I must say, it’s fun to walk into a concert hall with no expectations.
On Tuesday night, I entered Kilbourn Hall with my fashionable friend Carin, a notebook, and two kids: I told my children to sit wherever they wanted to and draw pictures. They hopped up to the back row.
We went to hear Ossia (pronounced “oh-SEE-ah”), the student contemporary music group based at the Eastman School with a time-honored tradition of omnivorous, unpredictable programming.
On another operatic note, Bryant Manning, a music stringer at the Chicago Sun-Times and Time Out Chicago sent an e-mail to the NEA Fellows I met in New York last month. He writes:
“Yesterday I interviewed the Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and
he voluntarily brought up Renee Fleming. When we were in NY, Ms.
Fleming was lambasted by some as a terrible and overrated singer. So
for entertainment purposes, I thought *some* of you might be surprised
he said this:
Maybe I’m too scattered to concentrate on reading a novel. Maybe I’m becoming too obsessed by blogging. Maybe I’m going through a phase. Whatever the case, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, flipping through Anne Panning’s new collection Super America and the new anthology edited by Stephen King, The Best American Short Stories 2007.
Writer Anne Panning speculates that since we usually expect novels to end on a happy note, short stories provide a vehicle for loneliness and bleakness in a way that novel can't.
The thought crossed my mind the other day when I picked up the November 19th New Yorker and started reading Antonya Nelson’s engrossing short story, “Or Else.”
This Sunday morning, all across America, hundreds of thousands of professional musicians rolled out of bed, got dressed, and headed for church. I was one of them. I’ve played the organ and directed the choir in an Episcopal church for five years.
Christmas Eve will be my last service.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and tell you a bit about my experience as a professional musician in a small town.
First of all, I never quite shook the sensation that I was playing a part in a Thornton Wilder play. Once, while I was practicing for a funeral, a woman I knew from high school walked in, her arms full of flowers.
A few weeks ago, I got the chance to interview two Rochester music writers on a live call-in radio show, 1370 Connection Arts Friday.
If you click on the link below, you can hear classical and jazz critic Anna Reguero tell the story of how free pizza changed her life. Anna writes for the Rochester, New York daily, the Democrat and Chronicle. You’ll also hear City newspaper’s Frank DeBlase offend our listeners almost right off the bat with the term “blue-hairs.” (He later gets the chance to apologize to an irate caller.) Frank writes for City, Rochester, New York’s alternative newsweekly.
The future of the CD . . . classical, jazz, rock, and rockabilly . . . analyzing music clips . . . I find this all entertaining, and I hope you think it’s interesting, too.
A few days ago I wrote about running with Steve Reich’s minimalist music on my iPod.
The American composer wrote back. He said,
“Tell Brenda I read her blog and am glad she runs to my music. That's a good use for it. She also points out how classical music doesn't keep a steady beat and is no good for running. Well, tell her that's true for Brahms, Mahler and many other romantic composers of the 19th century, but she should give J.S. Bach a shot. Something as easy to find as the Brandenburg Concertos. He - if correctly played - certainly keeps a steady beat and would seem like a natural joy to run to.
It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was mildly surprising.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra switched the positions of the cellos and violas the other night. The cellos are now sitting in the center of the orchestra between the violins and violas, and the violas are closest to the audience on the conductor’s right side.
“[Pinchas] Zukerman had the Orchestra sit that way when he guest-conducted here,” Music Director Christopher Seaman explained via e-mail. “The string principals and I thought it would be worth trying again. The Cleveland Orchestra sits that way (I think), [and so does] the Baltimore Symphony, the Melbourne Symphony (Australia), Columbus Symphony, and many others.”
Seaman added, “No seating is perfect for every section or all repertory.”
If someone asked you to give up music for a day, would you? Could you?
Writer and former rock star Bill Drummond wants you to try. Tomorrow, if possible. He’s declared Wednesday, November 21st “No Music Day.”
His point? To get us to think about the unwanted, sometimes-god-awful music we’re forced to hear in public places such as lobbies, restaurants, and shared office spaces. His point is to get us to listen mindfully.
To support Drummond’s mission, BBC Radio Scotland will eliminate all music November 21st, including the short clips before the news. Thousands of people have promised to live in silence for the day on the No Music Day Web site, http://www.nomusicday.com/home.html.