Author Archive | Kevin

A Definition of Music To Fall In Love With

Bologna_Music_Museum_QuoteWhen I was in Italy during January earlier this year doing research for a production of Tosca, we visited Bologna where there is a very cute musical instrument museum. Opened in 2004, it’s called the International Museum and Library of Music.

In fact the museum is spread over two locations, one in the old town centre, and the other half of the collection housed in the convent of San Giacomo Maggiore, which is also home to the G.B. Martini music conservatory.

I went there to see the original manuscript of Rossini’s opera, The Barber of Seville.  As it turns out, it is just a fair copy and not the original composer’s m.s., but still pretty interesting to see.

So the point of this post is not in itself about this wonderful little museum – although I did see instruments there that I have only ever read about or seen images in books – as it is about this philological statement on the importance of music at the entrance to the first gallery in the museum.

I don’t know who wrote it – interestingly the quote is not attributed in the museum either – but it is a wholly compelling statement as to the fundamental nature of music collections, archives and curation of Arti Musicali from the distant and near past.

Read it and I think you’ll be in agreement.

More soon,

Kevin

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Why I Love Music Theatre NOW

2nd_International_Music Theatre_Workshop_Cover_1987I was reading an E-blast from Music Theatre NOW based in Germany this morning.  I love these folk and their dedication “…to worldwide exchange in new opera and music theatre”. (They don’t mean Broadway-style Musicals by the way!)

The role of Music Theatre NOW is critical in the discourse of imagining and exploiting new types of theatre praxis. And if there was ever a time in the World where the right to imagine, design, and produce works of theatre free of censorship, political interference or acts of xenophobia – this must be it surely!

But what really got my attention was a digital re-issue of proceedings from the 2nd International Music Theatre Workshop in 1987. Within that publication this is what peaked my particular interest: Music Theatre in Australia from this time was represented in the workshop! Who knew? I certainly didn’t, but then we didn’t have the Internet in those days either, and information was harder to come by in all forms.

It makes fascinating reading, particularly for Theatre Arts practitioners in Australia to observe how far we haven’t come in 30 years!

The transcription of the interview in question speaks for itself so, unless you want to read the entire published proceedings here, just have a quick look from two screen grabs that highlight the Australian context. Continue Reading →

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How To Conduct [Insert Title]?

Worry_WortIntermittently I return to the subject of whether assertions made in treatises on orchestra conducting and conducting technique are valid. I return to the subject again today.

Recognising that there are quite a number of younger conductors who follow this blog (albeit intermittent of late) I think there is a responsibility to engage in discussion about things to do with conducting that weren’t readily available when I started out in this business.

One of the recurring issues is, “Is what you read in the ever expanding subject matter of orchestral conducting reliable?” The answer is more often ‘yes’ than otherwise, but there is a growing body of literature; mostly emanating from American college and university academic conductors, that raise some concerns.

One of the nasty truisms of academia – and especially so in the performing and creative Arts disciplines – remains the concept of ‘publish or perish’. Alternative methodologies and frameworks of Performance as Research (PaR) as it is referred to in the USA or PARIP (Practice in Research as Performance) elsewhere, and other exemplars of practice-based academic enquiry regrettably remain problematic for many universities, their associated research funding mechanisms and processes of academic promotion.

Consequently, as opposed to seeing how conducting orchestras and Opera as creative production can constitute intellectual enquiry through performances, we have seen the publication of a plethora of texts on conducting technique as ‘how to’ books over the last 5 – 10 years.  These tomes tend to reflect more associations of experience from within the hallowed halls of learning than performances with professional orchestras.

And herein lies the problem: professional orchestra players learn an ‘inside the orchestra’ vocabulary of execution which negates the need to observe or follow the pedantic approaches to conducting espoused in these texts.  It’s true too, that the development of this player-group vocabulary has arisen over the last hundred years of orchestral performance practice to negate the often seen shortcomings of the person at the front of the orchestra waving the stick! It’s not a question of the validity of this reality, it just is.

It would be far more useful if the ‘academic’ conducting fraternity could, and would, use PaR or PARIP methodologies as enquiry into what conducting gestures (as they see them) actually mean to professional players in terms of what they collectively see and, as a consequence of this, what they interpret the meaning of these gestures to be. This would provide much needed feedback to determine whether what is actually being taught to conductors actually reflects what orchestral players need. Continue Reading →

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An Unusual Double: Puccini and Irish Music

TRI_New_Irish_TenorsSo, I am working away here in Italy doing research for conducting Tosca later in the year whilst I’ve been finishing off new orchestrations (with my colleague Troy Rogan) for symphony gigs by TRI: The New Irish Tenors in the U.S. starting in March.  It’s been a rather unusual double-act to say the least.

What I’ve noticed is this: a great melody is a great melody, but a great melody with great storytelling allied to a great tune is utterly compelling.  And funny enough, both trad. Irish music tunes and Puccini opera arias have both in spades.

So it’s very weird to be humming ‘Boolavogue’ (an Irish trad. tune) whilst walking about in Rome videoing and photographing the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, the Farnese Palace and Castel Sant’ Angelo respectively as part of a new 3D-interactive experience about Puccini’s verismo opera masterpiece – TOSCA that we’re producing (and how I have always loved that this marvelous opera was for so many years derided as “..that shabby little shocker.”)

Anyway, if you’re in or around Orlando, FL on March 3 go see TRI with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and enjoy an early St. Patrick’s Day festivity.  Great Irish singers who’ll bring a tear to you eye I imagine.

Back soon,

Kevin

 

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Feliz Navidad & A New Year Resolution

NYC_SkylineWhilst being privileged to take my son up to the top of The Empire State building in NYC the other day, I was watching the late afternoon sun sparkle on the water looking downtown toward the Statue of Liberty.  I was struck by the observation that, in that fleeting moment, all the elements were lining up for a fabulous photo; one simply having to wait for that moment when the effects of light and water intermingled to give the optimal photographic result.

Synonymously, it reminds me of the methodology of rehearsing orchestras to elicit the best performance. Making performances is little different to en plein air painting wherein the canvas objects are subject to shifting light densities.  Timing when to put the artist’s brush to the canvas is key to the artform – and what an artform!  For orchestral conductors, the deft touch needed to paint using the inestimable skill of orchestral players to achieve the perfect result is very difficult indeed.  Too often, as conductors, we fail subsequently asking the orchestra musicians to come back tomorrow whilst we practise our artistic insights over again.

My favorite conducting experiences this year have been with the Australian Discovery Orchestra for live-stream concerts.  My least favorite experiences – conducting university orchestras of varying abilities in the USA.  Someone questioned me recently why I found these student-level orchestras an unenviable proposition to work with, assuming my answer would in all likelihood be about the respective orchestras’ technical shortcomings. But that isn’t the problem. Continue Reading →

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