"I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to be a very good idea to be involved in a specialized, very narrow branch of classical music. When a student comes to me and says, ‘I plan to make a life out of really knowing all of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas’, I feel that is a lovely thing on a personal level. But, as a useful pursuit in our artistic world, it’s not a very needed thing. It takes some people a long time to figure things out.
On the other hand, there are musicians who are more interested in what the world needs. I see all sorts of things that need doing, and I wish young, talented musicians would serve that purpose. A lot of old conservatories are coming to terms with how to help students in the world we’re heading into, one without so many middlemen. It used to be that one would get a manager, one who would sell you to the world, but this really isn’t happening very much anymore. There might be five people who get this kind of treatment (laughs). Seeing the kids who win the top competitions, you find that they need to be just as resourceful as everybody else. I don’t expect that Daniil Trifonov will pursue the same kind of career that Van Cliburn had."
— Bruce Brubaker speaking in an interview with The Examiner.
In your opinion, what is the purpose or role of the critic? Has the job description changed since Thomson’s days on the aisle?
Yes, I think it’s radically shifted just now. I was entertained, several years ago, when I read the blog of a critic who I admire very much. He speculated that perhaps one day, people online - blogs and other formats - might replace the knowledgeable newspaper critic. I chuckled when I read this, because it’s already happened. One of the things we’re seeing, with the cutting of newspaper critics from larger papers around the world, is simply an acknowledgement of what’s happening. Of course, I enjoy reading certain people - I very much enjoy reading Zachary Woolfe in the Times. I’m delighted that the world is still set up so that reading someone like him is possible; but it may not be the case for much longer.
Some of the things we once relied on critics to do are perhaps no longer necessary. It’s very easy to sample or stream a track now. Do I really need a critic to tell me to go out and buy it? I was recently involved in a run of performances in New York, and we were really hoping the Times would review the show. They sent a photographer, but for whatever reason, there was no review. Some people were upset about this, as a review often helps sell tickets. But, as it turned out, there were so many online reviews, Twitter, and so forth, so many people posting things about the performances that the tickets pretty much sold out. The Times critic, in some sense, was no longer needed. So I think we don’t need middlemen as much as we used to. I don’t want to imagine a world without intelligent writers about music, but their function has definitely changed. If this isn’t necessarily good, it is indicative of our present time.
1. Goals reduce your current happiness. When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”
The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”
SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal. Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Can you imagine if I had made it my goal to write two books this year? Just writing that sentence stresses me out.
But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.
When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.
In fact, the Goldberg Variations have caused me more misery than any other piece of music in history … How many hours have I spent backstage fretting, knowing that there will be several insufferable know-it-alls in the audience, with their 700 recordings and deeply considered opinions? How many hours have I spent practising those passages where the two hands climb over each other, then turn around (as if revisiting the site of an accident) and head for each other again?
"SHE WANTS THE LISTENING PROCESS TO BE AKIN TO ANY OTHER VERY STRONG EXPERIENCE A PERSON UNDERGOES. “WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MIDST OF A VERY STRONG EXPERIENCE, WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU? IT’S NOT LIKE YOU CAN SAY, ‘OH, I UNDERSTAND WHAT’S HAPPENING.’ NO, IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT. YOU ACTUALLY STAY ENGAGED WITH IT LONG AFTER IT HAS ENDED, AND THIS IS MY WISH.”"
David Weiniger profiling composer Chaya Czernowin in the Boston Globe
Interesting profile on Valentina Lisitsa in today’s NYTimes:
"YouTube also presents a challenge to maintaining the unhealthy status quo of perfection in the classical industry. Every tiny flaw can forever be immortalized on video, which in turn can stifle artists from taking risks, resulting in note-perfect boring performances.
There have been many brutal comments posted under Ms. Lisitsa’s own videos about her wrong notes and imperfections. “You get a thick skin,” she said. But she rushes online to stand up for other musicians. She once defended the pianist Mitsuko Uchida from nitpicky YouTube commenters highlighting a microscopic error in one of Ms. Uchida’s live performances.
“Classical musicians behave in the same way as young girls looking at fashion magazines and starving themselves,” Ms. Lisitsa said. “Would-be musicians are starving themselves emotionally and intellectually just to be perfect.”
"What is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?
The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.”
"Consider the qualities these high achievers say music has sharpened: collaboration, creativity, discipline and the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas. All are qualities notably absent from public life. Music may not make you a genius, or rich, or even a better person. But it helps train you to think differently, to process different points of view — and most important, to take pleasure in listening."
"In Western Europe, the second world war had provoked a crisis in classical music. The Nazi’s total identification with the great Austro-German tradition of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and, most particularly, Wagner meant that this music felt tainted, misused, impossible. Richard Strauss elegised this tradition in his last few, poignant works including Metamorphosen and Four Last Songs, but the young Karlheinz Stockhausen wanted none of it. His father had died at the Eastern Front, his mentally ill mother had been put to death by the Nazi government and he himself had witnessed horrors as a teenage stretcher-bearer at the front. It is no surprise that he wanted to start from zero and create a new music for the future claiming, for example, that he could not tolerate a steady beat in music because it made him think of the Nazi marching songs that had been played endlessly over the radio."