Minnesota Orchestra Lockout: – A Sorry Tale Steeped in Duplicity and Dishonor

August 22nd, 2013

In the beginning I was prepared to give you, the directors of the MOA, the benefit of the doubt.  After all, I understand the financial perils of deficit funding.  However, you have now worsened the financial base of the Minnesota Orchestra with your duplicity and lack of ethics.  You have deprived the musicians of a living  and denied them health insurance for almost a year.

Even at this last Tuesday evenings meeting on the advice of our eminent guest, Alan Fletcher, I was in a mind to grant you some further indulgence.  Now it appears you bought thirteen domain names on GoDaddy.com such as: – “savetheminnesotaorchestra.com.”  These purchases were made May 24 of 2012.  These purchases are intended to frustrate the advocacy of citizen groups.  They are absolute proof of your lack of integrity and indicate malice aforethought.

The Minnesota Orchestra did not build its worldwide reputation in recent years.  At the dawn of the stereo era in 1958/59 I was 10-11 years old.  At that age I was already an avid music and audio enthusiast.  In those years in the UK we used to gather at the Grand Old Hotel Russell, on beautiful Russell Square in London, every April for the annual Audio Fair.  The fine recordings of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on the Mercury Living Presence label recorded by Robert Fine, were at the top of the demonstration discs.  Its reputation was worldwide then as it is now.  Now you have caused financial loss and problems across the oceans frustrating the BIS recording, and completing the Grammy nominated Sibelius symphony cycle under Osmo Vanska.  This coupled with appearances of the Orchestra at the BBC Proms and Carnegie Hall, it should comes as no surprise that the eyes of the nation and the world are on you.  A mighty chorus is rising up questioning your actions and judgement.

Worse, at the time you were drawing up your infamous plans, the musicians of our orchestra were involved with A.C.M.E to bring El Sistema to the children of North Minneapolis.  In addition to frustrating attempts to replace guns with instruments in North Minneapolis, your actions denied your organization funds from philanthropists looking for a social justice element in their donations.  This is now a big consideration in direction of philanthropic donations.  Since the chair and vice chair belong to a cadre of individuals whose collective moral turpitude and lack of probity visited untold misery on billions around the world from the events that unfolded in 2008 this comes as no surprise.

Your only recourse to salvage any personal honor, is for you all to sincerely apologize and resign.  If you think there are not competent individuals of probity and integrity to replace you, then you are additionally guilty of monumental conceit.

Your actions are far more likely than not to end in the destruction of the much beloved Minnesota Orchestra, whom you have a sacred obligation to protect and nurture.  In the event of the destruction of this Orchestra, all your names will live in infamy down the ages.

 

Minnesota Orchestra: – Return to Business as Usual will not Return Financial Health

August 17th, 2013

The Minnesota Orchestra lockout drags, and there is increasing focus on personalities, particularly of board members and administration.

The real problem is dangerously outmoded thinking from both sides of the dispute.

I have now read literally hundreds of articles on this problem.

However this research Brief from the Rand Corporation hits all the points that are fundamental to the root cause of the problem.

This brief is worthy of study by anyone with in interest in this calamitous dispute, that threatens the existence of the MO.

Of particular note is their analysis of the changing patterns of philanthropy and their advice on not ignoring the rapid changes being brought about advances in Internet technology.

Form this and other sources I have gleaned a number of salient points.

There is no evidence of a reduction on philanthropic funding.  However there are huge changes in how these funds are being dispersed.

Philanthropy is going corporate with specific goals.  The obvious example of this is Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

Philanthropy has an increasingly global outlook.

Arts funding is becoming more local, diverse and less Eurocentric.

This relates to the changing demographics.  The new wealthy are reflecting the changing ethnicity of the country and giving to arts groups of the culture to which they identify.

The social justice movement is having a big impact on how projects are chosen.  Giving to large symphony orchestras is a poor match.

However if the MO for instance, were to make the major part of their mission El Sistema and put an instrument in the hands of every child especially in areas like the North End of Minneapolis instead of guns, this might change the balance significantly, as well as attract government support.  This would require a major change in the job description of the musicians.  However judging by what has happened in South America this would be the surest way to assure the long term survival of the MO and classical music in the Twin Cities.

Now to music distribution.

In a previous post I alluded to a recent Nielsen survey which, showed the striking change in viewing habits, especially the under 35 generation.

Only 34 % of the population attend any live artistic event in any given year.  So we have to reach them out of the concert hall.

Now classical music historically has driven audio technology excellence and not the pop culture.

Now, as the digital age progresses the technology is becoming increasingly pop geared.  This issue will be ignored by the classical music organizations at their peril.  They need to understand that audio and video are indelibly linked via one interconnect. (HDMI)

There are a multitude of technical issues that have arisen, that make excellence in classical music distribution a challenge.  One occurs with downloading.  Pop music in general has discrete compositions of a few minutes in length, where a pause between track is generally present and desirable.  However sections of classical works are frequently continuous and if tracked to aid in navigation, are inclined to have pauses and or pops, ruining the piece.  To avoid this, requires the synching of a cue file, which can not be done in a data file, so that this problem is solved.  Generally this does not happen, except on a lot of UK sites.  This was a problem I was challenged to solve seven years or so ago.

So this has made streaming pre eminent for the distribution of classical music and opera.  This helps with digital rights management, in other words copyright issues.

There are demographic barriers by age also, as I pointed out in a previous blog.  Only The BPO have the equivalent of a Netflix or YouTube icon in TVs receivers and BD players.  This is proof of the success of the BPO approach.  Manufacturers have been falling over themselves to add the BPO icon to their devices, and now includes Sony, LG, Samsung and Panasonic.

For other sites for classical music you need to be able to open a web browser on the screen of your AV system.  As I pointed out in a previous blog, many 35 and under can do this, but only about 5% of 60 year old and up demographic.

Things are slipping backwards, as Sony have now discontinued their Google TV player and their new TVs are no longer able to open a web browser.

So this leaves Boxee by D-Link, just recently bought by Samsung and the Vizio TV Player.  It remains to be seen what changes Samsung will make to Boxee.

For catching what is on offer world wide, which is now a lot, in my main residence I use and HTPC of my design and construction.  It is very fast and bests any currently available commercial device by a mile.  At our small Twin Cities town home, I use the now discontinued Sony Google TV unit with excellent results, and it gets me to the BPO without opening a web browser.

Now as pointed out in the Rand Report, the quality available in the home is now stunning and rivals or exceed most seats in the concert Hall.  I can attest to that.  I must now make a confession.  I have not missed the MO during the lockout.  The lockout last fall spurred me to develop an alternative.  I have had the best concert season ever, from my own home.  I have watched the BPO, Medici TV, streams from the DSO, Met Player and some very high quality streams from YouTube.  I have also through a VPN tunnel with software created my eldest son, been listening to high quality audio stream and TV broadcasts of the Proms.  In short my cup over flows.  It should not been lost on any one, that this is a global experience.  This fact is highly significant.

Although a senior citizen and retired, I like the under 35 demographic, like to watch and listen to what I want, when I want.  I can be infinitely more eclectic in my choices than attending live concerts in the Twin Cities.  The point of this statement is that all orchestras, need to see themselves as global and not local entities.  They need to add to the choices available.  If every orchestra programs the same works a huge advantage of the Internet is lost.

This leads me into the next point.  The Internet opens up lots of potential revenue streams.  The DSO already have advertizing on their streams, that one is obvious.  However, the Internet is interactive, the way old hard media is not.  So members can interact with artists, and could pre subscribe programs they are interested in.  The is precedent for this,  Paul McCreesh’s recording of Mendelsshon’s Elijah, was funded by Internet donations.

Now consider this. Suppose a composer has an outline of a new work and plays the general idea on an Orchestra site and gets discussion going.  It is easy to imagine how interest could build and subscriptions come in.  All would be involved at the point of creation.

Orchestra members could use the Internet to garner students world wide.

There really are virtually unlimited scenarios and possibilities not yet thought of.

There are encouraging signs.  CDs have become an endangered species, and apart from the exotic high end, stand alone CD players have all but vanished.  DVD and BD players require a screen for set up and full operation.  Many are finding watching anything on mobiles and computers, even with fairly decent computer speakers getting old fast.  I wonder what took so long!  For the first time in a long while we are seeing an uptick and AV systems and respectable Hi-Fi speaker systems.

I have been obsessed with improving audio since a young child.  I was there for the wide spread adoption of the LP, stereo LP and FM, tape, CD, DVD, SACD, BD and now the advancing of Internet AV streaming and downloading.

Now it is time for the classical music and opera companies to take hold of these developments.  This will require pooling of resources, the development of new software and websites.   Technical excellence needs to be the banner to which all rally.  Alliances will need to be formed with manufacturers and retailers.  Getting an Icon for American musical arts will be a priority.  The BPO have shown that this is possible.

An important leg of this will be consumer education.  I suspect this will be especially important for our demographic.

Set up is a lot more complicated than in the days of the LP and CD.  I see leadership in this area is vital.

A new game plan needs to be developed.  I see a bright future for the musical arts world wide with the maturing of the digital age.  We all need to be key players shaping things to come, or else be buried in pop culture.  Historically we have led with the banner of technical excellence, the pop culture has led with the poorest quality they can get away with and its dreadful.

Minnesota Orchestra Lockout. Philanthropy will no longer fund the Minnesota arts scene and others.

August 2nd, 2013

The Minnesota Orchestra lockout continues and the damage to the Orchestra’s artistic integrity continues, to say nothing of the risk of its ultimate demise.

Minnesota is interesting, as it has traditionally had a vibrant arts scene, with two professional orchestras, an Opera company, a baroque orchestra, choral ensembles, theater companies, especially the Guthrie and dance organizations.  In addition we have Minnesota Public Radio and its closely associated American Public Media.  These all compete for audience and above all philanthropic funds.  So it is not surprising to find the funding situation should be so acute in Minnesota given the down turn in corporate and philanthropic giving.  The major arts groups are particularly addicted to this form of revenue.

In 1999, Boston had eight arts organizations with grants totally more than half a million dollars and the Twin Cities had 17.

Further only about 1/3 of the revenue of the Minnesota Orchestra is earned, while 50 to 70% seems more typical.

So there should be no surprise that we have come to this acute impasse here.

Things are difficult in Europe.  There is continuous erosion from traditional government funding sources.  This coupled with a tradition of less philanthropy than in the US has caused difficulties.  However this has been the impetus for innovation on a scale not seen in the US.  More about this later.

In an article Saving American Symphony Orchestras in Four Movements, Ted Gavin gives some stern if fairly typical advice.

His first item of advice, to produce less of the product, is bound to only slow the demise.  The ultimate way out has to be more product and not less.

His second solutions as to how musicians should be paid makes more sense.  However enough income needs to be generated to give musicians a decent living.  This latter is will require innovation and harnessing the Internet to significantly increase revenue.

His point number three about using programming to help keep musician cost in line makes sense.

The author expands on his view of board responsibilities.  He largely blames the boards for the current sorry state of affairs.  He elaborates on these issues in a further article: – Four Steps to Saving a Nonprofit from its own Board of Directors.

My view is that if you have to hand of large chunks of change at regular intervals and shoulder that much responsibility and stress, a sensible individual would probably run a mile.

This leads me to my most important conclusion that reliance on this type of philanthropy is now long past its sell by date.  The musicians should not want it either, as it reduces them to level of indentured  servants, however much they object to this characterization.  In Minneapolis I think this is the elephant in the room garnering a lot of the angst.

Alan Fletcher, CEO of Aspen in his address, Music Is The Mission, Not Money, he takes are more concillatory tone, a necessary step to getting the noise level down.  However there are no new solutions to circumstances changing permanently, which I believe they are.  His festival is expensive and requires travel to Colorado.  I see no attempt to reach a world wide audience, like the Verbier festival currently running.

In the Twin Cities this problem is highly acute due to the large number of arts groups to be funded, and in this I include MPR, which is largely funded by Minnesotans.  I believe MPRs business and funding model will also fail and I suspect sooner than they think.  In this MPR through American Public media have an opportunity to be part of the solution.

In Europe, there is no hope of replacing reductions in state support from philanthropy, I don’t believe.  This has created much greater innovation than in the US.

The LPO has long had its own record label and so have individual artists and performing groups.  The Royal Opera House bought Opus Arte, which was a brilliant move.  However the game changer here is harnessing the power of the Internet to sell seats outside the concert hall.  In this the Berlin Philharmonic are setting the standard for excellent production, presentation, audio and video quality.  I have had a season ticket to the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert  Hall since December 2012 and I have just renewed it at a 10% discount.  This organization is easy to contact and unlike the Minnesota Orchestra answers Emails, in a way that leads to thoughtful discussion.  These concerts are available without opening a web browser on new BD players and other devices from Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung.  Sony were the first to join.  The fact that these huge corporations think it worth installing the software to receive the BPO Digital Concert Hall speaks volumes.

Then we come to Medici TV, to which I also have a subscription.  Medici TV is an Internet TV company based in Cannes France.  They are rapidly becoming the “Netflix” of classical music and opera.  They have a vast number of concerts opera and films to view and cover some musical festivals in depth.  I have been enjoying their coverage of the currently running Verbier festival.  The DSO, which also suffered a recent lockout, is the only American Orchestra carried in Medici TV, although the New York Phil have one concert, so they must be thinking about it.

I have also enjoyed the BBC, especially the BBC Proms currently running.  The BBC is funded by UK license fees.  In the US only BBC radio iPlayer is available at 180 kbs AC3.  In the UK TV broadcasts and radio in an HD stream at 320 kbs AC3 is available.  However setting up a VPN tunnel can get you a UK IP address.  So this year I have been enjoying the Proms on TV and true HD radio.  Three Proms per week are broadcast on TV, all on radio.  I have offered to buy a license, but the BBC tell me it not possible.  This is all due to contracting, and again unions are interfering and actually preventing musicians adding revenue streams.

I also have a subscription the Metropolitan Met Player, but the audio quality is significantly below European standards.  Only European broadcasters stream classical music above 120 kbs mp3 which is what is on offer in the US.  Such streams are of such low quality that they are more likely to put people off classical music and opera rather than become fans.  This is something that MPR as a leader in classical music broadcaster in the US should put right immediately.  And there is every reason to ask for a subscription to the stream.

Now this brings me to the last issue.  I think most classical music lovers have heard far more music in LP, radio, CD and now DVD, BD and streaming.  I would bet that for most classical music and opera lovers have only heard a small fraction of what they know and love in the concert hall and opera house.  In my view it has been true for a long time that orchestras and opera companies have reached their audience in far, far greater numbers through electronic media than the concert hall and the opera house.  It is this aspect that has been fatally absent in these musical arts funding disputes.  For starters, only a small fraction of the repertory is available live in even large cities over extended periods of time, may be with the exception of London.  Certainly that is true in Minnesota and now the turn around experts are advising that even less be available.  This makes no sense whatever.

It is my view that any major orchestra that does not have high quality AV material for purchase or subscription on the Internet is destined for bankruptcy and oblivion.

This means in fact that one of the root causes of the problem here in Minnesota and elsewhere is actually due to globalization.  I don’t see this discussed anywhere.  The Internet is global and all the above organizations need to take on a global mentality.  MPR partially have via streaming, but the stream is audio only and miserable, so it does not cut the mustard.

The new technologies offer a super picture and audio.  Sir Simon Rattle is a huge advocate of providing a picture with the audio.

In a Proms intermission a couple of days ago, Sir Antonio Papano was talking of the importance of seeing as well as hearing the orchestra.  He felt it really added to the experience to see the bowing and a lot else besides.  I could not agree more.  I have had a chance to demonstrate the new technologies to quite a number of regular concert and opera attendees now.  Almost exclusively, when they get over their astonishment, they give the opinion that it is a better experience than the live concert.  This is especially true of good opera productions.  To back this up reviews of the Robert Leparge production at the Met, have met with mixed reviews from the concert hall, but rave reviews from the BD set.  I would bet that that production works much better in a good viewing room than the opera house.  It seems to me it was just made for the screen and works very well in a good home theater.

In Minnesota I think serious leadership from MPR is required.  They need to be talking to arts groups about how to bring their productions to a world wide audience.  And yes, this will mean MPR becoming a video as well as an audio based institution.  MPR needs to really reinvent itself fast, or I predict stormy waters ahead.  Some new brooms may be required.  I barely listen to MPR now, as I have far more attractive options by the month it seems.  I wrote this recent blog on the future of terrestrial broadcasting.

The forces are working faster in Europe as state funds are disappearing faster than US philanthropic support, which I think is driving the faster technological embrace.

The same winds of change are blowing here, even if from a slightly different direction.  All of the parties I have referenced need to take heed.  Ignoring the winds of globalization, even in the refined halls of our orchestras and opera houses, will fast lead to oblivion.

 

Chrysler DeSoto 1930 to 1931 S-CF flat head “8″ Ignition adjustments.

July 10th, 2013

1930 DeSoto “8” Ignition adjustments.

Distributor
The distributor, which is of the four lobe cam and double breaker arm type with condenser on the outside of the base, is accessibly mounted on the cylinder head and driven through a vertical shaft from the camshaft. The ignition coil is mounted on the dash.
Firing order is 1-6-2-5-8-3-7-4

Spark Advance
For all ordinary road and driving the spark control button should be in the advanced position, which is pushed “in” to the instrument panel. When cranking the engine by hand, the spark control button should be pulled all the way out. The automatic advance will take care of all other conditions.
To Adjust the Point Opening
Two sets of breaker points are actuated by a four lobe cam which causes one pair of breaker points to open at a time. One set of breakers controls the spark to one set of four cylinders (1-2-8-7) and the other set of breaker points to the other four cylinders (6-5-3-4); therefore, the opening of both sets of breaker points must be equal or the spark timing will be different in the two sets of four cylinders. The points open alternately.
The rotor should be removed and the engine turned by means of the hand crank until one breaker point rests on the high point of the cam. The gap between the breaker points that have opened should be 0.022”. If necessary to correct the adjustment of the gap, the breaker point lock screw should be loosened and the gap increased or decreased, as required, with a 0.022” feeler gauge on the gap, by means of the breaker point adjustment screw.
The engine should then be turned until the other breaker point is resting on the high point of the cam, and the gap adjusted as for the previous breaker set.

To Set Ignition Timing
The spark control button should be checked for full advance and retard. The breaker points should be adjusted to 0.022” opening and the manual spark control placed in the fully advanced position. The 1/8” pipe plug should be removed from the cylinder head above Number 8 piston and a gauge rod placed through the hole and in contact with piston head. The crankshaft should be rotated until No. 8 piston is coming up on exhaust stroke and stopped when the piston is 0.037” before top dead center. The screw which clamps the distributor should be loosened and the distributor rotated in an anti-clockwise rotation, as viewed from above, until No. 1 piston cam begins to separate the breaker points. Before doing this, the distributor should be pressed against the direction of rotation to be certain that all backlash is removed. The clamp screw should then be tightened and the distributor cap reinstalled as well as the spark plug cables connected to the proper spark plugs and terminals of the distributor cap.
Firing Order
The firing order of the cylinders is 1-6-2-5-8-3-7-4. No. 1 cylinder is nearest the radiator.
Synchronization
The breaker points will in time change their synchronization slightly because of wearing or burning off unequally. Ordinarily when the points are cleaned and readjusted to the proper opening synchronization is automatically corrected. If after the breaker points have been cleaned and adjusted the engine seems rough in its operation, especially so when idling and accelerating, then synchronization should be checked.
Spark Plugs
The spark plug gaps should be set to 0.027” to 0.030”. Care should be taken to set all sparking plug gaps uniformly.

The Evolving Progressive Death of Traditional Broadcast and hard Media. Implications for the Classical Music and Opera Scene

April 10th, 2013

An article in the Associated Press: – A growing number of TV viewers don’t watch over cable, satellite or antenna, says Nielsen, really caught my eye.  So much so that I registered with Nielsen and downloaded the report.  In the main it confirmed trends I have come to realize are gathering pace at breakneck speed.

It shows a fast shifting trend to increasingly streamed content from the NET from sites like Netflix, Amazon and many others.

The reasons are cost, poor quality of programming on traditional TV,  resistance to bundling of cable and satellite vendors, and especially important, the ability to watch what interest them when they want to watch it.

There is missing data in the report, for instance if a subject reports watching a gaming station like PS3 it does not break out times spent on gaming, playing DVD/BD and Internet content streaming.

One thing I did note was a small but probably insignificant drop in time watching DVD and BD from 2011 to 2012.  However it tells me that this use of hard disc media has very likely peaked.  It has been known for sometime that CD sales are in decline.  Not only that CD players are now an oddity.  DVD and BD players also play CDs.  So I suspect that decline in DVD/BD use is going to further push the tide to digital streaming and downloads rather than CD purchase.

A lot of this Internet viewing is on mobile devices, and this is bound to be especially true of house holds that do not posses a traditional TV, a rising population.

The demographics show these trends really picking up in the 20  to 35 year old age range, with little activity in the 65+ age group.

I have noted for some time that few homes now have dedicated sound systems and fewer dedicated AV systems with high quality audio.  I think a big part of this is cost, as the electronics budget is spent on mobile devices, which increasing number of people require for their jobs, and there is nothing left in the budget for home systems.  I suspect complexity of set up is also a problem.  I frequently note the members of my generation frequently have trouble with GUI interfaces.

Another thing I cleaned from the report is that at best 5% of this group were able to connect their flat panel TVs to an Internet browser.  The implications of this are significant, as it means unless their is an icon on the TV, BD player, Boxee Bod ROKU etc. not many are going to watch it on their big screens.  If there TV has a browser, than there is the problem of getting audio back to the sound system.  A TV is not the ideal place to locate the browser.  This is especially pertinent as modern flat panels are wafer thin with small rims.  So the only place to put the speakers in on the back facing the wall.  For safety reasons mounting these panels to the wall is virtually mandatory.  So the speakers are a few inches from the wall firing into it.  This makes them virtually unintelligible, mandating an external sound system even if it is just a sound bar.

Now Nielsen deals in TV ratings, and not radio.  However I think that their are implications for this for radio broadcasters.  Only older people own radios for their homes.  None of my children own a traditional radio in the home, just cars.  In fact I think the best audio systems people own are now in their cars.  So out of their cars the younger listeners are using mobile devices and their computers at home, or I suspect mainly at work to listen to radio.  If less then 5% of this population are able to open a browser on their flat panel, I would bet even less can connect an Internet radio station to a good audio system.  Receivers now generally can receive traditional FM, HD radio and Internet radio.  However stand alone FM/HD devices are rarer than CD only players.

You are unlikely to own a receiver unless you are putting together a home AV system.  US receiver sales for 2012 were 688 million dollars.  If you skew that to the low end of the market, that is likely about 1.5 million units,  If you skew it towards the middle about 700, 000 units.  So this in not high market penetration I doubt.  The lower priced units are not known for longevity, so I suspect a lot of units are replacement units and I would guess that accounts for about 25% of sales.  So new AV system is likely no more than a million a year, and very likely less.

FM broadcasting is now 65 years old and has and still is serving us well.  This is testimony to Major Armstrong’s achievement in the development of FM broadcasting.  It limitations are now becoming more apparent, especially its limited dynamic range.  Internet streaming should become the method of choice for delivering high quality audio and AV for that matter to the home.  This technology is now approaching maturity, and will continue to improve along with the quality of the Internet.  Streaming to vehicles on the move is in its infancy, however I expect that technology will develop rapidly.  There are already Internet streaming car radios on the market.  The cost of the bandwidth for the usual time spent in cars is less than the cost of a subscription to Sirius.  I suspect that eventually that will be a terminal threat to satellite radio broadcasts.  One of the nice features of streaming is the ability to tailor bandwidth to connection and device, even automatically and seamlessly to the user.

As mobile technology develops there will no longer be a need for expensive to build and maintain terrestrial transmitters and even more expensive satellites.  This will not only have an impact on the means of transmission, but a profound impact on program production and an even greater and liberating effect on listening habits.  This is already happening in the TV world.

Mobile technology is rapidly advancing.  My son has just returned from England and bought a new Ford Escort Escape.  As is common with autos now the sound system is superior.  I was able to evaluate quality of the media the vehicle could play back.  The worst quality was Sirius satellite, followed by MPR HD radio (iBiquity), analog FM form MPR was acceptable.  The best sound however came from Spotify Mobile Premium streamed from his wife’s iPhone in the back seat via Blue Tooth.  The stream was 320 kbs with Ogg Vorbis codec.  Even under mobile conditions, this easily beat out the rest.

Last fall I designed built and installed an HTPC in my system here.  I did it to evaluate everything I could grab off the Net.  I can’t believe how my viewing habits have changed.  I have long been able to grab Internet radio, but with higher quality listening stream available my radio listening habits are also rapidly evolving.  I think a minimum standard for classical Internet radio streaming should be 350 kbs AAC3.  The BBC seem to agree.

Now there comes a complete game changer from DTS.  DTS Layered Audio Technology.

DTS stole a march on Dolby Labs at the introduction of loss less surround codecs.  Dolby True HD requires a track for Dolby 5.1 and a track for Dolby True HD.  This takes up excess disc space.  DTS used their DTS 5.1 and used it as a kernel to wind the DTS Master HD around, so only one track is required.  The receiving device uses the best codec it can handle.

Now DTS have expanded on this technology, to allow a single stream to be layered to contain a variety of quality levels.  This will avoid broadcaster having to stream, low, medium and high definition streams. A mobile device will get the correct stream and an up to date AV system can receive DTS Master HD, all from the same stream.  This is brilliant, and will bring the demise of traditional broadcasting closer than I thought.

My wife insisted she wanted Internet TV at our Twin Cities residence.  So I have beefed up that system.  The BD player has streaming capability and I have installed a Sony Google TV player, that has the Google Gold browser built in.  It also has lots of icons for going straight to a site without opening a browser.  It has the icon for the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall, which connects me to Berlin in a click.

I have been astonished at how quickly and radically my wife’s viewing habits have been changed by this technology and the blink of an eye.  She just loves the freedom that comes with it.  Now I realize in our demographic that this is atypical.  However it is now pretty close to becoming the rule for the under 35 and in 20 years they will be 55.  I’ll stick my neck out and say I can now definitely see the end of terrestrial broadcasting in a generation or so, and at the current rate of change, possibly less.

From the standpoint of the “Classical Music/Opera scene” I believe the implications are serious, and without significant attention paid to the issue, potentially devastating.

This issue has a lot to do with the current difficulty orchestras find themselves in around the world.  It has a lot to do with the lockouts in Minnesota of the MSO and SPCO.  However I don’t think anyone is connecting the dots.  Concert Halls just do not contain enough seats to pay the musicians sold at prices that are affordable.  In fact prices in my view are already a bar to entry.  If you look at the demographics of concertgoers they are the same as those not using digital media in large numbers.  The younger generation not entering the concert halls in large enough numbers are the digital streaming and download generation.

Recording is over a 100 years old now.  Serious record collectors started to get to critical mass in the 1920 especially post 1927 with the development of electric recording.  With the Introduction of the Long Playing record and FM radio in 1948 my post war generation found and explored repertory almost exclusively via recordings and FM radio.  You can only hope to hear or see one nth part of the repertory in the concert hall you can get to know via recordings.  Recordings were big business and a huge and fine body of work entered the catalogs of the major recording companies.  Now that era is passed largely to be replaced by stream and downloads, and the art of record collecting dying fast.  A big source of funding to orchestras and therefore musicians dying with it.  To add insult to injury the major donors are following the same demographics as the audiences, which is and will bode ill for funding and endowments.

However the streaming /download technology is highly pop geared and fundamentally unfriendly to the classical repertory.  The problem is that classical music and opera have to be superbly reproduced.  None of the repertory can properly impress on iPhones, iPads and most computer speakers.  Worse gap less downloads are often far from perfect in my experience.  Lossy codecs like mp3 and those associated with HD radio just add insult to injury.

The new generation is much more visual than the previous one.  I have to say that as a card carrying member of the grey haired set, I’m much more visual than I used to be.  Most of my life a good audio system was all I required.  Now however I want good video and audio, especially for opera.  Opera in audio only format can only give a fraction of the enjoyment of the AV experience.

I have watched this situation here in Minnesota with dismay. I have tried to help, but my advice falls on deaf ears. I don’t believe more funds can be garnered from the public purse. It would be highly controversial and over all negative.

The answer I’m certain is selling virtual tickets over the Internet. The recently launched DSO program for streaming their concerts live is fine as far as it goes. The problem, it’s free. That should be making money for them. Met Player makes money for the Met. I also subscribe to the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall and I have really enjoyed that on my big screens and superb sound systems in our two residencies. I’m probably also going to subscribe to Medici TV.  As an aside I’m listening to classical MPR less and less.  Their FM signal is excellent, but their Internet stream is of poor quality.  I tried to listen to an archived Pipe Dreams broadcast last night, but had to turn it off.  In contrast I have been listening today to some of last weekend’s Bach marathon put on at the Royal Albert Hall by Sir John Elliot Gardner.  Musically it is superb and the stream at least good as analog FM quality and may be a little better.  The point I’m making is that MPR now competes globally whether they realize it or not.

Our Orchestras may be locked out, but with the three above sites and a growing collection of Blue Ray Discs, I have never had a more rewarding concert season.

The fact is even if the MSO and SPCO never play again, I will never want for a good concert experience. With modern technology, the experience can be very close to live, and in fact better than most seats. For opera I far prefer to watch in my AV room than the opera house, and a lot of people are of that opinion.

As far as our Orchestras being generators of the economy, which they must be, spin off from restaurants and bars is all very well. But what about the generation of good paying jobs, by the performance of fine literature. Just look at the credits at the end of every BPO production and the MET. These people don’t work for nothing.

The biggest problem is that few know how to achieve first class results in the home. I have been dedicated to audio for over fifty years and for the last 7 an increasing AV enthusiast for the performing arts.

What is needed is alliances. This means manufacturers, retailers, publications and broadcasters. This, here in Minnesota, means Best Buy and the other brick and mortar retailers, MPR, especially American Public Media, and Public broadcasting.

The BPO now have icons on Sony, LG and Samsung equipment that takes you to their site without opening a browser. Panasonic is expected to be added shortly.

Samsung have reached an agreement with Medici TV.

The gigabit Internet is right round the corner and the time to move is now.

Things are different now, and there is a new wind sweeping the old order away. Unfortunately I doubt our organizations in Minnesota get it. From what I see as the unhelpful attitude if the American Federation of Musicians in the SPCO negotiations, I’m certain they don’t get it.

Organizations here and the US as whole, will soon be in competition with the rest of the world. Don’t make the same mistake as industry in the previous years. Unfortunately much of our equipment that used to say made in England or USA, now says made in China.

Classical music will not die, especially given the thirst for Western Culture in the Far East. However if you really do not see the earthquake taking place, I will be buying tickets to the Beijing and Seoul symphony Orchestras and not the MSO and SPCO .   There is a serious misjudgement of events by the American Federation of Musicians and I suspect management.  This unfortunately tends to be a failing of unions and old order monolithic organizations, who when presented with the the future and the past choose the regressive path and seal their fate.

 

 

 

Tektron doodle

September 17th, 2012

Tektron

Tekton2

Eminence Delta 10 A 16 ohm X 2 vented

NASP II

March 16th, 2012

Here is an updated version of NASP the NASP II.

It uses the Peerles Nomex 164 WR 33 102 NWP AL LS 8 ohm Bass/mid.  This woofer has a nice smooth mid band response and good off axis response. There is a break up mode peak centered on 4.5 kHz from 3 to 5 kHz.  This basically mandates a crossover around 2 kHz.

The Tweeter is the highly cost effective Vifa BC25SG19-04.   This tweeter has a flat response in its pass band to 9 kHz were a gradual HF roll off begins.  The roll off becomes steep at 18 kHz.  However for a small bookshelf speaker this is no bad thing, and I have made no attempt to correct this HF fall off.

Fs is 1060 Hz so I have made the tweeter to be 24 down at Fs.

The woofer is in a standard B4 ported enclosure.

The crossover

Impedance and phase angles of speakers at Walberwick studios

March 16th, 2012

 

Mains_midlines

Mains_bass_lines

Center_line

Rea_lines_midswt3

Rea_linesr_bass

Surrounds

Raymond E. Cooke memorial speakerswt3

Impedance and Phase angles of speakers at Walberswick Studios

March 15th, 2012

Mains_midlines

Mains_bass_lines

Center_line

Rea_lines_midswt3

Rea_linesr_bass

Surrounds  Sealed Qb2

Raymond E. Cooke memorial speakerswt3   Ported

Lucia Di Lammermoor: – A review of the MSO 2011/2012 Season Production

March 3rd, 2012

Lucia di Lammermoor is an opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) with Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano.

This opera is based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor, written in 1819, but set in the reign of “Good Queen Anne,” in the early 18th century.

The tale involves a feud between the Ashtons and Ravenswoods.  Enrico wants his daughter Lucia to Marry Arturo, for political reasons.  However Normano, Enrico’s captain of the guard, informs him that Lucia is smitten with his sworn enemy Edgardo master of Ravenswood.  Raimondo, the Chaplain, advises caution against the arranged marriage.  Enrico remains furious.

In the second scene Lucia awaits Edgardo by a stream in the woods, where a Ravenswood stabbed his beloved in a jealous rage, and legend has it she remains there, and her ghost haunts the fountain.  Alisa, Lucia’s companion, tries to dissuade her from her liaison with Edgardo.  However the assignation takes place, and Lucia and Edgardo exchange rings and pledge a secret bond of fealty.   Edgardo leaves for France for political adventures.

In Act II several months later, Lucia’s letters to Edgardo have been intercepted by Normano and his operatives.  Worse he has forged a letter from Edgado purportedly showing Edgardo to have been unfaithful.  Lucia faints.  She is then reluctantly persuaded to marry Arturo, after the chaplain insists one of his letters to Edgardo got through but he has made no reply.  Plans for the wedding ensue.

In scene II Arturo is received.  He has heard of Lucia’s affection for Elgardo.  Enrico reassures him and berates Lucia.  As soon as she reluctantly signs the wedding contract Edgardo bursts in.  Believing Lucia still loves him he is shown the marriage contract.  Angrily he gives back his ring to Lucia and snatches hers.  As he offers his own life, Enrico orders him out.

In Act III,  Edgardo is brooding back at Ravenswood, when Enrico enters taunting him the Luci’a marriage to Arturo is at this very moment being consummated.  Edgardo challenges Enrico to a dual on his father’s grave next morning.

In scene II the wedding festivities are interrupted when the chaplain Raimundo enters white as a ghost to announce that Lucia has stabbed Arturo to death in their wedding chamber.  Raimundo had heard the screams and found Lucia covered in blood still holding the dagger.  Lucia enters and then follows one of the most famous mad scenes in all opera.  She eventually falls ill and exhausted to the ground, and the general consensus is that she will not survive the night.

In scene II Edgardo awaits Enrico at the tombs of his ancestors for the early morning dual.  He learns from Enrico of the nights events and that Lucia is close to death.  Soon the castle bell tolls announcing Lucia’s death.  Heart broken by the news, Edgardo takes his own life.

This is an Italian Bel Canto opera, a term which is hard to define.  It is translated as “Beautiful Singing.”  To me it means a style of signing light of foot, with agility and easy flourishes and coloratura.  There should be dominance of the head voice, and certainly no forceful pressing with the chest voice.  That is the best I can explain it.  Certainly in this production there was no lack of beautiful singing.

At the opening there is a dark scene with a weird caricature of a rocky landscape.  Normano the captain of the guard and his henchmen in their dreary brown garb looked like wayward souls from the order of mendicants lost on a poor recreation of a lunar landscape.  John Robert Lindsey came across as a weak and sorry individual where the role demands an authoritarian figure, eager to show his master he has his ear to the ground, and full command of operatives ready to carry out and even enjoy the evil schemes.  Now I know this is a supporting role.  However the old adage that “There are no small parts, only small actors” was demonstrated here.  This was a pity, as I felt this was the only role miscast, or may be he was badly directed.

Ben Wager, as Raimondo, had a good commanding bass voice and partnered well with the baritone voice of James Westman as Enrico.  The opera chorus sang beautifully as one would expect in “heart of choral country”.  However in the first chorus they were up close to this strange overbearing rocky scenery, and I thought the scenery was muffling their voices and causing poor projection.

I’m going to deal with this set now.  This should be Grand Opera.  There was nothing Grand about this set.  This opera is cast in East Lothian.  Now these are the flat rural lands of Scotland.  This staging went very close to the nasty stereotypical portrayal of Scots as savages.

In the meeting of Enrico and Lucia and the wedding scene there was not even a hint we were in a grand castle.  In fact the whole wedding party looked like a dejected tawdry lot.

However lets get on to better things.

When Susanna Phillips made her first entry as Lucia, she captivates us.  She immediately laid down to play in the snow, immediately convincing us we were encountering a young playful and innocent woman, a very nice touch that!

Susanna Phillips has just the right vocal equipment for this role.  She posses a lovely light coloratura, which she appears to use effortlessly and with great musicality and intelligence.  She never put a foot wrong.  She was superbly partnered by Michael Spyres as Edgardo.  With his smooth and easy on the ear tenor voice brought to the role exactly what was required.  Victoria Vargas as Alisa played her role with just the right degree of anxiety for Lucia.

The opera chorus of the MSO musically is of a high order.  I just love opera choruses.  Musically I was not disappointed, however they could benefit from more coaching in the acting department.  A lot more joy needed to be shown as they gathered for the wedding.  After all, one assumes they were not party to the evil schemes.  A.J. Glueckert by the way played the role of Arturo to perfection and we were graced with another beautiful tenor voice on stage.  Another demonstration that there are no minor roles.

Now to the pivotal mad scene.  The principles did no wrong and Susann Phillips rendition of it was superb.  This is where the chorus need some theatrical coaching.  They loped about like disinterested bystanders, whereas they should have acted shocked and then questioning and trying to find understanding in this young woman’s awful act and subsequent disintegration of her persona after being driven to madness by love denied.  There is so much more they could have done to enhance Susanna Phillip’s performance.

Now to orchestral matters.  As usual the musical standards of the players is very high.  We were indulged with a couple of fine solos of special mention a harp solo from Min J. Kim and flute solo from Michele Frisch.

One interesting issue, is the orchestral scoring of the mad scene.  The score includes a now rare and unusual instrument, that would not have been available to the MSO, nor for that matter a player.  The instrument is the glass harmonica or glass armonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin.  You can hear it played here.  On the DVD I have from the Met, you can clearly hear that they have one in the third act mad scene, and it highlights the breaking up of Lucia’s mind.  This instrument developed from the glass harp, which is basically a series of wine glasses tuned with water on a sound board.  You can hear one playing the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  I attended a long recital by a great exponent of this instrument many years ago.  He was able to conjure up a baroque string orchestra, complete with harpsichord from this single instrument.  He was able to give a surprisingly good rendition of the harpsichord by tapping the edge of the glasses with his finger nails.  It is really a mechanical synthesizer predating the the Moog by centuries.  In any event the Moog was not the first electronic synthesizer.  It was the Theramin right after the first world war, followed by the Ondes Martenot, in the 1920s.  You can see and play a Thermin at the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting in St Louis Park.  Understandably you won’t hear a glass harmonica at the MSO, but you can on DVD.

However there are persisting problems of balance and failure to achieve the dynamic required for the big moments.  At times I felt the stage was leading the pit rather than the pit accompanying the the singers.  I don’t want to make too much of this, as for the most part the wonderful heroes of the pit supported the signers ably under the sensitive hands of Leonardo Vordoni.  I do want to address the issue of orchestral balance however.  As I have found on all but one occasion in this house, the strings are severely muted with a dominance to the wood wind group, which all to easily gives the impression of accompaniment by a wind band.

I suspect this has a lot to do with the room and in particular the pit.  The pit is deep and with some bare concrete surfaces.  Now in my many years recording for groups in ND and for public radio in that part of the world, I noted that concrete surfaces really enhance flutes in particular.  There were 30 string players in the pit, but they did not project.  They did better in the third act.  The sound really seems to have trouble getting out of that pit, with only the woodwinds projecting well.  The strings poorly and even the brass has a slightly dry quality and lacking body.  The bass barely makes egress from the pit.

I suspect the sound is very loud in the pit and everyone is concerned about covering the voices.  I can assure the musicians that with the caliber of singers engaged of late, this should not be their concern.  Projecting a well balanced sound from the pit into the auditorium needs to take priority right now.

Part of the problem is that modern woodwinds are about 10 db louder than older instruments.  To put this in lay parlance the newer instruments are twice as loud as older ones.  On the other hand strings in particular are unchanged.

I think it would be advisable to cover the concrete surface with a wood surface.  Absorptive surfaces in pits have been tried with uniformly poor results.  Another modification may well help, and that is to get the musicians higher on a platform of pine lathe construction.  This has been used in situations like this and shown to increase the 125 Hz to 500 Hz pass band by up to 10 db.  This is the warmth region and is just what this opera house needs.

I have to say I thought the balance problems were partially corrected in the third act, with the strings projecting better, but not optimally.  The violins are right up against the front of the pit.  Consideration should be given to repositioning.  Violins are monopole acoustic radiators, that is to say omnidirectional.  So the violins right up front are being turned into half space radiators and loosing a lot of their energy as a result.

The only opera I have attended where the pit balance was acceptable was Orfeo Ed Euridice.  The SPCO was in the pit conducted by Harry Bickett.  He is a veteran conductor with a huge experience.

Hopefully the new MSO artistic director, Michael Christie, can address these issues.  He should do lots of listening out in the hall and should be encouraged to pick up the phone and call Harry Bickett.  I have to believe Mr Bickett realized the problem and knew how to mitigate it.

Anyhow I digress, the performance musically was of a high order, at times I just closed my eyes to avoid the distraction of the stage.  The singing was just glorious, however they and the paying public deserve much better from the set designer and to some extent the stage director.  That set design was plain and simple a sloppy, lazy and thoughtless piece of work.  Much, much more is required from that quarter if the MSO is to prosper.