Archive for August, 2008

Composers’ natural allies are performers, listeners.
And Studio Teachers.

Kids study their instrument around the world in formalized settings, then finish up with a degree or two from Conservatory or University.   Their studio teacher, with whom they study one-on-one, personifies  their instrument, and serves as  a siphon for the selection of  pieces the student will spend many practice-hours on.

Though it’s true that great swatches of ‘educational music’ are weak, forgettable, composing repertoire works for  developing musicians  can be  a strategic  ( if occasional)  goal  for alert composers.   Having a piece selected for an organization’s  state-wide, national or international  repertoire list  means a  tangible boost for that work.  And  a useful spotlight for the composer.    

It also means that someone musically sophisticated is paying attention not just to the virtuoso, but to the budding  performer.

My article “Embracing New Music” In the current issue of American Music Teacher  magazine invites the teacher-performer to take a fresh, positive  look at recent works  they and their students will enjoy spending time with.  (The music excerpts are all by composers other than myself.)  

It recapitulates the ebb and flow of interest in newer music over the past century,  and  also probes the reasons  why studio teachers might be reluctant  to include very-new works for study as repertoire — meaning something the student will spend many hours on,  not just sight-read.   All of this is presented positively,  with the sense of excitement at the potential of a major discovery.

Included is a sidebar on the issue of how a composer gets “branded”.

Read it, then  comment.  

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Composers’ natural allies are performers, listeners.
And Studio Teachers.

Kids study their instrument around the world in formalized settings, then finish up with a degree or two from Conservatory or University.   Their studio teacher, with whom they study one-on-one, personifies  their instrument, and serves as  a siphon for the selection of  pieces the student will spend many practice-hours on.

Though it’s true that great swatches of ‘educational music’ are weak, forgettable, composing repertoire works for  developing musicians  can be  a strategic  ( if occasional)  goal  for alert composers.   Having a piece selected for an organization’s  state-wide, national or international  repertoire list  means a  tangible boost for that work.  And  a useful spotlight for the composer.    

It also means that someone musically sophisticated is paying attention not just to the virtuoso, but to the budding  performer.

My article “Embracing New Music” In the current issue of American Music Teacher  magazine invites the teacher-performer to take a fresh, positive  look at recent works  they and their students will enjoy spending time with.  (The music excerpts are all by composers other than myself.)  

It recapitulates the ebb and flow of interest in newer music over the past century,  and  also probes the reasons  why studio teachers might be reluctant  to include very-new works for study as repertoire — meaning something the student will spend many hours on,  not just sight-read.   All of this is presented positively,  with the sense of excitement at the potential of a major discovery.

Included is a sidebar on the issue of how a composer gets “branded”.

Read it, then  comment.  

Comments No Comments »

August 27, 2008
We’ll get to $$ matters in a future post.  Today:  Pitfalls of paying too much attention to what you think listeners want to hear.
In today’s NY Times  David Brooks writes about the ‘airlessness’  of designing  anything  — in his case, a presidential campaign – by adhering too closely  to  focus  group feedback.  Brooks warns Obama to  “ avoid the focus group over-managing that killed the passion out of men [like] Gore and Kerry.”
~ Do you tailor your work according to audience expectation?  To what extent?
 

In the arts we see this :  Two Russians  made an ironic  career of designing their pictures  according to majority wishes expressed by municipal focus groups, coming together to state what they’d  like to see in a picture:  Abraham Lincoln/George Washington;  a dog;  some water;  trees; etc.     The point wasn’t the pictures;  they were lame.  The point was the emptiness of trying to be “all things to all people”.  
In music, over and over,   I see  composers looking to erase the personal  in their work.   Is it still too painful  to express directly, without any kind of  protective, 
dis-avowing filter?       Or are these composers looking specifically to give back to listeners what the new-fashioned habits of listening seem to crave?
Perhaps guided by attention spans  of slightly greater than a gnat’s length,  a  revised  habit of listening has developed over the last 10 years.  It partakes  of the music,  dipping into a piece, then  letting attention wander for a bit , then dipping into it at some later point, etc.; and it  tends  to connect better with single-affect material,  and  — even more –  with music which does not  narrate, journey,  progress or even develop .
 
Quite different from the previous,  former-age pattern of intense connection in listening — tracking the music’s progress closely, pretty much attentive throughout.  Do   today’s audiences expect  some additional  visual/performance  complement,  some stimulus to another sense along with hearing? 
They seem nervous without that  (manifesting  ADD on a monumental scale).
 
[ In 2003 a photographer, snapping me for a photo to go with a newspaper profile,  remarked that his four-year-old daughter  got very nervous whenever there was silence in their home.  She just expected a bed of noise,  or some  background music to be present as  underscore -- not to be  focussed on --  but just there; and she was  tremendously uneasy when that underscore was gone.  ]
 

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