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makes me like the piece more, or at least able to find a way in.” Hough doesn’t feel that his blog has quite the same impact on his own musicmaking, but he notes that the most musically technical posts get the most comments, in the range of 30 to 50. So while Hough writes about a broad range of topics, he says that “once in a while a comment about whether you’d use the third finger or the fourth finger on this C-sharp, or something like that, is actually quite valuable.” Hicks mentions that one of the liveliest discussions she had on the Inside the Classics blog occurred when she posted about the downbeat the conductor gives an orchestra and the delay between that downbeat and the ensuing sounds. One responder, she says, took the delay to be a “bad habit” that she couldn’t imagine an ensemble at the Minnesota Orchestra’s level having. The two had a long online discussion in which Hicks assured her, as she recalls, that, “No, they’re not bad habits, they’re just habits and they’re different in every orchestra.” Bergman admits that presenting musical ideas to a non-expert audience without coming across as condescending is a challenge, and one that he and Hicks address with the “Inside the Classics” concert series. “We settled into a pattern where we assume a baseline level of musical knowledge,” he says. “We assume that people know what a C-major scale is, we assume that if people are bothering to read our blog or come to our concerts in the first place they might have held an instrument at some point in their lives, maybe sang in a choir. If we showed them notes on a staff they would know basically how to interpret that.” Says Hicks, “I don’t feel like I have to withhold a very technical discussion. I’ve had several posts about how I score-study and have included pictures of a markedup score. That might be very interesting to an amateur musician or someone who’s very engaged in the concertgoing process already, and kind of peripherally interesting to someone who knows nothing about classical music.” But sometimes it’s the non-musical things in musician blogs that endear them to fans the most. One of the favorite nonmusical subjects for musicians, it appears, americanorchestras.org

is food. Hough occasionally profiles restaurants he visits while on tour. Muhly’s posts include instructions on cooking whale—of all things. “Musicians are incredible foodies,” Denk says, noting how comforting a good meal can be to a touring musician. Muhly mentions the time a woman looking for a recipe for gingered syrup found one on his blog—a discovery that led to an email exchange in which the woman professed to having downloaded all of Muhly’s albums and watched The Reader, a film for which Muhly composed the score. “That’s a great roundabout way,” Muhly says. “That’s sort of how I roll, too. That’s the fun thing about the internet— information can move laterally and not just vertically. It’s like, online you might enter a food wormhole and exit a political wormhole.” So does all this amount to an opportunity for orchestras to develop a new following through blogging? Maybe. A number of orchestras’ websites feature blogs by musicians or, sometimes, administrators. And orchestras and musicians are increasingly embracing other social media as well—it’s a given that tech-friendly ensembles are on Facebook and MySpace, and that they dispatch updates via Twitter and iPhone apps. But social networking is a fast-changing field, and today’s hot new site is tomorrow’s dinosaur. And while musicians’ blogs are very much first-person, orchestras’ blogs are, by their nature, more formal. “A lot of American orchestras announce blogs with great fanfare,” Bergman notes, “and then they just put up little updates saying, ‘We have a concert tonight’—which we know, because they have a website—or they’ll recruit a few musicians to write little two- or three-line entries. “If it is going to become a wider thing,” Bergman continues, “it will need to happen organically. It can’t happen because a marketing department says, ‘We need a blog,’ unless you have a good writer specifically in mind. And it’s also a function of how many orchestras have public relations departments who can’t imagine anyone other than them putting out any information about the orchestra. We’ve been lucky here.” IAN VANDERMEULEN is assistant editor of Symphony.

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Symphony January-February 2010  
Symphony January-February 2010