At a pre-COVID live performance of one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s cello sonatas, I was in the front row and had a great view of the musicians. Beethoven was watching, too, in the form of a scowling bust at the back of the stage. And the two just didn’t match. The music was playful and […]
On 3 July 2020, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton—perhaps somewhat inadvertently—took its place alongside decades of Broadway shows and stars which had helped foster an awareness of American race relations via the small screen. When Disney won the $75 million bidding war for the global theatrical distribution rights of Hamilton, the filmed recording of the show’s original cast performing […]
Soon after the COVID-19 lockdown started, I began doing combined piano and theory lessons with my daughter, who is eleven, and her friend, who is a year or two older, using Skype. I tried to show them a little about some different functions that help to build a piece of music, and in the end […]
“OrchKids is working hard to stay ahead of the curve!” That’s the message delivered this spring to friends and supporters of OrchKids, a free after-school music instruction program for more than 2,000 Baltimore students, pre-K through high school. In March 2020, OrchKids staff had to totally change their way of teaching. The public schools where they […]
What would be left of the Eurovision Song Contest once wrenched from the spectacle and ritual of its annual Grand Finale in May? Could it survive, stripped of glitz, pyrotechnics, and camp, its penchant for ever-expanding excess? Would the legions of fans worldwide, who love the contest, retain their passion and return in 2021? Such […]
Keeping Upbeat in Tough Times is the new motto for the San Francisco Community Music Center. The phrase sums up the school’s attitude toward the abrupt transition to online instruction that it had to make this spring, after local schools closed their doors because of a government-ordered mandate aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 […]
At 10:50 a.m. recently, I was all set to teach my Theory II class. My I-Pad was charged. I had the links queued up to the textbook for screen share, and I had already created several videos explaining the concepts. When the 11:00 a.m. hour arrived and only two students were visible on Zoom, my […]
The film industry started making jazz-related features as soon as synchronized sound came in, in 1927: “I’m gonna sing it jazzy,” Al Jolson’s Jack Robin optimistically declares in the pioneering talkie The Jazz Singer, before taking off on Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” (He gets closer to the jazzy mark whistling a quasi-improvised chorus of “Toot Toot […]
If you approached bystanders on a street corner in sixteenth-century Naples and asked them “What do conservatories conserve?” the likely answers would not have been “performing arts” or “rare plants.” No, you would have been told confidently that conservatories conserved orphans and foundlings. These church-sponsored orphanages practiced a kind of alchemy—they took in defenseless little […]
Black History Month is cause for celebration and remembrance of black excellence throughout American history. This February, we’re celebrating with a playlist highlighting some of the most remarkable musicians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Beginning with ragtime pioneer, Scott Joplin, this playlist navigates through the many different musical movements created and perfected by black artists. Ragtime gave […]
The New Year has arrived and with it comes that familiar feeling of a fresh start. Everything is bright and full of possibility. If you’re the planning type, you probably have a typed list of shiny goals and resolutions already hung in a prominent place to remind you of your intentions for this year. Even […]
Beginning the 26th of December, a globe-spanning group of millions of people of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival of communitarian values created by scholar Maulana Karenga in 1966. The name of the festival is adapted from a Swahili phrase that refers to “the first fruits,” and is meant to recall ancient African harvest celebrations.
Google “hip hop” and “diplomacy” and what images come up? Black men wearing gold chains and baggy clothes, holding microphones. White men in suits shaking hands, flanked by flags. The contrast is stark: informal/formal, loud/quiet, the resistance/the establishment, black/white. These images reflect common perceptions but also misconceptions about diplomacy and hip hop. Both are, in fact, more […]
Successful composers, authors, and scientists have distinctive writing styles which define all their works. They are rarely in isolation from their contemporaries, so their work is inherently time stamped. Similarities can exist with their students and followers, so they set the pattern of writing over one or two generations.
My thrill in seeing Ramona Diaz’s film Imelda (2004), streaming for free online this month, was dampened by the hype surrounding a new film about the former first lady of the Philippines. I was puzzled to read about The Kingmaker (2019) by Lauren Greenfield, touted for its “unprecedented access” (Showtime) by a filmmaker “perfect” for the subject (Variety). Frankly […]
How artists express individual style and creativity within the context of a cultural tradition is one of the central questions of Aesthetics. This is applicable to an extraordinary range of artistic practices across different cultures, although its answers and solutions differ widely. Our views on the problem can be easily distorted by the particular solution adopted in Europe and America in the modern period: to abandon traditions as much as possible and strive for total originality.