About a month after starting my column with NewMusicBox back in early 2011, I discovered that someone was talking about my posts online–on video, no less! Following a link that Google Alerts sent me, I found this likeable group of four graduate students at Michigan State University piled into a large room with laptops, microphones, cameras, and a healthy gift for banter, talking about the Detroit Symphony, Eric Whitacre, Thomas Adès, Karlheinz Stockhausen, the New York Phil, and my article on self-publishing composers. Calling themselves SoundNotion, this was new music’s answer to The McLaughlin Group–arguing and debating each topic, each one had his own distinct, yet complementary personality.
Fast-forward a year and a half and they’re still going strong, having just completed their 75th episode a couple of weeks ago. Over that time they’ve continued to parry back and forth each week over the latest news items, but in addition they have amassed an incredible list of guests who have joined them on a weekly basis–Alex Ross, Jeremy Denk, Augusta Read Thomas, Drew MacManus, Ralph Ferris, Daniel Felsenfeld, Corey Dargel, Kerry Andrew, James Holt, Ken Ueno, Judd Greenstein, Lisa Kaplan, and Meerenai Shim are just a few of the luminaries who have graced the virtual “studios” of SoundNotion. And they have done all of this with no financial or technical assistance whatsoever, a fact which deserves closer attention.
As more composers, performers, academics, and budding journalists have become connected through social media, and as the tools with which to create content online DIY-style have improved, there has been an upsurge in online coverage and discussion of the contemporary concert music community. One can look at the models of existing online new music magazines–NewMusicBox and Sequenza21–and find that there’s still plenty of room out there for endeavors such as SoundNotion. The fact that these four composers–David MacDonald, Sam Merciers, Patrick Gullo, and Nate Bliton–could not only build their own successful online podcast network (which includes three different weekly productions) but do so on a shoestring budget in the middle of one of the many “flyover” regions of the country is not only impressive as hell, but also should serve as a clarion call to the rest of our community.
So now, without further ado, I ask that you watch our interview below. I will tell you that interviewing and being interviewed on Skype can be both awkward and intimidating (especially when you’re conducting the interview in a dorm room at a summer arts camp in northern Michigan like I was), but these guys make it look easy.