The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The seventh annual Make Music Madison is on Friday, June 21, and features 17 different FREE classical concerts as well as dozens of performances of jazz, folk, blues, hip-hop, swing and other genres

June 15, 2019
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IF YOU LIKE A CERTAIN BLOG POST, PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD A LINK TO IT OR, SHARE IT or TAG IT (not just “Like” it) ON FACEBOOK. Performers can use the extra exposure to draw potential audience members to an event.

REMINDER: TODAY, Saturday, June 15, at noon in Grace Episcopal Church, 116 West Washington Avenue, on the Capitol Square, the Ancora String Quartet will give a FREE performance as part of “Grace Presents.” The one-hour program includes the String Quartet in A Major, Op. 13, by Felix Mendelssohn; the String Quartet in B-flat Major, “La Malinconia” (Melancholy), Op. 18, No. 6, by Ludwig van Beethoven; and “Entr’acte” by the contemporary Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. The Ear heard an earlier performance of the same program by the Ancora, and highly recommends it.

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Friday, June 21, is the Summer Solstice, which arrives at 10:54 a.m. CDT.

That means not only the first day of summer, but also the seventh annual Make Music Madison – a day-long FREE mostly outdoor festival of live performances.

The event, which is organized and staffed by volunteers and costs about $45,000,  will take place from easy morning until midnight. Madison will be joining more than 80 cities in the United States and more than 1,000 cities around the world for the global event. The estimated audience worldwide is in the tens of millions.

The local lineup is impressive.

More than 400 concerts at more than 100 venues will take place all around the Madison area.

Many genres of music besides classical will be featured: jazz, folk, ethnic, rock, blues, hip-hop, reggae, gospel, swing and more. (In the YouTube video at the bottom,  you can hear a compilation of different music and assessments from Make Music Madison participants in 2014.) 

And many forms of music, both instrumental and vocal, will be featured. (Below is the Madison Flute Club performing during last year’s event.)

Performers include professionals and amateurs, young people and adults, students and teachers, individuals and ensembles.

Some events will be more formal, while others will be jam sessions. Some events will have an open mic.

The Ear counts 17 different venues for classical music, including a public piano in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Alumni Park, between the Memorial Union and the Red Gym. Also featured there is opera singer Prenicia Clifton (below).

You will also find classical music at Metcalfe’s market in the Hilldale Mall; the First Congregational United Church of Christ near Camp Randall Stadium;  branches of the Madison Public Library; and other places. You can hear the Suzuki Strings as well as violin, viola, cello, brass, winds, piano and guitar ensembles.

Unfortunately, though, specific programs and works are not listed, which might cut into the attendance at some performances. 

To whet your appetite, here is a link to the Make Music Madison home website, with lots of background, some fine photos, a complete listing of events and the names of major funding sources, which include the Madison Arts Commission, Isthmus, Dane Arts,  WORT FM 89.9, Wisconsin Public Radio. WSUM-FM 91.7 (the student radio at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and La Voz de Latinoamerica Desde Wisconsin as well as individual private donors.

To help classical fans decide what to attend and what works in their weekday schedule, here is a map of concerts. Just click on “Classical” in “Filter Map,” which is first tab on the top right, to see classical events listed by genre, location and name:

Have you ever attended Make Music Madison?

What did you think of it? Did you have a good time? Did you hear good music and fine performances?

Do you have any words of advice, tips or recommendations for organizers, performers and listeners?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music
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Classical music: What do rap and opera have in common to make them major musical blind spots for the public?

February 19, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Last weekend, I asked: “What musical blind spots do you have?” It was inspired by the same question that was asked by the “Delayed Cadence” blog on NPR’s website, where some professional musicians started off the responses.

“What works and composers just don’t speak to you” is how I couched it. For myself, I put the Second Viennese School – the 12-tone, atonal and serial composers like Schoenberg (below), Webern and Berg– and works right at the top of my own list.

Both for me and for NPR, the question got a lot of responses from readers, both listeners and professional and amateur musicians.

Here is a link to that posting by me:

And here is a link to the original posting at NPR:

But apparently the national audience of NPR showed a trend toward to two big blind spots: Rap Music and Opera.

Rap (below, an image of rap legends) didn’t surprise me so much. Age, of course, is one major reason. Race and class are probably other important factors. Artistically, to me — at least with few exceptions – the music in rap seems secondary or tertiary at best. The words and rhythms seem to matter most.

So I can accept rap as social commentary, but not as a beautiful sound experience – at least not in very many cases. Oh well – poor me, I guess. But, then, why don’t I feel more deprived when I don’t hear it?

But opera as a major and popular musical blind spot?

That one took me by surprise, since opera – with all its visual elements and grandeur – seems to be thriving today while symphony orchestras and chamber music groups are suffering financially and attendance-wise.

So what do you think makes opera a blind spot?

Is it the length of operas? Or the emotional and cognitive cross-interference that often comes from mixing words and sound? The sometimes silly plots and improbable characters? The stylized costumes? The self-aggrandizing posing and dramatically exaggerated presentation? The fact that in both cases the language is often hard to understand or that the volume often makes it seem like they are singing at you? Is it the preposterous reliance on bling and gold, glamor and props? Just look at the photos of the two singers — once rap and the opera.

Here is the follow-up link to the NPR post about blind spots:

Take a look and be sure to read – or at least sample — the more than 250 comments, many of which are quire insightful and thought-provoking.

Then let us know why you either agree or disagree that opera – or rap, for that matter — is a major blind spot and why you think the way you think.  

The Ear wants to hear.

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