News, Commentary on Classical Music, Jazz, Theater, Dance & More

Steve Nagel


Andante: Ruth Boden Climbs Mountain to Perform Bach's Cello Suite in Short Documentary >>

In a short documentary called Andante, viewers can now witness a cellist's puzzling excursion to her most out-of-the-way concert venue: a mountaintop. That's right, Ruth Boden, an instructor of cello, bass, and chamber music at Washington State University, recently embarked on a hike to the top of the Matterhorn (in Oregon state), while carrying a cello on her back. She traveled with a small "film crew of one" according to CMuse, with the ultimate goal of performing Bach's cello suite at the summit, in an environment she says feels superior to that of the recital hall.

David Harrington of Kronos Quartet

EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with David Harrington of Kronos Quartet on 'Fifty for the Future' Premiere >>

With so many innovative composers now edging into the mainstream, navigating the forms and structures of the new musical landscape can seem a daunting task, for listeners and young composers alike. To be sure, modern works have enjoyed an increase in visibility, but while there is no shortage of outlets for these pieces to be judged, there are precious few opportunities for them to be studied. Forever straddling the "cutting-edge" or the "ultra-contemporary", much of the 21st Century repertoire has been anxiously awaiting induction into the western---if not, global---music canon. To remedy this, David Harrington, Artistic Director of the Kronos Quartet, has recently flung open a new door, embarking on a project that has the potential to fundamentally transform the way music is taught in the 21st Century. Welcome to the Fifty for the Future Project.

Bluesfest Music Festival

"Why Making Music Matters": Carnegie Hall Research Paper Commissioned on Childhood Development >>

As part of a project that is actively trying to understand the relationship between music and early childhood development, Carnegie Hall has commissioned a research paper from Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf called "Why Making Music Matters." The document, which is publicly available as a PDF file, highlights the research that has taken place over many years concerning music's unique impact on the healthy (and potentially improved) development of children and infants.

Anna Meredith - Dec 11, 2012 - The Vinyl Factory /

New LP 'Varmints': Composer Anna Meredith's Bold Departure From Classical Towards Pop >>

Classical composers don't always remain classical composers. Some embrace multiple projects; others ditch the medium entirely for something more down-to-earth. Neither column can perfectly sum up the experience of composer Anna Meredith regarding her sudden departure from the classical medium and her foray into world of electronica and pop music -- a genre which, at 37, she admitted was foreign territory. A former in-house composer with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and with Sinfonia ViVA, her electronic work (previewed in her 2012/2013 EPs) has culminated in the March 4th release of her debut album Varmints (under Moshi Moshi Records).

PRS for Music Plaque

PRS for Music Foundation Starts New Composers' Fund in U.K., to Award £150,000 Annually >>

The PRS for Music Foundation, which advertises itself as "the only independent funder dedicated to new music of all genres across the U.K." has recently expanded its efforts to include a Composers' Fund. The new fund will be worth £150,000 annually and is aimed specifically at young U.K. composers looking to realize projects that otherwise might not be possible "via traditional commissioning routes". The inaugural deadline to apply for funding is on April 12th, 2016.

Performing in the Tube

BBC's 'Get Playing' Initiative: The Great British Amateur Orchestra, Winner to Play at Proms >>

Last month, the BBC launched an ambitious project that celebrates not just the everyday musician, but the everyday collaborator. As part of BBC Music's 'Get Playing' initiative, The Great British Amateur Orchestra is a new program that seeks out locally assembled orchestras from across the U.K., five of which will compete for the crown of "most inspirational amateur orchestra." The winner of the competition will perform at BBC Proms in the Park, held at Hyde Park in 2016.

Friedrich Gulda Improvising

fMRI Study: Brain Chemistry at the Root of Emotional Intent in Jazz Improvisation >>

Humanity has been trying to affix a cerebral explanation to the seemingly ineffable and emotionally complex mechanisms of the musical mind for centuries, and accordingly to the results of an experiment recently conducted at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, a cerebral explanation is exactly what they've arrived at; it's simple brain chemistry. The published findings are called "Emotional Intent Modulates The Neural Substrates Of Creativity: An fMRI Study of Emotionally Targeted Improvisation in Jazz Musicians".

Singing at Home

Amsterdam Police & Neighbor Mistake Opera Singing for Screaming >>

Most people can tell the different between music and other kinds of noise, but some genres may be tougher to distinguish than most. In an extreme case of this, a concerned man in Amsterdam thought his neighbor, who was singing along to some opera on his headphones, was a man screaming in agony. From afar, listening to the singing man without the context of the music must have been a terrifying and intense experience -- intense enough, in fact, to call the Amsterdam police. And while music is probably best enjoyed with some level of intensity, the incident finely illustrates how things can quickly go from invigorating to threatening.

Square Grand Piano

Square Grand Piano Owned by Mary Todd Lincoln's Sister Restored by Springfield Art Association >>

Antique musical instruments are not only considered valuable because of their rarity, but also because they tell the story of whomever handled them -- or, in this case, heard them. A 180-year-old square grand piano, believed to have been housed in the parlor of Mary Todd Lincoln's sister, where the not-quite president Abraham Lincoln had courted his future wife, has recently been restored for $17,000 by the Springfield Art Association.

Foundling Hospital

Handel's "Foundling Hospital Anthem" Replaced by Composer Luke Styles After 260 Years >>

After 260 years, The Foundling Museum is passing the torch on its cherished anthem: the "The Foundling Hospital Anthem", originally composed by the beloved German-English composer George Frideric Handel for the hospital. It will pass to Luke Styles, the new composer-in-residence at the hospital. The new work, officially called the "Foundling Museum Anthem" was inspired by the original and, according to Rhinegold Publishing, was performed in February by the early music ensemble La Nuova Musica alongside children from Argyle Primary School.


SoundCloud Crumbling? $70M in Losses Spells Uncertain Future >>

The longevity of the popular audio social network, SoundCloud, could be in question after recent reports surfaced that service has lost over $70 million in two years. Having endured loses in 2013 as well as 2014, the losses place SoundCloud in an unstable position going into the future, with the company's board of directors going so far as to assert that "there are material uncertainties facing the business."

Brain Scanning Apperatus

Brain Damaged Violinist Makes Music with Bergersen String Quartet, First Time in 26 Years: The Paramusical Ensemble >>

The painful truth of being a musician is that, like any athlete, physical limitations and perils loom around every corner. For once-rising stars like Rosemary Johnson, who in 1988 had her career as a violinist for the Welsh National Opera Orchestra cut short (suffering brain damage from a brutal car accident), the fragility of the pastime was made especially clear. Still, despite the loss of mobility and speech, technology has recently been able to restore a portion of the music handling she had once mastered. With the help of the Bergersen String Quartet, a team from the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and Plymouth University in the United Kingdom has discovered a way for Rosemary to make music again… using her brainwaves.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is Being Released on Limited Edition Vinyl >>

Despite the ceaseless hubbub over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a copious level of marketing continues to be in effect for the much-maligned Star Wars prequel series. Despite a mass panning of George Lucas's pet trilogy, the luscious scores that adorned the films (composed by the incomparable John Williams) are still in high demand. Fans of the music can now buy the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and pre-order the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones OST on the timeless medium: vinyl. While Disney has recently released the complete set, the label I AM SHARK has announced that their offer will mark the first time the films are available on limited edition vinyl.

Sherezade Panthaki, Timothy Mcdevitt, Owen Mcintosh, Sarah Brailey

LIVE REVIEW: Haydn's 'L'isola disabitata' Staged by American Classical Orchestra >>

At a time in which pirates had just graduated from "hotbed issue of the century" to a subject of droll comic relief, librettist Pietro Metastasio had seized upon the convenient device to launch his witty commentary on the subjectivity of innocence and disenchantment: the lighthearted opera (famously set by Haydn), L'isola disabitata or "The Desert Island". In the opera's Tuesday performance at Alice Tully Hall --- staged by period-instrument favorites, the American Classical Orchestra, led by Thomas Crawford on harpsichord --- one hopes that the opera's delightful social commentary, together with its slapstick gags, had fully reached the New York audience.

Joan La Barbara

EXCLUSIVE: Classicalite Q&A with Joan La Barbara >>

The Avant Music Festival 2016 is upon us! With events held from February 20th to March 5th, attendees can experience the full breadth of artistic expression in the uninhibited caverns of The Wild Project, at 195 E. 3rd St. in Manhattan. Since its founding in 2010 by Randy Gibson and Megan Schubert, the Avant Music Festival has fulfilled its pledge to be a "platform for contemporary American composers to experiment with long-form concerts and the full programmatic experience of their work." It is within this setting that maverick vocalist Joan La Barbara will be performing John King's "Mini-Operas" series with fellow vocalist Gelsey Bell on February 27th.

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