Articles by Alexandra Gardner
At NewMusicBox, we receive lots of recordings via snail mail throughout the year. Many of these recordings are commercial releases, but we are also very happy to receive one-off, non-commercial CDs from composers who want us to hear their music. Because there are a multitude of ways to prepare home-baked CDs, I wanted to run through some important things to keep in mind before you drop them in the mail, ensuring that they are easy to handle once they have reached their final destination.
Composers have been dedicating works to performers, commissioners, teachers, and colleagues for ages, but what about music that is not necessarily intended for public performance, such as a lullaby for a newborn?
Garland’s music, which is clear, direct, and refreshingly devoid of self-indulgence or pretension, is engagingly represented in every aspect of this recording.
Although over the years, with patience, tenacity (LOTS of it), and (oh yeah!) the continued production of good music, career things can become easier and flow a bit more freely, the hustle is never really over.
Composer John Harbison says that he is trying to “defeat the idea of style.” That is, he tries to approach every new composition with completely fresh ears and eyes, working with totally new musical material and strategies well apart from anything that preceded it. He possesses a deep understanding of music, but the richness of his music is also a byproduct of his broad interests beyond music—such as poetry and history—as well as his untiring curiosity about the world in which we live.
The seeds for some interesting discussion were planted over the weekend when I mentioned to a couple of composers that I had heard their works performed on a concert in California. They were surprised because they hadn’t been notified about the performances! This happens more often than one might think, and while some consider this a good problem to have, it makes others wonder how much they aren’t collecting in performance royalties.
The nature of long distance musical relationships is not unlike their romantic counterparts—time spent together is fleeting and intense, there is less of a shared daily routine, and extra effort is required to maintain communication during time apart. It’s definitely more complicated than having a musical life primarily in one’s own backyard.
It seems perfectly natural that cellist Matt Haimovitz, who in the very early 21st century moved the Bach cello suites out of the concert hall and into what were at the time “alternative” performance spaces such as bars and nightclubs, would join forces with pianist Christopher O’Riley, who has created his own piano arrangements of songs by Nirvana and Radiohead to name just a few.
I wonder what makes music sound “spooky” to people—is it the instrumentation? The harmonic language? The melodic lines? No one seemss to be able to pinpoint exactly why they experience some music that way, or for that matter, why they don’t.
Composers are very quick to dismiss their “past selves” in the interest of giving what might be considered an accurate impression of the composer as s/he is in the moment. The only problem is that each moment passes so quickly!