And you may find yourself…

…turning an abandoned ferry terminal into an enormous musical instrument.

If you’re going to New York City this summer, stop by the Great Hall of the Battery Maritime Building at the end of Whitehall Street in Manhattan.

David Byrne, formerly of the band Talking Heads, has rigged the hall with solenoids, hammers, an out-of-tune pump organ and who knows what all and turned the building into an instrument:

When you get both hands busy on the keyboard — as anyone who comes to see the work will be allowed to do — the room roars and clatters to life, seeming to harbor an invisible band playing something written by Philip Glass in collaboration with the Stooges, a Japanese sho virtuoso and a kitchen full of 3-year-olds with pots and ladles.

This New York Times article tells you all about it, plus photos and video.

New Mozart! (Or not)

Call it “CSI: Warsaw.” A bunch of music manuscripts turned up in the library of a monastery in Poland, and a team of musicologists is hoping a few of them turn out to be previously unknown Mozart scores.

But an expert in Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg finds that an unlikely prospect. Read more about it here.

Penny Lane: a Wrong Turn!

Department of Corrections:

A few months ago on the radio, I did a bit on the 80th birthday anniversary of trumpeter Philip Jones. I made the mistake of trusting Wikipedia, which stated that Jones played the piccolo trumpet solo on the Beatles’ song Penny Lane. As I read it, it sounded right; he was playing lead in all the big London orchestras in the 60’s, and would have been a natural choice.

But later I got curious. How, in all my years of collecting brass trivia, had I never heard this before? A quick Google later, I found the truth. Wiki was incorrect; it was actually another prominent British trumpeter named David Mason. And to corroborate that, here he is remembering how he came to get the gig (it all started with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2):

Watta guy! For more, here’s a site with everything you want to know about the piccolo trumpet solo in Penny Lane, including corroboration from legendary Beatles producer Sir George Martin.

A Tale of Two Orchestras

Two smaller American orchestras have been on the brink of collapse this spring. Last week, one got closer to the edge while the other got something of a lifeline.

First, the Columbus Symphony:

Citing a lack of money and a potential deficit of $3 million next year, the board announced Thursday that the Picnic With the Pops series was canceled and the orchestra would shut down June 1. Only a new, money-saving labor contract could save the 2008-09 season, the board said.

That was May 10 (find the whole article here).

A few days later, the symphony was dealt another blow. The Greater Columbus Arts Council cut them off:

“We shouldn’t be giving operational support to an organization that’s not going to be here after June 1,” said council President Bryan W. Knicely.

The Symphony has an annual budget of $13.5 million, and the Arts Council gave them about $260,000 last year. That’s only about 2% of their budget, but it sure does set an ominous precedent for other funders.

But things look sunnier in Honolulu–don’t they always? The Honolulu Symphony is also in dire financial straits, but it hopes it’s now building momentum of a different kind. Last week an anonymous donor gave the orchestra $1.175 million.

That doesn’t fix the problem–the symphony is now only 4 weeks behind on payroll instead of 11–but it does help. The administration is hoping that gift will spur donations from others. Time will tell…

Elevator Music Desired

“Elevator music” is usually a term of derision–but not to the Swedish organization Levande Musik (Living Music).

They’re looking for new pieces to be played at the Goteborg International Book Fair this fall. The pieces chosen will be performed in the elevator of the city’s biggest hotel, and should last for just as long as a ride to the 23rd floor, or 30 seconds.

If you want to submit a composition, here are all the details.


After many years away from New York City, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra returned there last weekend to perform with Dawn Upshaw. The New York Times was impressed, and the New Yorker also weighs in here.

Their concert was almost identical to the program they played in St. Paul a week earlier, which was broadcast live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio. It featured the world premiere of “She Was Here, ” Osvolda Golijov’s arrangements of Schubert songs. Click here to listen to the intermission feature, in which Dawn and Osvoldo listened to the Schubert songs in their original settings, and explain how they made them their own.