The past few weeks have demonstrated that there are discussions—good, meat-on-the-bone discussions—to be had about contemporary concert music and the creative artists whose work is so important to our cultures and aesthetic well being. That the recent conversations about bringing attention to composers with lists both big and small have induced such passionate reactions and dialogues only proves how vital these debates are. I very much appreciate the many varied and disparate viewpoints that have percolated through the comment threads of both columns, and recognize their value in staving off complacency as well as reevaluating one’s own observations and conclusions.
So…where do we go from here? As interesting as the previous exchanges have been, they only scratch the surface of what can be done to gain a better self-knowledge of who we are as a music community and ultimately expand our audiences and their appreciation of our work. While conversations between composers can be both useful and fruitful, we should not forget to address those who are not composers themselves or who are not intimately aware of the new music community. It is my hope, then, that we can find ways to introduce who we are and what we do to others in a way that is simple, educational, and enticing.
One quote from the comments section of my column last week brought me up short:
Being somewhat jaded from decades as a musician and manager, and in no way a great admirer of contemporary music. I was very positively surprised when I listened to Lisa Bielawa’s double violin concerto and Corey Dargel’s piece.
There may be hope for contemporary music yet!
Appearing as it did right in the middle of some pretty energetic debate, this reader’s reaction effectively encapsulated the point of the column—to introduce composers and works to those who were unaware of them with the hope that they would want to learn more. This individual did not like new music and yet was not only reading an article on NewMusicBox but seemed willing to listen to the audio files on the off-chance they were to his liking. Much in the same way that Drew McManus’s Adapstration site promotes “Take a Friend to the Orchestra,” we can find ways to bring those new to our field to the table, make them comfortable with taking risks, and allowing our own enthusiasms to spread in non-traditional ways.
In addition to inviting in new audiences, expanding our own discourses to bring together artists from across the aesthetic and artistic spectrum should be a constant priority. While we can’t expect every project to be all-inclusive, we as a community can strive to make sure our colleagues are aware of who’s out there and what new contributions are being made to our art. A great post by Jennie Gottschalk on her blog Sound Expanse made several cogent points to this end and made me wonder what more can be done to actively and enthusiastically increase our own awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of those artists who may differ from us in their language, process, and aesthetic.
In some ways, new music (however one might define such a thing) has been able to reach much further than before, and as the Internet and social media have evolved, so has the access to live and studio recordings, scores, and in many cases the composers themselves. This increased access is promising, but if it is not paired with education and awareness, its impact will be severely stunted. It would be great to hear about ideas you have as far as what forms this education and awareness, directed both inwards and externally, could take. I look forward to hearing your constructive ideas in the comments section below.