A big thanks to Tim Rutherford-Johnson for alerting us to the video below. If you’re a comp student anywhere from the grand palaces to the podunk armpits of this country, you really should get to know both Michael Pisaro and Aaron Cassidy. I’d wager they aren’t on many professors’ radar, yet they’re both quietly but powerfully influencing directions in contemporary music that I think will only become more prominent in the next decade. And here you get to have a free sit-down-’n-listen on a conversation between the two. It’s little pieces of the puzzle, that often will barely appear in classes, that help you see the real lay of the musical terrain you’re going to be navigating. So pay attention and enjoy:

7 Responses to “Getting schooled”
  1. Ed Lawes says:

    Cassidy is a composer other Americans should look at if they’re wondering why their work is ‘overlooked’ in Europe. His music/approach is interesting and different, hence its international appeal. His nationality is irrelevant.

    Slightly tired of hearing about how American composers aren’t taken seriously in the Old(e) World(e) and think it’s an idea worth challenging (I’ve seen no evidence of anti-US bias anyway, if anyone can produce some and/or want to disagree please do).

  2. Casey says:

    ^^ What a bizarre comment, who cares what Europeans think or take seriously?

  3. Ed Lawes says:

    Casey: Firstly apologies for the slightly abrasive tone of that comment (after reading it back I could have phrased things differently). However the point is still valid.

    If you think there aren’t any American composers who think Europeans don’t take them seriously with all due respect you ought to read a bit more.

    For instance, from a recent S21 comment (about the Tom Service lecture)..

    “I suppose the three of us (me, Rob, David) and others who agree with our comments should feel validated a little that we already understand the shortcomings of academia (I say in the midst of my MM…)? Maybe after decades of being looked at as second-rate by European contemporaries, American composers are on the cutting edge of building a new world and infrastructure for art music?”


    Also Christian started a debate on FB or here a while ago asking if American Modernists were overlooked in Europe which provoked mostly positive responses if my memory serves me correctly (I disagreed but was in the minority).

    My point is that it’s about the music, not your nationality. There’s no need for any animosity. Cassidy’s success in Europe is a case in point.

    Feel free to disagree, of course (with examples/sources if possible).

  4. Steve Layton says:

    Casey, as far as ‘bizarre’ comments are concerned, yours seems to be a modern-music equivalent of a typical Fox News comment.

  5. Casey says:

    Ha, I’m not trying to make controversy and my politics are about as far from Fox news as one can get. I agree with Ed’s assertion that nationality shouldn’t matter ultimately, what I find bizarre is that American composers should feel the need to be validated by “the old world.” The underlying assumption that Europe is the cradle of creative and refined civilization that runs through much of the classical world is a particular pet peeve of mine. Academia is particularly entrenched in this ideology as the music that is taught is that which has been handed down from a European, especially German, tradition and anything else is “other.” Of course, in a literal sense I might care what Europeans think as much as I care what anyone thinks about my music, but it’s that this acceptance would still be used as a signpost of validity for a composer that seems a bizarre and terribly dated notion. I dunno, maybe I’m from a different generation or travel in different circles, but being taken seriously or not in Europe hasn’t been a particular goal or measure of success for myself and others I interact with. New music has painted itself into a small enough corner as it is without continuing the dated hierarchies that are killing an artform.

  6. Casey says:

    P.S. The initial reason I called the comment “bizarre” is because it was a perfectly lovely video that had nothing to do with being accepted by Europe or not. So the comment seemed strange, like Ed just had to get something off his chest (fair enough I suppose). But the comment also struck me as back handed in the way Ed suggests: well you wanna know why you’re not taken seriously in Europe? Cause you’re not good like these guys. Which also implies America has lower standards for good composers, yes you can find success here, but if you want success in Europe, you have to actually be good.

  7. Steve Layton says:

    There, that’s better. I essentially agree with what you’re saying, once you pop it out of the simplistic “who cares” statement. It’s true about this assumption that Europe was the “cradle” of classical because… well, it is. Wherever our focus ends up, it will inevitably start there. But whether there’s really much of an attempt to find “validity” through acceptance in the Old World, I’m not so sure at all. What there has been over the last 20-30 years is a kind of divergence, and maybe even a mutual disinterest. Entire movements have come (and almost gone by now) with little effect or acknowledgement from this or that side of the ocean. Fortunately yes, there have been some undercurrents, often far below the radar of the big concert hall, university and media, that have stirred the cross-oceanic pot a bit. I think that Michael and Aaron are both excellent examples of why caring matters — not for things like validation, but simply caring.