Are we better off dead? If you look at music history, the composers that have remained as household names were well-known or established during their lifetime. There is no such thing as a composer becoming known post-mortem. If we cannot achieve status in this lifetime, it is unlikely that we will later. Therefore, composing for posterity is an illusion. I have a close example: my father, Errol Parker, who passed away in 1998, and whose contribution is acknowledged in jazz history books. I was really disappointed to see that there was no interest for his work, not one performance offer, not even from the musicians who closely worked with him. We actually are not better off dead!
There are just too many of us. The American Music Center alone has 2,500 members! As the opportunities dwindle, the needs are multiplied. This is a situation of too much demand and little offer, therefore we are placed in a weak position, like workers in a recession who have to remain unemployed or take less or no pay.
People want music for free. Young people who crave it cannot afford it. I personally have a hard time blaming them for stealing files on the internet, given the financial burden put on students in this country. Where does this leave us, the music-makers? It will take a long time before the industry adjusts to selling songs on the internet, and it would take a gigantic amount of song downloads at 99 cents each to amount to anything significant.
As a result of the way the institutions are structured, there are too many limitations on artistic freedom. Programs are content-oriented. I donâ€™t want to be told what subject to compose or even what instrumentation. In fact, why should any composer need a â€˜subjectâ€™? We are not writing program music. Because of film and television, people need stories, so we are compelled to write a â€˜storyâ€™ for each piece, when it should be unnecessary. Furthermore, if some program gives me the story or subject, I find it limiting, not motivating.
Composing in this day and age means being actively involved in not only the writing the performing and presenting of new work. Whereas writing only requires time (and even time can be hard to squeeze), presenting requires budgets. For many composers the only way to present their work is to support it themselves, and how long can we continue to do this? As we get older, as we get pushed out of the funding opportunities (everything is geared towards â€˜emergingâ€™ artists or under 35), and as regulars jobs are more difficult to obtain, composing becomes a luxury we can no longer afford.
There is no encouragement to compose. In fact, everything seems to dissuade us from keeping up the work: no commissions – the ineluctable reality of being for ever ghettoized.
Canâ€™t think of a new piece that fits in a conventional mold.
Making a truly inspired work would take a year of free time.
Weâ€™ve done enough already.
Realistically, if we stop composing no one will miss anything or be affected in any significant way.
Regardless, I just started a new piece, and I really canâ€™t find any rational reason to write it.