We must see ourselves as collaborators within a much wider network of musicians and citizens, helping each other as best we can—be it through something as complex as presenting performances or something as simple as sharing each other’s work on social media—regardless of personal payoff.
Music makers must place a high priority on and devote precious resources to being effectively present in this general music marketplace—to being where music fans are, so that those who are interested in what’s available can find and enjoy it.
What distinguishes a good teacher from a great one? The most successful atmosphere for the student and teacher exists when both parties are thinking, creating and being stimulated by one another’s ideas and artistic solutions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.