Composers Forum is a daily web log that allows invited contemporary composers to share their thoughts and ideas on any topic that interests them--from the ethereal, like how new music gets created, music history, theory, performance, other composers, alive or dead, to the mundane, like getting works played and recorded and the joys of teaching. If you're a professional composer and would like to participate, send us an e-mail.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005
How to get music performed...

Truthfully, I have no good suggestions. I've been composing since the 70's, and until recently had only one performance outside of music school, and that was in 1980 or so. I've placed several scores and MP3s on my personal Web site, but while I see that it gets some visits, it has not resulted in any performances. In other words, placing music on the Web is a good thing in terms of being able to show people your music, but no one is likely to go to your music page and immediately e-mail you asking to perform your works.

What I have heard, and I believe to be true, is to connect regularly with musicians. As with business, it's all a matter of networking. I'd like to think that if you write great, honest music, musicians will want to play it. That's naive and simply not true. Just as one has to market oneself in business, one has to market one's compositions to musicians. I don't think that means making the music "simple" or "easygoing" unless that's really what one wants to compose. Similarly, one shouldn't feel constrained to write for chorus almost exclusively (the equation being one chorus = many more score purchases than three string quartets). However, I did have a teacher who instructed me to do just that. From a business perspective, he was correct. From a creative perspective, however, one shouldn't write just for chorus due to its inherent profitability. Rather, one should write for whatever ensemble he or she wants. You just have to accept the fact that writing a trombone and marimba duet may or may not lead to as many performances as writing for string quartet. Then again, many musicians who play instruments with a sparse repertoire may embrace your music.

While having a Web presence may not guarantee performances, it doesn't hurt either. Having PDFs of one's scores may facilitate access to one's music. Instead of having to copy a series of scores and mail them to Europe, it can be easier on both parties to simply refer a musician to a Web site where your music can be downloaded. The Web can thus facilitate musical networking, and it can do so in a very substantial way.

I know from experience what hasn't worked for me, and what I've heard anecdotally.So in the end, I have no real answers, other than the suggestion that networking with musicians, even via e-mail, can be helpful. Participating in a Listerve actually helped get me in touch with some musicians, which ultimately enabled a recorded performance. The Web is an enabler, but it is not the entire solution.

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