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I’m stuck at O’Hare …

…so I think it might be a good time to BLOG a little bit.

Since I’ve been in LA and SF, I’ve taken it a lot of music … The Album Leaf, Devendra Banhart, Gilberto Gil, Stevie Wonder, and Matmos. The best concert was … wait for it … STEVIE WONDER. I was in the presence of a real living music god. I haven’t felt that way since I was around Ella Fitzgerald back in the day or Rostropovich – you get the idea. Please don’t miss seeing him live if you get the chance. He sounds perfect, his band and orchestra is hella tight (the string players DANCE for a good part of the show), and he somehow manages to play three hours of happy songs without being tedious. That is not easy. In fact I don’t know of any other living musician who has explored so many iterations of joy and happiness with such success. The other concerts were great too but … STEVIE … wow, how fortunate I was to have seen that.

I was in KW last week doing some VISIONARY PLANNING for the orchestra, and one thing we discussed is how to be innovative, I mean really innovative. One thing that always comes up is programming. Heck there was even a BIG ARTICLE about this in the New York Times recently. I, for one, didn’t find any of the programs mentioned particularly innovative, but I did find most of them good, artistic, musical experiences. I’m looking for more. It’s not the food that’s bad, it’s the the room, the vibe, the tired, non-inclusive, ritualistic, society-oriented presentation of music that the orchestra biz hangs on to for no good reason and which does them no service. Now there are some hardcore chowhounds like me who will go eat great food in an unappealing setting, ’cause the food’s just so damn good. But if I were a chef (and I am, d’orchestre), I would want my meals served in an attractive, modern place with good lighting and a hot wait-staff. The atmosphere of an orchestral concert is generally similar to the kind of stuffy restaurants Monty Python used to make fun of (with “waffer-thin” mints). I know some of the halls are old, but the vibe could still be spiced up quite a bit. With programming, I think there’s nothing new under the sun. It just has to be good.

I just got back from Chautauqua which is a strikingly unusual place. It’s a retro-utopia for intellectual white people. These folks (and there are thousands of them in this gated community) will go to a foreign policy lecture in the morning, then go water skiing, then see the symphony, opera, or ballet at night. This happens every day. It’s full of Victorian houses shoved really close together which goes against my personal idea of a summer retreat (which is to be in the woods far away from most people). All this being said, it’s an inspiring thing to see so many people willing to give up their personal space to spend the summer with ART and IDEAS … at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like it.

While there I had a long chat with a conductor friend who has a different take on music and programming than I do. He’s fiercely committed to a few pieces he really believes in — at the expense of many others. He was very proud of how small his repertoire was. I was kind of put off by that (Symphonies of Wind Instruments is BAD? Copland only wrote one good piece?), but I also admired how much he loved works he loved. I like lots of music, but sometimes feel I’m being stretched thin as a result of my broad tastes. I guess we all commit sins as artists, either by liking too little music (like him), or too much (like me).

Damn — I’m still stuck at O’Hare, even after all this blogging.