What every artist needs is to be paid. But in addition to—or in the absence of—money, what do artists need in a collaboration that others can offer them?
I can’t help but feel the need to explore the possibilities, if for no other reason than to find a solid balance between a focused understanding of today’s new music and a broad accessibility to as many creative artists as possible, irrespective of style, locale, or pedigree.
I can’t remember exactly when I first became interested in musical drones. It was like a switch—one day I didn’t get it, the next I couldn’t get enough of it. The trouble comes when I try to integrate or incorporate this music into my usual modes of listening or composing.
Claiming that we don’t care if our music is heard, engaged with, deeply felt is what—most of all—is shrinking audiences for contemporary music. It’s a pernicious idea that contemporary music can only succeed if it bets against itself and pretends that losing was really winning all along.
We’ve come to the boxes on the calendar when everything seems to grind down to a murmur, even in the era where the arbiters of the zeitgeist say that we want to and are supposed to remain connected 24/7/365 thanks to the miracle of digital technology.
Not all of the songs that comprise the canon of Christmas carols are unrewarding vehicles for musically creative collaborations, but most need at least a re-harmonization in order for jazz musicians to improvise intelligently on them. Why are these examples of the tribute our society pays to redemption so devoid of musical excitement?
At the annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago, thousands of pre-college and college students, educators, and professionals create a massive scrum of lanyards, tote bags, free CD’s, fried food, and—most importantly for composers—networking opportunities.
Between sparse ambience and dense texture are the rhythms we can typically make sense of, and this is the territory that most music explores. But I’m sometimes sympathetic to the modernist mission, the manifest destiny that wants to find new lands. What is the furthest we can go, in either direction, without entering completely inhospitable terrain?
Jim Hall was one of those musicians whose playing changed how American music sounds. His imagination and technical command of the guitar allowed him to rethink and subsequently expand on the traditional approach to the instrument’s fretboard, almost as if he were playing a piano. One could say that Hall was a singular point in the culture of American guitar playing.
“Let the music speak for itself” is a noble concept, but in today’s age of pre-concert talks, grant proposals, and public interaction, running the gauntlet of a composition jury can help to prepare composers for what is to come.