I often feel that without a detailed study of our music we become lost but, even worse, with only a detailed study of our music we become boring. Embracing a more complicated visceral living through firsthand experiences and outside fields can lead us to unexpected ends. I hope we use our music to examine these living ideas, adding to our cultural knowledge along the way.
The music of Chicago-based Janice Misurell-Mitchell seamlessly weaves elements from high modernism with jazz, Latin, blues, and even funk into an amalgam that is completely its own thing. Vanishing Points, the second retrospective disc of her music, collects six of her chamber music compositions spanning four decades.
In 1988, I arrived in the US ready to start a career as a jazz musician. So my boyfriend (now husband for over 20 years) Peter Kienle and I formed a fusion group with a bassist and drummer from the University of Alabama where I was completing a master’s degree. But one day during rehearsals, I noticed that the bassist didn’t address his questions about my charts to me, but rather to Peter.
Part of why Marc Neikrug’s compositions have attracted the attention of so many high-profile soloists is that for many years he was a member of that exclusive club himself—a concert pianist who performed standard repertoire with Pinchas Zukerman in most of the world’s major concert halls. Yet for that reason his music hasn’t always been immediately embraced by the new music community. But he’s perfectly O.K. with that.
We still have a long way to go in terms of shifting the model of what a composition teacher can provide. First, we must address the master/apprentice mentality. I propose we to do this by continuing to allow more inquisitive learning to take place alongside modeling. Secondly, we desperately need to openly and pragmatically identify the inherent challenges of gender in composition.