Great Expectations: The Composer’s Progress

compass

There are a number of composers who don’t conform to the traditional model, and the truth is that there really is no typical career trajectory for a composer. The only way to navigate a career as a composer, I have found, is to be prepared for anything.

Rethinking How We Teach Composition, Part 1

Mirar graph

Teaching composition requires a balance between the student and the teacher; between the micro and the macro. The strategy includes the teacher’s understanding of the creative process, the student’s reflection on that process, and a design of individually tailored tasks for the student—a set of activities mutually agreed upon. Constant shifting between the big picture and the small steps is critical.

Kamala Sankaram: Being One with the Performance

kamala-nmbxslide

Like many music makers of her generation, Kamala Sankaram creates and performs work which is an amalgamation of a wide range of musical traditions. But at the root of everything she does, there is usually a strong sense of narrative. Most recently, she took on the most vaunted form of “dramma per musica”—opera—with Thumbprint, which was one of the highlights of the 2014 Prototype Festival.

Sounds Heard: Big Robot

Big Robot

Viewing last year’s self-titled DVD from Indianapolis “computer-acoustic trio” Big Robot is an exercise in forbearance. The DVD includes six audiovisual pieces, the last of which is divided into three movements; all of this material works by suggesting and then withholding, cannily but almost ceaselessly, the formal and rhetorical identifications, explicit visual and auditory referents, and narrative connections that, by the end of the DVD, we’re made to crave.

Art in the Age: Going for (more than) a Song

Claire Chase performing Philip Glass's Piece in the Shape of a Square

We have to view concert presentations as much more than just about music. Whether it is through the use of lighting or video projections, choreography, or unusual staging, presenters and performers no longer have the option of trusting the music—however innovative or unusual—to be the sole draw for their audience.

Very Modern Love Songs: Your Weird, Steamy Playlist for V-Day

candy heart

Valentine’s Day is here, and for contemporary music enthusiasts, it can be hard to compile the proper playlist. From openhearted to kinky, we’ve got some pretty wide-ranging ideas of what romance is. Without further ado, here’s your 2014 playlist of avant-garde baby-makin’ music.

Framing Your Voice, Part 2

Mara Gibson Inspiration Board

I have encountered many personalities who have shaped the composer I am, but the most distinct memories are from my interactions with two very different composers during the summer of 1998 at Darmstadt: Helmut Lachenmann and György Kurtág.

Fair Trade for Sheet Music

Deep Sea Food Chain

In a world that increasingly relies on the economy of free, it’s important to establish that some things aren’t free, and in fact have an actual dollar value associated with them. I sincerely believe that we, as a society, can’t claim to value something—be it an object, a service, or our culture in general—if we refuse to ascribe an actual price to it or to some part of it.

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