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January 2010
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March 2010

LA Phil announces new season, continues to be awesome

The Los Angeles Philharmonic just announced their 2010-2011 season, and it demonstrates again why we think the LA Phil is one of the most vibrant arts organizations around.  They deftly honor the old while championing the new, with a very wide embrace. 

Not convinced to go look?  What if I told you that their slate of commissions and premieres includes: Adès, Turnage, Lindberg, Marsalis, Salonen, Barry, Golijov, Mackey, Gubaidulina, Lieberson and Górecki?  Most major orchestras may have one or two commissions or premieres per season--the LA Phil has 19 premieres (including 12 commissions and 9 world premieres) planned for 2010-2011.

Just the ways that they present the season speaks volumes: a print brochure with PDF version on the website of course, but also informal videos of Gustavo Dudamel and Deborah Borda (President & CEO) talking about the upcoming season, as well separate videos of John Adams (Creative Chair), Herbie Hancock (Creative Chair for Jazz), and Thomas Adès (Aspects of Adès Festival Director) all talking about their contributions to the season.  Check it out here.

(I didn't think I'd find myself saying this, but I hope to be in LA more often in the future.  I want to hear some of these concerts!)

We expect better

We usually keep the focus positive here at LF, but every once in a while we stumble across an idea so bad or misguided that we feel the need to comment.  In this case it's "Unexpect yourself," the Philadelphia Orchestra's new marketing campaign.  Philadelphia Inquirer collumnist Karen Heller does a pretty good job illustrating the shortcomings of this slogan in her op-ed piece; here are some highlights.

"To stay relevant, you must embrace new ideas and new things," reads the copy about the 110-year-old orchestra at "You need a spark - a new place to visit. There is one place that will always remain timeless. . . . One of the most unexpected experiences in Philadelphia is located in Center City just steps from Broad Street and a world away from the ordinary - The Philadelphia Orchestra."  

There's little mention of music.

Continue reading "We expect better" »

More on interpretation

I've been thinking about interpretation on and off since this previous post on the subject, and Allan Kozinn's New York Times essay, in which he compares Schoenberg performances by Boulez and Barenboim, has provided more food for thought.

But what was particularly striking was that the two conductors took interpretive approaches to Schoenberg that were poles apart: Mr. Boulez’s readings prized delicacy and transparency; Mr. Barenboim’s, raw power and heft. Both were highly personalized approaches, though you could argue that Mr. Boulez, by clarifying Schoenberg’s scoring details and structure, was offering something close to a literalist view, and that Mr. Barenboim, by magnifying the vigor he found in the music, was bending the music more overtly to his will.

This reminded me of a quote from Serge Koussevitzky, who felt that even performances that attempted to follow the score to the letter were influenced by the personality of the interpreter, sort of like the same beam of light passing through prisms of different shapes and sizes.

Continue reading "More on interpretation" »

Some assembly required

If you're looking for really innovative American music that's somewhat off the beaten path, composer/musicologist Kyle Gann's blog is the place to find it.  In this recent post he talks about how much his career has focused on works (his and others) that push the limits of musical notation and challenge our established ideas of what constitutes a score.  Like many of Gann's posts, this one is full of audio clips and musical examples.

One of the themes of my life has become something I never expected.  I've based some large part of my career around documenting recent music not adequately represented by its score notation.  It stared with Narcarrow.  His scores contain all of his notes, of course, but many of them, especially the late player piano studies, don't provide as much explicit rhythmic notation as is actually inherent.

Continue reading "Some assembly required" »

More good ideas from Marin Alsop

I've written previously about the good ideas Marin Alsop is implementing at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and here's another one.

On Tuesday night at Strathmore, the BSO held the first part of a two-night event called "Rusty Musicians With the BSO," created by Music Director Marin Alsop as a way for the BSO to celebrate Strathore's fifth anniversary season.  Anybody older than 25 who played an orchestral instrument and could read music could have a chance to perform serious orchestral repertory with the BSO players.

What a fantastic way to not only reach out to amateur and former musicians in the region, but to humanize the BSO players, and the organization as a whole.  400 "rusty musicians" applied, and the orchestra was able to accommodate them all.

Preview: the 21st Century Symphony

Jonathan Newman wrote a really beautiful symphony recently, and I currently have the privilege of rehearsing it for performances on this coming Thursday (2/4/10), as part of my lecture-recital at ASU.  We will be taping and recording over the next week to create material around this fantastic piece to post online.  Keep your eyes on the site over the next month as we'll be adding a couple of new podcasts (including an interview with Jonathan, who is here for the performances), a recording of the symphony, video of a performance, and other stuff intended to illuminate this big, bold new work as well as open up the process of premiering something like this.

(His new symphony is something else, I'm telling you--keep watching this space for our take on the 21st Century Symphony!)