Podcasts: More Medium Than Message?

It’s summer in the city, but the heat isn’t slowing down the pace of life and I have only one set of ears, so every night when 8 p.m. rolls around, I miss a few more concerts I had hoped to hear. Could my iPod save me?

If you aren’t one to obsess over the latest Internet trends, you might have missed that fact that blogs are old news; podcasts are what’s hot this summer. Named after that sexy must-have accessory the iPod, podcasting is what you might equate with a subscription-based radio show for busy people. You set up what you want to receive and forget about it. New episodes are then delivered right to your computer as they become available. You can listen whenever you want.

Composer William Duckworth and his partner in crime Nora Farrell have dedicated quite a bit of their artistic efforts to keeping the new music field technologically current through their interactive, web-based Cathedral project. They are once again standing at the edge of the technology curve by launching The Memory Theater, an iPod opera. You can subscribe or listen online by visiting the Cathedral website.

The project kicked off on April 10, and a new program will be added every two weeks through February 24, 2007. Four programs are up now to get you started, showcasing music created by the Cathedral Band. The tracks run a gamut of styles, but are currently heavy on the narration and the international flavor. Since each “episode” runs less than 8 minutes, you might think of it as Forrest Gump-style consumption of free aural bon-bons.

Still, any new delivery mechanism begs the question: What does the medium add to the message? Does hip technology distract from the art?

3 thoughts on “Podcasts: More Medium Than Message?

  1. curioman

    I would change the questions inside-out by saying:

    What messages can we relay with this new medium? What new art can we create with this hip technology?

    It isn’t enough to stuff old art through a new medium. Indeed, that very well could detract from the art. But if approached from a ‘new art’ perspective, it could lead to wonderful things.

    Podcasting is episodical in nature. So I would begin by thinking of what kind of music would be best represented in this format. I see it almost improvisational in a way, a process of additional movements being continually added. Ever moving, ever growing. This could turn into some new forms of expression, certainly, and I while I’ve hardly begun to contemplate the possibilities myself (this stuff being so new), I find even initial curiosities very exciting.

    Reply
  2. Garth Trinkl

    Molly and Frank, I really don’t know where to place this comment, since your new “viewpoint” and “analysis” pages do not currently have openings for comments. Anyway…

    I wanted to thank Roger Hannay for his NewMusicBox essay — originally entitled “The Creative Arts and the Composer” — and to congratulate him on receiving one of six commissions by The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra for its forthcoming 75th anniversary celebration.
    This commissioning program seems to me to be an exciting and culturally wholesome way to celebrate the Symphony’s important milestone and to connect with citizens — young and old — of North Carolina and the Nation as a whole. (The other five composers, I think, are
    Edgar Meyer, Jennifer Higdon, Branford Marsalis, Nicholas Maw, and James MacMillan. Please correct me if I am wrong.)

    Sadly, it is to be noted that the so-called National Symphony Orchestra (in the District of Columbia) will celebrate its own 75th Anniversary Season this coming years with only two world premieres — by Roberto Sierra and Joseph Schwantner. To me, this limited celebratory commissioning process does not reflect well on the health of the National Symphony Orchestra, nor its connection to citizens — young and old –of the United States of America. (I personally feel that it is very unfortunate that the National Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor was yet not in place for this important, 75th anniversary milestone.)

    Finally, how many American orchestras can match the intelligence of

    The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra,

    now under Grant Llewellyn, in its statement describing its upcoming anniversary season?

    — Garth Trinkl

    Renaissance Research blog

    Reply
  3. Garth Trinkl

    Correction: Harold Meltzer is apparently the sixth recipient of a commission by The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, for its 75th Anniversary Season. To me, this doesn’t mean that there still isn’t time to extend a seventh commission to Branford Marsalis for a 75th season celebratory world premiere. I think that this would be a culturally appropriate gesture for this state-supported, emerging world-class, symphonic organization. Or a seventh commission to someone like Jeffrey Mumford or Pamela Z?

    Also, am I the only one, in American, more excited by the prospect of The North Carolina Symphony upcoming program featuring works by three American composers — Harold Meltzer, Edgar Meyer, and Jennifer Higdon — rather than an all-Richard Strauss program (as will be featured during the upcoming National Symphony “celebratory” 75th anniversary season)?

    I do hope that both Grant Llewellyn and Michael Morgan are on the short-list to follow Leonard Slatkin as the next music director of the National Symphony Orchestra.

    –Garth Trinkl

    Renaissance Research blog

    Reply

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