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Archive for October, 2010

Miriam and the Cello

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

My friend and collaboratrix, cellist Miriam Stewart-Kroeker (now Hincks, maybe? Miriam, you should stick with your incredibly classy maiden name) had her graduation recital today, and A) she played a balanced program with some standard recital rep (Beethoven’s Sonata in D major), standard concerto rep (Dvorak’s Concerto in b minor), B) she played a piece not part of the usual recital – George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae and C) she sounded fantastic.

In keeping with my “new year’s resolution” to write something about all the concerts I attend this year, I present the following outline:

I. I love the fortepiano. Really. Deeply. What a great sound! So standard-to-piano-sounding and yet different. In the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall it sounded muted and warm – the tinkly flowing passages that usually evoke water and mirth on a pianoforte sounded more like…I don’t know, fabric? Maybe?

II. Miriam’s tone has this translucent, viscous quality; warm and smooth like honey with the accompanying clarity and flexibility – throughout almost her entire range. There were a few passages where I was like “WHERE is the honey?” but for the most part…

III. Miriam breathes deeply through her nose, which is noticeable in a recital situation.* I’ve heard people say they don’t like it, but weirdly, I do. It makes the performance more intimate and real; everything she played in context with a breath like that sounded like she was playing to create music, not a performance, and not “just notes”.**

IV. I’m so into weird colours and sounds that even when she messed up it was cool. I am beginning to wonder if this is a flaw.

V. Speaking of colour, it was a super-awesome treat to hear Vox Balaenae again. The pianist and flutist that performed with Miriam sounded great (as did she, of course). George Crumb is a genius with colour, and (as usual) I took colour notes:

vocalizing into flute w. prepared piano, playing with resonance in the piano, screwdriver on a piano string, screwdriver on a piano string paired with cello harmonics, sliding pizzes, consonants through a flute, cello and flute unison oscillations, love me a harmonic gliss!, whistling and crotales, whistling and an in-piano gliss, whistling and standard piano (and by the time you get to flute and piano that sounds interesting too. CRUMB WHAT HAVE YOU DONE), unison plucked strings in piano and cello

VI. What I really love about this program is how the first half showed the audience that Miriam had chops, and the second half showed that she has guts to go along with them. Bravo! Degree well earned.

*Actually, it probably only exists in recital and chamber situations.

**As an oboist, though, I might be biased. I’m always a little disconcerted when you can’t see musicians breathe when they play!

Cultural Learnings of Internet for Make Benefit Glorious Organization of Orchestra

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Someday maybe I will stop reading things on the internet. In the meantime, a compendium of the latest array of Marketing Things:

Pair the unconventional with the conventional. The unconventional can stand on its own. Don’t sully the traditional with the contemporary. People don’t like new music.* Try things before there is a plan, and don’t ask anyone or it won’t get done at all. You will get in trouble if you do things without telling everyone. Even if those things are good things. Give up some control. Carefully craft everything. New ideas are good things, but they might not show return right away.

The internet is the future. Don’t think you can know the future. Social media doesn’t work as a marketing tool until you’ve reached “critical mass” – and to get there you have to market the social medium. Texting. Um. Texting? TextingStatistics work. Statistics lie…but so does everything else. Discounts work…or do they?

The most effective marketing is telling the truth.

Slogans are important.** Orchestra branding: not a big deal if the quality/popularity isn’t there first. Oh god buzzwords. Less (current) is More. More (retro) is More. Quality sells itself. The image should reflect the product – unless it’s off-putting? A little wit goes a long way. Everything needs to be SPELLED OUT. Symbols communicate.

Ads should make you happy!***

Ads should make you AFRAID/feel the drama/raise an eyebrow. Take advantage of all opportunities to advertise to the masses. Enthusiasm is the key. Treat people like individuals.^ Times, they are a-changing. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Whatever you do, don’t offend the donors. It’s about the art! It’s about the money. It’s about “Growing” as in “(size of) the audience”.

We have to make 17th-19th century European Music relevant! It is relevant.#

And the most important lesson of all: Justin Bieber sells.****


*This bothers me. This bothers me SO MUCH, this “I don’t like ‘new music’ ” thing. How much new music have you heard? Hasn’t everything sounded pretty different? Seriously! To say you don’t like “new music” is to say you don’t like ethnic food. It all tastes different, and there is no way you have tried it all, not to even begin to talk about trying it enough times to acclimatize a palate. Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

**How do we actually feel about “Let yourself go” as a slogan? I don’t think I like it. It’s got that negative connotation like, “Oh, she’s really let herself go” when isn’t the Met all about “I’m at the Top of My Freaking Game”? (Oh well, I guess it is working.)

***Also: muppets should do all marketing, sycophants.

^I have a little thing about this, too: when people go “we should treat that person like they are small potatoes because I have so many more important, better things to do that Will Sell Tickets when I don’t happen to think what this one person says or does will”. It’s like: underestimation, much? I still kind of believe that word of mouth is the best way to get people in the door and keep them around, so treating one person like she is a person is maybe the most effective way to sell a product.

# I kind of wonder sometimes – everyone goes “oh, young people don’t come to the symphony because they’ve never been,” or “they’ll come if they hear it once” or “it’s an experience they’ve never had” and I often wonder if they know exactly what to expect because they’ve been surrounded by classical music presented in films (both visually and in soundtrack form), on TV, online, remixed by their favourite artists, on the radio, as part of commercials…and I wonder, too, if they…if we don’t go because we know exactly what to expect, and it’s exactly what we get?
I have this crackpot theory about an oversaturation of this music which is such a tiny niche of the Total Music Of The World…and also a weird distaste for people who talk about certain eras as being “the most revolutionary” music-wise. Again! That new/different music thing. Yes, we know you like steak and potatoes with occasional pasta, yes they are de-friggin’-licious, but have you tried this amazing chueo-tang?

And then I feel overwhelmed with all the amazing things I haven’t heard or eaten or tried, and I wonder if this is the problem, if people get overwhelmed with new possibilities and like to retreat into “comfort food” hmm hoom.
Maybe Beethoven 9 is toast after all.


Oh, Bo

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Watch from 4’15″ where, yes, there is a real live oboe.