Complaining Doesn’t Work
I just got back from the Los Angeles area where for the past week I participated in the second ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo. As with the very first expo last year, this three-day early morning-to-late night extravaganza was an amazing coming together of people who make music in every possible sonic manifestation. It was a hotbed for practitioners of urban/hip-hop/R&B as well as country. Composers of film scores and TV commercial jingles sat next to jazzers and rockers of all stripes, from mainstream to experimental. The event even attracted a significant quorum of those of us who write music what we call contemporary (as if those other folks weren’t living amongst us) or classical (as if we weren’t living ourselves).
For a brief all-too-finite period of time we were all one community, albeit one that is defiantly not monolithic, even within individual stylistic paradigms. And many of our long-term aspirations, as well as our immediate needs, seem to be remarkably similar. We all want people to hear our music. None of us seem to have enough time to be making as much music as we’d like. And most of us haven’t yet figured out a way to get the word out as effectively as we’d like in order to reach the potential audience we all believe we deserve. But we all could use some of the same common sense advice which was there in droves. My favorite: “Complaining doesn’t work,” a quip from record producer Dean Serletic, who has worked with alt-rock bands like matchbox twenty and Collective Soul. He could have just as easily been talking about folks trying to get the world to pay attention to their wonderful yet underappreciated string quartet. Don’t wait for somebody to make something happen for you and don’t introduce yourself to folks who can by telling them that no one appreciates you. They won’t either.
That lesson was further driven home by folks there who have achieved remarkable success in almost every genre whom we could interface with and learn from across the genre divides, everyone from Randy Newman and John Rich to Regina Carter and John Corigliano. In the opening session, Corigliano shared his explorations of spatial music with Jermaine Dupri who seemed sincerely interested and wanted to learn more about it. Who knows, maybe Janet Jackson’s next album will utilize 5.1 surround in new and unprecedented ways. Perhaps dancehall beats will start showing up in John’s next composition. Imagine the possibilities. What would happen if all the hip-hop producers started sampling Henry Brant? Stay tuned to the 21st century.