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.
As I noted over on the front page, the first survey ever done of classical music critics in North America was released yesterday and a 54-page report, analyzed by Princeton University's Lawrence McGill, is available in PDF format at www.najp.org, or by link from www.mcana.org. Galen was looking for some research to chew on, maybe this is it. Why don't we all take a look and come back and talk about it.
posted by Jerry Bowles
Thursday, May 19, 2005
As an offshoot of Everette's question about whether or not audiences like new music, I'd like to frame the issue in a different way. One of the many music related survey's I'd like to see conducted relates to how much of different people's concertgoing is to what kinds of concerts. I like new music and I like old music, but I can only go so so many concerts in a given time period -- as a result I have to pick and choose, and I'll pick a new music concert far more often than I'll pick an old music concert. There are probably plenty of people like me, and also probably plenty of people who like new music and old music but are far more likely to attend an old music concert than a new music concert. And there are people who only like one and not the other (I won't name names, but I've met both kinds). If we asked people what their usual ratio of old music concerts to new music concerts is, I suspect that far more people lean heavily to one side or the other than straddle the fence. (I also suspect that the population of people who attend mostly old-music concerts is both substantially larger and substantially older on average than the population of people who seek out new music concerts.) If I'm right about this, then Everette's questions are moot, since we actually have two distinct audience populations with two distinct sets of characteristics. Audiences who focus on old music might well hear new music and enjoy it, but since it's not their primary interest they could still prefer it not be programmed. And since there are so many more people interested primarily in old music than in new music, basic finance dictates that many musicians and ensembles will cater to the old music crowd regardless of their interest in new music. And the answer to "Why do so many performers or ensembles refuse to program new music?" is that they play in old-music focused ensembles. If my model is correct, an ensemble or musician is better off focusing heavily on one or the other because the population that is interested equally in both is the smallest population of all.
I am, of course, painting with a very broad brush, and engaging in wild speculation here -- which is exactly why I'd love to see some professional polling group put together a really smart set of probing questions and run the poll. If anybody knows of existing polling along these lines, I'd be very curious to see it.
posted by Galen H. Brown
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Mikey likes it!
Recently, I had the chance to speak with three very different audience members after a concert of new music. None of them make a habit out of listening to classical music and never listen to new music yet all three thoroughly enjoyed the concert.
Since that concert I have been posing a few questions to my musician friends.
Could it be that when presented with something new and different audiences may actually enjoy it?
Why do so many performers or ensembles refuse to program new music?
Are these ensembles and performers really catering to a conservative audience, or is it a refusal by performers to accept the demands put on them by the composers of new music?posted by Everette Minchew
Monday, May 16, 2005
Is American High Culture Dead and Should We Care?
Half a century ago, and before, individuals of vision - conductors, composers, entrepreneurs, even critics - heroically shaped the course of America's musical high culture. In more recent times, the fate of classical music in the US has been governed by the market place...Today's iconic American composers - John Adams, Philip Glass, Steve Reich - cannot be called "classical musicians". They enjoy a robust and diverse following. They embody a "postclassical music" which, if we are lucky, will absorb and redirect a musical high culture that has mainly run its course. Joseph Horowitz, author of Classical Music in America: a history of its rise and fall
If anybody's in New York and looking for something to do tomorrow night, I'd like to invite you to a show at the Bowery Poetry Club with my avant-rock band/electric new music ensemble Capital M. I was in rehearsal with these guys last night and it's sounding fantastic. The concert is part of Stefan Zeniuk's Open Ear series which features cool far-out acts each Tuesday night at BPC. We are sharing the bill with Mike Pride's Snuggle/Stencil. Also, just so you know, this will likely be Capital M's last concert in New York until next fall.
The show is at 10pm, and Bowery Poetry Club is located at Bowery & Bleecker, across the street from CBGB's. Take the 6 to Bleecker or the F to 2nd Ave. Cover is $8.
While we're talking about concerts, another discussion board that I frequent (the legendary Sons of Sam Horn dedicated to discussion of The World Champion Boston Red Sox) has an annual Bash at which the group buys tickets to a game in bulk, providing an opportunity for the posters to meet each other in person and immerse themselves in all things Sox-related. I think it would be kind of cool if we had something like that--pick some high-profile event (in NYC, most likely, since our esteemed editor and about half of our bloggers are here), preferably involving a world premiere or two, and see if we can pack the place with S21 contributors and readers. Maybe we could even work out a discount of some sort. Thoughts?
posted by Ian Moss
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Is 1984 the Future of Opera?
"Maybe this is the future for the development of new operas. If you have the means, you develop your own opera." -- Robert Lepage, director of Lorin Maazel's largely self-financed 1984.
As Anthony Tommasini notes in today's NY Times: "... Mr. Maazel has bought his way to the top without having paid his dues as a composer...what of deserving composers without means?"
posted by Jerry Bowles