CLASSICAL MUSIC IN AN AGE OF POP
blog on the future of classical music
Class Schedule and Assignments
This schedule might change, depending on how long some of our discussions take.
The assignments might change, too. I’ll email all updates.
Introduction to this course
The crisis in classical music
classical music before the crisis:
Greg Sandow, “When Opera Was Popular” – a post from my blog, featuring a New York Times story from 1923, about the farewell performance of Met Opera soprano Geraldine Farrar. Farrar had a huge number of teenage fans, and they went wild. Reading about this is like taking a trip to another world.
“One and Two and…” (Life magazine, June 29, 1962. Life, in those days, was one of America’s most popular magazines. Here it celebrates the piano, complete with a newly commissioned piano piece by Aaron Copland, which it printed for its readers to play.)
[Follow the link, which takes you to the June 29, 1962 issue of Life, as archived on Google Books. The story on the piano starts on page 38. To go there, enter “38” in the box at the top of the page, to the right of the word “contents,” and then hit the return key.]
the crisis now:
Greg Sandow, “Where We Stand: The Classical Music World Today” (originally written for my blog, revised for this class)
January 30 — no class. I’ll be in Boulder, visiting and speaking at the Entrepreneurship Center for Music at the University of Colorado
What is classical music? Why should it survive?
Some definitions of classical music, and comments about it, from various sources
Three passionate statements by distinguished musicians (two directly from the musicians, another quoted in a newspaper article), about the value of classical music:
Kyle MacMillan, “Violinist Zukerman decries sad state of classical music,” (Denver Post, November 15, 2007)
Daniel Barenboim, speaking of his latest recording of the Beethoven symphonies, which he made with the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra as part of a project called “Beethoven for All”:
Many people feel or think, without really knowing, that music is somehow elitist – that it is for people who can afford the money and the time; it’s something that has only to do with leisure. But music is not elitist. On the contrary. Music is not only not elitist, music is universal. Even though all the great composers of the past are European, music doesn’t speak only to Europeans. (I was born in Argentina; if I were limited to “my” music, I could only play tango!) This music, although it was written by Beethoven in Bonn or in Vienna, speaks to people in Ramallah, in Australia, and everywhere else. This is why it is not elitist. Music is for all, for everybody – everybody who opens their mind and heart to it. It needs that curiosity, and it needs attentive listening, but then it’s for all. And if you ask people who do not think of themselves as musically inclined: “Who do you know?” They all say, “Beethoven.” So if we want music for all, then it must be Beethoven.
David Finckel and Wu Han, “Classical Radio’s Fade-Out” (New York Times, April 20, 2002)
What do you think of these statements? Do they make sense? Why? Or why not? And — maybe most important — how would these statements strike someone who doesn’t listen to classical music?
Marcus Westbury, “Mozart cover bands rake in the moolah” (Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald, October 18, 2007)
NPR’s music website [NPR presents classical music as part of a wider musical culture. Does that make sense to you? Do they do it well?]
Here’s an example of a leading classical music institution trying to connect with a wider culture. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment made this video to invite people – members of their audience – to become part of their advertising. They wanted people who didn’t look like normal classical music listeners. Here’s how they explained it:
Followers of the OAE will know that we like to have a distinct ‘look’ to the marketing of each of our seasons, with every year’s campaign starring the people that make the OAE special – the musicians. For our 2012-2013 season campaign though we want to try something a little different. We want our audience to star in the photographs alongside the musicians.
So we’re on the look out for OAE fans with what might be called a ‘strong look’. You’ll get a sense of what we’re after from the video. You may be a bodybuilder, a competitive swimmer, a policeman, a medic, a ballerina, a drag artiste, a fan of ink, or just have a particularly ‘out there’ dress sense. Whatever – if you have a distinctive look we want to hear from you. We’ll be picking 4-5 people to be photographed alongside the Orchestra, and you’ll find yourself starring on our new brochures and marketing material. Who knows, you might find yourself on our Waterloo billboard!
With this campaign we not only want to celebrate something very important to us, our loyal audience, for without you there would be no orchestra, but also to question who classical music is for. You’ll often hear people say ‘oh that’s not for me’, ‘that’s for posh people’ or likewise…so we want to make people take notice of us, and perhaps challenge their assumptions. As you and we know, the music we play is for everyone.
We look forward to hearing from you. Drop us an email with a picture of yourself and telling us why you’d like to be featured.
The video – less than a minute long – brings alive what they were looking for. What do you think of it?
written assignment, due by our next class, February 20
Bearing in mind what we’ve read and discussed about the value of classical music, and about its place in our culture, please answer the following questions.
Why do you think classical music should survive?
What does it offer the world, that nothing else can offer?
Consider two approaches to your answers. First, what would you say to yourself, in your heart? Second, what would you say to someone who doesn’t listen to classical music, someone who’s an outsider to our artform? What could you say that an outsider might find convincing?
Feel free to write in a normal, everyday style. This isn’t a formal paper! You don’t have to write more than two or three pages, and by all means write less, if you can answer the questions more briefly.
Please email this—and all other written assignments—to me at email@example.com. If you’re going to be late with an assignment—not recommended—absolutely let me know in advance.
Mozart, Symphony No. 31, “Paris,” first movement (Academy of Ancient Music; Jaap Schroeder, concertmaster, Christopher Hogwood, continuo.)
Wilhelm Backhaus, a great pianist from the last century, improvises a prelude to Schumann’s “Das Abend"
This was recorded at Backhaus’s last recital, which he played in 1969 in Carinthia, Austria. First there’s an announcement from the stage, saying in German that Backhaus isn’t well, and won’t play the scheduled work, Beethoven’s Op. 111 sonata. Instead, he’ll play a short Schumann piece, which we then hear, starting with the improvised prologue.
Beethoven, Archduke Trio, first movement: Jacques Thibaud, violin, Pablo Casals, cello, Alfred Cortot, piano (recorded in 1928)
Optional: you might also like to hear these musicians play the first movement of the Schubert B flat trio. Not as controlled a performance, but maybe freer, and thus more typical of performances from that era.
Schubert, “Serenade,” sung in English by Richard Crooks (1941)
Puccini, La bohŹme, end of Act 1: sung by Jussi Björling and Renata Tebaldi, with the Showcase Symphony Orchestra, Max Rudolf, conductor (from Festival of Music, broadcast live in 1956 on network TV, complete with car commercials)
Gregor Piatigorsky ends a recital with an arrangement of “The Swan,” from Carnival of the Animals (from Carnegie Hall, a 1947 Hollywood movie)
March 6, March 13: spring break
Frank Sinatra, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (from Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, 1956)
Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle” (from Appetite for Destruction, 1988)
The Dells, “Oh What A Nite” (single, 1956)
Lucinda Williams, “Ventura” (from World Without Tears, 2003)
Eric B. & Rakim, “Follow the Leader” (from Follow the Leader, 1988)
Björk, “An Echo, A Stain” (from Vespertine, 2002)
Josephine Foster, “An die Musik” (from A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, 2006)
We all agree that classical music is art. But what is pop music? Listen to these songs, and think about how you’d classify them. Apparently they’re not classical music, but why? What are the differences? What makes them pop, and not classical?
And could they – just possibly – be art? If not, why not?
We’ll talk about all this in class.
(Note that the Josephine Foster song is a version of a classical piece, a Schubert song. So maybe there the question would be: Why is it pop?)
Greg Sandow, “Four Keys to the Future”
Catherine Shefski, Go Play: Motivating the New Generation of Pianists (ebook by a piano teacher)
Greg Sandow, “Path-breaking piano curriculum” (blog post about the piano program at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada)
Brooklyn Philharmonic (a completely new idea of what an orchestra should be)
Debussy, Afternoon of a Faun (as played from memory last year, without a conductor, by the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra — and danced by the musicians. Liz Lehrman designed the movement. James Ross, whom you might know from Juilliard’s conducting program, conceived the project and led the music rehearsals)
“The Night Shift at Village Underground, Shoreditch” (the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment goes into a club)
also look at the Night Shift web page (go to the page, and then click “Explore further”)
Seth Godin, Tribes (excerpt)
Clive Thompson, “Sex, Drugs, and Updating Your Blog,” from the New York Times Magazine, May 13, 2007 (about how to promote a pop career all by yourself, on the Web)
Gerald Klickstein, Music Education and Entrepreneurship
Browse around on Klickstein’s blog, “The Musician’s Way.” That’s where “Music Education and Entrepreneurship” comes from, and, week by week, the blog gives you a surprisingly thorough education in entrepreneurship and career issues. Jerry runs the Music Entrepreneurship and Career Center at Peabody, which I’ve visited. The students there are lucky to have him.
Greg Sandow, “How to do it” (blog post)
New England Conservatory, Entrepreneurial Musicianship program. Please watch the video (which I can’t link to here).
Manhattan School of Music, Center for Music Entrepreneurship
“Juilliard Entrepreneurship: Shaping the Future” (page from the Juilliard website)
Peabody, Music Entrepreneurship and Career Center
Indiana University, Project Jumpstart
Anderson & Roe (A piano duo. Both of them took this class, but I can’t take credit for what they do. They were doing it long before they met me.)
Watch the promotional video for their album, “when words fade”
Greg Sandow, “’We personalize what music is’” (blog post, in which Alecia Lawyer describes her entrepreneurial River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, now in its eighth season in Houston)
Greg Sandow, “What if we call it what it is?” (blog post about Ad Hoc, a scrappy ensemble in Rochester)
Greg Sandow, “Promoting with gusto” (blog post about Christopher Dulgan, a South African pianist who built a highly individual
Be as personal as you like. In fact, the point is to talk about your own thoughts and feelings, about the very personal, individual, even unique reasons why you love the piece you’re talking about. There’s no need to talk about the history of the piece, or its structure, unless these are things that truly excite you. Speak from your heart, in your own way.
Fixing the crisis: Shaping your brand (1)
Jade Simmons, “Are You a Victim of Artistic Identity Theft?” (a post from her ”Emerge Already” blog)
Greg Sandow, “Sell What You Are” (blog post)
“Ghosts and Flowers: The Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia” (This is a video made by two recent Juilliard graduates, Arianna Warsaw-Fan and Meta Weiss. As far as I know, they didn’t intend to brand themselves. But if they made more videos like this, would they – just possibly -- have a brand?)
Look at these websites, and ask yourself how they make you feel. Do they make you interested in the person or institution involved? What do these websites make you think would happen, if you heard performances by these people? Or if you went to Juilliard?
Brooklyn Philharmonic (again)
Viktoria Mullova. Look at her photos. Especially my favorite, which is this one. So moody, not like a standard publicity shot. Makes me want to hear how she plays.
Orchestra of Age of Enlightenment
assignment for next week:
Think about the presentation you gave in class, the one about music you love. What were the things that you said in that presentation, that meant the most to you?
Thinking of those things that you said, find a few words – a short phrase, a sentence – that you could use to describe yourself as a musician. Words that sum up your musical essence.
You might want to think of more than one phrase. And don’t worry if the phrases don’t seem perfect, or even if you think they’re not very good. This is an exercise in working toward phrases you might someday use. You don’t have to come up with a finished product. Just take some preliminary steps.
Also look for graphics that seem to evoke what you do. You can find them in print (in a magazine, for instance), or on the web. They can be photos, drawings, advertisements – anything. Most likely they won’t be about you (unless you have a logo, or photos or drawings of yourself that you want to use). The idea is simply to find something visual that seems to inhabit the same world you do. Again, these don’t have to fit you perfectly. Like the words that you’ll think of, they’re just a first step.
Bring these materials – your phrase or phrases, and your graphics – to class. If you found graphics on the web, please print them out for all of us to see. We’ll talk about what all of you bring, and see what the next step might be – the next step toward words and images to help define your personal brand.
Fixing the crisis: Shaping your brand (2)
Discussion about shaping your personal brand, based on the words and images you bring to class.
informal paper, due by email May 15, the date of our final class:
Imagine a concert you might give, that’s an expression of your brand. By which I mean a concert that’s entirely you, a concert that expresses the essence of your musical self, which you’ve worked to capture in words and images. Describe the program, the setting (where you’d give the concert), and also how you’d promote the event. Everything – from the music you choose to the way you’d publicize the performance – should be an expression of everything that, as a musician, you care about most.
This paper might be three pages long. But, as before, write at whatever length – shorter than three pages, or longer -- seems to make sense, to say what you want to say.