The Mysterious Barricades in Classical Music

St_Martin-in-the-Fields.jpgSome listeners from Mint Hill happened to be in Davidson the other day and decided on an impulse to drop by the station with a burning question: what the heck is the Academy of St. Martin-in -the-Fields? They knew it was an orchestra, of course, but were mystified by the name – as well as by how often they hear it on WDAV. Just how many recordings has the orchestra made, anyway?
The question took me by surprise at first, and then I remembered how I’d had a similar thought hearing their recordings played on the radio as a young listener. I also had a completely inaccurate mental image of conductor Neville Marriner that was influenced by my love of comic books – the only other “mariner” I’d ever heard of was Marvel’s Namor, The Submariner, who lived under the sea wearing nothing but scaly trunks and wings on his ankles. Wings under water? But that’s a question for comic book legend Stan Lee, not this blog.


Josefowicz Wins Genius Grant

josefowicz.jpgToday the MacArthur Foundation which awards prestigious “genius grants” to individuals who excel and show potential in their fields announced 25 new Fellows today. Among them are a couple of folks who seem to be helping to redefine our notion of what classical music is all about.
Violinist Leila Josefowicz who is only 30 is getting one for broadening her instrument’s repertoire and juxtaposing the avante-garde with the traditional. As the MacArthur Foundation’s site notes, not only is she introducing noteworthy new works, she’s also inspiring them.
The other recipient is Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker, who is working to broaden our appreciation of classical music and put it into the the context of our modern lives through his writings. We link to his blog, The Rest is Noise, right here at Classical Musings. Just look in the right column. Ross doesn’t draw boundaries between what is classical and what isn’t. Instead he looks at the continuum of music throughout the ages and writes about the connection between artists as different as Bob Dylan and Mozart.
It seems to me that learning to look at classical music through the lens of today in ways similar to Josefowicz and Ross makes a lot of sense and can only benefit the art form. What do you think? And do you think awarding these two winners their $500,000 prizes and giving them such honors will make a difference to the art form in the future? If you won $500,000 for 5 years, would you invest it in changing the face of classical music? Or take care of that leaking roof? Let us know.

Proms Electronica?

bbc_proms_150.jpgWord has it that this year the Last Night of the Proms will add a new element. They have commissioned a new piece from Scottish composer Anna Meredith who is 30, and that piece will require 800 performers including four orchestras and two choruses. Those 800 folks will be scattered across the UK from Glasgow to Hyde Park, and they will perform together via the miracle of modern satellite technology with only a day-of rehearsal. That”s unusual in and of itself, but Meredith is known for electronica compositions, a genre most often associated with nightclubs and dance floors. So this sounds like quite and experiment as well as as risk. You have to admire the folks at the BBC and Meredith herself for taking it. I love the way Meredith assures us that the piece is only 5 minutes and over before you know it “like a punch in the mouth.”
It will be interesting to see if the experiment works particularly since the Meredith piece will be in the populist part of the program with the sing-alongs. I personally like the idea of this experiment which could easily go wrong and add to the spontenaity of the occasion. But what do you think? Is this a direction the Last Night should take? I”d love to hear your thoughts.
about Meredith”s composition and the Last Night. Listen to Last Night of the Proms on live on WDAV Saturday at 3 p.m.