It is hard to tell in advance sometimes if something new will turn out to be a good idea or a bad one, which might be a good reason to do it by itself.
Arranging pre-existing musical material is, in my humble opinion, a valuable and yet rarely examined tool in a composer’s toolbox, as well as a useful portal through which musicians with little composing experience can enter the wonderful world of creative musical writing.
At NewMusicBox, we receive lots of recordings via snail mail throughout the year. Many of these recordings are commercial releases, but we are also very happy to receive one-off, non-commercial CDs from composers who want us to hear their music. Because there are a multitude of ways to prepare home-baked CDs, I wanted to run through some important things to keep in mind before you drop them in the mail, ensuring that they are easy to handle once they have reached their final destination.
The crux of the matter in grasping Elliott Carter’s difficult and satisfying music lies not in conquering its inherent and unavoidable technical issues. What’s crucial is finding the broader context in which those challenges can be seen not as obstacles to successful performance, but rather as essential musical materials that upon close investigation reveal important information about the nature of Carter’s music itself, its structure, aesthetic, and intent.
I’ve been working recently on a little diversion from my usual composing: a set of arrangements for a songwriter of my acquaintance. Although I’ve written dozens of songs (and a little music for string quartet), it’s novel for me to be entrusted with someone else’s material and explicitly given free rein to push or pull it in whatever direction the tune suggests.
Coming up to the end of the year, we’ve been watching projects funded through New Music USA‘s grant programs turn up on “Best of” lists and snag a couple Grammy nominations, too. It’s great to see stuff we helped make happen do so well out there in the world.
Tatsuya Nakatani is the very picture of dedication to his music and the carefully constructed sound world that he fully inhabits. His stage incorporates an expansive collection of gongs, mallets, bows, and drums that he loads and unloads from the van he drives, touring for months at a time in order to bring his immersive percussive sound to an assortment of ears in towns and cities across the country.
With the holidays upon us, many of us musical types have been doing some last-minute shopping, racking our brains to think of any gift that is sufficiently cooler than a treble clef paperweight. So it seems like a good time to bring up IV-V-I, a new harmony-based card game created and designed by composer and educator Rafael Hernandez.
Choral music has experienced an astonishing year, claiming its place as a vital and evolving form that touches and engages millions of participants and audiences.
If you can’t make it good, make it big. If you can’t make it big, make it red.
At Tufts University’s Granoff Center last Monday, a concert by NotaRiotous, the performing ensemble of the Boston Microtonal Society, showed that there was music that happened to use microtones, and then there was microtonal music.
Well, it’s that time of the year again and, like many people I know, I’m scrambling at the last minute to find the right thing to give various members of my family. My favorite things in the world are books and recordings, so they are frequently my default gift ideas. But in this day and age, many people shun such things and they are also much more difficult to come by in shops.
Two weeks into the virtually undodgeable 24/7 Winter Wonderland sound collage that is this time of year, I’ve been looking for something without sleigh bells, warm brass, and mixed chorus. My search for sanctuary from the rising Yuletide led me to Skinny’s Ballroom in the heart of downtown Austin for a bit of improv holiday cheer.
It is not often that one gets such a parallax viewpoint on the subject of new music in the mainstream media, and the opportunity allows those of us who are active in the profession not only to digest and react to what is being said but also to gain a better sense of how our world is seen from “outside the beltway,” so to speak.
Stan Kenton, whose centenary was yesterday, was on the vanguard of the wash of “experimental” music produced after the Second World War, but has slid into relative obscurity only because of an affected disdain towards so-called “middlebrow” culture in the critical dialectic.
Composers have been dedicating works to performers, commissioners, teachers, and colleagues for ages, but what about music that is not necessarily intended for public performance, such as a lullaby for a newborn?
Out of all of the possible composer-in-residence responsibilities discussed in my early conversations with the Reno Philharmonic, education made me the most nervous. But due to a strong, long-forged partnership between the orchestra and the local school district, it became clear that a large focus of my time in Reno would be devoted to facing my fears. As we began shaping our plans, I began researching.
What is the Trojan horse that draws us into the intuitive world of art, and makes for an understanding greater than rational apprehension alone can provide for? It’s the raw, sensual nature of the experience itself, which remains stubbornly indivisible, unique, and present.
When composer and educator Bill Ryan interviewed to teach composition at Grand Valley State University in 2005, he laid out what his ideal collegiate program would look like. What no one—perhaps even including Ryan—likely anticipated, however, was how swiftly and successfully he would be able to make his vision a reality and how, in the process of so doing, he would put the university’s program on the national contemporary music map.
Is it wrong to put together a program that will show one’s own work in the best light? Has anybody else out there resorted to such skulduggery?
Garland’s music, which is clear, direct, and refreshingly devoid of self-indulgence or pretension, is engagingly represented in every aspect of this recording.
In 2010, The Guardian published a series in which some of the most prominent contemporary writers in the English language gave us their 10 Rules for Writing Fiction. Some advice appears to speak directly to the craft of fiction itself, but can easily be translated into music composition terms.
By coincidence, conspiracy, or zeitgeist, two of Boston’s more prominent new music institutions recently spent the first weekend in December swimming in that channel of classical jazz and jazzy classicism, the third stream.
The minute you can come up with a list of things that new music is and a list of things that it isn’t, especially in terms of what it should sound like, you circumscribe its possibilities and, in so doing, it ceases being new. The same is true with the future.