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Monday, November 23, 2009

Hot, hot, hot

A few weeks ago staff of the ESO and Winspear Centre entered the Edmonton Downtown Business Association's annual Chili Cook-off. Businesses and groups around the city prepared chili which was sold at the event $2 for a 4oz bowl, with all proceeds going towards the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters. Our Orchestra Personnel Manager Eric provided the recipe and the leadership for us, and I made a video of the preparations. A big thanks goes to the chefs at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology who allowed us the use of their teaching kitchens to prepare the chili. Here's the video:


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fine Arts Education

On Monday the Calgary Herald reported on "a growing movement of parents and teens concerned about proposed changes to how music, art, drama and dance is taught in Alberta schools."

Alberta Learning is proposing some fundamental changes to fine arts curriculum in the K-12 system, and many of these changes are being questioned by fine arts teachers, students and other stakeholders. I should note that so far Alberta Learning has only released a draft of proposed changes, and will in fact accept feedback on the changes. This being said, the fact that there seems to be a universal backlash from those directly affected by the changes would indicate to me that there was little (if any) consultation of the stakeholders in drafting the proposed changes.

There are several controversial aspects in the draft framework, but the general concern seems to be that an apparent push to integrate fine arts elements into other subjects will come at the expense of true skill development in these art forms. Or in other words, the arts are getting dumbed down.

The website has posted a facts sheet about these changes, noting both concerns with and positive aspects of the proposed framework, along with ways to get involved and to give feedback to Alberta Learning and MLAs. Whether or not you believe the changes to be positive or negative - or a little of both - it's an issue that deserves our attention. It's not quite as headline-grabbing as direct funding cuts to the arts or arts education, but it may in fact have a far greater effect on the future artists of Alberta.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Timely news for a concert plug

It seems that Paul McCartney has been named the third winner of the Gerswhin Prize for Popular Song.

Which of course means I'll capitalize on the announcement by mentioning the ESO's tribute to Paul McCartney on May 12, 2010 - a concert we just added to the schedule. We've invited back the same group who performed with us for the Classical Mystery Tour concerts a couple of years ago at the Winspear, and at Sobeys Symphony Under the Sky in 2008. Here's the video promo for their new show "Live and Let Die":

Not everyone is a fan of "cover bands", but both performances of Classical Mystery Tour were pretty rockin'. If you're a fan of Paul McCartney/The Beatles, this will be well worth attending, and really quite the experience. More info about the concert is on our website here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Speaking of innovation and contemporary uses...

I was going through some of my music from the past few years and I came across one of my favourite pieces of electronic music. The piece, called Finished Symphony was written by the group Hybrid in the late 90's and features the Russian Federal Orchestra, conducted by Sacha Puttnam. This piece challenged the pre-conceived notion of "electronic artist" and "dj" at a time when electronic music was hitting the mainstream. The Times supposedly reported it as "one of the most moving pieces of electronic music ever". I firmly believe that still stands to this day. It has been used in over 30 applications since then - from video games to movies.

And in true electronic music form, this song was resurrected and remixed in 2007 by one of the current electronic scene 'it-kids', Deadmau5.

Have a listen for yourself to Hybrid's release:

And the remix by Deadmau5:

.... sorry - there's no video for these, just audio.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Commercializing Classical Music

Two different classical music bloggers are weighing in on classical music in commercials.

Alex Ross from The New Yorker mentions the Levi's commercial with music by Charles Ives, arranged by Owen Pallet (aka, Final Fantasy).  As Alex says, it's a little more obscure than the typical Carmina Burana treatment:

And then Greg Sandow, in a discussion of making the use of classical music seem natural and not forced, uses an AMEX ad as an example on the natural side:

I've made a few commercials myself, and music choice is definitely one of the more difficult aspects. You're trying to create a mood within the first few seconds, and so much of that will depend on the ability of music to communicate universally and instantly. I will admit to using Carmina Burana in a commercial once - but only because it advertised the ESO's performance of the work itself.

Please note - this blog isn't sponsored by any of the companies portrayed in the commercials I've posted. At least, not yet...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time for Three

Time for Three, an ensemble that appeared with the ESO last spring, has been named "ensemble-in-residence" with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. According to this article in the Indy Star, tf3 (as they are sometimes known) have "signed an agreement with the ISO to be its first ensemble-in-residence. They will appear in schools and other public places in town to bridge the gap between the average music lover and the classical scene."

I think this is a great idea, especially considering what this particular ensemble is all about. They're totally cross-genre - here they are covering Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek":

More and more, orchestras are realizing that they have to take music out to the community, and not just expect the public to come to a concert hall just because it's there. It's not always about the acoustics - sometimes art has to be experienced where we live and work too.

It seems like Time for Three "gets it" as far as using social media effectively, and it's great to see them doing so well.