Two performances I attended over the weekend were particularly noteworthy in that they were both devoted exclusively to the music of living American composers and—in both instances—all of the composers were there and spoke to the audience.
We don’t create or ultimately listen to anything in isolation. What we make as well as how we experience what others make is always informed by what is around it.
Eight years ago, Ann Millikan, who was born and bred in California, relocated to Minnesota. While the change has not affected her music per se, it’s completely changed her working process and her sense of community.
Some pieces of music that now seem impossible to perform will be child’s play in the future; others are purposely written that way to create a specific type of interpretation—one that audibly conveys the struggle of getting through it. But then there are pieces that are just unplayable; I might have written one.
While my own personal political views on the recent trial and sentencing of members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot on the charge of “hooliganism” are beyond the scope of this particular publication, which is dedicated exclusively to music, specifically new American music, there might be important musical matters around this particular issue that are worthy of discussion and debate on these pages.
When I encounter, say, someone’s third symphony, my immediate reaction after hearing it (and sometimes even before hearing it), is to seek out that composer’s first and second symphonies. Yet I wouldn’t want to use such a title for one of my own compositions.
Some would argue that it is neurologically impossible to tune yourself out in order to truly perceive someone else’s thoughts. I’m not a scientist so I won’t go there, but nevertheless I will concede that there are other insurmountable limitations which have to do with our own temporal existence.
As I’ve stated before, for me, listening is an act of submission; it’s about tuning myself out in order to experience something else on its own terms to the best of my ability. But this “act of submission” cannot be a selfless one; it requires a desire to do so. It’s voluntary; if it’s involuntary, it doesn’t really work.
Chalk it up to the fact that I grew up in midtown Manhattan, but silences somehow seem unnatural to me since I so rarely have heard them.
Chamber Music America (CMA) has announced the recipients of grants totalling $557,000 which will support the composition of new works and community-based residencies.