Tuesday, September 8, 2009

ClassicalTV.com

I am very curious about how this pans out - a new website is out now called ClassicalTV.com which broadcasts Operas, Jazz, and much more. For more on the website check out the LA Times article (CLICK HERE).

Here is one of the many videos I found there - I always get a kick out of the Pavarotti duets. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

R.I.P. Hildegard Behrens

The great soprano Hildegard Behrens died in Tokyo yesterday. She was a great contributor to the arts and a wonderful interpreter. Keep singing!

Imogen Heap business model

I read this article about how Imogen Heap has built her own fan-base and really created her own career. She used technology to its fullest and really connects to her fans. There is a lot in here any performer can learn from. Check it out HERE.

And since I'm talking about Imogen Heap I had to put up one of my favorite videos of her. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stephen Schwartz Opera

Now this is my kind of opera - I hope this works!!!

CLICK HERE for more info on Stephen Schwart'z new opera.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A capella - Africa by Toto

I just thought this was a lot of fun and had to share - thanks Daphne! (sorry, this was the smallest I could make it)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Classical Singers Can Learn From Rock/Pop Concerts

The other night I was browsing MSN's Internet TV and came across a complete London concert by Alanis Morissette. I was only a few minutes into the concert when I had to pull my planner out and take some intense notes. The concert seemed pretty standard for its genre, but I was riveted. It lasted just over an hour, and she held my attention the entire time.

I want to be able to captivate audiences that way in my recitals, and I am very aware that I have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal. I am in the process of creating a program that incorporates the following ideas, some of which I'm not sure will work - but I'm going to try :):

  1. Alanis' entire concert was upbeat and quick keeping the pacing up with basically no transition time between songs. This did two things: 1) when she did stop at the climax of the night and switched to only piano and her with intimate lighting and a slow song it was that much more compelling, and 2) she kept the momentum up the entire night. I think when we take long pauses between sets we lose our audience.
  2. You really get the sense that Alanis is completely devoting herself to her audience. She keeps a rapport with them the entire night making interjections and expressing gratitude. You never get the feeling that she feels above them - she is part of them having a good time.
  3. There is a constant change of musical texture. Whether she cuts/adds guitars, changes the sound from the synth or drummer no two songs together were exactly alike in their sound. We have so many opportunities to do the same - different instrumentation, duets/small ensembles, etc.
  4. Alanis does more than just sing. Sometimes she sings by herself, then she would play the harmonica, and in some songs she would accompany herself on the guitar. I remember a fun recital I attended where the singer switched with the pianist on a fun upbeat number. I guarantee that's the piece everyone remembers most from that night.
  5. Change up the level of motion - depending on the style/mood of the song sometimes she was running around the stage, other times she stood firm in front of the mic. Why can't we take up more of the stage if we set it up right?
  6. The stage itself was in constant motion. The other musicians kept up the pace, along with lighting, smoke, and other techniques. Most of the performance spaces we use have the ability to use lighting and other such effects - we should use all of our resources.
  7. Alanis was in constant interaction with the other musicians, giving them credit whenever she could. (I remember one of my early recitals when I was so nervous I never really acknowledged my accompanist - I can't think of that performance without a pang of guilt.) The best performers make way and give space to other greats.
  8. I tend to perform with one set that is more well-known to the audience for a little "relief". Alanis spread her standards around the evening and gave them prominence. This was a great way to break up the motion and yet keep the crowd interested. Maybe the concept of sets is a little overrated? Most of Pavarotti's recitals that I have seen don't really incorporate sets.
  9. In a live event we cannot ignore the theatrical element - it is theater. When we go to the symphony part of the experience is watching - the conductor, the coordinated strings, the motion of the players, etc. It is easy to ignore this element in solo recitals much to our detriment. Alanis may have gone a little crazy for my taste, but for her audience it was what they were doing as well.
  10. Every song in Alanis' concert had a unique feel to it, justifying its existence in the program. Instead of having one or two songs in the performance that I remember, or just an overall feeling, I can quite vividly remember the majority of the numbers as they each stand out separately. She worked harder to make the lesser known songs stand out, and then didn't have to do much for the standards.
  11. She didn't hide the "in-between stuff". In my recitals I usually take a break between sets and go off to drink, spray, catch my breath, rest for a moment, whatever. She did that while the band played the little interludes between numbers, or while she was talking to the band. This kept the concert moving.
  12. No programs - this may seem obvious in a rock concert, but maybe we spoil some of the surprise in our recitals when we give them all of the numbers in advance. Part of the fun of the concert is hoping she will do certain songs just for you, not knowing when they will come. For those of us who sing in different languages we can employ the use of supertitles. They are quite easy to set up now, and keep the audience from having to lean over programs during your theatrical performance.
So, now to try to create a program for myself that incorporates those elements and then go from there. I'm even thinking about perhaps expanding our resources in terms of "re-orchestrating" some of our art songs to take advantage of advances in synthesizer and other similar technology. There is just way to much fun to be had :).

Here is the opening of her concert (incidentally, it was fun to sort through all of the cell phone recordings of this before finding the more professional version - the experience obviously meant something to a lot of people):


If you have Vista or XP Media Center Edition (I think) you can watch the entire concert on their Internet TV.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Brain Music - MRI of the "musical brain"

Okay, this just completely blows my mind, perhaps quite literally. Just check it out...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How to Listen to Music with Your Whole Body: Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie is a world-class percussionist, and has been deaf since she was 12 (not completely, but almost). This video contains some very profound truths about listening to music and to each other, and on how to be a better musician. This also shows where so much of the beauty lies in new music. Enjoy!



Here is a link to her short bio on her website (CLICK HERE) and her Wikipedia article (CLICK HERE).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rheingold Cartoon

I stumbled across this last night and thought it was hilarious, and actually quite a fun idea. I think it would be a lot of fun to update the animation and put together a project like this for kids, don't you think? The story and music certainly fit this kind of presentation.

The entire opera was condensed down to 30 minutes (a feat in itself) for television in 1991. Enjoy!







I've never seen a Freia that looked like that ;).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tom Johnson - Failing

Here's another piece I recently became aware of in my Music Since WWII class and it's a lot of fun. It's called Failing by Tom Johnson composed for Double Bass. The bass player is supposed to read a written out piece of text while playing little musical figures which get increasingly harder. Unfortunately I couldn't find an example of the score online, but here is a performance (the volume is quite soft, so you'll need to turn it up).

Friday, June 5, 2009

S. Scott "Entrada" & Mark Wingate "Welcome to Medicare"

I am taking a class right now entitled "Music Since WWII" which I am enjoying immensely. It is a chance to experience many modern composers I have learned to love, and also get to know a lot of new ones. Here a couple of my new favorites:

Mark Wingate, "Welcome to Medicare":


Stephen Scott, "Entrada":
This piece is written for "bowed piano". I'll just let you take it in for yourself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Masters Recital Clips

For whatever reason it's taken me a long time to get around to listening to the recording of my Masters Recital. I think I was concerned that I would be overly critical with myself. Well, today I finally listened, and though we always hear things in ourselves we could fix, I am extremely pleased with the performance.

I really enjoyed singing the program, and those who performed with me (Eun Mi Lee on piano, and Sivan Adato on french horn) did incredibly well. It is a great pleasure creating art with such accomplished musicians. I am also deeply grateful for all of those who assisted me in my preparations, particularly my teacher Shirley Close and my coach Valerie Trujillo. I'll miss you all!!

I have posted a few examples from the recording on my website - CLICK HERE for the link.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Do You Go to the Opera (Or Why Not?) - Schenk vs. Freyer

Opera is such a funny thing.

Since deciding to attend the University of Southern California this fall I have been extremely excited about the LA Opera's new production of the Ring cycle by Wagner, set to play in its entirety in the spring. As with any opera there is a lot of discussion as to how to present it. The controversy gets even hotter when comparing this production to the recently laid-to-rest world famous Otto Schenk production that has been at the Met for at least twenty years.

Schenk's production is huge and very (as the New York Times suggests) story-book like. I have enjoyed this production for some time now as I have them all on DVD. The presentation is awe-inspiring - it looks like watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies live on stage. Amazing!

During the final run of this production at the Met Schenk (now 78) took curtain calls and received thunderous ovations. This has been the Wagner standard for a generation.

Now another German is in charge of LA Opera's 32 million dollar production of the Ring, and seems to represent much more what is going on in opera productions in Germany. I recently read the book "What the Fach" (a great book for anyone even thinking about a singing/opera career in Germany - see link below) in which the difference between American and German operatic sensitivity is discussed. According to German directors Americans want opera only exactly how the composer intended it because we only see a production of an opera maybe once or twice. Germans have seen everything multiple times, so they need something new each time or they get bored.

So, the new production of the Ring by Freyer (hired by Placido Domingo himself) looks more like a minimilist version of Star Wars. According to my upcoming teacher at USC (Gary Glaze) the production is actually quite stunning and fun to watch, however, the Wagner "purists" are going crazy. So, what is right? Or is there a right and we should we just be allowed to have a little fun? Or, since in America since we all only see one of these operas once should we feel bad that the only productions out there often seem inaccessible and so far from the original?

I have mixed feelings about it, but I'm curious what you all think of it whether you're in opera or not. I'd actually really love to hear from those who don't attend the opera very often. What, if anything, entices you to go? What keeps you from going? In the case of an opera like this, would you be more intrigued by the opportunity to see it exactly how it was to be, or does a new more techie production sound more interesting?

At least in the United States it seems that all of these efforts, whether going forward or backwards, is aimed at reaching some kind of demographic (either trying to get a new audience or secure an old one), and I'm not sure it's working in either direction. In this economy where opera companies are falling left and right there is a desperate push to get more people buying tickets. (In my opinion opera has been too "aloof" from making money for too long and now they're paying the price....anyway....)

So, a big question to opera goers and non-goers - what makes you want to see a production? What makes you want to (or not want to) go to an opera?

Oh, and here is an idea of how the new Freyer production (I have to admit, any opera that gives me the chance to maybe use a lightsaber, really gets me excited):


For the recent NY Times article on the operas, CLICK HERE.

The great book, "What the Fach?"



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

People Want to "Experience" Things (not own them)

I was reading in the LA Times this morning an interesting article about the panic in Hollywood over a plummet in DVD sales. Usually when a movie did particularly well in the Box office it would generate a very predictable large amount of DVD sales. It doesn't seem to work that way anymore.

Nowadays, according to the article, people are much more quality conscious. If a movie isn't good, no matter how well it did in initial sales people just aren't interested in owning it or viewing it multiple times.

What particularly struck my interest was the idea that people aren't interest in owning media, they're mostly interested in experiences:

"You could also argue that we now live in a cultural moment where people don't want to own things as much as they want to experience them. That would explain why event-oriented entertainment -- be it in the movie multiplexes and Imax theaters, the concert business or big arena sporting events -- is enjoying considerable success while stay-at-home entertainment (DVD and TV) has seen considerable drop-off."

I've often wondered if in our world now where everything recorded is essentially free or easily accessible if the allure of such media would diminish. A happy byproduct of the decline is a need to see things happen in front of you. This is wonderful news for live performances, particularly those who can really give the audience an experience. In the art music world of recital, operas, concerts, etc. we have an opportunity to shine if we take it upon ourselves to provide that experience.

Let's get to work!

(for the complete article, CLICK HERE).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marilyn Horne - C is for Cookie

My singing career started in 2nd grade when I would finish tests really fast, go in the back and put "C is for Cookie" on the record player with head-phones, then sing it at the top of my longs out loud while everyone else was still taking their tests. I have a bit of a legacy with this song, and it's nice to see someone like Marilyn Horne lending her own interpretation to this masterpiece.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Swashbuckler Ad

I had so much fun watching this family ad. Check it out:



Go play with your kids!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Down to the Earth

I know it's been some time since I last blogged, and honestly I have quite the list of things I still plan on blogging. But to get back in the swing of things, I just wanted to put something I feel is particularly important today. I have been doing a lot of introspection recently about the things that are most important to me, and the exercise has been very revealing.

We live in a society where we focus a lot on being better than everyone else. Americans now work more hour than the Japanese (click here for more). Now with a recession everyone is concerned about where the money is going to come from - we're stressed, over-extended, and over-worked. So at least at those things maybe we're the best.

I love this country, and I love the opportunities that I enjoy for being a part of it. I just think we can all do a lot for ourselves by just slowing down a little bit and noticing what wonderful things we have around us. Instead of trying to be better than everyone else, it's time to stop competing and start thriving on our blessings.

One of the things that I love about the movie Wall-E is the message that after trying so hard to reach for the stars and get ahead, what we end up wanting in the end more than anything is what we already had. The Peter Gabriel song during the closing credits says this better than anything (CLICK HERE for lyrics, they're great):



Spend time with your families, enjoy a great book, listen to some beautiful music, take a look at the amazing earth we live on. Come "down to the ground", and don't let your ambitions get in the way of your life...