The Midwest Composers Symposium took place this past weekend at Indiana University. Composers from Indiana and the universities of Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan gathered to hear each others’ music, drink, and maintain a tenuous grip on professional courtesy. A few observations:
- Anyone who tells you that the academy is full of avant-gardists, experimentalists, and out-of-touch modernists is a liar. Most of the pieces presented this weekend—particularly those requiring the deployment of large instrumental forces—had more in common with Bartók, Debussy, or Copland than with Lachenmann, Murail, or Babbitt.
- Counterpoint (c. 1200 – c. 2006) is out, apparently. Rest in peace.
- I was surprised by how evenly the ages of the composers of the best pieces (both conventional and progressive) of the weekend were distributed. There was some really excellent music by undergrads as well as graduate students, whose ages tend to scatter more widely.
- I need to start winning some awards. Compared to my peers, my bio is downright anemic. In the meantime, I might tweak some of the language: Perhaps if I’d studied with “world-renowned masters” (to quote one of my colleagues’ bios) rather than just teachers of composition, I’d cast a longer shadow. I’m also not above claiming to have been awarded a Regents Fellowship from the University of Michigan, which is eye-catching on a CV, even if I totally made it up.
- Bloomington, Indiana, is a picturesque, hospitable town, even under a few inches of snow. The weather was rough this weekend; I have to give props to the composers, performers, and professors from Michigan and Iowa, who drove about twice as far as we did to get there.
Before I wrap up, let me take this opportunity to thank Clint Needham, the Indiana student who (in addition to being a fine composer) seems to have been responsible for a great deal of the Symposium’s logistical/organizational legwork. Putting an event like this together is a thankless job, and everybody who went to Bloomington this weekend owes Clint a major hat tip.