• Anna Sutyagina, Germany

    Artistic Director Moving Classics TV, Pianist

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„Uncertainty was yesterday, today is chaos”...Does the increasing complexity in life have an influence on the way the composers of today write music? When I am playing the music of contemporary composers, I ask myself – does this music express the feeling of modernity? When yes, what is it? Can it be captured in words?

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„Uncertainty was yesterday, today is chaos”. This was the title of an article that I read last week in the Harvard Business Review. The author speculated that today we had such a great variety of influence factors for making decisions. These factors have unpredictable correlations that make it almost impossible to come to a clear conclusion. Our lives are influenced by giant forces such as mobility, globalisation, non-conformism, cultural and social diversity. No wonder we feel that the complexity is increasing.

Does the increasing complexity in life have an influence on the way the composers of today write music? When I am playing the music of contemporary composers, I ask myself – does this music express the feeling of modernity? When yes, what is it? Can it be captured in words? The search for the feeling of modernity is not new. Let me share with you the thoughts of Charles Baudelaire who was a great poet, an art philosopher and a deep thinker. He believes that any artist is a “spiritual citizen of the universe“ by his or her very nature as a super sensory sensitive person who is very inquisitive and who has an immense yearning for knowledge and understanding. Baudelaire had an interesting thought that the way of artist’s reacting to the world would eventually lead to some cultural progression – in other words, an artist is forever in search of modernity.

There is one more thought by Charles Baudelaire that fascinated me. He says that the hardest part of being “contemporary” artist is to love the present times, embrace them, and not search in the past. He wanted the artists to live in present and enjoy it. To discover the beauty of today and listen to the present. To hear “today” and understand it! That is how artistic motto of Moving Classics TV “Discover the beauty of contemporary piano” and “Listen to our life” was born.
What is contemporary piano? Just by listening quickly to our “Fantasy notes” playlists, your impression will be a mixture of every conceivable genre: from the distant Bach polyphony and Lisztian harmonies to the jazz rhythms, ethno sounds, ambient, minimalism, lounge, pop, to name just a few. It is hard for purists to find a certain sustainable line. But the compositions are just like our life: multi-stylistic, extreme diverse, non-conform, flexible, still fresh, and childishly pure. There is a reason for it too: composers are able to draw their inspiration from a practically limitless array of sources, from Palestrina singing to Lady Gaga viral songs. The absence of limitations nourish the composer’s soul and bring more creative ideas. It is more a question of making a well-thought choice and being loyal to one own beliefs.

The contemporary composers have a much more complex society to deal with. They are trying to meet the taste of a society that is influenced by breaking news and the thoughts of flexibility, comfort and entertainment. Our society is also highly performance-oriented. Internet made music available to everybody at no cost and if people are in search of inspiration or just want to relax or get entertained, they will be listening to music. To be the source of inspiration for the society, contemporary composers compete with the genius of the past. It is often the case that if our society wants to get more “culture”, they go to the concert featuring the 19th century music. Just look at the program of any concert hall in the world. Or just type in Beethoven & Chopin in Google line or YouTube and listen online. It still works. The genius of the past still inspire us.

In a world that seems to be more and more unpredictable and sometimes chaotic, there is a wish to reduce the complexity of life. No wonder new age, ambient or just relaxation music grew in popularity or just any background-oriented music to support our multi-tasking activities. I think an important role of the contemporary music today is to reach new upcoming milieus in the society. A new type of listener needs a new kind of music. A new listener does not want to invest much time in trying to accommodate his or her ear to the music. They are inpatient, they want to be either immediately carried away or they just leave, they want music that allow them to lean back and let the mind wander. Having said that, I would like to conclude with the words of Charles Baudelaire: “Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one-half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable.”

Country:Germany

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I was always fascinated about the mystery of inspiration. What is behind this phenomenon? Is there a trigger for inspiration?

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Heureka! Heureka! These were the words of Archimedes after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose, whereupon he suddenly understood that the volume of displaced water must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. He is said to have been so eager to share his inspiration that he leapt out of his bathtub and ran through the streets of Syracuse naked.

I was always fascinated about the mystery of inspiration. What is behind this phenomenon? Is there a trigger for inspiration?

Perhaps it helps to find an answer if we have a closer look at what composers are saying about their inspiration. Composers face the challenge of transferring emotions into music and putting on paper their original ideas. During my “Fantasy Notes” interviews, I always ask composers about their creative process and how they find their inspiration.
Inspiration is a state of the increased energy that comes out of sudden and leads to some ideas or actions. Some people call it a spontaneous burst of creativity. It is a kind of mind stimulation that is colored by our emotions. Far from being a magic quality, inspiration has even a clear structure. Any stimulation starts with our five senses and our perception of the world around us through taste, smell, touch, sight or hearing. Inspiration starts when we perceive one stimulus through our senses and appreciate it as being important or bearing a meaning to us. Then we start dwelling on this feeling and letting our mind wander in it. We let our thoughts grow around this stimulus; we are mesmerized and preoccupied at the same time. The thoughts and feelings grow and give us the energy and power that is enough to start a kind of deeper fascination. Usually the outcome of this heightened state is the desire for something new to happen. It just occurs on its own; it is like a natural outcome after an initial trigger. No matter how many psychologists described this universal process, it still needs the following mindset.

Most interviewed composers shared these qualities: they are open to experience, have an active imagination, prefer variety and are intellectually curious. They are sensitive to beautiful things and their own inner feelings. They are putting their thoughts into music. They say that it helps to be honest with own feelings and they welcome the unpredictability of life as a chance to create more originality, novelty and beauty. Many composers learnt to use their intuition for better creativity. They are very fast and efficient in registering subtle changes in their perceptions that have not yet reached the thoughts.

All these behavior patterns are not new and there is no miracle behind them. The difference between artists like composers and a “normal” man might be that they make use of a brighter scope of inspiration sources; they are more sensible and go through the sources with a higher intensity and concentration.

This is a link http://movingclassics.tv/blogs/ where you can find 56 “Fantasy notes” interviews with contemporary composers from different countries; they talk about creativity and their compositions. Every week a new composer reveals us how to find creativity in the interview and we record and share one music video. It is fascinating to discover new music and the personality behind the notes. Join us on the musical adventure and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

https://www.facebook.com/movingclassicstv

https://twitter.com/moving_classics

 

 

Country:Germany

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Described by Fanfare Magazine as “one of the most talented and intriguing of living composers,” Lori Laitman has composed multiple operas and choral works, and over 250 songs, setting texts by classical and contemporary poets (including those who perished in the Holocaust). Her music is widely performed, internationally and throughout the United States, and has generated substantial critical acclaim. Read Lori Laitman's interview with Moving Classics TV

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1. If you were not a professional musician, would would you have been?

I would have been a jeweler. My sisters and I inherited a love of jewelry from our father. Events were commemorated by buying a specific piece of jewelry. I inherited several pieces — whenever I wear these, I am flooded with wonderful memories and feel very connected to the past.

2. The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

Our world has changed, and exposure to classical music is certainly not what it was. I’d even say the most of the world is illiterate with regards to classical music. Yet, I believe there will always be a small core of talented musicians. Hopefully this will be enough to carry the tradition forward, and maybe even help with its rediscovery.

3. Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

For a composer, creativity is everything. As a composer that mostly writes vocal music, I always hope to “translate” the words into music that illuminates the meaning of the words. I struggle to find the right way to pull sounds out of my head, and transcribe them in the most effective way. Then, I hope my musicians will be able to lift my music off the page and put the sounds back into the world, in a manner that touches people.

4. Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

You can certainly engage with creative projects, as you do with your visual musical films. But I think the best way to attract a young generation is to start with early education. When I was growing up, cartoons were flooded with classical music excerpts, and this really familiarized children with classical music. There is so little exposure now. I think that Music Appreciation should be taught in the schools, and each child should learn at least one instrument. The thrill of making your own music and gaining some mastery is enticing.

As for myself, I have composed several works for children — for example, the boy choir in my Holocaust oratorio Vedem, and the multiple children’s choruses in my family opera, The Three Feathers. It was so wonderful to work with the kids, and they enthusiastically embraced my music and the performances.

5. Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

I have several, but here are two: The Metropolitan Tower, my very first art song, is very dear to me. Originally I was a bit embarrassed by it, as it was so strophic and lyrical, and lyricism definitely went against the prevailing compositional grain. But I am so proud of the work, and it was with this composition that I discovered my compositional voice.

If I…, the last of my Four Dickinson Songs cycle, is also very dear to me. It was written as a birthday gift for my dad’s 80th. I wanted to create a melody that he would love, and this very lyrical song, which happens to set my life’s philosophy, has become one of my most popular. I have several versions of it, and am very happy that my dad, who lived to be almost 100, was able to hear all of them.

6. What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I have two upcoming song cycle commissions, both will use Holocaust themes. The first will set Nelly Sachs and will be for soprano and clarinet. The second will likely set Anne Ranasinghe, and will be for soprano, saxophone and piano. I want to finish my chamber opera Uncovered (libretto by Leah Lax, based on her memoir) and I want to finish my grand opera Ludlow (libretto David Mason, based on his verse novel). I wouldn’t say that I experiment, I only search for the best way to set the words.

 

Country:Germany

Posted in Piano and tagged , ,

Blog about our new project devoted to contemporary piano music

Who is your favorite contemporary classical composer? Confronted with this question, many of us are puzzled. Classical music seems to be the domain of grand masters of the past like Bach and Beethoven, with some 20st century exceptions like Shostakovich. If you look into the world of literature, the bestseller list is all contemporary writers! The most watched movies are to the great extent produced within the last couple of years. The galleries are full of visitors when the contemporary artists present their work and even the ballet can be proud of contemporary choreography. Only music seems to be the most conservative of all! The best sold CDs still feature Chopin and Liszt. You can have a quick look through some concert venues in your places. No doubt, you will find truly beautiful programs but I bet you will mostly see the same compositions by the history composers of the past. It reminds me of the Alex Ross from the Guardian who wittily noticed: ““The music profession today became focused on the manic polishing of a display of masterpieces” Why does the audience prefer the same old compositions? I found some interesting insights in Internet blogs and forums. One possible sociological explanation is that music is always an acquired taste. The mechanism of an acquired taste works through our family habits, our education and upbringing. Through hearing the music once and relating to it. Then saving it in our brain to recognize it again when the opportunity arises and experience the same emotion. Like every emotional state, it is all very volatile. How often do we change our opinion about the melody, depending on the time of the day or our mood? I always thought that listening to music could be compared with managing our own expectations. The length of the piece in time units is our subjective feeling of time. Here we have the relativity. I like the comparison with driving a car. Imagine two roads with the same length but one is a familiar road back home and another one is a new road we drive for the first time. Our time perceptions will differ. Usually the first road would seem shorter. A new road might be a fun ride full of discovery, but it will still seem longer. Hearing the piece for the first time with unknown harmonies or rhythms can be compared to a walk in forest at night. Another thought by Alex Ross who says “ because concert audiences are essentially trapped in their seats for a set period, they tend to reject unfamiliar work more readily than do gallery visitors, who can move about freely, confronting strange images at their own pace. “ It brings a big smile to my face when I read about the hard times Brahms or Chopin experienced being emerging composers. Their works were rejected with the same reasoning we would give to any aspiring composer. (“New works do not succeed in Leipzig,” a critic said of the premiere of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto in 1859.) Monet’s beautiful impressionistic pictures were turned down by Paris art exhibitions. So he was courageous enough to organize his own events! Classical music in 21st century is much richer than during the times of big Romantic composers. We have a tremendous diversity of styles, different combinations of genres and elements. Imagine how exciting it is to witness the birth of a new composition and be able to talk to the person who created it, to hear what he wanted to say and who he or she is. So many interesting composers deserve more attention! They live our times and reflect it in their music! Their compositions are also our music. Moving Classics TV team is searching for new ways in classical music. With our new initiative “Fantasy Notes – Contemporary Piano Music” we want to discover what living composers have to offer in terms of piano music. Contemporary music is vital if classical music is to survive and grow. As any Internet projects, the success of it depends on the active participation of Internet community. We will be sharing special blogs with interviews where the composers write about their approach to music and their sources of inspiration, about creative process, about their goals and future projects. This way the future audience could learn more about the artists and see who is behind the music. Sometimes it could be a missing link for a better appreciation of their composition. Moving Classics TV is going to share new recordings at our website and in social media. I would like to encourage you to try it, listen and share your thoughts. I am very excited about open dialogue with all of you. If you have any suggestions, ideas or …compositions, please contact me at anna@movingclassics.tv

Country:Germany

Posted in Piano and tagged , , ,

Thoughts about the dilemma of all musicians - to play or not to play...

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Let us face it, all musicians know this dilemma. You can read the heated debates in the Internet, listen to the emotional talks between musicians, get angry at the very thought and still, all musicians did it at the beginning of their career.

There are myriad of reasons for the asking and equally as many reasons for the accepting. The possible reasons for playing could be self-promotion, the wish to “test” your repertoire, get stage experience, meet new contacts and followers, try out new locations, play with your favorite colleagues and friends. Just love of music, promise to get a well-paid gig next time…Everybody has his or her reasons but nobody likes to admit the fact they accepted the free gig. The musicians decide on the case-to-case basis – if they see benefits from investing their time, dedication and talent into the free job.

The negative contra arguments would be the abuse of musicians’ love of music and their willingness to play or letting others earn money through their talent. Many musicians believe in the clear distinction between the so-called “Pragmatic Amateurs” and the so-called “Professionals with no freebie mindset”. Both would have the same artistic level if played in the same concert but “pragmatic amateurs” would have their income from non-concert activities. There is one more reason that is even more worrying. It is an economic phenomenon – dumping. When musicians accept the free or low-paid gigs, they bring the prices down for everybody who is out there on the market.

There is one more “killing” argument – the reputation. Playing for free officially can hurt the status as it is de-mystifying the image of a professional musician. Surely, playing charity concert for a good cause is a very different matter.

Music business is tough for any newcomers, be it the musicians who just graduated from the Universities or the rising musicians who are entering into new markets. The Piano News Magazine published the study about the graduates of piano faculties saying that there is no such job title as “Concert Pianist” anymore, as nearly all graduates need to develop extra-musical skills to survive and get their income from several sources. Today a successful musician needs more than just a musical talent. He or she needs some entrepreneurial and managerial skills for the self-marketing and the self-organization.

It is a long way of getting enough stage experience. The maturity needs time and concert opportunity to test for real what musicians have been learning. Nobody can learn the repertoire in the warm and cozy practice room, then go on stage in the Carnegie Hall, and play the concert of their lifetime. Great maestros like Vladimir Horowitz and Svjatoslav Richter have been touring Russian villages at the beginning of their career, playing nights through to get the music into their fingers for everybody who was willing to hear…

So, to play or not to play? What would you decide? Thank you for sharing your opinion.

Country:Germany

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Interview with Australian composer Margaret Brandman

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What does music mean to you personally?

“Music is part of the fabric of my being. As a composer, I always have of my compositions running through my mind, or the idea for a new one emerges. Music provides me with a source of relaxation, emotional support, physical prowess (hands and fingers), mental stimulation in many ways, an encouragement to move and dance, and an opportunity to be uplifted. You can get a sense of this when you listen to Lyric Fantasy for piano and String Orchestra”

http://margaretbrandman.com/books/lyric_fantasy.html on my album SENSATIONS.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

“I would not be able to say that ALL music is about fantasy. Much music is composed within the natural laws of acoustics, that we all react to, and composers will often deal with music in set geometric patterns or structures. The result may be music of a ‘fantasy nature’ but it may not have been composed that way. On the other hand, music that stems from the point of view of improvisation, would more likely be all about fantasy. Again my work Lyric Fantasy would be a good example of this. ”

If you were not a professional musician, what profession would have interested you?

“Archeologist or architect as I have a fascination with history and also with design. As a composer, I construct architectural forms with in my compositions.”

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

“No, I think that good music will always be appealing. Younger people will mature; at that point in time, their musical tastes will change and therefore they will quite possibly discover classical music as a contrast to all the pop music they listened to in their youth. I also think we need to expose younger children to this wide range of music, so they will grow up being familiar with some of the classical repertoire.
Also as far as my future is concerned, I am composing new an accessible contemporary classical music all the time and getting great reactions to my new music. So I am looking forward to composing and performing much more music in the future. ”

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

“Audiences are still appreciating the large body of music that has been composed over the past 500 years. So I feel there will always be a place for classical music but new classical music also needs to find a niche in the programming, to excite and challenge listeners. I would say my Firestorm Symphony from my album SENSATIONS has many of these elements. http://margaretbrandman.com/firestorm.html

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways, what would come to your mind?

“I think there is a natural transformation in classical music, as composers blend of classical influences and modern genres – jazz, latin-american, blues and rhythmic music of all sorts. So the definition of classical music these days is much broader than it was.
As an example, my pieces Autumn Rhapsody and Spirit Visions incorporate both classical and Latin-American influences.
http://margaretbrandman.com/spiritvisions.html http://margaretbrandman.com/autumnrhapsody.html

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? What’s the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

“As I am a composer, I am always creating music, and it is a joy to be able to perform my own works. I also incorporate a great deal of improvisation into my playing, and many of my works begin with an improvised theme. I am not a musician who can be satisfied with merely reproducing works of other composers. I believe that all performers should be improvisers as well, and they can then perform written works as if they were improvised, giving the works a fresh interpretation.
Example : Flights of Fancy for Flute and Piano, incorporates structures improvisation. http://margaretbrandman.com/books/flights.html

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

“I think musicians can attract a younger generation into concerts, if they include music that has rhythmic interest, and can catch their imagination by relating to the books and movies they might be reading or watching. ”

Tell us about your creative process.

“My creative process when writing a purely instrumental work, often begins with improvising at the piano until the main motif for the work presents itself. After that I will begin the composition process to develop the ideas, working to balance unity and variety. At other times, a theme might occur to me in the early morning waking hours and then I will need to go to the piano to flesh it out. When working on my songs, I am usually inspired by the lyrics, which will suggest a key and a mood for the work. This has been particularly evident in my recent 12 songs for the Cosmic Wheel of the Zodiac Song Cycle, which was premiered by baritone Martin Cooke in a very special concert in Sydney on the 3rd of September. Also, when writing songs, I am mindful of the range and capabilities of the singer for whom I am writing the songs.”

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: Music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

“I too love the combination of classical music with different disciplines. In general I believe music combines well with many disciplines and can enhance the participants’ experience. For instance, in the You-tube clips of my contemporary classical music I certainly make use film to add another dimension to the music. Classical music and poetry combine well, and the outcome is usually a new song.
I enjoy collaborating with my lyricist- astrologer Benita Rainer and find the writing process quite satisfying. It is good if my lyricist is not dogmatic about her lyrics and lets my musical considerations take precedence. We work well as she is flexible and accommodating. In the long run I am happy if I can have quality control over the presentation of the final product.”

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

“I think young people will understand classical music if they learn an instrument or learn to sing to gain an understanding of the processes involved. Therefore I think education is the key. Also, something that goes back to the mid 20th Century, was Walt Disney’s use of the classics with the animated features. This is something that many people of my generation were exposed to, and became a very easy way for young people to get to know many classical pieces. For instance The Scorcerer’s Apprentice. Perhaps the younger generation,should revisit the animated Disney works. http://listverse.com/2009/06/30/10-best-uses-of-classical-music-in-classic-cartoons/

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

“I think it has always been the case that composers need to advertise their new works whether it be by putting on concerts, or getting reviews for their works. So for several hundred years, classical music has been a ‘consumer product’ where as folk music has been more of a shared village experience for telling stories or for dances. In earlier centuries music was a consumer product for the rich, who often were patrons of the arts. In my case, I am aiming to ‘sell’ my product to radio stations for airplay and to film producers who are looking for powerful movie themes. ”

Do you have expectations with regards to your listeners, your audience?

“My hope is that my music will touch the listener and trigger a happiness response. My expectation is that they will leave a concert on a high and possibly have one of my melodies on automatic replay in their minds after a concert or after listening to my CD’s.”

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

“I have a recording project with Parma Recordings to produce my Cosmic Wheel of the Zodiac Song cycle, which has been recently premiered. The Prague Choir will be recording choral versions of the songs, and Baritone Martin Cooke and I will be recording the solo voice and piano versions of the songs, in Prague in August/September 2017 I will be involved in the recording process as supervisor for the choir and as accompanist for Martin Cooke in the solo versions of the songs.
I am planning a new song cycle for Martin Cooke, of 6 songs, 3 in English and 3 in German.”

For more information please visit: www.margaretbrandman.com

 

Country:Germany

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Patrick Hawes is an English composer who has made his mark as a torchbearer of the English musical tradition. He is best known for writing the Highgrove Suite for HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, for being Composer-in-Residence at the UK’s largest biggest classical music station, Classic FM, and for the Number One album Angel. Patrick Hawes kindly consented to answer the questions for MOVING CLASSICS TV

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What does music mean to you personally?

Music is everything to me. I have music in my head all day long and it is even there if I wake up at night. When I’m not writing music, I am listening to it, particularly music from the Renaissance and Baroque.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Absolutely not! Music is an expression of very real human emotions.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I spent sixteen years teaching both music and English – I actually enjoyed teaching English more than music since I was learning with the students! So, if my musical career had not gone the way it has, I would teach English.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

In England, classical music is popular throughout the generations. Classic FM (the UKs largest classical radio station) has as many requests from youngsters as old – particularly from students who enjoy classical music while working and preparing for exams. More and more youngsters are coming to classical music via video game and film sound tracks so the future is bright!

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Classical Music provides the same role it has always provided, which is to nourish people’s hearts and minds in a way that no other art form can. In an ever-changing world, classical music needs to hold firm to its key principles of harmony and beauty.
In this way classical music will continue to lead the listener into deeply spiritual realms which means we are always going to need classical music to ‘feed’ the soul in a way which other art forms can not.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways, what would come to your mind?

I think it is a mistake to think that classical music has to be innovative for innovation’s sake. All art forms reflect the spirit of the current age, and this in itself means art will become innovative by nature. It is far more important that composers of classical music remain true to themselves and to the feelings they are aiming to express. Innovation is a product of the mind – beauty and truth are products of the soul.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract the younger generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

This question has to a large extent been answered above. What is important is that classical music is not ‘watered down’ purely to attract a specific audience.

Tell us about your creative process. How did you start working on Towards the Light?

The creative process needs an initial impetus – this can be a feeling, a mental image, or an outside starting point such as a text, a painting, a beautiful landscape and so on. This is the first of two components which make up a composition. The second component is the careful development of one of the initial seeds mentioned above. Towards the Light was inspired by my move to Norfolk in England and feeling inspired to write abut the beautiful landscapes and seascapes of that region, as well as being inspired by key events in the Christian year.

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

Many composers have been involved with other art forms. Wagner, for instance, was an author of note. When I was younger I wrote poetry and often sense poetry in my head when I am composing. I commend Moving Classic TV’s philosophy of combining music with other art forms and disciplines, since this means the overall experience for the listener / observer will be much richer. The ultimate example of this of course is opera which Wagner described as “the complete art form”. Its fusion of music, choreography and stage drama, all set within the beautiful architecture of an opera house, create an unbeatable experience.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

The only way to discover classical music as a young person is to consciously immerse yourself in recordings, live performance and, best of all, by learning a musical instrument.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

Any composer wants his/her music to be heard. Mozart, for instance, would have been thrilled to hear his symphonies and concertos performed throughout the courts of Europe, and Elgar would have been deeply encouraged by the recording of music for gramophone. Similarly, a composer today will, by nature, advocate the distribution of their music through digital platforms. Nobody writes music to be denied an audience – we all want our music to be heard.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

I would like as many people as possible to hear my music regardless of their age, nationality or religion. It is my hope that a collection like Towards the Light will appeal as much to musical connoisseurs as it will to newcomers to classical music.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I never see the composition process as an experiment. I simply follow my heart and my deepest spiritual instincts. Of course, the genres of the music I write are dictated by the commissions I receive. For instance, I am currently working on The Great War Symphony to be premiered in 2018, and I have just completed a clarinet concerto which grew out of a meeting on Twitter with the wonderful clarinetist Emma Johnson. My latest choral work Revelation has just been premiered and recorded by the Elora Festival Singers in Canada and will be released on the Naxos label in March 2017.

www.patrickhawes.com

 

 

Country:Germany

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Blog about why classical music can be viewed as a sign of social distinction

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Do you think that the classical music can be viewed as a sign of social distinction? The opening question will be left unseen by many people; the blog statistics might give me an answer by itself. This question might irritate the real classical music fans as for many people classical music is passion; it is a part of life style and for some even their purpose in life. However, let us think about it with a clear mind.

I would like to give you an introductory example. End of 2015 there was a heated debate in Munich about building a new concert hall to replace Gasteig, a relatively new (1985) cultural center with a philharmonic hall with an interesting wood seashell form but apparently poor acoustics. The government has been ruminating about the building plans for over decade. The classical music enthusiasts started their own initiative of collecting the “pro new music hall” signatures and got an approval from the government. The total investment costs for a new concert would be around 300 Mio Euro according to a leading German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. (A newly built Hamburg Elbe Philharmonic Hall is nearly 800 Mio Euro) A big victory for Munich concertgoers.

You do not need to study sociology to see that the audience of the philharmonic halls is mostly 65 plus. The journalist Christian Krügel describes the Munich cultural audience as very spoilt and highly demanding. They are expecting the best and hoping to see the innovations but there are hardly any experiments. According to him, the reason for this attitude is that there is more behind the real value of the art. There are personal interests of the small group of people who dominate the classical music landscape. Can you imagine all teenagers of Munich collecting signatures for a new arena for their pop and rock concerts? I am sure the reaction would be immediate: How can these young people expect that so much money be spent on their music! Perhaps we could express it in the language of Brexit. Similar to the results of “no to Brexit” of politically active population with 38% of votes in the age group 65 plus and 66% for “no” in the group 18 to 24 years, the small group of older generation overvoted the younger one.

How can it be possible? 300 Mio Euro is a huge amount of money. The alternative use of this amount of money might sound very idealistic: new schools with the new music instruments for everybody, highly trained educational specialists, new smaller concert venues, innovative locations, bigger budget for the cultural sponsoring, support for creative innovation projects. You name it. The arguments “pro” a new concert hall would be to build a new attraction in Munich city that would bring new tourists and new visitors and would surely be a point of distinction for Munich. This reasoning comes from a thought that classical music often serves as a sign for status and privilege. Julian Johnson writes in his book “Who Needs Classical Music?: Cultural Choice and Musical Value” that the classical music has a very long and entrenched tradition of social distinction that it is very rooted in our society. The tradition of classical music comes from the Enlightment philosophical debates where it was a humanistic aspiration that the classical music would understand itself. It was seen as a way of self-expression and knowledge. I remember from my school years that our teachers were telling that Sergey Rachmaninov’s etude tableau in E-Flat minor was the depiction of the humanity and the composer was trying to show the human race in the noble light. Definitely very ambitious goal – surely the reason why it is fiendishly difficult to play too.

When one studies the history of classical music, one sees clearly that the classical music was searching for the distinction itself and it got it back from the small group whose goal is to find a social distinction through the classical music. A famous French philosopher Didier Eribon who comes from a poor family and faces hard times because of his homosexuality writes in his autobiography “Comeback to Reims” some thought-provoking lines about social distinction. “Interest in art is a question of upbringing. I had to learn it first. It was a part of my “re-upbringing” that I had to do for myself so that I could enter into a new social class and leave the old one behind. Interest in music, art or literature always lies in the revaluation of “self”, consciously or subconsciously. This revaluation leaves behind others who do not have access to it. It is a so-called social distinction, a difference between oneself and others whom one sees as not “belonging to the class” and lower in social standing. This superior feeling speaks from the subtle smile, body language, expert jargon, ostentatious wellbeing…This posturing has intimidated me but I did everything possible to become like these people who behaved with ease and to show them that I was born like this.”

The example of China is extremely eloquent. Millions of Chinese kids are learning piano to move along a social ladder. India has a musical education for the kids from rich families. The opposite was true in the Soviet culture where the government wanted to bring the excellent musical performance to all workers in factories. Svjatoslav Richter could tell many stories of his experiences playing literally everywhere. Surely, his refusal to play in the chosen venues would have put a stop to his career. But it is not the point I would like to make. Svjatoslav Richter played because he truly loved playing and it did not matter for him where to play and for whom to play. He played for the beauty of music.

The beauty of music cannot be measured in terms of social status or prestige. The true art has an ability to truly transcend itself where the music would transgress the borders and free itself from inhibitions put by the classical music managers, career-minded performers and prestige-seeking audience. Bach, Berlioz and Beethoven will continue being played and stay alive despite the age of the works and the number of times they were performed. The high ideals of romantic aesthetics will live on….

Country:Germany

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Personal observations about classical music trends in digital age

Digitalisierungsphoto

The word “digitalization” became a trend. We are fascinated by the progress. Progress and classical music? Why are we speaking about the digitalization and its influence on the classical music? Some reader would find the whole discussion irrelevant. Music is music, they would say. It is a paradox: on the one hand, yes, true, the classical music thrives on the tradition, history, and status quo. It is hardly open to innovations. On the other hand, the technological progress changed tremendously the landscape of classical music. The classical music scene got new tools and new chances! I would like to share with you some personal observations.
For many of us the first the digitalization experience started with the arrival of iPad. It was exciting to carry around thousands of audio files and listen to music everywhere. The digitalization made our music experience more individual. We witnessed a new social phenomenon that classical music can be part of our lives 24 hours a day without any entry barriers: avoiding expensive tickets, having to dress up for the concert, going somewhere. All we needed was just one click. Easy.
The digitalization makes the music experience more reproducible and more objective. We can record our own music, store it, and process it. We can easily share it with many people, even the ones we do not know. The recorded music gives us more “objectivity” as we can reproduce this experience many times without having to rely on our memory. By repeated hearing and seeing, the influence of extra-musical factors can be reduced. The digitalization does not improve our attention span. In fact, it shortens it. The discussions about the perception of “live” vs. “recorded music” continue in the digital age too. Psychologists say that the disappearing nature of the sound helps to focus human attention. When we know that we only have one chance, we listen more closely. You can find interesting thoughts about this phenomenon in the book “How music works” by David Byrne.
The digitalization brings new followers to classical music through new creative hobbies and activities. The trend is that instead of buying a musical instrument and learning it, people “make music” by creating playlists in youtubes, choosing music for their fotoshows, experimenting with computer graphics with music youtubes. A friend of mine has discovered the composition by whistling the melodies into his iPad and asking the software to modify the tunes. He was so fascinated by this app that he started composing! By the way, he never made music before. It might sound discouraging but it is not. Some people find their way back to real experience of learning an instrument through online apps.
The digitalization is helpful for new learning experiences. You can start learning the instrument or getting a mastery via Skype coaching. There are online forums where you can get the feedback and the motivation from the people all over the world. You can get apps to support your learning. There are “play-along” tracks, play “step by step” programs, music-minus-one to bring the orchestra into your room. Really fun stuff. You can play the most tedious scales together with your app – it is so interactive that you feel challenged and entertained at the same time.
The digitalization brings the continuous improvement and facilitates the perfection. Glenn Gould was the first who began to create “perfect” performances by editing takes. Something that all musicians are doing these days. The perfectionism lies in the blood of classical musicians and it is expected that they try several takes, even on several days, and all sorts of sound engineering methods to make it sound “perfect”. In the opposite case your performance will definitely show some flaws. This trend led to the fact that the recorded music became some kind of reference point and more definite version than a live performance.

I prepared for you the graph to show how the recorded performance changes the performance curve and “corrects” the mistakes and errors and small blemishes. The side effect is that the studio work eliminates the peaks of spontaneity through the anticipation of “no mistakes” and very analytical “100% transparency” mindset of the performing musician. The green line is more “human” but also more volatile. Through risk-taking and just one-time playing, there can be high fluctuations in the performance but it brings high “star moments”. The uncertainty of the moment keeps the emotions hot. It is the magic of the unrepeatable moment that will never come back.

Digitalization  (2)

Where will digitalization take us? What will happen in the next ten years? The trend goes from the data collection to the data processing. Everybody who is putting music videos online in youtube or facebook knows about the statistics. You know the behavior of your listeners: how many seconds they stay online, through what channel they come to you, if they share, if they comment, what are their preferences, if they give you “likes”, if they actually pay for music etc. The demographics, their profiles. This information is very valuable for music industry and can help musicians to develop new visions, new genres, new music products, forms of performance. But it is very scaring for many listeners.
New developments in health and sport technology make a big progress and can be soon applied in the music industry. It will be possible to use the sensory clothes to determine the moments during music listening when we get goose skin, when we get emotionally aroused, get bored and even when we are falling asleep. The brain scans will be more sophisticated. These devices will allow immediate feedback. So in the future, your digital music player will be more interactive and start reacting when you are losing attention. The negative response could trigger an intensification of the dynamics, or lead to a faster exit, skipping or give a wakeup call. I wish I could have the monitor with the “audience reaction barometer” built in my grand piano during playing…
Imagine a new intelligent music streaming software that knows exactly what music to send you, stop it when you get involved in another task that requires full concentration like e.g. writing an important letter, and resume it again when you feel like needing inspiration. And everything without your actual involvement!
So where do we go from here? In the modern digitalized society, the possibilities for musicians and artists are unlimited. Surely, there are many people who feel intimidated by the coming diversity. They regret that new age gadgets distract from the pure value of music. In the digital age, the creativity is the answer. The world is waiting for new solutions, new combinations, new ideas. As for example, the combination of computer-steered laser technology and music performance, LED lights and piano recitals, the computer graphics and live music to name just the few of the coming trends. It is the nature of a true artist to experiment and try out everything?
What can the digitalization do for the classical music? Thank you for sharing your ideas and opinion

Country:Germany

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Thoughts about digitalization: development in technology and how it affects the classical music

Digitalisierungsphoto

How is classical music going to be affected by the digital age? The other day I was watching YouTube video of Digital Life Design Conference with the speech of Joe Kaeser who is the president of the large German corporation Siemens. He was talking about what is so special about digitalization. His message was that If companies do not adapt, they will be gone in 10 years. “Out of 10 employees 9 go down and one goes up”. The popular belief is that digitalization affects others and never oneself. What about the classical music with the reputation of being very traditional and conservative?

In the first part of this blog, I would like to write about some recent developments in the field of digitalization that affected the classical music.

The good thing about the digitalization is that it can eliminate the tedious and time-consuming activities. In the digital age, the information can be collected, stored and retrieved easily and in no time. Perfect – nearly all music scores are available online thanks to IMSLP Petrucci Library with free public domain and many others. Today the musician does not even need to print them and can play from the electronic devices like iPad in concert and avoid the stress of the page turning. The radio stations use Internet to air their music. It gives an advantage of additional information that you can find about the music that you hear. Composers can put the music directly in the music score programs by drawing it with a pencil on the touchscreen and get it printed. The musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) will “play” the written music so that you can immediately hear what you compose. You do not have to play an instrument to try it out yourself.

But the heart piece of the classical music digitalization is the recording of music. The ephemeral nature of music excited the imagination of scientists and philosophers who wanted to stop the beautiful moment, to capture it and to make it eternal. There has been an amazing technical progress since the very first mechanical recording ever made by Edison in 1878 and his Mood Change parties where he presented his first discs to demonstrate the emotional impact and the power of recorded music. The history of recorded music knows many innovations:  reproducible discs, radio, LPs, tapes, Walkman, CDs, mp3 and mp4, youtubes…

We are obsessed by the possibility to capture the sound. It should sound even better than in a real life. And we want to capture the emotions too!  From time to time, there were some voices warning about the adverse effect of modern technology. Like the march king, John Philip Sousa, who would write an essay about the “Menace of Mechanical Music” with the possibility to “deteriorate our musical taste”. The progress of technology makes the existing devices available to the majority, as price gets lower. In the past the big recordings companies would approach maestros for the audio recordings. Today it is mostly up to the musicians themselves to finance their first CDs. There are cheaper possibilities. Hardly any emerging musician does not have a youtube video. In fact, there are so many youtube videos that the matching items in the search overwhelm us.

One digital development leads to another. The abundance of music and the chaos of youtube brought the idea of customization. Business idea of “curating classical music” was born (see, for example, Idagio). New platforms offer you to listen to music that would fit your mood. They help to quickly (!) find the right music, to discover new recordings, enjoy classical music on the go.

Some people say that the recorded music is “frozen“, it reminds of the frozen fruit in the fridge.  It is much more exciting to watch the transmission of live concert online.  We are speaking of streaming. The streaming makes the atmosphere of the live concert possible at home, now you do not need to leave your room to experience the symphonic orchestra who are playing at the other end of the world. Surely, the transmission is still not perfect. There is more to be done:  better sound to show the dynamics and nuances of timbre, the 360 feeling, and connectivity to a big high quality TV screen. Everything to make the virtual experience to feel like a real one. The augmented reality could help to put the virtual objects in our reality as if it is a part of it. Imagine bringing in the musicians or the instruments into your sitting room through augmented reality – it is magic today but reality tomorrow!

Digitalization is capable of eliminating the human work. There are self-playing pianos like Spirio by Steinway or Pianodisc by Yamaha: the technology is amazing! It is possible to show the nuances of playing by, for example, Sergey Rachmaninov, whose audio track from 1939 is integrated into a complex system within the grand piano and the keys are pressed by electronics, as he would have done it himself. The live generated sound is coming from the piano. The producers of these pianos advertise that you could organize house concerts without a pianist anytime!

The digitalization is all about speed too. The social media could spread the music in one second; Music has never been as present in our lives as it is today. Social media spreads the feeling that everybody has the equal chance of being heard all over the world. It is a misleading belief as the reachability in the digital world depends on the key factors of the “secret” algorithms. The big part of the algorithms depends on the budget that you are willing to spend on pushing the keywords within your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) activities. New companies appeared on the market: the Multi-Channel Networks (MCN). Their main goal is to do everything for producing and marketing of videos. At the beginning of Internet age, there was still a chance for unknown high quality musicians to be found. As the quantities in Internet have exploded, it is now a question of the algorithm and setting the amount of the budget.

What are your observations about the recent developments in the field of digitalization for the classical music? Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Country:Germany

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