Friday, January 20, 2017

Art can still trump

Solidarity from Brexit Island with our friends in the arts in the US, where yesterday a leak emerged suggesting that Trump wants to close down the National Endowment for the Arts, along with other stuff of which he doesn't appear to know the value.

A message came to my inbox from ShoutHouse in New York, where a multi-genre group of musicians and dancers have created a collaborative version of Radiohead's Paranoid Android specially for today. This is what they say.
Today marks a new era in our country. In Washington, D.C., a new administration is accepting the power of governmental leadership, and, with it, the responsibility to work as hard as they can to serve the best interests of all Americans. But throughout the country – and the world – many millions worry that this responsibility will be neglected. On what is traditionally a day of hope, multitudes are living in fear. Fear that their race, gender, sexual orientation, or social status will disqualify them from receiving fair and equal treatment under the law for years to come. Fear that their peaceful wishes for the world will be undermined by an ignorant head of state. Fear that their friends and neighbors may be corrupted by the hateful words of a demagogue seeking to serve the interests of the wealthy few.

We fear for the future of art, as it is one of our greatest defenses from fear. Art helps us listen to one another, to learn from those whose words we might not understand. As artists, we have a duty to create beauty in the service of truth, and to shine a light on the best and most noble aspects of human nature. Through our music and actions, we declare our opposition to the toxic divisiveness of the demagogue's words. As Nhat Hanh said, “The only answer to fear is more understanding.” We hope that our cooperation in the service of art will serve as an example to the new administration, and to anyone who does not believe that we can work with those with views different from our own.

This video was made possible by so many incredible artists. First, Radiohead’s powerful music that inspired us to create this project. We want to thank the dozens of musicians from ShoutHouse and Juilliard who believed in us and donated their time to make this possible. Our production team (especially Jack FrererLiana Kleinman, and Jordan James) and those who spent countless hours making sure this looked amazing. The arrangers and orchestrators (Will HealyAlex BurtzosJesse Greenberg), soloists (Hannah ZazzaroSpiritchild XspiritMental, Black Tortuga) without whom this never would have happened. The dancers—Quilan Cue ArnoldZachary GonderMikaela Kelly—whose powerful work represented our music visually so well. Allison Mase for helping us find and organize so many people to create this project.

If you want to support independent art that allows artists from many backgrounds to work together, please donate to ShoutHouse at…/profil… or visit

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A drumroll for Bangor

Bangor University. Photo: Iwan Williams
Bangor University later this year is holding the First International Conference on Women's Work in Music, which runs 4-7 September. A call for papers is now open and the application deadline is 1 March.

Keynote speakers will be the composer and author Dr Sophie Fuller and, er, me, and the timing of the event has been chosen to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Grace Williams, one of the first Welsh composers to achieve international recognition. Across four days, it seems likely to offer an exceptional, in-depth exploration of its potentially explosive topic. Hope to see lots of JDCMB readers there.

Celebrating the Achievements of Women Musicians 

The Conference aims to bring together academics, researchers and music professionals from around the world to share their research and experience of all aspects of women working in music. 
The Conference will seek to both celebrate the achievements of women musicians, and to critically explore and discuss the changing contexts of women’s work in music on the international stage. The diversity and richness of this work will be illustrated at the conference through presentations in areas such as:
  • historical musicology, 
  • music education, 
  • ethnomusicology, 
  • practice-led research and performance, 
  • composition,
  • music analysis, 
  • popular music studies and much more.

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year Reset

Welcome to JDCMB. If you're new, welcome aboard. If you're a regular, welcome home. At new year, it's a good moment to realign the mission statement and explain who I am, what JDCMB is, and so on. Here we go...

New Year Fireworks in London. Photo: PA

JDCMB is my personal blog. I'm based in London, UK and I've been a writer and editor in the music business for about 27 years. My first music journalism job was as assistant editor on The Strad, way back when we still used cow-gum to stick down cut-out galley proofs. After that I was assistant editor on Classical Music Magazine for three years, persuaded the company to found the first independent piano magazine in the UK which I edited for five years, then went freelance, working for BBC Music Magazine, the British Council, the Guardian and others. I started writing regularly for The Independent in 2004. My first books were biographies of Korngold and Fauré for the Phaidon 20th-Century Composers series and my first novel came out in 2006, with Hodder. Ghost Variations  is the fifth. I've written a couple of plays, words&music projects and an opera libretto for the composer Roxanna Panufnik, Silver Birch, coming up at Garsington in July. I regularly google 'How to become a plumber', but haven't enrolled yet...

I studied music at Cambridge in the mid 1980s, but my formative musical education happened in my piano lessons with Joan Havill at the Guildhall, playing in masterclasses and chamber music courses, listening to lectures by Hans Keller at the Dartington International Summer School, and some informal but crucial contact with a circle of extraordinary musicians in New York.  

What happens on JDCMB? I started blogging in 2004 because the concept was new and thrilling. It isn't extensively planned. I write about things that seem interesting and try only to post when there's something worth saying. You'll find responses to news, the occasional artist interview, a concert or opera review now and then, sometimes an e-Q&A or guest-post from someone who's doing something noteworthy. I sometimes post about my own stuff, our opera, etc.

What JDCMB tries to do: JDCMB has been called "the voice of reason". I'd like to keep it that way.

What it tries not to do: porn, clickbait, jealousy, "stirring", comment boxes, giving platforms to hate speech, encouraging witch-hunts. 

Excited by: really wonderful artistry, great music and writing, inspiration, idealism, creative thinking, and matters that help us live more fulfilling lives, from Mozart to heated blankets.

Bored by: concert-wear, gimmickry, mobile phones, crossover, marketing, toeing party lines. 

Furious about: Brexit, sexism, racism, "post-truth" (it means "lies"). 

Aims: To uphold the artistic ideals I've been lucky enough to have in my life, but that might vanish under the morass without a positive effort. And to puncture the occasional idiocy.

You can get in touch by contacting my Facebook page. I'm available to provide talks, coaching, consultations, programme notes, articles etc.

Happy new year!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

Brexit island.

A very happy new year 2017 to all you lovely readers of JDCMB, from all of us lost in the Hampton Court Maze that is Brexit Island. At least we know we're in it now. The challenge will be getting out again. Let's hope that this year will be a little more positive than last. Meanwhile, enjoy the Johann Strauss this morning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

JDCMB Top 10 Posts of 2016

1. Vivat Enescu, 23 May

George Enescu. Photo: Enescu Festival, Bucharest

This is my highest-scoring post ever. I think three-quarters of Romania must have logged on. Seriously, though, I'm delighted so many of you enjoyed discovering the life and work of this extraordinary musician, and if you went to see Oedipe, I hope you loved it as much as I did.

2. Meet Cecilia Bartoli, Opera's Renaissance Woman, 26 July
I enjoyed talking to the great Cecilia in a rather chilly trip to Salzburg.

The excellent Kathryn Stott has a very nice new post, taking over the artistic directorship of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville from Piers Lane. 

4. Chineke! Riding High, 5 September
The Chineke! Orchestra is not only a splendid multicultural force in classical music, but a truly excellent ensemble, drawing together BME players from all over the world and pulling together with a splendid unity of musicianship. 

How Murray Perahia and Bach saved my soul.

What it says.

If you were looking for good Christmas presents, they were here, and going like hot chestnuts.

8. Cold Light, 25 June
A large post-Brexit-vote post about its implications for the arts. This is not a pretty tale. Brexit is the biggest con-trick in the history of the British Isles.

Mark Wigglesworth stepped down as music director of English National Opera after not very long at all. A grim sign of the state of the place, and a major loss to London's musical life.

As a 60th birthday tribute to Krystian Zimerman, I re-ran an interview I did with him ten years ago for Pianist Magazine.