Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

There is a new paper out about the "glass ceiling" for women artists.
Overall, we find two glass ceilings for women pursuing an artistic career. While the first one is located at the starting point of a female artist's career, the second one can be found at the transition into the superstar league of the market and remains yet impermeable. Our study has wide-reaching implications for industries characterized by a superstar effect and a strong concentration of men relative to women.
I won't argue with it, but from my own experience there is something like a glass ceiling for all musicians and composers. Most of us run into it and it is only the very, very fortunate, gifted and ambitious few that manage to break through and reap the fame and prosperity that lies beyond. For classical guitarists, only a handful at any given time are actually earning a decent living, out of the tens of thousands who are aspiring. And I do mean a handful: no more than four or five in the entire world.

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And here is why classical musicians should stop listening to those marketing idiots who keep telling us to become more "accessible" by aping pop musicians. No. Just no. Please Rachel, you look and sound ridiculous.

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These days, at the click of a mouse, we can listen to pretty any music we want to. But in past eras, it wasn't so easy. J. S. Bach, for example, really wanted to hear the music of Dietrich Buxtehude who lived in Lübeck. At the time Bach was living in Arnstadt, 280 miles to the south. So, in late October of 1705 the young Bach set out to meet Buxtehude. Walking. The whole 280 miles. Oh, and back of course! The story is told, in the extremely confusing fashion of modern journalism, in this article in The Spectator:
I am quite sure that the walk and the encounter in Lübeck with Buxtehude made him who he became. As the Prophet Muhammad grew up on camel caravans, as the early British elite with their sewn-plank boat expeditions in the late Neolithic took their chief’s son along as crew, to grow him — so travel made him, I believe. You can judge for yourself, when we get to Lübeck on the 45-minute Christmas Eve programme, how close we might have come to Johann Sebastian Bach.
Oh, and yes, there is a radio program as well if you happen to be in the UK.

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Another conductor is being accused of sexual misconduct, this time it's Charles Dutoit.
Three opera singers and a classical musician say that world-renowned conductor Charles Dutoit sexually assaulted them — physically restraining them, forcing his body against theirs, sometimes thrusting his tongue into their mouths, and in one case, sticking one of their hands down his pants.
In separate interviews with The Associated Press, the accusers provided detailed accounts of incidents they say occurred between 1985 and 2010 in a moving car, the two-time Grammy winner's hotel suite, his dressing room, an elevator and the darkness of backstage.
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The Guardian has an end-of-year list of the ten most memorable productions of 2017. Number one is John Eliot Gardiner's presentation of all three surviving Monteverdi operas.
Musically it was an enthralling experience. While his own Monteverdi Choir supplied the chorus, Gardiner had assembled a carefully chosen troupe of young soloists, most of whom took roles in all three operas, so that, for instance, the wonderfully dark-toned bass Gianluca Buratto was the Charon and Pluto in Orfeo, Neptune in Ulisse and Seneca in Poppea, while Hana Blažíková was both a seductive Poppea and a sparky Euridice in Orfeo. The result was a company of singers who had immersed themselves so thoroughly in Monteverdi’s dramatic world that the texts were projected to make every phrase intelligible.
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This story is guaranteed to make you angry, whatever position you occupy on the spectrum: WERE YOU AT LAST NIGHT’S CONCERT WHERE CHILDREN WERE BOOED? Yes, of course it is a Slipped Disc clickbait headline, but the incident is both interesting and provoking. In summary, a production of the Messiah was preceded by a new "composition" that featured children in a piece that seems to have had a heavy-handed political message. Read all the comments to get the full picture.

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Also at Slipped Disc is a post on a criticism answered by some interesting statistics. But what really makes it worth looking at is an incisive comment by one of Slipped Disc's most ardent commentators on how the classification of classical music as a business rather than an art form puts a stake in its heart:
To talk about ‘the music business’ is in itself a sign of serious decline: the classical music performance culture is NOT a business – the term suggests that it is about money making – but it is about art. That many people in the music world treat the art form as a commodity, indeed as a business to make money, is one of the most serious destructive trends possible since it not only tends to turn music into a commercial commodity, but stimulates performers, promotors, managers to put the ‘content of the product’ on the bottom of the priority list. The irony is, that in no REAL business the content of the product is neglected, since it is the core of the trade. Classical music is not here to make money, but it is an absolute good in itself, which COSTS money, which is an investment into a common good. That performers, concert hall staff, orchestral staff, etc. etc. need to be paid is the bottom line of keeping the art form on the rails; but turning priorities upside down and use the art form merely as a type of business, is destroying it. Norman has shown this destructive process extensively in his books, and SD is one of the protests against this trend.
Even in the heartland of classical music, nowadays government officials are uninhibited in their intention to treat the art form as a commodity:
Wild capitalism, deregulation, a political elite who sides not with the electorat but with business and big industry, all driven by market ideology which destroys the fabric of society, will want to destroy the islands of free and independent thought and civilization, of which culture including classical music is one of the most important.
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 Amazon has an orchestra? How could the long-suffering employees ever find the time to practice?
Amazon (AMZN) — Yahoo Finance’s Company of the Year — helps employees channel their inner artist. In the last several years, Amazon has expanded its efforts so employees with artistic streaks have more creative outlets to let loose, including the Amazon Symphony and the a cappella group Vocally Self-Critical — a riff off of Amazon’s now retired 10th principle of the same name.
“About this time last year, one of our oboists looked through our employee directory and looked through people’s interests, particularly in classical musical instruments, and he just sent out this massive email, asking ‘Hey, who wants to start an orchestra?’” recalls Beau Curran, a technical account manager on Amazon’s digital music operations team and an oboist in the Amazon Symphony. “The first day of rehearsal, we were really wondering whether we’d just end up with a saxophonist and a keyboardist, and that would be our orchestra.”
Go read the article!

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Of all the myriad ways that musicians are treated badly in modern society, this has got to be the worst! At the Music Salon we have chronicled the generally poor economic situation of musicians, the ways they are mistreated and humiliated by airlines (who also smash their instruments from time to time), the assaults on innocent musical instrument builders like Gibson over arcane import laws and so on. But I don't think I have ever heard of mistreatment this stunningly bad: State Steals Life-Savings from Innocent Musician.
Phil Parhamovich is a musician from Madison, Wisconsin. Over the years, he saved up $91,800, only to have it seized by Wyoming Highway Patrol during a routine traffic stop near Cheyenne.
Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to take and keep cash, cars and other property without ever charging someone with a crime.
Phil was never accused of, or charged with, a crime. Yet, he found himself in the fight of his life to recover the money that belonged to him.
Luckily, Phil reached out to the Institute for Justice (IJ), and together we got back Phil’s life savings. But the fight is far from over; Phil’s story only highlights the urgent need to end civil forfeiture. 
Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to take and keep cash, cars and other property without ever charging someone with a crime. Before that fateful March day, Phil had never heard of civil forfeiture. He was just a musician driving through Wyoming to a show in Salt Lake City. Phil had big plans for his life savings, which he brought with him for safekeeping.
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 Today we really need an uplifting envoi! Here is a Moscow Ballet production of The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky:

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