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.
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.
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.”
Dave’s Coffee Shop on Broadway in Oakland was always the destination for me to meet a deadline. I started going there soon after becoming the classical music critic for the East Bay Express, an alternative weekly, in 1985. After a concert, I would take the bus to Dave’s, open all night, and sit at the counter and order fried eggs and corned beef hash – the kind that comes in a perfect oval patty, and looks and tastes like dog food – and endless refills of coffee. I would sit there and write out the whole review by hand, and then take it home and type it up on my ancient Royal typewriter. It could be five pages or eight pages – however long was necessary to go into great detail and depth.
Ask any musician who makes a habit of playing so-called minimalist music, in any of the various shades and permutations of that term, about the secrets to success; the answer likely would involve qualities like patience, stamina, perseverance, and faith in the value of the undertaking. Look at the burgeoning career of R. Andrew Lee, a pianist and pedagogue whose sterling reputation largely resides in his exemplary performances and recordings of minimal music, and you see precisely the same qualities in play.
“We will deepen the connection between music and mental health through a residency that offers musical performances and group exercises that inspire the creative process, fostering a safe space for openness and expression.” This ambitious statement reflects the mission of my string quartet as we aspire to design a residency program within a hospital setting this spring.
National Sawdust has not only taken a keen interest in monitoring and evaluating the current state of music journalism and criticism from its inception, but also more recently has pursued an active role in fostering its continued health. We talk regularly with journalists, critics, institutions, and other influential figures about the state of our collective affairs – now, we’ll be sharing some of those conversations with the reading public.
On March 10 and 11, scholars from various academic disciplines and institutions will gather at Yale University for an interdisciplinary conference that will explore coverage of the arts in African American newspapers and magazines between Reconstruction and the end of legalized Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s. Over the course of two days and 12 panel sessions, participants will delve into the many ways in which the arts appeared in a perhaps paradoxically flourishing black press during this era.