Stranger In a Strange Land


This week I am a stranger in a strange land. I am in Bonn at the German Music Information Centre as part of a staff exchange sponsored by the International Association of Music Information Centres. At the moment, I’m at a computer terminal in the centre’s extensive library of music books, which is larger than the music libraries of many American universities. Among their holdings are issues of every music magazine published in Germany, and there are well over one hundred of them. Can you imagine that, over a hundred magazines devoted to music, music of all different genres? The mind boggles.

Bonn, the city where Beethoven was born, is filled with Beethoven ephemera in some unlikely places. I noticed a score of a Beethoven violin sonata in a window display in a shop that sells men’s suits.


And the face of Robert Schumann, another significant musical denizen of this town, stared up at me from a plaque embedded in one of the streets.


On the television this morning (I need some sound in order to combat the jet lag) I watched a performance of a cello concerto with extremely slick camera work as I was channel surfing. I also noticed two different channels devoted to pop music videos. In America, so-called music television stations have been taken over by reality TV programs.

UPDATE: And the coolest thing yet… In the evening I went to Cologne to hear a concert performance of Alessandro Scarlatti’s opera Penelope la casta at WDR. The only thing that was more mind blowing than the performance was the fact that I was able to use my concert ticket to take the train back to Bonn at no additional charge. Try doing that on Amtrak!

Music of all kinds seems to be a vital part of everyday life here. And since it is a part of everyday life here, it remains relevant. I’m hoping I come away from my experience here with some new ideas about how to advocate for music in our own perhaps even stranger land.

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