." If this concert is any indication of what Pro Arte's concerts are like, this orchestra is indeed working hard to break down the barriers that have been erected within the classical music realm. Bravo!

The Jazz Threat

When I was reading Ivan Hewett’s Music: Healing the Rift I was amused that the stereotypical fear of jazz music overwhelming the classical scene was present. If there is really any question about it, just count the number of jazz stations there are on the radio. Stations that play jazz only on certain days or at certain times don’t count in this case because there are classical stations that play classical almost nonstop.

The music popularly referred to as classical music has lasted a test of time that jazz has yet to see. Most of the pieces in the repertoire of “classical” are at least as old as the United States while the appearance of jazz is a little more than one-hundred years ago.

While classical and jazz have their own smaller circles when compared to the unyielding market of popular jazz influenced music that is heard on every radio/television station, the circle that supports classical is hardly threatened by that of the jazz. Both genres are struggling to draw audiences on the same scale that they used to.

As Hewett describes the time in classical history where technique started to become more important and surpassed that of most amateur musicians, bop and cool jazz brought about similar characteristics that alienated their listeners just the same as classical.

The proliferation of art music is imperative but musicians and artists can’t forget the audience for without an audience, does it even exist?