Articles

Judged By Its Cover

Batman: comic sans

An album of music begins at track one, but you start setting the scene long before this. Most musicians have some sort of a plan in mind for their next album. That plan should already include the cover. In this article, I’ll tell you why it matters and how to avoid screwing it up.

The Second Performance and Beyond

How a piece goes from a perhaps uneventful premiere to even somewhat standard repertoire is the new music million dollar question. But one thing seems certain: There has to be a second performance.

I’m a Trans Composer. What the Hell Does That Mean?

In the last few months, there have been a number of highly circulated articles about women and contemporary classical music. Reading all these articles got me thinking about the role that gender plays in my own musical life. So here are some thoughts on what it’s like to be a composer on the trans-female spectrum in the early 21st century.

Shape Notes, Billings, and American Modernisms

From Charles Seeger to his contemporaries William Schuman and Henry Cowell in the 1940s, through John Cage and William Duckworth in the 1970s and 1980s, to young composers like David T. Little and Gabriel Kahane today, the American shape-note tradition has been a steady source for reexamination and inspiration.

Acknowledging the Rhino: Talking Art In a Capitalist World

With my antennae more or less permanently oriented toward music and the arts, the defining mood of this year’s commencement season has been realism. This is a year in which, it seems, society is determined not to let students of the arts out into the world without making sure they’re painfully aware of what awaits them.

My Bill Evans Problem–Jaded Visions of Jazz and Race

Throughout my life, it had been drilled into me that jazz was created by blacks and represented the apex of African-American musical civilization. Against that historical backdrop, I also practiced a form of racial profiling of musicians. To like a “white sound,” or worse, a white musician who “sounded black,” was cultural treason. But jazz at the beginning of the 21st century is appropriately black, brown, and beige.

Faithfully Re-presenting the Outside World

One seemingly unresolved issue in the realm of field recordings is the tension between authenticity and abstraction. One can view an artist’s work with “the field” as existing somewhere between these two different, though not mutually exclusive, concerns.

Ageism in Composer Opportunities

Discrimination against someone of the “wrong” color, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation is generally frowned upon in modern society. But progress is still needed in the area of discrimination on the basis of a person’s age and ageism is very much alive in the emerging composer arena. In short, once you get to a certain age, you’re considered too old to tango.

Eight Waves a Composer Will Ride in This Century

I am strangely optimistic right now, at least for art, despite the enormous challenges we face as a species. Part of the reason is that I feel the forces that I’ll enumerate are in fact moving us towards a sort of new “common practice,” one that is far more diverse and comprehensive.

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