Composer Blogs@Sequenza21.com

Stefanie Lubkowski received her bachelor's degree in Music and Technology and Guitar Performance from Connecticut College, in New London, CT. In fall of 2005 she will begin a masters degree in composition at New England Conservatory, where she will study with Lee Hyla. Stefanie's past teachers include Noel Zahler, Yehudi Wyner, and Pozzi Escot. Stefanie has written for various chamber ensembles and electronic media. Her most recent commission was El Hombre de Plata, an electronic tango premiered at the Auros Groups for New Music "Tangothen & Now" concert in Cambridge, MA.

Stefanie's musical interests and ambitions are wide ranging. She enjoys putting her iPod on shuffle and letting it spit out a mix of electronica, 20th century string quartets, Tom Waits, punk rock, 1930s orchestral tangos, Einsturzende Neubauten, early American blues, Beethoven, Johnny Cash, and opera. She hopes that one day her music will be heard on concert stages around the world, independent films, computer games, car commercials, radio (or its future equivalents), and anywhere else music is being enjoyed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
in defense of "selling out"

As I observe my debt rising, I've been collecting my thoughts together on the friction between being an artist who creates something worthwhile and the need to earn a living.

It seems most composers who have gone the academic route in their training shun and scorn commercial projects such as writing jingles and soundtracks for TV ads, TV theme music, even film scores. A project isnít ďseriousĒ unless it is solely intended for the concert stage. Composers in this camp have traditionally earned a living through teaching at the university level rather than purely through composing. Unfortunately, substantial teaching positions are not numerous, nor are commissions with hefty monetary compensation, and competition is fierce. Many composers are obliged to work some sort of day job in order to pay their bills, especially early in their careers.

Selling out by taking on some commercial projects starts to look a lot less unappetizing when you are saddled with 100k+of educational debt. And if you donít ďsell your soulĒ to commercial endeavor, you still run the risk of selling it to a day job. I have a day job I really like, but I still resent spending 8 hours in the office, and having only 2 or 3 to spend on my music each day. Recently some ins toward some commercial gigs have become available to me. No matter what I do, Iíll have to spend at least 50% of my time and energy doing something that pays the bills. I could spend that time at a job to which my education and subsequent skill set is irrelevant. Or I could spend it doing something on which I can use my skill set. The skill set I devoted much of my resources acquiring.

And if my post-tonal, serious music sensibilities seep into commercial projects and broaden someone's ears, well , that's a good thing. Iím not imagining that I will convert the masses and convince them to like the ďgoodĒ music that they ďshouldĒ like. Iím hoping that familiarity with contemporary sounds will open doors to greater appreciation. The first time I heard certain non-Western music (Indian classical, gamelan, Japanese gagaku), it sounded mighty strange and I was disinclined to like it. But if I ended up hearing enough of it so that my ears grew accustomed to the unfamiliar scales and relationships, my reactions would change and become less dismissive, even if I never grew to love it either.

As composers of a relatively un-listened to genre, I don't think it would hurt us to get our stuff out there when and where we can, even if the medium does not measure up to some standard of "pure" or "serious" art or worthy cultural presentation, and the content is watered down to fit the bill.