I continue to be blown away by the concert offerings in London. Although I regret having to miss the annual Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute (congratulations to Osmo Vänskä for his recent ACF Champion of New Music award, by the way), I’m dazzled by the array of unbelievable performances here-even if, like me, your goal is to suck the Big Smoke’s musical marrow as cheaply as possible, you can easily hit up at least one small concert per week that features the kind of stuff you’d never hear in even a thriving new music town like Minneapolis. (Maybe we just happen to be in an especially dense season for concerts.) When’s the last time you heard a Peter Ablinger piece in Pittsburgh? How about Laurence Crane in Los Angeles? Unreal.
At the same time, though, it’s a bit terrifying: I’m just now glimpsing the vastly broadened perspective that live new music on a weekly basis can provide, and I wonder if I haven’t wasted my formative period. If I’d moved years ago to New York, another city that sports a bewildering array of contemporary music offerings, I’d probably have a much more vivid notion of what a new music listening experience can be. Squatting covetously over a library CD player, straining to mentally reproduce what the latest Wergo or CRI disc would sound like in real life, is a pretty sorry way to pass the time between actual flesh-and-blood performances. What if I’d been able to see new music shows all the time? The aesthetic and philosophical pathologies that have characterized (and continue to characterize) my growth as a composer would have faced much hardier resistance if I’d been able to hold them up to reality-based scrutiny.
Or maybe I they would have run rampant, each concert cultivating new strains of creative delusion. I might have fallen in love with every piece I heard and had a much harder time getting to the core of what I really care about (an ongoing process). That kind of hyper-exposure also excludes the possibility of being a genuine “outsider,” except perhaps for the truly, intransigently weird; I’m thinking here of La Monte Young, whose music I admire greatly. He’s lived in New York for a long time, and it seems to me that he changed it, rather than the other way around.
In any case, these are the kinds of wistful musings I’m glad to be stricken with. I’m really going to miss this wealth of awesome live music when I head back to the States.