I admit I attempted composing for opera long ago as an undergraduate. I remember seeing the Los Angeles Opera’s production of Billy Budd in the late ’90s and then seeing their production of Peter Grimes in the early 2000s, and I was convinced I absolutely had to write an opera.
If one wants contemporary music to remain in the academy, how do we take its social behavior and make it contrarian, vital? How can we combat the characteristically academic forms of racism, sexism, and other discriminating obstacles to thought and speech? And if one wants to find it a new home, where can it go?
Pondering identity-protective cognition “is to stare into a kind of intellectual abyss.” Nevertheless, it is a task that seems particularly worthwhile from time to time if we, as artists, are to truly reflect the—inevitably social—human condition.
When I suggest to undergrads that they should take what is now called a “gap year,” the first question they blurt out is, “What will I do?”
“Get a job,” I say.
It seems like the entire audience problem debate stubbornly looks outward, asking questions about marketing, “outreach,” and accessibility, all the while carefully avoiding some seriously necessary self-examination. Instead of an audience problem, I think new music has a quality problem.
For as much as it stirs the pot when a “serious music” review mentions the soloist’s hem line, it turns out things get even more heated when pop goes under the cold lens of the theoretical magnifying glass.
Lately I’ve been reflecting more and more on how I’ve dealt with rejections and supposed failure as a young composer. Because I now teach at a small liberal arts college, I constantly see and interact with a sea of undergrads. And because of their presence, I am reminded of how I dealt with what I perceived as devastating defeat upon experiencing rejection.
Fluxus and their Event Scores point to our human condition in a way that is wildly dynamic. The score is an invitation, a call to action, and first-hand study and performance of these scores would be healthy for any of us.
For the last article in my series on women in jazz this month, I would like to reflect on a 20th annual series of concerts that we just completed with an eight-piece all female group in celebration of Women’s History Month and to conclude with action steps towards an inclusive future.
I’ve spent much of March travelling around to meet with composers and other people involved in music in different parts of the country. It was a valuable reminder that there is no adequate substitute for direct personal contact with people, plus I learned about some really great music.