Monday, 13 February 2017

Doing new things

I've featured right now on the website. 21CM — shorthand for 21st Century Musician — is what the DePauw School of Music calls its revolutionary curriculum (and revamped school ambience), aimed at preparing classical musicians for the future.

The website is, in effect, a monthly magazine, with future-aimed content. Very much worth reading, no matter what month. I'm in it now for two reasons.

My talk

First, they're featuring the talk I gave in September at DePauw's 21CMposium, the most inspiring conference I've ever been at, all about how classical musicians — and conservatories — can aim at a terrific future. My talk was the keynote, and you can watch it here. You'll find excerpts below. Of course my subject was the future.

And I had great fun with it because every talk at the conference was labelled a Talk21, and had to be 21 minutes long. Which was much more than a gimmick for branding. Kept everyone short and focused, since the limit was strictly enforced.

I thought I'd handle it by dividing my talk into 21 one-minute sections, and then practice making them truly just a minute long. That focused my thoughts wonderfully, or so it seemed to me, and I never had so much fun speaking in public.

Standard rep, meet the future

But I'm also featured because they asked me to curate a section they call POP Picks. In which someone each month picks people, groups, or projects that are changing classical music.

This month it's me. Thanks for that, friends at DePauw! I thought I'd choose musicians who bring the standard classical repertoire into the future, and my choices were:

Anderson and Roe, the piano duo

"Bach in the Bathroom," Mike Block's ongoing video series, in which — with his cello strapped to his chest, so he can move and dance — he plays the Bach suites in the men's rooms of leading concert halls. Don't be put off by the thought of men's rooms! Instead think "fabulous resonance," and, just maybe, "the low made high: classical music stripped of its pomp."

Dan Tepfer, who plays the Goldberg Variations and with improvisations on each one

Pekka Kuusisto, a Finnish violinist I've blogged about twice (here and here)

Cameron Carpenter, the revolutionary organist

The links take you to what I said about all this, on the 21CM site.

Thoughts from my talk

The 21CM editors put some excerpts from my talk on the page introducing it. Transcribed from my speaking. Very helpful to me, since I have only an outline, just a text.

At some point most likely I'll massage the outline to make it readable, but right now — and probably more substantial than any transcription I'll make — here's some of what I said. My theme, no surprise, was how classical music should join the wider world.

On what the music world can learn from the art world …

What's sweeping the [visual] art world is contemporary art. That's what draws people to museums – contemporary art shows. Contemporary art is what collectors are overwhelmingly buying, and it's what students who are future museum curators are overwhelmingly studying. … When the Museum of Modern Art did its first retrospective of a seminal musical artist, no surprise it was Björk who reached past music into the larger cultural world. Some day, couldn't somebody from classical music do that? When a major musical artist died and the New York Times did more than 20 stories tracing his influence on our culture and on people's lives, well, of course it was David Bowie. Couldn't it someday be someone from classical music?

On why a business model might be the best way forward …

I want [classical music's] measure of success to be ticket sales. I want us out in the commercial arena telling people in a powerful way that we have something they'd love to hear. … I don't think anything would shout success so much as concert halls filled with eager new audiences. That would show that we matter; no one could argue with it. And if we don't believe it could happen as we know it happened in the past, aren't we saying that we believe classical music really can never matter again?

… [To contrast, with] outreach there might sometimes be something a little like arrogance, some sense that we have something superior that we're going to bring to "you people" out there. To me, a market approach is cleaner, more honest, far more confident and far more likely to succeed.

On why entrepreneurship should emphasize freedom to invent …

I thought about how we teach [entrepreneurship], which I get from Jeffrey Nytch, who [runs] the Entrepreneurship Center for Music at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Jeff said, "Entrepreneurship does not simply mean learning business skills. … Not that we shouldn't teach those skills, but entrepreneurship is most crucially about doing things that have never been done before." So that should be our guiding star. We have to encourage it, inspire students with examples of it, showing them how people did unprecedented things in music and in other fields.

… We have to be free. Free, all of us – students included – to follow our hearts and go where our best instincts take us. … If we open the doors, that's how we'll liberate classical music and bring it back to the place in our culture it so much again ought to have.

I had fun with this. And I like what I said.

I've featured two other Talk21s on my blog:

David Wallace, chair of the string department at the Berklee College of Music, talking about a joyful new way to educate professional musicians

Sarah Robinson, codirector of Classical Revolution LA, talking about how she gave herself permission to have the music career she most wanted to have

Original Content: Doing new things

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