Steve Smith, writing this morning in the Center of the Universe Times:

During a panel presented recently at the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver, the American Music Center and the American Composers Forum reported preliminary findings from “Taking Note,” a survey of American composers. The study was undertaken to help those organizations better serve their constituencies. According to its findings, the average American composer is a highly educated 45-year-old white male.

Update: Judith Zaimont has more from the study on her MusicMaker blog.

25 Responses to “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About”
  1. Tom Myron says:

    According to [Taking Note's] findings, the average American composer is a highly educated 45-year-old white male.

    Christ! Brilliant! They’ve nailed it. Mere words cannot express the excitement with which I look forward to basking in heretofore unimaginable levels of high grade establishment recognition.

  2. Aw, shoot. I’m below average. . .

  3. J.C. Combs says:

    They actually needed a study to figure that out. LOL. I wonder what the average age and sex is of someone buying Barbie doll? Can someone shoot me some funding, around a million?

  4. E.Lin says:

    Funny…cuz I swear that the same profile description (a highly educated 45-year-old white male) would fit ibankers equally well. What say you Goldman Sachs?

  5. Sparky P. says:

    But what is the average age of the average SUCCESSFUL American composer?

  6. J L Zaimont says:

    See my MusicMaker blog for more data from this survey.

  7. AH says:

    Few things: what is self-evident within the field is not necessarily self-evident to the public at large (I suspect the fact there are even living composers who don’t do film music would be the greater revelation there.) Secondly: you don’t get funding from government and other institutions on the phenomenal strength of anecdotal evidence-which, as a colleague likes to point out, is known in most respectable circles as “not evidence”. Finally, criticizing a study for gathering, amongst other things, the most basic of information about its respondents is otiose.

  8. J.C. Combs says:

    That result is identical to that of the average serial killer, muhaha.

  9. J.C. Combs says:

    “Finally, criticizing a study for gathering, amongst other things, the most basic of information about its respondents is otiose.” AH

    Using the word otiose instead of useless is lazy and indolent.

  10. AH says:

    Touche, Combs.

  11. Elaine Fine says:

    How do you take an average on gender?

  12. Depends on how many genders you define.

  13. And don’t forget the number of composers who refused to fill this survey out because of both its poor design and its inaccessibility, which I publicly detailed. It was also easily taken multiple times by using alternate IDs, and fraud using other peoples’ IDs was easy. It was unscientific in its very design. The survey itself should have been made public for comment before it was opened in order to fix these problems ahead of time, but it was not. It was a closed group who designed it and who refused advice (something I learned after the fact), and it was written like a corporate survey, not an artistic one. Many composers ditched it. Despite the high numbers who did take it, I’d guess it represents a, um, more malleable cross-section of composers. I’m sorry if it sounds cold, but I hope no one is seriously using its results to advise on composers’ actual opinions.

    Dennis

  14. david toub says:

    Absolutely. I gave up after the first page. The data, I strongly suspect, is totally bogus and certainly isn’t scientific.

    I’m not sure how it helps foundations better serve their constituencies when in the end, they don’t actually know what their constituencies are.

  15. I’m with David on this. All this measures is how many people voluntarily responded to an online poll.

    Besides, I’ve never felt so freakin’ average.

  16. Anthony — I just got a call from the people who put together the survey. You were the only one who filled it out.

  17. zeno says:

    “But what is the average age of the average SUCCESSFUL American composer?”

    – Sparky P.

    *

    John Adams received his first NEA grant when he was 31 or 32 years old (I believe).

  18. Sparky P. says:

    Yeah, perhaps, but an example of one does not an average make (and besides, it was a rhetorical question to begin with).

  19. PKB says:

    Since when is receiving a grant a sign of success? By one measure, a composer who can make it through life as a musician without ever soliciting or receiving a disbursement might be considered a success.

  20. david toub says:

    I absolutely agree—the whole notion of composition competitions, grants, etc. are absurd concepts to me. Ives once said “Prizes are the badges of mediocrity,” and he was totally correct. When he did get the Pulitzer, it was for a piece that pales compared to the music many at that time disdained.

  21. Elaine Fine says:

    If I am over 45 can I be considered above average?

  22. zeno says:

    ok, points taken

    … hmm, Philip Glass (and colleagues) self-produce a huge experimental opera at the Metropolitan Opera House at the age of 39, and the run sells out [1976]. Can this not be considered just as much a success as Mr Glass completing his 20th opera, his 8th symphony, or his 35th (?) film score?

    [I'm still waiting for the MET or the NYCO to announce an upcoming staging of the Glass-Hampton-Coetzee "Waiting for the Barbarians" -- premiered a few years back in Erfurt, Germany, and captured, in fragments, in Scott Hicks new documentary.]

  23. J.C. Combs says:

    “… his 35th (?) film score?” zeno

    Really, there are 35? I always assumed it was one regurgitated over and over. Comedy, drama, thriller, makes no difference really, keep those childish chords rolling ;) (just kidding Glass. I dig your film music, but , I dig your non-film music even better).

  24. Seth Gordon says:

    Perhaps all this showed was that white males in their mid-40s are more likely to waste their lunch breaks filling out internet surveys.

  25. zeno says:

    … “the Glass-Hampton-Coetzee “Waiting for the Barbarians” — premiered a few years back in Erfurt, Germany, and captured, in fragments, in Scott Hicks new documentary.” (zeno)

    *

    Goofus, don’t you know that Glass’s ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’ (as staged in Erfurt, Amsterdam, and London; if not San Francisco, New York City, or Washington, D.C.) was released, in full, by Orange Mountain Music over a month ago?

    **

    Yeah, I know, but I can’t always keep Glass’s many recent releases straight in my mind. Thanks for pointing it out.

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