How the ‘Big Five’ American Orchestras Crawled onto the World Wide Web

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The early nineties were a magical time to be online. You could never predict what you’d come across: dancing text, indecipherable fonts, busted links, page elements all the colors of the rainbow, and grainy photos loading pixel by painstaking pixel. That is, if you were able to get there at all. After the agonizing desktop start-up ritual — a procession of clicks and whirs, the labored whining of vent fans and spinning disk drives, mysterious bloops and beeps — you’d mash the internet icon with too many clicks, await the inimitable sound of a dial-up modem as it called down the line, and then, no small miracle, you’d be online.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 as a way to formalize gathering places, websites, on the internet. But what began as a charming haven for coders and explorers morphed into a commercial feeding frenzy for brands and hucksters. The web was particularly well-suited for classical music fans, but like other pursuits it worked even better for marketing and sales. While diehard collectors traded bits of classical ephemera on message boards, every big classical music outfit jumped online to flog tickets, subscriptions, and CDs.

Below you’ll see the first forays onto the web for the so-called “Big Five” US orchestras: the first websites for the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. These are maybe not the very first images of their sites — the majority come from 1996 onward, and certainly none exist from the web’s inception in 1989. However, they are the oldest remaining snapshots available on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. They are artifacts that remind us, at least from the commercial side, how this all began.

Let’s roll the tape. Continue reading “How the ‘Big Five’ American Orchestras Crawled onto the World Wide Web”

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CDA’s best classical albums of 2017 (so far)

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Welcome to the halfway point of the year.

Typically critics and fans announce their favorite albums at the end of each year. It’s a fine tradition, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a head start? By looking at the best classical albums released thus far we can preempt some of our December binge-listening. Continue reading “CDA’s best classical albums of 2017 (so far)”

Out in orbit

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The newest installment in our ongoing playlist series is here, and it’s called Out in Orbit. It’s chockablock with good-ass releases mostly from this year or last. It features throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Schoenberg, Bartók, Caroline Shaw, Brian Eno, and many more.

Here are not one but two previous installments in the series in case you want more. We all want more.

Chasing Paganini through Genova

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Classical Dark Arts recently embarked on a junket that swung through Genova, Italy in pursuit of rare and singular sites. The following photos show our particularly impressive finds.

Cristoforo Colombo was born in Genova. For a time the city-state counted among its inhabitants some of the world’s wealthiest merchants. These days tourists dodge scooters and amble down labyrinthine pathways to peek inside the mansions that remain as monuments to bygone glory days. These palazzi double as museums for art and curious artifacts left behind.

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We went searching for a gilded set of artifacts housed at the Palazzo Doria Tursi: the personal effects of violinist, sorcerer and Genova native son Niccolò Paganini. Somehow the museum has managed to corral two unbelievable treasures among their collection, Paganini’s Guarneri del Gesù Cannon violin from 1743, and the 1834 copy of the Cannon by Jean-Baptiste Vuillame, called the Sivori. Continue reading “Chasing Paganini through Genova”

Performance VR is a VeRy good practice idea

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We all want to be the musician who’s cooler than a pack of menthols in all performance scenarios. Exposed orchestral solo? Easy. Recital? They play one every week, more if possible. Big concerto with a major orchestra? Why not. No matter what the details, everything comes out Newport smooth.

But public performance makes the rest of us mere mortals a little anxious. Continue reading “Performance VR is a VeRy good practice idea”

Hilary Hahn on the unbreakable teacher-student bond

I highly recommend reading violinist Hilary Hahn’s Slate piece about her two favorite music teachers — Klara Berkovich & Jascha Brodsky.

When Mr. Brodsky fell ill at 89, I visited him at a care center. Two nurses brought him to a large room, and he sat at a conference table. I assumed we were only there to chat, but I had my violin with me just in case. Sure enough, one of his first questions was, “Sweetheart, what did you bring to play for me today?” I reminded him of the repertoire I was working on, and he proceeded to give me a two-hour lesson. He leaned forward in his chair, singing examples, shaping my phrasing with interpretive gestures, and interrupting me to offer suggestions and corrections. For Mr. Brodsky, teaching was an unstoppable impulse.

Continue reading “Hilary Hahn on the unbreakable teacher-student bond”