Composer/keyboardist/producer Elodie Lauten creates operas, music for dance and theatre, orchestral, chamber and instrumental music. Not a household name, she is however widely recognized by historians as a leading figure of post-minimalism and a force on the new music scene, with 20 releases on a number of labels.

Her opera Waking in New York, Portrait of Allen Ginsberg was presented by the New York City Opera (2004 VOX and Friends) in May 2004, after being released on 4Tay, following three well-received productions. OrfReo, a new opera for Baroque ensemble was premiered at Merkin Hall by the Queen's Chamber Band, whose New Music Alive CD (released on Capstone in 2004) includes Lauten's The Architect. The Orfreo CD was released in December 2004 on Studio 21. In September 2004 Lauten was composer-in-residence at Hope College, MI. Lauten's Symphony 2001, was premiered in February 2003 by the SEM Orchestra in New York. In 1999, Lauten's Deus ex Machina Cycle for voices and Baroque ensemble (4Tay) received strong critical acclaim in the US and Europe. Lauten's Variations On The Orange Cycle (Lovely Music, 1998) was included in Chamber Music America's list of 100 best works of the 20th century.

Born in Paris, France, she was classically trained as a pianist since age 7. She received a Master's in composition from New York University where she studied Western composition with Dinu Ghezzo and Indian classical music with Ahkmal Parwez. Daughter of jazz pianist/drummer Errol Parker, she is also a fluent improviser. She became an American citizen in 1984 and has lived in New York since the early seventies

Visit Elodie Lauten's Web Site
Saturday, February 11, 2006
To Sell Or Not To Sell

My ‘future of the music business’ blog triggered a number of comments and reactions. I want to respond to those and explain my position in more detail.

Clearly, there are two different issues at play here.

One, is post-classic music likely to benefit from direct digital distribution, and through what particular channels, i.e. whether it is better to operate out of one’s own web site or through an internet distribution outlet such as amazon or cdbaby and the like.

Two, should post-classic underground music actually be pitched to sell. This issue is actually more important to me personally. I have always appreciated to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela not only for their work, but for the way they do things. For instance, LaMonte’s music was not available on disc for many years. In order to fully appreciate it, you had to go and visit the DIA Foundation space and sit and listen in an environment that they had designed for optimal intake. This is how I came to appreciate The Well-Tuned Piano, sitting on the carpet at the DIA Foundation, in a room by myself, in the total, meditative isolation that was provided by the composer. Many years later, Grammavision released the work on CD, and I remember being surprised that LaMonte even accepted this release, with the interruptions due to the multiple CD format. This taught me that selling and marketing is not always appropriate for music that is meant as a cultural contribution.

In the post-classic realm, we don’t have to think like pop artists. If we had to worry about selling a number copies offsetting the record company’s investment before making a penny, I think the work might be seriously flawed by the intent. In my world, the expectation of CD sales plays no role in what I release, and I would like to keep it this way. I set up my web site as a .net, not a .com – so as to express that it is not a marketing tool, but rather an archive documenting my work. I wonder if some of you feel the same way.

My experience with distributors of any kind has grown worse over the years. In the early eighties, with New Music Distribution Service, I used to sell a few hundred records with every release. When they went out of business, nothing replaced them in providing an alternative distribution outlet that got the CDs to the Tower Records bins. In the 90s, I had CDs at Tower Records through 4-Tay and to our dismay, we never received a cent on The Deus Ex Machina Cycle from Tower Records. My reaction was to go in the opposite direction: make fewer CDs, and not pitch them for selling, but as art works, collectors’ copies. I even went as far as questioning whether selling CDs is relevant. I think making CDs and DVDs is very important, but that to try and sell them is almost in bad taste: when people visit your site, do you really want to tell them, "buy me, buy me"?

Now we are faced with the dilemma of digital distribution. Should we make our music available on the internet on a 99c per track basis? Is it actually worth the trouble – after all, a PayPal account is twenty bucks a month, and I am not sure I would even sell enough to offset that expense. Some artists have an online licensing agreement for those who want to use the tracks for film! But I believe that without a commercial visibility, this could be a wasted effort.

Meanwhile, Postclassic Radio and other internet radio stations broadcast our tracks, and make it easy for people to copy them. Is it worth the effort to set up a site to ‘sell’ the music, as if there were a market for it, which still remains in question. I'm afraid that post-classic music might be condemned to remain "too hip for the straights, too straight for the hips..." as Jon Szanto put it. (a percussionist and composer from San Diego who worked with Harry Partch, and with whom I had a long post-blog discussion about selling music.)