The Audience is the Most Important Instrument


Claiming that we don’t care if our music is heard, engaged with, deeply felt is what—most of all—is shrinking audiences for contemporary music. It’s a pernicious idea that contemporary music can only succeed if it bets against itself and pretends that losing was really winning all along.

Sounds Heard: Spektral Quartet—Chambers

Spektral Quartet—Chambers

Now in their fourth season, Spektral Quartet is currently ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago and already a well-known champion of Chicago composers, including the six whose works are featured on the group’s first commercial disc release.

Revise THIS!


Even for those who have the experience and temperament to derive some satisfaction from a well-executed revision, the process of revising definitely sets off different and perhaps less expansive emotions than brainstorming a new, heretofore unimagined composition. What works for you?


Foggy River

The best teachers know that their truer calling is to engage aspects of musical experience that have become familiar and render them unfamiliar again. A great teacher must both illuminate the world for his or her students, and at the same time return parts of the illuminated world to a certain amount of mystery and confusion.

Preparing for Takeoff

While the road of student life does end, it’s only as a runway does: as a necessary path to greater things above and beyond. After spending a great deal of time talking over this particular issue with participants in this summer’s Fresh Inc Festival, I want to share some thoughts on the most important things to keep in mind while transitioning out of student life.

Sounds Heard: Brooklyn Rider—A Walking Fire

Brooklyn Rider thrives in the realm of world music and folk traditions, yet they’ve always sought to tie this impulse into their considerable classical chops—all while at the same time cultivating the ensemble as a kind of composer collective led by violinist/composer Colin Jacobsen.

Manufactured Innocence

I don’t exactly need to point out that Milktape is a preposterous rip-off; savvy consumers could purchase a 20 GB flash drive off of eBay or from discount retailers for about the same price.

Don’t Glom!

In real, human, one-on-one relationships, people don’t want to perform/record/commission your music because they are trying to give you something you want; they decide to take action because doing those things becomes something that they want.

Sounds Heard: Derek Bermel—Canzonas Americanas

This collection of Bermel’s music provides a helpful point of entry for those curious to know just what has made this composer so consistently stand out: his music’s fusion of quasi-minimalist beat-based sensibilities with a dizzying diversity of popular and/or indigenous sound sources from across the globe.


Last week it was finally time to hear my very first piece for wind ensemble premiered at Virginia’s Shenandoah Conservatory, the first of many milestones on my outsider’s journey into the Wide World of Winds.

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