Posts in Articles
Over the past two years in cities throughout the U.S., groups of people have been gathering, digital music players in hand and headphones in place, to watch the sun rise or set. It must be an odd sight for anyone stumbling across these scenes—25 to 50 people all “plugged in,” intently facing in the direction of the sun. They are all listening to the same music by composer Nat Evans.
Elliott has been a wonderful example of the composer as a knowledgeable, educated person with a broad-based understanding of things. That a composer we respected as a leader would come to a workshop with young students, ask questions that told us what he didn’t know, and take notes, was very impressive. My guess is that at that time in his career, he had achieved a level of self-confidence and comfort with what he was doing musically that allowed him to display without embarrassment what he didn’t know.
I read a lot of commentary about the modern music business, and I’m guessing you do, too. It drives me slightly crazy. Here are ten things I wish people said more often. They don’t represent a blueprint for success or a complete explanation of what’s happening, but I hope they give you a clearer idea of what’s going on and what you might do about it. Here goes…
Every group of people has a different approach to the musical, personal, and organizational challenges of running an ensemble. How does the Spektral Quartet do what they do–namely, learn enormous piles of music and give consistently excellent performances, all while apparently retaining their sanity and continuing to actually like each other?
I realized I would not be able to learn what I wrote, and so I moved on to revising. Was this piece so difficult that saxophonists would not be able to learn it accurately? Or was I, as the performer, not capable of achieving the composer’s vision?
While Joseph C. Phillips Jr.’s music sometimes incorporates improvisation and his ensemble features several prominent jazz musicians, he does not consider himself a jazz composer. An adept multitasker who balances creating music for film, dance, symphonic bands, and his own 25-piece ensemble with teaching music to kindergartners, Phillips creates very clearly 21st-century music—incorporating a broad range of styles while being ultimately beholden to none.
We musicians get a lot of conflicting information about what kind of compensation our work deserves. Too often, the message is that if you’re in it for the money, something’s probably wrong with you.
“Listy” thinking—the notion that anything as elemental and sloppily chaotic as music (or any art, for that matter) can withstand ordering, this-or-that-ing—can be, at best, problematic. The list can take the place of the work much like ideas of the people involved can be easily replaced by received notions. And that represents a danger because when something complicated is easily and quickly understood, the chances are that you are doing something wrong.
When Lembit Beecher was named composer-in-residence with the Opera Company of Philadelphia (in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group of New York) in 2011, he didn’t bring a large portfolio of operatic work with him to the brand new three-year program. An instinct and affection for storytelling, however, already infused his compositions.
Today, advances in internet development, robotics, virtual reality, and social networking usher in with them the next generation of compositional methods. Most of these tools require nothing more than a high-speed connection and a little bit of time to learn and use. The possibilities feel limitless.