It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s New Music On YouTube

The internet moves fast. Consider YouTube: I distinctly remember checking YouTube about a year ago for videos related to contemporary music and coming up empty handed. Yesterday, however, I whiled away a solid two or three hours checking out performances of Carter’s Triple Duo, Nono’s …sofferte onde serene…, Lachenmann’s Ein Kinderspiel, and Xenakis’s Synaphaï, among others.

Many of the viewers who comment on these videos are amazed to learn that music like Carter’s, Nono’s, Lachenmann’s, and Xenakis’s exists. One respondent even revealed that he found a video of Tristan Murail’s Tellur “mindblowing.” I can’t cite statistics, of course, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that YouTube gets more people interested in new music than all the symphony orchestras in America put together.

Take a moment to consider that possibility. Wouldn’t it be depressing if the leading provider of exposure for contemporary music were a huge website full of user-supplied video content? Is anyone looking at YouTube and seeing a gauntlet thrown contemptuously in the dirt, waiting to be taken up in righteous indignation? If they aren’t, those artistic directors, conductors, and grant committees certainly should be. When the next OK Go-style video phenomenon takes up a Kagel piece as its subject matter, we’ll have cause for celebration—but we’ll also have another good reason to ask why we aren’t seeing and hearing more Kagel in real life.

You might also enjoy…

6 thoughts on “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s New Music On YouTube

  1. ravelite

    And why would it be a disappointment? A user-submitted content site is a much friendlier way to encounter new music. Forget the planning and expense involved to go to a symphony, parking, and arranging a rare night when it isn’t programming old classics. The planning and costs involved discourage all but the faithful from participating.

    New music and art music have a limited audience, squarely in the tail of the popularity distribution. Anything that eases distribution and brings a wider audience, will increase the popularity of subcultures like new music, including Youtube.

    Graham Coleman

    Reply
  2. philmusic

    Colin, this is good news as the more we are heard the better. One thing—this comment;

    “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that YouTube gets more people interested in new music than all the symphony orchestras in America put together.”

    Colin, Youtube is a “secondary” presenter as it does not create programing (if only it would). So, Without all them other performing groups including the aforementioned symphony orchestras Youtube does not exist.
    Phil’s Page

    Reply
  3. swellsort

    Perhaps
    Maybe there is a lesson here for those of us wishing to reach a wider audience. There was a great article in the NY Times the other day about chamber music and where it is going. Read it here.

    One point raised in that article is that there is more supply of chamber music than there ever has been in history, but that demand isn’t as high as the supply. I think the same could be said of new music. Perhaps websites like YouTube are a means by which to increase demand to meet supply. And as Phil just said, the more we are heard, the better. Mark K.

    Reply
  4. pgblu

    gauntlet
    I think the YouTube factor is certainly going to help rather than hinder the potential of new music to reach new audiences, though I don’t know a lot of music that benefits from being shoved through computer loudspeakers. The Murail anecdote seems absurd, almost apocryphal, in this light. Then again, a lot of that music sounds tinny and shrill in a live setting!

    Incidentally, Colin, thanks for your post — do you think you could link to the particular YouTube segments that you watched of Carter, Xenakis, etc.? It would be a real asset.

    Reply
  5. Colin Holter

    Well yeah, of course it’s a good thing – but as I said, it would be cool if flesh-and-blood presenters tried to make new music available too.




    (“O god that was mindblowing”)

    Reply
  6. curioman

    >>Wouldn’t it be depressing if the leading provider of exposure for contemporary music were a huge website full of user-supplied video content?< <

    Why is that depressing? I think the opposite. It’s cause for celebration! You know what this means? “User-supplied video content” means that people are going to these concerts (for one), finding the content of value (two), going to the trouble of recording it (three), and uploading it to share with others (four). Consider the viral aspect. The ability to share the music with friends and their friends and theirs and so on. It’s an incredible boon to new music.

    Man, if I had been able to see/hear this music when I was young, I would have flipped out! What a treasure.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.