Alan Yaffe Retirement Party

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

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A Gay Themed Performance

November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Art Songs by Schubert, Poulenc, Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns – some of the world’s best composers, and gay.

On November 17, an encore performance of the New York Festival of Song’s (NYFOS) brilliant program, “Manning the Canon: Songs of Gay Life,” took place. The concert was originally presented at the LGBT Center on 13th Street and was given, in a revised version, at Merkin Hall last season. The performance featured art songs from current and past gay composers.

According to Q on Stage, it was a triumph.

I think that, whether or not the audience thought the performance was a triumph, the fact that we have these kinds of performances is a triumph in and of itself. Gay people have real lives, with real emotions and experiences. They experience pain and joy just like everyone else. These composers have captured what it means to live with pain, love, and joy.

I’m getting really tired of constantly defending myself as a gay man, and fighting for rights that other people don’t have to fight for. Being judged and ridiculed gets tiring. Just yesterday I experienced a professor, in class, say that gay sex ‘wasn’t legitimate sex.’ I’m not exactly sure if that’s what he meant, but by the rest of the class’ reaction, I would guess that most everyone else thought he meant that as well. At first I didn’t think much of his comment, but then I actually started getting angry. I wonder if he sensed that by the way I started to stare at him with a slight scowl?

Well, that guy’s a part of the problem for sure. Maybe I should buy him a ticket to the next ‘Manning the Cannon’ concert?

David Walker

Charlotte Church alleges trade-off to win favorable coverage in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers

November 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

This is gross in so many ways.

According to the Wall Street Journal, at a U.K. inquiry into press ethics, Welsh singer Charlotte Church alleged that she waived a fee of £100,000, or more than $154,000, to perform at the 1999 wedding of News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch because she was told that it would win her favorable coverage in the company’s newspapers.

Ms. Church, a prodigy who was 13 at the time of the wedding, told the inquiry that she wanted the money but her management convinced her that waiving the fee would be looked on favorably by Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers, a move that would be good for her fledgling career.

She added that the alleged arrangement to secure favorable press coverage backfired. “This strategy failed,” Ms. Church said in a witness statement submitted to the inquiry. “In fact Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers have since been some of the worst offenders, so much so that I have sometimes felt that there has actually been a deliberate agenda.” Ms. Church also said police have informed her that her voicemails, and those of people close to her, were hacked by a private investigator on the payroll of the News of the World tabloid.

First of all, this is gross because Charlotte Church was considered a prodigy, and good at singing classical operatic repertoire. It is amazing that those without any talent, or skill for understanding talent, promote the wrong person because that person happens to be at the right place, at the right time. As a professional, classical vocalist, there were so many things wrong with the whole Charlotte Church thing – mostly that they were going to destroy her voice by having her sing repertoire that was way beyond her capabilities, which were exceedingly limited in the first place. Enough on that.

Secondly, this whole Charlotte Church/Rupert Murdoch scena is gross, but I can’t help but sit back and say “Well, I guess you get what you deserve.” Is that too harsh?

David Walker

Genre, Technology and Art: The Great Threat/Opportunity in the 21st Century

November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the 20th Century, there was an Explosion.

…Ok, there were actually a ton of explosions (both literal and metaphorical) in the 20th Century, but I’m really only interested in one. Being a former music theorist, I am personally captivated by the classification of popular music. If you talk to a true fanatic of a sub-genre of music, they will likely know the etymology of that sub-genre and how to distinctly hear a difference between that sub-genre and some bordering sub-genre that would seem from the outside to be the exact same thing. I’m thinking of something along the lines of Hardcore Punk and Oi!, To the ear, they may sound similar to the layman, but to a fan of the subgenre it might be an insult to consider one of them to be the other. The explosion that I’m referring to is what I like to call the “Genre Explosion”. If you do a quick search for all of the sub-genres of Metal, for instance, it is likely that you will laugh at the many ridiculously specific terms people have coined to describe what a band with the name Cephalic Carnage sounds like (to which there is some discrepancy as CC says they are “rocky mountain hydro grind” where as others consider them a derivative of death metal known as, technical death metal….yeah). This obviously isn’t exclusive to rock genres. What is considered “techno”, “country”, “pop”, even “alternative” has evolved and split into factions. And it isn’t just exclusive to music either.

Why has this happened? My guess has to do with the evolutions across communication over the last century. Television, radio, records, tapes, cds and, most importantly, the internet have given more people wider access to culture that would’ve stayed in the fringe. Look at television. Broadcast television networks used to have huge market shares because you only had 4 or 5 options, but the rise of cable television has allowed quirkier things to be available to more people and taken a huge chunk out of broadcast market share.

Now, what about arts organizations? One of the interesting thing to me about performing arts is how well it can get away with doing the same thing for…years. It would be very easy to name five composers that will be featured this year by any major orchestra without looking at a single program. It is a guarantee that Carmen will be produced somewhere by a group that has already done Carmen at least once before. There are theaters all around the country that literally only produce works in iambic pentameter written by one dude. Luckily for those of us looking for jobs at one of these places, there are enough people in the world right now willing to buy tickets and donate money so that this niche can exist.

But my fear is essentially how long can this last. For profit entertainment is pretty fickle and though nostalgia for older bands, tv shows and movies can get it by for a while, it can’t really survive forever. I wonder if the rise in communication, while great for the spread of new ideas, will level out arts organizations because of a lack of interest. Certainly broadcast television is worried about advertisers jumping ship and arts organizations are noticing a strong fall in subscription sales across the board, but I’m wondering if a great change in what is produced is going to be essential for many of our performing arts to survive in the long run.

Or, I suppose, more Shakespeare.


Fundraising lessons from Occupy Wall Street

November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

What can we learn from the money raised by the various Occupy movements around the country? While the headline number is some 350-450 thousand raised by Occupy Wall Street in New York, the other occupations around the country have raised, by my estimate, somewhere between one and three million dollars. They’ve managed this without doing a mailing, or an email campaign, and certainly without approaching major donors (Most major donors are a little too close to the 1% to be comfortable with this movement, I would guess). They just hang out a WePay button on their website and the money came in. They themselves don’t even control the financial apparatus, typically leaving the administration of that to an allied group like the Alliance for Global Justice.

In short, there has been nothing like a traditional effort at “development” or “fundraising.” OWS has raised a decent amount of money, seemingly by accident. Why?

Well, being in the news doesn’t hurt, nor does capturing the popular imagination or the national political mood. But then again you might have guessed that.

They have a strong commitment to transparency on their donation page, even if the execution is a bit sloppy. No surprise there.

They’ve made their ask on the internet, which is the best way to reach a core part of the Occupy demographic – young, connected, creative types. Obvious conclusion – use the right channel to communicate to your donors.

I think that the real lesson to be drawn from Occupy Wall Street, though, returns to the idea of capturing the national mood – and you can implement it for your donors. We live in the age of the 30 minute news cycle – the 24 hour news cycle doesn’t begin to describe the pace at which events unfold nowadays.

Development can learn from OWS by learning to act with speed when fundraising opportunities present themselves. Your PR department shouldn’t be the only ones responding to news related to your organization or art form – your development department should respond with equal alacrity. Imagine if development departments began to develop campaigns not months in advance, but days in advance. This is not to deprecate the value of long term planning, of course, which is still valuable, but more to suggest that Messaging be composed on the new digital timeline, and communications schedules be tweaked on the fly to react to current events.

We know that giving comes more from an emotional response than anything else – so why not integrate PR into your campaigns to maximize that emotional response? Maybe OWS can revolutionize fundraising too.


The Vinyl Comeback

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

As Charles discussed in his earlier blog post, more online purchases of digital music have led to increased sales for the recording industry, albeit at the expense of record stores, many of which have been driven out of business. In fact, just last week, Louisville’s independent record store Ear-X-Tacy closed after a long period of business difficulties. However, there is an additional trend that is quite fascinating: the recent dramatic increase in the sales of vinyl records.

According to an August article in The Economist, vinyl record sales in the U.S. increased by 39% over the previous year, and have more than doubled over the last decade. Vinyl wasn’t exactly dead, as it has long been a favorite format among audiophiles and rock music connoisseurs, but it is somewhat surprising to see sales increasing by so much during a time when an increasing number of consumers have been abandoning CDs for the improved convenience and lower cost of digital music. So, why is this occurring? The Economist article cites the fact that many new vinyl records come with a code that allows the buyer to download the album for free, enabling music fans to have both the physical object of the vinyl record and the convenience of the digital version for one price. I would be interested to know, however, if purchasers simply want the vinyl form as a item for their physical collection of music, or if there has actually been an increased interest in listening to music on vinyl records.

The act of listening to a vinyl record seems to be, in some ways, a reaction against the instant gratification culture that has developed as a negative consequence of the ease of accessing different forms of media quickly over the Internet. The availability of so much media is both a blessing and something of a curse, because on one hand, people are exposed to so much more music and art than they otherwise would be, but on the other, the medium encourages users to jump ahead to the next YouTube video or music track as soon as possible. With vinyl, however, you can’t just skip ahead at the click of a mouse; you have to walk over to the turntable and move the arm. The format compels listeners to listen to great albums straight through, the way they are typically meant to be experienced, and I think the increasing popularity of vinyl records is a very positive development for lovers of great music.


Going, Going, Gone

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is traditionally observed that the art market closely follows the rise and fall of the stock exchange prices. Well, American newspapers have not failed to notice an exception to this trend lately, as sales for contemporary art in New York have generated $635 million turnover in only 3 days. With the major contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s and the Impressionists one, both held in early November, this amount exceeds a century of acquisitions budget of the Centre Pompidou! Nicolai Frahm, a London-based contemporary art-adviser, noticed that “it was one of the best auctions ever seen in [his] life – and in the middle of a recession.”

Outside the great excitement of the auction house, however, contrasted the cries of “Shame on you” from the Sotheby’s warehousemen on strike for a pay rise since July. The fall of 3% of Wall Street on that same day did not undermine the spirit of buyers and sellers – especially for the lucky man who sold a Joan Mitchell for $9.3 million bought for $3.2 million four years ago. Let’s appreciate this unashamed health in the middle of a crisis…