What was your biggest musical challenge of 2013? What was your favorite record, or favorite thing to listen to, this year? What are you most looking forward to in 2014? Seven Chicago musicians share the best of the year that was and prepare for the challenges ahead.
I can’t help but feel the need to explore the possibilities, if for no other reason than to find a solid balance between a focused understanding of today’s new music and a broad accessibility to as many creative artists as possible, irrespective of style, locale, or pedigree.
I can’t remember exactly when I first became interested in musical drones. It was like a switch—one day I didn’t get it, the next I couldn’t get enough of it. The trouble comes when I try to integrate or incorporate this music into my usual modes of listening or composing.
Claiming that we don’t care if our music is heard, engaged with, deeply felt is what—most of all—is shrinking audiences for contemporary music. It’s a pernicious idea that contemporary music can only succeed if it bets against itself and pretends that losing was really winning all along.
It’s difficult to stand anywhere near composer and vocalist Lisa Bielawa and not feel energized by proximity. An extrovert to the core, she acknowledges that her highly social nature has taken her in some specific directions both as a composer and as a musical citizen.
We’ve come to the boxes on the calendar when everything seems to grind down to a murmur, even in the era where the arbiters of the zeitgeist say that we want to and are supposed to remain connected 24/7/365 thanks to the miracle of digital technology.
Thank baby Jesus for Weirdo Records. And not just for the Monday concert series (called, unsentimentally, “The Series on Mondays”), although the December 16 installment was the occasion for this particular redemption. An unusually paltry three-person audience—Sawyer, Michael Rosenstein (another Boston-area modular synth guru), and an interloper, me—was transformed by the tight quarters into something respectable; the music made its own multitude.
Not all of the songs that comprise the canon of Christmas carols are unrewarding vehicles for musically creative collaborations, but most need at least a re-harmonization in order for jazz musicians to improvise intelligently on them. Why are these examples of the tribute our society pays to redemption so devoid of musical excitement?
At the annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago, thousands of pre-college and college students, educators, and professionals create a massive scrum of lanyards, tote bags, free CD’s, fried food, and—most importantly for composers—networking opportunities.
Chicago-based composer Carolyn O’Brien’s path to becoming a composer wasn’t a typical one. She taught in public schools for ten years before she took her first composition lesson at 32, disappointed with the contemporary music repertoire for public school students and imagining she might create music for that medium. She’s now is a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University