Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Feedback is a difficult thing, though--often it tells more about the receiver than the giver, for many reasons. In the context of concertizing, the audience/listener only perceives certain aspects of the music and the performance, and cannot give feedback on aspects that were outside his/her perception. And, the listener organizes these perceptions in a way that is meaningful to them, selecting certain aspects out of thousands that may be commented upon, according to the reaction they had to the music. And even if they are aware of these particulars, the listener's internal feelings and rules for commenting determine the style, choice of words, emotional tone, and non-verbal cues that comprise the entirety of the feedback. So, since it's clear that feedback tells more about the giver than the receiver, why bother to seek it out at all?
It is human nature to want to get information. Especially in an often nonverbal medium such as music, we want to be able to communicate our ideas with one another in a meaningful way, and often that involves the use of feedback. Artistic value is intrinsically tied to audience perception, so it is imperative that we understand what the perception is, and how to respond to it. So, learning how to ask for, receive, and appraise feedback, in my mind, is a worthwhile goal as a musician, and one that is absolutely necessary as a human being.
"The arts are not just a nice thing to have or do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation."
Having encountered people throughout my life who were of the opinion I pursued music in order to avoid getting a "real career", I am cheered by such an apt and insightful quote. The arts are incredibly important to society, and I believe strongly that anyone who doesn't think so has simply not examined the ubiquitous impact of arts in their lives. It's heartening to know that there are those in the White House who acknowledge their importance.
I'll leave my penultimate blog post in the hopes that this quote, though three years old, continues to spread in social networks. I'll also leave with a question: how can we emphasize the importance of classical music, in particular?
The performers were incredible but what struck me most about the first three concerts was the audience. Most of the crowd (which was relatively small) was older and mild-mannered. For the NEC ensemble and Tuesday concert, the crowd was much younger, louder, and more energized. I imagine the size discrepancy has mostly to do with the relative ease of word-of-mouth advertising at a music school as opposed to general citywide advertising. I only wish that established ensembles outside of a music school could have that relatively easy ability to advertise.
This dilemma can be either be seen as a setback or an opportunity to grow an audience in a different way. The older, more established ensembles need to find creative ways to reach young people. Putting up posters and offering student tickets for $10 isn't enough to attract college students (as I witnessed at the Boston Musica Viva concert). While the programming with all ensembles was excellent (to my taste, at least), each ensemble needs to take a hard look at the choices they make and how that will affect their audience. This is not to say that anyone should water down their program to appeal to a mass audience, but looking for young, exciting composers with a growing following might be the answer.
In the near future, I plan to attend concerts by some of the other major contemporary ensembles in Boston (Dinosaur Annex, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Alea III, etc) but for now I have to reflect on the concerts I've been to. It appears that audiences are drawn to concerts by one ensemble or another. Also, if concerts at NEC or Longy are any indicator, students at music schools tend to be drawn primarily to their own school's concerts to see their friends. I would encourage continuing to support friends in concerts, but also making new friends by going to concerts at other schools. It has been a real pleasure to experience the many musical offerings in this city after going to school in a small town in Virginia for four years. It is my hope that Boston will continue that have a thriving contemporary music scene for many years to come and I will play a part in it, both as a performer, and as an active audience member.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Since the orchestra decided to treat its endowment like a piggy bank, the MOA could write in their books with whatever color ink they wished. While soliciting state funding for a construction project, they decided to write in black (and deplete their endowment), when they wanted to cut their musician's salaries by 30-40%, they switched to red. The management that the Minnesota Orchestra deserves would have declared losses when the recession hit, scrapped the construction project, and decided not to jeopardize the orchestra's financial future before renegotiating players' contracts. As it stands, the musicians are still locked out, construction on a new wing of Orchestra Hall is under way, and the management still refuses third-party financial analysis. It will take more than a silver tongue and some finger-pointing at the MMO to explain this one away.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
As artists working in the medium of sound, our pieces necessarily contain duration, something that is not beholden to the visual arts. Thus, public presentations of aural works require that the audience listen for a fixed amount of time--no more, and no less--in order to fully experience the work. Unlike the visual arts, whose public presentations (such as in museum galleries) do not require uninterrupted silent appraisal, music happens over a fixed duration and cannot be relived at a glance. It's as Cook talks about in the "Imaginary Object" chapter of his book: when we take music out of duration and attempt to talk or write about it, we distance it from the reality of its visceral power and limited domain. And besides, modern concert hall etiquette dictates that the audience stay for the entirety of the performance, which can be uncomfortably long if the work isn't appealing.
However, 60x60 ensures that no individual piece of music lasts too long--you'd be hard pressed to find someone who couldn't sit through one minute of music that didn't appeal to them. Some might find the experience of shifting between pieces every minute jarring--a musical analog for changing channels on a TV, but in my experience, I was constantly engaged. Perhaps a trend towards shorter works is on the horizon. I have a feeling that a large part of the failure of classical music to appeal to a wide audience is the fact that when people think of that type of music, they think of hour-long symphonies and other large-scale forms, during which they must be seated and silent. This is certainly an unappetizing picture to paint, but perhaps with the proliferation of 60x60 compilations (which have also incorporated dance and visual art forms), a future of larger audiences for shorter works is on the horizon.
The music was as great as the cause itself. The first Dvorak trio was played with incredible ease and musicality. The second vocal piece by Vaughan Williams was sung by a booming baritone who epitomized the folk-like feel of Vaughan Williams pieces so effortlessly. Following a brief intermission, the final piece was a sextet by Dvorak which included Ms. Kashkashian on one of the viola parts. This piece was my favorite as I have rarely witnessed such a keen such of communication between the players, specifically the inner voices. The musicality shown amongst the players represented much maturity and wisdom that only years of integration in music can attain. At the end of the concert, it was revealed that over three thousand dollars were raised, money to feed a family of four for approximately ten months.
I believe that this kind of venue can only do wonders for the musical community (aside from the obvious benefits of feeding the poor). After viewing the concert, I am now curious to see if concerts like these have appeared in other cities. This kind of program could also stimulate a sense of community in smaller areas, allowing for younger musicians to showcase their talent while benefiting a good cause. Hopefully, the Music for Food concert series will continue to benefit all for years to come.
You might be asking yourself why I am especially excited about my teaching experience this week. I didn't make extra money or cry as my student performed on stage. I am ecstatic because I taught a brand new student how to play "Smoke on the Water" on electric bass. Not just any new student, someone who had never played any music before in his life. I think he's ever sung in a choir.
While I primarily teach upright bass, electric bass has always been another part of my life. I started playing electric first anyways. You can thank my friend's dad for convincing me to play bass in his son's band. I am grateful for my experiences in a band so I hope to share that with others. In the same way, I am grateful for my experiences in orchestras, chamber ensembles, new music ensembles, and jazz ensembles. I hope to pass along those skills as well. Tonight I realized the extent that pluralism in music can affect people. Not everyone needs to play Classical music to be happy. I also realized that it feels good when you're student describes his lesson as "awesome" when talking to his Mom.
While I was teaching I sat intently watching my student struggle to hold his oversized electric bass and thought about his potential. Through some bizarre series of events in the universe this 12-year-old boy is now taking lessons from me. It's my duty to turn him into a rockstar.
Monday, November 12, 2012
That is not to say that there does not exist a strong emphasis on performing modern works; in fact, performance of modern works is strongly encouraged. However, that encouragement to perform modern works seems unsupported by sufficient intellectual preparation. We have courses on baroque performance practice and the song cycles of Schubert, for example. Yet, I find these courses redundant since the style of these periods are thoroughly covered within the performers private lessons. What conservatory students really need is a survey course on the composers, inspirations of those composers, compositional techniques, and musical thought of the 1960's and forward. We need a lecture-series including innovative, contemporary composers as speakers, and not just for the composition department. We need a more interactive forum that will fester with creativity and newness; and one which will provoke active engagement in the music rather than the customary passive complacency that comes with disciplined defining of antiquated styles and performance practices. Upon further research, I was amused to discover that many of the composers of the 1960's have already explored concepts which to me are new and unexplored. Imagine the impact we would have on culture if we caught ourselves up to all that has been done; then we might have more originality and relevance when it comes to what's possible.
Some fundamental attributes of modern music that have been neglected by conservatories:
- conceptual music
- fusions between western classical and the classical music of other nations.
- relationships between music and other Art disciplines
- music and politics
- music and spirituality/mysticism
- I am sure there are a lot of more that I have yet to discover
The musicians, however, have plans that do not include the Minnesota Orchestra's management at all. According to the Minnesota Public Radio News, the Minnesota Orchestra's musicians have planned two more concerts on there own. These concerts are to take place on December 15th and 16th at the Tedd Mann Concert Hall at the university of Minnesota. The program includes Beethoven's ninth symphony as well as the Bach double violin concerto.
The musicians have created their own Facebook page and their own website, and with negotiations at such an adamant standoff, one can only wonder what the future holds for this organization. If these lockout concerts continue to gain popularity, and the musicians' cause continues to gain support, then management will have to make the next move.
A distinctive visual aspect draws people’s attention. This fact is very apparent on visual advertisement or TV commercials. The significance of visual aspect functions as important role for performance (even classical music) too.
We can listen to music through Audio or Radio but music of seeing or watching should be achieved by visiting concert Hall or watching DVD. In every concert, the participants can observe the way of expression of each musician in their own way. Especially, when we go to concert like Symphony, we are able to see behaviors of the conductor, controlling entire body of orchestra. Some conductors behave very similar way for each performance, while other add some more spice on their behaviors. Only performance attendees can taste this spice and fun with it.
Last Saturday, I went to Boston Symphony Hall for seeing the performance of Danil Trifonov. I was not intended to listen to Prokofiev’s piece. However, I change my mind because I am fascinated by conductor’s performance during Danil Trifonov’s performance. He not only looked like dancing on the stage but also enjoyed his job. This fact made me in love with his way of conducting music.
Although Prokofiev symphony no. 5 is very long, he made me feeling very short.
Therefore, the visual aspect of performance should not be neglected and we as performers of classical might think of visually impressing the audience.
What I found to be the most useful bit of advice in this article was realizing that our potential audience is usually not as interested in what we do as we are. Advertising a concert as simply a concert will reach fellow musicians, but not the broader public. To reach that audience, we have to figure out how to sell what we do to the public in a way that is meaningful for them. I liked Miller’s idea of selling the ballet to guys as a first date option. It’s plausible and reaches a demographic that may otherwise not have gone to the ballet.
Miller also reminds us that selling is not selling out. I’ve always been awed by people who have a natural flair and ease with self-marketing and networking. As a super introvert it’s not something I’m good at, and I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable with it. But remembering that I’m selling what I do, and not selling myself out is a helpful nudge in the right direction.
The start of the article mentions how the London cultural scene has been completely revamped by this kind of thinking, and now reaches a much broader audience than it had previously. That is a hopeful prospect and a tangible model we can keep in mind. Marketing is a very large and real part of our lives that does not get as much attention as it should in our education. Perhaps that may be a requirement of all music students some day in the future. Until then, it is our responsibility to stay informed and updated on how best to market ourselves to the world at large.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Of course, the two experiences are widely different from each other, but as it turns out, both offer their own set of advantages. A live performance where one is sitting in the hall, allows for the audience member to pick and choose what to look at, to observe, to listen to and notice. In the HD performances, the cameramen make those choices for the public. However, the resulting effect remains cohesive, as hours of preparation go into the filming of these performances, and each crew member is acutely aware of all the details of the performance. As a bonus to those sitting in the audience of an HD performance, interviews with the stars of the show are broadcast during intermission and a behind the scenes look allows the public to peek into a world which would otherwise be closed off.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Some possibilities for a Wikipedia article:
1. Puppet Showplace Theatre--though this isn't strictly music-related, this nonprofit I work at is one of the biggest performing arts organizations in Boston and does not have a decent Wikipedia page.
2. ALEA III--the new music ensemble in residence at Boston University; since 1980 they've held an International Composition Competition for composers under age 40.
3. Ruby Rose Fox--Local musician and singer-songwriter who has performed with a number of Boston theater organizations.
Yesterday, a coworker was listening to some interesting music in her phone, and I asked her what it was.
"It's Florence + The Machine!" she answered. "This music always makes me want to cry, it's so good."
"I think I've heard of that," I said, surprised. I joked about my woeful lack of knowledge about popular music (a trend that began well before I started to pursue classical music, somehow even when popular music was all I listened to).
"But I like some classical music, too," said my coworker. "I love, what's it called... 'Lacrimosa"."
"That's actually part of a requiem mass," I answered. "Do you mean Mozart's setting?" I hummed it.
"Yes!" she said. "Ugh, it's so beautiful. I'd love to hear more stuff like that."
I love conversations like these because, 1) they make me feel a little smarter (ha, ha); 2) it's interesting to see which classical pieces are in the popular consciousness (Pagliacci is another one people just seem to know); and 3) it proves to me that people do have a liking for, and reaction to, this music even if they haven't been taught about it.
It brings me back, in a way, to a conversation we had last class--are program notes and in-depth information about these pieces always necessary? I think they certainly enhance the musical experience, and the academic high-brow person in me does, admittedly, cringe a little at the thought of certain pieces of information going unknown by the listener--but my coworker had a reaction to a movement of Mozart's Requiem Mass without even knowing what it was. She loved it!
I do think continued education on classical music is vitally important, but to draw in new enthusiasts, it might be better at first not to scare them away by telling them how to listen.
Of course, as with any campaign strategy, two can play that game. In the Romney-Ryan corner, both Kid Rock and Meat Loaf have donned the musical gloves in the fight for undecided voters. History shows that music wields enormous power for affecting political change, but I believe that the divisive nature of politics in this country has gone too far. When Jay-Z gets on stage and raps "I got 99 problems but Mitt ain't one", he is not talking about the issues. He is not changing the way that people think. He is only inflating shallow prejudices about the President's opponent in the hopes of swaying low information voters to his side. Musicians can do better than to superficially consign their voice to the divisive political system that plagues our society.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Ideas for Wikipedia:
The Beethoven Festival
Classical Music in Film
Martha Argerich Presents Project
To elaborate, we can say that there some common view of classical musicians as being elitist, or "culturally superior" to the rest of society. With that said, I believe that we should not condemn others for using words that are considered colloquialisms when describing music, using words such as "awesome." When we present our music to the public, we should not expect them to use eloquent language to describe how they enjoyed our interpretation of a piece describing form, harmony, and musicality. If they want to say the music is awesome, let them say the music is awesome. How can we condemn our listeners when they are the ones who support us? We should be encouraging them rather than correcting them.
As stated earlier, I do agree that students should have the ability to write well to be taken seriously in the academic field; however, I believe that there is a time and a place for everything.
Possible Wikipedia Topics
1.My teacher Dimitri Murrath
2.Non-standard classical music venues
3.Modern genres of music (Blending of styles)
4.20th Century Violists
..... VOTE!!!! ......
- Creating an article about soprano and composer Kate Soper
- Expanding the article on composer Gwyneth Walker
- Expanding the entry on Dorothy Rudd Moore
-An addendum to the article about American art song that includes discussion of non-european vocal styles
-An entirely separate article about non-classical American vocal styles
This group has a lot of other videos on their website that I haven’t had a chance to see yet, but A History of Whistling and Western Music in 16 Genres look intriguing.
For my Wikipedia article, I’ve been considering the following:
- An article on Claire Chase, a recent MacArthur Fellow
- An article on one of my professors from Syracuse, NY, Dr. Joseph Downing.
He’s an active composer in the central NY area.
- Some kind of article about extended techniques on the flute; extended techniques were listed as needing more information on the page sharing potential article ideas, but this is an extremely broad subject and is often piece-specific, so I’m not sure how successful it would be.
- An article about the ASCAP Foundation
The follow announcement is excerpted from BSO web site. Here is program note.
At the heart of the BSO's November 8-10 program-led by Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, and featuring Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov in his BSO debut-are two powerhouse Russian works: Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, a fan-favorite and repertoire staple, and Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, described as a "hymn to free and happy Man," which the composer wrote in 1944 amidst the chaos of World War II. Puerto Rican-born composer Roberto Sierra's colorful Fandangos for orchestra (2000) opens the program.
Last month, Daniil Trifonov performed a debut recital as Celebrity Boston at pickman hall, Longy school of music of Bard College. He will perform with Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) at Boston symphony hall this weekend. The reason that I want to share this concert is that at that time we could not attend to his performance in Pickman Hall, because Daniil Trifonov’s recital was already sold out. If you have a BSO college card, you can pick up from Monday, November 5. Or, you can acquire rush tickets with cheap price on the performance days, if you are full of patience. However, there is no way to guarantee the ability of rush tickets.
I think it would be good opportunity to experience his performance and Boston Symphony Hall at the same time!
•Thursday, November 8, 8PM
•Friday, November 9, 1:30PM
•Saturday, November 10, 8PM
Boston Symphony Hall Boston MA
** Wikipedia Ideas:
1. Pianist Eda Shylam, My former teacher
2. Galilee Ensemble ( My father's leader of ensemble )
3. Seunghee Yang ( Violinist, South Korea)