ACF Awarded $1 Million McKnight Grant to Endow innova Label

Philip Blackburn, innova directorPhoto by Nick Trotter Doom and gloom forecasts concerning the state of the classical recording industry are so pervasive they’re cliché, but despite the pessimism the McKnight Foundation has seen it fit to award a $1 million grant to the American Composers Forum to endow its innova Recordings label and Recording Assistance […]

Music Happens

“No matter what we do, sooner or later it all sounds melodic.”—Christian Wolff Despite the best laid plans of composers and performers, music happens. Like life itself, music always involves some degree of indeterminacy. Improvisation, wrong notes, reluctant instruments, failing technology and other messy realities are integral elements of all music. But it wasn’ t […]

Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate? MSgt. Aldo Rafael Forte

MSgt. Aldo Rafael Forte Composer/Arranger for the USAF Heritage of America BandLangley Air Force Base, Virginia To me music is not “just sounds”. Certainly there is a “magic” to the sounds conjured up by composers in their harmonies and tone colors which can be most aurally satisfying on its own. As a composer, communicating with […]

Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate? Alfred V. Fedak

Alfred V. Fedak, photo courtesy Selah Composer, Organist and Minister of Music and the Arts,Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York Music is not just sound, it is organized sound. And composing is nothing more than the act of selecting sounds and organizing them. Even the most aleatoric compositions involve some degree of organization: decisions […]

Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate? Andrew Frank

Andrew Frank, photo courtesy University of California, Davis ProfessorDepartment of MusicUniversity of California, Davis Music is more than “just sounds.” It is a system of sound images and patterns, often very complex, made up of elements which coalesce to make a coherent work of art. Music communicates itself. Listeners’ emotional and intellectual responses to a […]

Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate? Donald Harris

Donald Harris, photo by OSU Photo Services Professor of Composition & TheorySchool of Music, The Ohio State University John Cage Introduction These are questions that might seem appropriate for John Cage to ask, particularly if one is already acquainted with his music and his musical thought. Cage was eager to challenge common understandings. Whether or […]

Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate? Daniel Dorff

Daniel Dorff, Photo by Eiko Fan Some instrumental music is “just sounds” to communicate musical patterns, ranging in style from Haydn to Brahms to Persichetti to Shapey.  Other instrumental music communicates tangible meaning, generally with extra-musical clues, as in Berlioz, Strauss, many recent composers, and Vivaldi‘s Four Seasons. (Vocal music is a different story, since […]

View from the West: The Decline of Radio

Dean SuzukiPhoto by Ryan Suzuki No matter how you slice it, new music is a tough sell. Composers young and old have a difficult time getting commissions and having their works performed. With limited budgets, concerts are often not well publicized and, as an inevitable result, are poorly attended. How then are composers and new […]

View from the East: Is New Music Thriving?

Greg Sandow I’d like to think new music is thriving. Certainly there are reasons for thinking it is. Last year I served on an awards panel for ASCAP; we looked at hundreds of applications from composers all over the country, all of whom were getting performances, many of them from local performing groups. We New […]

Losing Control: Indeterminacy and Improvisation in Music Since 1950

Sabine Randomized by Amanda MacBlane After the Second World War and a period of controlling more and more aspects of performance, many composers rediscovered an old phenomenon: improvisation. At first glance, the word “improvisation,” which has been used since the 14th century, seems to refer to a clear-cut concept—”to compose or simultaneously compose and perform […]