No matter what an artist does, the choices are often subconscious, based on personal experience and background. This background dictates where we take our music.
Although George Tsontakis has had a career that most American composers would envy, he aspires to a hermetic existence in the middle of the woods and composes something only when someone commissions it and nothing at all if no one does. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a strategy that has served him well.
Writing all of this down has been an opportunity to sort through some of the chaos of the last ten years or so. I’ve never really sat down and written about myself. I don’t generally find myself that interesting. After all, I already know how the story goes. But maybe I don’t. However, one of the things that I know is that everything that matters in my life is something I owe to other people.
On September 1, 2018, we lost a true musical giant, innovator, NEA Jazz Master, and a warrior for the elevation of African-American pride and culture.
Neil Leonard is drawn to exploring sound in unusual architectural spaces—locations he finds by accident, through recommendations from friends, and by searching for sites with peculiar histories. This week he takes us on a tour that spans many unusual sites—including a subterranean acoustical marvel located in Greece dating back to 1400 B.C. It was a recording experience that began with disorientation and nausea but eventually had a profound sonic impact.
You don’t get to just change one part of your life at once. That’s not what life is. Life is where you surf on a constantly shifting bed of earthquaking sand dunes and you try to grab what happiness you can as it floats by amidst the chaos. At this point, I can hardly go anywhere without running into a friendly face—whether it’s someone I know from the Internet, or someone from a video game music conference.
Neil Leonard sought to express something of the wonder he felt, not just experiencing new sounds on site, but also learning the context in which those sounds exist. It led him to deeply consider how these field recordings of diverse spaces could best be presented to create a purposeful meditation for the far-removed listener.
Vermont College of Fine Arts plays up the “low residency” aspect of its music composition MFA program. You study remotely with a grad advisor for six months, and then you reconvene on campus for a week-long combination of a conference and a festival. But the real value of the school isn’t in the semester format. It’s in the magic that happens in that one week.
Rather than pay fees to competitions that one is statistically unlikely to win, a composer’s efforts and money will be far better devoted to attending music conferences and new music concerts.
Town butchers singing traditional tavern songs? Cuban street criers advertising their wares with vocal shouts? Sometimes the naïve ear of a traveler, through curiosity or serendipity, can investigate sounds that have become commonplace to the local population. For sound artist, saxophonist, and composer Neil Leonard, his resulting sound installation work built around these observations functions as a kind of personal sonic cartography, documenting sites of social and political significance.
My own hardwired pragmatism steered me away from music and towards psychology. It wasn’t a decision borne of academic ambivalence. I had genuine interest in the field, and a powerful drive to help people. But I was ignoring another need.
Jane Ira Bloom clearly maneuvers within a genre while at the same time subverting any attempt at making generalizations about her work. The primary mode of music-making she engages in is performing her own clearly jazz-oriented instrumental compositions on the soprano saxophone in the company of a small group of like-minded collaborative improvisers. But she also frequently interprets American standards and uses real-time live electronic processing in her saxophone playing.
Perhaps we are early adopters of something that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago. Traveling has never been cheaper; it’s possible to work from anywhere in the world; and social media helps us share our music and keep in touch with others.
I initially came to Just Intonation from the perspective of contemporary music and from working with composers on particular projects, but I’ve found that JI has crept into almost everything that I do and has proven to be an immensely useful tool.
Finding affordable housing and a space to do one’s work is a task on the minds of many emerging artists; artist residencies provide a solution, freeing up time and space at low or no cost to the artist. This week, the Passepartout Duo shares some lessons learned on researching and applying to residencies.
Nate Wooley’s music and relationship to his instrument has been a huge inspiration to me as a violinist. So I’m very grateful to Nate for taking the time to offer his take on some thoughts I’ve had since recording the solo improvised material on my debut solo album Engage, and to share a veritable masterclass on improvisation as part of my series of posts.
The Passepartout Duo has embraced the benefits of continual travel for music. While every artist residency is different in its financial burden, its scope, and its circumstance, this week they sketch out why you’ll likely want to look at engagements of every kind, not just those which offer stipends and plentiful resources.
To me, the result of the election was an “unpresidented” [sic] embarrassment on a global level. I found myself wondering what I could do, as a performer. I posted on Facebook that I was thinking of commissioning a piece called Suite #45, or potentially writing it myself. After some thought, I set up an open “Call for Scores” and changed the name to #45miniatures, combining the hashtag styling of Trump’s favorite social media pastime and a word with obvious double entendre implications.
An extended technique is any action that produces a result outside the fundamental parameters of sound that an instrument was designed to make. But as useful as I’ve found this definition as a player and a teacher, it still sets up a dualism that I find troubling.
At this point, the Passepartout Duo has completely given up location-dependent life. Their home moves from month to month, and this has profoundly changed their musical practice.
As a black woman who composes and performs, Elizabeth A. Baker opens up about fighting for a place in an industry that too often equates successful “diversity initiatives” with the inclusion of cisgender white women. This leaves women of color, as well as non-binary and queer women, feeling erased.
Kate Soper and Eric Wubbels have turned away from the hierarchical paradigm of classical music, where the composer works in isolation on a piece before handing the final product to one or more interchangeable performers, in favor of a holistic approach that allows for creativity and learning from both sides of the composer/performer relationship.
It has been more than three quarters of a century since the bebop revolution transformed how people made music together. So it is not surprising that so few musicians who came to prominence during that era are no longer with us, especially since so many had tragically short lives. But what is more surprising is that one of these musicians, 92-years young Randy Weston, is still actively performing and composing and evolving, although to him there really isn’t a clear distinction between old and new music.
There is very little effort made to bridge the gap in cultural understanding. This is where the intersection of Chinese traditional music and new music has the potential to play an important role.