University curricular reform doesn’t typical ignite fiery internet controversy. But last month, when The Harvard Crimson reported on the adoption of a new undergraduate curriculum at Harvard, the classical music corner of the internet—composers, performers, theorists, musicologists – briefly erupted in intense discussion. As a musicologist and professor myself, I wanted to learn about the background behind these changes, what they mean for students, and the implications of the controversy for our field.
Du Yun was chilling out in a Dubai bar after a long day of networking at Culture Summit 2017, when her phone suddenly went berserk. From one friend or colleague after another came the same message: The Chinese-born American composer had just been awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Angel’s Bone, her challenging, provocative, and stylistically groundbreaking opera. By phone from Shanghai, she spoke about the experience.
Zachary Woolfe started attracting attention immediately when he came to The New York Times as a freelance classical-music reviewer in 2010, having written stylishly and persuasively already for numerous publications and outlets in New York City and elsewhere. In March 2015 the Times named Woolfe its classical music editor, even as the paper was undergoing one of the most penetrating periods of self-evaluation in its history: the so-called 2020 Group, tasked with re-imagining the way this venerable institution envisioned and engaged its mission during a time of seismic change and financial straits throughout the entire media industry. In a recent interview at The New York Times offices, Woolfe addressed those changes, large and small, during an exceedingly generous and wide-ranging conversation.
I’ve wondered occasionally whether the position of arts critic – self-appointed or otherwise – should be subject to term limits. The thought occurred to me most recently while attending… no, while immersed in Grace Nexus, the simultaneously bewitching and bewildering presentation mounted at Issue Project Room on April 15 by Quantum Natives: either a British digital-media collective or “an abstruse net-label run by two art school-educated Londoners,” according to Resident Advisor. Maybe both.
One of the best known and most respected journalists and critics in the realm of classical music and opera, Anne Midgette has also been among the more tenacious advocates of changing with the times, embracing new media platforms, techniques, and modes of storytelling – including Facebook and Twitter.
Midori Takada, Kelly Moran, Sarah Hennies, Olivier Alary, Gov’t Mule, Ecstatic Vision, Allan Holdsworth (RIP), and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.
Formed in 2013, Bearthoven has built up an estimable repertoire of fresh pieces for an instrumentation that’s canonical among jazz circles, but uncommon within the concert-music world. Listen to an exclusive stream of a Fjóla Evans piece on Bearthoven’s debut album, ‘Trios,’ courtesy of Cantaloupe Music.
The four members of PRISM Quartet have been singleminded in their pursuit of new sonic and stylistic frontiers for their mutual instrument of choice, the saxophone. Alongside strictly four-part inventions, PRISM has engaged in eye- and ear-opening collaborations with other artists and ensembles. Disparate though all these projects might be, what they all share in common is an enviable combination of integrity, individuality, and instant appeal.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a gala event held in New York, meant to raise funds to bring a Chinese panda to the city. Meanwhile, in The Guardian Vladimir Ashkenazy called upon British musicians to maintain artistic relationships with Europe, despite any potential barriers imposed by Brexit. Each case illustrates a different approach undertaken to dissolve borders. Both exemplify “soft power.”