A 21-year-old Chicago man who began college at age 9 nd medical school three years later is about to become the youngest student ever awarded an M.D. by the University of Chicago.
Sho Yano, who was reading at age 2, writing at 3 and composing music at 5, will graduate this week from the Pritzker School of Medicine, where he also received a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and cell biology.
Sayuri Yano, 15, left, and her brother Sho Yano, 21, practice a musical
piece on Friday, June 1, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois. Sho typically
accompanies his sister on piano during her violin recitals. He is
finishing medical school at the University of Chicago.
It is a grim vision of the classical music concert: a sea of hollow-eyed faces in the dark, shushing the slightest peep during boring evenings stifled by ritual. The antidote? Audience members should be able to laugh, to clap in midperformance and to whoop with joy, if so moved. That would make classical music less boring and less awful, less a “musical North Korea.”
Such is the vision laid out in a recent article in The Huffington Post, “The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained.” The writer is not an angry young pop star, not a pierced-and-tattooed rebel, not even a frustrated contemporary composer. He is the chief executive and managing director of the 155-year-old Brooklyn Philharmonic.
The executive, Richard Dare, an international investment strategist who took charge of the orchestra a year ago for his first foray into the nonprofit world, sounded his iconoclastic clarion before the orchestra’s concert Saturday evening at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn.
It was the latest salvo in a longstanding discussion among classical music presenters, performers, composers and audience members about standard concertgoing etiquette — don’t clap between movements; stay quiet; sit still; dress nicely — and whether it turns off potential listeners. The discussion is part of a larger one about the perception that classical music audiences are declining, aging and not being replenished, and whether loosening up the experience would help solve those problems.
Mr. Dare’s article generated a vigorous response, including nearly 400 comments. Responders said they would resent the intrusion of noisy reactions and suggested that if Mr. Dare wanted to act that way, he could do it at home to recordings. Some compared making noise during concerts to splattering paint on a masterpiece canvas. Some denounced him personally. Others praised his tilt at what they called stifling ritualism and alienating elitism in the concert hall.
Mr. Dare said in an interview that many critics had missed his point: a case he made in a follow-up piece in The Huffington Post, dated Thursday.
“I don’t want bedlam to break out,” he said by telephone. “I’m not at all suggesting I want people to yell and scream and clap” while music is played. “I’m keenly interested in not dismantling the experience we have now. I’m interested in making it relevant to more people.”
He said he was trying to put the reader in the mind of an intimidated outsider new to the concert experience and provoke discussion about how to make it more connected.
“I’m a pretty introverted guy,” Mr. Dare said. “I would probably be the last guy to stand up and clap or scream at something.”
Alan Pierson, the Philharmonic’s artistic director and the man who would have to experience audience reaction while standing on the podium, spoke carefully in a telephone interview.
“It very much depends on the context,” he said of the appropriateness of midperformance reaction.
He was mainly interested in “making an experience of orchestral music something that is as deeply and completely engaging as possible,”“If it leads to moments when people respond in performance, that would be great.”
But he added: “It would be very weird if I went up in front of an audience and said I want everybody to express themselves. That feels very forced to me. That’s still against our experience of classical music.”
The Brooklyn Philharmonic, after severe financial troubles, has sought to reinvent itself as a new kind of musical organization, one that takes music to the people. It collaborates with hip-hop artists in Bedford-Stuyvesant, plays old Soviet cartoon music for Russian audiences in Brighton Beach and reinterprets Beethoven’s symphonies. The programs are imaginative and eclectic, and because standard concert halls are too expensive, it finds new and unusual places to play.
Mr. Dare said things were not always so staid, pointing to 19th-century accounts of audience members reacting vociferously during performances.
Mr. Dare’s initial article described his own disappointment at not being able to react spontaneously in a concert hall, to “clap when clapping felt needed, laugh when it was funny, shout when I couldn’t contain the joy building up inside myself.” He called on audiences to “allow ourselves to react to classical music with our hearts just as we do when we meet other forms of art.”
Despite their chief executive’s views, noisy audience reactions do not sit well with some Brooklyn Philharmonic players.
“I think he really missed the mark,” said Gail Kruvand, a double bassist in the orchestra. (She applauded Mr. Dare for taking on leadership of the troubled Philharmonic and for his business success.)
A good concert “takes you to another place,” Ms. Kruvand said, a spiritual realm outside of “mundane life.”
“It’s magical,” she added. “To have people in the audience yelling out, after a solo, it breaks that spell. I don’t think that’s what concert music is about.” Of Mr. Dare, she said, “I wonder how many concerts he’s gone to where he’s experienced that magic, with 2,000 other people spellbound.”
Robert Spano, the music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra who once held that position at the Brooklyn Philharmonic, defends the need for audiences to keep silent and listen attentively in the concert hall.
“Everybody’s experience depends on a willingness to do that,” Mr. Spano said in an interview. “That’s the precious thing about classical music. If we do anything to violate that, we’re not nurturing the art form in the way that we cherish it.
“For people for whom it’s difficult to sit still and be quiet, I don’t think classical music is for them.”
Less than six years ago, Derek Amato had only mediocre guitar skills. But after suffering a concussion – and never having a lesson – he became a piano-playing sensation. NBC's John Yang reports.
By Linda Carroll
When Derek Amato crashed headfirst into the hard bottom of a pool, he was scared about what he might have done to his brain. But amazingly the fallout from that accident wasn’t all bad. Along with the headaches and other post-concussion symptoms, the accident brought Amato an unexpected gift: it turned him into a musical savant.
Although Amato had always loved music, he’d never been serious about playing any instrument before the head injury. Amato dabbled a bit with guitar before the accident but described his musical ability to TODAY as “on a scale of 1 to 10 . . . like a 2.5, close to 3.”
Amato now plays the piano like a virtuoso, making up melodies from the patterns of black and white blocks that stream across his brain in endless succession. He’s cut an album of original compositions and is currently at work on another.
Amato isn’t the only person who has had artistic talents spring from an injury to the brain. While rare, there are at least 30 others around the world who have developed musical abilities after some sort of brain trauma. Damage to the brain has also been known to spark the ability to draw and paint in others who had never before put pen or paint brush to easel.
Amato’s life changing head injury occurred in 2006 when he was horsing around with some friends. He dove into the shallow end of a pool and hit his head hard.
“I remember the panic that set in,” Amato remembers. “Like I knew I hurt myself. I knew it was something bad.”
Doctors diagnosed a concussion and Amato was briefly hospitalized.
A few days after the accident, he dropped in on a musician friend. Amato spotted the friend’s keyboard and felt inexplicably drawn to it.
“It was just one of those moments where you just know,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “It was just drawing me to it.”
Amato sat down at the keyboard and immediately started playing. Though he’d never had a lesson, it was as if he’d played all his life. And what he was playing now was all original.
“It just all came out,” he told TODAY. “It was almost like it was just flowing with no limitations. Really.”
Amato was examined by Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Andrew Reeves in a session that was captured and broadcast by the Science Channel. Reeves says that the head injury rewired Amato’s brain circuitry leading to an “acquired savant syndrome.”
Amato does have some serious residual effects from the concussion. “I deal with fluorescent light issues,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “I collapse sometimes out of the blue. And the migraines and headaches are intense. And my hearing is half gone.”
Still, Amato said, the newfound talent makes up for all of that.
“I think the headaches and the loss of hearing – those things are kind of the price-tag on this particular gift,” he told Lauer. “And I’m OK with that. So I look at it as a blessing.”
Last week Yellow Lounge
opened its doors for the first time at its newest venue across the pond
(London, England). Yellow Lounge is a club whose goal is to make
classical music current and extremely accessible, where the DJs spin
Bach, not Rihanna. The club has locations all over the world including
New York, Berlin, and now London.
all photos by Howie Tam
The opening of Yellow Lounge in London was held in the Bankside
Vaults, with performances by Eric Whitacre and his choir as well as
headliners Hilary Han and Haushcka. The ambience was set with low
lighting, giant floor pillows, and a ballerina dancing behind a wooden
gate. Canisius, the DJ, played solely classical tunes while
Pfadfinderei, a VJ from Berlin, played digital videos on each of the
large screens set about the room.
Eric Whitacre and the Whitacre Singers
The first group to go on was composer/conductor Eric Whitacre and the
Whitacre Singers, his traveling choir. Staying true to the Yellow
Lounge promise, the classical choir had a very contemporary presence.
First of all, I have never seen a choir perform in a non-religious
setting. But the aspect that stood out most was the video he had created
– a compilation of more than a thousand home-recorded versions of his
piece “Water Night” sent in by ordinary people all over the world to
create Eric Whitacre’s very own monstrous virtual choir.
The real treat of the night was the collaboration of Hilary Hahn and
Hauschka. Hilary Hahn is a violinist from the United States and Hauschka
is a pianist from Germany who specializes in prepared piano. The duo
met a few years ago and after many jam sessions they decided to make an
improvised album inspired by a trip they took to Iceland. At the Yellow
Lounge, Hahn and Hauschka played a fully improvised set, allowing the
audience to experience an entirely unique performance. After every song,
Hauschka would drop something new into his piano, like wooden sticks or
a metal chain, in order to change the sound and then he and Hahn would