The MATA Festival’s founders Lisa Bielawa, Eleonor Sandresky, and Philip Glass share their reflections on the Festival on its 20th anniversary along with 29 other composers featured over the years.
Not only are students in regular academic classes affected by the lack of funding for textbooks and personnel; music students have fewer resources and limited opportunities for participation. Let’s take a look at the crisis as it is now unfolding in the state of Oklahoma.
Joining the Redlands Community Orchestra meant that I could get to know not just music but also people over a long period of time. Since I wanted to learn how to better write for large ensembles, rehearsing with an orchestra on a regular basis would keep me aware of what compositional choices are effective for performers of varying abilities.
As a white, male composer, it’s not without trepidation that I grapple with the topic of diversity in the orchestral world; my demographic cohorts have been the main beneficiaries of the status quo since the first dissonances clanged forth. But access is a subject about which I care deeply, and my position gives me a glimpse into a quite conservative world, albeit at an institution that tries to work against the grain.
Taking recordings of fragments of speech, transcribing them into instrumental melodies, and then harmonizing them has provided Scott Johnson with the rigorous compositional techniques that underpin his work–from his landmark “John Somebody” to his recent tour de force “Mind Out of Matter.” But it still allows him to reference popular culture, as well as to fuse popular music and various classical inheritances.
There is a tendency to separate morality and music instruction. Music instruction usually focuses on the notes or the historical facts. Olly Wilson’s lessons, by contrast, were holistic. He encouraged intellectual curiosity. I know that my use of analogies to explain concepts in class are the result of listening to him teach or discuss a variety of topics. All of us who studied with him modeled our teaching accordingly.
In their determination to force young musicians down the well-carved orchestral or academic grooves, institutions seem actually to be getting in the way of young artists curious to explore alternative ways of existing as dynamic and creative artists. How do we move towards a more open, more loving, more supportive environment, one that fosters networks of support among artists and incentivizes collaborative creation?
In choral music, timbral varieties are generally confined to specific styles and genres. But now there’s a growing body of work incorporating a variety of timbres that is accessible to avocational and student singers.
The International Contemporary Ensemble’s work at YOLA at HOLA, a group of young musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles based out of the non-profit education facilitator Heart of Los Angeles, which operates at multiple sites in L.A., was to pilot a new side-by-side initiative, called entICE.
Ashley Capps—the driving force behind the Big Ears Festival—took a few moments to chat with us about anti-algorithms, festival strategy, and how you market an event that offers its audience both Béla Fleck and Diamanda Galás.
Composers can open up a whole new world of sound and textural possibilities through the use of indeterminate sections in a piece, whereby individual voices break away from others in their section and make creative choices on their own.
Since I started writing “classical” music, the main challenge has been getting the flood in my head down on the page in the orchestra’s language.
Instead of stomping my feet in frustration or shrugging my shoulders in weary acceptance that very few exciting solo bassoon pieces existed, I asked, “What can I do to change this?” Thus began a lifelong quest, in step (both artistically and practically) with my new position at ICE, to forge new relationships with composers in order to develop a new body of repertoire for the instrument, and in so doing, empower other musicians to do the same.
When brick-and-mortar record shops went the way of the analog dinosaur, some very important, humanistic interactions that advanced the music culture went with them: namely, the group experience of listening, evaluating, debating, and enjoying music face-to-face.
The future of choral music will embrace techniques that preserve the horizontal approach to writing, while maintaining accessibility and not falling into anachronistic musical styles.
I gravitated towards the things no one else in my family wanted: I taught myself to LOVE black cherry ice cream, simply because it was the flavor everyone else abhorred. More ice cream for me! The bassoon became the black cherry of musical instruments; in my words, “something that nobody wanted to play.” But, at age nine, I decided I did.
Richard Hundley’s songs were the first songs by a living American composer that I fell in love with and the love affair never ended.
Highly chromatic or atonal music is rarely written for choirs, and the deep exploration of timbre found in instrumental pieces from later in the 20th century has mostly been ignored in favor of the pervasive choral sound inherited from the English cathedral tradition. But choral music in the 21st century is undergoing a cultural renaissance and performers are hungry for new types of exploration.
The deeply personal nature of so many of Barbara White’s compositions explains why she has predominantly written music for soloists or small ensembles. Even the largest-scale project she has ever created—an opera about an unjustly abused woman, which feels particularly relevant since the rise of the #MeToo movement—is extremely intimate.
So you want to write music for the koto, the shakuhachi, or the shamisen? Well, you’re in luck. Up until fairly recently, you would have been hard-pressed to find a traditional musician who would be willing to oblige.
If we creators are present and attuned to what is happening, we as global citizens will speak up via our music for what is right and just. If you are waiting for the right moment, the right moment is now.
The most ubiquitous and well-known concept in Japanese aesthetics is “Ma” which has been translated as “nothingness” or “emptiness”. But much more than the absence of something, it is a palpable entity. The Japanese also embrace the difference of timbres between the pitches on their musical instruments, and their music developed to accommodate that.
Daphne Oram has clearly become a beacon for contemporary composers from Missy Mazzoli to Rene Orth to Anne LeBaron. Yet the question, voiced by many a respected music colleague, keeps resounding: “Who?” Daphne’s invisibility is at the center of my new play Sound House, which runs from February 20 to March 4 at the Flea Theater in New York City.
Are all of our artistic offerings political in nature? When a composer writes a piece that is of its time and moment, is it a commentary on the current state of affairs? Do we want our audience to feel what we’re feeling, or to help them see how we’re seeing things?