Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts inspired by G.M. Gerraughty's SOCIAL MEDIA AS A COMPOSER...IN THE STYLE OF BUZZFEED

I’ve just read this article by composer G.M. Gerraughty, titled SOCIAL MEDIA AS A COMPOSER...IN THE STYLE OF BUZZFEED.


It’s a concise and partly comical piece that expresses a dilemma he perceives of classical music not effectively reaching and interacting with audiences through social media.  I assume he means to include, under “classical music,” contemporary art music, since he is a composer.  If his attempts to reach an audience through social media actually use the term “classical,” I think this may be part of the difficulty.  

“Classical” just sounds like “old”.  I, for one, first think “music that is preserved and that people have deemed worthwhile to put great effort into preserving” when I hear the term “classical music.”  And, indeed, I do find much of it to be totally worth the efforts and expenses of preserving.  But I’m not sure that there is a lot of crossover between the audience that is most enthusiastic about this “classical music” institution and the audience that is eager to see what kind of new cutting edge creative works are breaking out of the established boxes of pop music, jazz, folk, baroque, classical, romantic, or “modern” art music from the turn of the 20th century up to last week. Out of the people I’ve met in my life, those who would fit into both of these these demographics are mostly classically trained musicians (mostly college trained) and a disproportionately large percentage of them are composers.

I think that composers, and performers who are enthusiastic about new art music, would do well to distinguish it from all that can be implied in “classical.”  Of course, if it is music that is sticking to the tonal, rhythmic, and formal conventions of the period we call classical (whether that be Baroque through Romantic, Medieval through early 20th century, or just 1750 through 1820 or so), as movie scores sometimes do, then that’s one thing.  If, however, a composer is creating something that comes out of the context of right now, and speaks to right now, then it seems that the word “classical” could be a bit misleading and perhaps deterring to potential audiences.

Then there is the issue he brings up about creating a sense of real community and sharing through online social networks, as opposed to just marketing through them.   Perhaps this could be helped by offering as well as asking/selling.  For example: giving away a recording or two for free and not under a heading that begs people to please listen to it, but rather as a presentation of something valuable being given freely as a gift.  Another idea would be to pose questions (through blogs, facebook posts, tweets, whatever works) about real issues in art music today, in which people could weigh in and interact.  Then there is some interaction and when it is time to advertise a performance or an album release, or to put one’s self out there to potential performers, it’s not just showing up to advertise.  Rather, it’s one part of being a community member.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hey Damen,

Thanks for reading my blog! I think that you raise some good points here, and I'd like to respond to them:

Regarding my choice of terminology for the scene I'm in, I totally see your point about coming to it from the perspective of "classical" music. Many people's music defies easy categorization into any genre, and saddling them with the moniker of "classical" doesn't help to clarify what their music is like at all. I have grappled with the issue of how to boil down my music into buzzwords for a long time, and after much reflection, I've come to the conclusion that "classical" fits the best, for me. My music consciously responds to the classical tradition, a tradition that I have been actively involved in for decades. I am classically trained as a performer and as a composer. I didn't play in garage bands growing up, or tinker with electronic music on my computer. I was conducting, studying scores, and doing species counterpoint from a young age. By all accounts, I am a classical musician. Does the term come with a lot of baggage? Yes. Oh God, yes. But to describe my music any other way would be disingenuous. It would be much sexier advertising if my music was "avant jazz," or "sound sculpture," but in all honesty, it's not. And until I stop rolling my eyes when someone launches into the whole "...I don't like to limit my music by giving it a label" line, I'll go with one terse, mostly correct term.

That I may be reaching the wrong crowd by aligning myself with classical musicians is a really good point. The nice thing about the community of new-music-coming-from-the-classical-tradition-but-really-it's-much-more-complicated-than-that is that most of us know who each other are. And those of us who don't know each other or what we do can connect the dots, the way you have about my place in new music. Lots of people are out there writing music in all sorts of genres, and many of them may be turned off by the classical label. I'm okay with that, though. If an artist is completely turned off by the music that spawned mine, they may not like mine at all. If they aren't patient enough to listen through the label, then they may also not like my music. And that's fine.

I think your points about how to communicate online are great, and I invite you to come find me on Twitter or Facebook, where I am doing exactly what you recommend. ;-)

Unknown said...

This is J. M. Gerraughty, by the way. Stupid Blogger/Google account!