Is there such thing as “grant music”? Robert Beaser



Robert Beaser

In order for “grant music” to exist, there needs to be the right conditions. Young composers will usually gravitate towards orthodoxy when they know they will get rewarded for it. Safe choices, clean scores, solipsistic reasoning, and the “flavor de jour” grab the prize because we, the jurors, make those choices. Why? Even the most fair-minded, well meaning juries can be ham-strung by a) the psychology of the jury process itself, b) draconian time constraints (700 scores in three hours), and c) a misguided competition process.

The worst experiences I have had as a judge (often in Europe) have been when a jury is thrown together with little artistically or professionally in common, and the results are quantified strictly by the numbers. The best ones have been when members of the jury have enough respect and trust to genuinely ask the right questions, and look beyond the numbers to arrive at enlightened consensus. Conclusion: “Grant music” becomes validated when the competitions themselves are flawed. Address the issues in the competitions individually, and the question will become moot.

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