For classical chamber groups, what’s in a name?

Posted on: May 18, 2010

In Sunday’s (5/16) New York Times, Allan Kozinn writes, “Reviewing Juilliard415 recently, my colleague James R. Oestreich puzzled over the name of this new period-instrument band and that of another Juilliard group, Ensemble ACJW. The meaning of the names didn’t stop him: as someone with a longstanding passion for early music, he would immediately have recognized 415 as an allusion to Baroque pitch. (The note A is believed to have been tuned, on average, to something closer to 415 cycles per second than to today’s standard, 440 cycles; the letter A is highlighted in the Juilliard415 logo as a clue.) And ACJW refers to the Academy, supported by Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute. … Juilliard415 strikes me as a great name precisely because it is obscure but not impenetrable. … But the best thing about Juilliard415’s name is that it creates an air of mystery, enough to get listeners thinking. And once they solve the riddle, or have it explained to them, they will probably remember the name. … Only relatively recently have classical music ensembles started to regard their names as opportunities for creativity.” Kozinn goes on to weigh the relative merits of the names of such ensembles as Ethel, Bang on a Can, Alarm Will Sound, and itsnotyouitsme.

Posted May 18, 2010