News and Notes: How is a symphony season like a parrot?

The Oregon Symphony's 2013-4 season gazes firmly backwards -- and Europe-ward

American pianist Van Cliburn at the peak of his fame in the early 1960s.

American pianist Van Cliburn at the peak of his fame in the early 1960s.

Van Cliburn’s death last week occasioned some nostalgia, because the day he soared to world fame in 1962 might well have been the last time that something that happened in the classical music world really mattered to most people who aren’t already members of the increasingly cozy Classical Music Club. Cliburn’s celebrated victory in Moscow occurred at about the midpoint, or so it seems now, of American classical music’s determined swing away from contemporary culture and toward a slavish obsession with European masterworks by dead composers. The results of that disastrous turn, documented in books by historians Joseph Horowitz and (forthcoming) Greg Sandow, has been the transformation of a once vital art form (during, say, Beethoven’s heyday) to a dusty historical museum (at least on many major orchestra concert programs) increasingly disconnected from today’s culture and facing a future of dwindling audiences.

However, there’s good news on the horizon. Increasingly, more of classical music’s visionaries regard it as a living art form — and an American one. They value the rich symphonic tradition of American music, and believe that it should be nurtured by supporting and commissioning new works by living composers. In fact, the US and the West Coast in particular boast an extensive repertoire of worthy symphonic works that could fill programs for years, and the area teems with young (and not so young) composers eager for an opportunity to write more. Even little Oregon alone has a worthy roster of orchestral works by our own composers, from Lou Harrison to Robert Kyr and Tomas Svoboda, and a nascent alternative classical music culture — and burgeoning young audience — that sees the music as part of a vibrant living tradition.

That seems to be the operating philosophy of the other major West Coast orchestras. Next season’s Seattle Symphony season contains a half dozen premieres and plenty of lovely 20th century fare. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, Michael Tilson Thomas and Gustavo Dudamel (and before him, Esa Pekka Salonen) have made their orchestras more relevant to younger audiences, in part by championing contemporary composers.

Decomposing Composers

Then there’s the Oregon Symphony’s just-announced 2013-14 season, which consists almost entirely  of music by European composers, almost all of whom are — well, we’ve been asked to avoid offensive language on this sensitive subject here on ArtsWatch, so I’ve borrowed some synonyms for the D- word from a famous Monty Python episode. However, compendious as it was, the Parrot Sketch still didn’t provide enough polite substitutes for the offending yet entirely accurate term, so I resorted to translations into the composers’ own language, and another Monty Python sketch, which appears below. Here’s the lineup, with the composer’s nationality and viability status duly noted. To make it easier to see the proportions involved, I’ve starred the names of composers who are still alive and writing. Most of those works are fairly short.

Bartók: Dance suite. He’s resting. EUROPEAN
Beethoven: Piano Concerto no. 3. Stone dead. EUROPEAN
Haydn: Symphony no. 64, “Tempora mutantur.” Six feet underground. EUROPEAN
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Tales from the Vienna Woods. Definitely deceased. EUROPEAN
Verdi: Macbeth ballet music. Tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk. EUROPEAN
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G major. Bleedin’ demised! EUROPEAN
Berlioz: Romeo and Juliet, orchestral excerpts. Passed on. EUROPEAN
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 4. Is no more! EUROPEAN
Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges symphonic suite. Ceased to be. EUROPEAN
* Lindberg: Violin Concerto WOO HOO! LIVE PEOPLE WRITE CLASSICAL MUSIC TOO! EUROPEAN
Tchaikovsky: Symphony no. 4. Expired. EUROPEAN
Beethoven/Weingartner: Grosse fuge. Gone to meet his maker. EUROPEAN
Bach: Concerto in D minor. Bereft of life. EUROPEAN
Strauss: Burleske. A stiff! EUROPEAN
Beethoven: Symphony no. 8. Rests in peace. EUROPEAN
Grieg: Peer Gynt suite no. 1. Stunned! (Norwegian Blues stun easily.) EUROPEAN
Nielsen: Violin Concerto. Pining for the fjords. EUROPEAN
Strauss: Aus Italien. Pushing up the daisies. EUROPEAN
Dvorák’s Symphony no. 5. Metabolic processes are now history. EUROPEAN
* Pärt: Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, WOOHOO!! EUROPEAN
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto no. 2. Off the twig! EUROPEAN
Haydn: Symphony no. 96. Shuffled off this mortal coil. EUROPEAN
Mahler: Das Lied von der erde. Run down the curtain. EUROPEAN
Takemitsu: From me flows what you call Time. 死んだ JAPANESE
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade. Joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! EUROPEAN
Brahms’ Double Concerto. Tot. EUROPEAN
Weber: Overture to Abu Hassan. Not at all well. EUROPEAN
Shostakovich: Symphony no. 10. Departed. EUROPEAN
Britten’s War Requiem. Defunct. EUROPEAN
Sibelius Symphony no. 1. Perished EUROPEAN
* Glanert: Shoreless River WOOHOO! 18 whole minutes! EUROPEAN
Wieniawski: Violin Concerto no. 2. Kicked the bucket. EUROPEAN
Debussy: Nocturnes. Mort. EUROPEAN
Haydn: Symphony no. 53. Inanimate. EUROPEAN
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no. 2. мертвый EUROPEAN
Messiaen: The Forgotten Offerings. Lovely plumage! EUROPEAN
Chopin: Piano Concerto no. 2. Martwy. EUROPEAN
Brahms: Symphony No. 4. Extinct. EUROPEAN
* Dzubay: Snake alley WOOHOO! And once lived in Oregon to boot! 660 seconds of actual 21st century music. AMERICAN
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor. Kuollut EUROPEAN
Stravinsky: The Firebird. THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! EUROPEAN

Le Tombeau de Haydn

Le Tombeau de Haydn

The orchestra also announced its latest recording project. After two excellent disks consisting mostly of much-recorded 20th century English music (and, to be fair, one contemporary American work by John Adams), surely it’s time for the Oregon Symphony to record some Oregon music, no? Nope, this once-a-year (if that) opportunity will be devoted to the works of … Franz Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809.

Now, I yield to no one in my admiration for the Austro-Hungarian father of the symphony; in fact, I actually think he can be taken for granted, since he lacks the dramatic story of his contemporaries Mozart and Beethoven. Along with Jimi Hendrix’s, Haydn’s symphonies always makes me crank the volume knob. I utterly adore his music, live or recorded. And it’s true that American orchestras don’t record it that often. But unless there’s some new interpretive discovery, as happened when the period instrument movement made us hear old music really differently, the world doesn’t necessarily need yet another Haydn symphony recording — certainly not nearly as much as it needs recordings of Oregon composers and other American composers whose works haven’t been recorded, or recorded enough. The Pentatone CD project, like the Carnegie Hall appearance, was a rare opportunity for the Oregon Symphony to bring Oregon music to the national stage — and “our” orchestra refused the chance to boost Oregon’s creative culture, choosing instead to make yet another recording of ancient music that’s easily available in most concert halls and at the click of a button online.

None of this is to say that what the OSO will play next year isn’t immortal music or entirely irrelevant to today’s world. Classics are timeless and universal by definition. The 40-work list contains most of my own very favorite composers and many works of great power and beauty that I recommend everyone hear. It will almost certainly be performed at a quality level that at times approaches that of the very best orchestras in the land. In fact, I think every orchestra concert should have a classic or sometimes even two on it.

Nor is this Euromusiconecrophilia atypical of Oregon orchestras (the Eugene Symphony’s upcoming season has a total of two living composers on it), or most other American classical music institutions, Oregon and otherwise. But as has been pointed out here recently, the Oregon Symphony is the state’s flagship orchestra and receives a substantial public subsidy. The question is: whose flag is it flying?

In fact, whatever criticisms the OSO merits here also applies to most of Oregon’s classical music institutions, so substitute whatever name you like. Apologists for these hidebound institutions usually scatter a few token contemporary works on their schedules, if only to appease uppity critics and enable the institutions to claim, disingenuously, “Why, yes, we do program American music. Here’s an entire hour of it, combined, on the whole season schedule. And we did an Oregon composer, back in ’06, I think it was.” The percentage of minutes per season devoted to contemporary and American works is really what counts, and as the list above reveals, it’s minuscule. It’s not a question of never playing Beethoven and Bartok — the straw man the conservative acolytes always erect, to pose a false choice between contemporary and classical. Every music season must strike a balance between old and new works and audiences. We can and should have both — our “Scheherazade” and Svoboda, our Haydn and our Harrison. It’s a question of proportion. Right now, the balance is almost entirely tilted toward European, post-living music, mostly from the 19th century.

Judging by this schedule and that of seasons past, OSO music director Carlos Kalmar seems determined to build the best imitation early 20th century Viennese orchestra in America. He might well achieve it. But is that what Oregonians want, or that our music culture — and even the symphony itself — needs?

Narrow definition, dwindling relevance

The problem is that this almost exclusively retro view defines classical music, and its audience, in a terribly narrow way. It sends the message that classical music is something by and for dead Europeans, not living Americans — when we know better. The OSO’s season and others like represent a slap in the face to Oregon’s music culture, and thumbing of the nose toward living American classical music.

And it also sends this message: interested in the music of your time? The [fill in name of conservative classical music institution] doesn’t care about you — or at least, not nearly as much as it does the backward-gazing folks who like their composers good and dead and their music at least a century old. Like the music of your own country or your own state? Even though we’re taking a quarter million dollars of your tax money, we — the administrators who program conservative classical music programs –think the people of Oregon need to hear Brahms for the zillionth time more than they need to hear an Oregon composer for the first. Why would those programmers then expect those music lovers – the people most vitally interested in music as part of contemporary culture – to show up for your concerts?

It doesn’t have to be thus. There’s a tremendous repertoire of ambitious, listener friendly American and other contemporary music (past, present, and with support, future) that refutes that pinched, narrow and ultimately self-defeating notion. The OSO has even played some of it, again in single-digit percentages each season.

The Oregonians who patronize even classic theater and dance institutions like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Oregon Ballet Theater would never tolerate programming that so dismissively turns its back on works of our own time and our own creative community. Today, Portland Center Stage, the city’s closest theatrical analogue to the OSO, announced its next season. The ten-play schedule includes two living West Coast playwrights, Seattle’s Elizabeth Heffron, and the Bay Area’s Adam Bock. Crucially, they both workshopped their new works at PCS’s admirable Just Add Water Festival. The Oregon Symphony has no such artistic American incubation program. It does pay for an artist in residence, a German cellist who plays music (with the OSO at least) by defunct Europeans. PCS actually does include one of those on its schedule — English guy named Shakespeare. Two of the three members of Fiddler on the Roof’s creative team have died in recent  years, but every other playwright on the schedule is alive and American: Katori Hall (“The Mountaintop”); David Henry Hwang (“Chinglish”); Second City’s Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort (“Twist Your Dickens”); David Sedaris (“The Santaland Diaries”); Jason Robert Brown (“The Last Five Years”) and Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt (“Lizzie: The Musical”).

The audiences of Brahms and Beethoven’s time heard mostly works by Brahms and Beethoven and their contemporaries. To a lesser extent, but much greater than Oregon’s, so do today’s classical music audiences in Seattle and LA, whose philharmonic’s recently announced 2013-14 season contains about 10 premieres or other 21st century works, including several by California composers and the long-running Green Umbrella new music series and the return of the amazing Minimalist Jukebox Festival of late 20th and 21st century sounds. The San Francisco Symphony’s just announced schedule includes several premieres (including a couple by long time SF resident Mason Bates, renowned for his fusions of club/DJ sounds and classical music), a local composer residency, and more. The same goes for Marin Alsop, late of Eugene, now bringing her future-oriented vision of American-grown  music to Baltimore and beyond.

Given this disparity, why should the audiences of today’s Oregon’s classical music institutions tolerate our institutions’ rejection of the music of our time and place?

The answer is: they don’t. They stop coming, or never start. Eventually, that indifference will kill the OSO and any other classical institution that fails to meaningfully engage in the creative culture of its own time and place.

When so many younger American listeners feel that classical music has nothing to say to them, that it’s irrelevant to their world, and therefore they stay away in droves, programming like this will not build a new audience, nor will it foment the creation of a new repertoire that could speak to 21st century Americans. Combine that wonderful but non-contemporary music with archaic 19th century performance rituals, intimidating atmosphere, and all the rest, and is it any wonder that so many music lovers don’t believe classical music is for them?

I know that not-for-the-rest-of-us attitude is not true, by the way, though that’s the message these Paleo-programs send. The fine musicians of the symphony and its administrators do want everyone to hear this music as much as we do, and for the same reasons — because we love it. Oregon Symphony concerts strike me as among the less stuffy of those I’ve attended around the country — judged by the extremely narrow standards of the classical music world, at least. I fervently believe that classical music is for everyone, and it’s for today, and tomorrow. But you wouldn’t know it from retrograde programming like this.

When people really cared about contemporary composers: Beethoven's funeral.

When people cared about contemporary composers: Beethoven’s funeral.

Cheating the Future

Our conservative classical institutions’ audience members (the ones who are left) and even some of the musicians will defend these choices, because they’re the ones who are getting exactly what they want: beautifully played old European music by dead composers. I love that music, too, and spend a lot of my days and nights listening to it. But it doesn’t follow that dominating the Schnitzer stage with it is what’s best for Oregon or even, in the long run, classical music itself. We will hear defenses of the status quo because they’re the ones most likely to care enough about classical music to read sites like this. Like our political leaders, they’re just kicking classical music’s audience and relevance crisis down the road, hoping to avoid the impending collapse till after they retire. We will not hear from vast number of potential audience members who I believe would love to hear classical music if it spoke to their time and place and culture — not 19th century Vienna’s. That’s who’s missing from this conversation, and from the seats at classical concerts.

Like other conservative institutions, our backward gazing classical music institutions cheat the future (whether it’s education, the environment, or in this case, the future of classical music) by pandering to the easy pleasures of the present (tax breaks for the wealthy, endless 19th century Euro-repertoire because that’s what the conservative audience wants) instead of investing in the future, whether it’s support for schools or Oregon composers, doing the hard work of pursuing new audiences and new voices rather than following the standard 19th century European playbook. If those of us who love classical music can sometimes seem frustrated by such regressive programming, it’s because we see the future of something we loved being threatened — and seasons like this are slowly going to help kill it.

It’s a good thing this stultifying philosophy didn’t rule in Beethoven’s time, or Brahms’s, or else we’d have much less of their music. Fortunately, the music directors of their era thought contemporary audiences should hear the music of contemporary composers. I wish we could say the same about Oregon’s now.

The OSO schedule and others like it make it painfully obvious how backward-looking many of our major classical arts institutions have become –and as a result how culturally irrelevant they’ve grown since Cliburn’s heyday. The next question is why, and what that means for those who want to see a vibrant living classical music culture in Oregon. We’ll be discussing the reasons why in the next installment of this series on ArtsWatch, stimulated by the spring flowering of new music represented by March Music Moderne, the Music Today Festival, and other promising signs that classical music isn’t just for the dead and European. And we’ll even have thoughts from OSO music director Kalmar and Portland Opera’s Mattaliano, from interviews conducted last year.

I also expect that these issues will arise at Thursday’s opening party/performance/panel discussion for March Music Moderne, which will include a symphony board member. I hope we can all learn more about why Oregon’s programming is so rigidly retro, and what, if anything, can be done about it. I’ll try to incorporate some of that discussion in our next installment. (And if you haven’t read our last one — especially the many thoughtful comments — you’ll find many of these issues are already on the table there.) And then, we’ll lay off the saurian institutions and look to where some hope for Oregon classical music actually beckons. You just won’t find it in our major institutions’ schedules.

24 Responses.

  1. Brett,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing what so many of us have been thinking and blogging about for so long. I’ve written on this on http://www.nodeadguys.com but you wrote a much more detailed (and much funnier!) diatribe. Keep it up!!

  2. “Euromusiconecrophilia.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  3. Curtis Heikkinen says:

    I don’t disagree with some of what you say, Brett. I am frustrated by classical music’s inability to progress beyond standard 18th and 19th century European fare. That said, I believe much of your criticism of the Oregon Symphony’s programmming is unfair and somewhat naive.

    I personally prefer modern and contemporary works but I certainly can understand why the symphony programs the way it does. It has been my experience during quite a few years of attending concerts that the orchestra is punished rather severely from a financial standpoint when it programs too adventurously. I recall a concert several seasons ago when lesser known Spanish works were scheduled. There were more empty seats than filled ones that night. One need only look to the recent sold out performances of Beethoven 9 (which was substituted for the much more interesting but lesser known War Requiem of Britten, which I am sure would not have sold nearly the same amount of tickets) for evidence that the long deceased European composers like Beethoven and Mozart sell tickets. Portlanders appear to show up in the greatest numbers for pieces they have heard of and especially for big name soloists. You talk of more progressive programming in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. Unfortunately, Portland is not those cities which have larger populations, bigger orchestral endowments, more financial resources and, I’m afraid, more sophisticated audiences.

    Is the Oregon Symphony’s programming all that we wish it might be? No, it probably isn’t. However, it is one thing to stand along the sidelines and chastise the orchestra for retro programming and quite another to actually have to make programming decisions that will generate sufficient ticket sales to keep the lights on and the bills paid and at the same time make the concert experience interesting. It is quite a tightrope that the symphony walks and I believe that for the most part it does a pretty good job doing it. There is much to like in next season’s programs,including many works rarely or never before heard in Portland. This has been typical of the Kalmar years. Sure, it would be nice to hear more pieces by living American composers, including ones from Oregon, but until the day comes when audience turnout does not matter, I won’t criticize the orchestra’s decision to go slowly on contemporary works

    • Jack Gabel says:

      there is the Louisville story – https://www.louisvilleorchestra.org/congratulations-2/

      as a student, I literally studied the entire collection – best aural resource for quickly studying modern orchestral scores

      in its hay day, Louisville touted a premiere a week and recorded more new work than any orchestra worldwide – Louisville distinguished itself

      so, one new work per program, still leaves 60-80% of each program to classics – how does that challenge an audience?

      at my age, I’ve almost nothing more to add to this tired old polemic and there are so many unperformed scores on my shelf, there’s precious little impetus to add another

      • Papaki says:

        Very Interesting project, but that Louisville heyday you refer to is now 60 years in the past!

        As the description you link to explains: “In 1953, the orchestra received an unprecedented $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to commission 46 compositions a year for three years. … The international music world was astounded at both the recipient of the grant and the scope of the project.”

        The $400,000 grant that funded the project would be the equivalent of $3.5 million today. Does anyone doubt the Oregon Symphony would love to take on an effort like that … if only, you know, some really wealthy benefactor were willing to, you know, show up out of the blue and drop a cool $3.5 mil in their laps to pay for all that new music?

        See my comment below about how it’s always about the money. True then. True now.

        • Jack Gabel says:

          understood – and Louisville is in trouble now too live so many others – nevertheless, LSO distinguished itself

          OSO did get such a big boost about 12 years back when Mary Tooz (RIP) granted $100k to make an all Svoboda CD under DuPriest (RIP)

          as for foundation grants, would be interesting to see how many orchestras are writing proposals requesting support for programming and/or recording of living composers

  4. Dan Rasay says:

    Just an observation – I was pretty bummed the OSO had to replace Britten’s War Requiem for Beet’s 9th & ended up away my subscription tickets. Nobody listens to old Ludwig anymore… right?

    Strangely all three performances *sold out* and several hundred people paid $20 to see the dress rehearsal. WTF is up with that… a classical ensemble selling out the Schnitz for a old dead european dude show?

    All this programming dick-swinging is pretty entertaining to read & I actually agree with many the points above. However to prime the pump for Thursday:

    “a slap in the face to Oregon’s music culture, and thumbing of the nose toward living American classical music.”

    Huh – so that represents what percentage of Oregonians? Maybe a couple tenths of a percent?

    “the Oregon Symphony is the state’s flagship orchestra and receives a substantial public subsidy” RACC’s 2012-11 OSO operational support grant was less than 6% of total RACC funding. The Annual OSO Waterfront concert provides *free* access to 13,0000 people and shares the stage with PYP & OBT. That community impact is at least somewhat substantial…

    The OSO is a keystone species in an increasingly vibrant Portland “classical” music ecosystem. Fear No Music, 45th Parallel, Third Angle, Arnica SQ & Mousai Remix all draw from OSO musicians. Of course there are plenty of other groups in town but if the OSO were to fold I don’t think PDXer would pony up to support the arts.

  5. Papaki says:

    Very well-written piece (as any article referencing the Dear Parrot Sketch must, by definition, be). So, first of all, credit to ArtsWatch and Brett Campbell for taking on important topics when no one else in town is willing to.

    But is it even fair to criticize the Oregon Symphony’s programming on this front without taking into account the most important reason the orchestra programs the way it does: $$$. Repeat after me: It’s Always About The Money!

    LA Phil puts together the most thrilling concert season in the country year after year, I think. It also operates with an annual budget of $97 million, the largest in the country. San Francisco’s budget is $72 million, third highest in the country. Even Seattle’s is $24 million, though, if memory serves, the Seattle Symphony seems to run deficits of $1 million+ nearly every year.

    All those new commissions and concerts filled with music of living composers (who hold copyrights on their compositions) are much more expensive to produce than concerts filled with the delightful music of dead Europeans whose works happen to be in the public domain. AND they sell far fewer tickets. So the real meaningful comparison would be: Are any orchestras that are approximately the size of the Oregon Symphony (budget around $14 million) doing a better job of programming what you’d like to hear? I doubt it.

    By the way: I traveled to San Francisco last year to hear the symphony there do one of its much-lauded “American Mavericks” concerts, a program of that included a Mason Bates world premiere as well as new or newish music by John Adams, Edgar Varèse and Morton Feldman (with Manny Ax at the piano, no less). The hall was half empty, even after the orchestra cut ticket prices drastically. The Bates piece was more or less savaged by critics as being insignificant dreck. And I clearly remember walking out of there thinking the orchestra must really have some deep-pocketed donors paying for this whole affair, because the must have lost a mountain of cash on it.

  6. Papaki says:

    Oops, I meant DEAD Parrot Sketch, of course!

  7. bob priest says:

    grrreat article there, brett, and some mighty interesting comments from curtis & dan.

    yes, we will definitely get to this topic during the panel discussion segment of March Music Moderne’s “Ears Wide Open” this thursday @ Polish Hall.

    BYOBoxing gloves, droogies!

    ps
    there will also be FREE traditional Polish food, great wine from WillaKenzie Estate, eyeball bursting brew from Badbeard’s Coffee & Polish potato vodka.

    pps
    and, yes indeedy, there certainly will be “live” music & dance rendered with considerable panache by Diane Chaplin (Salonen), Charles Noble & Heather Blackburn (Lutoslawski) & the Agnieszka Laska Dancers (Stravinsky).

    ppps
    in other words, y’all WILL be there, prawda?

    :)))

    • Dan Rasay says:

      Boxing gloves? I have a feeling at this forum it will be a many vs. few/one… I’ll bring riot body armor.

      • Greg Ewer says:

        Don’t worry Dan. I’ll be bringing my backward-looking, trough-hogging self to the forum. I may be late though…I’ll be over as soon as I’m done rehearsing the new quartet commissions for Third Angle’s upcoming “New Ideas in Music” concert. (Just joking Brett and Bob. I love you guys:-) See ya’ll tomorrow.

  8. Panos says:

    Bob, I was planning to come to your festival, until I was made aware that Lutoslawski and Stravinski are dead white Europeans and Salonen is, well, just…European. Good thing you don’t get any “precious” Oregon tax money.
    I don’t see any Kyr or Svoboda either, I see a lot of Shostakovich (Dead, european, check) a bit of Hindemith (European, dead), a dash of Bach (decomposed long ago) etc.

    If the majority of programming for a festival geared towards “Moderne” music is comprised of Europeans (dead, recently dead, or not) why would a financially riskier enterprise such as the Symphony have a different mix, given the realities of funding and ticket sales history. Are we playing an identity politics game here?

    The question we should be asking is not whether the composers are alive or not but whether their music is.

    PS mmm potato vodka

    • bob priest says:

      maybe take a closer look @ the brochure – with or without potato vodka – and then check back in with us.

      there are about 70 living composers being aired during the fest.

      you’re right that there is no kyr or svoboda this year. however, there are works by 47 other oregon composers sprinkled throughout MMM.

      how dat, “panos?”

  9. Panos says:

    I stand by my last sentence “Bob” (yes, Panos is my actual name) about the music being alive or not.

    I looked at your brochure online, the “70 living composers” are drowned by the names of the 20 th century “usual suspects” (Bartok, Britten etc)

    I am glad March Moderne is happening, I always thought Portland in its quirkiness should strive to be a hot bed of new music instead of trying to emulate bigger capitals.

    The same old arguments about the “dead Europeans” are tiring at best however.

    Best of luck with March Moderne. I suspect we will all satisfy our preconceptions one way or another!

  10. Panos says:

    By the way, the onus is on you to convince me ( as it is for the Symphony) that the music you’re affecting is worth repeated hearings. I think it’s smart that you’re offering wine and spirits ( but so does the Symphony at intermission)

    • bob priest says:

      actually, it is up to YOU to make your own call as to whether or not the music of many different composers offered up during MMM is worth hearing more than once.

      one thing that is 100% certain is you will NEVER know if you don’t come on out & give our “tunes” a chance.

      as for wine & spirits, the OSO charges you – opening night chez MMM does not.

      so, come on out, say hi, pound a few shotz of vodka & let’s give some of the music of our time & place a sustained listen – together.

      Tora-Tora!!

      • Gotta agree with Bob on this one. Asking composers to argue if their work should bear repeat performances will yield an obvious answer.

        Truth is that the listener is the one who’ll eventually decide the fate of our music. But we won’t know that fate until we hear the work.

  11. Panos says:

    Offering, not affecting.

    • Jack Gabel says:

      to clarify – MMM is essentially a blanket PR project that covers all presenters and/or producers of contemporary art music who choose to join the ‘festival’

      Bob Priest only programs Ears Wide Open (03.07.13) and Free Marz (03.08.13) – all other events are programed by those individual and/or organizational producers and/or presenters

      Bob’s concept is inspiring in that it draws focus to the abundance of contemporary art music going on in PDX – those attracted to the MMM umbrella clearly value its vision

      anyway, if there’s an issue with including (for example) Freinds of Camber Music’s Shostakovich Complete Quartets, take it up with them – any doubt it’s an impressive offering

      • bob priest says:

        thanx for your clarifying comments, jack.

        actually, quite a few of the programs were put together @ my invitation. in a few of those cases, we batted some specific repertoire ideas back & forth, as well. there is a superb collaborative spirit building up within the extended MMM-orbit.

        as for friends of chamber music’s scarily bitchen 4 evening run of DSCH’s complete 15 sqs, they asked me last year if i’d be willing to include this superb event as part of MMM. it took me less than a nanosecond to say, hell yes!

  12. Jeff Winslow says:

    Just speaking for myself, I’m a lot more disturbed by the lack of American composers on next year’s program than I am by the state of their metabolism. A composer friend observed recently that many fine 20th century works by dead composers, especially from the latter half of the century, are so unfamiliar they may as well have been written yesterday. Which is another whole contentious story but we have to deal with what we’re given, one way or another.

  13. Jarnold says:

    I’m a little late to this, but this is for Brett. Have you ever interviewed Carlos about programming?

Comments are closed.