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.
The tradition of multi-movement compositions spans the centuries, with roots in the linked sections of religious services and the groupings of dance suites. In our own time, some composers have sustained this tradition while others have rejected it. Still others have blurred the distinction, blending independent movements into large-scale forms.
What do you think? Are there compelling expressive reasons to use multi-movement forms, or are they an unwanted relic of the past? Have you used them in your music? Have you deliberately avoided them? Do you like it when people clap in the middle of your piece? Do you like it when they shift around and cough?
posted by Lawrence Dillon
Thursday, July 14, 2005
another new music festival, and why shop at record stores?
Information is available here. I only wish I could read the program's Web site, which is not in English. What I do find most interesting is that they are going to make concert performances available as MP3s, which I applaud.
As I walked through the classical music section of a major record store in Philadelphia today, which was largely devoid of customers in the classical section, it really brought home how downloadable music could make the classical music section obsolete. I found a few nice recordings of new music (interspersed with the usual offerings), but given what is available on the Web, either for download or purchase, how much longer should a new music aficionado browse through bins in a record store clearly dominated by either rock or traditional classical music? No recordings by Palestine, de Alvear, or many other composers are found here. While there are some recordings of Feldman and (to be fair) a ton of releases by Glass and Reich, very little cutting edge music is to be found in these stores.
So, aside from the fun of browsing in person, is there much to be gained from a visit to a typical record store chain when new music increasingly is moving to either small independent distributors accessible from the Web, or Web sites containing downloadable audio files?
posted by David Toub
Electronic Music History Book?
Anybody have a tip on a book, or article, or website on the history of electronic music which is not just from, but includes, the classical new music perspective? I used Electronic Sound by Joel Chadabe and the Computer Music Tutorial by Curtis Roads.The Chadabe is good in covering the new music perspective, but the kids complained that it drops names all over the place without explaining who or what. The kids also complained that the Roads is too heavy to carry. Haha! I do like both of these books, but do want to incorporate more non new music electronic music into my class. Also, this would be for a strictly History of Electronic Music class. I used the Chadabe and Roads for an Intro to Electronic Music class which focused more on making electronic music.
Glad to see that my call to unionize has gotten some attention in the sequenza21 blogosphere (would that be 2 Gís Derek?). You should probably read my blog entry called Composers Union, and the few comments to get caught up on the union discussion.
I have to agree with Corey Dargel that a union made up of self proclaimed lazy composers is possibly a bad idea. Though who is to say that lazy composers canít write good music. And also, who is to say that just because a composer is lazy, that they should be banned from our union.
Perhaps lazy is the wrong word? Are the French lazy because they have a 35 hour work week? The 35 hour work week seems to be in the spirit of lifestyle. And this is a lifestyle that I do believe composers should have access to. Though my use of the word lazy is not my own invention, it comes directly from our Ďgo getterí composer culture. Perhaps the Puritans are to blame as Judd was saying. I sure am used to blaming the Puritans for just about everything here in Boston: Oh why does the damn T stop running at 1am? Oh why do bars close at 2am? It is those pesky Puritans.
Anyway, my point is that our microscopic composer sub-sub-culture is what says you are lazy if you donít go for it and work those 80 hours weeks. I am just pointing it out. Think about it. If you worked only 35 hours a week as composer (this includes teaching, for those of you who do it) is it possible to have a composer career that is anything better than almost mediocre? Unless of course you donít have to teach, or work in a book store, or drive a cab. Yes, I guess those who are independently wealthy, or have parents, or a rich uncle helping out, can work 35 hours a week at composing and not be in the Union and not be lazy, and spawn an above average composer career. They of course may have others take care of things like copying, preparing parts and scores, mailing out to competitions, jockeying for performances, perhaps even writing their blog...
The other point that Aaron Cassidy made about talent is a good one. Perhaps more than half do give up. Perhaps it is because they do not believe they have talent. Others who have talent and do not want to work the 80 hour a week composer scam, end up writing in obscurity.
I do believe that our Union should be made up of talented composers, but then the question is who judges talent. We have all been to too many new music concerts, I am sure. How often do you say, now that composer has talent. I think that it is safe to say that most of us think that most of us suck. This is not a personal thing. A critique of someone elseís music should probably not feel personal, on either the giving or receiving end. So if most of us think that most of us suck, then what do we do about the Union? Do we accept having people who we think suck amongst us? I guess we do that already, so why not in the Union. Solidarity seems more powerful than navel examinations of how much does thee suck, and will we still let you in the Union.
posted by Lou Bunk
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Music theory allows musicians to transform fleeting aural phenomena into substantive experiences. When one chooses to write a piece of music, an analytical or historical essay, or a critique, these substantive experiences become challenges. Only when pieces of music become challenges can creative activity happen.
Artistic creation is a dialogue within the individual artist between personal instinct and history. Individuals can speak for themselves, but, without theoretical knowledge, they cannot speak for the music that has come before them. This music will speak differently for those with different theoretical strengths: for a Westerner unacquainted with Indian ragas, they may all sound the same, even though he or she may have no trouble distinguishing between major and minor scales.
By learning how to analyze Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and later canonical composers, musicians learn how to pivot their own abilities around hundreds of years of music that has been an inspiration to generations. They acquire a wealth of substantive experiences off which their imaginations can feed.
The relevance of music theory to composition is imminently defensible. The problem isn't so much what is being taught, but with how it's being taught. Let's hope that a frustration with the latter doesn't lead to a more general belief that music theory itself isn't important.
posted by David Salvage