The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: There is more to conducting than just waving your arms and pointing your fingers. The New York Times, the Juilliard School of Music and New York University’s Movement Lab offer a revealing deconstruction of a maestro’s movements and motions.

April 15, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

One of the most exciting and informative classical music stories to appear in a long time is the recent story about what the movements of an orchestra conductor mean.

The conductor is question was the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director Alan Gilbert.

Thanks to the Juilliard School of Music, where Gilbert heads up the conducting program, and to New York University’s Movement Lab and its motion-capture computerized graphics, Gilbert was recorded conducting and then explaining what the movements mean.

It is like taking a mini-seminar is an art that takes many years to master, and even then some conductrors obviously do it much better than others. Some conductors — like Leonard Bernstein — flamboyantly sand dangerously danced around a lot on the podium while other conductor — like Fritz Reiner and Herbert van Karajan — were known for an almost total economy of movement.

Here is a link to the terrifically inventive, well researched and well written story by Daniel J. Wakin of The New York Times:

It is fun to take in because it is printed and also an interactive video with highlighted comments by conductor Gilbert (below). Take a look:

And here is a link to a background story and video about how it was made in the lab. It is a fascinating and illuminating explanation that suggests we can expect a lot more in the future of seeing technology illuminate art:

Classical music news: The New York Times prints the full story of The Music Lover and The Ringing Cellphone that halted Alan Gilbert’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 with the New York Philharmonic.

January 15, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

If you want to know why so many people respect The New York Times – despite the all the pietistic carping on the right about how liberal and biased it is – just check out the fairness, accuracy and thoroughness the newspaper brought to one small story.

This past Tuesday night, conductor Alan Gilbert (below) halted a performance of Mahler’s moving Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s last completed symphony, with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall, because a loud cellphone went off during a particularly quiet and moving section of the music. He put down his baton and announced he would wait to resume until the phone was turned off.

Many news outlets, including NBC TV’s nightly newscast, reported on the incident, which had the other audience members cheering Gilbert and his admonishment to turn off the annoying and persistent marimba ring-tone of the phone before continuing .

But the Times went a step further.

It found out who was the person with the ringing cellphone, how the whole incident happened, and then reported on the reaction of the user of the offending iPhone (below) to the incident and what the follow-up story was. Knowing all the facts actually makes you at least somewhat sympathetic to the offender.

And then it published the story in the news section, rather than the arts section.

The coverage makes you respect both Gilbert and the offending cellphone owner, as well as the editors and reporters at the Times. It should also make you wary of alarms and other pre-set features of sophisticated smart phones.

Here is a link to the story:

Here is the clever video that mixes Mahler’s Ninth (under Leonard Bernstein) and the marimba ring-tone:

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