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Recent News, Commentary, and Ideas.


Jenny Bilfield, President and CEO of the Washington Performing Arts Center talks about how conservatories and schools of music can best prepare emerging professionals for a life in music.

Change, albeit slow, is well under way and many conservatories have been working for years not just to diversify — in every sense — but to deconstruct the parochial, sometimes sanctimonious, male-dominated, performance-or-nothing culture of the past.


Put a Lid on the Operatic Viking Helmet Cliché
The Washington Post: Philip Kennicott
The horned helmet creates an argument (“opera is old fashioned and ridiculous”) that can’t be won, and it does so in bad faith; this sort of thing isn’t about ignorance, but rather anti-intellectual hostility. It obviously has nothing to do with what happens in the contemporary opera house, and hasn’t for longer than most opera-goers have been alive.

Why it Feels so Good to Read About This Princeton Professor’s Failures
Washington Post: Ana Swanson
Many famous business people, including Henry Ford and W.H. Macy, went broke repeatedly before hitting it big. And it seems as though almost every famous writer or musician was rejected dozens of times before achieving success.

Tales of the Unexpected: Saying Yes to Today's Composers
The Guardian: Stephen Newbould
From requests for disused shops, paperbacks, toys, to an ocean bed, composers have kept BCMG on their toes. Outgoing artistic director Stephen Newbould reflects on the challenges and excitement at the cutting edge of contemporary music.

What Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” Can (and Can’t) Do for Tidal
The New Yorker: Stephen Witt
The irony is rich: the man whose presumptive philandering provided the subject matter for this album now stands to profit most from its distribution.

YouTube Pays More than Nothing. That Doesn't Make it Fair
The Guardian: Nelly Furtado
The Canadian singer joins Debbie Harry and Nikki Sixx in a call for YouTube to increase its payments to musicians.

Between the Ears: How Music Skills May Help Babies Learn Language
The Seattle Times: John Higgins
Babies who learned to keep waltz time during play sessions showed stronger brain responses to timing mistakes in both music and speech, suggesting that music training could help them learn to talk.

Can Music Help Us Fall Asleep?
The Guardian: John Powell
Insomniacs can train themselves to become better at falling asleep by listening to music.

Brian Eno: Ambient Sounds, But Political, Too
The New York Times: Jon Parels
Eno, who turns 68 on May 15, has had a prolific and influential career as a producer, songwriter, musician, visual artist and thinker.

Why Freddie Mercury's Voice Was So Great, As Explained By Science
A recent study aims to explain the science behind the power of Freddie Mercury's voice.


Ángel Corella of Pennsylvania Ballet Upends Troupe, Reflecting New Vision
The New York Times: Joshua Barone
Of Pennsylvania Ballet’s 43 dancers, 17 will not return next season, the company’s artistic director, Ángel Corella, confirmed on Tuesday. He said he chose not to renew 12 dancers’ contracts, a decision based partly on the performers’ physiques, technical abilities and versatility. Five others quit.

Global Flavors and Asides to Obamas at White House Jazz Gala
The New York Times: Nate Chinen
It was only the third gala jazz concert at the White House. For precedent, you would have to look back to the administrations of Jimmy Carter (in 1978) and Bill Clinton (in 1993). And it had all due pageantry and production value, befitting the official stature of a music that President Obama characterized, in his welcoming remarks, as “driven by an unmistakably American spirit.”

Anna Netrebko Pulls Out of ‘Norma’ Productions
The New York Times: Roslyn Sulcas
Netrebko also announced that she would be dropping out of the “Norma” production that will open the Royal Opera House’s season in London this September.

Prince Rockets to No. 1 as Fans Buy (Yes, Buy) His Albums
The New York Times: Ben Sisario
This week on the music charts, Prince is No. 1. And No. 2, and No. 6, and on and on.

National Endowment for the Arts Receives 2016 Special Tony Award
The National Endowment for the Arts has been selected by the Tony Awards® Administration Committee to receive the 2016 Special Tony Award for its “unwavering commitment in paving the road" between Broadway and cities throughout the U.S.

Eighth Blackbird: Tiny Desk Concert
NPR: Tom Huizenga
The Chicago new-music ensemble Eighth Blackbird is on a roll. Just after winning its fourth Grammy in February, the group received a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions; the prize came with a $400,000 grant.

The Forgotten First Woman Violinist to Perform on the American Stage
Hyperallergic: Allison Meier
As a twice-married mother who was a performer, concert organizer, and teacher, she “did not fit comfortably within the late 19th-century paradigms of womanhood.”

Edward Snowden Just Leaked a New Music Video
TIME: Olivia B. Waxman
Whistleblower Edward Snowden stars in a new music video released Thursday by French electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre, two weeks after the track “Exit” came out on streaming platforms.

Dixie Chicks Review – Second Coming of Country Music Outlaws
The Guardian: Caroline Sullivan
The outspoken Texan band’s timely return spans covers of Beyoncé and the Weeknd, all with a country-bluegrass core.

6 Young Music Producers Who Shape Latino Identity with Sound
NPR: Felix Contreras
This week, Alt.Latino introduces you to six young producers from around Latin America who are not only helping artists make great records, but also influencing music and musicians around the world.


English National Opera Names New Artistic Director
The New York Times: Roslyn Sulcas
Daniel Kramer, an American theater and opera director, has been appointed the artistic director of English National Opera, one of London’s two major opera companies.

The Ballet Troupe That Started in a Nigerian Garage
BBC: Lerato Mbele
Now, they take over the streets of Lagos showing the local community the elegance of ballet, the quick steps of ballroom and the high impact movements of hip-hop.

Iron Maiden Forced to Alter Their Show to Play in China
The Guardian
Iron Maiden have become the latest band to change their live performance in order to satisfy the Chinese government. Earlier this week, the metal veterans played two shows in China – in Beijing and Shanghai – as part of their Book of Souls world tour.

Jordan Reportedly Bans Band With Gay Frontman From Performing
NPR: Anastasia Tsioulcas
A popular and groundbreaking alt-rock band from Lebanon called Mashrou' Leila was scheduled to play a big show in Amman, Jordan Friday. Instead, their show was cancelled by the government — and the band says they have been told they can never perform again in the country, because of the group's politics, religious beliefs and "endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom."

Remembering African Singer and Style Icon Papa Wemba
NPR: Anastasia Tsioulcas
At home, and across sub-Saharan Africa and the African diaspora, Papa Wemba will be remembered not just for his voice and for his musical innovations, but his legendary sense of fashion style.


Radiohead Has Disappeared From the Internet
TIME: David Morris
Invisibility, whether you’re Radiohead or Beyoncé or Drake, is the new hype—a tactic actually pioneered by Radiohead when it released its last album, way back in 2011.

All Surprises: Radiohead and the Art of the Unconventional Album Release
The Guardian: Michael Hann
As the rumours of an imminent Radiohead LP grow, we look back at some of the novel ways in which the band have previously put out their music.

New Music and Place: Creating Community
NewMusicBox: Christina Rusnak
It is a shared sense of place that is fostering the creation of new works that evoke the complex landscapes, histories, and cultural heritage of ensembles and their communities.


What Does Sound Look Like?
The New Yorker: Photo Booth
The German photographer Martin Klimas is known for using high-speed-camera technology to capture processes that might otherwise escape the naked eye. For his latest series, “Sound Explosions,” he asked a group of musicians to create “patches” of sound using a variety of analog synthesizers, then played the sounds from speakers positioned beneath a scrim covered with powdered pigments. The results: raw sound converted into sunbursts of brilliant color.


Enjoy reading all our past issues, organized chronologically >

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