Posts Tagged ‘WNYC’

spring is coming

March 19, 2011

Saturday morning, catching up on life. It’s been a busy week here recovering from being out of town last week at the annual PRMC (public radio music conference) in NY City. It was a great trip, the conference was sponsored by AMPPR (Assoc. of Music Personnel in Public Radio – unwieldy, that’s why we just call it the PRMC) and held in the Greene Space at the WNYC studios.

I met with composers Paul Moravec and Aaron Jay Kernis, and had good conversations with Performance Today host Fred Child along with many other friends and colleagues. Quotable quote came from Montreal-based violinst Angèle Dubeau, who also leads the all-female ensemble she founded, La Pietà. She was talking about Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, one of the subjects of her new ‘Portraits’ series of recordings: “For me, the music of Arvo Pärt is like a cathedral. It’s that big.”

What’s the buzz among public radio music personnel these days? Community engagement. ‘Radio’ relevance in a Pandora world. Creating meaningful partnerships with area arts organizations. Social media. Web presence. In essence: connecting. The same thing that radio has always tried to do but now we’re doing it in different ways (many of which have little to do with traditional ‘radio’ at all), and we’re doing it in a time where there’s a lot more competition for people’s attention. It’s worth talking about. A lot.

cool old radios in Mystic, CT

I came back to Vermont to discover the big snow on March 13th/14th had melted down a few inches, and the first bare ground of the year is now visible in the yard. This morning a new inch or so of snow is covering everything and a few flakes are still falling through sunlight as I write this. A late afternoon visit to South Hero revealed the Lake beginning to break up. (It was stunning.) First day of spring is tomorrow. Besides March Madness, another sure sign of the changing season is yesterday’s opening of the annual Green Mountain Film Festival. (More on that later  – this year’s festival features interesting films on many musical subjects including Mozart’s sister Nannerl, Leonard Cohen, local musician James Harvey, and composer David Amram.) It’s also open house weekend at Vermont maple sugar houses – the sap is running!

beautiful melting Lake Champlain, 3/14

Libyan artist Ibn Thabit has been busy too, with two new videos responding to developing events in his country. And, in breaking news today – check out this extraordinary series of shots from AFP/Getty Images photographer Patrick Baz. He was on the ground in Libya this morning when a fighter jet was shot down. It’s been less than a day since day since the UN declared a no-fly zone over Libya. CNN is reporting that the jet photographed here belonged to Libyan rebels.


It’s good to be back. And, while this is something that is much bigger than just Vermont -when you’re out tonight remember to look up, the moon will be at its closest point to Earth since 1993.

Tripoli Calling

Libyan Warrior Song

what a week!

April 25, 2010

When a few days go by and you haven’t heard from me here, it’s because I’m so wrapped up in the ‘doing’ that I haven’t had a moment to sit down and talk about it. That has definitely been the case over the past week.

Last Wednesday afternoon I departed for NY City to attend the annual AMPPR (Assoc. of Music Personnel in Public Radio) conference. It’s held in a different city each year, and this year the host station was WNYC/WQXR. In past years the conference has included music hosts, music directors, program directors from all music public radio formats, and recording label and programming reps from all over as well.

Things have been changing in the radio world in the last few years, particularly in the almost-decade now since September 11th when the need for news and information has driven both format changes and audience numbers at stations throughout the US. Changes and downsizing in the recording industry have also significantly lessened the number of  record reps who show up now at these conferences: the plain fact is, it’s not as easy or compelling to hand out mp3 samples of new recordings as it is CDs.

So these days the AMPPR conference is a smaller affair – yet in many ways, more relevant than ever. I do miss the variety of people in past years’ meetings, it used to be just as likely to stike up interesting conversations with jazz, blues and world music programmers as those who specialized in classical music. Now that public radio stations have primarily concentrated their focus on news and classical music (and both, in mixed format stations), the faces and names at the conference are fewer and more familiar. Public radio is a relatively small community of professionals. When you add that to the fact that migration seems to be a given part of public radio jobs, the degrees of separation between all of us are in the lower single numbers at best. I think of my own 25-year career history: from Denver to Northern Colorado, back to Denver, and then on to many years at stations in Los Angeles and Vermont. You get to know people after a while when you get around like that.

The guest speakers for this year’s MPC (Music Personnel Conference) #48 included:

– Bill McGlaughlin of Exploring Music, talking about working every minute of every day to make a personal connection with listeners

– American tenor Thomas Hampson, speaking inspirationally about his new Hampsong Foundation; the critical link between poetry and music; and the vitality of today’s classical music scene

– composer/writer Greg Sandow, with acute observations about how classical music doesn’t help its own image by allowing dusty and irrelevant conventions of language and presentation to represent it

– and Performance Today host Fred Child, sharing suggestions on building effective hosting skills

On Wednesday night after the conference opening night wine (nice!) reception, many of us took the subway to Lincoln Center for a performance with guest conductor Valery Gergiev and the New York Philharmonic. The concert was the first in the Philharmonic’s planned Stravinsky festival, and it was introduced by Zarin Mehta, the Society’s President and Exec. Director. His opening line sent a ripple of laughter around :”So, how was YOUR week?” With that, Mehta continued by apologizing for the night’s last-minute program change: the main piece on the night’s bill was Stravinsky’s cornerstone choral work, Les Noces (The Wedding) – except with European travel being hindered by the Icelandic volcano, many members of the Marinsky Theatre Chorus had been stranded in cities as widespread as Vienna, Tel Aviv, and St. Petersburg and couldn’t get to New York for the show. On to Plan B: the Philharmonic substituted Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes (the Musical Card Game), a work that wasn’t scheduled to be played at the festival until Friday. I was looking forward to Les Noces, it’s a difficult large work that one rarely has an opportunity to hear/see performed live. I haven’t heard, but I hope the Marinsky chorus made it for the performances later in the week so at least those audiences could enjoy it.

Thursday began with a light breakfast at WNYC’s newly built performance studio, the Greene Space, followed by two consecutive sessions there with instruction by top audio engineers on doing setups for live performances. Then, box lunch with a presentation by WFMT (Chicago) on the programs they’re offering, followed by the two afternoon coaching and discussion sessions with Fred Child and composer Greg Sandow. The end of the day held a music showcase with the married violin duo Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham with pianist Akira Eguchi, and several other musicians.

After a quick run to the hotel room to change clothes, I was on to the evening’s activities: Rossini’s “Armida” with soprano Renee Fleming at the Metropolitan Opera, and then a late-night CD release/Earth Day party at SOBs with Madagascar’s Razia Said. (Her newest album “Zebu Nation” has just come out on Vermont’s Cumbancha label. How could I not support that – especially once I found out that SOBs was just two blocks from my hotel in Soho!?) Yeah, it was a late – LATE – night following a long day, but how often are there all of those great options for musical entertainment? I hate to miss anything, so usually my approach is to do it all and rest up later.

On Friday I went to the morning AMPPR conference session, which was a presentation by WNYC/WQXR staff on all of the changes they’ve been through and considerations they’ve had to make in the last 8 months or so since the two stations merged. Amazing story. Then it was back to LaGuardia for the return flight to Burlington. I had to leave the conference a little early to get home Friday afternoon for the workshop/pre-concert talk and performance that evening with the Bowed Piano Ensemble, at the UVM Lane Series. Our staff have been involved in the Ensemble’s appearance (everything from planning, to hosting, to arranging for the Ensemble’s Friday night lodging) over the last year or so, since they were contracted to appear here as part of the Series. I couldn’t miss their performance – and it did not disappoint! The 9-piece Ensemble prepares a grand piano by popping the lid off and then adding everything from pencil erasers and fishing line to popsicle sticks and duct tape to transform the piano into making an amazing sound. This is called “expanded technique”, not musical “experimentalism”, as the effects are very much planned and intentional. See the photos below, and then check out the Ensemble here to put the visual and audio pieces together. It is extraordinary:

Yesterday (Saturday) I got up early to head to Brattleboro’s Vermont Center for Photography to take a workshop on pinhole photography. April 25th (today) is World Pinhole Day, with photographers from all over the globe participating. The Saturday workshop included extensive information on the technique and practices of pinhole photography, we built cameras, and then spent the rest of the day using them to shoot various scenes around the VCP building before heading into the dark room to develop them. It would have been a different experience if there had been more participants, but since I was the only one I had the Center’s two excellent teachers to myself and we had such fun! After a couple of busts (one foggy shot, one completely black – part of my expanding ‘Opaque’ series!) I was able to produce a few credible shots. It’s a fascinating process, with many variables (light source, light strength, exposure length, paper position, pinhole size, camera stability, internal camera darkness) all possibilities for affecting the outcome. It’s around a three-hour drive, 130 or so miles from my house to Brattleboro, but I can tell already I’m going to want to become a regular in some way with the various VCP programs.

At the end of the day yesterday I had lunch with three of my new photographer friends, and then hastily hauled myself back to Burlington for a special 400th anniversary performance of Monteverdi’s magnificent Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (1610) with Bill Metcalfe and the Orianna Singers. The concert got started around 7:30, so I had enough time to find a quick dinner but not enough to run home and change out of my jeans and t-shirt, and wash the black spray paint off of my hands (from painting my pinhole camera earlier in the day)…ah well. No one seemed to notice.

That brings us today, where I’m unpacking, catching up here, downloading the 200+ pics on my (non-pinhole) camera, and getting ready for the week to start all over again tomorrow. The photos below are from the AMPPR conference and my other adventures in New York over the last few days; from the Bowed Piano Ensemble workshop/performance on Friday night; and from the Monteverdi Vespers concert last night. I’ll share a few pics from the pinhole photography workshop in a separate post.

Cheers! Happy Sunday. It is just about naptime now for yours truly.

PS – Look for the Met Opera’s “Armida” in HD movie presentations at participating theatres on May 1st, with encore performances thereafter. It’s a really nice production.

the “decade’s” best

December 26, 2009

"Father Time" engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi (circa 1470)

Is it purely pendantic? Or, a mere matter of semantics? I don’t think so.

I know it’s not that folks can’t count, and I’m convinced it’s not a simple matter of mass delusion, either. Although that explanation may actually come closer to the truth than anything else.

What else accounts for the curious phenomena of premature celebration that happens every time the calendar approaches a new decade or century (or millennium)?

Think back to the buildup to the year 2000. Yes, it was certainly something to be alive at a time when we went from noting the year in “19s” to “20s”. It felt special. It was special. But despite the misinformation that many sources kept pushing out, I hold with the camp that the year 2000 was NOT the beginning of the new century NOR the new millennium. That did not happen until the big silver ball in Times Square dropped a year later, at the start of 2001.

(Funny, but I’d swear I can actually hear the sound of eyes rolling right now! Bear with me. Please.)

So here we are at the end of 2009 and the “end of the first decade of the new millennium” lists have already started appearing, even though we still have a whole year ahead before the first decade actually ends. That’s all fine and well, in a sense – a lot of remarkable music and art has been created in the last nine years. It should be acknowledged. But before we can start creating these definitive “best of the first decade” lists, shouldn’t we give the final year of this decade a chance to make its mark first? Who knows WHAT will happen in 2010? It would be a shame to categorically exclude 2010’s contributions because all of the surveys happened a year early, here at the end of 2009.

It is a bit surprising how widespread the “2009-is-the-end-of-the-first-decade” buzz actually is among some fairly high profile media and pop culture contributors, like these:

– From WBUR, the On Point program from this past week devoted to “The End of the ’00s” (which is true, we are coming to the end of the years marked by an ‘0’. That does NOT make the end of 2009 the end of the millennium’s first decade! Come on, Tom, we expect better journalism from you.)

– From NPR, The Decade’s 50 Most Important Recordings (whose introductory paragraph begins with this erroneous opening statement, “With the first decade of the new millennium coming to a close, we decided to compile a list of the 50 most important recordings of the past 10 years…” )

…and then there are also the regular ol’ “end of the decade lists”, here are a few:

– WNYC’s program Soundcheck, reviewing the Decade in Jazz and World music

– From the Guardian UK, The Observer Music Monthly’s Top 50 Albums of the Decade

– ABC News’ “End of the Decade” survey

Personally I advocate celebrating the beginning of every new year like it’s the new millennium. Calendars are just another relatively meaningless form of subjective, human-designed time management anyway, right? And life itself is reason enough to celebrate. But in the effort of consistency (and acknowledging the indisputable fact that we’ve universally accepted the Gregorian calendar to keep track of our time) I’m not sure why, as a society, we’d consciously choose to stop short on this not insignificant point of accuracy: the second millennium’s first decade does not conclude until Dec. 31st, 2010.

Best wishes to you for the new year, starting later this week, and for the start of the millennium’s second decade – when it arrives a year from now.


  • Celebrating the start of the new millennium in 2001 may have been accurate, but you may recall it was far from being the popular position. Douglas Adams approached the topic in his own, typically wry way: check out Adams’ “timeline” of millennial celebrations.
  • As the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke would seem a natural expert on the topic. He celebrated the start of the new millenium on Jan. 1, 2001 at his home in Sri Lanka
  • Australia’s prime minister John Howard was voted “biggest party pooper of the century” by many of the country’s newspapers, when he advocated for national millennial celebrations to be scheduled for new year’s eve on Dec. 31st, 2000. Love that!

Ed. NOTE, 12/31/09: Just to be clear, the problem here is not someone stating that Dec. 31st, 2009 is the “end of a decade”. By definition, a “decade” is a ten-year period of time. Any 10-year period. Feel free to claim the “end of a decade” every Dec. 31st if you need to hang on to that milestone to create a “best of” music list, or for any other reason you choose. BUT – Dec. 31st, 2009 is NOT the “end of the first decade of this millennium“. That’s where the declamation runs an indisputable factual roadblock…we have another year to enjoy the first decade of the second millennium, so let’s just relax, hold off on the “best of the first decade of the second millennium” surveys for now and let’s see what the next year has in store for us. Around this time next year, we can take a look back with the full perspective of 10 years time and assess what the “best of” lists should hold as we review the first decade of the millennium. Happy new year!

day for a parade

March 1, 2009


pre-parade drum circle on Church St.

pre-parade drum circle on Church St.

Bright, clear, and very, very ‘crisp’ (that’s typically circumspect New England-ese shorthand for ‘marrow-freezing cold‘) – yesterday was a remarkable difference of about 35 degrees from Friday’s highs in the 40s. But with full sunshine and little wind, it was also the best weather I’ve experienced so far in my four Burlington Mardi Gras celebrations. That must have helped to encourage the huge crowd that packed Church Street for the parade. Biggest crowd I’ve seen yet.  After a hot (both picante AND caliente), delicious, oversized bowl of Tom Yum at the Asian Noodle House, we took our place streetside and had a great time taking in the parade and the street scene. Caught some beads!

But the whole time I was watching the parade my imagination was still churning on the drum circle that got the party underway, playing for about a half hour on the street near the Firehouse Gallery. And then they picked up and went mobile, leading the procession up Church Street in an infectious cadence once the parade started.

I love drum circles. Yesterday’s group brought back the memory of being in NYC last year, mid-April. Still mud season here, so I was enchanted to arrive in the city and find magnolia trees blooming in the NYU Law School courtyard, and Washington Square’s cherry trees in full-on pink blossom. I had gone there for a one-day conference at the beautiful new WNYC facilities. Around 4pm, conference over, I left the station and the walk to Broadway to catch a cab took me by Wash Square Park.

I came around a corner to find overturned plastic paint buckets, hubcaps, glass bottle mallets thumping on stretched skins, along with the usual assortment of more traditional djembe, congas, and timbales, all working with – and against – each other in a complicated network of joyous rhythms that filled the whole Park and the Village. The players were as diverse as the percussion array – black, white, Asian, old and very young. With a little time to spare before catching my flight, I sat on a sunny stone step and soaked it all in.

Yesterday’s experience in Burlington may have been missing the cherry blossoms and some of the instrumental ingenuity of the NYC drum circle (and, around 60 balmy degrees of mercury…), but the same unmistakable driving spirit was very much there. And, you know? – it’s ALWAYS there, no matter the particulars of the place or instruments involved – where there are people, there is music. It’s as natural a means of expression to us as talking, and touching. We make music because we can’t help it. I’m glad we don’t try.                 

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