Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The Title Pool
I think it does a great job of examining the history of titling in classical music, while summing up many of the concerns that arise when deciding on titles. For the record, I often use punning titles for my work, or titles with multiple meanings. I think it sends the message that I don't take myself too seriously and I have a sense of humor about my work, which is important to the way I think about music. My favorite title I came up with was "Brazen Overtures" for a brass quintet.
Also, here's to continuing to use this blog as a place for music discussion. I'll definitely be checking it every so often and I hope y'all do so as well!
More than anything else, this class has made me aware of how deeply personal music is for each individual--though the need for music as an expressive and communicative tool is absolutely universal, everyone approaches it in a slightly different way, and this makes it all the richer. The myriad of approaches under a single genre, Western classical music, is formidable. This, to me, is the reason why collaboration is critical to developing and extending the art--as humans, we move from dependency (as children), to independence (as adults), and hopefully to interdependence (as collaborators). The progression of music would do well to mirror this evolution, as we create increasingly rich statements.
I may be in the minority in saying that music as an intellectual pursuit is still valid and thriving; I don't see a necessity for simplicity or universality in classical music, because classical music itself is not universal (nor should it attempt to be). In fact, I see divorcing music from its "natural" (ie. communicative) function as much an art form as that of unifying it with that function is. This stance doesn't suggest that complexity is better than simplicity, simply that it has an equal amount of validity in western classical music. In my own music, I strive to combine them in equal parts according to my taste--subsequently, I don't expect universal appeal. But then, that's the beauty of music--the multiplicity of personal styles, approaches, and genres. I hope that the coming years at Longy expose me to an even wider palate, and I can't wait to see what the future has in store.
I've been thinking especially about the accessibility of classical music over the past few days. It's a topic that comes up with a fair amount of frequency at my job, when I discuss what I do with coworkers. Recently, after inviting a coworker to a performance of opera scenes, I was met with the exclamation, "I've always wanted to see an opera!"
Though I hear this type of response often (and I was happy at her enthusiasm), this made me wonder for a moment. Even in a city like Boston, where classical performances are widely available, I know many people who feel it's inaccessible to them. Granted, a large part of the "I've always wanted to..." answers I hear are probably politeness, but nonetheless, the fact that classical music is a foreign world to many people remains.
It's a feeling I understand--until I was taught music, much of the classical world seemed overwhelming and strange to me (sometimes it still does!)
I'm not sure this is a problem that can be easily or wholly fixed in such a world of consumerist music, as Healing the Rift describes. People listen to music differently now than they did one hundred years ago, and the perception of classical music has changed in part simply because it's difficult to enjoy it in the same manner as popular music. The bigger question is: do we want the way we listen to classical music to change in the name of accessibility?
In the meantime, I'll hope my coworkers really do enjoy the opera!
Thanks, all, for a thought-provoking class.
One of the most important things I learned about this class, however, is how classical musicians need to work together to spread their careers. Encouraging dialogue in which pressing issues are discussed in the field, as done in this course, are gateways to spreading our talent. We also can discuss how we can make our field more accessible to the public. In addition, by communicating with each other about our field we are showing are support for one another, support that we all can rely on. Moreover, by communicating with each other, we open up to ideas of collaborating with one another.
I have learned a significant amount from this course. What I most enjoy about this course, however, is that I will continue to learn from my experiences in this class for years to come.
It had been a while since I felt such a profound sense of community. The last time I was so inspired was when I chose to go into music. I was a high school student and on Saturdays, I was a preparatory student at Mannes, The New School for Music. In addition to lessons in piano, theory, and solfege, all students met in Senior choir at the end of the day. Our director, Matthew Brady, was brilliantly creative and his love for music spread throughout the room like a powdered potion. Before concerts, one of us would always speak about how much the music and the members meant. Sometimes we said a prayer, sometimes we listened to a Tibetan singing bowl, sometimes we had moments of silence, sometimes we read poems. The concerts were spiritual experiences for many of us. Afterwards, we always went out to dinner to share food and memories.
Future of Classical Music has given me the tools to form that community wherever I go for the rest of my life. We must constantly remind ourselves that the element that makes music so powerful is the personal element. We must make an effort to connect to that network of musical minds in order to stay on top of what's relevant, inspire each other, support each other, and perhaps most importantly play for each other. We should all continue to write for a blog and read each others posts. We should continue to share information about our upcoming recitals and attend those of our colleagues. We should never become complacent; always play something new, write something new, and try something new. Perhaps . . . we could sacrifice just one hour every week from our busy schedules, to sit at a single table together, and talk about the world.
Monday, December 3, 2012
The implication of this article is that the answer to the titular question is "yes", but the study was not aimed at answering the question at all. All the study showed is that when there is a conductor, he or she can influence how the orchestra plays, and, the former being true, that better conductors yield better musical results. To answer the question "Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?" would require a control group. How does a professional orchestra sound without any conductor at all?
Luckily for us, some data regarding that question already exists. Groups such as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra regularly perform without the assistance of a conductor. In addition to its Grammy Awards, the orchestra has been named to The WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces for six years running. For an orchestra the size of Orpheus (comprising 34 musicians), it is quite clear that a conductor is not necessary.
The question raised by this article is one worth examining, but to call this study scientific proof that orchestras need conductors is to ignore the definition of science. The better question would be "When does an orchestra need a conductor?" - the answer to which I doubt will present itself in numerical form."
Farewell, and cheers to the future of classical music!
Isaiah, I can not think of a better or more relevant final project for this class than our Wikipedia articles. Thank you for the introduction to the musical Wikipedia world, and for pushing us to expand our views of music, of ourselves, and of our role in the world at large as musicians.
Thank you, all!
I believe we have a large responsibility as performers and composers to play and write new music. The 21st century is fast moving and quick to leave people behind. The ugly truth is that we must adapt to this by compromise. Compromising our ideals with what people want to hear is the only way to make it. If we are unable to compromise then we will have a hard time reaching new audiences. I feel this, above all, is the one fatal flaw in all of our training: No one in the Conservatory prepares you for the music business. However; do not blame your teachers. It's not your teachers fault. They are only teaching you the craft - not the way to success.
Success does not come from our heart, our ideas or our talents. It's from the acknowledgement of them by others. This is the 21st century. Do you want to be successful while you are alive or when you are dead? No one says you can't follow what's in your heart, but what's the point of following your heart if no one wants to hear you or even know you? Get someone's attention first then you show them what you got.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Last night, while writing up something bizarre, convoluted, thrilling and questionable for EEP, I was happily interrupted by one of my artistic partners, a choreographer and playwright I've worked with on large-scale chamber ballets as well as 4 minute improvisatory solo dances. In discussing an upcoming project, she shared with me this piece of music, asking me if I was interested in creating something in this spirit for a very personal dance solo she was showing in a few months:
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Feedback is a difficult thing, though--often it tells more about the receiver than the giver, for many reasons. In the context of concertizing, the audience/listener only perceives certain aspects of the music and the performance, and cannot give feedback on aspects that were outside his/her perception. And, the listener organizes these perceptions in a way that is meaningful to them, selecting certain aspects out of thousands that may be commented upon, according to the reaction they had to the music. And even if they are aware of these particulars, the listener's internal feelings and rules for commenting determine the style, choice of words, emotional tone, and non-verbal cues that comprise the entirety of the feedback. So, since it's clear that feedback tells more about the giver than the receiver, why bother to seek it out at all?
It is human nature to want to get information. Especially in an often nonverbal medium such as music, we want to be able to communicate our ideas with one another in a meaningful way, and often that involves the use of feedback. Artistic value is intrinsically tied to audience perception, so it is imperative that we understand what the perception is, and how to respond to it. So, learning how to ask for, receive, and appraise feedback, in my mind, is a worthwhile goal as a musician, and one that is absolutely necessary as a human being.
"The arts are not just a nice thing to have or do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation."
Having encountered people throughout my life who were of the opinion I pursued music in order to avoid getting a "real career", I am cheered by such an apt and insightful quote. The arts are incredibly important to society, and I believe strongly that anyone who doesn't think so has simply not examined the ubiquitous impact of arts in their lives. It's heartening to know that there are those in the White House who acknowledge their importance.
I'll leave my penultimate blog post in the hopes that this quote, though three years old, continues to spread in social networks. I'll also leave with a question: how can we emphasize the importance of classical music, in particular?
The performers were incredible but what struck me most about the first three concerts was the audience. Most of the crowd (which was relatively small) was older and mild-mannered. For the NEC ensemble and Tuesday concert, the crowd was much younger, louder, and more energized. I imagine the size discrepancy has mostly to do with the relative ease of word-of-mouth advertising at a music school as opposed to general citywide advertising. I only wish that established ensembles outside of a music school could have that relatively easy ability to advertise.
This dilemma can be either be seen as a setback or an opportunity to grow an audience in a different way. The older, more established ensembles need to find creative ways to reach young people. Putting up posters and offering student tickets for $10 isn't enough to attract college students (as I witnessed at the Boston Musica Viva concert). While the programming with all ensembles was excellent (to my taste, at least), each ensemble needs to take a hard look at the choices they make and how that will affect their audience. This is not to say that anyone should water down their program to appeal to a mass audience, but looking for young, exciting composers with a growing following might be the answer.
In the near future, I plan to attend concerts by some of the other major contemporary ensembles in Boston (Dinosaur Annex, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Alea III, etc) but for now I have to reflect on the concerts I've been to. It appears that audiences are drawn to concerts by one ensemble or another. Also, if concerts at NEC or Longy are any indicator, students at music schools tend to be drawn primarily to their own school's concerts to see their friends. I would encourage continuing to support friends in concerts, but also making new friends by going to concerts at other schools. It has been a real pleasure to experience the many musical offerings in this city after going to school in a small town in Virginia for four years. It is my hope that Boston will continue that have a thriving contemporary music scene for many years to come and I will play a part in it, both as a performer, and as an active audience member.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Since the orchestra decided to treat its endowment like a piggy bank, the MOA could write in their books with whatever color ink they wished. While soliciting state funding for a construction project, they decided to write in black (and deplete their endowment), when they wanted to cut their musician's salaries by 30-40%, they switched to red. The management that the Minnesota Orchestra deserves would have declared losses when the recession hit, scrapped the construction project, and decided not to jeopardize the orchestra's financial future before renegotiating players' contracts. As it stands, the musicians are still locked out, construction on a new wing of Orchestra Hall is under way, and the management still refuses third-party financial analysis. It will take more than a silver tongue and some finger-pointing at the MMO to explain this one away.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
As artists working in the medium of sound, our pieces necessarily contain duration, something that is not beholden to the visual arts. Thus, public presentations of aural works require that the audience listen for a fixed amount of time--no more, and no less--in order to fully experience the work. Unlike the visual arts, whose public presentations (such as in museum galleries) do not require uninterrupted silent appraisal, music happens over a fixed duration and cannot be relived at a glance. It's as Cook talks about in the "Imaginary Object" chapter of his book: when we take music out of duration and attempt to talk or write about it, we distance it from the reality of its visceral power and limited domain. And besides, modern concert hall etiquette dictates that the audience stay for the entirety of the performance, which can be uncomfortably long if the work isn't appealing.
However, 60x60 ensures that no individual piece of music lasts too long--you'd be hard pressed to find someone who couldn't sit through one minute of music that didn't appeal to them. Some might find the experience of shifting between pieces every minute jarring--a musical analog for changing channels on a TV, but in my experience, I was constantly engaged. Perhaps a trend towards shorter works is on the horizon. I have a feeling that a large part of the failure of classical music to appeal to a wide audience is the fact that when people think of that type of music, they think of hour-long symphonies and other large-scale forms, during which they must be seated and silent. This is certainly an unappetizing picture to paint, but perhaps with the proliferation of 60x60 compilations (which have also incorporated dance and visual art forms), a future of larger audiences for shorter works is on the horizon.
The music was as great as the cause itself. The first Dvorak trio was played with incredible ease and musicality. The second vocal piece by Vaughan Williams was sung by a booming baritone who epitomized the folk-like feel of Vaughan Williams pieces so effortlessly. Following a brief intermission, the final piece was a sextet by Dvorak which included Ms. Kashkashian on one of the viola parts. This piece was my favorite as I have rarely witnessed such a keen such of communication between the players, specifically the inner voices. The musicality shown amongst the players represented much maturity and wisdom that only years of integration in music can attain. At the end of the concert, it was revealed that over three thousand dollars were raised, money to feed a family of four for approximately ten months.
I believe that this kind of venue can only do wonders for the musical community (aside from the obvious benefits of feeding the poor). After viewing the concert, I am now curious to see if concerts like these have appeared in other cities. This kind of program could also stimulate a sense of community in smaller areas, allowing for younger musicians to showcase their talent while benefiting a good cause. Hopefully, the Music for Food concert series will continue to benefit all for years to come.