Blogs

Soul of the Nation

CD pie diagram

The artist Boris Schatz once famously said that “art is the soul of a nation.” Working as a composer and presenter of new music in Washington, D.C., where our business is the nation, I tend to think of this phrase a lot.

What Would Grammys Look Like in a Genre-Less World?

Grammy

Though lip service (if not actual airtime) is given to a whole host of musical traditions from Tejano to bluegrass to opera, Album of the Year and Record of the Year (for a single) are still the most important Grammy awards and are inevitably given to commercial popular music, making all the other awards somehow feel like consolation prizes.

History Of The World

World Chart

My articles for NewMusicBox have addressed borrowed material, relevance, and the politics of cross-cultural influence. For the last article in this series, I’d like to zoom in and talk about how these issues played out in one of my own pieces.

“Sometimes” Music

So screen capture

What I love about the concept of “sometimes music” is that it sidesteps the thorny, problematic, and anachronistic implication that some musical styles are more advanced than others. It allows its advocates to encourage others to tune in, rather than to engage in tedious, insulting dialogues about which kind of music is up or down.

Finding the Right Balance

Jennifer Charles in Angels Bone

The most exciting music being created today is not the product of a single compositional aesthetic or the work of just one segment of the population. But some of us are still recovering from a century of industry-imposed genres. When we do, it will potentially be a paradise for a truly new music.

The Appropriation Problem

Piano

Discussions of cultural appropriation often frame the problem in one of two ways: in terms of cultural property or in terms of what composers are “allowed” to do. Both of these approaches tend to result in the conversation getting sidetracked. Another way of framing things would be to say: music is a kind of social interaction. Denying the social aspect of music-making doesn’t make it stop happening; it just means that when it does happen, you don’t see it.

An Expanding Paradigm

steel drums

When So Percussion started out, we had three prohibitions: no improvisation, no playing our own music, and no hand drums. We’ve since violated all of those rules in spades.

Creative Thinking Biases

Watercolor paints

I’m currently a bit obsessed with the upswing in available information related to creativity that has taken place over the past couple of years. Lately I feel as if the swell has become even larger, with a huge inflow of books and websites devoted to the why and how of creative process and creative thinking. I can’t help but wonder, why is all this material coming out now?

How To Be Culturally Relevant

Sharing ideas

Whenever I hear words like “relevant” or “important,” I always want to ask, “relevant or important to whom?” While I do think the audience for classical music, and new music in particular, could be larger than it currently is, I’m usually pretty skeptical of “cultural relevance” as a concept. But something happened recently that made me reconsider.

Making New (New) Music

So screen capture

There is no substitute for deep mutual trust that is earned over a long period of time, but I believe concrete steps can be taken immediately during the process of commissioning and developing new work to establish a creative bond.

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