Listen... the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is playing

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New home for the blog

Hello readers! With the launch of our new website, we have moved the blog to:

We hope you will join us there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Owning another kind of podium

I found out something new about the Olympics last week: medals were once awarded in arts competitions alongside sports. ran a story recently about Canadian composer John Weinzweig, one of only two Canadians to receive a medal in the cultural portion of the Olympics. The arts categories were last seen in 1948 because, the article says, "most competing artists were professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs." (Just like hockey players - oh wait...)

Local artists still continue to be a part of the Olympics, most demonstrably in the opening ceremonies, but also in what's often called the Cultural Olympiad - arts events taking place in and around the sporting venues during the games. So I'm not necessarily advocating that we revive the arts categories at the Olympics, but it did get me thinking about the "Own the Podium" program that Canadian sport organizations have had in place for athletes in an attempt to top the medal standings in 2010 (which sadly doesn't look like it will happen). Alongside investing in athletes, what if we had a concerted effort in place to make Canadian artists and cultural institutions truly world class?

I'd say that geography and cultural offerings are the primary drivers of tourism, so there are definite economic benefits of cultivating Canadian artists and institutions in this way. We've got the geographic features down, so let's complement them with arts offerings that are just as compelling for travelers from abroad!

Funding is crucial to developing institutions into cultural forces, and in encouraging and enabling individual creators. We also need a strong focus on arts education in schools to become an artistically rich nation. Of course, as we've seen in this province, arts funding is usually the last to receive an increase, and the first to be cut, so it will be an uphill battle. Perhaps that's fitting if we're going to compare ourselves to Olympic athletes...

By the way, we have our own "Tribute to the Games" this Thursday. And one piece that's NOT on the program is "I Believe", AKA, the music CTV has played every 17 seconds since February 12.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another TED talk

Earlier I posted a TED talk by Benjamin Zander, and here's another one, this time from deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie, one of the best percussionists in the world. I've seen her perform at the Winspear Centre, and she's incredible. In this video she talks about how "listening to music involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums."

Just watch:


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Full Steam

Geoff Manaugh at the architectural blog BLDGBLOG just posted some video of steam tunnels in Brooklyn turned into a giant musical instrument by the Pratt Instrument on New Year's Eve. Apparently this is a yearly event, and he describes it as "somewhere between subterranean calliope and mutant wave organ."

He goes on to discuss the idea of attaching musical instrument parts to city infrastructure to create one massive instrument. Hey, the U of A has a huge steam plant, right?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TED Talk on Classical Music

This 20 minute presentation on classical music by conductor Benjamin Zander is fantastic! Part Victor Borge, part Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin demonstrates the power of music in the TED talk from 2008:


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Friday Night Lights

This Friday, the ESO is trying something new. Instead of the standard 7:30 or 8 pm start time, and instead of the common format of short work + concerto + intermission + so-and-so's fourth symphony, we're presenting a concert that's a little different, and we're calling it Late Night Beethoven.

It'll be a shorter, more casual concert, with no intermission, and it starts at 9:30 pm. Bill Eddins will conduct, play the piano, and talk about the pieces being performed - with a chance for the audience to ask questions. The lobby will remain open after the show for live music and drinks.

Now in some ways, it's a bit sad that this is "new". We probably should've been doing this for the last 20 years or more, because, outside of the North American orchestral world, this concept is not new at all. Even within the orchestral world, we're not exactly breaking new ground. But I'm going to say, better late than never, and it will be a fun night! And however new or old this concept is for anyone, there is a pretty cool piece on the program: a movement from a Beethoven oboe concerto that has never before been performed in Canada. This is the only movement that survived, in fact, of the only oboe concerto Beethoven wrote. So again, it's not new, but it's new to us, and that's worth celebrating!

Oh, and this concert happens to be on sale this week, with tickets for $29 (or less...), so there's every reason to check it out!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last post of 2009?

As 2009 draws to a close, the inevitable flood of "best ______ of the year/decade" begins (or in the case of The Onion, The Top Ten Stories of the last 4.5 Billion Years). Clearly these lists will always generate controversy, based on opinion as they are, but I still find that most of these lists are rather narrowly focused. For instance, most lists purporting to be the "best albums of the decade" are entirely filled with pop, rock and hip-hop albums (if even that broad), while ignoring other genres such as jazz or (gasp) classical. I will admit that I browse the lists and occasionally discover interesting finds, but I finally came across something worth sharing, via 20 Pieces of Music That Changed the World, as presented by CBC's The Sunday Edition.

This isn't even really a "best of" list, and it's actually been running for a year and a half. But in any case, all 20 episodes (plus one devoted to Christmas music) are available to listen to online. I've listened to a bit, and looking forward to listening to more! Mostly, I'm happy to see there's everything from Gregorian chants to Reggae covered.