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By Daniel Hathaway
Oberlin, OH — January 24, 2012. At a Sunday morning ceremony in Klonick Hall of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music on January 22, Dean David Stull and donor Stephen Rubin announced the winners of the grand prize and public prize in the first bi-annual Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, which began on January 18.
The $10,000 prize went to Jacob Street (above, with Rubin and Stull), a master’s candidate in historical performance from North Reading, MA. In a surprise development, the panel awarded honorable mention to Megan Emberton, a senior piano major from Chelsea, MI, along with a cash award of $2,500. Read the rest of this entry »
By Gabe Kanengiser
Over the past hundred years, popular music has crossed over into nearly all genres. In the nineteen twenties, pop music was marked by jazz and blues styles, while nearly forty years later it was defined by artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Marvin Gaye. Despite Michael Jackson’s reign as “The King of Pop” during the eighties and nineties, the emergence of far too many boy bands, meaningless and crass hip-hop artists (this by no means discredits the meaningful and tasteful), and the unfortunate number of “plastic-platinum” pop-singers, it seems that the quality of popular music has declined.
What is popular music? Music is often divided into three categories: popular music, art music, and traditional or folk music. Popular music can be in any genre but must appeal and be distributed to large quantities of people; Art music “requires significantly more work by the listener” in order for it to be fully appreciated. Traditional or folk music is often disseminated through oral traditions, and is centered in cultural of historical events.
However, who is to say that a song cannot be all three of these? Read the rest of this entry »
By Mandy Hogan
Composers continually forge new roads into artistic wildernesses. How does a composer forge an online identity in the 21st century? YouTube, Facebook, PureVolume, InstantEncore, and MySpace are large commercial sites that provide platforms for emerging and established artists to shine. They allow users to access and discover new music and musicians instantly. So perhaps the more important question is, how can musicians form a unique identity in the midst of millions of artists without being conflated with someone else or swept into an unwanted genre?
The medium that people use to enjoy music has changed from vinyl records to CDs to iPods and YouTube videos, but the music remains. What will remain in our psyche? What types of composers will we become? But ultimately, the question is: how will what we make become who we are? And that is the question for all of us.
Composers in the 21st century range from Jay-Z to Jennifer Higdon to Philip Glass to Esperanza Spalding. Some write Pulitzer-Prize winning violin concertos, others perform, produce, create, and design hip-hop albums, and still others jam in the garage with their friends. Read the rest of this entry »
By Meghan Farnsworth
Composers of centuries past and present have sought various avenues to maintain the particular brew of their craft. Whether these roads have guided their careers towards writing music befitting of the demands of a patron with two-thousand francs to spare, or for a pharmaceutical company, like Pfizer — the producers of that jagged little pill, Advil — composers have always needed to meet the bidding of a greater power in order to survive in the music industry.
For twenty-first century composers, however, does this mean sacrificing the aestheticism of beauty in art for the demands of the almighty dollar? Nowadays, it’s inevitable to avoid commercial venues — i.e. film, TV, radio, etc. — as a way towards meeting a financially stable career in composition. In some respects, many classical music elitists would find this route clichéd and unworthy of high art. So, one ultimate question comes to mind: is music composed in the style of the commercial route considered to be “sold out”?
How classical music is viewed today is much different than it was in centuries past. Music never reached the possibility of being categorized as “sold-out”. Read the rest of this entry »
By Sam Rosenberg
On the Internet, history gets written backwards. Network consciousness starts on the periphery, as independent dots connect around the edges filling in the unknown piece-by-piece, reaching back to create a history and molding a collective impression. The cliché is that information travels on the web at near instantaneous speeds, but collectively piecing together the history of a scene from afar takes much longer than you would think, and leaves an uneven and distorted perception in the collective consciousness. The rise of interest in, and popularity of Chicago Footwork and Juke music outside of Chicago, particularly in England over the last two years, is a case study for the messy, complicated tangle of network historiography.
By comparison, the actual history of Juke and Footwork in Chicago is fairly simple. It’s easy to connect it to the long lineage of African-American music traditions and to see points of connection with popular dance music. Disco leads to House leads to Ghetto House leads to Juke and to Footwork. This chain is a timeline but also a pyramid with each step up growing smaller in terms of resources available to it and the size of the communities involved. By the end of the 90’s, Dance Mania, the premier label for Ghetto House, shut its doors and a corporate takeover sanitized Chicago radio, implementing national programming formats with little room for local music. Pivotal figures like DJ Deeon dropped out of the scene and younger producers and DJs waiting in the wings to join them now lacked the infrastructure and platforms to release their music and gain exposure outside of their communities. Read the rest of this entry »
By Charlotte Dutton
There are those who welcome change and those who resist it. Classical music patrons who fall into the latter category would have everyone believe that their choice of music is dying. When asked to elaborate, those dejected, averse-to-change listeners will cite the same signs of its imminent death that have been listed ever since the birth of rock and roll: aging patrons and half-empty concert halls. For them, classical music is engaged in a losing battle. However, forward thinking classical music lovers, who welcome and even embrace change, see opportunity rather than wreckage. It is not the music that is dying but rather, the tradition in which audiences receive it.
Although classical music tends to draw an older, “graying” crowd, not all of its enthusiasts are dropping like flies. Therein lays a flaw in cynical patrons’ point of view: their information is faulty due to its subjectivity. Perhaps older audiences appreciate and understand classical music better than other genres; maybe they were exposed to it or found interest in it later in life. Could it be that their current life experiences draw them to classical music just like the current life experiences of energetic college students draws them to pop or techno? That is not to say, however, that classical music does not have a footing in younger generations. Simply look at the myriad conservatories and music schools dotting the international landscape – it seems that almost every urban center has at least one decent to excellent music school. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jacob Street
Dear Cameron Carpenter,
Thanks for reading this. I know that you are very busy. You play more organ concerts in a year than I may give in my entire lifetime! But this brings me to a confession: I’m an organist myself. I know what you think: that I hate you. That I think you’re a fraud and a hack. That I hate your history-be-damned style, your traveling digital organ, and your flamboyant performances. That I must be one of the leading exponents of the organ whose every preconception you challenge, like the Wall Street Journal wrote about you.
But I’m here to tell you the opposite—I don’t hate you. In fact, most organists don’t hate you. And why should they? You’re a great advocate for the instrument. You’re passionate and successful. You work hard, and your technique is impressive. You even show more than a few glimmers of what a “traditional organist” would call “traditional musicality”! I would certainly protest being included as one of your (imagined or otherwise) fervent detractors. This letter is in no way designed to contribute to the martyr-like image the media constructs around you. We organists are a stodgy bunch, but we can still respect your work, just as we respect any product of American dedication to finely processed marketability—like the Twilight novels, or Cheese Whiz. Read the rest of this entry »
By Mike Telin
The Meg Quigley Vivaldi Bassoon Competition and Symposium gets underway on Friday, January 15 at the Oberlin Conservatory. As background to the event, I reached Founders and Co-directors Kristen Wolfe Jensen and Nicolasa Kuster for phone interviews last week.
Kristin Wolfe Jensen
MQVC Co-Director Kristin Wolfe Jensen has been the bassoon professor at the University of Texas at Austin since 1995, and is also on the faculty of the International Festival Institute at Round Top, and the Eastern Music Festival, where she is Principal Bassoonist of the Eastern Philharmonic. Ms. Jensen is Principal Bassoonist with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and previously has toured Europe with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and served as Acting Principal Bassoonist of the Houston Grand Opera. The American Record Guide reviewer said of her solo CD Shadings, “…She has simply turned in the finest-played Bassoon recital I have ever heard… She obviously sees tone quality as the foundation for her fluent technique…It is a ravishing sound, siren-like in its attractive flair…Ms. Jensen could teach a lot about musicality to a number of famous violinists…”. Her other chamber music and solo recordings can be heard on the Cambria, Opus One, Klavier, and Centaur labels.
Mike Telin: How did the idea for this competition come about?
KWJ: Nicolasa and I were sitting in a Café in Buenos Aires at the 2001 International Double Reed Society Convention. We had been friends at Oberlin, and we were talking about how we would like to see more young women bassoonists empowered. It seemed as though the majority of bassoonists who were participating in International competitions for the bassoon were male although at least 50% of bassoon students enrolled in music schools were female; so why are female bassoon students not succeeding in International Competitions? We had to ask ourselves what was causing this to happen. I think at that time about 72% of principal bassoonists in orchestras in the United States were male, and why were the females not rising to the top? There has been some change in this in the past decade, which is good.