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The Discourse on Method is best known as the source of the famous quotation “cogito ergo sum”, “I think, therefore I am.” …. It is a method which gives a solid platform from which all modern natural sciences could evolve. With this work, the idea of skepticism was revived from the ancients such as Sextus Empiricus and modified to account for a truth that Descartes found to be incontrovertible. Descartes started his line of reasoning by doubting everything, so as to assess the world from a fr ...
 
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The "Star-Spangled Banner" that kicks off opening night concerts across the U.S. is often believed to be a great patriotic tradition. But some people think it's out of place and out of mood. The Fort Worth Symphony recently drew criticism over its practice of playing the anthem before every concert. A Dallas musician sounded off on Facebook that or…
 
An international dispute arose last month when Russia announced its intentions to reclaim Rachmaninoff's remains from a cemetery in Valhalla, NY. Russian cultural minister Vladimir Medinsky claimed that Americans have neglected the composer's grave (pictured above) while attempting to "shamelessly privatize" his name. But Rachmaninoff's descendants…
 
Attending a new opera? Better take it all in because there's a good chance it may not be performed again. According to a 2015 study by Opera America, of the 589 operas that were premiered over the last 20 years, just 71 (or 11 percent) received subsequent revivals. For the second of two episodes dedicated to contemporary opera, we consider why the …
 
When George Benjamin's Written on Skin had its American stage premiere at the Mostly Mozart Festival on August 11, it became an unlikely summer blockbuster: a complex, contemporary opera with an abstract storyline and a dense, modernist musical language. The work got standing ovations from audiences and rave reviews from critics – but not all of th…
 
It's no secret that arts coverage has been slashed by many news media outlets looking to pare costs, and there are fewer writers and less space devoted to serious classical music criticism. This year has seen critics leave national newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News; last December brought the departure of long …
 
When Laurence Olivier played Othello in 1964, he would spend two hours a night coating his body with black grease, dying his tongue red and using drops to whiten his eyes. Such transformations have long since been banished from television and theater as racially insensitive, but some variations on this have doggedly continued in opera houses, inclu…
 
"Art for art's sake?" Not any more. A growing number of economic impact studies conducted by arts groups suggest that music festivals have a big impact on local economies. "If you do these studies and show them to government officials, they might be more willing to invest in the arts in their own communities," says Timothy Mangan, the classical mus…
 
Scan through the websites and social media feeds of many orchestras, music festivals and concert halls and you'll notice a common theme: youth and sex appeal, especially when it comes to soloists. But it's more specific than that: Alluring young female violinists are everywhere – and brooding male conductors (or guitarists) with artfully-groomed st…
 
"The whole concept of streaming doesn't fit with the way people listen to classical music," says Kirk McElhearn, a technology writer and senior contributor to Macworld, in this week's episode of Conducting Business. The launch of the online streaming service Apple Music has raised hopes and reinforced some of the persistent complaints about Apple w…
 
Ronald A. Wilford, once classical music's biggest power broker, died on June 13 at age 87. Wilford was an artist manager of the old school, wielding major control over the business but keeping a very low profile. In 50 years at Columbia Artists Management, Inc. (CAMI), he was the power behind the thrones occupied by James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Sei…
 
As this year's college graduates frame their diplomas, the job market is the strongest it has been in nearly a decade. The economy is improving and salaries are up in many fields. But how these developments impact classically trained musicians is a more complicated picture. In this week's episode, we explore career prospects for the class of 2015. …
 
When Reynold Levy became president of Lincoln Center in 2002, the organization was “a community in deep distress, riven by conflict,” according to New York magazine. No surprise that the title of Levy’s new memoir is They Told Me Not to Take That Job: Tumult, Betrayal, Heroics, and the Transformation of Lincoln Center. While much of Levy’s book off…
 
It's hard to talk about Tchaikovsky these days without getting into, well, sex. That probably says less about the Russian composer, who was born 175 years ago Thursday, than it does about us, according to Simon Morrison, a professor of Slavic Studies at Princeton University. Tchaikovsky's letters and journal entries leave little doubt that he was g…
 
According to several recent studies, young musicians are still following traditional gender stereotypes when they choose an instrument. Girls at a young age go for what they perceive as "feminine" instruments, such as the flute, piccolo, violin, and clarinet; boys gravitate towards trumpets, tubas and percussion. Kids’ views of masculinity and femi…
 
If you've ever looked out on an orchestra audience and marveled at all of the gray hair and empty seats, the next question that may enter your mind is, how will this picture look in 10, 20 or 30 years? And should I be alarmed? In this week's episode, Michael Kaiser, known as the arts world's "Mr. Fix-It," gives some less-than-rosy answers – as well…
 
Chicago Tribune chief theater critic Chris Jones tells Naomi Lewin that nothing lights up his e-mail inbox like an opera company staging a Broadway musical using full amplification. "It's full of disgruntled patrons," he said. "You get the natural hall acoustics working – and then you get a miked performer." The controversies go beyond acoustics an…
 
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra's decision to drop its piano soloist Valentina Lisitsa this week because of her Twitter comments about Ukrainians and other ethnic groups raises a crucial point: orchestras and arts organizations find themselves walking a fine line with protecting their brand when they engage an artist with controversial views. In thi…
 
Toronto Symphony president Jeff Melanson tells WQXR's Conducting Business that pianist Valentina Lisitsa's politics had nothing to do with the orchestra's decision to drop her from its program this week. "The concerns raised were not about a political perspective but were about directly offensive and intolerant comments directed at other human bein…
 
If you're a music fan of a certain age you’ll remember your first Walkman: likely a cassette player with a belt clip and possibly a built-in radio. Long before the smartphone and the iPod, Sony’s player defined portable audio. And it actually never completely disappeared: Last month Sony introduced a new model – a digital music player that promises…
 
Virtual reality technology has revolutionized the way pilots train for flight, soldiers prepare for battle and surgeons learn delicate procedures. So it might be inevitable that musicians entering the cutthroat classical music world would turn to high-tech virtual reality equipment. A team at the Royal College of Music in London and the Conservator…
 
Last week, a Los Angeles jury found that the pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied Marvin Gaye's 1977 song "Got to Give it Up" in their song "Blurred Lines." The jury awarded the singer's estate $7.4 million. Gaye’s family celebrated the decision. But a lot of composers wondered if copyright is now being extended to cover not just son…
 
When Frank Music Company, the last store in New York City dedicated to selling classical sheet music, closed its doors last Friday, there was much dismay about its significance: yet another brick-and-mortar store was bowing to the pressure of online competition. So without a shop where one can browse and get advice, what digital options are there f…
 
The conductor an orchestra chooses says a lot about how it sees its mission in the 21st century. Factors to consider include taste in repertoire, age, nationality, race, gender, fundraising skills -- and of course, musicianship. The New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestras in Washington, DC are about to grapple with all of this as…
 
In the last week, two top violinists got a visit by the Repo Man…so to speak. Frank Peter Zimmermann was forced to give up his 1711 Stradivarius just days before soloing with the New York Philharmonic – and before his 50th birthday – after a contract on a loan expired. Meanwhile, a Pressenda violin played by Alexander Pavlovsky of the Jerusalem Qua…
 
After a long decline, RadioShack recently filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to shutter more than 1,700 stores. As many music lovers know, RadioShack was once the place to get speaker wire, headphones, adapters, or even a Realistic-brand stereo system. But how times have changed. On this week's show, Christopher Mims, the Wall Street Journal'…
 
Ethnic diversity remains a troublesome question for American orchestras. Just over four percent of their musicians are African-American and Latino, according to the League of American Orchestras, and when it comes to orchestra boards and CEOs, the numbers are even starker: only one percent. Ethnic diversity is also a rare sight among guest soloists…
 
Improvisation is a nearly obsolete art in classical music these days. But virtuosos used to improvise all the time. Mozart freely improvised on his own tunes, Liszt would strike up an aria from a Wagner opera and embellish it. Even legendary piano showmen of the 20th century made it part of their performance practice early in their careers – people…
 
Usually, a polite discourse pervades arts journalism, but two recent cases underscore the tricky relationships between classical music organizations and the media that covers them. After Opera House Revokes Critics' Tickets, Examining Practice of 'Freebies' Last month, Opera Australia removed a music critic for the Sydney Morning Herald from its co…
 
New York's Department of Cultural Affairs is embarking on the first comprehensive effort to measure diversity at the city's museums, venues and performance groups. The survey, announced on Monday, will collect information on the demographics of employees, boards, and visitors at arts organizations. The goal: to determine if these groups are keeping…
 
There are still hoops to be jumped through, but it looks like, as Monty Python would say, New York City Opera is not dead yet. Last week, the bankrupt company's board of directors voted to approve the sale of its remaining assets – minus the endowment – to a group, called NYCO Renaissance, headed by Michael Capasso and Roy Niederhoffer. Capasso is …
 
For any artist, glowing reviews and standing ovations are great – but they don't pay the rent. A big-money prize can serve as an early-career springboard, a mid-career boost, or a way to fund the next big project. But just because there's a lot of cash, does that make the honor meaningful? And how many big-money awards are given because of altruism…
 
In 2010, the Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic played a recital in Washington, D.C., and got a mildly critical review. Somehow that stuck: It's the second item that comes up when you Google Lazic's name, after his own website. Now he wants it permanently removed from the search engine in Europe, citing the European Union's new "right to be forgotten" ru…
 
Last week, Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting the New World Symphony in Miami when he stopped the concert in its tracks. A fidgety child and her mother were in his line of sight, and he reportedly asked them to change seats. Some details remain unclear but the mom and child did more than that – they left the hall. The incident caused quite a sens…
 
Vladimir Jurowski just finished a four-city North American tour with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, where he's been the chief conductor since 2007. Last month, the Philharmonic renewed his contract through 2018, and critics have frequently praised his artistic bond with the ensemble. But along with his London ties, Jurowski also has some strong…
 
The United Kingdom is blessed with any number of top-flight orchestras – the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, umpteen BBC orchestras, and specialist groups like Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. But among connoisseurs, there's one group that has often batted above its league: The Ulster Orchestra. Considered one of the jewels in Northern Ir…
 
Protests in the concert hall are nothing new: think of the riot-inducing premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in 1913 or the backlash at the 1861 premiere of Wagner's Tannhauser. Recently, protesters for a variety of causes have picketed the Metropolitan Opera, the Israel Philharmonic and the Valery Gergiev's Mariinsky Orchestra, among other…
 
As the lockout of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians enters its third week, the two sides appear to be digging in for a fight that threatens to get more acrimonious before it's resolved. "We're into the third week and the two sides haven't even sat down together," says Howard Pousner, a cultural reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in…
 
Many of us have posted things online that we wish we hadn’t. The question of how unfiltered classical musicians should be on Facebook and Twitter re-emerged recently with the controversy surrounding American bass-baritone Valerian Ruminski. His contract with Opera Lyra, a Canadian company, was cancelled after he posted a rant on Facebook about seei…
 
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