Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Brouwer piece premieres this week

Margaret Brouwer's new violin concerto is being premiered in a series of free concerts in the Cleveland area. I interviewed Brouwer for an article about the concert which ran in FunCoast, the Sandusky Register's weekly arts magazine. The article is available here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Boston Globe lauds Duckworth piece

The Boston Globe reviews a concert by Boston Secession, a professional choral group, and finds much to like in a performance of portions of William Duckworth's "Southern Harmony." Reviewer Matthew Guerreri writes, "After intermission came American shape-note singing: four traditional hymns -- the audience joining in on "Rock of Ages" -- followed by eight movements (out of 20) from William Duckworth's brilliant 1980-81 deconstruction of that repertoire, "Southern Harmony" (amazingly, a Boston premiere). Unlike traditional minimalism, with its process-centered surface, this music hides its complex workings deep within diatonic, vaguely repetitive textures. "Consolation" is transformed into gentle waves of notes; the familiar tune of "Wondrous Love" is layered and stacked in an uncanny recall of Renaissance style. In "Rock of Ages," pulsing "la-la" patterns are reminiscent of a doo-wop backing track loosed from its record. Initially tentative, the performers settled in with ease."
Leroy Jenkins dies

Jazz Times posts an obiituary on the death last month of free jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins, 74, and notes that he had worked with many modern classical ensembles. "Jenkins earned grants and commissions to compose for chamber ensemble, orchestra, dance and theater. Such illustrious outfits as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Kronos Quartet, the Dessoff Choirs, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and the New Music Consort performed many of these pieces."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Start over? Maybe the future is now

Alex Ross has an arresting quote from Joshua Roman, principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony: "I would love to see the classical-music industry crumble, just absolutely fall to bits. Because I think then we'd have to start over. We'd have to say, well, what is it? What is classical music? Is it this concert hall, is it these tuxedos? No, it's this music. And then we could start over from the beginning, build it up, find people who like the music. Like rock and roll started, like the punk movement started."

I assume that if the industry crumbles, big city orchestras would tend to look more like Cleveland's CityMusic and Cleveland Chamber Symphony, excellent musicians who play part time and need day jobs to live on, rather than groups like the Cleveland Orchestra, which has musicians who can actually make a living with the gig. So I suppose if Greg Sandow is right and the big orchestras are about to die off, folks like Roman are out of a job. On the other hand, as a listener, I very much like the intimate concert experience I get when I go to hear the Cleveland Chamber Symphony play at venues like the Baldwin-Wallace College auditorium. When I go to see the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, my wife and I can only afford the balcony seats, far away from the performers. Speaking as a listener, if Sandow turns out to be right, I think life would go on. In any event, the kind of grassroots groups Roman seems to be talking about are already here in Cleveland.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two shows in Cleveland

There are two noteworthy free concerts in Cleveland in the next couple of weeks for modern music fans. Cleveland Chamber Symphony will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at Westlake United Methodist Church in Westlake (a western suburb of Cleveland.) Then on March 28 through April 1, CityMusic Cleveland will play a series of concerts featuring a new violin concerto by composer Margaret Brouwer. (The program also has Stravinsky and Mozart). More details on the calendar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Duckworth live in Boston, northern California

Composer William Duckworth gets live performances on opposite coasts for two of his signature pieces, "Southern Harmony" and "The Time Curve Preludes."

"Southern Harmony" will be performed 8 p.m. Friday (March 16) at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, by Boston Secession; Arvo Part, Gavin Bryars and Ruth Lomon also are featured on the program. More info here. The promotional postcard has a photograph of four women who are easy on the eyes, next to a headline announcing the name of the show, "Surprised by Beauty."

Then at 8 p.m. March 24 on the opposite coast -- Arcata, Calif., on the campus of Humboldt State University, not far from the Oregon border -- pianist Robert Elfline performs "The Time Curve Preludes." (Well, nine out of 24, according to the program.) Duckworth shares the show with Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Janacek and Cowell.

Both Duckworth pieces are available from Emusic.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

New radio station launches

The American Music Center has apparently figured out that Internet radio is one of the few ways for living composers to at least have a chance to obtain listeners. It has launched a new radio station, Counterstream Radio, focusing on modern American composers. Here's the key quote from the official statement: "Mixing the work of composers such as Elliott Carter, John Cage, Bill Frisell, Kid 606, Abbey Lincoln, Milton Babbitt, Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, Laurie Anderson, and hundreds more, the station streams influential music of many pedigrees 24 hours a day." It officially launches March 16 but seems to be working fine now. The station is hosted by the Live365 folks. (News tip via the fine folks at Sequenza21 and New Music ReBlog).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New hope for Linux users

I recently installed Linux on a castoff old laptop computer. Linux is a great way to turn an old machine into something useful and it can be downloaded free from the Internet. I recommend Ubuntu and Kubuntu.

But there's a downside. Linux folks are ideologically predisposed against the proprietary MP3 format the rest of the world uses, and I discovered I couldn't tune in to most Internet radio stations. By default, most Linux distributions support Ogg Vorbis, a free software alternative to MP3 and Windows Media file formats.

There is apparently some difficult, geeky Unix command stuff I could learn to enable MP3 support, but I found another way to get Internet radio: A site which provides a directory of radio stations using Ogg Vorbis streams. The directory includes several classical radio stations, including Cleveland's WCLV. I clicked, and soon a WCLV broadcast was coming from the speakers of my old computer.
A musician and his birds

My article on Cleveland Chamber Symphony musician John Stavash has run in Funcoast, the weekly entertainment supplement of the Sandusky Register newspaper. Read the article to see why Stavash is holding two birds on his hands.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Where's the audience? Blame the music, composer says

Composer Jeff Harrington, in a comment responding to this Sequenza 21 item about a new CD featured at Starbucks, tackles the vexing question of why there's so few listeners for modern classical music and argues that it's the music's fault.

"It’s us who have to prove our case! Not the audience. Audiences don’t have to prove shit. Music should be adored, obsessed over, manically disputed and acclaimed. It doesn’t need marketing if it really excites people.

"It is our music that is at fault. Not our marketing."

I think Jeff has part of a point here -- no amount of marketing is going to create a mass audience for many modernist composers. But I still think composers such as Arvo Part and William Duckworth and Frederic Rzewski could attract many more listeners if only there was a way for people to be exposed to their music in the first place. How that will happen, I don't know.

Ah, yes, I commissioned that work....

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has found a method to allow even small donors to contribute to commissioning a new piece of music. The orchestra's Public Commissioning Initiative invites donors to contribute one or more measures of music for $25 a measure. "Contributors will receive a printed copy of their measure or measures and be invited to the gala premiere celebration." The money is being used to hire composer Marta Ptaszynska to create a new work that will be premiered in 2008.
We're gonna party like it's 1607

The current (March 9) issue of The Week magazine mentions that Italy celebrated the 400th birthday of the opera with a new staging of Monteverdi's "Orfeo," first staged in Mantua in 1607. "Orfeo" was a very early opera, not the first or the second, The Week explains, but "the first to be adopted by performers elsewhere." The Feb. 24 performance in Arizona of William Duckworth's "iPod Opera 2.0" (also based on the Orpheus myth), noted earlier in this blog, was timed to fall on the 400th anniversary of that first performance of "Orfeo." If you missed the earlier posting, information here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Violinist exits Cleveland Orchestra

The Plain Dealer reports that associate concertmaster Ellen dePasquale has resigned as the orchestra was preparing to create a new position that would change her rank behind concertmaster William Preucil from No. 2 to No. 3. The PD's story follows an article in Scene magazine, one of the local alternative weeklies, attacking Preucil for alleged abuse of power and nepotism. (The online version of the article has many gossipy comments added by readers.)