No, playing classical music for your babies doesn’t make them smarter. But I’m pretty jealous of this baby.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra music director and rapidly rising star conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla announced today that she is expecting a baby at the end of August, and will be taking parental leave starting in July and ending in November.

The myth that playing Mozart for babies makes them smarter has been pretty much debunked. But babies can hear in utero, and mini-Mirga will be attending an enviable slate of concerts from a front-row berth on the podium. According to Bachtrack, MGT’s conducting engagements before her leave include dates with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the MET Orchestra, Italy’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen as well as the CBSO. The repertoire includes Mahler 1, Beethoven 5, the Shostakovich violin concerto, Rudolf Buchbinder performing Schumann’s Piano Concerto No. 1, the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, a few Boulanger pieces paired with the Fauré Requiem, the Rite of Spring, and a plethora of Debussy including “La Mer” and “Pelleas et Mélisande.” And yes, Mozart as well.

What a lucky little nugget!

 

 

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In memoriam: Ursula K. Le Guin

“Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.” – Ursula K. Le Guin, in the Paris Review

My favorite author of my time died earlier this week, and her death was announced yesterday while I was on a bus. For her, daring to imagine a better world wasn’t an empty platitude. In her work, she showed us those messy better worlds. She gave us fantastical societies and civilizations that weren’t the countries we already knew wearing thin masks. She practically predicted the Internet with her ansible. And she consistently questioned what it was to be a hero. In her stories, actions had consequences. One couldn’t just jump in an X-Wing and blow something up, to quote General Organa.

Was blowing something up ever the right thing to do in a Le Guin book? I haven’t read all her work, so I can’t say definitively, but I know that during her lifetime, her country (mine as well) was at almost perpetual war. Accordingly, there’s no glory in war in her stories. She knew the addictive power of violence. Consider the ending of “The Word for World is Forest,” when the Athsheans have learned what violence and rape are, and may be beyond going back to singing to resolve conflict.

“What would that world be, a world without war? It would be the real world. Peace was the true life, the life of working and learning and bringing up children to work and learn. War, which devoured work, learning, and children, was the denial of reality.” – Four Ways to Forgiveness, “Betrayal”

And so she encouraged us to dream of better worlds, but also to learn how to make those worlds, and to do our part towards that long journey. To honor her memory, cherish your friends. Give gifts that didn’t cost money. Respect all genders. Journal. Give fascists hell. Beware of self-proclaimed utopians. Make sure she outlives those who don’t deserve to outlive her, because as long as her words live, she will too. For the love of all the hearthgods, don’t buy her books on Amazon.

And if you do one thing to remember her, imagine real grounds for hope.

Kentucky Opera gives the director’s chair to women all season.

The Louisville-based opera company’s three productions of the 2018-2019 season will all be directed by women. Kristine McIntyre will return to KO for “The Magic Flute,” and Mary Birnbaum and Kathleen Belcher will make their company directing debuts on Ben Moore’s recent opera “Enemies, A Love Story” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” respectively.  More in the Courier-Journal!

Tuesday Quickread: Why neo-Nazis love classical music

The long and short of it: we’re not trying hard enough to make it too diverse for them to like it.

Zack Ferriday trawled through the brackish, putrid swamp of a white nationalist message board, and found an unsurprising number of classical music fans. It’s pretty clear why they like it: all the composers we hold up as “great” are white men, and in a way, it provides a sonic safe space for people who believe the only people we should be celebrating ever are white men.

 

Most diversity initiatives happen on such a local and small scale that those ideas don’t reach the larger landscape of classical music. Then, of course, there’s the affirmative action fallacy: someone asks why there isn’t more music performed by non-white people, and the reply is that music isn’t chosen based on race or gender, it’s chosen based on how good it is and how it fits the ensemble—implying that a) the asker’s thinking is flawed because they seem to think music should be included just based on the composer’s race, and b) none of the music they listened to that wasn’t by white men was “good” enough to merit inclusion.

“It shouldn’t take the Chineke Orchestra to bring Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges to London, or its cellist and 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year, 18-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason to donate money to his former school to ensure accessibility to classical music for all. We’re all too well aware of classical music’s checkered past when it comes to nationalism, so why is it that even now, 18 years into the 21st century, the likes of Karajan continue to be unambiguously celebrated as greats, as the “emperor of legato,” whatever that means, while racial bias is counteracted on a small-scale basis, somewhat distant from the money and opportunity of the classical music mainstream.” – “White Noise”

 

Reeling.

Boston Celtic Music Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary next weekend in Harvard Square with expanded programming and new venues.

“It’s to pull together all our trad music and dance people, just because we can,” says BCMFest cofounder Shannon Heaton over the phone. “We need to be lifted up in the middle of the winter, when it’s really desperate and gray and dark. That’s the only reason to do it. It’s a nice side benefit then, that people come out and they find us. But even if nobody came to listen other than the musicians themselves, it would be a huge successful party.”

Read the rest at globe.com!

Balance le porc.

Six more women (five if you don’t count Fiona Allan, who previously spoke to the Boston Globe) have come forward with allegations against world-famous conductor Charles Dutoit, 81. The new allegations include one woman’s accusation of rape. This brings the total number of accusers to ten.

Shortly before Christmas, following the first allegations, Dutoit’s office issued a statement saying the allegations “have no basis in truth.”

a moment of midday serenity

I am listening to Shira Kammen’s “Downstream,” a medley of three waltzes that flows from a peaceful brook into crashing rapids.

 

I am watching the counter on the Humble Freedom Bundle tick ever towards three million dollars donated, which will mark ten times what the Humble Store said it’d match donations up to.

Kammen’s work is known to puzzle game enthusiasts because it was featured in “Braid,” a devilishly tricky 2008 game by Jonathan Blow, who more recently developed “The Witness,” which is I believe the only game in the Bundle I cannot play on Mac.  He chose not to include any music in “The Witness,” saying it would be a “layer of stuff that works against the game.