Monday, October 14, 2013

Genre issues

So I just had a wonderful time in Cincinnati last week.  Why was it wonderful? Violin Concerto was just World Premiered there!  Beautifully performed in Memorial Hall by the dynamic Violinist Tatiana Berman along with the Constella Festival Chamber Ensemble, all under the baton of the awesome Maestro, Paavo Järvi.  Yep, it was pretty cool.  An enthusiastic audience, great reviews, the works! Did it I have a great time or what?! 

So I get back home to New York, still in euphoria from my premiere.  But now I have to try and figure out how to get this piece noticed by an even bigger audience.  This is a real burden.  Yes, the premiere in Cincinnati was a success, but it was only a local success.  It has yet to be heard by the rest of the world.  And I'm not just talking about the Classical world.  Every time I hear a work I love, I have this unquenchable desire to present this music to people who have no idea of it's existence.  Most notably, the American pop culture.  Yet, for some reason, there's this feeling of impotence in our ability to make that happen. 

Why is this the case?  There are probably many answers to this question, but I have a big one for you:  The classical world is too arrogant and the pop culture is too ignorant!  Yes, when it boils down to it, that's the bottom line.  I don't care what anybody says.

The powers that be in the classical world preach mainly to it's own choir.  The already converted.  It seems that they have no idea that there's a bigger world out there to show this wonderful music to.  They're afraid that it won't be understood by the rest of the world and therefore, not worth the effort to put it out there.  And whenever I meet someone who's not a classical musician (aka pop culture), usually they are amazed that there are people like me who are still alive and doing this sort of thing.  This is followed by comments along the line of: "I really appreciate what you do. ", "You must be really smart.", or the cringing,  "I just don't know enough about it in order to listen to it."

Music is not meant to be understood!!  Only to be heard!! And if, for some reason, you don't "get it", maybe it's not your fault.  Maybe............the composer just sucks!  So, no matter how simple or how complex the music is, we composers have just one purpose, to WOW an audience!  Every single musical genre on Earth has that goal.   Even this one!

As the years go by, more and more, I tend to agree with my good friend and composer Gene Pritsker with regard to his philosophy of the different genres of music.  That all these terms (classical, pop, jazz, etc) should be boiled down to just one:  Music of the Western Tradition.  I've always admired this concept of Gene's, but I never fully agreed.  It seems to imply a kind of musical anarchy.  Without any guidelines or ability to put into words the kind of music some of us are specifically involved with.  And yet, maybe that's not such a bad thing these days.  It is, after all, more about the music itself and not as much about where it comes from.   Maybe it's not that necessary to put it into words.  Maybe, as Duke Ellington famously said: "If it sounds good, it is good.".   I'll just have to get back to you on that one.

In the meantime, for you people who are interested, but not sure about the music I'm talking about, here are a few pieces I recommend that you google:

John Adams: Shaker Loops
James Macmillan: The Confession of Isobel Gowdie
Wojciech Kilar: Orawa
Steve Reich: Cello Counterpoint
Jennifer Higdon: Blue Cathedral
Colin Matthews: Forth Sonata
Erkki- Sven Tüür: Exodus
Peter Schickele: Sextet
Carla Bley: Birds of Paradise
Kevin Puts: Silent Night

There are too many more to mention of course, but I think these works are great to start with.  They're all just as great to listen to as any pop song.  Go for it!  You've got nothing to lose.  And.......... OK.....I guess I should promote myself a little.

Charles Coleman: Streetscape

And I think my Violin Concerto is pretty good too.  I can't wait for you to hear it.   :)


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