I am continually struck by the fleeting nature of a musical performance relative to the amount of human labor involved in making a single performance happen. With artists who produce a physical product such as a book or a painting, there arrives a point at which the thing is done and can be directly experienced by nearly anyone from that point on. But in the time-based medium of music, there always has to be that additional layer of translation in linear time.
As of late, much contemporary opera has been reducing its footprint by relying on smaller forces for performance and documentation. Darkling, with music by Stefan Weisman and libretto by poet Anna Rabinowitz, is one such example of an opera that packs a punch even though served in a relatively small container.
A thoughtful blog post by composer Daniel Wolf addressing the concept of “public” spaces (which, as he points out, are not actually as accessible as one might suppose) has got my brain churning about musical performance in unrestricted places. By that, I mean the sort of place where unsuspecting folks would happen upon a musical performance (or whatever sort of performance) and pause to check it out, or run away screaming, or… well something.
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.
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.