Arts and Culture

Accidental tourist

The last weekend of February, about a thousand Rochester singers performed in different venues over twenty-four hours.  On Saturday afternoon, gospel choirs rocked the Monroe County Public Safety Building with high-decibel joy in a concert sponsored by the city.  A few hours later and a few blocks away, the Eastman Chorale performed Dominick Argento’s tender love letter to Walden Pond, a song cycle based on text by Henry David Thoreau and scored for chorus, three cellos, and harp.  The next day, eighteen local choirs offered a prism-style concert to a standing-room only crowd in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  Audience members heard a wide variety of works: Russian liturgical music, barbershop, 21st century, Broadway, African chant, you name it.  Singers were in and out of tune, sometimes stark and more often sentimental.  I was happy to be there, but really, it was too much. I was drowning in a sea of notes.   

I’ve been thinking about that weekend and what I remember most of the blur of voices and faces and it’s this-- the voice of a man coming out of a snow squall in a parking lot. He was singing “Winter Wonderland” full-throated, a la Frank Sinatra, carrying a child through a late winter storm.

You know what music is like when you don’t expect it? Once I was standing in the nave of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York, holding my tape machine and waiting for an interview, when Elgar’s “Nimrod” sailed out of the church’s Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ (the largest instrument in the city), rushed over the pavers and curled my toes. The organist was only practicing. I was an accidental tourist. It was an absolute coupe de foudre.

A few weeks ago, on my way to a meeting at the Eastman School, a wave of sound pulled me backstage.  The RPO was rehearsing Debussy’s torrential La Mer.  I sat down, bewitched, like I’d never heard it before.

The question is, how does one create circumstances in which music is able to penetrate the deepest level of our subconscious?  How can we set ourselves up for personal enchantment?  Composer Aaron Copland is full of advice; he suggests directing ourselves “toward an emotionally purposeful end” to encourage the marriage of mind and heart he believes is uniquely possible with music. What's your experience?

William James would tell you to keep your distance. In "Principles of Psychology" he warns against excessive indulgence. “Never suffer one ’s self to have an emotion at a concert without expressing it in some active way, such as giving up your seat in the subway.” Perhaps he’s kidding.

My idea is this: listening to music is like star-gazing.  The light shines brightest when you avert your eyes.  Then it might surprise you. 

Met @ the Movies

2010 - 2011 Season

Don’t miss the chance to experience the Met right here in Rochester!

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers Event

Sun, 05/01/2011 - 2:00pm

Join us for a free screening of clips from the POV film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, meet Ellsberg via Skype and talk with American Documentary Executive Director Simon Kilmurry.

International Women's Day...there and here

March 8. 2011 marks the centenary celebration of International Women's Day.  Each March 8, for the last 25 years, I have programmed a veritable festival of women in music.  I did this for rock, I did it for jazz, and these days, with the help of interns from the Eastman School of Music's Arts Leadership Program, I do it for classical. 

Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop on WXXI-TV

Fri, 03/18/2011 - 9:00pm

WXXI presents a musical event that is as close to time-travel as television allows!

MASTERPIECE: CLASSIC "The 39 Steps"

Sat, 08/03/2013 - 9:00pm

A mining engineer gets caught up in a conspiracy following the death of a British spy.

Masterpiece Classic's Sense and Sensibility on WXXI-TV

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 12:30pm

A romantic odyssey full of seduction and abandonment unfolds in Andrew Davies's bold adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel.

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Making Sense of Place "Phoenix: The Urban Desert" & "Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City"

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 7:00pm

Cities express the choices made by their inhabitants: where to live, how to get around and how to interact with the surrounding environment.

In Search of Myths & Heroes

Fri, 03/25/2011 - 7:00pm

British historian Michael Wood searches for the historical truth behind four of the world’s greatest and most enduring myths.

GREAT PERFORMANCES "Hitman Returns: David Foster & Friends" on WXXI-TV

Tue, 06/07/2011 - 9:30pm

Maestro to the stars David Foster returns with several of his favorite artists for a magnificent night of music.

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