Going For, Um, Bronze

If you’ve turned on a television set over the past week, you may have noticed that in the sports arena—usually dominated by baseball, football, and NASCAR—we have the whole summer Olympics thing going on. Personally, I’m reveling in the temporary popularity of sports that I actually like, such as gymnastics, swimming, and diving. I mean, it’s weird to see these events so prominently televised and apparently cared about by the mainstream media. Of course contemporary classical music isn’t exactly akin to the Olympic swimming competition (but watch out Michael Phelps-loving America, Dudamel is coming). No, new music is more like skeet shooting, canoeing, archery, handball, and the 50 kilometers walk—not as sexy, but still part of the games.

While NBC isn’t going to broadcast the 50 km walk during primetime, the event also won’t be completely ignored—maybe covered on cable or streaming on the web. While enthusiasts of the sport might be a little disappointed that swimming is overshadowing all their glory, I doubt they’re wringing their hand asking why there isn’t a bigger eager audience for the 50 km walk. I suspect that it’s a hardcore insular community of diehard walking fans, maybe a posse of folks who speed-walk themselves—much like the new music community, made up of current and former practitioners, experts, and the occasional interested fan.

I’m not of the mindset that if people could only hear new music, they’d be instantly converted connoisseurs. Frankly, I think it’s a little bit of a turn off to be so desperate for wide acceptance. Let’s take a cue from the speed walkers out there and revel in the fact that just as almost everybody walks, almost everybody listens to new music—on TV and the movies—even if they’re not aware of it or enriched by it. If walking turns you on, great. If it’s microtonal chord clusters that turn your crank, great. We should be satisfied to just be satisfied, not constantly be on the prowl to proselytize so that others can share in our ear-bending bliss. So we may not be the headline news, but we are a sustainable and more interesting, to say the least, slice of life.

4 thoughts on “Going For, Um, Bronze

  1. DJA

    I doubt they’re wringing their hand asking why there isn’t a bigger eager audience for the 50 km walk.

    Perhaps not, but as I mentioned on Molly’s blog, people who participate in obscure sports evangelize for greater participation in those sports all the time.

    Reply
  2. Chris Becker

    “So we may not be the headline news, but we are a sustainable…”

    How are we sustainable without an audience? Through our day jobs? Wait, don’t answer that…

    Randy, I think you’re speaking from the position of someone who doesn’t produce shows, work with large ensembles (like Darcy), and/or mistrusts broader acceptance of certain artists (although you enjoy and applaud a lot of inane TV programs).

    Promoting a concert, dance performance, or gallery show is a LOT of work and anyone who takes care of such details should be applauded. It’s such a drag to put so much time and effort into a project and just have the PR end of things not happen. It’s a crucial component to what I do as a working artist. Git R Done.

    The irony here is that I think you’re trying to show some love to a community on the fringes. I get what you’re saying…but let’s never forget to applaud the creative souls here who do push it and get their work out to people who need to see a blurb in Time Out, or pick up a flyer, or read an interview on NMBx.

    Reply
  3. perpetual

    I don’t think he’s talking about poor attendance at a show after a well-done marketing effort by a presenting group or ensemble, Chris. And yes, he has produced shows.

    I think he’s speaking in general terms, that our music IS on the fringes and that is OK. We may not get a mass audience, but at least we have the ability to get an audience (Do we really need a mass audience anyway? The 1000s of screaming fans type?). Our audience is out there, and I’m willing to put money on the table that they’re not in the orchestra halls. I’ve been finding this more and more as I attend concerts in this country.

    Reply
  4. Chris Becker

    Well, I’m busting Randy’s chops I grant you. But I find his conclusions…dubious. “Because your music is so unusual and special you will never play for an audience above 100 people and if you want that to happen then you’re a shallow starf—er.”

    No he did not say that. I don’t want to twist his words. But what IS he saying? And how does it play out in Darcy’s world or mine (I should note I don’t pretend to speak for Darcy or anyone except myself…)

    Before every show I’ve done the musicians and I will out of the blue start running down the promotional efforts we made and then come to the conclusion “I don’t care if noone shows up…who cares? Who cares? We’re just gonna rock no matter what…etc.” But then the house fills up. And it feels good. Not in an egocentric way, but in a way that is more..dare I say it? Spiritual…

    And I would love it if one of my projects blew up. That’s not what motivates the work, however. For better or for worse. That said, I often operate with an attitude that is very different than what Randy is espousing in the board room, or at a fundraiser, and/or in front of your audience before a show.

    How to do this tastefully? Should I care? Do I just be myself? I am not you, nor Randy, nor anyone on the masthead. I understand this…

    I’m not sure if what I do falls into this category of “our music” (or “new music”) frankly. That’s one disconnect here. The audiences I get don’t come to me via NewMusicBox or the graduating class of the Princeton composition school. So while I reach out to what I think are generally audiences for “new music” – more often than not I get a very different enthusiastic crowd (not counting the two folks that walked out ten minutes into my last gig…).

    So what am I doing exactly? Acting on an ill notion that if someone out there just hears my music they’ll like it? Am I pining for mass acceptance? I’m just throwing this out there as one man’s reaction to some of what Randy brings up…

    Reply

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