Classical music isn’t dead. It’s dead cool!
Design by my friend Andrew of New United Artists
Thanks mate, I love this!!
Classical music isn’t dead. It’s dead cool!
Design by my friend Andrew of New United Artists
Thanks mate, I love this!!
Classical Music is Dead.
Mark Vanhoenacker thinks so, but is cautiously optimistic…? “Myself, I cling to the forlorn hope that classical music has been down for so long, it must somehow be due for a comeback.”
Claire Chase sees an opportunity instead… “Yes, she said, we read daily about the implosion of orchestras, the winnowing number of jobs for an expanding work force. But, far from dying, classical music is “just being born,” Ms. Chase said, with “new performance practices that put creators, interpreters, historians, educators, theorists in the same entrepreneurial spaces.”
Whatevs. It’s not dead to me. I just composed a new piano piece :D
I’m off to a meeting this afternoon at City of Sydney where they’ll be discussing their “Live Music Matters: Live Music and Performance Action Plan”. Classical music has been notably absent from this conversation in the media, because the whole debate is somewhat predictably centred around the bar/pub music scene and the accompanying issues of entertainment/alcohol licensing and noise pollution.
It is time to make our voices heard, classical fans!!!!
I have a suggestion. What about more non-amplified music in existing council venues with naturally resonant acoustics? Orchestras, choirs and chamber music groups are much lower impact in terms of noise. A good mix of both professional and amateur classical music events, concerts and rehearsals in venues like the beautifully newly refurbished Glebe Town Hall, for instance, would create vibrant creative hubs for music makers of all levels of experience and would inject some life back into the music scene. How? When you get people involved in music creation, they become good audiences too. Just take a look at Moorambilla Festival for a shining example of that! It’s starting to happen e.g. the lovely folks of the Glebe Salon Orchestra already rehearse in Glebe Town Hall, but a whole lot more of that kind of thing would be great. Further to that, shouldn’t Sydney’s flagship classical music organisations (Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Sydney Children’s Choir and Sydney Youth Orchestra) all have a regular and visible presence in their own city’s council venues?
The only catch is this: there would need to be top quality grand pianos in these venues. Spend the money on that instead of trouble-creating amplification systems. That’s what I say.
Read a few words from the City of Sydney Live Music and Performance Taskforce here
Moya Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October 2013.
"If Australia’s major music organisations have displayed a marked tendency to commission and perform compositions by men on this country’s main stages, can it be explained as unconscious bias? What I hear, from female composer colleagues and others, indicates they believe the discrimination is deliberate.
The experience of women as second-class citizens throughout history is no different in music. And what else should we infer about the ranking of women composers when, year after year, Musica Viva Australia, for example, commissions music for its main stage that includes scarcely a note written by a woman? Other major organisations are resolute in displaying a similar preference for music written by men. Is that how deeply entrenched women’s ”second-class” status is?
There are long-time patrons of Musica Viva who remember an earlier, more egalitarian era. They have sought to promote women’s music to Musica Viva only to be told there are no decent women composers.
When society fails to register how few female composers get a hearing on Australia’s main stages, the stigma of sexism besmirches all women. Is women’s music still to be regarded as less worthy of being commissioned, performed, professionally recorded and broadcast? Both genders, and all sides of politics, acknowledge the elevation of just one woman to the new federal Liberal government cabinet is unacceptable. Many of us were appalled at the way Julia Gillard was treated when she was Australia’s first female prime minister. Women are finally registering the unendurable inequity of this state of affairs.
In her blog, ABC Radio presenter Emma Ayres recently decried the fact there are so few compositions by women listed for her to broadcast. Is this because the ABC music programmers cannot find women’s music to play? Is it because the ABC does not want to pay performers for unlimited broadcast rights on older recordings? I am told that lobbying for airplay on ABC-FM is intense; I believe women composers need to clamour more vociferously for a hearing.
It is time women, and men who appreciate the talent of women, combined their power to overhaul the situation. If people want to hear women’s music, then more of those in power will consider commissioning it. They could also offer financial assistance to women composers to create high-standard performances and recordings. Relying on the ABC to do this is not working. As far as art music is concerned, the ABC neutered itself when it allowed the state orchestras to be removed from its influence. It’s a tragedy there isn’t one ABC orchestra left. Women, too, must leave bequests for women’s music to be written and performed. It is not fair to leave all the philanthropy to men.
The Australia Council for the Arts should have at its disposal an information infrastructure that enables staff to notice when a pattern of bias emerges. In the case of Musica Viva, it should have been picked up sooner that no women composers have been among the ”featured” composers commissioned and performed from 2000 onwards. This state of affairs distorts appreciation for the complete canon of Australian music.
So thrilled to be a guest blogger on Greg Sandow’s Arts Journal blog on the future of classical music. I feel a change in the air as far as the presentation of classical music is concerned. And it’s a good thing too!
Sally Whitwell (me!!)
I’m proud to be a guest blogger for Greg Sandow’s blog on the future of classical music. Exciting times! Click on the source for more…
Max Hole, the new head of Universal’s classical music label, has this to say about how classical musicians need to reinvent. As usual, the journalist and the online commenters focus on how alienating the traditions are, that you have to dress up properly and know not to clap between movements etc. Whatevs.
If I could say one thing to my orchestral colleagues on this matter, it would be this - I want to see them communicate their joy in playing classical music. Classical performance should be a real event! As an audient, I should be feeling a kind of tangible, visceral excitement at seeing 100 musicians on the stage united toward a common goal. I certainly feel it as soon as the music starts, but before then…
I’ve been to major symphony orchestra concerts where I felt like I wasn’t meant to be there. I felt that my presence went unacknowledged and they couldn’t have cared less that the people out there had paid good money to come and hear them and feel the energy and excitement of live performance. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this - musicians shuffling onto stage in dribs and drabs over a period of about 20 mins, not necessarily to warm up their instruments but to have a chat with their colleagues, as you might in a rehearsal situation. Some of the ladies even bring their handbags on stage and put them under their seats. Wtf. I’m sure there’s a locker backstage somewhere. Anyway they’re just lounging around, all laid back and casual and it hasn’t any sense of occasion.
If I want a room full of casual, laid back people in formal dress with some classical music attached somewhere, I will pay to go to some pretentious charity ball - at least then I’ll know that my money is going to some noble cause and not to the salaries of a bunch of musicians who, judging by the way they come on stage, look like they don’t give a rat’s arse about classical music.
But here’s the rub; I know for a fact that these colleagues of mine care a great deal about their music and they play it extraordinarily well. But until they can communicate that effectively not only in their playing, but in their performance attitude, on social media, in the way they speak to regular non-musician people about it, nothing will change. Regular folk will continue to think (wrongly!) that classical music is stuffy and elitist and doesn’t speak to them.
I’m doing my best to change the state of play through the way that I perform, but I am only one person. How else is the industry to reignite the fire?
Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop in Hardcore 2
These guys do a nice thing recontextualising their performances of abstract instrumental music. They’re here for the Sydney Festival, and I’m disappointed that I’ll miss them (*sad face*)
I love a little instrumental theatre like this, though I prefer a more absurdist Mauricio Kagel style. This is just a little too serious too much of the time… but still totes brilliant!
Adding my voice to the proverbial chorus on this one - the Landfill Harmonic. It’s so inspiring to see such resourcefulness in the face of great hardship, and to see such joy in making music (classical music, at that!).
Tim Paris, Winner of Three Minute Thesis
"The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland. The exercise develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills and supports the development of research students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes in a language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience."
This whole idea rather appeals to me. I think it would be a wonderful thing to start a similar thing amongst students in Music Schools and Conservatoria. So many classical musicians are particularly bad at talking about their music to the uninitiated and given where we’re at with classical audiences in decline globally, this was be a good kickstart into the future.
Limelight Magazine felt the need to publish this slightly preachy article on Classical Music concert etiquette. Is this really necessary?
Personally, I try to keep all my solo concerts as friendly as possible (ensemble stuff over which I have no control, well, that’s another matter entirely!). At my last solo concert I asked “Hands up if you’ve never been to a classical music concert before?” and I would say that roughly 20% of the crowd answered yes. I told them straight away up front that they could clap at any time they felt they wanted to show some appreciation. The interesting thing was that they didn’t clap between the movements of Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis. Maybe they were still a little scared of behaving appropriately? Or maybe they were actually just really in the music? I prefer to think the latter, but I’m sure for some of them the former is more accurate! *lol* At any rate, I did feel an energy, a hushed anticipation in the room between movements and it really helped me as a performer to focus on what was coming next. I was upfront about my expectations and it somehow managed to pay some dividends in the end. Go figure.
Another recent experience of audience behaviour. I recently performed in a concert with Sydney Children’s Choir, a world premiere work that was the culmination of a bunch of outreach workshops with some kids from Sydney’s western suburbs, kids who don’t normally have any opportunity to make music. To me, the audience seemed very noisy and distracting - there were phones and iPads and people chatting and eating popcorn and… it was as if we’d all gone to the movies to see the latest school holiday blockbuster. It was annoying me that people weren’t really paying proper attention. However, when I stepped outside and saw some of the parents of the kids from those workshops, they were so excited and gushing about how it’s the best thing their kid had ever done and they were so grateful and when were we coming back to do another. Wow. I kept thinking to myself “If you’d really listened, you would have gotten so much more from that performance”. But maybe I’m just being snobby? Argh, the more I think about it, the more shades of grey I seem to find!
At any rate, I have vaguely niggling doubts about this article. I do feel that some people will find this prescription for behaviour a little distancing, perhaps even alienating. Good on them for trying, I guess…. :s
I’ve been ranting and raving a little bit on classical musician biographies lately, and how boring they tend to be. I admit that I rarely feel compelled to read about my colleagues, because what they put out there on the internet is as dry and unappetising as burnt toast.
I’ve been doing a workshop in Branding with the inspirational Greg Sandow. ”Capitalist bullshit!” I hear you say. But it isn’t. It’s just putting an accurate picture of who you are out there to the world. Money making really hasn’t much to do with it. But that’s another conversation for another day.
My homework this week was to collect images and words that describe how I would like to be seen by the world. It prompted me to write these words, a kind of biography of my life as a pianist. I have other biographies, as a composer, an arranger, a writer, an educator, a conductor (these are also other conversations for other days) but here’s the Sally as Pianist story.
Looks like my three-minute-improvisation-for-encore idea for this concert has proved overwhelmingly popular, so I’m going to do it.
I’m really excited about the prospect. I’ve improvised in many situations before, but never in a solo recital. Quite nervous, but I feel in my heart that it will be liberating. Just a gut feeling, ya know.
Do I have the best bunch of followers on the whole of Tumblr? I’m sure I do.
Percussionist Mike Tetreault. Photo by Sean Hagwell.
Read the story here. It moved me to tears.
I’m currently still in recovery from my operation so am spending more hours than I usually would in front of the television set. Pretty much the only television I find worth watching comes from the UK, therefore I am subjected to a great deal of London 2012 Olympic advertising.
Olympic athletes and their publicists are fond of hyperbole. I keep hearing them say things like; “Every second of my life has been leading up to this moment”, “There’s no way to explain the pressure you feel”, “I always put in 110%” blah blah blah. People in the world are quite prepared to accept this kind of language from sportspeople. It is acceptable to use the word “elite” to describe them.
Not so for classical musicians. The word “elite” is brandished as a weapon against us. Actually, it’s more often the word “elitist” that’s used, implying a kind of snobbery, ‘ivory-tower’ distance and that old chestnut people keep throwing at us “inaccessibility”.
We musicians are human. We work just as hard as Olympians, if not even harder and certainly for more years! Not only do we feel the joys and sorrows, the ecstasy and agony, the shining successes and incredible hardships, we express them through our instruments. Herein lies the difference.
Music really is my life.