Required Reading – The Well-Tempered Web


In the Oct. 22 issue of the New Yorker you’ll find
a Critic At Large piece called “The Well-Tempered Web” – in essence, a Postcard from the Brave New Media World, written by Alex Ross. There’s a reason Ross is at the top of the list on my blogroll….this is one of the best, most stylishly written and comprehensive snapshots of what’s happening with classical music online, and its implications for the future. Ross writes about a lot of the things I’ve been trying to see and describe in this space, though, in my experience, the scenario is not quite as rosy as he paints. Sample grab:

Classical-music culture on the Internet is expanding at a sometimes alarming pace. When I started my blog, I had links to seven or eight like-minded sites. Now I find myself part of a jabbering community of several hundred blogs, operated by critics, composers, conductors, pianists, double-bassists, oboists (I count five), artistic administrators, and noted mezzo-sopranos (Joyce DiDonato writes under the moniker Yankee Diva). After a first night at the Met, opera bloggers chime inwith opinions both expert and eccentric, recalling the days when critics from a dozen dailies, whether Communist or Republican or Greek, lined up to extoll Caruso. Beyond the blogs are the Internet radio stations; streaming broadcasts from opera houses, orchestras, new-music ensembles; and Web sites of individual artists. There is a new awareness of what is happening musically in every part of the world. A listener in Tucson or Tokyo can virtually attend opening night at the Bayreuth Festival and listen the following day to a première by a young British composer at the BBC Proms.

Those who see the dawning of a new golden age should bear in mind the “Snakes on a Plane” rule: things invariably appear more important on the Internet than they are in the real world. Classical music has experienced waves of technological euphoria in the past: the Edison cylinder, radio, the LP, and the CD were all hailed as redeeming godsends for a kind of music that has always struggled to find its place in American culture. At the end of such bouts of giddiness, classical music somehow always winds up back where it started, in a state of perpetual fret.

Thanks, Alex. I’ll go back to fretting now. I think there’s still a critical missing link having to do with music education (or lack thereof) and the general broader cultural awareness of events outside of the roar of the pop-culture surf, which is what’s driving the UTunes: Music 1.01 project.

Ross also makes a marvelous point about the utterly transparent online accessibility of arguably the most inaccessible of all composers….Arnold Schoenberg. Throwing copyright concerns to the winds, the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna has created a transparent, robust, and comprehensive site dedicated to the inventor of “twelve-tone” music, a man some (like John Adams, f’irnstance) to have led classical music down a 75-yeard spiritual dead-end.

On the site, you can read immaculate digital reproductions of Schoenberg’s correspondence, listen to his complete works on streaming audio, examine his designs for various inventions and gadgets (including a typewriter for musical notation), and follow links to YouTube videos of him playing tennis.

And there’s this trenchant “deep catalog” observation:

Classical music, with its thousand-year back catalogue, has the longest tail of all. In Naxos’s case, thirty to forty per cent of its digital sales in the U.S. come from albums downloaded four times a month or less. Thus, a not insignificant portion of the company’s revenue comes from titles that, by Justin Timberlake standards, don’t exist

Required reading, if you care about classical music.

Link

37 under 36*


AUSTIN, Tx – on the road again, (for the UTunes project) and taking the opportunity to catchup on some reading. First up is the latest edition – a special issue – of Smithsonian magazine, titled “37 under 36: American’s Young Innovators in the Arts & Sciences.” The whole issue is a good read, and I’m reminded that back in the days when the RoeDeo WWHQ was in Takoma Park, Maryland I had a neighbor who was a Smithsonian editor. She told me that according to their research NPR and Smithsonian Magainze had about the highest overlap of reader/listenership in the business, which was later verified by some audience research at the Big Dog.
So, no surprise, I suppose, but some excellent (and brief) profiles of some very public radio-friendly artists in the issue, including Sufjan Stevens(profiled by KCRW‘s Nic Harcourt – how pubradio can you get?); jazzman Jason Moran (a fave o’mine – he played a couple of our NPR Jazz Piano Christmas shows, not to mention appearanLinkces on Fresh Air and Jazz Profiles); singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, and composer Nico Muhly, whose musical setting of the classic Strunk & White “Elements of Style” text (really!) got him touted as a Classical Musicians To Watch in 2006. (So did Mozart, btw, what with all that 250th Birthday fuss).

Beyond the artists, all 37 are fascinating people, including people in Dr. Wizard’s line of work. I also like the profile of del.ico.ius founder Joshua Schachter.

UTunes: Music 1.01

A shameless cross-posting: A new addition to the blogroll on the left is the launch of UTunes: Music 1.01. Thanks to a Digital Humanities Start-Up Initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we’re going to be creating a new multi-media effort to create some podcasts, build a website, and other cool stuff.The goal? Nothing less than re-imagining how we learn about music in the new millennium. What was called “Music Appreciation” Back in The Day.

The “we” that are putting it together are RoeDeo Productions and The College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas-Austin. Follow the progress, join the conversation, and share your thoughts on the new site, which we just launched today. So let the games begin!