Thursday, March 20, 2014

Exclusivity and community.

Well it seems that at a recent Ted Talks… a composer, who I respect, talked about the importance of turning away from the cliché of the inward looking artist to join the greater “community" to great acclaim.  Did I mention he took a little time off his 1 year residency from American Academy in Rome to do this? Oh did I mention that the Ted community features such regulars guys as the president of Microsoft. Am I missing something here. What community are we talking about?

In a similar vein films based on true stories may win awards for their portrayal of victimized characters and communities who then never see a dime from the production. This is also true for those academics who build careers off studies of the poor and give nothing back. Moving up and out is in this sense is your one way ticket to exclusivity.  Just as in academia the more important you are the less you teach. As a composer your commission price goes up and you get more performances, and featured as a speaker at conventions. 

Is that the state of the art of our artistic communities?
The real world is merely the “other”. 

The top down approach is the disconnect of our time. As the choir preaches to the choir, the status quo is maintained. Nothing changes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Big change in the new music world

Big change in the new music world
Fact: 30 years ago most composer grants and commissions were awarded directly to the composer today they are mostly given to performers and ensembles to dole out.  In this sense composers are no longer the top of the food chain even if they are self funding or have institutional sponsors.  

Its different now, but is it better? 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Same old song...

In my last experience with an academic conference I discovered that though many composers were jettisoning rigorous music they were loath to eliminate the rigorous rigamarole rhetoric that "explained" it.

I might have thought that the "recent" move to simplicity would imbue the entire enterprise of music making.  I was wrong.  Perhaps its Babbitt's revenge, because as these younger and older composers who abandon intellectual musical rhetoric they still embrace Babbitt's approach to prose.  They need to prove they are smart composers who know exactly what they are doing.   Of course the requirements of the classroom are requirements after all and grad students and faculty are no different. One can't overlook the fact that explanations are part of the profession. But for me a blueprint is not a building, an explanation is not a performance

Sunday, January 26, 2014

On the Money....

"...Just 2.8 percent of albums sold in 2013 were categorized as classical. By comparison, rock took 35 percent; R&B 18 percent; soundtracks 4 percent. Only jazz, at 2.3 percent, is more incidental to the business of American music..."

And comparatively speaking what are the marketing budgets, not to mention the synergy, of the popular music industry spends VS the classical music or jazz world? The point is that in the now and the near future “art” music will be outspent by “commercial” music I suspect by at least 10 fold. Period. What does that mean for classical and jazz music? I think we must answer for ourselves. I know what I’m going to do –play some jazz and compose some more serial music.

On reflection I think that  the popular media industry spends more than 10,000 times what classical music spends to market its products.  If this stuff is so popular why market it at all?

My point is this; the attempts to piggyback on popular culture's coattails will continue to fail. The problem is not those gnarly intellectual composers who have lately been thrown under the bus for giving new music a bad name, (and by the way gave new music its name in the first place).  It's folks like David Bowie with his corporate muscle that will always stand as more authentic.  The New York Rock and Roll ensemble and Ars Nova with the strength of Atlantic Records behind them did not sell. I liked them but I suppose that was the problem.

We turn a blind eye to the difference between the musical world, which has discrete parts, and the music business which is monolithic and only concerned with money.  True, when these two ideas intersect interesting things can happen, or not.   The market calls the shots and composers don't control the market anymore.  On the other hand, Classical music is an iceberg and to claim that only the top counts is ludicrous.

 By the way "finding the right balance" is a question  for presenters not composers.

Attempts to make pop musicians film composers has been much more successful than making them opera composers but that's a different topic.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

From the sidelines

 Another review of another new American opera same old story; bad scansion, no melody, words impossible to understand, no drama.   For example, a couple -a wife happily washing dishes while the husband boiling with anger he then explodes--why does this scene not work?  Because the husband's boiling is not suggested by the music during the wife's happiness moment so when he explodes (musically) its completely out of left field.  The music does not support the husbands actions only the wife's. The music boxes in the drama in because only one musical mood happens at a time even if there are several different dramatic motivations in the scene.

Ok I know this.  What use is this knowledge in a time when contemporary opera is not about the work but about securing a performance.  Yet my understanding is tempered by the fact that none of my operas has been performed.