The 800-pound gorilla in the room is how popular culture is determined and disseminated. Not so long ago, composers ranging from Igor Stravinsky to Thelonious Monk graced the cover of Time magazine. John Cage even appeared on nationally broadcast television programs. Yet it seems like a pipe dream for anyone other than a million-dollar-grossing pop star to get similar attention now. Why?
Composing music is usually a solitary act, but Conrad Cummings is by nature a very sociable person. This has drawn him into some of the most fascinating collaborative projects such as Photo-Op created with the painter James Siena and The Golden Gate based on a novel in sonnets by Vikram Seth.
While Beata Moon eschews conforming to any particular compositional camp, generous melodicism and unusual metrical patterns have been a hallmark of her music since she veered away from her rigorous training as a concert pianist and began composing in her late 20s.
My response to reading all of the diatribes against 2012 Nobel Laurate Mo Yan has been to go out and buy some of his books and start reading them. I’m totally smitten, but also reminded of a key difference between literature, which is all about what the words mean, and music, which, by its nature, is inevitably ambiguous.
Making sure all the elements in a piece of music fit seamlessly together is extraordinarily pleasurable, akin to the delight of completing an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, solving a Rubik’s Cube, or (as I can only imagine since I’m terrified of needles) knitting a scarf or a sweater. Coming to the conclusion of such a process, when everything seems to be all lined up correctly, is somehow its own satisfaction.
According to Adrian Hamilton, the emerging visual artists are more concerned with “craft and their ambitions to become professional” than with “being revolutionary.” I’ve heard the exact same comment made about many millennial composers. But such assertions are difficult to corroborate since determining whether something is “revolutionary” or “reactionary” at this juncture is as subjective an undertaking as determining whether something is “beautiful.”
While much of 21st-century contemporary composition is not beholden to any rules, to the extent that I could probably claim everyone to be an “outsider” in some ways, Bono’s music sounds as though everything he writes is something he is discovering for the very first time.
The Grawemeyer has yet to be as widely an acknowledged accolade—even among new music aficionados—as other honors like the annual Pulitzer Prize. Did your morning newspaper (those of you who still read such things) run a story on the Grawemeyer Award this morning?
Last week I attempted to fill the ears of an international guest with live new American music almost every night in as many formats as possible given the limited time of his visit. On his docket were performances by a chorus, a jazz quartet, indie rock bands, and several different chamber groups.
Many years ago I remember John Corigliano giving a speech in which he compared classical music cognoscenti who catalog the minutiae of interpretive deviations to wine snobs who spent all their time contrasting various vintages of high-end bottlings of the same wine grapes.