Around The Classical Internet: March 23, 2012

I've been waiting all week for an excuse to run this picture: a reconstruction of Bach's face, created from the composer's skull. i i

hide captionI've been waiting all week for an excuse to run this picture: a reconstruction of Bach's face, created from the composer's skull.

JENS-ULRICH KOCH/AFP/Getty Images
I've been waiting all week for an excuse to run this picture: a reconstruction of Bach's face, created from the composer's skull.

I've been waiting all week for an excuse to run this picture: a reconstruction of Bach's face, created from the composer's skull.

JENS-ULRICH KOCH/AFP/Getty Images
  • In case you didn't hear, it was Bach's birthday this week — and we celebrated with a whole week of Goldberg mania.
  • The North Korean National Symphony Orchestra is planning a U.S. tour this spring, starting in Atlanta. It's being organized by an outfit called the Global Resource Services, which says it's a humanitarian group that works in North Korea.
  • But hold the presses: The U.S. State Department may well put the kibosh on that plan. A spokesman for State, Victoria Nuland, says that if North Korea goes ahead with a planned rocket launch to release a satellite in violation of both U.N. resolutions and an agreement made with the U.S. government last month, "it's very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward with a regime whose word we have no confidence in and who has egregiously violated its international commitments."
  • In other international news, Dubai is adding to its high-culture tourism appeal with the announcement of a new opera house as well as a modern art gallery, two "art hotels" and studio and gallery space for working artists. Said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai: "The cultural accomplishments of a nation define its character and individuality. Having demonstrated our credentials in hosting world-class cultural events, the U.A.E. has established itself as a thriving destination for culture and the arts."
  • The Chicago Symphony Orchestra kicked up the classical-flash mob trope a few levels this past Monday, when Renee Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma joined in.
  • Composer/curator Rob Deemer has created a handy list of 202 contemporary female composers, he says, "to help all those ensembles, soloists, pedagogues, and organizations that may want to increase their programming of women composers," adding: "In the future, I hope that this discussion fades into the realm of the unnecessary." (Feel free to send him other suggestions.)
  • On his blog, Minneapolis-based conductor Bill Eddins worries about the future of his hometown orchestra: "The Minnesota [Orchestra] seems headed straight for a very large mine which could sink the musical ship. There is a confluence of events pointing to the 2012-13 season. First, they're in contract negotiations. Second, they're being kicked out of the hall [for renovations]. Third, the deficit is looming. Suddenly, and I mean very suddenly, the Minnesota is in desperate waters ...The shock from the plan that was unveiled a few months ago has had time to sink in and the verdict is in — no one likes it." And, he adds, "The artistic news is much more depressing. The 'plan' seems to be to convert the Minnesota into a glorified Pops orchestra. Touring Pops shows would take precedence and the number of Classical concerts would be dramatically curtailed."
  • A new British musical instrument company — the first new piano manufacturer in the UK in nearly 80 years — is launching this week. Cavendish Pianos was started by a group of longtime piano salesmen who say that they'd like to target "people who want an affordable piano but take an interest in its origins and like the fact that it's made in Britain — or in our case, made in Yorkshire."
  • An only very slightly-tongue-in-cheek pronouncement from Choral America: "Here's a headline we will never see: 'Choral Arts Society Announces Second-Ever Performance of New Composition.'" Why? Because there's no glamor in it: "Most composers find premieres to be more possible than second performances because everyone wants the glory of a first performance."
  • Does the first Piatigorsky International Cello Festival tell us something about the essential nature of cellists? "Frans Helmerson, a renowned Swedish pedagogue, said that he had been thinking a lot about the matter, and that he suspected the cello, which, especially in chamber music, often supplies the bass or another supporting line, might attract solicitous and sympathetic personalities."
  • Here's yet another music/science tale, this time from a team of Japanese researchers published in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Playing classical music helps mice survive heart transplants, and apparently rodent hearts have fine artistic taste: "The mice whose personal soundtrack featured Enya, one of the sound frequencies, or no music at all 'rejected their grafts acutely,' the researchers report." By contrast, those who listened to Verdi's La Traviata or Mozart (from one of those bleeding-chunk compilations, no less) "had significantly prolonged survival."
  • And this week's totally unnecessary research results are in: when singers sing high notes, their eyebrows go up. A team of Danish and American scientists published this in the rather hilariously named study "Facial Expression and Vocal Pitch Height: Evidence of an Intermodal Association." (Vocal pitch height?) And: high-raised eyebrows apparently look friendlier and more open than when singers furrow their brows to go down low. (Even under duress!)

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