Without a doubt, my favorite new musical activity of the week was browsing the LP bins at Reckless Records in Wicker Park. I know it’s criminal that it’s taken me this long to get to it. But I’ve finally discovered a reason to browse those bins, even though I don’t own a turntable. The staff-written record descriptions, printed on humble adhesive labels and stuck onto the LP’s shrinkwrap, are awesome. Take this description of an Aesop Rock record: “Never really liked this sort of left field Hip Hop, but what stands out to me here is that despite the density of the lyrics and the dark feeling of paranoia, the soundscape has a groove to it.” Or this one: “The kind of dudes you’d expect to see performing at a bowling alley on a Monday night in 1982, playing outdated AM funk, singing unintelligible lyrics to a sad discoball backdrop and a bad teenage makeout session. And they’re totally sincere and it’s the most endearing thing I’ve maybe ever heard.” It’s like having your cool, music-savvy friend stand over your shoulder and give you tips while you shop. Maybe I have room for a turntable after all…and maybe these little labels can teach us a thing or two about how to talk about the “weird” music we’re all working so hard to make.
It was a lot of fun to get some response to my column last week about a national conference devoted to issues and performances in new music. Rob Deemer engaged a few of the potential problems and benefits of my idea, and lots of others piped up in the comments, on Facebook, and in emails to me. Be sure to check out the conversation and contribute to it if you’d like.
There’s a new music-happenings website in Chicago! It’s called chicagomusic.org and it’s a joint venture between scrappy neighborhood organization Elastic Arts and a little corporation called Boeing. The site’s managing editor is Elastic’s Paul Giallorenzo; last year Elastic won a $150,000 grant from Boeing to run the site. Already, chicagomusic.org casts a wide swath— current featured artists include hip-hop groups, improvisers, and a whole page devoted to classical/new music. The page has some great interviews, previews, and other interesting content. We’re excited to see such a vibrant new resource for discovering Chicago artists, and can’t wait to find out what will appear on those pages in the coming months.
While some Chicagoans are headed to New York— Ensemble Dal Niente’s date with Marcos Balter and Deerhoof on the Ecstatic Music Festival is fast approaching—some New Yorkers are also traveling to us. Nadia Sirota is coming to town for a show with the Anubis Quartet on February 11, and ICE, Carla Kilstedt, and Phyllis Chen will play what looks to be a fascinating show on February 17.
Finally, a note of intention. One of the most important issues raised in my entire experience at the Chamber Music America conference occurred during the panel Steve Smith moderated on presenting the work of women composers. The panelists pointed out the abysmally low numbers of women being programmed by major cultural institutions, and then the low numbers of women on the faculty of composition departments, and the low numbers of women in doctoral composition programs. And that’s when Missy Mazzoli talked about perhaps the most important statistic: the number of young women applying—or, more to the point, not applying—to composition programs at all. The giant question in the room seemed to be: What’s happening to young women between the age of 14 and 18? Why are they less likely to see themselves as composers? Are their talents being properly nurtured, encouraged, and developed? It’s a monumentally complex question, and one very dear to my heart. Over the next few months, I’d like to devote some of my NewMusicBox energies to exploring the issue of creativity and confidence in young women. If you have ideas or resources around this question, please share them in the comments.