Posts Tagged “performing groups”

How many performers and ensembles out there are willing to play new music? Probably hundreds. How many composers and compositions are out there waiting to be played? Probably tens of thousands. A call for scores can literally bury a performing group in hopeful submissions. The dismal arithmetic of composition means that that the number of composers and compositions far outnumber those groups willing and able to play new music. And even then the playing field is tilted toward a relatively small pool of composers associated with institutions, so the odds of getting one’s work performed are slim indeed.

Slim, but not impossible. Networking, persistence and determination can win out. The recent efforts of our friend Dennis Bathory-Kitsz to get his opera performed were heroic by any measure: he applied for state grants, did fund-raising, promotions and solicited donations at every opportunity. He organized the cast, the musicians and supervised set construction. All this despite the fact that his basement flooded, it snowed on the day of the first performance and even his house cat died during the run-up to the performance. And yet, after three well-attended performances, Dennis will likely have more fund-raising to do just to break even. How many of us would endure what Dennis has gone through to get his work performed?

Given the imbalance between new compositions and the number of groups who can play new music – what is the composer to do?

One obvious solution is to start your own performing ensemble and be your own composer-in-residence. This was essentially what Philip Glass and Steve Reich did in the early days of minimalism. Steve Moshier – to name just one west coast example – is doing this with his Liquid Skin Ensemble. In New York  Bang on a Can is perhaps the most well-known group.  And there are many other examples of smaller groups playing original music in unexpected venues:  James Ross, Richard Lainhart, Michael Waller and Dave Seidel in the east, Paul Bailey in Los Angeles.

Similarly, by networking you could get close to a performing organization and write pieces that work to their strength. I do this by writing choral music for our church choir – it’s not the Met but still a very rewarding avocation.

Still another, more radical solution, is to bypass the need for performance altogether – and write electro-acoustic music. The Internet makes this option particularly attractive by delivering your music world-wide directly to the ear buds of listeners at essentially zero cost.

So what is your method? What works best or least?

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