Locked up: Atlanta

Nothing to see here ….. (Credit Wikimedia Commons)

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is embroiled in a player-management dispute that could doom their upcoming season. At issue: player benefits, salaries, and retirement plans. Management wants to be realistic about costs, players want to be able to make a living, blah blah blah. Here’s the NPR account:

Alas, it is déjà vu all over again for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. (…) ASO musicians and management failed to meet the deadline to agree on a new contract after eight months of negotiations. That means the players, while still employees of the orchestra, are effectively locked out of the Woodruff Arts Center (the orchestra’s home) and will not receive paychecks until a new agreement can be ratified. ASO musicians demonstrated outside the hall Tuesday. A similar labor dispute silenced the orchestra exactly two years ago.

It’s a sad day when strikes & lockouts are a normal part of business for arts outfits. When did things get so bad?

On the one hand, we’re used to strikes in various businesses. There was a shortened 2011-12 NBA season. The NFL had its replacement refs last year (seems like a quaint scandal now, huh?). Here in Boston, Market Basket employees rebelled against ownership for a long summer. When there’s millions of dollars at stake, there’s tension over the commas on those outgoing checks.

On the other hand, what the hell kind of world are we living in when every season is a negotiation, when a major orchestra doesn’t know season to season if it’ll be doing the full year, part of the year, or none at all. These are people’s jobs! People bought tickets! The public wants music!

Startup arts groups harbor naked jealousies over the massive endowments and donor lists of major orchestras. So how the hell are we supposed to be jealous if orchestras start imploding? God damn it, Atlanta Symphony, make us green with envy! Solve this and get back to being smug & superior. We all need it.

And in case you wonder what value orchestras bring to their towns, allow the Atlanta Symphony illustrate:

1. Spano
2. sez
3. ATL
4. rise
5. up

Alone time, genius time

Credit Wikimedia Commons

I’m a huge advocate of quiet, solitary downtime. Huge. I loved this Brain Pickings piece about being alone, and in particular this note about the intensely private Greta Garbo.

Garbo introduced a subtlety of expression to the art of silent acting [whose] effect on audiences cannot be exaggerated… In retirement she adopted a lifestyle of both simplicity and leisure, sometimes just ‘drifting’ … She did not marry but did have serious love affairs with both men and women. She collected art. She walked, alone and with companions, especially in New York. She was a skillful paparazzi-avoider. [S]he chose to retire, and for the rest of her life consistently declined opportunities to make further films. [I]t is reasonable to suppose that she was content with that choice.

To what extent do our still moments — that might seem boring or inscrutable to outsiders — produce the stroke of genius essential for making art? How does solitude help us pay attention to the irrepressible slot-machine of ideas we ignore in our work-a-day world?

Musicians spend a lot of time getting their asses kicked in rehearsal. They spend a lot of time dealing with regular old life, too. But musicians have to spend a lot of damn time on their own: the practice room is the padded cell where they face down their demons. Battle them, tame them. It’s lonely. Those goddamn rooms! No phones, no conversation, just phrases and lines, scales and arpeggios.

But then, there’s a spark.



For a classical musician practice is penance. You learn how to love it. Not love in the lusty, obsessive sense. This is an arranged marriage. You survive it, you control it, and you use it to your advantage.

The problem is, this is a Control-T world, and our distractions are an infinitely-recurring loop.

Credit Google Chrome browser

Sitting in a roomful of people all working on one thing — loud & frenzied — is a powerful tonic, and it may just lead you to that elusive breakthrough. A little head-to-head competition can get your ire up, piss you off enough to bring out your best work.

But something far quieter (and harder) might do the trick too, and quicker. This is the thought uninterrupted: a cluster of still moments opens the mind up, ideas aerate and marinate. Silent, methodical repetition sharpens ideas into knife-edge chops.

Don’t you know that Bad Boys move in silence and violence? –Biggie Smalls

Creation of the universe may have happened in six or seven days — or however that went down — but here on terra firma it takes an Olympic effort just to put down a phone and start something. For some it just ain’t natural. But eventually, ideally, everything falls away, and action begins.

For you? The first one’s free.

Two for fives! Guys got garbage down the way. https://www.flickr.com/photos/steev/

A non-classical friend recently asked me to put together a playlist of classical hits, as a sort of easy on-ramp into the music. First, that’s a cool thing to be able to do for somebody. But it got me thinking — how do you get people to the point where they might be interested in sampling some of the product?

The short answer is basically you don’t, at least not without some strategizing. So, here are a few thoughts on getting would-be fans interested in classical music. (Patent pending.) Continue reading

CDA Fall ’14 Oboe Player’s Lookbook


Everyone knows the oboe plays that very first tuning note at orchestra shows. But oboists aren’t just glorified tuning forks. They get big lines in famous symphonies. They’re the secret weapon of chamber music.

And — most important of all — they set the fashion standard for the orchestra.

A well-guarded fact is that oboists shoot to thrill and dress to kill, and the rest of the orchestra spends its time trying to figure out those bold sartorial moves.

Here for the first time we’re blowing the lid off oboe fashion. I present to you the Classical Dark Arts Fall ’14 Oboe Player’s Lookbook. The concepts you see here will be the standard by which tomorrow’s streetwear is judged.

Will Roseliep

Windbreakers might become the number one, must-have accessory for any self-respecting performer.


Fetuses are trending nicely this year, just in time for Fall.


They say a smile is the best accessory. Know that a creepy smile will never go out of fashion.


Creep-smile variations. If you can dream it, be it.


Bow tie, suspenders, beaded bracelets. Stylish, practical.


Putting faux-oboes (fauxboes) on the wall instead of playing them is how oboists are staying ahead of the fashion curve. Not playing is the new playing.


So much to unpack here: brown & gold Santa tie; wire-rim glasses accenting beguiling, three-quarter-closed eyes; blousy white shirt sans undershirt. I don’t want to say oboists are in a class by themselves, but this clarinetist doesn’t stand a chance next to his oboe companion here.


Dressing well in Second Life is as important as it is in your First Life. Note this virtual oboist’s ensemble — all black, white accents up top, jacket cut to the belly button (and hands completely detached from the instrument?). Swag on top of swag.


Come September, conjoined twins will be trending hard.


Ski masks and flannels are for the musician ready to play a show, knock off a 7-11, or do both in the same night. Note ski mask on top of glasses.


It’s been a heavy summer on the Brooklyn facial hair scene. In light of this, Burkhard Glaetzner came up with the big save for Fall: bushy, well-manicured facial topiary is just what the conductor ordered.


Strut your stuff in these eyeglass hangy-down thingies and be the envy of your plain-glassed friends.


Tagging up your block shows your art-sense extends way beyond clothes. Don’t even come around here with your Comic Sans nonsense.


T-shirts with your shitty Photoshop design and whipped up on Café Press are the perfect component for a DGAF night out with the bros.


This young buck has the intersection of style & comfort cornered: white breathable polo, kickaround jeans and pillowy lace-ups. Watch bills fly out bystanders’ pockets.


Subtle but powerful: using prolonged sun exposure you can achieve that “wearing a shirt, yet not wearing one” look that so few non-oboists can pull off. Difficulty level: high.


Being locked up with tons of time to practice oboe after being found guilty of a giant Ponzi scheme could be Fall’s most underrated look. Combine with years-old, vertical stripe shirt for maximum impact.


Don’t be mad, Classical Dark Arts, but I’m cheating on you


I wrote a piece over on the uber-trendy Medium platform, and it didn’t mean anything! It won’t happen ever again! I just wanted to feel alive.

Anyway, have a read and let me know what you think. Medium gives writers flexibility with images — i.e., the “snowfall effect,” bigger images, etc. — so this was a little trial run.

Don’t worry, I still care about what we have.  I just … need a little variety once in a while.

Most holy classical link rodeo

Your weekly classical Benedict-ion. What? What?? Yes, we went there.

When a show grabs you by the throat and won’t let go, and you … kinda like it

Remember the last time you felt pleasantly choked after going to a classical show? Pic: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kamakyri/
Remember the last time you enjoyed a little choking at the hands of an orchestra or performer? Pic: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kamakyri/

THIS is the way to write show reviews.

Garrett Harris is a guy who writes for the San Diego Reader. Classical criticism isn’t exactly kush employment, so it’s rare to read reviews from writers with an actual pulse. To wit:

I caught the ["Mostly Mozart"] concert at the Balboa Theater on June 18 and it was — how shall I say this? Badass. (…)

What do I mean by badass?

If there were ever a West-Side-Story-esque-a-la-Anchorman-news-fight orchestra death match, this group would cut you and maybe choke you out, in a very musical and artistic way. You might even thank them afterwards.

I’m in, I’m all in. Standard classical reviews are straight-up depressing. I won’t name names but you know the type: faux-writerly J.O. material, intended for the Vineyard-Vines-and-brie set, written by dullards for dullards.

Who's the intended classical audience? Pic: http://instagram.com/vineyardvines
Who’s the intended audience here? Pic: http://instagram.com/vineyardvines

When’s the last time a critic’s review made you want to GO SEE the show? (That the critic undoubtedly got free tickets to, but I digress.) Was there a time when you depended on a critic’s good word to steer you to criminally-unnoticed shows or recordings? Has that time passed?

The market’s never dry for tastemakers, especially ones with great goddamn taste. Like, if I’m in a bind and I need to show up somewhere looking flawless, I’m not going to TJ Maxx (no disrespect to my Maxxinistas) for that new-new. I am liable to page through Hypebeast for some original (and much-copied by now, but let’s stay focused) look, and thereafter track down those pieces.

Classical critics are tastemakers. It’s not about writing that load-blowing 5,000 words to prove you know what’s going on. First of all, no one asked for your history lesson. Second, you’re there to make a sale: your audience wants exceptional music, and they’re willing to shell for sweet shows, good albums, the whole works. If the best you can muster in a labyrinthine 15 paragraphs is damning-by-faint-praise, you picked the wrong line of work. Time to cash out & move on.

Classical music is strictly for lovers. Respect it, treat it good.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.