Swedish Adventure 1: Saariaho

   I've been in Sweden since Friday and I'm still recovering from jet lag. I screwed the pooch on getting acclimated, was a bit ill over the weekend (something I ate while traveling), and haven't been able to break the funk since. However, today was a day I wasn't going to miss because of my stomach nor my head.

   Kaija Saariaho is the recipient of a Polar Prize this year, and tonight was a concert of her music to kick off the festivities. The concert was an hour long with four pieces, three of which featured cellist Anssi Karttunen. If you're familiar with Saariaho's work, you'll probably recognize that name: most of her cello works are written for Karttunen.

   I was excited for the concert. Bill Brunson had let me know over the weekend it was happening, so I marked it on my mental calendar. I walked the 15 minutes to the tunnelbana (metro, subway, tube), and headed into downtown Stockholm from my suburban abode in Bromma/Sundbyberg. The T is very easy to navigate in Stockholm county, so getting around is cake. The bus system is equally good, and much nicer than any other city I've been in. MUCH nicer. But getting to the konserthuset is easy--T to T-Centralen, walk a couple blocks.

   An hour before the show, I picked up the ticket and a latte. The ticket was acceptably expensive (180 SEK or about $25-28 depending on the exchange). The latte wasn't very good, but I haven't had coffee since I got to Stockholm, so it was worth it. After finishing, I decided to walk the block and ran into Bill and his wife, completely unplanned. I knew he was going, but I wasn't out looking for him.

   Enough about the day to day of Stockholm. Onto the concert.

   I sat down about 10 of, and a crowd started forming quickly to my side. I glanced over and saw Saariaho. So, after she shook many hands, I hopped up and said a quick congrats and hello. Saariaho seemed pretty shy, and there was a crowd, so I wasn't going to draw her into a deep discussion. But, yes, I did "meet" her, though I doubt she'll remember my name (with all the hellos, names, and handshakes occurring).

   The show began with a quick chat with Saariaho about the four pieces. The pieces were Sept papillos for cello, Serenatas for cello, percussion, and piano, Duft for clarinet, and Je sens un deuxieme coeur for viola, cello, and piano. Karttunen played the cello throughout, while members of Norrbotten NEO, Robert Ek (clarinet), Kim Hellgren (viola), Marten Landstrom (piano), and Daniel Saur (percussion) made up the rest of the players.

    Saariaho explained the pieces simply: Sept papillons was written during rehearsal for L'amour de loins, her opera about Jaufre Rudel's possible (fictional?) love of the countess of Tripoli. She described it as her escape from all the drama, craziness, and huge amount of people. Serenatas was written using music that had been kicking around since sketching Sept papillons. They are a series of Serenades that can be played in any order. Duft for solo clarinet is based on music from an orchestral piece about the sense. Duft is German for smell, and it's her musical idea of the linking of smell and sound. Finally Je sens un deuxieme coeur (I feel a second heart) was inspired by Saariaho's second pregnancy, when she started thinking about how there was a second heart beating inside of her, beating very fast and slowing over 9 months. She mentioned polyrhythms as well as the programmatic aspect of the work.

     I won't embark on a piece by piece analysis or discussion. Instead, here are some general remarks about Saariaho's music. First off, three of the pieces had some sort of programmatic aspect. These aspects, if I had not been told about them in the first place, would not have come through in the music at all. In fact, even listening with the "insider information" straight from Saariaho, I did not hear any of the programmatic elements. Nothing in Duft made me think of smell, and nothing in Je sens un deuxieme coeur made me think of feeling two heartbeats during pregnancy. And, while these were impetuses and muses for Saariaho, I do not think I was supposed to hear anything overtly programmatic. Instead of listening for little signs, trying to tease out the program, I felt as though I was supposed to just relax and experience the music. And that is exactly what I did, letting the music wash over me.

    All of Saariaho's music takes a high level of virtuosity, especially the two solo works. Karttunen and Ek did fabulously on their ends, performing at high technical and musical levels. Saariaho's music favors the delicate over the raucous, though she is not afraid to put together a forceful section. However, it was the moments of relaxation that intrigued me the most.

    Sadly, as the concert went on, I started hearing the same motives over and over again. I've always enjoyed Saariaho's music, though I was introduced to it fairly late in the game. I did notice in L'Amour de loin that long passages of time, an hour or so, would sit in nearly the same musical area, even as the action moved around the stage. In the opera, this created an odd sense of stasis along with movement. In an hours worth of chamber music, it didn't create such an intriguing effect. Instead, I was left thinking "What else can Saariaho do?" As passages died down, Saariaho would turn to trills between harmonics. If she wanted to keep energy going but pull back the sound, it'd be harmonic arpeggios. All the material seemed woven into the same large rich tapestry.

    While I love that tapestry--it's colourful yet subtle, harmonically and motivically interesting--it is the one tapestry. When I hear Saariaho break out the most is when she uses electronics. For instance, Lonh, a beautiful piece for voice and electronics (performed beautifully by Dawn Upshaw on a recording available from Naive or Ondine...and streaming on Naxos).

    This piece, to me, is Saariaho at her finest. But her style is so distinct, so incredibly tight and structured, that it seems like her pieces are coalescing into one piece.

     This isn't necessarily a problem. As I said before, if all the pieces are woven into one tapestry, it is a beautiful, subtle, wonderful tapestry. But something happens when you hear four pieces that sound so incredibly close together. The music got less interesting, lines blurred, and I found myself slipping.

     My experience is incredibly personal. I know other people that with such a program would be able to drift more fully into the music, experience the parallels, ride the waves of sound, and be quite happy. Maybe I am still a product of my generation, one that grows impatient with too much of the same. It's why writing a 25 minute drone piece was the hardest thing I've ever done (yes, worse than 2 operas), and why even during my favourite symphonies, I can start getting antsy halfway through a movement.

    That being said, I am excited for the Kungliga Filharmonikerna concert in October with Saariaho's Laterna Magica, Chopin's 2nd Piano Concert, and Schumann's 4th symphony. Funny, I just brought that symphony up in my last post. Heh.

     And I'm still quite happy I went to this concert. I had never gotten a chance to hear Saariaho's music live, and honestly the music didn't disappoint me. I think I disappointed myself. Instead of being able to just relax, and get washed away by the music, my mind instantly started analyzing all the similarities between the pieces. I couldn't even concentrate on the differences, just the similarities. So, now I've identified what I see to be a weakness in myself.

    Because music is about the experience of the moment, not to over think it.

     I listened to Lohn tonight when I got home after eating a giant smorgorsar (accents missing) and drinking an Orangina. In the quiet of my room, I was able to relax more and just let Saariaho's beautifully nuanced music flow over me. Hopefully, this mode of listening can stay with me--attentive, but not to the details, just to the music.


Is new music and outreach the problem?

UPDATE: Check out my 2nd post on this topic, this one taking on Kennicott's ideas of new music.

An article posted at newrepublic is making the music rounds. It's title and page name give it all away: America's Orchestras are in Crisis: How an effort to popularize classical music undermines what makes orchestras great. The page title: orchestras-crisis-outreach-ruining-them.

The article starts out describing Nashville Symphony's near foreclosure, mainly due to being unable to afford the interested on a letter of credit that helped build a $123.5 million symphony center. The symphony has been running deficits for the past few years in the $10-20 million range. Yes, this is a problem, somewhat...If we take for granted that they are supposed to always operate in the black and be a for profit. Which, as I discussed earlier, isn't really the point of orchestras.

Which gets me to the main question that popped into my head after reading this article: What is the point of an orchestra. According to the writer, Philip Kennicott, it is mainly about the standard rep. And that is a stance he maintains throughout the article.

There are lots of interesting bits, a notable attack on the "Americanizing the American Orchestra" document, with a fun quote by Edward Rothstein calling it "thoroughly wrongheaded, an abdication of the tradition orchestras represent and a refusal to accept responsibilities on artistic leadership." Kennicott seemed completely in league with this opinion.

It's interesting to me, as I decided to re-read the "Americanizing" before posting this. Kennicott says that most orchestras adopted the basic tenets of the document. After re-reading it, I couldn't disagree more. "Achieving Cultural Diversity" is laughable, the entire chapter on "The relationship of Musicians and the Orchestral Institution" has been completely ignored, the concert-going experience has become less and less varied over the years, orchestras in education are more about working with elite groups, or small movements forward, volunteerism is low, orchestral leadership is mostly run by non-musicians that have no training in even running a non-profit, and the repertoire is stagnant. So, what do I mean? Well, taking apart Kennicott and the 200+ page "Americanizing" would be a dissertation--and while I am writing a dissertation, it is not on the American Orchestra. I am a composer, after all...

So, let me approach these problems from my perspective: 29 years old, composer and trombonist, finishing a doctorate in music composition, starting my professional life pretty well, and someone who loves Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, and any number of other composers whose last names start with B.

Skipping ahead through Kennicott's history of the orchestra (which is quite good), I come to a statement that made me a bit sad: "Almost none of this is of any interest to serious listeners, including those with diverse musical tastes who prefer the real thing to the local orchestras attempt to imitate jazz, ethnic, or pop forms." This in reference to Detroit symphony having special events that include video-game nights, the Texas Tenors, the Indigo Girls, holiday events, movie nights, etc. My gut reaction?

Well, I'm interested in video-game nights, Indigo Girls (or similar style concerts), and movie nights. I'm not into holiday events, but that's because I'm a Grinch, and I'm not into cross-over artists like Josh Grobin (though I have been to a Josh Grobin concert, and he is a charismatic guy. Just not my cup of tea). So, I sit here thinking "Who is Kennicott representing?"

My answer is simple: "The Olde Guard." These are the same people that dislike Boulez, and wanted music that was, no matter what, tied to the "orchestral tradition," which is really not that old, nor is it that demanding. Kennicott is right on to point out how things have changed, how the silent listening is "counterculture" and even that it's a good thing. Couldn't agree more there, though I think the amount of "shushing" when a concert goer does send some heartened gratitude toward the orchestra at an "inappropriate time" is also rude...I'm sure most concert-goers in a normal audience would have freaked out when, after a group premiered a piece of mine and nailed it, I jumped up, screamed "YEAH! WAY TO GO!!!" and wanted to just run on stage and hug every musician for performing so beautifully. In that moment, it wasn't that it was "my" music, but that this was a piece I was intimate with, and they nailed it. The same could be said after hearing the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra perform Bruckner 4 to a nearly empty house many years ago. It was so empty, with my $10 student rush "sit wherever is open" ticket, I got premium seats. The ISO NAILED that performance, and, without a moment of hesitation, I clapped between movements, and leaped from my seat at the end screaming "BRAVISSIMO!" Yes, I'm that guy that, at that point being around 21, and an undergraduate in music, was so excited for Bruckner that I screamed like a Beilieber.

I've been in on conversations about orchestras, and, honestly, I think while Kennicott has some good thoughts, and his heart is in the right place, he's not looking at some facts.
Fact 1: the "base" is getting older, and isn't willing to spend money in a tough economy.

Fact 2: Orchestras are not doing a good job expanding their bases.

Fact 3: Younger generations are turned off by orchestras not just because of the music, but because the orchestras and their defenders themselves tell them "this music isn't for you. You're not 'serious' enough."

Fact 4: young musicians ARE TURNING AWAY FROM ORCHESTRAS! Not only are orchestras alienating future attendees, but the musicians themselves are turning away. Kennicott doesn't care about video game music. Well, guess what, most of us don't care about seeing every Beethoven symphony offered every year in a single metropolitan area. Why? because

Fact 5: All music is available for people to listen to at a moments notice for a small price (or free), and the orchestra isn't doing a good job of showing what they provide over the recorded medium, or offering things that the recorded medium can't offer.

Fact 6: People are generally uneducated about the music, not in a "you don't understand sonata form" but in the "I've never even heard something from an opera" or "What instruments are in a symphony? Strings, right?"

Fact 7: Never before has orchestral music been so much about being a "museum." And, to defend myself from Kennicott's attack of "Well don't you like museums?" my answer is "Yes, I do, but orchestras are not museums." Orchestras are living, breathing entities. During Mozart's time, did they play nothing but Telemann and CPE Bach? During Beethoven's, nothing by Haydn? During Brahms, nothing by Beethoven?  If they had, we wouldn't have gotten much Mozart, Brahms, etc...No, before Beethoven the groups were tied to courts with each court having its own composer. Orchestras got bigger and less centralized starting in the Classical period, and by Beethoven there were more state-run groups (which coincided with the creation of centralization of power in the 18th and 19th century). Even then, groups were "clique" oriented, with some composers being the laureates and taking charge--I think of the French Grand Opera and Meyerbeer as resident. Orchestral programs often had local flavors from the great composers of the area, and at times it was difficult for composers to become more "metropolitan." And many died in obscurity, or with one or two modest hits outside their area. Take, for instance, Bruckner, who had one major orchestral success--his 7th symphony. Beyond that, he was somewhat known for his masses, and definitely for his organ playing. He applied for teaching positions in Vienna regularly, and was turned down almost continuously, until he reached a much older age and finally had got to teach a few years. All this in his mid to late 60s.

These facts are important. And the way to fix most of them is through outreach. Kennicott thinks turning to outreach defeats the purpose of the orchestra. What is the purpose of the American orchestra? Most say it is to bring the greatest music at the highest possible level to their community. If your community doesn't know the music you're playing, then is the concert the correct "teaching" experience? I don't think so.

The final bit in Kennicott's writing is more a review of a specific piece. First Kennicott talks about the failing to increase the amount of black musicians in the St. Louis Youth Orchestra...which, I have an entire blogpost formulating on why youth orchestras, and music program in general, fail with many urban and rural communities, really only thriving in suburban areas (lemme give you a hint: money).

Kennicott dislike Ingram Marshall's "Kingdom Come." Now, I'll admit that I am somewhat ignorant of the piece--and I've tried to purchase and download it, but it seems being in Sweden makes that process a little more complicated...

Anyway, Kennicott created a checklist of the "currently fashionable...new classical works: ...harmonically and melodically accessible and socially topical, it mixes media, and it draws on musical cultures outside the concert hall." Hm, well, I don't see a problem with those things at all. And, I guess he hasn't gone to many new music concerts because to make such a blanket generalization about contemporary music is as profoundly silly as making such a blanket generalization about orchestral music. Kennicott also seems to like melodic styles than motivic styles, which makes me wonder how much he likes the development sections of, say, Brahms. But that's not where I get a little concerned: these are opinions, and we are all allowed our opinions. And until I hear "Kingdom Come" I can't really enter a dialogue about its effectiveness as a piece...and even then I lose the live portion (such as Kennicott's critique that the recorded media weren't of high quality. Well, that could be any number of things, from the speakers to the production, to the overall aesthetic. When I get the recording, I can make a better judgement. hopefully in a few days).

No, it's the end. "The problem with 'Kingdom Come' is that it subverts much taht is good about the tradition it supposedly continues. The orchestra willingly suppressed virtuosity, spontaneity, and the raw power of its acoustic sound...Why make young people play it? It seems a very ill sign for the future that bad music is so willingly foisted on serious juniors musicians who have already made a commitment to the art form." (emphasis added)

Wow dude...wow. Ok, I get that Kennicott is a critic. And, honestly, I'm also pretty damn scathing. But let's approach it from this fashion. Virtuosity...in orchestral playing? Really? Alright, I'm gonna be honest. As a trombone player, I haven't had an orchestral part I couldn't basically sight read written by anyone pre-20th century. There was once a tricky part of a Schumann symphony where I had to run arpeggios through the circle of fifths. If that wasn't a general exercise I did every day at that point, it may have been difficult. But orchestral music ISN'T about virtuosity. In fact, when a modern composer writes a truly virtuosic work, it's often not played.

Spontaneity, eh? Yes, Brahms is incredibly spontaneous. Well, he might have been 100+ years ago. But we're talking about a fully notated medium. The spontaneity factor of live music comes from the active participation of many people in a live artistic act. If, someone, Ingram Marshall defeated that, then I am truly impressed. If it was defeated, it wasn't because there was fixed media, but because the group hasn't worked in the medium long enough...not to say fixed media doesn't have it's own challenges for spontaneity, but it is, in some form, interactive (albeit passively). To say that since the recording never changes, it destroys the experience is tantamount to saying "I don't listen to recordings because they're always the same." A good fixed media part will have a depth and interest that brings the performers and audience into the work. Now, did Marshall do that? Dunno yet (nonesuch, get on the bandwagon and let me download same day at least...).

Raw power of the acoustic sound: to me that says "no Mahler sized tuttis." In that case Mozart doesn't have much raw power. No, unless the group is truly, 100% subservient, in that their role in the piece is completely secondary, then there is raw power.

Now, there is of course there is the reality that Marshall may have written a bad piece of music. He may have failed and created an overwhelming tape part with sparse background accompaniment. The mix in the hall may have been so far off that the fixed media dominated when it wasn't supposed to. All of these are readily possible.

But let's take a look at that last bit: Is it "bad' music, and why force young people to play it. Well, did he talk to any of the young performers? There are two really interesting videos that are recordings of the youth symphony skyping with Ingram Marshall about the piece. The musicians seemed very engaged in the conversation. And be sure to listen to part 2 as well.

And, maybe, here's the crux--these musicians don't know the tradition of electronic music. I'm guessing Kennicott doesn't either. Listeners are even more in the dark--not only do they have electronics, which is unknown and therefore "evil" AND Pärt like music, and you've got a recipe for a difficult reception. But the question is "why does this matter to the orchestra?"

Because the orchestra is about performing great music. If it is just a museum, then we limit the possibilities of great music, and actually ignore the tradition of working with living composers. We also take for granted that music that isn't "pop," that isn't something that can be completely understood in a single listening (at times), and that if you don't get it, you're not in the club. Maybe we, orchestras and all musicians, should strive to bring more people into the club. And to not get stuck on purely aesthetic issues--Kennicott doesn't like Ingram Marshall's piece. That's perfectly fine. But to turn it into demonizing new music and asking "why should young performers play it?" Because if no one first played Beethoven, we wouldn't play it now. Because if Stravinsky hadn't worked with the Ballet Russe and worked with a crazy, innovative choreographer and put together Firebird, then orchestras wouldn't be putting it on concerts as their "new music."

So, by having more than a 19th century aesthetic, are we showing fear? Are we destroying the orchestra by having outreach programs?

Or is the orchestra falling under the weight of a 19th century aesthetic that doesn't connect with as many people today? And who's fault is that? Obviously I love this music. I didn't get into music as an orchestral guy, but it grew on me. I didn't even play in an orchestra till undergrad (tiny school in rural Indiana--we had a band, mainly a marching band...and definitely no orchestra). But the problem comes from all sides, the contemporary folks and the "olde guarde."

One last anecdote: the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, as they were coming out of huge cuts and terrible press, got Time for Three as their resident chamber group, and scored a nice collaboration with New Amsterdam records. What came out of it were a series of concerts with tons of newer works, some pop music (Time for Three is known for their pop arrangements), and high attendance. That's right, they got results from the programming. Do you know who went?

Friends of mine from HS, people that had played in band, but hadn't played an instrument in 10 years. People that heard the buzz and wondered who Nico Muhly was. People that enjoyed instrumental music because of their experiences at a young age, being drawn into the music. People that, prior to that year, hadn't gone to the orchestra.

Then I look at their latest season. Conservative doesn't even quite cover it. The only "new" work that really takes a leading role is Gorecki's Third Symphony. It's a gigantic, beautiful work, but is 100% aesthetically Romantic.

No, orchestras have tons of problems. But outreach and "bad new music" isn't really the problem. At least not when a 29 year old, young professional musician looks at it...a musician that feels as locked out of the concert hall as he does the bar with his own music and aesthetic.

So, why don't we leave the criticism on the side of the road. When I posted about the conservative season by the ISO, I had lots of people jump down my throat, saying I should be "supportive of our orchestra no matter what." I responded "I AM supportive. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have told them. I want them to succeed, and I think they'll alienate the audiences they drew in the spring!" More yells at me. Who defended me? The musicians. Why?

Because being supportive means offering criticism, but also looking at facts. Until orchestras, and their staunch "olde guarde" defenders really look at the facts of a changing musical landscape, they'll continue to flounder.

And much respect to Philip Kennicott. His article did need written, and it shows a point of view I think many people have. Now let's really start the conversation, without the orchestra league (which, yeah, is kind of impotent), and without the management (cause, well...if you've read my past stuff, you'll know I'm pro musician run and anti-for profit farming that it's become). Let's find real answers and keep an important institution around

UPDATE: Check out my 2nd post on this topic, this one taking on Kennicott's ideas of new music.


What's your classical music say about your dating profile?

A friend of mine posted a link to "What Your Taste in Music Says about You on a Date."  It's a funny little read. There is a followup that includes a couple jazz artists and classical composers.  This ties into the fact I've had several friends tell me to get into online dating, especially since I moved to another country without much in the way of social networking available. It makes me think "what will people think when they hit my profile and see my short write-up and my 'favourite music?' " I'm not sure the prospects look good. More classical and a couple revisions:

-Phillip Glass: You like to do it over, and over, and over, and over...

-Louis Andriessen: hard and raw, rinse and repeat.

-Harry Partch: You're not fooled--just because everyone is doing it, and it's accepted practice, doesn't make it right. You make your own specialized tools to have the exact kind of experience you want.

-Brahms: One on one dates are the best, but for some reason people talk about your parties. Also, you may have spent a lot of time in brothels, and fallen in love with your best friends significant other...

-Beethoven: Being possessive and needy on the first date doesn't make you a trendsetter. But all is forgiven by Op. 131, when you show your really freaky side.

-Stravinsky: Everyone talks about what a hardcore slut you were in your 20s, but ignores how classy you got later. You've dated a superstar or two in your time, but what matters is the here and now.

-Mozart: Date? You're hooking up at parties while getting wasted, then writing letters asking for forgiveness and more money. You do occasionally take your date to the opera because, well, you had free tickets.

-Bach: Looking to get married early and pop out 13 or so kids.

-Robert Schumann: Your best friend is in total lust with your significant other. And the fact that you'll die from syphilis probably says something about your sex life...

-Ruth Crawford Seeger: You're either a feminist going with a popular/easy choice, or a composer that wants to go back in time and kick Charles Seeger's ass for forcing you to do his work instead of letting you write more music like that awesome string quartet. Either way, you're not getting laid from this date.

-Lou Harrison: You're into people from other traditions. 

-Denis Smalley: you want the date to take a natural progression, with subtle connections between all the different conversations. 

-Alvin Lucier: you like the idea of dating more than dating itself.

-John Cage: What is dating?

-Augusta Read Thomas: You like dating-ness, the essence of dating, but what to deal with it entirely on your own terms.

-Hildegarde von Bingen: you're either in your 50s or 60s and bought into the revival of her music during the Hippie era, a strong female who doesn't need some stupid man telling you about dating, or a medieval scholar. In any case, dating is difficult for you because you just don't fit into the stereotypical "dating" image. And you don't really care. 

-All of the above: Male, you're single and have multiple music degrees. Dating is an issue, since you're probably working on a doctorate, and between TAing a couple classes, adjuncting at 2 other schools, and doing your dissertation.  

-Female, you're really sick of all those single males with multiple music degrees hitting on you at conferences. You're just as busy, if not more busy than they are. But, you try to be nice, because maybe one of those guys has actually read Judith Butler.

Add some more to the list! It's far from complete. 


Entrepreneurship and the arts.

That goddamn buzzword is back: "entrepreneurship." A while ago, I discussed Charles Wuorinen's views on the idea. I also linked to David Cutler's posts about entrepreneurship in music, which ignited quite the discussion (in the same blog post).

This time, I'm taking a different track. I'm still refusing to go point by point over Cutler's model, though I will say one thing: it sacrifices art for money. It's swinging the pendulum the other way, away from donorship and public funds, to a for-profit model, which, honestly, won't work. But even more than that, it moves away from art.

Away from music, I've seen a few posts in the theater and dance realms lately that make a lot of sense. The first is by Shawn Renee Lent entitled "Am I A Dancer Who Gave Up." Shawn was asked a question by an undegraduate who was still too caught up in the academic machine: "Did you have any sort of breakdown when you gave up on your dreams." Lent's answer is spectacular and worth considering. The most salient parts of me break down as "artists have agency, don't give that up," and "a career in the arts doesn't necessarily mean being on stage. And that doesn't mean you give up on your dream."

These are such important words and ideas to consider. How many musicians go through conservatory training thinking that the only end goal is an orchestra? Or a teaching gig? Or somehow (magically) living just off writing music? That's the essence of entrepreneurship--not how to get people to show up for your solo recital (HA!), but what can you do with these skills, these passions, and these ideas, that can not only make money, but be worthwhile to yourself and others.

Moving on, I started going through posts by Scott Walters. He blogs many places, and here's a good collection of his posts. Lent linked to one of Walters' blog posts, and it was the first I grabbed, "A New Education for a New Theater." Again, great points, focusing mainly on agency, and how to create that in young students. And showing students all the different things that they can do, and SHOULD do--not just pigeonholing yourself into one specific area of theater, or following all the rules passed on by the faculty, but becoming a great, well-rounded theatrical artist. Walters is on to something--think about that with music degrees, and with other degrees (such as arts administration). And think about all the avenues of study, work, and interest in music that we barely touch on.

What if every student had to take a seminar on arts administration, and their project was to work with people giving recitals, and collaborate. They find spaces, make programs, etc...but it's not ONE person trying to do it all (which, btw, never works) but a group, and all of them learning important skills that will help them in the long run. And what about a movement away from the solo OR orchestra career paradigm, and focus more on chamber groups, how to found a group, run it, produce concerts...But not done in a fashion that take away from the musical experience.

And then the rabbit hole continues, running through the posts by Walters. How about "Business Models: The Next Frontier." Walters calls into question the current trends (or lack of trends) in theater business models. He breaks it down into two areas: for profit, Broadway style, or non-profit begging style. And he's right, these are the big styles, and there are major problems with both of them. I err on the side of non-profit, but you can develop a non-profit that generates revenue in strong ways. The biggest areas of weakness I see in music? Education, outreach, accessibility, and venues. Orchestras do a decent job with these, but what about chamber groups? Are chamber groups, especially local ones, doing enough differentiation, or are they mainly focusing on giving the occasional concert from a scratch group?

The last of Walters' poignant posts is "On Saying It to Their Faces." Oh man, is he right on so much of this. This line says so much about the experience in theater and music: "First, let’s get real: ever since Richard Wagner decided to turn off the house lights on the audience, theatre people don’t say anything to anybody’s faces anymore. “We’re the ones who say it to the gaping void” would be more the case, but doesn’t really have the same ring to it."

Further on, Walters brings in a story by Patrick Overton from Overton's book Rebuilding the Front Porch of America. It's an amazing story about the power of a poem during the opening of a Vietnam War memorial. The most important thing?

Overtone didn't "tell" it to their faces, he "extended an invitation." The main crux of the article is summarized by Walters quoting Overton again. “Art transcends. Art transforms. Art is the deep voice that heals the wounded heart and lifts the human spirit."

Damn straight--and what you can do with art is much deeper than just playing a single concert to a darkened audience.