Orpheus and Euridice comes to Chapel Hill

“Welcome to Chapel Hill,” I said to Ricky Ian Gordon after the 8pm performance of Orpheus and Euridice at UNC’s Memorial Hall, “the best town you’ll find this side of the Underworld”. And what a wonderful performance it was.

At noon I had never heard of either the work nor the composer, but thanks to WUNC, Frank Stashio, and the friday episode of The State of Things, my ingorance was incrementally diminished.

Ricky Ian Gordon is not only a modern composer (the New York Times reviews him as blending Gershwin and Berstein, but I heard lots of John McGlaughlin’s wholetone diminished scales) but a poet as well. In fact it was his reading of the libretto that convinced me I needed to buy tickets and see the show that evening.

Wow!  Bravo to the Long Leaf Opera company for their daring and compelling performance!!

I was also delighted to hear him talk on the radio about the power of mythology, particularly the power that comes from mythology being a shared cultural currency. Indeed, what power would music or opera hold if every story were forced to be something unfamiliar, rather than allowing it to be something both true and Archetypical?

So thank you Ricky, for your courage, tenderness, suffering, and most of all, your generosity in sharing your love and grief with us.  And thank you for venturing from your New York haunts to visit us down here in Chapel Hill.

For those of you who missed the show, at least listen to the WUNC interview–it, too, is great art.

Anya Kamenetz asks "Who's American Dream is it Anyway?"

Silly me. While I’ve been focusing on how the music industry seems hell-bent on its own self-destruction, Anya Kamenetz has been looking a far larger picture: the whole American way of life. And I think she has a point.

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small is possible: reconstructing local music

small is possible book coverI just read Lyle Estill’s manifesto small is possible, an account of how he and others in Pittsboro, North Carolina (population 2,500) discovered how to feed, fuel, heal, and govern itself as a community.

First off, the writing is simply first-rate. Lyle writes with humor, but also with a very keen eye to the forces and effects that operate on multiple levels. But unlike Alexis de Tocqueville or Michael Pollan or Malcolm Gladwell, he is not merely an observer, but a passionate actor as well. And because Lyle practices the teaching “be the change you want to see in the world,” he has learned to farm, write software, weld steel, wire buildings, extend credit, teach classes, pull permits, and make peace with hunters.

Not all these many careers have been successful: he tried and failed yoga. And he tells this story of how, at the peak of the Internet Boom, he had the opportunity to Make It Big and utterly failed to comprehend the potential, as he explains:

“When Scott came to me to explain the future, I yawned. We would sit around after hours with core employees and argue about the coming of the net.

One night, our sales manager, Skip, said “Travel. Let’s take travel. How do you buy your tickets right now?”

I thought of Lisa, the preacher’s wife turned travel agent, who matched up the itineraries of Tami and Lyle [who would later marry] like a marriage counselor scheduling appointments, and I answered Skip’s question honestly:

“The other night I came out of my bathroom and found my travel agent at the kitchen table cutting up a lime on the cutting board. She had let herself in, and had brought over a ox of Corona beer.

“I sat down, grabbed a beer, and she told me that tonight we were going to get clear on whether or not Tami and I were going to Belize or Jordan. Tami came home late from work, grabbed a beer and settled into the conversation.

“Are you telling me that one day I will replace that with a computer screen?”

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Power, Passion, and Beauty

Last month I had the opportunity to read Power, Passion, and Beauty, the story of the Mahavishu Orchestra, published by AbstractLogix. As many of you can imagine, I’m a huge fan of John McLaughlin, and as a fan, the book did not disappoint. Meticulously researched the book’s organizing structure of a timeline lets history tell the story without the author getting in the way. And what a history it was…

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Red Floor Records

Daniel Lanois is pursuing a new business model with Red Floor Records. I will be checking out the music of his first release, the soundtrack to the movie “Here is What Is”, but I have to confess, based on the description, I really want to see the movie (or the DVD)! From the site:

For those of you who might not know, the film is a camera following me around over the course of a year, in and out of recording studios documenting once and for all the way it really happens. We start in Toronto and end in Morocco.

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House Concerts and 21st Century Touring

Last year Chip and Dan Heath wrote Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, and since them I have had a new appreaciation for sticky ideas and the market or strategic position they create. This morning I came across the gem featured in my blog post title, house concerts and 21st century touring.

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Magic Numbers

Kevin Kelley has got me thinking.  While he’s blogging away in California, I’m having the exact same thoughts and discussions with people here in North Carolina.  Wild!

Consider this article written in March: 1,000 True Fans.  It quantifies what life in the long tail is like if an artist has a number of  “true fans” who would basically buy anything at a given price level year-in and year-out.  And it concludes that with 1,000 true fans, art is sustainable at a very reasonable cost.

But then in April, he argues against himself in The Case Against 1,000 True Fans.   His argument is that while the math is valid, there simply are not any musicians who have 1,000 true fans (other than those who benefited from the legacy of the old-world music biz).  And he’s asked his (substantial) readership to either help him find three (3) such people, or concede his case to Jaron Lanier.

Do you know of any such people?  I’d love to meet them!