This Week in Classical Music w/Randy Kinkel 3/17/19

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Salonen: Future is now for orchestras; 

The First Woman to score a Marvel film


It’s “This Week in Classical Music; an update on what’s happening in the classical music world—I’m Randy Kinkel.


Last year, composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen took part in a discussion about the future of classical music at New York University. He found it interesting, but also exasperating.

 “It’s actually dangerous to equate the health of some institutions with the health of the art form,” the 60 year old Salonen added. Music is doing fine,“it’s just that some institutions are having trouble. Those are 2 completely different things.”

When he takes over as Music director for the San Francisco Symphony in 2020, he wants to shake things up, but from the inside. He hopes to find the sweet spot between gutting the system and maintaining what works.

 “The infrastructure of what we call classical music is going to evolve into something else,” Salonen said, though “we don’t quite know what it is. An orchestra is an “organism” that “grows.” Better ways must be found to present it and integrate it into the community. “I don’t want to mess with the physiology of the orchestra.” He says.

What he IS willing to mess with is the weekly subscription-series  format — “the grid,” as he called it — increasingly seems a barrier to artistic vitality. Most people today, especially younger listeners, don’t like to commit themselves months in advance,to a series of concerts. 

Salonen envisions breaking up the season into blocks of three or four, each with a thematic hook.  Symphony orchestras and opera companies should try to reach “as many people as possible by catering to different tastes,” 

That means not just unusual ventures of the kind he oversaw in Los Angeles like the Minimalist Jukebox series; festivals of film music; but also now and then a mini festival devoted to Brahms or Sibelius, for those who want an immersion in a single composer.

Salonen has also recruited a roster of mostly younger, visionary artists to advise him and create their own programs — a kind of “brain trust,” he said. Mr. Salonen has more problems with the promotion of classical music than with its substance. 

 “The good thing,” he said, “is that the actual material we are dealing with on a daily basis is fantastic” — some of “the best things humankind has ever produced.” 



With her orchestral music for Captain Marvel, Pinar Toprak becomes the first female composer to score a film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a goal she’s been chasing for a while: She previously contributed music to Danny Elfman’s Justice League score, as well as to the first season of the Syfy series Krypton. “Believe it or not, it’s been a dream of mine ever since I can remember,” she said. Toprak admits that the music behind Carol Danvers’s adventures didn’t exactly come easy. “There’s so much weight on her theme, and at first I was kind of psyching myself out,” she explained. “After two days of being in the studio and not being happy with anything I wrote, I went out for a walk, and I started humming a theme — and believe it or not, that’s still in my voice memo, and that is the Captain Marvel theme.”

Captain Marvel’s soundtrack is full of ’90s tunes like Salt-N-Pepa’s “Whatta Man,” Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains,” No Doubt’s “Just a Girl,”which ended up inspiring Toprak’s compositions. 

While pleased with her breakthrough status, Toprak said she feels her gender never led to any obstacles in her career. “In my own personal journey, I never really considered myself disadvantaged in any way,” she said. “I acted as though I have every bit of the same rights, and I just kind of put my horse blinders on and kept working really, really hard.” You can hear film scores old and new by joining KBACH for “Reel Music” with Matt Rogers, every Saturday from 6-7pm.


For more on these and other items and events, go to the website at; be listening each week at this time for another update; find us on Facebook & Twitter;   Be  listening every weekday at noon for the Most Wanted Hour with Linda Cassidy, playing your top 100 most wanted classical hits. Member supported 89 point five KBACH, k-b-a-q Phoenix and HD; a service of rio salado college and Arizona State University.