In a crowd, nuance fades away. When the argument is literally framed by a fence in the street, the question of “which side are you on?” can take on a certain stark, if ultimately artificial, clarity.
I’m not saying you can’t hate some pop music; I’m just saying you can’t, in the presence of a practicing postmusicologist, hate on all pop music just because it is popular, disguising elitism as self-pitying pride in new music’s marginalized market position.
People don’t get together and play—and people don’t get together and listen to other people play—because they love composing. They love something else, something inside, around, below, and above themselves. They love…that’s it; they want to love. Even if they don’t know it, they want to love.
Talking about a “postmodern avant-garde” might well seem oxymoronic. But what at first glance appears self-contradictory might, upon closer inspection, disclose itself as a fundamental social tension within new music culture—or, rather, a tension between the ideals of that culture and the material reality of contemporary socio-economic structures.
To get the work, we need to say yes, and to keep the work, we need to produce. But to produce, from what church music has taught me, we need to write faster, rewrite when necessary, and write for the people who actually want new music. If we do, our music will keep getting performed and performed well.
Beware of musicologists bringing hegemonic narratives to discipline the chaos of the contemporary.
The non-professional will be the usual musician in a church environment. So when someone who doesn’t do music for a living appreciates what I attempt to do, that’s a special thrill.
This seems like the perfect venue to take up a challenge laid down by composer-journalist-scholar Kyle Gann, who in 2008 tasked a generation of music historians with having “dropped the ongoing narrative of composed music.”
Our decision to award more small grants is driven by the same underlying principle that has motivated our entire approach to project grants: bringing artists into the public limelight is crucial for a modern-day healthy ecology for new music.
Like many composers, I write orchestral, chamber, and vocal music, for any sort of concert opportunity that comes up, but since I started composing I wrote church music because that’s where I was. In the churches I’ve gone to, that meant writing for choir.