In this article, I want to expand quality into agency—a thing can only advocate for itself if it can speak. Quality means empowerment–and it requires care.
To me, the weird division of labor between composing works and playing concerts puts musicians in a difficult position. Performers have become new music’s coerced mouthpiece of accountability. The student summer festival provides the clearest case study for this skewed power dynamic.
If one wants contemporary music to remain in the academy, how do we take its social behavior and make it contrarian, vital? How can we combat the characteristically academic forms of racism, sexism, and other discriminating obstacles to thought and speech? And if one wants to find it a new home, where can it go?
It seems like the entire audience problem debate stubbornly looks outward, asking questions about marketing, “outreach,” and accessibility, all the while carefully avoiding some seriously necessary self-examination. Instead of an audience problem, I think new music has a quality problem.