Classical Music
Classical Home
Classical Music Playlists
WKSU 3 Classical Channel
Quicklinks

nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.

Northeast Ohio Medical University


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us

Archive for June, 2008

Long Yu conducts China Philharmonic (Photo: china.org.cn)Now that the Cultural Revolution is history and classical music is no longer banned as cultural pollution, it seems to be growing apace in China. Recently I noted here that China is home to the world’s largest piano manufacturer — and that it sells most of its instruments in its own nation. American conductor Lorin Maazel is one of many Western musicians who have suggested that Chinese audiences may give a real boost to classical music.

Meanwhile, US writers continue to fret over the greying of classical music audiences in our own land, despite the fact that their predictions of classical music’s imminent death never seem to quite pan out.

Some of these writers mutter darkly that if they were wrong about classical music being moribund, it’s only because it’s in the process of moving half way round the world. They point to the estimates of 100 million Chinese conservatory students and note that, worldwide, orchestras are performing more works of Chinese composers and engaging more Chinese-born soloists.

If you are not free yourself, how can you interpret music freely?

       – A Chinese music critic

In the 7 July issue of The New Yorker, Alex Ross takes a closer look at the Chinese classical music juggernaut and concludes that all is not quite what it appears to be.

(As an aside, violist Wing Ho, mentioned in the New Yorker article, studied in Northeast Ohio, at the Kent State School of Music and Oberlin Conservatory.)

Further reading:

Symphony of Millions: Taking stock of the Chinese music boom in The New Yorker

A Nation of Pianos and Pianists in WKSU Classical

Share This Entry:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • e-mail
  • del.icio.us
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon

Leonard PennarioAmerican pianist Leonard Pennario has died, just two weeks short of his 84th birthday.

Pennario, born in Buffalo 9 July 1924, made his public debut at the age of 12, playing the Grieg concerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He is remembered for his chamber music collaborations with violinist Jascha Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. In the 1970s, Pennario expanded his audience appeal with more popular works by such composers as Gershwin and Gottschalk.

Pennario’s biographer, Mary Kunz Goldman, remembers Pennario’s enthusiasm for music lovers. Perhaps Pennario was thinking of Glenn Gould when he said, "You have to play for the people; you have to play for an audience. You can’t just go into the studio and make records, you know?"

Goldman says that Pennario died Friday (27 June 2008) at his home in San Diego of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Share This Entry:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • e-mail
  • del.icio.us
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon

UNSW/NICTA Robotic ClarinetMusical instruments that play themselves are far from new. The barrel organ dates back to the 9th century; a 16th century example is still in use today. Mozart and Haydn composed music especially for the Viennese flute-clock, a mechanized organ favored from about 1720. The music box is a relative latecomer; it dates from the very last years of the 18th century.

What is unusual, though, is machinery that plays an existing instrument. One of the rare examples is the Vorsetzer, developed in the early 20th century. It was a piano player, rather than a player piano. It recorded not the sound of the piano, but rather the movements of the keys and pedals when a virtuoso played the instrument. The reproducing apparatus (the Vorsetzer; literally, "sitter-before") was rolled up to a piano, and it reproduced the actions of the pianist. Assuming a playback piano more or less equivalent to the recording instrument, the result was a performance that (in theory at least) sounded as if the virtuoso were playing for you in your own living room.

While one could certainly argue whether any machine can adequately reproduce the touch of a human pianist, a wind or string instrument is yet another matter.

You might say that musician and instrument are closely coupled. The wind player’s body is literally part of the instrument, the mouth and windpipe acting as a resonating cavity. The shape of the mouth and lips interacts with a flute’s lip plate or embouchure hole, a trumpet’s mouthpiece, or the reed of a clarinet, oboe, or bassoon. In a way, playing a wind instrument has a lot in common with singing — it involves the entire performer, body and mind.

Here we have a machine that holds and plays a clarinet.

But it does not sing.

Understand, I’m not dismissing this accomplishment. Any student who has struggled with a clarinet embouchure will tell you that machinery able to coax a more or less stable tone from a clarinet, be it carbon-based or silicon-based, is a long way from trivial. Even with modern computer control, the device demonstrated below is no mean feat.

Remarkable as it may be, it has a long way to go before the results can be called musical. Over 100 years later, this gadget doesn’t approach the Vorsetzer’s ability to preserve the performer’s interpretive skill and musicanship — at least not yet. Although my left brain is impressed with the technology, my right brain thinks it would rather hear a beginning student play Go Tell Aunt Rhody.

Share This Entry:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • e-mail
  • del.icio.us
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon

Aaron Copland never called Rodeo ‘Ro-DAY-oh’, as nearly all Classical announcers do (including Yours Truly). He simply called it ‘ROH-dee-oh’, just like the people who go to them. None of this nose-in-the-air as you go strutting down the famous shopping drive in L.A., but plain folks enjoying some distinctly Western-American Cowboy culture.

Why is it that sometimes when Classical music announcers and even aficionados grab hold of something that is down-to-earth like Rodeo from Aaron Copland, do they have to try to raise it from the rest of society, as though now only certain people are allowed to enjoy it? Hmmm.

Share This Entry:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • e-mail
  • del.icio.us
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon

Pearl River's Factory in Guangzhou, ChinaWhen I was in the early grades, more years ago than I care to discuss, music was still an integral part of elementary education (at least in my district). We piped out This Old Man and The Itsy-Bitsy Spider to the pounding chords of a wheezy, ill-tuned upright piano. Thus, I wasn’t surprised to learn almost 20 years later that music education students at Kent State University were offered a class which included the rudiments of accompanying kids at the keyboard.

At about the same time, or perhaps a few years earlier, I read that the elementary school instrument of choice in China was the accordion, not the piano.

That wasn’t too difficult to believe. Accordions are relatively cheap. A new small vertical piano good enough for practice and casual playing will set you back a few thousand dollars. A modest accordion is perhaps one-tenth that amount.

Accordions are obviously much more portable than the smallest spinet. They may not be more portable than a cheap electronic keyboard, but for some people the accordion’s sound might well be preferable to the tinny plinks that many portable keyboards emit from their undersized transistor-radio speakers. Accordions also have the advantage that a teacher playing one can keep an eye on the class clown — which isn’t so easy for a teacher planted on a bench behind a tall upright piano.

That was then, this is now. Except for a staged concert, my web search didn’t turn up a single mention of the accordion in Chinese classrooms. The nation that produced pianist Lang Lang now produces his instrument, and in rather astonishing quantities.

For years, China has manufactured most of the world’s toys and electronic gadgets. Today, it also has the world’s most active piano manufacturer. The Pearl River Piano Factory, one of the first to export pianos to the US, built 100,000 pianos last year. To put that in perspective, only 95,000 pianos of all types, makes, and origins were sold in the US in 2005.

So where are they all going? Certainly many of Pearl River’s instruments ended up in our own music stores, wearing familiar American, European, or even Japanese names on the fallboard, and low numbers on the price tags. But eighty percent of the pianos from Pearl River and other Chinese manufacturers never board a container ship. They are sold at home.

China is possessed by some kind of piano fever. As piano sales trail off in the States, they explode in China. Piano shops and studios line the main streets of the cities.

This is the flowering of a demand that has long existed. Even 20 years ago, when Chinese pianos were scarce, buyers would quite literally queue up when a shipment arrived. Once, the piano represented western decadence. Today, under China’s authoritarian capitalism, there are many times more instruments, more dealers, and more consumers.

More pianos means more pianists. It’s estimated that at least 30 million Chinese children are studying piano; some sources put the number as high as 80 million. Their parents are motivated by stringent childbearing restrictions and deep-seated Confucian traditions placing a high value on education. They will make sure the children study, practice, and succeed.

If the pattern followed by the Japanese (and more recently Korean) piano manufacturers holds with the Chinese, we’ll see a change over the next decade or two. The Chinese instruments in the music stores will no longer hide their origins behind famous American and European names. Pearl River and such competitors as Taishan and Saganhaft will proudly stencil their own names on the fallboards. Indeed, this is already starting to happen. Where it will leave the non-Asian piano builders remains to be seen.

And what of those 80 million piano students? Believe me, we will hear from them. Lang Lang and Li Yundi are just the beginning.

Further reading:

Keyboard Moment in China’s Cultural Evolution in The Australian

It Takes a Nation of Maestros in New Statesman

Share This Entry:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • e-mail
  • del.icio.us
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
 

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University