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.
How would you feel if you heard your own or a colleague’s music mashed up with the latest Katy Perry or Kendrick Lamar track? Can you envision yourself video conferencing with a group of elementary school or university students who recently posted video clips of themselves discussing new music on YouTube or who admitted that they would like to try transforming a piece from the genre into electronic dance music? These questions hint towards possibilities that some may find problematic and that others may consider appropriate and beneficial for new music, musicians, and students.
Fresh learning methods have opened up exciting possibilities when it comes to advancing music education and introducing new ears to new work, so this week (September 23-27) we’ve invited our regular contributors plus some special guests to each pick up a thread in this huge concept and tell us about a piece of this story that’s important to them.
The potential to link sound to food, scent, and the tactile sensations of the mouth creates an entirely new field of sensory interplay, which may be harnessed to a wide range of expressive ends. Approaches include theatrical narrative structures that might tell a story, spatial or landscape meditations that might resemble a sound installation, and ritual events such as a Passover Seder or a wedding ceremony.
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.
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.
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.
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.