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Sloppy Seconds

I’m late getting to this but one of our regulars called my attention to an article in last Sunday’s New York Times about the League of Composers titled Modernists Commission Their Future that struck said regular as misleading. To wit, the article says, in reference to new music organizations that commission new works from composers:

Aside from ensembles like Signal and Alarm Will Sound, which started springing up around specific projects, the American Composers Orchestra was practically the only option in town.

Correct me I’m wrong here, but I don’t believe Signal has commissioned anything so far and Alarm May Sound does mostly arrangements of existing works. On the other hand, the Metropolis Ensemble, led by Andrew Cyr, has commissioned about 25 works over the past three years ago and has just announced a season that includes 9 more new works. I know this because the Metropolis folks have been one S21’s faithful sponsors. Clearly, we haven’t done a good enough job helping them get out the word.

I suspect there may other organizations out there with commissioning programs that were slighted by the Times article also. Anybody have any thoughts?


Comment from Matt Marks
Time: June 12, 2009, 7:33 pm

Actually, AWS still plays mostly original music (as in not arranged for the group) and has commissioned and premiered a ton of new pieces. Check out our current season and our bio :).

Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: June 12, 2009, 8:24 pm

See, that’s why I said correct me if I’m wrong. I guess I didn’t realize you could afford Reich and Lang and Gordon and Kernis and Rihm and those other high-end spreads. In any event, we’ve been big fans of Alan’s since Rochester and I’ve had a crush on Courtney Orlando for years. Looking forward to hearing your arrangement of The Beatles’ Revolution No. 9 which, I’m guessing, was not an AWS commission.

Comment from Tod Brody
Time: June 12, 2009, 8:53 pm

Is this meant to be a New York-centric discussion? There are so many ensembles that do commissioning, and so many organizations that support commissions, I barely know where to start. Here in the SF Bay Area, two ensembles which I play in, Earplay and San Francisco Contemporary Music Players commission multiple new works every season, often in partnership with a foundation or service organization. Performance organizations whose primary mission in not new music-related (virtually every major and regional orchestra in my part of the world) also commission new works every season, some of them multiple times per season. The Fromm Foundation is a frequent commissioning partner, as is the American Composers Forum. ACF, on both a local and a national level, as well as its sister composer service organizations Meet the Composer and American Music Center all contribute to the commissioning of new works. While we are particularly rich in the area in Northern California, I can’t imagine that similar things aren’t happening elsewhere.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: June 12, 2009, 9:20 pm

One statistic I’d be interested in is how many of these newly-commissioned pieces from all over get a life past the premiere performance? And not just maybe the week after, but the season after, and even after that; a commercial recording, etc. It’s easy to pick a couple of the usual supects, but I’m thinking of all the newer and lesser-known names involved.

Comment from Steve Layton
Time: June 12, 2009, 9:32 pm

(And by the way, Tod: the site may originate in NYC but as far as we’re concerned the only “-centric” part is what everybody brings to it from whatever corner of the globe they’re in. It’s all good, so don’t be afraid of chiming in!)

Comment from Matt Marks
Time: June 12, 2009, 9:37 pm

Yeah, we tried for the Revolution 9 commission but there was some difficulty since most of us hadn’t been born yet, so we settled for the arrangement. ;)

Several of the pieces written for us (Lang, Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, etc.) came through our early days playing tons of composer portraits at Miller Theater. I don’t know the specifics of the funding for these but working with a venue that wants a premier for their concert definitely helps.