New Resource for Flutists

February 7, 2013

Hello –

I thought that many of you would be interested in this site put up my the Swiss flutist Mats Möller. It’s a mini-textbook of sorts for extended flute techniques that includes both audio and notation examples.

ENJOY!

http://www.sfz.se/flutetech/index.htm

This article comes from my former flute professor, Dr. Roger Martin, the Professor of Flute at Tennessee Techonological Unviersity in Cookeville, Tennessee, where I got my Bachelor’s in Flute Performance. During my last few years there, we knew he had started to develop a strange problem – his fingers wouldn’t do what he “told” them to do. We knew he was immensely frustrated with this and I am so glad he has written about his experiences. Focal Dystonia is a mysterious and much misunderstood problem and I reprint his article here with his permission.  You can find out more about the TTU Flute Studio by going to their website: ttuflutestudio.yolasite.com

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The Individuality of Change

December 11, 2012

Photo: Alex Barth

Photo: Alex Barth

We’re in the midst of some pretty big changes.

Multiple orchestras across the US are facing huge deficits and are putting the pressure on their musicians to make enormous sacrifices while hoping to preserve the artistic integrity of these organizations. It is not my intent to discuss or debate the current issues, but instead address how individual musicians may respond to these changes.

The future of classical music has been a breeding ground for infighting in the ranks. Gary Sandow’s blog eloquently discusses these challenges and reading the comments to his blog posts have expanded my horizons since sometimes, the arguments are ones I haven’t necessarily considered. It baffles me how some don’t appear to believe that things are shifting, or they believe that we’re merely in a chaotic part of the cycle and things will return to “normal” soon enough. I think the concept of normal is changing, and we’re beginning to see shifts and artists who are no longer satisfied with what once was.

It’s no secret that I’ve begun creating a new path for myself. I’m shunning the audition circuit and seeking creative freedom. I’ve never felt happier or more liberated. I’m now able to more easily deal with criticism. Rather than doing what everyone else is doing, I’m doing my own thing. Because I’ve done so much soul-searching and have arrived at a musical philosophy that works for me, I feel that I’m better able to look at these issues from a balanced mindset since I have no self-preserving interests in the matter. This is what works for me, and this is where the beauty of these changes lies. Musicians will be empowered to begin making individual choices about their careers, and I believe they will become more able to sustain careers while making a living.

Did I see the current lockouts coming? No. I’m not involved in the orchestral world; however, I am a trained musician. I’m aware of how music schools and conservatories place emphasis on orchestral training. When I think back to my college days, I think about all the time I spent working on excerpts. That training took precedence over the various chamber music experiences or solo performances. I trained to become an orchestral musician. I believed for many years that getting into an orchestra was the pinnacle of a serious music career (that, or making it as a soloist…the orchestral career seemed more likely).

Because I was so involved in this training, my ears were closed to pearls of wisdom that I may have received about doing things my own way. It’s not like I wasn’t interested in entrepreneurial ventures. I even researched taking some business classes, but I wasn’t able to enroll in any due to various issues.

We had a “Business of Music” class that was offered for a few semesters but by the time my schedule allowed me to take the course, the person teaching it had moved on to a different school and no one replaced her since it was an elective. More and more schools are adding essential courses to their curriculum to expand students’ skill sets, but the question still remains of, “What is academia emphasizing? Are students being encouraged to become free-thinking individuals with creative dreams or are they simply being trained in a system that better fits what used to be?”

I’ve instead spent my own time expanding my horizons. I knew what my options were and I faced reality. Every musician’s circumstances are different; however, one thing remains the same. Every musician must take personal responsibility for their career. We’re lucky, you know. We can and should be able to adapt as artists when something happens that knocks us off kilter.

The changes that are coming and that are currently happening will affect everyone individually. I am inclined to believe that funding will begin shifting to smaller groups and individuals. I believe that audiences want to be personally connected to artists and they want to know exactly where their money is going and for what project. Crowd funding successes through platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe confirm this. Audiences will have to be cultivated on an individual basis. No audience is the same.

Perhaps the orchestral audience is diminishing, but I don’t believe the audience for the larger art form is diminishing. Be brave, be courageous and above all, find your audience. Be creative in your artistic endeavors, but also approach your art with an entrepreneurial mindset. If a concept or idea doesn’t work, then try something else.

The shifting winds have the potential to either harm or help the parties involved. I want all the musicians to come through these storms unscathed, but I know that won’t be the case.

I’m pretty excited about these changes. If you allow the changes to happen and forget what you thought you knew about classical music, then the future becomes a collective of individual change. Let’s keep it going and support each other.

©Alexis Del Palazzo, 2012

A Dark Day for Music Lovers

December 5, 2012

It is with a genuinely sad heart that I pass along reports of the deaths of two major figures in music. Both Johnathan Harvey and Dave Brubeck have passed away in the preceding hours.  Details can be found here:

Jonathan Harvey – Jonathan Harvey dies aged 73 (Guardian UK)

Dave Brubeck – Dave Brubeck, jazz pianist, dead at age 91 (Chicago Tribune)

I had the privilege of having an extended composition lesson with Mr. Harvey and also got to hear him speak on a few occasions. While I’ll leave it to others to say all the things that should be said about the high quality of his music and teaching, I will encourage you to listen to some of his music. His repertoire has a wide range of styles and emotions, but there should be something for just about everybody. Much of it (although not his most famous works) are available on Spotify and Tombeau de Messiaen might be the most appropriate given it’s subject matter.

While I am not a frequent listener of Mr. Brubeck’s music, I did, in fact, enjoy some earlier this very week. His lively and charming arrangement/performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria ” appears in a crucial scene of the wonderful Silver Linings Playbook.

“Art music in America has been like a plant, transplanted in a new place that provides a very different environment from the one in which it originally developed. In this new situation, hitherto unrealized challenges inherent in its nature began to appear, and the special challenge of trying to live and develop under new circumstances may produce a considerable mutation. The plant is sturdy, the environment strange to it, the desire for adaptation great, and the process of adaptation filled with difficulties which at times seem insurmountable and threatening to the life of the plant, yet its wish to develop is very strong.”

Jennifer Borkowski – Elliott Carter and American Music

Jennifer,

In your last post you asked me, and the readers, a number of questions surrounding American art music. Because these questions were raised in the context of Elliott Carter’s passing, I’m assuming that you’re using the term “art music” to mean music that’s made in the classical tradition and “American” as something more than a tautology. Arnold Schoenberg, for example, was an American citizen for the last decade or so of his life but I would never call his late works “American music” although I might argue that they were authentically of Los Angeles. So if I understand you correctly, I think that what you’re saying is this: that the particular modality in which Carter worked is really a European style of music but, at the same time, Carter really does come across, at least to the initiated, as a distinctly American composer. If this is your premise, then I think that what you are asking is why this is the case and how does this American character express itself. What are the American qualities of his composition? Where do they reside?

Well, I’m by no means an expert on Carter’s music and I’m not about to embark on a large research project, but I do think that at least part of the answer can be found in the particular vision and experience of America that Carter’s compositional process projects.

Because Carter was somewhat older when his career took off in earnest people often forget that he is almost exactly the same age as John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow. This is important, because Carter’s approach to writing music shares a great deal with both of these composers even if, on the surface, the style and character of Carter’s music seems to be an ill-fit.

Carter’s music, according to Paul Griffith’s obituary, centers on the “self-allotted task of increasing Western music’s rhythmic variety and freeing its form.” While that task may have been self-allotted, it certainly wasn’t unique to Carter and could equally well describe Cage or Nancarrow each of whom, like Carter, was heavily influenced by the rhythmic theories presented in Henry Cowell’s New Musical Resources. Cowell –  compositional prodigy if ever there was one – was himself only about ten years older than Carter, Cage, and Nacarrow.

So in one sense, Carter’s music is American because it deals with issues and techniques that were of concern to American composers at a time when non-American composers were concerned with other issues and techniques. In another way, however, I think that the music of our homegrown Modernists is also American not only for what they wrote, but for the manner in which they wrote it. Like their  counterparts in the Second Viennese School, they used pre-compositional systems to help generate material and guide the compositional process but always with the attitude that these systems were tentative, conditional, open to revision and reinterpretation, and at all times were a solely means that were subordinate to the ultimate end of the individual work at hand. (Cage’s Music of Changes radically problematizes this assessment, but it certainly holds valid for earlier masterpieces such as the First Construction). As majestic an achievement as Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra is, for example, it really seem to be more about demonstrating the power of the twelve-tone system rather than using the twelve-tone system to write a powerful piece. In Cage, Nancarrow, and Carter, systems are made to help aid and guide the composition of a piece and are then disposed of when the piece is done. Aspects of those systems may be returned to in the future, but there is rarely a sense that a piece exists solely to provide repertoire for a compositional method.

Sibelius Update –

November 9, 2012

Continuing our coverage of the situation with Sibelius notation software, it has been reported by our friends at Arts Journal that Steinberg Software (the makers of Cubase among other things) has hired the former development staff of Sibelius presumably with the intention of launching a new notation program to replace Sibelius.  Although Sibelius has been rumored to be on the chopping block as a software platform, Avid, the owners of Sibelius, have said nothing to that effect.  An anonymous source within Avid  assures me that the software is alive and well and will continue to be developed and supported by Avid.
Steinberg’s statement can be found here.

Also reported by arts journal: the Minnesota orchestra has cancelled the remainder of this calendar year’s concerts.

Halloween Digest

October 31, 2012

What is the scariest Classical music?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserviceblog/2012/oct/30/scariest-classical-music?INTCMP=SRCH

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