Day 7: Rooting for the Underdog
- Read the previous post in this series: Day 6: It All Comes Down To This
The Red Sox just won the World Series, and I don’t care. Gone are the days of the Bambino’s Curse, when the Sox were America’s favorite underdog and the antithesis to the evils of the Yankees. These days they’re just another winning team with a high payroll.
New music has been experiencing a surge of popularity over the past couple decades, but, at least in the orchestral world, it still plays the role of underdog; and as the Minnesota Orchestra concert of seven new works Friday night showed, it is fun to be a fan. From the frantic opening notes of Trevor’s piece to the last blasts of mine, the musicians played with such energy and enthusiasm that they took our works to heights we couldn’t have imagined, to a place far beyond the ink we had written on the page.
A large crowd was there to enjoy the music, one that greatly exceeded the box office’s expectations and surpassed last year’s Future Classics attendance. Perhaps more importantly, the crowd was again diverse in age and style. (A family of three generations, running the gamut from a braces-laden teenager to a cane-wielding grandfather, congratulated me afterwards.) The audience was no doubt enthusiastic, standing to applaud as all seven composers gathered on stage at the concert’s close. One got the sense that the ovation was as much of a stamp of approval for the orchestra’s interest in new music as it was recognition for the compositions and the performance.
“We cannot act as if all the music that’s worth playing has already been written,” Osmo Vänskä said at the Q & A session that followed the concert. “We have to support the works that are being created today.” It seems like his fans in the Twin Cities have been listening.
Composers are usually fortunate enough to have vibrant relationships with each other and with contemporary music performers, but this past week reminded me that the vast majority of our potential audience is outside of this secure bubble. If we strive to reach beyond our community of musicians into this unknown territory, however daunting that may be, perhaps the enthusiasm that demonstrated itself on Friday will gradually spread, and there will come a time when contemporary music is no longer the underdog—that may seem impossible at this point, but art, after all, is interesting because its course is unpredictable. Even if new music does become standard in orchestral concerts across the nation, the music will always be of its time and by definition will always be new. And so it will, at least in my mind, always be fun to root for.
P.S.: Some thanks are due: Aaron Kernis and Beth Cowart for their endless work and for making the Institute what it is, Osmo Vänskä for his faith in our music, the Minnesota Orchestra for its energy, Frank Oteri and NewMusicBox for giving this blog a home, Melissa Ousley and MPR for their coverage, Cia Toscanini of ASCAP and Ralph Jackson of BMI for their generosity, the American Composers Forum for its time and interest, Brian Robertshaw for making us feel like movie stars, and Claudia De Palma for her sharp editing skills.