Experimental Cellos and Cellists

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello
Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Some time ago I had started a community on livejournal (back in January of 2003) called “Avantcello.”  It was a space for folks interested in non-standard cello practice to post their interest or work.  I had given a number talks on Experimental cellos and cellists over the years up till that point and wanted to have some place to connect with folks who were interested since I wasn’t really finding any sort of community at the Internet Cello Society forums interested in this kind of thing.

Back in the mid to late 90s I was really experimenting a lot with cello.  I was heavily into improvisation and started performing my own house concert series doing works by some of the “Academic Avant-Garde” composers and Fluxus artists as well as getting into electronics and amplification.  I pretty much quit playing [the cello] by 1997 and got involved with the non-academic Experimental and Noise Music scene.

I toured around a bit and did a number of Performance Art shows (another interest I had at the time) as well as multi-media performances involving Experimental video that I was starting to do. In the end, some of that was becoming unsatisfying as well though I enjoyed the journey.  The cello was starting to call me back. Continue reading “Experimental Cellos and Cellists”

“Wither the Audience for Classical Music?”

I was going to post something else, but had come across this piece, “Wither the Audience for Classical Music?,” by Douglas Dempster (while he was Dean of the Eastman School or Music) in the Harmony: Forum of the Symphony Orchestra Institute yesterday.  I had posted some snippets in the cello chat thread I started (that I mentioned in a previous post), but have also had a discussion exploding after I posted a link to Michael Kaiser‘s (President of the Kennedy Center) piece, “The Orchestra Conundrum,” on my facebook page where I mentioned some of Dempster’s analysis. 

Rather than bog this down with my own poor prose, I’ll just quote some of the more interesting bits and let you peruse the links to discussions above if you want more of my thoughts on the issues. 

Also of note, and relevant to this issue.  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has cancelled the rest of their season.

A careful review of this research suggests a less startling conclusion. It is true that younger generations of Americans, especially the baby boomers, are not attending classical music concerts with the frequency of older generations. However, every generation considered in this study increased very significantly its listening to classical music through radio and recorded media over the 10-year period between 1982 and 1992. Americans born between 1916 and 1945 listened to classical music on the radio with greater frequency than younger generations. But growth in radio-listening habits was the very greatest in the baby-boom generation. Continue reading ““Wither the Audience for Classical Music?””

“Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras…”

I wanted to post a quick note linking to Tony Woodcock’s blog post about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and fundraising woes, Motown Blues.   Some quotes are particularly relevant to the whole issue of Orchestras’ legitimacy:

I have been talking recently with some major donors and leaders prominent in the orchestral world…Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras – the constant demands, the needs, the on-going and unresolved problems.  They are questioning the role of “orchestra monoliths” whose consumption of a community’s  philanthropic wealth is disproportionate to the value they produce.   They are questioning musicians’ passivity within the symphonic organization and the community when, in fact, it is musician leadership and initiative that will be needed to make real change happen.  They are asking these questions with a degree of serious concern that should make everyone think creatively about relationships, structure, and community for the future. Why? Because these are the investors rethinking their priorities.
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[S]ociety has changed….Societal changes present huge challenges to our conservatively held views of what constitutes an orchestra.  We can blame society and national leaders and the media but that’s not going to get us very far.  We are where we are and everything is moving forward with or without us.
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We are forever talking about the issue of relevance.  Clearly, the performing arts’ relevance has declined as measured by the sheer drop in attendance figures as well as the arts’ ever more superficial penetration in the community.  But I want to change the term from relevance to legitimacy which presents a much bigger issue. I use “legitimacy” here almost in the political sense of an organization deriving the moral right to exist from the approbation of the people.  So when we consider “legitimacy for the performing arts,” we must ask ourselves the question: Is playing excellently enough?  For too long, we have believed the maxim: “Play well… they will come.”  Doesn’t happen–anymore.  I have been to so many great concerts performed to empty halls.  Legitimacy must be authentic.  It is bestowed, not taken.  It must be re-examined every single year and not taken for granted.  It must address key issues such as why do the majority of people feel increasingly excluded from the arts, and also why do the arts matter?

What may turn out to be a lively discussion about this blog is starting at the Cello Chat forum. Continue reading ““Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras…””