Classical music publisher Universal Edition has partnered with the artist management firm Double M Arts and Events to support, publish, and present the works of contemporary composers that stretch conventional publishing and performance boundaries.
UE President Robert Thompson explains that traditionally, publishing has been limited to what was printable. That seems reasonable until you consider works that utilize sounds not traditionally notated or tapes and video. “Anything that didn’t conform to the norm of a typical 30-minute piece for orchestra, we didn’t know what to do with it,” he says. But at this point “there are a lot of composers who are working in multimedia, composers like Mikel Rouse, Osvaldo Golijov, Philip Glass, John Adams, Steve Reich, whose music doesn’t always come alive on the printed page.” In addition, Thompson explains, many composers are now creating works around unusual instruments or for specific performers. “These are not works you can just send out a score and parts to, so a publisher’s role is somewhat limited in that context. Whereas by combining the best of what a artist management company does with what a publisher does, we can offer the composer much more flexibility.”
Michael Mushalla, president of Double M, and Sue Knussen, formerly education director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, have been appointed artist and promotions representatives for UE. Mary Anne Lewis, executive director of the North Central Louisiana Arts Council, has been named project developer. As such, she will provide grant writing and project development support to artists and composers on the Universal and Double M rosters.
The idea for the partnership, Thompson explains, was born from his experiences producing Golijov’s La Pasión Según San Marcos for the Bach Academy in Stuttgart. Since the project relies on specialized performers, he began to wonder what would happen to the work after its initial performances. He found his answer in Michael Mushalla.
Mushalla was so moved by the piece that he approached Thompson about producing a touring production. The partnership evolved from there. “Our initial contact was just about working on that piece and it was through our time together that we talked about forming a strategic partnership, because we saw how all our activities were dovetailing,” Mushalla explains. As a result of their work, Golijov’s Pasión begins a three-week tour in October 2002 and future projects are already in the planning stages. Since the New York offices of both companies are jointly housed, Thompson says they’ve been able to work very closely, sharing ideas and brainstorming with artists.
Working with an artist management company such as Double M, Thompson says, “allows us much more flexibility in responding to the needs of the composer, so we become kind of the producer. We’re always going to be a traditional publisher, but I think this is something that we’re interested in developing. It’s an exciting area of the business.”
Enthused about the kind of projects the partnership will foster, Mushalla says that fundamentally it represents “a real commitment to new work” on the part of everyone involved. “It seems like the perfect opportunity to bring really exciting artists together and try to get their work [performed] around the world." The partnership, he notes, will also help secure funding for the projects. “I think what we’re trying to do here is give the artists an opportunity to dream about what it is they’d want to do if given absolute carte blanche, establish a structure where we can make it possible for them to realize their creative wishes. That’s the long-term goal, and that sounds a little warm and fuzzy, but in fact that is the mission.”
In other news, Thompson reports that a partnership with Net4Music to distribute Universal’s catalog on the Internet continues to move forward. The music will be distributed as encrypted Adobe Acrobat files. That was appealing to Universal, Thompson says, because the Acrobat software is popular worldwide and Universal was confident the encryption technology was capable of protecting the music copyright.
“I don’t know that there are a lot of people out there downloading music, but I think in certain cases it fulfills a function,” Thompson says, whether students are using the music for lessons or conductors are using the service to peruse new scores.
In addition, he illustrates that UE has 6,500 works in print, but another 2,000 out of print. Net4Music will allow uninterrupted access to the entire catalog and ultimately “musicians will have a greater library of music from which to program.”