By now, you’ve surely heard about Project 440 at Orpheus/WQXR, and the next round of cuts will take the composers to just a dozen (to be announced September 9th on WQXR). So I thought it would be interesting to talk to the remaining 30 before the cut about this process.
Q: “You all have probably been involved in a group lesson or masterclass at some point – some sort of public forum – with a teacher, composer or perhaps an ensemble and conductor. Project 440, however, involves not only a selection committee, but comments on the internet. How do you view the critiques and praise, both positive and negative – and how does it differ from a masterclass/learning situation?”
A’s: David T. Little:
As always, comments on one’s music should be understood for what they are: opinions. While a composer certainly can (and should) learn something by considering other people’s thoughts on their work–especially, say, in the case of a master class–they ultimately, for better or worse, answer only to themselves. When the time comes to sit down to write, I try put all of this aside and just create the best and most honest music possible.
Orpheus Project 440 offers young composers three main ingredients, which solidify the recipe of becoming a successful composer in the world and make it complete: exposure, the opinion of a larger audience and the critical judgment of a highly competent selection committee. The integration of these three things distinguishes it from other projects and learning environments such as master classes or public forums for composers. These usually incorporate one or two of the above-mentioned components, but have a non-worldly aspect used for isolated learning where only professionals of the field contribute their qualified opinions or honest advice. This is very useful for analysis and explanations of complex music and perhaps even improving compositional skills, but has little to do with the important relationship of composer to audience.
Due to its presence on the Internet, Project 440 is a unique and useful “reality check” with listeners who are in fact the audience whether one realizes it or not. This framework creates more vulnerability for the composer who becomes completely exposed to others not only through the sounds they create which would be typical for a composer, but also through the verbal interpretations of the listener. People have the freedom to speak candidly about the music and regardless of how we feel, it is posted and available for others to read. Furthermore, it is going to influence other listeners as well. It is my first time participating in a web-based public project and I’ve been very curious and stimulated by reading all the comments. Both positive and negative feedback is equally valuable for me, giving me a glimpse of what the listener is actually experiencing when encountering my music.
I am open to different critiques and praise, as these comments are based on the listeners’ different listening experiences on my music. I can tell that the critiques and praise I have received for my Glowing Autumn come from the listeners who are from all kinds of backgrounds. They take my music to various perspectives and levels. I deeply appreciate their individual thoughts and comments. I am very happy that my music can offer the listeners a little sound pleasure as well as an angle by which they can get to see and think what today’s young composers are creating.
It definitely differs from what you can hear and learn from a masterclass. The internet offers a no-personal interaction inviting listeners from a broader level of society, and mostly the comments you receive on line present a wide range of aesthetic levels and unfold what your music means to others. A masterclass provides a situation in which a composer can share his/her music ideas with other professional and experienced colleagues, and often the comments you receive at a masterclass deal with the composers’ understandings of what music composition is, and what might improve your composition.
I applaud the idea and effort behind Project 440 and I am honored to be selected to the next round of the competition. However, the major issue is that most comments for each composer come from friends of the composer (myself included). In an open forum where anyone can comment there is really no way of being “fair” and totally objective. That being said, I am fine with the way things are being run and I am happy the final decision comes from the committee. I would also add that I don’t think most of us would get such glowing reviews (or overly harsh ones) in a room where people, who were asked to be objective, spoke to us directly.
I view comments I receive from the Internet not at all like those I would get at a masterclass, or even from a newspaper review, though that’s closer. Comments from online listeners represent feedback one would get from a concert audience, made up of people with very diverse backgrounds and degrees of experience with music. As such, I think this is important feedback to have, and represents “the last stop” our music makes on its journey into the world, but I would expect composers to take the same attitude towards it as they do to reviews: some will care, and others will not. This seems to be an interesting new direction for the reception of concert music however, and puts the music back into the public arena in a way reminiscent of the 1930′s and early 40′s with Copland and other populist composers.
The comments have been fun and interesting to read. However, because many of the people who have commented perhaps feel as though they are in some way directly voting, there has been some amusing hyperbole. This project has been a unique experience and so I don’t really find it has much in common with a masterclass situation. While it is certainly informative to hear feedback, I don’t think the dynamic between myself and an anonymous commenter has much in common with any teacher/student relationship I have encountered. I think the project has more in common with a post-concert situation, where, after hearing my work people sometimes share their reactions and opinions without necessarily intending to be pedagogical in any way.
Our friends at Q2 are featuring the work of Paola Prestinitoday. the festivities include Prestini commenting on featured tracks at the top of every hour and this nifty live cut (available for download on the Q2 site):
Heads-up, listeners! WPRB‘s Classical Discoveries host Marvin Rosen has a couple nice treats through the day this Wednesday:
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 11:00am (EDT) Classical Discoveries Goes Avant-Garde will present the world premiere broadcast of Morton Feldman‘s 21-minute ‘lost work’ Dance Suite [For Merle Marsicano] (1963), recorded by Glenn Freeman, percussion and Debora Petrina, piano-celeste. This is ahead of its September limited-edition release on OgreOgress Records. Originally composed for the dancer and choreographer Merle Marsicano, it was the longest work Feldman had composed to date and provides insight into his upcoming 1964 solo percussion work The King of Denmark. This very unique and haunting sound world, created with various keyboards, mallet instruments and exotic percussion instruments, can later be heard in several of Feldman’s epic length works of the late 1970s and 1980s.
Then from 12:00pm till 2:00pm (EDT), world-renowned Israeli cellist and new-music champion Maya Beiser — whose latest and most excellent CD release Provenanceis riding high in the charts – will join Marvin live in the WPRB Studio to chat and perform.
As always, NYC’ers can tune in directly to WPRB at 103.3 FM on the dial; everyone else can head to the WPRB website and click the “Listen Now” link on the left side of the page.
The International Contemporary Ensemble will be featured at 7 PM tonight on Q2. Hosted by John Schaefer, this live broadcast from Yamaha Piano Salon in NYC is a sneak preview of Lincoln Center Festival’s Varèse: (R)evolution.
(R)evolution will present the composer’s entire oeuvre over two concerts on July 19 &20. Performers include the New York Philharmonic, conductor Alan Gilbert, percussionist Steven Schick, and ICE.
Program: Density 21.5 (1936) with Claire Chase, flute Un Grand Sommeil Noir (1906) with Samantha Malk, soprano Ameriques (NEW YORK PREMIERE of 8-hand piano version) (1929) with Jacob Greenberg, Amy Williams, Amy Briggs and Thomas Rosenkranz
Q2 and ICE have been kind enough to share a freebie that all the new music kids will be adding to their Droid/iPhone/Blackberrys: a Poème Électronique ringtone!
For the past eight years, Graham Parker has been the Executive Director of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Now, he’s going to work for New York’s classical music radio station.
It was announced today that Parker will be the new Vice President of Classical WQXR 105.9 FM and WQXR online. It appears that he’s been tasked with helping the station to develop its brand identity. For those who aren’t “New Yawkers,” this may require some explanation.
In 2009, New York’s National Public Radio Station WNYC acquired WQXR from the New York Times. WQXR’s frequency, 96.3 FM, was in turn traded to Univision’s WCAA, moving the classical station further up the bandwidth to 105.9. For those of us out in the ‘burbs, this has made it more difficult in many areas to get the station. Coverage routinely goes in and out on my commute down to Princeton as I get further from the city.
While signal weakness has been a concern for many listeners, there have been other growing pains associated with the move as well. Some of the music programming previously on WNYC, which was considered the station for more cutting edge fare, has been moved over to WQXR. Some longtime DJs from WQXR were kept on; others were let go to make room for their counterparts on WNYC. As a public radio station, WQXR also jettisoned commercials and religious programs.
The marriage of mainstream classical and public radio’s eclecticism has been a challenging balance to negotiate. The station’s 2009-’10 programming doubtless left a number of longtime WQXR listeners unhappy at the increased incorporation of new music into its mainstream broadcasts. WNYC listeners who hoped for the eclectic and innovative types of music heard on programs such as Soundcheck and New Sounds to be writ large on the rest of the schedule have probably been bummed out too. They’ve been subjected to far more Vivaldi and Telemann than they consider healthy!
A bright spot has been the station’s online new music programing at Q2. This week, they’re spotlighting the music of Xenakis. While one understands that this probably isn’t their best bet for “drive-time” fare, its too bad that more of Q2 hasn’t infiltrated the airwaves.
One hopes that enlisting Mr. Parker helps the station to find its footing and reassert the importance of classical radio – contemporary music and repertory favorites alike – in New York.
So, Sequenza 21 readers, its your turn. What should Parker focus on to make WQXR a better station?
A) Better signal quality/range/accessibility.
B) A more coherent vision for music programming.
C) Local identity and live events.
D) Limiting the amount of Vivaldi bassoon concerti played during any given four-hour period to no more than three.
Head’s up on a couple things this coming week that caught my eye:
WPRB’s Marvin Rosen is doing a special edition of his Classical Discoveries radio show this Wednesday, Jan. 27th. From 5:30 until 11:00 AM EST. Titled “East Meets West“, the entire five-and-a-half hours will be devoted to works by Middle and Far Eastern Composers, as well as to works by Western composers inspired by these regions. A special treat in the 10-o’clock hour will be the world premiere broadcast of the Sonata for solo viola Op. 423 (1992) by Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), performed by Christina Fong (from a brand-new OgreOgress release). Then from 11AM until 1PM, Marvin’s guest will be composer/improviser/percussionist Lukas Ligeti. A swell time all around, and as always no matter where you are your computer can bring you the broadcast live.
If you happen to be on the other coast that same day (Jan. 27th), you’re in for a treat if you head to the Pasadena Central Library (Donald R. Wright Auditorium, 285 E. Walnut St.) at 6PM PST, for a concert presented by Cellogrill (über-cellist Jessica Catron) and the Pasadena Creative Music Series. The concert opens with the world premiere of composer Cat Lamb’s Branches for just-intoned female choir assembled especially for this occasion. Next up, MISSINCINATTI follows with folk songs of land and sea; forgotten tales about fantastical crocodiles, maritime ghosts and work in the mines illuminated before your very eyes with the assistance of many special musical guests. And finally, the compositions of RATS can confound and delight like a musical retelling of The Wizard of Oz by Captain Beefheart. And all this for the princely sum of FREE.
Full of food and drink, playing with those presents, a couple days now to relax… How about capping the holiday huddled around the warm, cozy glow of the old ‘puter?
Because this Sunday the 27th, beginning at 1900 (7pm) EST and running all the way until Monday evening at 1900 (7pm) EST, our new-music radio host-with-the-most Marvin Rosen is having his annual Viva 21st-Century – Women Composers Edition 24-hour broadcast marathon. We’re talking all-women, all-the-time, and all things written only from 2000 ’till today! You’re bound to be enlightened, and possibly even amazed, with much of what you’ll hear. Your geography doesn’t matter either, because wherever you’re at you only need click to WPRB’s live stream and you’re good to go.
So pay a visit; your ears will thank you. And if inclined give a shout to Marvin himself for pushing himself to push this music, and so push you into a greater awareness of all the wonderful stuff being written by women composers in the here and now. (Marvin sez: “Wake up phone calls during this marathon will be welcome“…)
WNYC’s acquisition of New York radio’s stalwart WQXR was a win/lose proposition. Win, in that a major classical station would stay alive; lose in that the new assigned frequency (which can conflict with a powerful Connecticut station on the same frequency) and reduction in broadcast power (from 6,000 watts to only 600 watts) reduces its reach by some millions of potential listeners. Not that it matters much to me, parked on my hiney here in Houston; I and so many others simply go online to hear the station’s stream, anywhere and anytime.
And a further win: Besides the station’s main — and predictably staid — broadcast stream, WQXR also carries another, different internet-only stream called Q2. The music there reverses the current classical-radio standard: i.e., instead of mostly old and safe with a few tiny nuggets of the new, Q2 plays quite a bit new with far fewer chestnuts from classical music’s Ancient Dead Guys Club.
In the past few hours of this morning you could have been listening to Glass, Rautavaara, Ter Veldhuis, Torke, Greenstein, Part, with a just bit of Falla, Palestrina and Chopin sprinkled through for good measure. I know this because they have a great real-time updated playlist page, so you’ll never have to wonder what that work you just heard was. Q2 is just finishing a week-long Steve Reich celebration, and while you’re a bit late for the music you can still read and hear all kinds of interviews about the music from a range of artists, as well as tons from the “old man” himself.
Q2 also has a blog, “Do You Q2“, where you can learn about what’s on any number of musicians minds, and generally stay abreast of upcoming features.
Perfect? No; the new music programmed generally skews closer to the middle of the new road, while I — and I’m sure quite a few others — might like a veer toward the edge more often (or occasionally even off the path altogether!). But still, Q2 should definitely be a daily stop for new-music lovers.
“Classical Discoveries” host Marvin Rosen (WPRB, 103.3 FM, or always streaming online, too) reminds us that he’s got a special added edition of the show Tuesday morning from 5:30 to 8:30 AM EDT. The program will include the Symphony No. 5, “Western Hemisphere” by American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) , Pipa Concerto by Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye (1955- ), Concierto para violonchelo y orquesta by Mexican/American composer Samuel Zyman and much more.
On Marvin’s regular Wednesday show (same early-bird hours) you’ll hear the American broadcast premiere of From Ancient Times for wind ensemble (2008) by Belgian Composer Jan Van der Roost, River of Sorrows (2006) by the young American Composer Todd Goodman, and The Phoenix (2002) for voices and chamber ensemble by American Composer Patricia Van Ness. There will also be music by Latvian composer Rihards Dubra, Portuguese composer Joly Braga Santos, and many others.