Tag Archives: the orchestra world

new classical recording business model?

Bill Stensrud, who writes the blog “Business of Classical Music”, has written a very cogent and convincing argument for the abandonment of the way that classical music has been recorded and marketed since the beginning of the recording age.

I would highly recommend it to any and all of my musician colleagues who still regard recording as anything but a purely marketing and prestige tool (i.e., they see it as something which must continue to be monetized in order to make sense for musicians).

He describes the monetized model like this:

There is a lot of denial in the classical music world. Performers still believe that a CD represents a badge of honor. They can’t let go of the obsolete recording business model. They cling to the fantasy that there is intrinsic value in recording and that they should be additionally compensated for the recording of a live event.

Stensrud describes himself thusly on his blog’s “about me” page:

I was a technology entrepreneur and investor but always had a passion for music. When I was very young I was a roadie for the Grateful Dead. I fell for a violist and that was my introduction to the classical repertoir [sic]. I now make private investments, work with InstantEncore.com and attend over 100 live classical performances each year.

I bring to your attention his affiliation with InstantEncore.com, whose business plan relies on the changes that Bill suggests.  Of course he’s writing in his own company’s interests, but I believe that this new model is also in the best interest of all musicians, not just media companies and ensemble managers.  My full disclosure is that I am a friend of Margo Tatgenhorst-Drakos, who is the CEO of InstantEncore.com and former principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony.

Here is the crux of Stensrud’s argument:

Technology has no ethics. It may be wrong to copy a recording and share it but you cannot base an industry on a presumption of moral behavior. Even if a significant number of industry participants follow the rules, a large percentage will not. The practical, social and economic difficulties of making the industry work are insurmountable when a large share of the revenue vanishes and the moral minority who play by the rules are constantly confronted by the reminder that others do not. Attempts to legislate or to litigate proper behavior have completely failed. There is no practical and/or scalable way to enforce the desired behavior. The 20th century recording industry is dead.

Here’s what he thinks the new media laws are/will be in the 21st century:

The 3 Laws of Classical Music in the 21st Century

  1. Money will be made by performing, by donations and sponsorship and, in some cases, by endorsements.
  2. Recorded music will have no commercial value other than promotion. It is not a tool for revenue generation – it is a tool for brand building and audience development.
  3. Every download and every stream of recorded music increases the promotional value of that music and increases the brand equity of the performer and presenter. It does not cannibalize recording revenue because there is no recording revenue! It does not cannibalize ticket sales – it enhances ticket sales by enhancing the brand equity and building audience demand!

And here’s what he recommends that orchestras/presenters should do to thrive under these new rules:

  • Recognize that the CD is dead. Recognize that there is no direct revenue to be made by recording. Act now!
  • Be an artist/entrepreneur! The 21st century artist, performer or presenter cannot focus on the art and let someone else worry about the economics. Promote yourself tirelessly and broadly.
  • Get your music recorded, put on the net and make it as widely available as possible! Stream it! Download it! Put it everywhere you can. The promotional value of recorded music will no longer rest on the prestige and promotional engine of the label. Instead the promotional value of music will lie in how broadly it is disseminated, where and by whom. Every time your music touches the public it will enhance your brand awareness and your economic value as a performer.

I’m going to chew on this overnight and present my thoughts in a somewhat more organized form (than they are in my head right this moment) on Thursday – if you’ve got immediate thoughts, by all means comment below and get the ball rolling!


There are instances where a topic sweeps across the blogosphere, sometimes it’s referred to as a “meme”. I hadn’t heard of this before, so I checked dictionary.com and found that a meme is described thusly:

a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of gene

In this instance, I found a post from a new blog to me: The Omniscient Mussel, who wrote a post based upon a post at Iron Tongue of Midnight about what pieces (or parts of pieces) of music make one cry. Since I’ve been all over the emotional map this month, and much of that territory was in the sad or worse region, this is a timely topic.

So, without further ado, a small selection of the pieces that, if they don’t make me cry they at least move me deeply.

  1. Adams – On the Transmigration of Souls. I really didn’t expect that this piece would get to me, especially as a performer. There’s a lot to do in this piece, and it’s easy to get lost, so there isn’t a ton of time to devote to getting emotionally involved. However, the street sounds and voices of relatives that bookend the work immediately got right to the core of me from the first moment of the first rehearsal. There’s such a sense of time and place, of empathy for those people who were there at Ground Zero, or were just going about their lives, not realizing that they or their loved ones were being irrevocably tied to history.
  2. Mahler – Ninth Symphony, mvt. IV – Adagio. I played this piece in conservatory orchestra, as principal viola, and it was a life changing experience. This last movement of a composition that is essentially a farewell to the world, and a premonition of death, is one of the great valedictory statements in music. Such sweep and intimate grandeur (if that can be made to make sense) – and the entry of the woodwinds after nearly 15 minutes of incredibly moving string passages just makes my heart break every time I hear it.
  3. Puccini – Nessun dorma, from Turandot. This always made me weepy, especially the Pavarotti version. It’s pure emotion for the sake of emotion, and that is something that I’m a bit ashamed to love, but I do.
  4. Bach – Goldberg Variations. It’s such a journey, through the whole range of keyboard possibilities and the final return of the opening Aria is always a moment that brings such relief and feelings of an epic journey brought to a satisfying conclusion.
  5. Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 21, Kv. 467Elvira Madigan” – I hate these nicknames derived from films, but you use this one and everyone knows the concerto you’re talking about, so there you go. The Andante from this movement is just so absolutely sublime, it did actually bring me to tears the first time I played it. It was during my first season with the OSO, and Yoël Levi was conducting. I don’t even remember who was playing the piano, but they were terrific whoever they were. We got to the Andante and to the section where the pizzicato accompaniment by the strings doubles in tempo – it’s such a great spot, just absolute perfection – you cannot imagine anyone else writing something this perfect. Man, Wolfie knew how to write a good chart.
  6. Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, mvt. 3 – Andante. The stumbling, ruminative, despairing piano solo passage that precedes the return of the opening cello solo in the slow movement of this concerto never fails to move me. I remember the first time I ever heard this piece, it was a recording of Leon Fleisher with the Cleveland Orchestra under Georg Szell, and I knew that Brahms would have pride of place in my musical heart forever.
  7. Beethoven – String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 – mvt. 5 – Cavatina. Anyone who loves listening to or performing string quartets must claim this piece, and this movement of this piece as being near the top of their personal best list. For me, the unbelievable passage where the world is shut out and we find ourselves at the very core of Beethoven’s experience is the pinnacle of the art of the quartet. If you haven’t heard the Guarneri Quartet‘s performance of this movement in their second cycle of the quartets, then you really owe it to yourself to get hold of the recording and prepare to shed a few tears.
  8. Bach – Partita No. 2 in d minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1004Ciaconna. Truly one of the towering works for any solo instrument, or for any instrumental combination for that matter. Mahler liked to describe the symphony as a container which could hold an entire world in its confines. Bach beat him to it by a couple hundred years, and with a single instrument. The maggiore section is one of my favorite places in this piece, a place near the emotional nadir of the work, and then there is the miraculous return to the opening minor sequence, with the violin clawing its way back up from the edge of the abyss only to triumph. Amazing.

There are many more, but this is a good top of the list for me. Have your own nominations? Send a comment along.

a stark reminder

ghostBikeBurnside-1.jpg, originally uploaded by BikePortland.org.

In the bicycling community, there is a special way to remember cyclists who are killed while riding, and to remind motorists and cyclists alike to ride/drive defensively. It’s called a “ghost bike”. Painted white, often installed late at night, it is an eloquent reminder of the high cost of not being aware of your surroundings as a driver or rider.

You can find information from the BikePortland.org about the latest bicycling fatality collision which occurred at West Burnside and 14th Thursday afternoon. A 19 year old design student, Tracey Sparling, was crushed under a cement truck as it made a right hand turn.

OSO Classical Series B – Concert 1

This got buried amidst all of the intervening news of last week, and I thought that those of you who are coming to the concerts this weekend might be interested in doing some advance listening in preparation for the concert experience. So pardon the duplication of posts.

This year I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog for Oregon Symphony concertgoers: the iMix. An iMix is a published playlist of songs from iTunes gathered into a central location. For each Classical series concert, I’ll be publishing a iMix of the works on the program, all of which are recordings recommended by myself. Sounds good? Ok – here’s the first iMix. This one covers the upcoming Classical 2 concerts on October 13-15, 2007. The works featured are Luciano Berio’s Folksongs for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (here heard in its chamber version for seven instruments), Haydn’s Symphony No. 93, and Falla’s Three Cornered Hat complete ballet score. Enjoy!

slatkin to detroit

Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin

Conductor Leonard Slatkin, one of the most prominent figures in American music during the last three decades, will be named today as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Slatkin’s appointment, all but a certainty since midsummer, ends an unusually long search that began when Neeme Järvi announced his intention to step down as music director in 2005 after a popular 15-year run.

  • Read the entire story here.
  • And another here.

responses to tragedy

I was reading this article in today’s Sunday New York Times, about the New York Philharmonic’s music director designate Alan Gilbert, when I was struck by the first paragraph, which describes how an orchestra he was guest conducting responded to the death of a colleague:

ALAN GILBERT stood before the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic last month in one of the most difficult moments he has faced as the orchestra’s chief conductor. An hour before, the players learned that a well-liked former member had committed suicide.

“It feels strange to rehearse,” Mr. Gilbert quietly told them as they sat on the stage without instruments, looking stricken. Some held each other. Several sobbed. “On the other hand, not to rehearse, not to do what we do as musicians, is even stranger,” Mr. Gilbert added. “It’s a shame that it takes sometimes a terrible thing like this to remind us that we are a family.”

That could just as well describe the scene Friday morning, as the rehearsal period began for this weekend’s pops series. Beloved OSO flutist Martha Herby had died that morning, around 5 a.m. Much of the orchestra had gotten the news via phone (news travels quickly in the orchestra), but some had not heard the news. A colleague of mine said that she was glad that there was a rehearsal, even under those difficult circumstances, because “being here with friends is better than sitting home alone”.

There’s something about having to work just after having heard horrible news. I almost always find it to be therapeutic. Giving the mind something to do while the subconscious starts processing the shock and grief. Being with many other people who share similar connections to the deceased as you do. And just “being professional” and doing your job even when you think you can’t possibly keep it together.

It helps when those you work for are sympathetic and sincere. OSO president Elaine Calder came out at the start of the rehearsal and announced the news, with great emotion and sincerity. A ten-minute hold on the start time was given to allow people to react and compose themselves, and only the musicians remained on stage, silently reflecting, weeping, hugging one another, connecting across the orchestra with their eyes, or simply sitting eyes cast downward, trying to absorb it all.

Joy and sorrow really do define the direction and tenor of our lives, and I’ve shared both within this orchestra, and so it becomes my extended family.

martha’s obituary

Courtesy of Niel Deponte, OSO principal percussionist

Martha Herby, 1951 – 2007
by Niel dePonte, Principal Percussion, Oregon Symphony

Martha Herby, 55, became the Second Flutist of the Oregon Symphony in
1981 and also served as the Acting Principal Flute of the symphony on
many occasions. She was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music,
where she earned a Master of Music degree and the Performer’s
Certificate, before being named to the school’s faculty in 1976. She
also held the position of Principal Flute in both the Bloch Music
Festival orchestra in Newport, OR, and the Cascade Music Festival in Bend.

Martha appeared as a concerto soloist with the Oregon Symphony, the
Brockport Symphony, the Rainier Symphony, the Chautauqua Festival
Orchestra and the West Coast Chamber Orchestra, where she played
Principal Flute from 1980-1990. She taught on the faculties of The
Eastman School of Music, The National Music Camp at Interlochen, MI,
and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR.

After making her Portland solo debut with the West Coast Chamber
Orchestra, Willamette Week wrote, “in spite of visits by Jean-Pierre
Rampal and Ransom Wilson, Herby provided the best flute playing in
Portland this year.”

Martha can be heard as both principal and second flute on most of the
Oregon Symphony’s compact disc recordings with James DePreist
conducting. She also recorded two CD’s with the Third Angle New Music Ensemble.

Martha was born in Jamestown, N.Y. and received her Bachelor’s degree
from the State University of New York college at Fredonia, where she
majored in Music Education. She studied with and was coached by some
of the world’s outstanding flutists including soloist James Galway,
Walfrid Kujala of the Chicago Symphony, James Walker of the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, Bonita Boyd of the Rochester Philharmonic and
Eastman school, and master pedagogue and soloist Keith Underwood.

Among her many extra-musical activities, Martha was an avid gardener
and member of the Oregon Symphony’s garden club, where she enjoyed
her honorary title “Queen of Dirt.” She was a collector of “Christmas
in the Village” ceramic pieces and each year built a new Christmas
Village in her home, taking up most of her living room. This served
as an excuse to invite her friends over during the holidays to see
the village and eat some of her legendary cheesecakes.

Martha is survived by her parents, Norman and Violet Herby, and her
brother and sister-in-law Paul and Sue Herby, as well as her nephews
Chris and Tim, and niece Catelin of Chanhassen, Minnesota. Her last
public performance was as a member of the Oregon Ballet Theatre
Orchestra flute section during performances of Sleeping Beauty in
June of 2007, where she performed with many of her musical colleagues
in Portland who knew and loved her, especially principal flutist
Georgeanne Ries and conductor Niel DePonte.

Martha passed away due to complications stemming from gall bladder
cancer that was diagnosed in July of 2007. Martha loved the Oregon
Symphony with all her heart and was a devoted member, participating
on many committees. At the time of her death she was one of two
orchestra members appointed to the board of directors. A memorial
service is being planned for Saturday November 10 at 2 PM.
Contributions can be made in her name to the Oregon Symphony Annual Fund Drive.