Given the inexplicable stature of our little S21 community, it occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that we should do something useful.  I’ve chatted with a few of the regulars and gotten some good ideas but I thought I would open up the discussion to everybody.

Here’s what we have so far: 

1) another Sequenza21 concert like the very successful one we had a couple of years ago.  We’d raise a little money from readers and I would shake down…ur, trade a few record companies some free advertising for dollars.  My feeling is that if we go the concert route, we should have somebody prominent who is not a composer curate the program to avoid the unfortunate tendency of the selection committee to be overrepresented on the program.  Ideas?

2) a Sequenza21 virtual CD or CDs.  Steve Layton has some great thoughts on this that would keep the costs down and avoid the wrath of ASCAP.  Maybe, Steve could elaborate.

3) A modest Sequenza21 commissioning fund for composers and who contribute here regularly.  (We’ll have to define what contribute here regularly means).

4) Some sort of outreach to performers and musicians who are not composers.  We’d like to get more of them involved in S21.  Maybe a Performers Forum?

5) Something we haven’t thought of yet but you have.

The floor is now open.

30 Responses to “Sequenza21 2.0”
  1. David’s right — I produce @60 concerts a year, and it’s a lot of work requiring a substantial support structure, if you want to produce anything that will compete with other options people have for their “leisure” time.

  2. David Toub says:

    Tom, I don’t disagree. If a series could be accomplished, that would be sweet. I’m just putting it out there that this might be daunting unless a sufficient number of folks, along with financial resources, step up to the plate. Thanks!

  3. Alex Shapiro says:

    Tom’s comment above sets up my thoughts below perfectly. Live concerts are fraught with challenges of all sorts, and there are already lots of great people working hard to produce those events. I think we should be looking to a larger scale concept that doesn’t duplicate existing paradigms.

    I’m always happy to present our colleagues’ work, live or recorded, left coast, right coast or no coast at all. It occurs to me, though, that given Sequenza21’s enpixelated existence and the respect its members have gained from having some of their fairy dust web presence here, that the most natural– and exciting– progression would be to further explore our virtual lives and music making. Together. Reaching the world. Live. With podcast abilities for re-runs and archives. Oh, and a virtual TV show, too. Yup.

    Some of you are already familiar with the virtual world known as Second Life:

    http://secondlife.com

    while for others it’s a new concept. Many of us can barely keep up with our first life, and have a tough time grasping why we need any more distractions in an already clogged cyber world. But just as the digital realm allows our music to be purchased, played, recorded and heard by people around the globe via our now-traditional MySpace pages, blogs and websites, Second Life gives us a three dimensional and real-time way to interact with potential fans and clients.

    A composer I know named David Schwartz has created an educational outreach tool called Music Academy Online, and he’s concentrated his skills and interest in bringing new music to a new audience via Second Life. The Academy has a very cool building there (yes, one buys real estate in all lives, apparently) and he hosts concerts in his auditorium, with receptions afterward (ok, so it’s BYOB if you want to actually taste what’s poured in your glass… but just think, they always have your favorite on hand). He hosted a CD release party for me a couple of months ago, with live performances of some of the tracks (avatars playing along pretty realistically on their instruments) and an interview/dialog with the attendees. And he regularly schedules concerts that feature new works and performers. These can be recordings “played” live, or actual in-studio live performances that are simultaneously played by the virtual performers. I’m certain that David would be delighted to help S21-ers get a concert series going.

    Lest you think only geeks like me trod these e-boards, I can tell you that there are some heavy-hitters in the “real” world who frequent Second Life– from the arts, to businesses, to politics (every 2008 campaign has an office there, for instance… hmmm… these days that might be enough to keep us all away!). It’s a place where a lot of real money changes hands, and by dint of someone’s presence there, you already know that they’re open to the new and cutting edge. Second Life boasts three or four million users around the world, and as more of us develop parallel and complimentary lives there, it will continue to grow exponentially. The downside: the concept is spectacular; the execution is still in its growing pains from what I can tell. I have about the zippiest computer setup possible in my project studio, and yet the SL technology is not always invisible (there are glitches from time to time… wow, just like real life) It’s most ideal when the participants and the audience are set up with fast computers and at least an inexpensive headset with a mic, for listening and talking. Manipulating one’s avatar takes a little getting used to, but it gets smoother with some practice.

    I have nothing to do with Second Life and am just a fan of what David is doing, so don’t read all this as an advertisement. I just love the idea of thinking waaaaaay outside the box and homesteading a new frontier, and I think that S21 denizens, already so net-savvy, are the perfect fit for this. Here’s the page with more information about MAO’s presence there:

    http://www.musicacademyonline.com/second_life.php

    If anyone is interested in looking into this possibility, drop David a note.

  4. Tom Izzo says:

    David,

    I can empathize with regard to the difficulty of putting on these kinds of concerts. I and a group of other folks have been running a concert series in CT for 6 years or so and it’s challenging on a number of levels.

    One issue that I’ve noticed is that it’s really hard to maintain any kind of momentum in terms of audience interest if there is only one event per year. Now, this is not to say that multiple events would fair better but I can speak from experience with regard to the single concert scenario.

    That said, I think it comes down to having a consensus of what the goal actually is. Is the goal to reach an audience outside of our community of online composers and performers, or is the goal more humble in that there is no intention of trying to draw from a larger/different demographic?

    I believe that the idea of a concert series speaks more to the idea of possibly reaching out to a larger audience, (however small that may actually be). Once again, this may not be what the intention of these events is but with Sequenza21 I think there are interesting possibilities in thinking on a larger scale.

  5. David Toub says:

    Tom, there was a CD of the last concert of which only a small number of copies were made due to the cost. Were it not for the cost, then the idea of selling it would have made a lot of sense. But I’m not sure how much of a market there would be for a concert-related CD. Doing multiple concerts would be great, but I learned a valuble lesson last time around—getting a concert off the ground is hard. Really hard.

  6. John Clare says:

    I dig Tom’s idea of perhaps a few concerts – maybe one out west with Alex Shapiro curating with Nonsequitur; Rob Deemer doing something in Oklahoma or Western NY wherever he is; Daniel hosting in Louisville; Marvin at Princeton or NYC; me in Philly or Baltimore, I’m also happy to help in NYC since I’m in town alot.

  7. Tom Izzo says:

    How about having a concert, recording it and selling the audio as a CD or whatever format is best? In this way the concert itself isn’t quite so ephemeral and you still have the advantage of residual promotion after the dust has settled.

    Also, I wonder if it might not be better all around to have more than one concert per year. This would level the playing field with regard to more people getting an opportunity to be heard but I also believe that the impact of a series of concerts creates more of a “scene” than a one off event.

    I and a few friends have an ongoing concert series in CT that we’ve been cobbling together for the last 6 years. The first year of the concert we got a tremendous turnout but since then the audience seems to have gotten exponentially smaller. I’ve found that with one concert per year it’s hard to build momentum in terms of marketing and interest.

    I realize that this is challenging on a number of levels but I thought I’d throw it out there anyhow.

  8. Steve Layton says:

    Hi Frank. I’m happy to read you’re suggestions, and thanks. I myself use CD Baby as well for my own music, prior to Tunecore. It works great too, & is very fair, though the initial cost is a bit more and they usually do the online distribution in tandem with selling an actual physical CD. And I’ve been an eMusic customer for quite a while, starting way back in 1999. And now my own music is there and happily selling:

    http://www.emusic.com/artist/Steve-Layton-MP3-Download/11623206.html

    I should mention (for all the starry-eyed dreamers reading) that Physical CD or virtual, if you think you’re going to retire on the money — or even pay your electric bill — well, it’s almost better to play the lottery. :-) … But the virtual CD route, through a small but steady stream of those .0035 cents, a few quarters and even dollars, will essentially cover its cost in short order, leaving the rest of the “long-tail” trickle to help pay the party favors for the next few S21 after-concert shindigs…

    [I might mention one possible (though optional) significant pre-production cost, which is if there's a desire to have the CD tracks given a bit of professional mastering before sending off. Not talking about "Phil Spector-ing" the tracks or anything, just smoothing out some of the possible EQ and level differences from track to track.]

  9. Frank Hecker says:

    I think the idea of a Sequenza 21 “virtual CD” is a great one, and i would love to see it happen. To be quite honest it’s a pain to go from site to site tracking down MP3 links, downloading tracks one by one, and then organizing them in iTunes. It’s much more convenient to be able to go to a site like eMusic and download an entire album of material in one shot.

    A couple of additional thoughts to add to Steve Layton’s thorough discussion of the subject:

    1. Another option for self-distribution is CD Baby. David Harrell, who runs the Digital Audio Insider blog (http://digitalaudioinsider.blogspot.com/), has done lots of posts on his experiences with CD Baby, per-track payouts from eMusic, the economics of selling self-produced CDs through Amazon, and other potentially germane topics. He might be a person worth talking to, especially if you want to offer physical CDs as an option.

    2. In terms of the major digital music stores, eMusic has a thriving message board community and IMO would be a good place to promote a Sequenza 21 release. (I’d certainly be happy to plug it.) Most of the site’s users are oriented to indie rock, but there are a lot of adventurous listeners among the active eMusic message board users, and they’ve shown a willingness and ability to drive downloads for particular releases. (For example, Robert von Bahr of BIS Records responds to BIS-related posts and has built up a lot of goodwill among the regulars on the eMusic classical message board; in return they’ve actively recommended lots of BIS releases, and have had at least some success in boosting their sales.)

  10. Steve Layton says:

    Hey Bill & Jeff. The Listening Room problem seems mostly that there were a lot of streaming URLs that used Webjay (a kind of MP3 aggregator service). Webjay closed this past summer, so none of thos old streams work. I just went through and removed all the Webjay URLs and references; the links there are currently download-only, unless someone also has created M3u metafiles for the tracks on their own site. (Personally, I don’t bother much with that anymore, as most folks media players tend now to start playing a track even when clicking on a download link.)

  11. Sorry Bill, but because it\’s a wiki, the person that put the URL in is responsible for whether it works or not.  I need to go in and clean it up… but I also need to write some tunes… ;)

  12. Bill says:

    Well I scoped out the listening room but only 1 out of 4 links I tried worked. The advantage of archive.org is that whole works can be uploaded and no one’s the worse for wear, and it’s pretty reliable.

  13. David Toub says:

    Jeff, great idea re: archive.org. I forgot about posting there, and am rectifying it right now. I’d encourage anyone to get their stuff up there. I’m still bummed that the IMSLP was forced to be taken down (this was a great place to post one’s scores using a creative commons model).

  14. david toub says:

    Steve, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Many of us post MP3s of our works on our own sites, and they’re there for the taking. Of course, having our MP3s on other sites just increases their possible exposure, which is a good thing of course.

    Might I also suggest Amie Street? Several of us already have our stuff up there, including performers like Hugh Sung, and it follows a similar model that you’re proposing.

  15. Steve Layton says:

    Jerry wondered if I’d elaborate the CD idea a bit. Making an actual, physical S21-imprinted CD is always a possibility, provided enough people want to be generous and fork out some real money for its production. Then of course comes the issue of getting that money back — and truthfully, I’m not sure we would, and I’m also not sure that it would even do such a great job in the exposure department for what we’d end up paying.

    The one advantage a physical CD would provide is a few copies in some brick-and-mortar stores. Short of a real-live distributuon deal, the number of stores and actual people we’d reach is likely to be tiny. That probably leaves us with a semi-pricey “calling card”, or maybe a vague satus symbol.

    We already know that we can potentially get the same music to reach a vast part of the planet right here and now, through the web. But the problem is getting people to know to look for it. One of the best ways to do that is get the music to where the people already go online to listen and buy; places like iTunes, eMusic, Napster, Rhapsody, Sony, etc.

    There are very good services out there right now, that allow the creation of a virtual CD, complete with cover art and full liner notes. No actual physical CD is made, rather the tracks and other info appear as a perfectly normal and legit CD at the aforementioned music download sites, exactly like any other release from Naxos, Sony, Nonesuch, etc. Just like I did with Golijov’s Ainadamar, they download selected tracks or the entire CD, with artwork and notes. The difference to us is that there are almost no initial manufacturing costs involved that need to be recouped.

    Aside from the elbow grease to assemble the tracks, art and notes, the cost to upload such a virtual CD to a service like Tunecore is only around $25-30, and a further $10 a year to keep the CD active. For that minmal amount, Tunecore gets the CD into all the major (and minor) online download services. Just as in the real world, the download service and Tunecore take a small percentage of the money from each download, and Tunecore keeps the rest in your account to be sent directly back to you in a check whenever you wish.

    All in all, I think it would be a great way to test the waters, without spending tons of effort begging for money, negotiating distribution, etc., and avoid the potential loss involved with a physical CD that doesn’t reach very many people and likely sinks out of sight in a few weeks at best. (That is NOT any reflection on the quality of the music I’d expect on the CD! It’s simply the hard reality of what happens to 99.99% of all CDs. Almost nothing to lose, so why not give it a shot? This *is* Sequenza21 after all, and this is how things are going to be in the 21st century.)

  16. Steve Layton says:

    Links are there, Bill, but of course “tastefully done”… ;-)

    The “Listening Room” tab on the top-left navigation strip is for each, every, and any composer to post a link to one or two works to hear (but NOT their whole catalog; don’t want anybody hogging the spotlight). And on most any post or comment, look for the poster’s name in blue; clicking on it will generally take you to the composer’s own site, and most of us have ample listening opportunities at our own places.

  17. Bill says:

    Uploads and links to archive.org is a great idea. Anyone else notice that there’s pitifully few links to mp3s of the composers who reside here? (although plenty of links to others…)

  18. The Performers’ Forum is a must-do idea and it would also be fabulous to have a CD (which theoretically could have much greater worldwide outreach than a concert),

    FJO writing from the Conductors Guild Conference in Baltimore and thrilled to be comment #13 ;)

  19. Steve Layton says:

    There’s no reason not to have a Performers Forum page just like the Composers Forum, that works exactly the same way. It’s just a matter of a few clicks to add another page to the S21/Wordpress blog. Then you just need a few folks (of various instrumental stripes) who want to get set up with WordPress posting permissions through Jerry, and the rest is up to them — and all you reader/commenters out there.

  20. Lanier says:

    Here’s a vote for Judith’s dual-installment idea regarding performer involvement. Though I’d think a less formal Forum along the lines of our Composers Forum would be a great thing, too.

    The other ideas all sound terrific as well. Onward and upward!

  21. paul bailey says:

    thanks,

    i’m a big admirer of the fluxis and situationist pamphlet and mail art. it was a big influence on my graphic libretto for retrace our steps.

  22. Jerry Bowles says:

    Hey, Paul:

    I love the way you did the packaging for Retrace Our Steps. Was that a) hard or b) expensive? Reminds me of a lot of the DIY conceptual art stuff I was involved in back in the 70s. See http://www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/DadatoDiYPart2.html (about halfway down)

  23. paul bailey says:

    i think the s21 digital sampler is a good idea. i’d be happy to produce a concert to get more performers involved in los angeles.

  24. Just so you guys understand Jerry’s ASCAP comment, ASCAP asked me for an annual!! payment of $450 because I was hosting the S21 wiki and it had URL’s for MP3’s on it. As mind-boggling as that seems, once I’d explained that they were just URL’s and not the actual files, they told me they would give their ‘license’ to us to another attorney for clarification.

    Haven’t heard back… that was 2006. Podcasts are great, but somebody has to do them; they have to have a regular host and they have to have hosting. Archive.org will host MP3’s for free FWIW…

  25. Rob Deemer says:

    I’m all for helping in as well…I’d even forgo submitting a work for consideration, your thoughts were to put together a selection committee separate from the pool of applicants. Maybe those of us who have shows could put together a cross-country broadcast of some type.

    On another related note, what about a S21 Podcast?

  26. Zach Smith says:

    I really like the idea of John Clare helping out. I love his show and am quite sure he’d have an awesome lineup.

    Also, since you just posted about Steve Peters in Seattle, how about doing a cross-polination type of thing with Nonsequitur? I’m in Seattle and am very happy the Steve has made his home and a home for new music here. :-)

  27. Daniel G. says:

    I, of course, second John’s idea. I would be happy to do anything to help out.

  28. John Clare says:

    Re: “we should have somebody prominent who is not a composer curate the program to avoid the unfortunate tendency of the selection committee to be overrepresented on the program.”
    What about Marvin, Daniel, Rob or myself who all do composer shows on the radio help out?

  29. J L Zaimont says:

    As a one-time performer myself, I’m fascinated with the different viewpoints players and composers adopt for bedrock assumption.

    Performers most definitely can be adventurers, but they’re practical adventurers.

    They visit our music on the far side, needing to re-construct it based upon their encounter with what we chose to put down on the page. (Whether very particular pitches, rhythms, dynamics or guidelines for how long/what shape an event should be, or (like tablature) a picture of how to place the hand to make the sound.) And — important — the music has to have something in it that invites the player’s artistry IN .

    Finally: We composers mouth off a lot here at S21. Time we heard front and center from our artistic partners.

    JLZ

  30. J L Zaimont says:

    I like the idea of a Performers Forum — hopefully in two installments ideally to be offered within one month, so a wide variety of artists might be invited to present.

    Two reasons why:

    – So they can talk AND play. Talk about how they approach a new work, how taste preferences operate in the selection of music (their own, the audiences’, presenter’s, style currents of the day, etc. ).

    – Planned far enough ahead so that the S21 score-call idea could be roped in here, possibly as follows: Separate mini-calls for music for each Performer’s instrument. They then sift the ‘finalists’ and — whether they up playing a selected piece or not — they could talk in public about what virtues and failings they discover in the group of pieces submitted.

    More in the next comment.

    JLZ

  31.