After wrapping up Great Noise Ensemble’s 2009-10 concert season last Friday and wrapping up the academic year this week, my thoughts are a little rambling. So, here are some nuggets I’ve been thinking about which, while not providing the basis for long essays, necessarily, I hope will generate some interesting discussion:
In conversation with California based percussionist Chris Froh last week we both realized that the west coast, particularly the bay area, once the bastion of countercultural art music, where minimalism was born and where John Adams migrated in order to escape east coast modernism, has become the bastion of…east coast modernism. Meanwhile, if you want to hear rock/jazz infused post-minimalist/totalist music, you go to…Princeton? When did this switch happen and how?
I’ve had my theory students finish up their last semester of undergraduate theory by reading Evan Ziporyn’s 1991 article, “Who Listens if you Care?” (a copy of which can be found here: http://www.arts.rpi.edu/century/AC/Ziporyn%20Who%20Listens%20if%20You%20Care.pdf) and confronting the issues he raises (before the internet, no less!) about ownership, copyright, appropriation, multiculturalism, the mainstream vs. the “Other” and the nature of success as a composer. Is one a composer if one practices what Ziporyn calls “Marxist Music” (or what the composer John Oswald calls “Plunderphonics”)? Should, as Ziporyn asks, simply “shut up and listen?” (Well, sometimes, yes.)
Oscar Bettison’s “O Death” (which Ensemble Klang recently recorded and have made available for sale or stream here: http://music.ensembleklang.com/album/o-death-oscar-bettison) may be the most viscerally stunning piece of music I’ve encountered in a long time. I’m not usually drawn to music like this, but this piece’s power is undeniable (and I’m not just saying that because Oscar–full disclosure– is a colleague).
Why do we compose? The most succesful composers among us (think Phil Glass and John Adams, although John Williams, whose audience is, ostensibly, much bigger, still could fit in this question) doesn’t reach the kind of audience that even a mildly succesful pop/rock/indie/world/non-classical act reaches, let alone someone like Lady Ga-ga. Is it important to reach a wide audience, or is it just a matter of reaching somebody, ANYBODY, even if it’s only ourselves?
Scott Spiegelberg over at Musical Perceptions asks a very interesting question in reaction to a recent comment by composer Stephen Hartke on eighth blackbird’s blog regarding the differences in the pop vs. classical concert experiences (http://musicalperceptions.blogspot.com/2010/05/great-artpop-divide.html). Is there a difference? What do you guys think?