Despite an engineer or producer’s best attempts, a new work cannot pass transparently through a DAW; there are always stopgaps, enhancements, deletions, and tweaks being exerted that, I think, fundamentally color the recorded piece as separate from the composer’s instruction and the performer’s execution. This begs the question of how best to characterize the DAW’s everyday impact on our musical world.
I appreciated the rigor and austerity of Stockhausen’s Hymnen and Mantra and some of the Columbia Princeton recordings as a high school senior, but it was Subotnick’s Touch and Sidewinder that provided aesthetic enjoyment. The music was alive, organic in its flowing movement, and—particularly appealing to me—playful.
If you follow the American Composers Orchestra and you stay on top of your composer opportunities, you might have noticed ACO’s most recent Earshot post on Facebook: readings for emerging African-American composers. I was surprised to see some comments that weren’t so positive–comments that reflect some dangerous thinking.
Three years ago, I began a job teaching English as a second language (ESL) at the Boston Conservatory. There were no pre-existing texts for teaching second-language learners to use English to write and speak effectively and naturally about music, so I made my own. Despite success in many aspects of this endeavor, a glaring problem remains: my students have tremendous difficulty with the seemingly simple task of describing a piece of music.
At first glance, the opportunity to take free online courses from some of the country’s most prestigious universities sounds great. But for some educational stakeholders, these classes represent a threat to higher education as we currently know it. So, what are the risks and what are the benefits for the music field?
There is a deep, reverberating echo of history in composer higher education, and a palpable unspoken dialogue between current and past students, faculty, and guest artists. Today I continue to look for new ways to engage with our students, all the while drawing upon the words and wisdom of those who laid the foundation for my own pedagogy.