The audience is driving now

If anyone needed a clear, message-on-the-mountain kind of symbol for how fundamentally the creation, consumption, sharing, and general experience and means of culture have radically changed (and continue to change), here it is: 

A Kickstarter page to make a movie version of TV show Veronica Mars (which ended its TV run in 2007) raised its goal of TWO MILLION DOLLARS in less than a day.  So now not only is the movie that fans want definitely getting made, it still has four weeks to raise even more money to increase production quality significantly.

Think about that: fans are willing to fund on a large scale the creation of work they love, and we now have easy mechanisms for allowing them to do so.  The corporate and institutional hierarchies that have controlled the creation and dissemination of creative work for decades are being fundamentally, radically disempowered.  The implications are staggering.

So the LA Phil 2013-14 season is pretty awesome..., refreshingly great and focused on modern and contemporary music.  You must check out the full season here.  Just a quick tally of the highlights:

  • 13 commissioned works
  • 11 world premieres
  • 4 U.S. premieres
  • 4 West Coast premieres
  • Revival of the Minimalist Jukebox Festival (including a new Death of Klinghoffer)
  • Salonen conducting Zappa

A little bit of commentary on this delightfully present- and forward-looking programming here, here, and here.  It almost makes me wish I lived in Los Angeles.

13 commissioned works, 11 world premieres, four U.S. premieres and four West Coast premieres during the season. Among the world premieres will be Frank Zappa's "200 Motels," a multidisciplinary work featuring 15 soloists, dancers, a rock band and symphony orchestra, and never performed in its entirety. Conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead the performance on the 10th anniversary date, Oct. 23. - See more at:

Good Programs: Anna Clyne and Brahms

In an profile with San Francisco Classical Voice long-time Bay Area conductor Alasdair Neale was asked about a program he conducted with the Marin Symphony that paired Brahms' A German Requirem with Anna Clyne's Within Her Arms. Here's the exchange.

SFCV: How do you program your season? You tend to pair warhorses with new works in interesting ways. Your April program features the Brahms Requiem and a 21st-century work, Within Her Arms, by British composer Anna Clyne.

Neale: Musically, the two are separated by 150 years. What they have in common is both works were written in response to the composer’s mother’s death. They have this DNA connection. Both deal with the notion of consolation in the face of grief. Anna Clyne’s piece was written around 2006. It’s for a small string ensemble, so it’s quite different from the Brahms, which is a massive piece for chorus and large orchestra. It’s low-key and understated.

Continue reading "Good Programs: Anna Clyne and Brahms" »

Running a marathon in jeans

Another great idea from Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. They've partnered with the Parsons School of Design to help design concert atire that is tailored to the needs of performers. Concert attire is still such an loaded issue for many musicians so it makes great sense to seek outside perspectives by teaming up with people who 1) are pursuing design studies and 2) not too emotionally invensted in what orchestral musicians wear on stage. This quote from the article sums it up nicely.

"Classical musicians are still wearing garments that were designed before the advent of all kinds of textiles and technologies,” said Joel Towers, the executive dean of Parsons, who attended the presentation. “You wouldn’t expect an Olympic-quality athlete to go trying to run the 100 meters in a pair of jeans. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Conducting as expressive collaboration: two of the best

At the beginning of each fall semester in my introductory conducting course, we spend some time exploring and discussing what the act of conducting is--what it's about, how that's accomplished--in a fundamental sense.  This involves several components like critical/comparative listening, body awareness exercises, expressive movement improvisation, and watching video.

I use video examples to show how conducting can be a whole-body, expressive act in collaboration with an ensemble of musicians, and that really exciting music-making can be the result (and that this idea is a fairly recent evolution of the conductor's role, as historical footage we view clearly demonstrates).

Two of my favorite examples each year continue to be Carlos Kleiber and Simon Rattle.  Both are conductors with tremendous energy and charisma, who use their whole bodies extremely vividly and acheive remarkable engagement with their ensembles.

Continue reading "Conducting as expressive collaboration: two of the best" »

Gone fishing

Hey folks, creating mind-blowing new paradigms is hard work so we're taking some time off from posting to recharge. In the meantime you can search the archives, catagories, and Best of LFP for some summertime stimulation.


Playing the room

Well, this looks cool. More via Hypebot.

Bach Goes Open-Source With A Little Help From Some Fans

I wrote about this project - a crowd-funded edition of Bach's Goldberg Variations - a few months ago. Glad to see it's a success.



You have to hand it to good old J.S. Bach for the latest project taken up in his name: a successful campaign to open-source and app-ify one of his most beloved works, The Goldberg Variations.


John Adams on Nixon, opera, new projects

The San Francisco Opera is mounting their first-ever production of Nixon in China this month and the Mercury News just published a great interview of Adam's by music critic Richard Scheinin. In it Adams talks a lot about Nixon and opera, working with Peter Sellars, and how he's been searching for a subject for a new opera for the past several years. It's a great read; here's a photo from the SF Opera dress rehearsal and an excerpt.


Adams: You know, I conducted "Nixon" at the Met last year, and in many ways really became re-acquainted with it. And I just love the libretto. I love every moment in it. I can't believe there are still people who complain about it being arch or dense or incomprehensible. I think it's just fantastic. Alice caught the tone of the Chinese and the official Communist utterances. She caught the Middle-American tone of the U.S. politicians.

Continue reading "John Adams on Nixon, opera, new projects" »


My review of the recent all-Harrison show at BAM/PFA is up at NewMusicBox, and there are some extra tidbits about the performance of a long-lost piano piece and Old Granddad, the gamelan used in the performance. Special thanks to pianist Sarah Cahill and Dr. Leta Miller of UCSC for their help.

It was a great concert and all of Lou's works were wonderfully performed, but the most amazing - AMAZING - thing for me was how unbelieveably fantastic the gamelan sounded. The recordings I've heard don't even come close to capturing the ravishing tone colors that Lou and Bill's handmade instruments produce. Perhaps it was the just intonation tuning combined with a particularly live space, but they had a depth and resonance that I have rarely experienced (think Vienna-Phil-strings special). If you have the oppurtunity to hear Old Granddad live I can't recommend enough that you do so. It will change your ears.


NewMusicBox article.

My new article for NewMusicBox - Great Expectations: The Challenge of New Music in New Spaces - is up. Please feel free to share your thoughts and critiques because I think this is a really interesting discussion. I only wish more bookers had responded to interview requests so that I could have provided a more comprehensive picture of this issue from their perspective.

Luggage Store Gallery


Berkeley Symphony's Rad-Trad New Season

The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra announced its 2012-2013 season yesterday and it's both radical and traditional. It's rad in the sense that the four subscription concerts are pretty cool combinations of composers - Dylan Mattingly, Ligeti, Schumann, for example - and each one contains a world premiere commission. Traditional in that three of the four follow (but tweak) the overture-concerto-symphony format. Instead of standard openers, new works and Ives' The Unanswered Question (the anti-overture) kick things off. On the fourth concert, a new Stuckey song cycle is followed by Bruckner 4; the short/long formula you often see with hour+ long works.

I think these programs are really exciting, mainly because of the groups of composers, but also because of the daring concerti - mad props there. By using the traditional overture-concerto-symphony format Music Director Joana Carneiro seems to be hedging her bets, shrewdly creating a lot of buzz with commissions, but not tweaking the concert experience too much. Three out of the four concerts are anchored by 19th-century Germanic standard rep, after all, and the Rachmaninoff is hardly a risky choice either. It would be nice to see the new works be the big ones on the program. Even so, it's exciting stuff.

London's Orchestra Of the Age of Enlightenment Puts Fans Center Stage

London's Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has a history of featuring orchestra members in promo campaigns to emphasize that "not all orchestras are the same." This year they decided to feature members of their audience with "strong looks" to point out that not all audiences are the same either. The resulting digital brochure and related videos are available online with more publicity to follow for this innovative orchestra.


Some pretty savvy marketing from the OAE.

Local programming for the national spotlight

In Thomas Deneuville's review of the Brooklyn Phil's recent Brooklyn Village he asks "At which point does deserved pride turn into navel gazing?" I also have mixed feelings about this program. On one hand I think it's the kind of innovative, community-specific programming that every orchestra should engage in, but on the other it seems a bit too contrived, too twee - a program too self conscious in its all-encompassing coolness and eclecticism. It's a small quibble, though. On the whole I think Pierson is creating really innovative programs.

Unlike Deneuville, I am not concerned with the Brooklyn Phil becoming less global. I think very few ensembles can and should be global ones for the simple reason that national or global trends might not be best for audiences in your hometown. The Oakland East Bay Symphony's programming is a prime example of this. Like the Brooklyn Phil they are reaching out to the many cultural groups that live here, but on the other hand they're certainly not performing Kreayshawn transcriptions. 

So many ideas to choose from

I read some interesting articles this week about musical entrepreneurship and wanted to share them. I don't think any of them are going to blow your mind, but they do contain good ideas and moreover seem to represent the profusion of creative thinking about funding and promotion occurring in much of the music biz.

Not All Musicians Are Entrepreneurs, But Successful And Professional Ones Are - some interesting thoughts on approaching the musician/fan relationship.

Top 5 Signs Pop Music Looks Like Classical - Not every item on this list works, but it does point out how enterprising musicians are using small-scale patronage instead of large record contracts to fund albums. For 20 bucks anyone can be a Rasumovsky, sort of. I previously wrote about this here.

From Dive Bars To The Daughtry Tour: How Mike Sanchez Is Using New Media To Realize His Dream - Sanchez uses some ingenious social media strategies to make a name for himself and build a fan base. 

As you may have noticed, two of these posts are from the excellent site Hypebot.

Pulp Fiction in chronological order and the inevitable majority of remix culture

Something I've wanted to see for years, Pulp Fiction in chronological order:


Plus, a very interesting thought about the inevitably rising majority of remix culture:

"For most people, sharing and remixing with attribution and no commercial intent is instinctually a-okay..... What happens when — and this is inevitable — a generation completely comfortable with remix culture becomes a majority of the electorate, instead of the fringe youth?"

Temescal noir

Mason Bates performs his very cool piece The B-Sides with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

I left my quarter tone marimba in San Francisco

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to write an article for NewMusicBox about the SF new music scene. For the next few weeks I dutifly pounded the pavement (and Bay Bridge), met a lot of very cool folks, and heard some fantastic new music. The article, published last week (link below), centered around the remarkable Magik*Magik Orchestra, then branched out from there in a 6 Degrees from Kevin Bacon kind of way to explore the musical endeavors of several young musicians. It's a snapshop of a very cool scene.

Shake It To the Ground: SF Musicians Re-envision Classic(al) Career Paths

Special thanks goes out to Annie Phillips, who put me in contact with many of the musicians interviewed, and to Magik*Magik, Nonsemble 6, and the guys at The Living Earth Show for allowing me to attend their rehearsals.


The Living Earth Show in their fuzzy-walled rehearsal cave.


Yes, Jesus Loves Me - Free Ives Download

UPDATE: Well, the free download is no longer available, but you can hear Hilary performing some of the tunes found in the sonatas, as well as some Bach, courtesy of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts.

Hilary Hahn on Tiny Desk

NYC's Q2 is commemorating Ives' birthday by offering a free download - today only! - of Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa's recording of Ives' Violin Sonata No. 4 'Children's Day at Camp Meeting. Great performance.


Brooklyn Phil Fall Preview

UPDATE: the audio is off the air, unfortunately. Mos Def's performance of Rzewski's Coming Together, was really something. Here's a different recording of the piece.

Frederic Rzewski - Coming Together

In case you missed it, here's the Brooklyn Phil's Fall Preview Concert featuring music by Mos Def, Frederic Rzewski, Lev Zhurbin, David T. Little and Corey Dargel. It's only up for a few more days.


OPERA REMIX is here! Tonight!

Tonight at the State Theater in Modesto, California: Opera Remix, from Townsend Opera.  You can read all about it on the Remix webpage, but this event is a major foray into the real world for the Loose Filter philosophy (disclosure: I'm Creative Consultant for this project with the opera any similarities are not coincidental at all).

Here's a clip from the reading rehearsal last night with orchestra only, playing Jonathan Newman's setting of Here Comes the Sun:


Enjoy a couple more rehearsal clips here (of Summertime and Baba O'Riley) from a playlist that includes gems from Mozart, Puccini, Gershwin, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Pink Floyd, and more.  Keep an eye on the Opera Remix website if this catches your interest, there will be much more video of the event itself posted there soon!

I'll also soon be posting here, in installments, a user-friendly version of the research paper that started things rolling on this extremely innovative project from a wonderful regional opera company.  Stay tuned.

On second thought

Jonah Lehrer writes about how emotional decision-making may be better than rational decision-making when faced with complex choices.

While there is an extensive literature on the potential wisdom of human emotion, it’s only in the last few years that researchers have demonstrated that the emotional system (aka Type 1 thinking) might excel at complex decisions, or those involving lots of variables. If true, this would suggest that the unconscious is better suited for difficult cognitive tasks than the conscious brain, that the very thought process we’ve long disregarded as irrational and impulsive might actually be “smarter” than reasoned deliberation. 

Continue reading "On second thought" »


Interesting email this morning from Gregory Ruffer, a conductor and doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Dear Conductors Guild Member:

I am a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City, where I am completing my dissertation research under the advisment of Dr. Hal Abeles. The working title of my dissertation is, "The Sinister Conductor: Preceptions and Practices of University Conducting Instructors Toward Left-Handed Students." 

One portion of my research involves surveying conductors about their work with left-handed people. I would be most appreciative if you could take 15 minutes of your time to complete my survey. Your input will assure that the data in my dissertation is representative of the largest possible population. Please click on this link to complete the survey:

Continue reading "Lefties" »

Can I get a recording of that?

Really thought-provoking post from Nico Muhly on the difficulty many composers have acquiring recordings of their own works, and how having access to those recordings can be an extremely valuable learning experience. The discussion continues in the comment thread, and it is worth a read.

I remember a composer actually having to email me and ask me to return promo CD because he didn't have permission from the orchestra that performed one of the pieces to distribute it.


John Cage Quote of the Day 16

A fugue is a more complicated game; but it can be broken up by a single sound, say, from a fire engine.

from 45' for a Speaker

John Cage Quote of the Day 15

People often ask what music I prefer to hear. I enjoy the absence of music more than any other, or you could say silence. I enjoy whatever ambient sounds there are to hear. What I like is that they aren't saying anything. They just do what it is they are. I listen, no matter in what else I happen to be engaged. Experience. Not knowing what will happen next.


Best of LFP: John Adams Chamber Symphony, a listening guide

Stuart's 2006 guide to this John Adams classic is one of our all-time most popular posts.

Listening Guide: John Adams' Chamber Symphony, an eclectic delight.

Best of LFP: Performing Zappa

In April 2006 I conducted Frank Zappa's Be-Bop Tango with the Meadows Wind Ensemble at my alma mater, SMU. I was already a big Zappa fan, but my respect and admiration for his music only deepened as I delved into the score.

Zappa Wrangling

John Cage Quote of the Day 14

The past must be invented. The future must be revised. Doing both makes what the present is.

from John Cage: Composition in Retrospect

Best of LFP: American Eclectic, or why I conduct mostly bands

Stuart's great essay describes how the needs and nature of our classical music institutions, and not our audiences or the music itself, have come to disproportionately and unconsciously influence thinking in the field. He suggests reframing the discussion and posits that the wind band is an ideal medium to do so.

American Eclectic, or why I conduct mostly bands

John Cage Quote of the Day 13

I must confess that the contradiction, composing and not composing, has haunted me for a long time. Do you know the story of my relationship with psychoanalysis? It's short. It must have been around 1945. I was disturbed. Some friends advised me to seek an analyst. All the psychoanalyst was able to tell me was that thanks to him I was going to be able to produce more music, tons of music! I never went back.

From For the Birds

Best of LFP: The Sound World of Oscar Bettison

This is a post I wrote about Oscar Bettison's fantastic piece Gauze Vespers. If you like what you hear, check out Neolithic Airs. Click the link below to read the original post.

Ear Tease: The Sound World of Oscar Bettison


Best of LFP: In conversation with Mason Bates

In 2007 Stuart and I recorded a podcast with the outstanding young composer Mason Bates. He talkes, among other things, about how he came to combine classical and electronic idioms, the role of texture in electronica, the similarities between DJs and church organists, and how audiences and musicians responded to his first electroacoustic works.

In Conversation with Mason Bates

Stuart, Mason, and Dustin after the State Theater Concert in March, 2007. Photo by Kyle M. Peterson

Summer Hiatus / Best of the LFP

Stuart and I have been blogging on this site for over 5 years now, and I think we've produced some pretty good stuff. With five years of content, though, it's easy for older posts to get buried in the archives. We recently installed a search function on the front page (right under Recent Posts) to make it a bit easier to sift through older entries, and you can read posts by catagory as well, but even then some of our best work might remain unfamiliar to our newer readers.

With that in mind we've decided that instead of simply going dark for the next few weeks as we take a break to travel, hike, lay about, and prepare for the fall, we will repost some of our favorite entries. Think of it as The Loose Filter Project's greatest hits. Enjoy!

Mt. Diablo seen from Las Trampas Peak

John Cage Quote of the Day 12

QUESTION: To repeat the question I asked a moment ago: don't you ever feel betrayed by different performances of the same piece?

J.C.: I am going to tell you a story. One day, around 1940, a musician, a pianist, phoned me to say that he was coming from South America, where he had played The Perilous Night, and he wanted me to hear it. He wanted to know what I thought about it, no matter what the cost. So, I went to his studio, and he banged out a Perilous Night that was perfectly horrible! At that moment, I would have preferred never to have written The Perilous Night! In the years that followed, when pianists came to me while my works were not yet published, I advised them especially not to play The Perilous Night. And then, by chance, in the course of a tour in the southern United States - it was at a university, I believe - another pianist said to me: 'I play your Perilous Night, and I would like you to hear it.' I replied that I did not want to. He insisted. I ended up letting myself be convinced, and I followed him to his piano. I listened. It was marvelous.

from For the Birds


Rapture is one of Anna Clyne's very cool electroacoustic pieces. Clyne is currently co-Composer in Residence with the Chicago Symphony.

Rapture by annaclyne

Allowing other folks to embed your music on their sites is a savy move.

Adams on Son of Chamber Symphony

John Adams talks about Son of Chamber Symphony via the London Sinfonietta's YouTube page. As a bonus, here's Stuart's great Listening Guide to Adams' original Chamber Symphony, one of Loose Filter's all-time most popular posts.

Good Programs: Brahms Unbound at the LA Phil

Gustavo Dudamel conducted some very cool programs with the LA Phil as part of its recent Brahms Unbound festival. I've always found it difficult to build really compelling programs around Brahms' symphonies because they are so thematically, harmonically, rhythmically, and texturally rich that not many works are both different enough to compliment them and strong enough stand on their own. The Dude does a nice job, though. Here are two concerts that I think worked particularly well.

Continue reading "Good Programs: Brahms Unbound at the LA Phil" »