Community of Composers
I am a Facebook junkie, pure and simple. I hath partaken of the Kool-Aid and, in turn, converted several good friends over the years. No, I do not waste time with games. Yes, I am probably connected to it a bit more than I should. Yes, I am sure-ish that I haven’t posted anything that will come back to haunt me. No, I don’t care if it’s being run by a huge corporation. What I do passionately care about is connecting with others, and as many of us know there are few tools out there that allow for such a finely tuned mode of interaction as Zuckerberg’s brainchild.
The big, blue FB has been on my mind lately because of my trip last week to Baltimore, which provided me a multitude of examples of how effective that tool has become. Within a four-day period, I was able to meet up with ten composers at various stages in their careers, many of whom I’d been getting to know for a long time without actually ever meeting them. After months or even years of getting to know these people through both passive and active interactions online, it’s always a bit of awkward relief when I get to “fill in the blanks” that inevitably occur when one only knows an individual through the lens of Facebook, e-mail correspondence, or, for that matter, knowing someone only through their scores and recordings. What struck me in Baltimore was the intense camaraderie that was evident between all these different composers; it’s one thing to hear about composers supporting each other in the abstract, but it’s something else entirely when you get to see it up close. These composers are not only attending each others concerts, but actively helping each other out as best they can either by connecting each other to performers and conductors or by programming each other’s works in ensembles or concert series with which they are affiliated.
I’ve been asking composers a series of questions about the different communities that they belong to and to what extent their interactions within these communities have affected their careers and their work. One of those is the community of composers. After asking about their relationships with other composers, I’ve noticed several trends that might at first seem contradictory but consistent. First, composers are constantly fighting the dichotomy between being social creatures and being intensely competitive, and how each one deals with that dichotomy can affect who that person is both personally and professionally—the relationships between the Baltimore composers was a great example of this dichotomy in action. Second, there is a strong dislike for the “style” conflicts of bygone days; most composers today are omnivorous in their tastes and the idea of shutting some colleagues out due to their artistic concepts is disappearing (as can be evidenced by the discussions swirling around Justin Davidson’s article about the new New York composers). Finally, the realization has been made that our community of composers is a small one by many standards, and it is only through supporting one another that our art form will continue to thrive and grow.
I’d love to hear about other composer communities—the comment box awaits!