No composers or musicians on the list of MacArthur “geniuses” this year. Is this possible?

Let’s play a game. Who should have been on that list from our team?

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Ferrante & Teicher are getting together again.

24 Responses to “We Wuz Robbed”
  1. Seth Gordon says:

    Muhal Richard Abrams
    Laurie Anderson (not that she needs the money…)
    Larry Austin
    Tim Berne
    Alvin Curran
    Rhys Chatham
    Annie Gosfield
    Tom Johnson
    Annea Lockwood
    Tod Machover
    La Monte Young
    Pamela Z

    …shoot, I could be here all day.

    That said, I’d rather the money go to, like, scientists and whatnot who are working on curing diseases and feeding the hungry and making cars that run on dog poo, etc. So no problem from me that musicians / composers got dissed. What we do isn’t terribly important, comparatively.

  2. Chris Becker says:

    I’ll start: Jerry Bowles. And definitely Steve Layton :)

  3. Chris Becker says:

    “What we do isn’t terribly important, comparatively.”

    I think a lot of doctors and scientists would disagree with you.

  4. Eric Lin says:

    “What we do isn’t terribly important, comparatively.”

    I’m not sure the extra 10 years of prolonged life we get from cancer treatment is worth all that much if it means there isn’t music, or literature, or film etc. in the world.

  5. The Void says:

    I hope you don’t write or create music Mr. Gordon. If you do, how about you quit? Too much kitsch coming from bourgie composers who hold vacuous ‘campy’ opinions like yours.

  6. Chris Becker says:

    A lot of people in both the scientific and medical communities are very interested in sound and how it affects the body. I am not an expert on this topic, but as a composer, I’ve collaborated with Roald Hoffman (chemist who is also a playwright), spent time in conversation about these topics with Dave Soldier (who is a composer and a scientist) as well as a good friend and NEC grad who is a music therapist.

    Not to pick on Seth, but I believe this notion that science and medicine is somehow “separate” and more “important” than the creative arts is really old fashioned. Would Oliver Sacks agree?

    I was serious by the way re: Jerry and Steve. I think “genius” is all around us.

  7. Chris Becker says:

    Seth’s music is pretty cool. Just wanted to throw that in there.

  8. Trying to keep the comments on target…

    I’d throw a vote in for Carl Stone or Mikel Rouse.

  9. Tom Izzo says:

    “I hope you don’t write or create music Mr. Gordon. If you do, how about you quit? Too much kitsch coming from bourgie composers who hold vacuous ‘campy’ opinions like yours.”

    Call me vacuous, but I think your post proves that our little community could use a little camp to offset the self-righteousness.

  10. Tom Izzo says:

    Apologies. I shouldn’t have even responded.

  11. Scott Unrein says:

    I had a tee-ball coach who would always say, “hey genius, put a little hustle in it.” I think that’s enough of an application to ensure I’ll be in the running next year. Good luck, suckers.

  12. Steve Layton says:

    Hey “Void”, Seth’s satellite is about as far from Planet of the Bourgie Composers as you can get. And he’s got a point. The grants don’t have any quotas, either for arts folk or save-the-world folk. As long as everybody selected is doing great & interesting & maybe even useful things, I’ll just applaud and look to next year.

  13. David Smooke says:

    I’ll bite: The key is that it needs to be someone who totally changed the terms of debate, or ideally is about to do so. That’s why John Zorn was such a good choice. The Bang on a Canners did that, but they were so successful that they really are no longer good candidates. There are a number of young performers (the good folks at I.C.E. and Alarm Will Sound for example) who are reaching out by playing kick-ass music in clubs and thereby inviting artists to rejoin the new music fold.

    In terms of composers, first, I wonder what about the microtonalists? Where’s Kyle Gann’s MacArthur? He seems like an obvious candidate to me.

    Then, there are a few younger folks who would seem good ones to watch: Jason Eckardt, who’s creating complex, beautiful music with a heavy metal sensitivity; Ken Ueno, who’s working with live and electronic instruments, performing himself, in microtones and otherwise stretching boundaries; and Michael Hersch, who is changing perceptions of musical time by stretching traditional forms to their breaking point (yes, following Feldman, but also unique).

    - David

  14. Christian says:

    David Rakowski
    Lou Karchin
    Eric Moe

  15. Christian says:

    Performers: Miranda Cuckson, Stephen Gosling, Blair McMillan, and Nadia Sirota.

  16. Christian says:

    Finally, avant jazz/electronica performers: Joe Morris, Steven Lantner, Paul Miller (DJ Spooky), William Parker, and Matthew Shipp.

  17. Chris Becker says:

    Dr. Rocky Reuter, Stan Smith, Bethany Bultman, Ned Sublette, Charlie Miller, Wardell Quezergue, and my paternal grandmother.

  18. Seth Gordon says:

    “I’m not sure the extra 10 years of prolonged life we get from cancer treatment is worth all that much if it means there isn’t music, or literature, or film etc. in the world.”

    Art will not cease to exist if people no longer recieve grants to make it. As long as there is life, art will exist. On the other hand, great medical and scientific advances can be directly tied to private and/or pubic philanthropy.

    To whoever suggested I was being “campy” – hmmm. You’ve obviously never met me.

    But then shouting into The Void seems a futile endeavor.

    “Not to pick on Seth, but I believe this notion that science and medicine is somehow “separate” and more “important” than the creative arts is really old fashioned. Would Oliver Sacks agree?”

    Some call it “old-fashioned” – I call it “classic” – and we all know what happend with New Coke vs. Coke Classic…

    And while an entertaining writer, I don’t particularly care what Oliver Sacks thinks re: the distribution of philanthropic funds.

    All that said, it’s a private foundation. They can spend the money however they like.

  19. Chris Becker says:

    “Art will not cease to exist if people no longer receive grants to make it. As long as there is life, art will exist.”

    Of course we’re talking about a private foundation. But you said “what we (meaning composers and other artists) do isn’t terribly important.” And now you’re saying that the survival of art doesn’t depend on grants whereas medical and scientific research does.

    And I think this plays into a self-hating stereotype artists that weighs on artists where we are expected to be happy creating without any sort of compensation for our work. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to confront someone who didn’t pay you for a gig, or explained in detail to a grant giving organization how specifically you will use the small amount of money they might award you, or contracted another musician to play some of your music.

    Or put on a festival of music.

    Or consistently put out recorded music that actually pulls together the various disciplines we’re discussing (Dave Soldier’s Mulatta label being the example I’m thinking of).

    Doing all of the above requires money and/or that we place a value upon our creative work.

    Taking art for granted is kind of like taking the climate or the environment for granted :) Look at New Orleans.

  20. Eric Lin says:

    “Art will not cease to exist if people no longer receive grants to make it. As long as there is life, art will exist. On the other hand, great medical and scientific advances can be directly tied to private and/or pubic philanthropy.”

    Actually, good/great art requires time, which in turn requires money. No, art will not cease to exist if people no longer receive money for it. But I guarantee you that the amount of quality art in any form, medium and genre will decrease significantly.

  21. Chris Becker says:

    You know, it’s tricky. Because one could argue that art actually developed significantly during times of severe economic stress. I’m thinking of NYC during the 70′s when the city was bankrupt yet many of the artists we tout on this site found it to be an ideal environment for experimentation and growth. And Cuba during the so-called “Special Period” – a time where people were literally starving to death – experienced incredible musical developments albeit much of it underground.

    Then again, in today’s economic climate, every musician I personally know is hurting. And that translates into stress, less time to create, sometimes leaving the city you’ve lived in for years because you can’t make a living there, etc. I’ve been through 9/11, I watched what my New Orleans friends went through after hurricane Katrina, and know that lack of money, lack of care, lack of recognition all adds up to a lack of art.

  22. Seth Gordon says:

    “But you said ‘what we (meaning composers and other artists) do isn’t terribly important.’”

    Not exactly. You left the word “comparatively” off the end of the sentence, which changes it’s meaning slightly. Obviously some people think it’s important, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

    “And now you’re saying that the survival of art doesn’t depend on grants whereas medical and scientific research does.”

    Yes I am. Because it’s true.

    “I think this plays into a self-hating stereotype artists that weighs on artists where we are expected to be happy creating without any sort of compensation for our work”

    I’m neither happy nor sad about it: I simply accept it and go on with my day. One must accept that if one is creating art of very limited interest to the public, one will more than likley not recieve a lot of money in exchange for that art. There’s no self-hate involved. I’m simply realistic about it. I create the art I do because I would go batshit insane if I didn’t. Simple as that. The fact that I have been able to be compensated for some of it is just gravy.

    “I don’t know if you’ve ever had to confront someone who didn’t pay you for a gig, or explained in detail to a grant giving organization how specifically you will use the small amount of money they might award you,”

    I’ve been left unpaid, as has nearly every gigging musician, and it sucks. But that is a case of breach of contract – would I have agreed to play the gig were it unpaid? Probably not. But I still would have written the songs. I still would have recorded them. Nobody paid me to do that.

    I have never and will never apply for a grant.

    Of course… everything costs money, and we do place a value on our work. I’m just saying I (and most of the world, I suspect) place greater value on cars that run on dog poo and cures for horrible diseases. I never suggested that music was valueless. It simply has less monetary or societal value than, say, stem cell research.

    Though in the era of P2P, music may well be literally “valueless” before long…

  23. Seth Gordon says:

    Also valueless are the links attached to our names on this page: appears that a suffix – “‘%20rel=’external%20nofollow” – is being attached at the end of them, rendering all them 404s and page-not-founds. Don’t know who’s in charge of these things…

  24. Chris Becker says:

    “I never suggested that music was valueless. It simply has less monetary or societal value than, say, stem cell research.”

    I think reflects a comparatively narrow view of music, its history, and its currency in contemporary society.

    P.S. P2P has been with us before the advent of recorded music.

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