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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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.

Should I be watching ‘Mozart in the Jungle?’

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A while back a CDA reader recommended I read Blair Tindall’s book Mozart in the Jungle for a look at the seedier side of classical music. I never got around to it, unfortunately. The book was turned into an Amazon TV series, nabbed Bernadette Peters & Gael García Bernal to star, and turned into a hit for Amazon TV.

But wait — the show’s won a couple Golden Globes, and classical stars like Lang Lang & Gustavo Dudamel have made MitJ cameos? Okay, I’m paying attention. Should I be watching this? Continue reading “Should I be watching ‘Mozart in the Jungle?’”

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”