Tag Archives | Greg Sandow

Why Don’t Conducting Books Talk About The Music?

Riccardo_MutiWell, actually, some do.  I am reminded of Riccardo Muti’s truly insightful commentary in a podcast he did with British music journalist, Norman Lebrecht, in September 2011 (worth tracking down if it is still available on the BBC) wherein the maestro laments the prediliction in the USA toward training aspiring conductors how to ‘conduct the music’ as opposed to how to ‘study the music’.  I’m paraphrasing, but in essence this is the point he makes.

I am reminded of this as I have just finished reading several recently published new books on conducting by American conductors.  One was largely a memoir which I found mostly disingenuous; far too preoccupied with lauding the virtues of a much better known American conductor, and the other, offering an alternative approach to technical aspects of conducting distilled through the concept of ‘beauty’ in music.  The latter book has one or two genuine insights in what otherwise is a slim volume with little to offer.  Worse however than its over concision, is that some of what is espoused in respect to the physics pertaining to gestural motion in orchestral conducting technique is plain wrong. Continue Reading →

Greg Sandow’s Vision For the Future of Classical Music


On Greg Sandow’s web site, you can find this manifesto, as copied verbatim below.  It is the backbone of much of his considered thinking on the future(s) of Classical Music.

I believe it contains very astute insights but, at the same time, I don’t agree with it unilaterally. It’s not that the intent is misplaced. I simply continue to take issue with the concept of audiences as an ephemeral, amorphous entity who are contrary, deliberately changeable and dynamically fluid.  They’re not.  Audiences, notwithstanding, are smart (implicit in Sandow) but the reason for their discrimination is not facile, and too many assumptions continue to persist in respect to behavioual patterns.

(Sandow’s) Four Keys to the Future

We’re in a new era. To adapt to it, and build a new audience, here are the four things you should do: 
Understand and respect the culture outside classical music. 
Your new audience will come from the world outside classical music. Where else could it come from? And to reach these new people, you of course have to know them. Who are they? What kind of culture do they already have? You have to respect them, because if you don’t, they won’t respect you. 
Work actively to find your audience.
The people you want to reach may not yet care about classical music. So they won’t respond to conventional PR and marketing. They won’t come to you on their own. And so you have to actively go out and find them. You have to talk to them where they live, where they work, and where they go for entertainment and for inspiration. You have to inhabit their world.
Be yourself.
Your urgency, your joy, and your passion will draw people to you. But you can’t be joyful if you don’t love the music that you perform. So never pander. Never struggle to be relevant. Perform music that makes your heart sing. Trust your new audience. Trust it to be smart, to be curious, and to respond with joy when it sees how joyful you are.
Make music vividly.
The people you reach will want to love the music you bring them. But can you meet them halfway? Are you bringing them something they really can love? Your performances should be entirely yours, performances nobody else could give. Your music should breathe. Contrasts should feel like they’re contrasts. Climaxes should feel like climaxes. Are you doing everything you can to bring your music alive?

So what’s wrong with it? Continue Reading →