Friday, January 30, 2009

Mendelssohn at 200

Tuesday marks the 200th anniversary of Felix Mendelssohn's birth. Celebrations and concerts will take place honoring his music - do you have a favorite work or performance? Let us know in the comments.
One of my all time favorite pieces to hear and play of Mendelssohn is his youthful Octet for Strings. You can hear it Tuesday afternoon on KPAC and KTXI.
I remember one performance in Wichita, KS years ago with the Pro Arte Quartet and the Fairmount String Quartet...the performance was musical and quite brisk, but marred in the cute and concise Scherzo by a chirping cricket in the hall. After the finale, an astute audience member killed the offending cricket that had been lurking near the exit. The audience on its feet and shouting for an encore got to hear the scherzo again, this time without the chirping - "senza cicada".

Musicians and those curious to see the actual music of Mendelssohn can visit the IMSLP/Petrucci Library online - it's completely free.
This is another great link to everything Mendelssohn,

Finally, I thought I'd share a youthful memory of mine about Mendelssohn - actually at the time my violin teacher was learning Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto herself - the Hooked on Classics version of Mendelssohn!

Protean Music

Some pieces of music are so packed with possibilities that they can change the course of the musical arts. Franz Schubert wrote a two-fisted Fantasie in C major for a well off pianist that was a pupil of Hummel. Schubert may have been thinking of a rich remuneration when composing the Wanderer Fantasie but the riches lay in the melodic transformations in this inspired music. A young Franz Liszt was studying in Vienna at the time, just down the street in fact, and while he never met Schubert face to face he learned many lessons from the "Wanderer".

Find out some of the ways this protean work changed music on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KSTX.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Perhaps the next Mozart? next Greenberg?

The NY Philharmonic is going to play music by a 13 year old composer. Learn more here.
YOSA is going to play a work by Jay Greenberg on tour, and fans of youthful musicians should be sure to tune in Saturday mornings at ten am for From the Top.

YOSA: Korngold Interview

Coming up Sunday, February 8th, the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio present Tall Tales, Magical Melodies at Laurie Auditorium. They'll play Dvorak's Slavonic Dance #2, Kodaly's Hary Janos, and Korngold's Cello Concerto with Charlene Debus.
Recently, Charles Noble spoke with Katy Korngold Hubbard about her famous grandfather:

What are some highlights of hearing live performances of Korngold’s music? And where in the world has this taken you? Our family has had wonderful experiences traveling within the United States and abroad for Korngold performances. As I’ve mentioned, 1997 was the centenary - my mother, my husband, both our children and I went to London to hear several concerts at the Proms given at Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time we had the pleasure of hearing Gil Shaham play the Violin Concerto - and what a treat it was!

Read more of the interview here at Daily Observations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hear him every Saturday morning!

Christopher O'Riley Saves the Day at Spokane Symphony Orchestra
Heroic action is not often called for in the world of classical music, but on Saturday, January 17, renowned pianist Christopher O’Riley performed an act of artistic derring-do that many accomplished musicians would have shied away from. The Spokane Symphony saw its originally scheduled soloist, Gabriela
Montero, called to Washington to perform at the Inauguration of President Obama. A few days before the concert, her replacement, Orli Shaham, suddenly fell victim to the flu.
Agreeing to come to the Symphony’s rescue on the Wednesday immediately preceding the concert, O’Riley commenced round-the-clock rehearsal of the repertoire -- Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 -- at home in Cleveland, then flew to Spokane to rehearse with the Symphony just two days later. Despite the short space of time to prepare such a demanding program and the considerable stress under which he was operating, this Van Cliburn Award winner/laureate turned in a typically masterful performance, earning a standing ovation and several curtain calls. Here’s what Travis Rivers of the The Spokesman- Review in Seattle had to say:
“O’Riley is perhaps better known as the host of the National Public Radio program “From the Top,” where he introduces up-and-coming young performers. But Saturday’s performance demonstrated that O’Riley is a nimble and elegant concert artist, traits required by Beethoven’s concerto… Ludwig von Beethoven wrote it when he was 23 to introduce his own virtuosity as a pianist to the Viennese public. O’Riley was perfectly at home with Beethoven’s flowing Mozartian passages and completely assured in the dramatic surprises the impetuous young Beethoven dished out to conservative Vienna… Some of O’Riley’s most impressive moments came in the solo cadenza to the first movement, with its harmonic adventurousness. Also striking were the tender dialogue passages between soloist and orchestra near the close of the Adagio. O’Riley and the orchestra seemed to have great fun with gypsy-tinged high spirits of the finale. So did their audience.”
Christopher O’ Riley’s poetic gifts and captivating virtuosity have made him one of the most important pianists performing before the public today. He enjoys a thriving concert career with a singularly broad repertoire ranging from music of the English Renaissance and French Baroque periods to new works by today’s leading composers to such non-classical forms as the tango. Mr. O’Riley had already won acclaim for his adaptations of works in the classical canon before applying this talent to such contemporary artists as George Harrison, Nick Drake, Radiohead, and Elliott Smith. These recent efforts have earned plaudits from both classical-music writers and such publications as Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Alternative Press.
O’Riley has been tireless in his efforts to make classical music a vital and visible presence on the contemporary scene. In addition to his performing and recording activities, he hosts the top-rated weekly NPR show From The Top and the PBS series From the Top at Carnegie.

Watch Chris' interview at the TPR Studios here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Virtual Grimaud

Tomorrow, on January 24, you can experience a concert by pianist Hélène Grimaud on at 7:00 PM (UTC) or 2pm Central US Time. This live performance from the Cité de la musique will be broadcast free on and in association with France 3 and France 2.
You can hear an interview with Grimaud and TPR's John Clare here.

Temporarily Back from Obscurity

Imagine an infant prodigy that was the subject of scholarly study, going on to study piano and composition with the best teachers in Europe, he then filled in for Rachmaninoff to great acclaim and had a triumphal debut at Carnegie Hall. So what is missing from this Cinderella story? A happy ending. Ervin Nyireghazi six months after his "triumph" was sleeping on the subways in New York City and it was there that he met the first of his eventual ten wives! After spend thirty odd years without a piano, Nyireghazi gave a concert to raise money for his ninth wife Elisa and the rest is history.

Some pianists can play loud and some are off the Richter Scale, volcanic in comparison. The incredible story of Ervin Nyireghazi on the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 here on Texas Public Radio.

host Randy Anderson

Classical lip syncing?

Was it live, or was it memorex? Read about the Air and Simple Gifts performance Monday at the Inauguration - what was broadcast was a dress rehearsal! There's more here from MSNBC.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Academy Award Nominations

Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards were announced this morning. Here are the nominees for Best Original Score:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Alexandre Desplat

Defiance: James Newton Howard

Milk: Danny Elfman

Slumdog Millionaire: A.R. Rahman

WALL-E: Thomas Newman

Both Newman and Howard have been nominated multiple times, but "Slumdog Millionaire" has both critical and popular momentum. I've seen "Slumdog," and the music (both the songs and score) play a major part in the film. It just could win over voters. Still, don't count out the always inventive Danny Elfman. WALL-E's score is very good, certainly better than Newman's rather flat score for "Revolutionary Road," but many voters of the Music Branch of the Academy will still see the film as simply a "cartoon."

You can follow more TPR Cinema updates through

--Nathan Cone

Photo credit: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Music

Just before Barack Obama was sworn in as America's 44th president this morning, violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriela Montero, performed the premiere of "Air and Simple Gifts," composed for the occasion by John Williams. Hear it again in an exclusive national radio broadcast on Wednesday's Performance Today, with Fred Child, from American Public Media - 12pm on KTXI and 6pm on KPAC.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Free Sample

Take Joyce DiDonato's new Handel cd for a spin. Click here to get a free download of Furore. And keep an eye out for our interview with Joyce about the new disc.
Remember when we told you about the album with this video?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can't we be Friends?

One of the best known stories in Classical Music is that of Peter Tchaikovsky and his former teacher Nikolai Rubinstein's disagreement over the Piano Concerto in b-flat. Tchaikovsky was excited over the recently completed work and played some of it for Rubinstein who didn't understand it; he reverted to "teacher mode" and harshly criticized it causing a huge argument. With some revisions the work became world famous, but that isn't the end of the story.

Tune in this Sunday at 5 to hear what happened to the relationship of Tchaikovsky and his friend Nikolai Rubinstein on the Piano on KPAC and KSTX.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Xbox PS2 Wii with Webber?

It is in development they say:
Love him or hate him, it's impossible to deny the popularity of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his various works on Broadway. The man has conquered the world of stage and screen, and now it's been revealed that his works are coming to video games, too.
Paid Content has revealed that Webber's management company, Really Useful Group, is working to develop a number of video games over several years on various gaming platforms that will bring the composer's works to gamers. The group is apparently in negotiation with a number of different developers and publishers; the goal being a karaoke-like series of games on multiple platforms. Allegedly, players will be able to sing along as characters from shows like Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera, as well as participate in an "audition" process.
The reason for Really Useful Group's interest in developing a game is due to a couple of different factors: "the emergence of more female gamers in the traditionally male-dominated game consumer demographic, and the popularity of singing- and music-based titles like PlayStation’s Singstar and Xbox’s Lips." Personally, a Phantom of the Opera game that lets players terrorize the cast of the Paris Operahouse and engage in armed combat sounds like a lot more fun than going through a virtual audition.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Keeping in touch

Have you noticed the new Twitter feed on the sidebar here on the right for Texas Public Radio's classical music? You can subscribe to it here. And KSTX is Twittering as well here. And don't miss the latest from Nathan Cone and Cinema Tuesdays twittering here.
We were amused by a recent entry from Sequenza21 - what if Alma Mahler twittered?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Free Classical Music

Violinist Julia Fischer's new album of Bach Concertos will be released in stores through Decca Records on January 27, but a free preview is available now on iTunes, Apple's online music store. It's the first time I can remember Apple featuring classical music as their free Discovery Download of the week!

It's only a small sample (3:27, the Allegro movement of Bach's BWV 1041 concerto), but it's free classical music; better than a poke in the eye with a sharp conducting baton, for sure.

From Apple's iTunes site: "German Julia Fischer is a violinist in her mid-20s who has won a variety of prestigious competitions... Her style is crisp, meticulous, and passionate."

--Nathan Cone

Excitement in NYC

The New York Philharmonic has released details about their 2009-2010 line up - read about it from Steve Smith at Night after Night. Exciting trips, soloists and new music - we love the "Announcer in residence."

No word from Don Rosenberg about this yet

Deutsche Grammophon has signed an agreement with the Cleveland Orchestra that kicks off with a Wagner album to be conducted by the Cleveland’s music director, Franz Welser-Möst.

This week Measha Brueggergosman will be recorded live at the orchestra’s home, Severance Hall, in the Wesendonck Lieder. The remainder of the disc will be recorded during the 2009-10 season for release in the autumn of 2010: the couplings will be the orchestral version of the Tristan Prelude and Liebestod and the overture to Tannhäuser. The recording will be issued both as a download and on cd.

A second release will see a former musical advisor to the orchestra, Pierre Boulez, record a disc of the two Ravel piano concertos with Pierre-Laurent Aimard (the coupling will be the solo Miroirs). The recording team will be producers Elaine Martone and Robert Woods and engineer Michael Bishop, all of whom have established a considerable reputation from their work at the Cleveland-based Telarc.

Cleveland Orchestra executive director Gary Hanson commented, “It is almost unprecedented in this decade to announce a four-CD commitment between a distinguished international label and a major American orchestra. That we are doing so today is a credit to the artists and to the members of The Cleveland Orchestra.” And Michael Lang, president of Deutsche Grammophon, added, “It’s important that classical music continues to be performed and recorded at the highest possible levels – that’s reason enough for a collaboration between The Cleveland Orchestra and Deutsche Grammophon; however, when one factors in the shared history between these two acclaimed organisations, it’s also the right time to work together again.”

Further recorded exposure of the Cleveland Orchestra is due later this year with DVD releases of Bruckner’s Seventh and Ninth Symphonies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mendelssohn Mystery?

Did Felix Mendelssohn's passion for the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind lead to his early death? If reports of a document buried in the bowels of the Royal Academy of Music are to be believed, a potentially devastating new light is waiting to be shed on the composer's life, his death and his music, on the eve of his bicentenary, which is sparking worldwide celebrations in 2009.

In 1896, Lind's husband, Otto Goldschmidt, allegedly placed in the archive of the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation (housed at the RAM) an affidavit in which – according to Professor Curtis Price, former principal of the RAM – he declares that he'd destroyed a letter that would have been deeply injurious to the reputations of his wife and Mendelssohn: an 1847 missive from the composer to the soprano declaring passionate love for her, begging her to elope with him to America, and threatening suicide if she refused. Lind, one infers, did refuse. Several months later, Mendelssohn was dead.

It has long been thought that Lind was in love with Mendelssohn, requitedly or not, but did not pursue it because he was married; but the plot looks thicker and more significant. Clive Brown's book, A Portrait of Mendelssohn, mentions papers in this archive "deposited in 1896 by Goldschmidt" that "tend to substantiate the notion of an affair" with Lind; were "to remain sealed for 100 years", were "said to have been opened in 1996", but "a conspiracy of silence surrounds their contents". The Foundation, which makes an award to a young composer every two years, was set up in Mendelssohn's memory in 1849 by Lind herself.

The Goldschmidt documents' content has never been made public – the "conspiracy of silence" continues. But Professor Price, who has viewed the affidavit himself, has spoken of its revelations, and is calling for "a full scholarly investigation".

Until now, Mendelssohn has been deemed the happiest of composers. The creator of such favourites as the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Violin Concerto, and the oratorio Elijah, he was the grandson of the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Born into a privileged family, he was a child prodigy, and went on to become a highly successful composer, conductor and educator. He was also gifted in painting and writing, enjoyed a happy marriage, and had five children. It has been thought that the only tragedies he experienced were the death of his sister Fanny in May 1847, followed by his own six months later, aged 38. But this may be far from the full picture.

He first met Lind on 21 October 1844. She was 24, an unaffected Scandinavian girl, untouched by the artificiality and glitz of the operatic world. "Did you meet her in private life, you would not notice her as a beauty," wrote her biographer, Charles G Rosenburg, about three years later. "She must be seen when her countenance is lighted up with the inspiration of her art, and then, possibly, you might pronounce her beautiful."

Mendelssohn was not the first to be bowled over: in 1843, on tour in Copenhagen, Lind met Hans Christian Andersen, and became the unrequited love of his life, inspiring his tale The Nightingale, hence her nickname, "The Swedish Nightingale". The composer, possibly infatuated, planned an opera for Lind on the Lorelei, the Rhine siren who lures men to their death. It was never completed, but Mendelssohn did write the soprano solo of Elijah for Lind. Friends, including Andersen and the pianist Clara Schumann, remarked on their attachment. An acquaintance who met Lind at the Mendelssohns' home in 1846, remarked: "She is such a fine and beautiful character. Yet she is not happy. I am convinced that she would exchange all her triumphs for domestic happiness. That sort of happiness she observes in Mendelssohn's home with his wife and children."

It's some way from there, though, to a plea for elopement and a suicide threat – and in 1847, Mendelssohn experienced a severe crisis. This has long been attributed to the death of his sister Fanny, to whom he was very close. But if Mendelssohn – already overwhelmed by the pressures of being director of Leipzig Conservatoire, conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and loving husband and father – experienced not only the loss of Fanny but also an impossible love affair and subsequent rejection, the blow would have been huge.

Eye-witness accounts and medical reports into the composer's death all assert that he suffered a series of strokes. One could speculate that these could have been induced by self-administered poison, but that seems unlikely since Fanny, too, died of a stroke, and it ran in the family. Yet Mendelssohn's crisis could have precipitated his fatal haemorrhage, casting a horrible irony over his alleged suicide threat. Mourning Mendelssohn, Lind wrote: "[He was] the only person who brought fulfilment to my spirit, and almost as soon as I found him I lost him again." In 1869, she and Goldschmidt, a former student of Mendelssohn's whom she married in 1852, erected a plaque to Mendelssohn's memory at his birthplace in Hamburg. (The Nazis tore it down in 1936.)

The cellist Steven Isserlis is related to Mendelssohn: they share an ancestor in R Moses Isserlis of 16th-century Krakow, the grandfather of Moses Mendelssohn. The cellist alerted me to the existence of the mysterious papers, adding: "If he had committed suicide, the family would have covered it up." For him, it's obvious that his eminent ancestor was not all sweetness and light: "You can hear it in the music. His F minor String Quartet, for example, is extremely tormented."

The quartet was Mendelssohn's last major work. "The trouble is, people can't forgive him for being too much of a genius too young," Isserlis says. "Everyone loves to think of him as the happy, fulfilled composer. But there's a tragic side to his late works. I think he experienced a fundamental shift of personality in that last year."

The nature of Mendelssohn's music could be a giveaway even earlier. Its emotional content is high-impact, driven, with deeply romantic sensibilities, but almost always within contained classical forms. But it packs such an intense punch in terms of nervous energy, something probably had to give. Maybe Mendelssohn's greatest tragedy is that his music has been denigrated as shallow – mainly by anti-Semitic commentators such as Wagner – with his happy life cited as a pathetic excuse. Yet it's possible that his passionate, oversensitive nature drove him to what would have been a nervous breakdown, had he survived it.

On Isserlis's recommendation, I visited Professor Price, a trustee of the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation. He believes the affidavit's contents "should be published". It was not within his remit, though, to grant either me or Isserlis access to it, and our pleas to the Foundation met respectively with refusal and silence, despite Isserlis's family connection. One inevitably emerges speculating whether this indicates that there must be something to hide – especially since, if it's true that Goldschmidt put a 100-year embargo on the affidavit, that time elapsed 12 years ago.

Without that document, there can be no scholarly report of the type Professor Price advocates. And if the course of events proved true, its significance would not be restricted to Mendelssohn's private life. It could transform critical views of his music. Until then, we won't understand this glorious composer as fully as he deserves.

Read from the Indelpendent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Barry has an epiphany!

From Announcer Barry Brake:
We're now in the season of Epiphany. From the 12th day of Christmas to Ash Wednesday, it's an overlooked season of the year.

But recently, I was thinking about the meaning and meanings of the word "epiphany," and the historical associations of the season, going back to the Egyptian celebration of the Nile overflowing its banks.
It's a season of overflow, when we celebrate outsiders, Wrong People, odd events in the skies, scholars who are comfortable spending the night in a king's palace one day and hitting an unsuspecting peasant couple with extremely odd gifts the next. The Aha of a thing over here that somehow fits over there.

For the 56 days of Epiphany this year, I've decided to post a new song. Jazz, classical, pop, ballads, folk, instrumentals, vocals, my own compositions, others' compositions -- it's all in there.

We're already a few days into it. So far, I've posted "Irish Blessing," a tribute to an old friend recently passed away; "The Guardian Angel," an original aria from a Browning poem; "Goodnight Piano," an improv on a jazz tune of mine, that explores the riches of the piano; "The Hebrew Children," a classical-meets-folk-meets-jazz interpretation of a Sacred Harp tune; "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem played by the Protagonists

.... and there are fifty-one more to come.

Join me at, where I'll be updating every day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Get out the vote

Remember that Yo-Yo Ma contest we told you about? Submissions ended December31st, but now you can vote for your favorite here.
Do it soon, as voting stops tomorrow (1/10/09)!

The Constantly Evolving Musician

There is a Mozart sound and one can recognize Beethoven's music from early on to his last works, but it would be hard to imagine a musician whose musical vision grew and evolved more than that of Alexander Scriabin. Born on Christmas day (Julian calendar) 1872 Scriabin followed in his mother's footsteps by learning piano at an early age. He was in love with the music of Chopin and would sleep with scores of the Polish master under his pillow at night. His first works were Chopin-like, but that was only the start of an ever changing voice. At his all too early death in 1915, Scriabin was the most avant-garde musician of his time.

On the piano this Sunday a Life in Preludes. We hear Alexander Scriabin's entire musical life from first composed prelude to the Opus 74 that sounds like something from well, outer space! On the Piano this Sunday afternoon at 5 here on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Adventures

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) will honor nine chamber music and jazz ensembles, festivals and presenters for their adventurous programming at the annual Chamber Music America (CMA) National Conference on January 17, 2009.

The ASCAP Adventurous Programming Awards were initiated 22 years ago to provide special recognition to ensembles, festivals and presenters that prominently feature new works. The ASCAP winners are members of Chamber Music America chosen by a panel selected by CMA. The award winners receive cash awards and/or plaques.

Frances Richard, ASCAP Vice President and Director of Concert Music, will present the awards on January 17 at 4:30 p.m. at the Westin New York at Times Square (207 W. 43rd Street, New York City). After the presentation, Frank J. Oteri, composer and editor of the webzine, will moderate a session in which the award recipients will be invited to discuss their experiences about performing and presenting new music.

Commenting on the awards, Richard said: "On behalf of our composers and publishers, we are proud to recognize those members of Chamber Music America who have demonstrated their strong commitment to the music of our time during the past season. Their excellent performances ensure the continuity and vitality of our great music tradition."

ASCAP takes pleasure in welcoming the Music Centre The Netherlands (MCN) which has generously offered to invite and host the first prize winners of the CMA/ASCAP Adventurous Programming Awards as participants in their Dutch Chamber Music Meetings in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, October 9 - 12, 2009. At the DCMM-2009, international presenters gather for meetings, concerts and discussions about the current trends in the field of Chamber Music.

The 2009 recipients are listed below by category:

Presenters/Festivals - Ten or More Concerts
1st: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
(Washington, DC)
2nd: Da Camera of Houston (Houston, TX)

Presenters/Festivals - Nine or Fewer Concerts
1st: Other Minds (San Francisco, CA)
2nd: Grand Canyon Music Festival (Grand Canyon, AZ)

Chamber Music Ensembles - Mixed Repertory
1st: Calder Quartet (Los Angeles, CA)
2nd: Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston (Boston, MA)

Chamber Music Ensembles - New Music
1st: newEar (Kansas City, MO)
2nd: JACK Quartet (New York, NY)

Jazz Ensembles
1st: James Carney Group (Brooklyn, NY)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pianist to watch

Deutsche Grammophon has signed Yuja Wang to its roster. The 20-year-old, Beijing-born pianist’s debut disc will feature sonatas by Chopin, Liszt, Scriabin, and Ligeti.

In 2002 Yuja won the Aspen Music Festival’s concerto competition and subsequently studied in Philadelphia with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute, graduating last year. In 2006 she received the Gilmore Young Artist Award. She has since worked with conductors including Charles Dutoit, Michael Tilson Thomas, Osmo Vänskä, David Zinman and Sir Neville Marriner. Wang will also premiere the Piano Concerto by Jennifer Higdon this year, originally written for Lang Lang.

In a statement, DG president Michael Lang said: “After first hearing Yuja Wang in recitals – and then meeting this remarkable woman and learning that she is not only a fine artist but also will be a terrific spokesperson for the next generation of classical musicians – it was obvious that Deutsche Grammophon and Yuja would be a perfect match.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

Classical and Pop?

From the Guardian UK:

I'll admit it, I'm a traitor. A musical turncoat. I can no longer swear allegiance to the dusty old flag of classical music. After years of piano lessons, orchestras, dots on paper and a music degree, last year I did the unthinkable and went ahead and made a pop album, Everything/Everything.

Hundreds of hours of training down the drain? A belated act of petulant rebellion? Well, nothing that dramatic. In fact, it all happened quite naturally.

Although my first love was contemporary classical music, I grew up listening to and appreciating everything else as well. The radio, TV, my friends' record collections of pop, rock and dance music; all these things are unavoidable to anyone who hasn't been living in a cave.

I eventually studied classical composition, but I never felt committed to that tradition. These days I'm just as likely to write songs for my band (as Simon Bookish) as I am to score a piece for a choir or put together an arrangement for a string orchestra. Actually, I don't really see much division in the approaches I take to these different things.

I'm not claiming to be a radical musical innovator. There's a strong tradition of musicians who hover between what used to be called "high" and "low": John Cale, for instance, with his connections to both experimental composer LaMonte Young and the Velvet Underground. Not to mention the bona fide pop stars who studied music at college (Elton John, anyone?).

What excites me most is that there is a new generation of artists who fluctuate between genres. Mika Levi, for instance, a "classical" composer who also has an exuberant band, Micachu and the Shapes; Serafina Steer, a classical harpist increasingly known for her sweeping songwriting; astonishing band the Irrepressibles, who are in essence a chamber orchestra; and there's Owen Pallett, who has been working on commissions for contemporary music festivals alongside his pop career as Final Fantasy.

Musical training used to fuel the fires of condescension (from both sides) and genre was to be worn like a badge of authenticity; "I am rock, you are classical and never the twain shall meet". Personally, I am looking forward to a future characterised by unclassifiable, adaptable musicians, for whom style and training are mere tools. We all need their open ears and skill to reflect our varied, vibrant age.

So what do you think?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year

Some tips from Announcer John Kilgariff for 2009:

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.

3. Buy a DVR and tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to __________ today.'

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6. Play more games and read more books than you did in 2008.

7. Make time to practice meditation and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured IN plants.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds, & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk, and let new and flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, OR issues of the past, negative thoughts, or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the NEGATIVE BLUES away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

26. Forgive everyone for everything.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. REMEMBER, GOD heals everything.

29. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

30. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

31. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful, or joyful .

32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

33. The best is yet to come.

34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.

35. Do the right thing!

36. Call your family often. (Or e-mail them to death!)

37. Each night before you go to bed, complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

38. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

39. Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life, so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

40. Share this with those you care about. I just did. May your troubles be less, May your blessings be more, May nothing but happiness come through your door!