On a Plane or On a Train: The Dr. Seuss Composing Dilemma

I’ve always traveled a fair amount, but lately it’s been getting out of hand. Tomorrow will be the sixth trans-Pacific trip I will have made since the new year, and we’re just halfway through February. By the end of March, I will have logged about 45,000 air miles, and about 90 hours spent up in the sky. That’s more than two typical workweeks, even without all the time spent in the airports.

So I’m trying to find how to use the time productively. Catching up on email, reading, or listening to my iPod is great, and I do value the chance to be able to do that. But it’s getting to the point that if I don’t put some of the time I’m actually traveling to good use composing, then I’m never gonna make any of a number of deadlines I have coming up in the next few months.

The problem is, try as I might, I can’t concentrate. I tend to get absorbed in the beautiful sounds of engine noise, which I often tune in and listen to just when flying. A drone-lovers delight: try it sometime; you can idle away hours. This is, however, exactly what I can’t afford to do. Noise-reducing headphones don’t work well enough. There’s too much residual sound and anyway, I haven’t found any that sound good enough for monitoring. If someone has a recommendation please give a shout, but so far I’ve been stumped. And anyway, I’m the kind of person who works best in a calm, quiet environment, without aural or visual distractions, i.e. my own studio. I need to break some old inflexibilities.

How about you? Can you compose on a plane, a train, a bus? In a café or on a park bench? Or do you need to be in your favorite chair at your desk, with a cup of your favorite pencils (freshly sharpened), and a cup of your favorite coffee, freshly brewed, by your side? When the muse strikes, does it matter where we are? And what happens if inspiration hits at an inconvenient moment, when we can’t drop what we are doing and start slinging the notes around? Just wondering if anyone has any tips about how to compose in adversity—I’ve got some music I need to finish.

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38 thoughts on “On a Plane or On a Train: The Dr. Seuss Composing Dilemma

  1. Jay.Derderian

    I tend to try and compose in different environments. I like to be able to focus my ear, as well as use my surroundings as my muse. The natural pitch inflections of somebody’s laughter, or the colors of a park I’m working in can provide a great palate of timbre and form.

    Of course, I enjoy working in my little studio as well, but the outside world has plenty to offer me as well.

    Reply
  2. maestro58

    Working while traveling
    I once made a cross country trip moving a friends furniture to his new home in California. I was under a lot of pressure because before I left, a Brass Ensemble commission that was an iffy proposition became definitive, and was wanted in 2 months. So the 2 weeks that I was taking to travel had to be productive. I was lucky that A) I had forty measures in score form out already as proof that I COULD compose for Brass Ensemble and B) the piece was blocked out in my head. Since I don’t drive, I was in the backseat sketching away. When we got to California, I was able to play my sketches on my friends piano and found most of them solid, workable,valid for the instruments and good musically to boot.

    I think working on a plane is the most difficult for me because the drone and shaking of flights triggers my fear of flying. Carl, luckily you don’t have that problem. I think if you can sketch the middle of a piece instead of the start or end, you can be successful in getting a fair amount of work done.

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  3. robteehan

    You want me to write my piece while travelling?! Don’t you see…

    I can’t compose it on a boat,
    I can’t compose it with a goat,
    I will not write it in the rain,
    I will not write it on a train,
    Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
    Not in a car! Please, can’t you see?
    I just can’t write it in a box.
    I just can’t write it with a fox.
    I can’t compose it in a [different] house.
    I just can’t write it with[out] a mouse.
    I just can’t write it here or there.
    I can’t compose it ANYWHERE! Except at my home studio in front of a piano with lots of fresh coffee at the ready, and usually between the hours of 11:30am-2pm and 9:00pm-1:00am (or later!)

    —-

    The above was what I assumed – until I starting taking on an eight-hour round trip by train once a week to teach at a nearby college. Now I find that I can be quite productive on a train, but a different sort of productivity than at home. Home is for broad conceptual planning and sketching – the train is for figuring out notation, editing and cleaning up parts, arrangements and transcriptions, and other computer work that seems to take forever but doesn’t require the brain to be firing on all cylinders.

    Reply
  4. William Osborne

    I have been traveling too and unable to read NMB. I checked the February 2008 archives to see if there were any additional comments about Carl’s blog about arts funding. I notice that all NMB blogs up to the 11th are there, but not Carl’s arts funding blog. I wonder why not. Does anyone have the URL for it?

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

    Reply
  5. Kyle Gann

    Anywhere but not anytime
    I’ve composed lots of music on trains and planes (where my Skullcandy noise-canceling headphones have improved life a lot – though I’m not working directly in electronic sound like you are, Carl), and I like it best in hotels, where the phone never rings. But I can’t compose between 3 PM and 7 PM – my consciousness becomes too focused, and the necessary peripheral hearing disappears. If I refrain from drinking with dinner, I can sometimes resume late at night. When I was young, of course, composing time was 11 PM to 4 AM. Nancarrow composed every night from 8 to 3 – in his studio.

    Reply
  6. ottodafaye

    you just have to be ready to compose, any time, any where, and set yourself up with whatever tools or skills you might need.

    when I travelled more, with the California E.A.R. Unit, I made myself a little kit. A small 3 ring binder with manuscript paper that I printed out from Score, lined paper for writing ideas verbally, a small ruler, a few Dixon Ticonderoga No. 2 soft pencils (never try to write music without the right pencil, the Dixons have the only decent eraser I’ve found), and a little pencil sharpener. About a third of my 24 hour piano piece, Serious Immobilities, was written on planes or in hotel rooms with that little kit. Oh yes, I also brought along a Casio VL-Tone on many trips. That way I could identify pitches, write melodies, etc. I still have five of those gizmos – and I still use them!

    On a trip to San Francisco with my wife I started getting a melody and the hint of some chords that I really wanted to remember. I asked her nicely to put on some headphones and listen to a book, because I needed to sing the damn thing to myself over and over and over again for the rest of the trip, so I wouldn’t forget it, and when we got to the motel I found a pencil and drew a staff on a piece of scratch paper and wrote it down. That ditty became one of my best vocal works.

    If you really need to compose, you find a way to do it under any circumstances.

    I could compose in a fox hole, under mortar fire. I am certain of this. In fact, it would probably be a good distraction from the imminent danger.

    Reply
  7. William Osborne

    I fly quite a bit because I live overseas. I am 6’1” and have especially long legs. Airlines are so uncomfortable for me I have difficulty concentrating on most anything. (It would help if I could afford to fly business class, but I doubt few here can.) I use the time to read. And after flying east or west, the jetlag is an even worse problem.

    William Osborne

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  8. fred frith

    composing while traveling
    A subject dear to me heart, since I also spend a disproportionate amount of time flying or otherwise getting from gig to gig. Noise-canceling headphones actually changed my life, I’m never without them. That’s as much to do with overcoming fatigue as anything else though. As for the creative bit, I find that moving is great for having random ideas – I always have a notebook (as in paper) that I can write them down in, and have done so for almost forty years (that’s a lot of notebooks). As long as I don’t try to develop anything or work on a specific piece, ideas just pour out when I’m in that weird suspended state of getting from A to B. Later in a more focused environment I can figure out whether any of them are either (a) relevant to what I’m working on or (b) useful for something quite different. If I try to do something focused or developmental in the air I usually either do bad work or stare at the paper or screen blankly. Now I don’t try! I also find travel, and especially trains, very useful for listening to material – but I think that’s because having long uninterrupted periods to listen to music seldom happens when you have kids!

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  9. Somebody

    RE: Missing blog
    The blog is probably missing because it is a violation of non-profit law to post lists of presidential candidates running for election (top-down list) by a non-profit organization. Also, it is completely surly of the New Music Box to use their grant money to promote a presidential candidate running for election that would be more favorable towards “arts funding”. One could image the explosion of fury if the Met. Art Museum posted a list of presidential candidates that they favor and do not favor. That being said, and knowning that the NMB doesn’t have the exposure that the Met does, and knowing that Carl is an ex-president of the AMC, one can only conclude that this web site is the most wasteful use of NEA money that I can imagine. What the bleeping crap does Carl’s babbling mind, wandering through his most frivolous thoughts about writing music on a plane have to do with serving the new music scene. In an era of utter cultural apathy, and era in america where music understanding has been eclipsed by most other forms of artistic expression, why, please tell me why, does this freakin web site persist. Would it just go away, please, and be replace by something more meaningful for the promotion of living composers music. Would it just go away, and be replaced by something more meaningful for the creation of collaboration between performers and composers. Would the AMC just go away!

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  10. fred frith

    wow!
    I can’t help being amused. After not having checked NewMusicBox in a couple of years I happen to come across it and see Carl’s chatter about working while traveling and say, hey that’s something I can contribute to. And the very next mail says that Carl is “babbling” and “frivolous”, and NMB is meaningless and should just go away! It’s like I never left. Everything is just the same! Amazing!

    Reply
  11. William Osborne

    Hello Fred. Every month there are hundreds of comments placed in the Chatter section of NMB, so why would you want to judge the level of discussion based on one cranky post? Maybe you’re jumping to conclusions. There have been a number of discussions over the last months that have been quite worthwhile. There was also a nice spotlight feature about your Mills colleague John Bishoff. There are some people here working to building intelligent, professional discussion. Why not lend a hand with all of your wit, wisdom, experience, and tolerance?

    Craig, NMB did not break any laws governing non-profits by listing the arts-funding platforms of the three leading presidential candidates. Non-profits are allowed to be very political as long as they are not unduly partisan. A good example are the Frontline reports on PBS. They present some of the most pointed and substantial political reporting in the United States. Their coverage of the Iraq War and the Bush administration has been devastating. Another example of political non-profits are churches, which are in fact, often very partisan. There is a good deal of tolerance in our society for politically oriented non-profits because issues of free speech are involved.

    My comment to Craig should be on the thread about arts funding, but it has disappeared from the archives for some reason. This is unfortunate, because as Dave Coll mentioned, it was one of the best blogs and set of blog commentaries ever on NMB. All of the statistical information was especially useful. I will write to Carl and see if he knows what happened to it. Hopefully it will reappear. (It’s deletion would be far more political than any of the statements made on it.)

    And Craig, I sometimes appreciate your points, but if your writing style were not somewhere between Borat and Hannibal Lectur you might get better responses. :-)

    William Osborne

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  12. William Osborne

    There is an interesting
    article

    in the New York Times that discusses how for the eighth year in a row the Bush administration has tried to cut the budget for PBS in half. Just as with the NEA, the neo-cons consider PBS too liberal. The PBS cuts have never been carried through because of public protest.

    The article seems to be a subtle attempt to discredit PBS. It notably doesn’t mention the Frontline programs which are a particular irritant for the neo-cons.

    (And sorry, Carl, I know this is off-topic. When your funding blog reappears we can shift this topic back to where it belongs.)

    Anyway, sitting on airplanes might be a good place to write your blogs – including some with a few political thoughts.

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-coant.org

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  13. Chris Becker

    Good morning. In the past few years I’ve been able to bring my mobile recording gear with me while traveling just in case there’s an opportunity to capture a unique sound or performance that might become an element in a future composition. Last weekend around this time I was in Richmond, Virginia standing on a ladder outdoors recording an incredible set of large wind chimes. I ended up using the results in a performance that evening. Have mic will travel.

    Fred Frith’s A Step Across The Border is a point of inspiration here…

    Reply
  14. Somebody

    Oh, yeah William. I get it. You have been in Germany way too long. Let me just summon up my best South Philly accent here- and you can call me, a son of an Armenian immigrant, Borat. How damn appropriate.

    You need to investigate the Internal Revenue Code a bit more. And, where in the AMC’s NMB grant does writing about presidential candidates appear. And, if a church appears, I repeat appears to discuss any political candidate they immediately loose there 5013c status. Right, many American churches went there in the early 90s and lost there 5013c status, but you just saw the surface. You need to go read the IRC for 5013c organizations. Oh, but maybe you are right, my voice sounds like Borat, and he is just some fool from somewhere, a silly worthy victum of our humor. Well, I never thought of this William. Racism from rich kids who think they can compose music. Yeah. You are such a smare guy.
    But, anyway, William, you want the American composer scene to waste its money on the AMC, then go ahead, support the AMC with rhetoric. If you want this pretentious folly to continue, go ahead, act like Switzerland. Now, about rich kids writing music on airplanes….

    Reply
  15. William Osborne

    Normally I wouldn’t bother responding, but since I notice that NMB has very recently added a disclaimer clause to the bottom of the Chatter comments section, and since the funding blog has disappeared, maybe it is worth reviewing the facts about political activity and non-profits. The IRS outlines the rules
    here.

    Organizations with 501(c)(3) classification are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to influence elections to public office. (And NMB has not done this since the platforms were listed in a non-partisan manner.) Public charities (but not private foundations) are permitted to conduct a limited amount of lobbying to influence legislation. Although the law states that “no substantial part” of a public charity’s activities may be devoted to lobbying, charities with very large budgets may lawfully expend a million dollars (under the “expenditure” test) or more (under the “substantial part” test) per year on lobbying.

    All 501(c)(3) organizations are also permitted to educate individuals about issues, or fund research that supports their political position without overtly advocating for a position on a specific bill. (Carl’s blog fits precisely within these guidelines.)

    I would encourage NMB not to be intimidated into silence about issues like public arts funding. Articles and blogs on that topic fit squarely within the educational and research functions allowed charities and foundations involved with the arts.

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

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  16. carlstone

    cbakalian@copper.net writes:

    What the bleeping crap does Carl’s babbling mind, wandering through his most frivolous thoughts about writing music on a plane have to do with serving the new music scene. In an era of utter cultural apathy, and era in america where music understanding has been eclipsed by most other forms of artistic expression, why, please tell me why, does this freakin web site persist.

    For me, the far more gripping, even intriguing question is why, if the AMC and this blog are so without merit, you continue to read it, let alone post to it.

    To eveyone:
    My previous post on arts funding and politics was indeed removed because in the opinion of the Center staff it may have indeed violated current 501(c)3 regulations. This is not to be confused with having been judged to be in violation, only that it MAY have been in violation, and is being further reviewed. Frankly no one was more astounded than I when the staff of the Center decided ito pull it pending further review and consultation with the law. Contrary to any assertions by anyone commenting here, I was not endorsing, nor did I intend to endorse anyone, and I don’t believe that a fair reading of my post would consider it partisan.Meanwhile I have requested that once this is cleared up that AMC provide clear guidelines to its columnists about what is and is not in violation of the law. I have also looked at the IRS’s publication about election year activities by 501(c)3 non-profits. You all may want to take a look yourself, at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=154712,00.html.

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  17. fred frith

    I have just responded to Carl privately, but since William brings it up, please understand that the tone of my last posting was certainly not intended to “judge” New Music Box’s Chatter section. I am completely unqualified to do so since I have not been actively reading it since the format changed a few years ago. I’m sure that the pages have been full of erudition and activism, as they always were. My reaction was one of outright laughter that the one time I go to the site and read a blog and respond to it, the first mail I read afterwards (though not a response to mine as far as I can tell) was so over the top.

    Which reminded me of why I stopped visiting the NMB site – the dialogue on any given day back then basically consisted of interesting and even useful discussions slowly being swamped by personal agenda-driven off-the-wall reactions from egotists whose only reason to be there was because it’s the only time anyone actually takes any notice of them, which is what they feed off. And that seems to be very hard to change, and becomes eventually too wearisome to want to spend precious time wading through it. Hope that’s not too harsh an assessment? And maybe this time it was just a funny coincidence.


    In any case my usual reaction to the blogosphere is “who has the time to do this day after day after day?” I don’t. But thanks for your kind words. If I do think of anything that could live up to them I won’t hesitate!

    Reply
  18. William Osborne

    Your explanation makes perfect sense, Fred. I remember the discussion in that old format. It was truly ridiculous – even appalling. After the new format was installed there was hardly any discussion for about a year or so. It is building up again, and in my subjective view, the level is fairly acceptable by Internet standards. The largest limiting factor is that only a small number of people send in the large majority of posts. Fortunately, some are good writers with interesting thoughts. The participation of women is very low, but I think that might eventually change too. It is very helpful when a respected voice such as yours reminds us to keep things intelligent and fair. So you have already lent a hand – so to speak. Please drop in now and then.

    And thanks Carl. It’s nice to know that the funding blog was indeed removed, and why. I wonder if it might be an example of how much fear we artists live in. Or are my views too cynical?

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

    Reply
  19. William Osborne

    Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. It has offices in Washington, DC and New York, and more than 5,000 organizational and individual members and stakeholders across the country. One of the principle goals of their work is to increase public arts funding.

    Even though they are a non-profit, they have published a strong criticism of President Bush’s FY 2009 Arts and Culture Funding Recommendations.

    The AMC might want to study their response. It illustrates that non-profits can strongly criticize government policy without fear that their funding will be reduced due to a politically partisan view. Take heart. Don’t be unnecessarily fearful.

    The removal of a blog is a serious action concerning free speech and the free exchange of ideas. It should be monitored closely by all AMC members and other musicians. As I said before, the removal itself is probably a far stronger political statement than anything said on the blog. Has the AMC leadership acted prudently? Or did they cave-in too easily? I know those are troubling questions, but maybe they should be considered.

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

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  20. Somebody

    Now, William, I know you think I can’t use big words like distinction, but here I go anyway. There is a big distinction between criticising an incumbent presidential action or executive order(like what a valid organization like American for the Arts), and making lists of presidential candidates up for election. It is the election thing you are not getting. You are reading between the lines, searching for anyway out, a non-profit cannot under and circumstances partake in promoting a political candidate. A list of presidential candidates with McCain at the bottom or discussion of Guiliani as a bully should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, what do presidential candidates have to do with the creation of a community of composers and musicians. But lord knows what the NMB NEA grant proposes. And, if the NMB wants to continue along these lines, let them. Perhaps we could hear more about the presidential candidates from NMB staff, or perhaps we could have a couple words from AMC staff about who to vote for. And, perhaps, James Levine can get a grant from the NEA to tell us who to vote for. NEA grants for electoral promotion. Maybe a banner on the front door of MOMA.

    Sincerely,

    Borat

    Reply
  21. philmusic

    “…Which reminded me of why I stopped visiting the NMB site – the dialogue on any given day back then basically consisted of interesting and even useful discussions slowly being swamped by personal agenda-driven off-the-wall reactions from egotists whose only reason to be there was because it’s the only time anyone actually takes any notice of them, …”

    I’m afraid I’m beginning to agree.

    Phil Fried

    Reply
  22. philmusic

    I find traveling distracting so I don’t compose when I travel. On the other hand I can Orchestrate, correct parts (Some times I have too), or study scores when I travel.

    Phil Fried

    Phil’s page

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  23. William Osborne

    I’m sorry, Craig, but since you are responsible for having a very useful blog and about 30 commentaries to it disappeared I am not going to respond to anymore of your posts. I was one of the very few who tried to engage you in reasonable dialog, but you are harmful to this community. Attempts to talk to you only give you a forum for more sadistic and paranoid destruction.

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

    Reply
  24. jigsawmusic

    uh-oh, looks like someone is off their meds again…

    hooray for you, william! nmb friends, please don’t let the horrible, adversarial attitude of one angry person keep you from reading.

    thanks for your post, carl. i’m always trying to make my slowish composing process more efficient, and although i’m not much good at composing brand new material on airplanes yet, it is indeed a useful time for editing, part extraction, arranging, idea-formulating, etc.

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  25. dalgas

    I’ve composed a very long time now with recorded sounds; often in living rooms, downtown, places where with constant traffice noise, garbage trucks, ambulances, the dishwasher & dryer… None of it seems to matter; my ear is focused on the sounds I’m working with, and unless the extraneous stuff is *really* strident and irregular, I don’t have any problem picking up on even tiny details in the stuff I’m working with. Focus, focus…

    Steve Layton

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  26. William Osborne

    I am deeply concerned about the removal from the NewMusicBox archives of Carl Stone’s blog about the stance of the Presidential candidates on public arts funding. The many extensive, highly informative, and well-documented commentaries that followed the blog were also removed. The ostensible reason given for the removal is that the blog might have broken laws that forbid campaign intervention by non-profit organizations.

    It is highly questionable that the blog contained any significant improprieties. Carl Stone informed the NewMusicBox readers that he was “astounded” when the blog was pulled. He added, “…I was not endorsing, nor did I intend to endorse anyone, and I don’t believe that a fair reading of my post would consider it partisan.”

    Above all, the removal was enacted with some questionable editorial practices. No notice or reasons were given. The blog and the many extensive comments that followed simply vanished. At the very least, the blog should have been replaced with a short statement about why it had been removed, the specific issues involved, and information about when it might be returned to the archives if it were found that no rules had been broken. Instead, its removal was belatedly acknowledged only after several comments to the NMB Chatter section asking where it was. It appears that the NMB staff wanted to spirit the blog away hoping no one would notice.

    It is also unlikely that the blog broke any laws, and especially unlikely that the blog would have had negative consequences for the American Music Center. The two issues raised were that the candidate’s platforms on public arts funding were listed in a top-down order, and that a criticism was made of Rudi Giuliani for attempting to intervene in a New York museum’s exhibit. In reality, the top-down order could not be avoided due to the way the website is formatted, and no bias was indicated in the order. (Even lists in voting booths often have a top-down order.) And Rudi Giuliani had already withdrawn from the Presidential race before the blog was even written. Since he was not even a candidate, criticizing him cannot be construed as campaign intervention. It should also be stressed that the IRS specifically mentions that non-biased voter guides are acceptable.

    The positions of the candidates on arts funding were taken almost verbatim from their respective websites. The platforms were not re-structured or re-worded in any manner that might be construed as bias. And all of the viable candidates had their platforms listed, both Republican and Democrat. There was also no statement whatsoever about the American Music Center’s position on public arts funding. Carl Stone said he supports public arts funding, but so do all of the candidates, even if their policies might vary.

    Under these circumstances, one wonders why the AMC chose to remove the blog. When the facts concerning public arts funding are carefully considered, the current policy in the United States almost unavoidably falls into a negative light. These policies were largely shaped, or at least exacerbated, by the American right.

    Is that why the AMC removed the blog and the many very detailed and informative comments that followed it? Are there administrators at the AMC who removed the blog about public arts funding due to their own rightwing political biases? Is this why they have not given us genuinely clear reasons that might justify their actions? Is this why they have not told us, at least approximately, when the blog will be returned to the archives if it is found that it does not break rules concerning non-profits?

    In the end, one thing is certain: The removal of Carl Stone’s blog creates a far more politically biased effect than anything contained in it. Discussion about public arts funding has been silenced with a heavy hand – something that would please many members of the American right. When will the AMC finally explain and justify its actions?

    William Osborne

    http://www.osborne-conant.org

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  27. Colin Holter

    I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know the NMBx policy on deletion at all–how long do files stick around, what does it take for something to be removed prematurely, etc.? It’s not particularly sexy content, but I’d be curious to hear the regulations on these things.

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  28. rtanaka

    I wouldn’t read too much into it, William. In my experience administrative decisions tend to lean towards “better safe than sorry”, so I think its plausible that it was removed just to make sure that nobody can even hint at a violation of the law. Don’t rock the boat!

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  29. robteehan

    At the risk of tooting my own horn, I agree with William that we had some valuable discussions in the now-deleted Arts Funding debate. Perhaps they could be re-posted in an archival format (does such a format exist?) with the controversial first post redacted, if that post is so problematic.

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  30. William Osborne

    Ryan, I think that when such a valuable discussion is deleted on such a flimsy pretext, it probably represents more than an excess of caution. As your studies over the last months have shown, there is often more at work behind the machinations of the art world than we realize. This seems especially true in America these days, where so much seems so politicized. Many artists have been indoctrinated with neo-liberal economic views – which can make their trigger fingers over the “delete” button get a little itchy. And due to the neo-con harassment of our profession (Helms, Gingrich, Guiliani, et al,) many artists live in fear, which can cause them to overreact.

    And you are right, Rob. The discussion was very valuable, especially your contributions. I’ve spent a good bit of time researching arts funding, but you presented very useful, documented materials that that I hadn’t come across, and that are very helpful. (I kept copies of my own posts. Did you keep copies of yours? I might like some of that information again, since it can no longer be accessed on the archive.)

    And you are right, Rob, that there were many more options available than silently deleting the blog and extensive discussion.

    Since I have been an activist for arts funding for some time, I had already sensed that something fishy might happen to that blog. In my last post to it before traveling for several days, I wrote: “I have to be gone until the weekend and can’t continue this discussion. By that time it will be just another muddled memory in Winston Smith’s Orwellian mind.” (Winston Smith is the main character of Orwell’s book 1984.) When I got back, I checked the archives, and sure enough, it was gone. I’m not a prophet. I’m just familiar with some of the things that go on in the music world.

    And yes, the blogs are kept in an archive available to all. Go to the Chatter section and click on “Archives” in the upper left corner. The archives extend from February 2008 back to 2005…er…except for the great blog and discussion about public arts funding.

    William Osborne
    http://www.osborne-conant.org

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  31. rtanaka

    Well you should probably know that if you’re going to make accusations of conspiracy it needs to be backed with solid evidence. (Like your very interesting article on the symphony and women, for example.) Otherwise I think you tend to end up looking a bit accusatory.

    While the deletion of the post did erase a lot of good information, I think that in terms of controversy, there are a lot of threads still out there that are probably more elicit. Despite some differences in opinion, I think that for the most part this place is fairly well moderated and I haven’t felt particularly oppressed. It seems more like a typical administrative decision rather than a conspiracy, at least to me. (If one feels that something important was lost, then its probably worth repeating it elsewhere as well.)

    Maybe we should get back onto topic. I’m not the best writer in the world but I tend to like to write a lot…and I usually find that after writing an article or essay of some sort, it gives me either a concept, statement, or a frame of mind needed to organize the music. My music tends to focus on human relationships so they tend to have a conversatory feel — so these discussions here also help to facilitate ideas.

    Can’t say that I’m very good at writing while on the road, though. I’m still a bit attached to the romantic idea of the composer locking themselves in a room for extended periods of time.

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  32. William Osborne

    You are exactly right, Ryan, my concerns are a suspicion without proof, but in some respects that is exactly the point. If a significant discussion about a somewhat controversial topic is going to be deleted, it needs to be done in a proper manner or serious suspicions are raised – whether proof is possible or not. As I outlined above, the information shouldn’t just disappear. There should be a notice about why it had been removed, the specific issues involved, and information about when it might be returned to the archives if it were found that no rules had been broken.

    So far, the only information we have is from Carl, who was not involved in the decision, and who does not agree with it. The information is also very incomplete. In this regard, I think suspicion and protest are in order. With divisive issues like this, good faith is not enough. We need explanation.

    William Osborne

    Reply
  33. Chris Becker

    “In this regard, I think suspicion and protest are in order.”

    Then call or write to the AMC, William. You’re making the AMC sound like the White House – like you won’t be able to speak to anyone about this concern – which is silly. I just visited their office yesterday.

    It’s not that I don’t think your points aren’t important, but why post the same protest over and over again ruining what was a fun conversation?

    Reply
  34. carlstone

    William, I need to make clear what I agree and disagree with. First of all, I did disagree with any assertion that I was promoting or endorsing a particular political candidate, and had objected to my column being pulled if it was for that reason. But after further looking into IRS guidelines, consulting with AMC staff, and being privy to the opinions of their legal counsel, which is that the whole matter is at best grey, I agree with them that yes, it is better to err on the side of caution and remove the post.

    Reply
  35. William Osborne

    Thanks, Carl. The last we heard was that it had been pulled and that you were astounded, which I took as meaning you were disagreed. Anyway, the AMC responded and I think it resolves many of the questions I had. It was not so much the deletion as the manner of deletion that troubled me. Chris, thank you for your thoughts. I think I respond to most of your points on the new thread about the deletion.

    William Osborne

    Reply
  36. sniggleron

    Is if AMC would choose to delete the funding discussion, why won’t they ban Craig Bakalian from posting? I think that would be a more constructive use of board moderation.

    That being said, while I will try to work where ever I am, I can’t say I do my best work while sitting in an oxygen-deprived, germ infested tin can 40,000 feet above the ground.

    Reply
  37. rtanaka

    Although the interestingly, this incident might highlight part of the reason why the art world tends to be adverse about talking about politics — its built into the funding system itself.

    I guess it makes sense that a lot of politically oriented works eventually migrated to Hollywood or through private funding in order to survive. Sort of ironic, even.

    Reply
  38. William Osborne

    Ryan, why do you say the art world is adverse to discussing politics? Is that a subjective observation, or do you have some data at hand? As a whole, artists seem more political to me than most people, so I am wondering.

    And considering major events such as the purges of Hollywood by the McCarthyites, has it really been a place of free political expression? After films like Modern Times and The Great Dictator even Charley Chaplin was persecuted. He finally had to leave the country and live in Switzerland. He is only one of hundreds of important artists who were hounded out of their professions. Hasn’t Hollywood replaced theater as a political forum largely because we have so few spoken-word theaters left? Are there not considerable restraints on the types of political art Hollywood can create and market?

    Maybe the problem is that classical musicians have been afraid to be political for so long that they have lost the ability to create political art. Aaron Copland, an AMC founder, was hauled before the HUAC hearings. Some claim he was never the same after that. Could it be that classical musicians have lost the necessary traditions and cultural infrastructure for creating and presenting political art on any significant scale?

    (I think this discussion would best be moved to the new blog about the deletion. It is off topic here. On the other hand, at this point it seems moot to worry about it.)

    William Osborne

    Reply

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