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:
Remember the last time you enjoyed a little choking at the hands of an orchestra or performer? Pic:

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:
Who’s the intended audience here? Pic:

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.

Grab a scotch, step into the listening room
  • In honor of the Word Cup here’s Enrico Chapela’s piece, Íngesu, a join commemorating a 1999 soccer match between Mexico & Brasil.
  • James MacMillan’s Hodie puer nascitur motet is a trippy, gorgeous little meditation.
  • Try as I may I can’t get this Disclosure remix of Pharrell & Jay Z out of my head. (Obviously not classical.)
  • Here’s my nominee for best string sample in a song opener this week.
  • Described on r/classicalmusic as “absolutely jaw-dropping,” I present you Ravel’s Introductions & Allegro for Harp, String Quartet, Clarinet & Flute. Ravel doing Ravellian things throughout. This is a new one on me.
  • I came across a piano player working those arpeggios in NYC’s Washington Square a couple weeks ago.
  • Listen as Kestrel Wright goes Flexall 454 (no Joe Namath) on some Paganini for horn.
  • Lily Press put her entire master’s recital up on Bandcamp for your listening pleasure, and I assure you it is a pleasure. That Scarlatti!

Norman Lebrecht — a Classical Dark Arts Q&A

Photo courtesy of the young god Mikel Toms,
Photo courtesy Mikel Toms,

Norman Lebrecht needs no introduction, but for the sake of newcomers we offer a short one here.

Lebrecht is the proprietor of Slipped Disc, which is the news source for the classical music community. If you want to shorthand it, you say Lebrecht is the classical newswire.

In addition to his daily beat, Lebrecht has penned titles like Maestro Myth: Great Conductors in Pursuit of Power and Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics — not exactly light takes on the classical ecosystem. Lebrecht has also authored a couple books of fiction, including The Song of Names and The Game of Opposites.

Norman Lebrecht went back-and-forth on email with us about his classical criticism, his pitch to classical newbies, and what music gets him up in the morning.

For more on Lebrecht, including what he’s up to at this very minute, head to Slipped Disc and follow him on Twitter.


You recently moved your operation from, where you’d been writing since 2007, to a standalone website, What prompted the change?

I was getting 1.25 million monthly readers on AJ/Slipped Disc, half of them under the age of 35. It would have been irresponsible not to offer to connect this readership to products and performances they might want to know about. Recognising that print media had failed the classical music sector, I was keen to try a different form of connectivity.

How do you manage to write about — and break — so many stories that cross your desk every day?

Most are sent to me by people who know the size of our readership and who want to be part of our community. Not have to hunt for stories makes life a lot easier. I spend about 90 minutes in the morning writing for and another hour at night. In between, I write books and do a lot of radio.

How did you cultivate sources for Slipped Disc — an ironclad promise of anonymity? When did it seem like more people were coming to you with scoops, instead of having to sniff them out?

(…) I’m fairly well known after writing 12 books about music and making a lot of programmes.

Do you feel guilty taking days away from it? Does it bug you if you miss some big breaking story — a conductor retiring, a new hire with a major orchestra, etc?

No. We seldom miss a story.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 7.32.52 PM

When there was an outbreak of turmoil in Ukraine in the spring you covered it from the vantage point of the Kiev Conservatory — which was on the front lines of the uprising. You also covered various anonymous (and then later, unmasked) pianists playing amidst violence in Kiev. Both were unique angles that the BBCs and CNNs of the world weren’t covering. How important is it that Slipped Disc carry this kind of content? What reporting did you have to do that differed from the daily churn on the site?

Absolutely essential. We had three correspondents in Ukraine sending us material, and just as many in Russia. All we had to do was select and apply good editorial judgement.

For those who don’t know, are you a practicing musician? Have you always viewed yourself as writer first, musician second? Judging by the list of books you’ve written, I’m guessing you’ll say writer first.

Writer first and last. I’m a very poor musician, never got both hands to [w]ork well together.

I’ve heard you interview the likes of Gustavo Dudamel, Andris Nelsons and Riccardo Muti. How do you acquire such a laid-back, matter-of-fact delivery when talking with some of the “royalty” of classical music?

Mostly, they’ve known me a while, and trust me. They all read Slippedisc.

I need to hear something loud & fast at the start of the day, to get the blood flowing — what is the first thing you listen to when you get up in the morning?

Whatever’s top of the review pile on my desk.

Was there a time — maybe in the early ’80s — when Norman Lebrecht was listening to punk music, or some of the early rap pioneers? Or has it always been classical?

I’ve always listened to everything — especially world music and microtones. Never much bothered with rap, but my children feed me segments from what they consider to be the high end of popular culture and I love to be amazed.


Right now as I type this Lindsey Stirling has the #1 classical album on the Billboard charts (Shatter Me). Are you a fan? What is it Stirling is doing right that classical players — some of whom may not be thrilled about the mainstream pop angle she’s taken — should emulate?

Shrewd business sense, simple message: what you see is what you get. She’s not overwhelmed [w]ith prizes and reviews and all the other paraphernalia that classical musicians use to market themselves. She’s just herself.

If you, Norman Lebrecht, were starting an orchestra in 2014, what would it look like? How many members, how many shows per year, what kind of programming?

I wouldn’t start one. I might try to save one.

Do you envy musicians starting up today? And, do you think it’s harder than it was in, say ……. 1950?

Harder than at any time since Bach and Handel were alive. But with infinitely more opportunities to be yourself.

Do you have a 30-second pitch to lure people into the classical fold?

No. Nothing that is done in 30 seconds is worth much. It takes time.

Along those lines, can you make the case why someone should buy yet another rendition of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony when she could just as easily pick up the new Jack White album or some Iggy Azalea and hear completely new music?

Come to one of my Mahler talks and I think I know what you’ll buy. But the talk [w]ill take an hour of your life and the symphony more.

If you had to write about one place in the world with the biggest potential in terms of future classical music developments, where would that be?

No question: China. I go there every other year. The enthusiasm is genuine and the potential limitless.


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