Monday, December 7, 2015

A Paper Kite Might Best Reach You

This past July an up-and-coming early music ensemble, Paper Kite, soared through Italy in its first ever concert tour. The ensemble - a quintet of soprano, two violins, cello, and harpsichord specializing in the 17th and 18th century cantata repertoire - takes its name from a letter written by Dr. Samuel Johnson to Georg Friedrich Händel.
Paper Kite

After taking off only two years ago, Paper Kite has been tethered to success ever since. Finalists in both the Heinrich Schmelzer (Melk, Austria) and the Premio Selìfa (San Ginesino, Italy) competitions, the ensemble won 1st place at the Biagio Marini competition in Neuberg an der Donau (Germany). Further, they were an IYAP “Selected Promising Ensemble 2014” and performed in the Festival Oudemuziek Utrecht Fringe last year. As the group prepared for their first concert tour, I managed to sit down with them to discuss their successes and challenges.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Meditation on the Yoga Scandal

I've been out of the North American university system for three-and-a-half years now yet news of the shenanigans within student politics seems to follow me wherever I go. This week it was an article on the Student's Federation of the University of Ottawa's decision to cancel free yoga classes after a complaint from the Center for Students with Disabilities was brought forward over comments that "there [were] cultural issues of implication involved in the practice." Since the news broke a few days ago, coverage of the debacle - as well as numerous opinions on cultural appropriation - has gone global, with articles in the Telegraph, the Guardian, as well as the Wall Street Journal.

As a musician who focuses on European art music from the 17th and 18th centuries I find, rather surprisingly, that the dissemination of my work shares a similar dilemma which faces those debating the merits of the free yoga classes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A List Like This

Last month the CBC published the "30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2015 edition", a post which makes me shiver.

Though I have no doubt that the performers mentioned in the click-through gallery are dedicated servants of their art, CBC Music's investment in celebritization ultimately does the art more harm than good.

The 'industry' in North America, as it were, is in a truly pitiful state (take a look at Norman Lebrecht's When The Music Stops, an outing of the business of classical music, finds its conclusion at the turn of the 21st century where the trend of corporate mergers and the swallowing up leftover independent firms was just beginning): a small handful of multi-national corporations manage the bulk of touring artists, conductors, and ensembles, as well as own and operate seemingly independent media. Private interests control the incredible salaries paid to stars by publicly-funded institutions and the argument which, surprisingly, has held this system in place has been the necessity of celebrity to secure institutional longevity. 

In fact, if a performing artist is not directly or indirectly (through an ensemble) in contact with this celebrity system, they can very easily find themselves in a second tier: falling victim to labeling (referred to as 'local', or similar terminology), or making their income from other, non-performance based sources. It's the reality of the system in place, but should a national broadcaster be paying homage to it? (This isn't the first time I've tackled CBC Music's online coverage, and, as you can tell, my overall position hasn't changed.)

The media coverage at present surrounding a typical performance is almost entirely PR-driven. Newspapers 'sponsor' arts organizations, meaning that they guarantee coverage of that organization's activities (usually with an interview or promo piece) and, due to the thinning out of newspaper arts sections across Canada, it is getting harder and harder to get any coverage of non-institutionalized music-making at all.

So what's the alternative? Nurturing a culture of participation, encouraging the idea that live performance is categorically different from, and cannot be substituted by recorded media; cultivating the notion that the reward a live performance can grant you is worth taking the risk of attending. The most difficult pill to swallow for institutions in this scenario is the requirement to attack dwindling attendance culturally, not simply on a case by case basis (as is the norm). Performance art organizations would have to join together in encouraging a wholesale reinvestment in the culture of attendance - even if that means encouraging patrons to go elsewhere in the case of a conflict.

In order for any meaningful change to be made leadership from among the establishment is needed. It's about time, CBC, will you step up?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Just a Few More Days

This coming Saturday marks the return to my regular Basel-based activities: I will referee two rugby games this weekend, and will begin taking lessons again at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis on Monday. Looking back at my summer activities, it seems I've had quite the experience.
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