Keeping Focused

A response to last week’s column concluded with the following statements:

Is it even possible for any one person to get a full overview of the true depth and breadth of contemporary music in America? There seem too many good composers working today, and too much superb music being produced, for one person to hear it all, or even a significant fraction of it.

These questions sounded very familiar to me because they were some of the many questions I was asking myself when I decided to begin this composer-interview project. Inherent in the response are several points that I feel are important to understanding my project and in many ways the world we live in as creators, performers, and audiences.

There are a lot of very good composers working today, and there are many reasons why this is so. One could bemoan how this fact makes it more difficult for composers to be heard, or for a listener to sift through the chaff to find their own wheat, but I prefer to see this as a positive step forward. The very make-up of our country’s populace has changed quite drastically over time, and we need to have a broad spectrum of artists to reflect that change. The limitations that stifled and forbade in the past are all but gone, and we cannot trust in the exalted few to lead by example.

It is therefore necessary to celebrate the diversity of creative artists today by bringing attention to as many as possible with the hope that through that sample, one can discover a great many more. As I mentioned last week, there are online resources that exist that do a great job at doing just that. However, if we attempted to focus on every niche of our rich art, it would become a fool’s errand very quickly. Therefore I have had to make decisions in my own project that necessitated the selection of a handful of composers that would give the reader a healthy sense of both the breadth and the depth of the world of composers in the 21st century without becoming overwhelmed.

Is it possible to get a full overview of the true depth and breadth of contemporary music in America? At one point in our history (probably a couple of hundred years ago). In today’s culture, it is not—and that’s okay. Encapsulating the entirety of our existence as a people here is not as important as allowing others to imagine a new life through creation and reflection.

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