Monday notes: Statistics, cello projects, Normas, etc.

The Portland Cello Project/Photo: Jason Quigley

As you may have gathered from the post on Elaine Calder and her resignation from the  symphony yesterday, I was absent without leave for the last part of the week, having made my way to Manzanita for a reunion with some old pals from my days at the Seattle Sun, an alternative weekly from the days when we called them “underground” papers. The weather was practically tropical (well, if tropical can possibly mean a high of 64 F.), the company was grand and thanks to Karla’s delightful smoked fish treats from her shop at the north end of Rockaway, all seemed well and auspicious.

But that’s all just to say that I wasn’t fully operational this weekend. One of the concerts I know I would have seen if I could have was the Conduit dance benefit on Saturday night. Fortunately, our Bob Hicks was there and will report about it all tomorrow. Later today look for Brett Campbell’s story on Calder’s resignation, from the musicians’ perspective. James McQuillen has an interview slated with Calder soon, so we’ll get Calder’s resignation from HER point of view. Have you ever noticed how many points of view there are?

How many points of view are enough? Well, if I can work myself up into a fine mathematical lather, I’m intending to take Introduction to Statistics: Making Decisions Based on Data from Udacity, one of five science-oriented classes on offer. If I ever thought that art and science were entirely separate fields of inquiry, the Betty Feves retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Craft showed otherwise: It featured the careful rows of data that Feves compiled for figuring out the proper firing temperatures for her ceramic work. Data is our friend!

Honestly, I wasn’t in radio silence this weekend, so it was just by oversight that I missed the Portland Cello Project’s appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Fortunately, you can link and listen yourself, which I just did, and found how much I liked the PCP version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” Garrison Keillor on Eugene: “It’s a town that gives you a lot of latitude.”

Although I was at the beach, I wasn’t in Astoria and so missed the opening weekend of the Astoria Music Festival, and Angela Meade’s performance as Norma. ArtsWatch had already previewed it for you, of course. We posted an interview with conductor Keith Clarke on Bellini’s Norma, and Angela Allen profiled the great Meade for us. And thanks to the Daily Astorian’s Patrick Webb, we can read a review of the opera itself, and it sounded fabulous. (This is called the vicarious point of view…)

We aren’t the first people to the “future of classical music” party. (I’m using “party” here very broadly…) Oh, no. Greg Sandow was an early arrival, meaning he’s tasted the punch, hit the snacks table and picked the dance music already. Fortunately for our purposes, he’s also started a new series of posts on his blog about that very topic, and here’s the first one. Things start to heat up in number two:

“But still the habits of the old ecosystem persist. We still insist that classical music has transcendent value. In fact, we insist on that more than we ever did. Many of us cry out in dismay when someone suggests that the classical audience could be more lively, as if listening in absolute, immobile silence (something unknown in Mozart’s and Beethoven’s time) were not just a custom, but a God-decreed mandate.”

And by part three, the most recent, he’s really rolling:

But at the same time, we’ve in many ways gotten rigid. (Understand that I’m painting a broad picture here, and that everything I say has nuances I’ll for the moment leave out.) What Joseph Horowitz calls the “sacralization” of classical music began generations ago, but it picked up steam after World War II, and especially in recent decades. I can put what happened very simply: the more classical music lost public support, the more some people in the field insisted that what we do is special, beyond everyday understanding, and in fact beyond the understanding of the people we’re trying to reach (if we want to find a new audience).

We’ll be getting back to Sandow and his thoughts later, I’m sure.

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