For a week, we geeked out over performances we had attended, technique, our teachers, our “real jobs,” other projects we were starting, and what notation programs we used.
In Thailand, it is a very exciting time to be a composer because there is a lot of space for development. There have been several influential composers here, but contemporary music is still a relatively new idea.
While “federal government” is abstract in many parts of the country, here in D.C. it is very real. It is people and lives, flesh and blood. We know people working for the NIH, the NEA, NEH, the Smithsonian, and other government departments. And we certainly know many people in the arts, including many military musicians.
“I am becoming a better opera composer” is my brand, to borrow a word from the marketing world. While not my favorite term, The Brand provides a compass, an overarching explanation as to why I make my decisions regarding my work and how I advance plans that will hopefully lead to collaboration.
When the phone rang four years ago, I was asked if I would be interested in moving to Bangkok, Thailand to teach music theory and composition. I said yes. Even though I did not know precisely where I was going, I had to honor the important rule of my life: follow the music.
After college, I laid out a ten-year plan to develop the skills I thought I needed to write opera. Beginning with the voice, I wrote and sang choral music and art song, learning how singers thought and operated (no small feat). Next, I worked my way from solo instrumental pieces to chamber music to full orchestra, settings songs for voice and chamber instrumentation and simulating Puccini arias and duets along the way.
Since becoming a professional musician as a teenager in the late 1970s, Béla Fleck has redefined jazz and newgrass (a harmonically and rhythmically progressive off-shoot from bluegrass), collaborated with traditional musicians from India, China, and multiple nations in Africa, and has composed significant repertoire for chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestras. The only common ingredient in all these endeavors is the banjo.
In WTC 9/11, Steve Reich follows the repetitions and cyclical structures of minimalist and post-minimalist music, but applies a heavy editorial hand to his sources and their setting to construct an unambiguous emotional and affective narrative. Tim Rutherford-Johnson concludes his examination of memorial music with a piece that creates a sort of minimalist realism rather than an abstract space for contemplation.
Though my commitment to composing is as strong as ever, I’m starting to understand some of the ways that composers who are mothers intentionally and unintentionally get written out of new music.
A composer’s style becomes distinctive not only because certain ideas are present in many of their compositions, but because that composer has made compelling artistic choices deliberately and repeatedly across their body of work. Rather than imitating old ideas or forcefully repurposing them into new pieces, we can view a creative lifetime as a chance to create our own musical vocabulary.
Tim Rutherford-Johnson continues his examination of memorial music with a deep dive into Michael Gordon’s The Sad Park: “a rare portrait of doubt, anger, anguish, and bafflement that stands apart from the calming tone of official memorial style.”
Practitioners of serious music have often neglected to take their physical selves seriously. But in new music today, a focus on the body as performing subject is gaining momentum. Ready or not, Jessica Aszodi digs into The New Discipline.
I’d urge any other composer contemplating a full-time composing career to ask the same questions I considered: What work do you most enjoy doing? What work of yours have others already recognized as excellent? What medium or mediums stand out as the best fit for the ideas you feel compelled to express in your music?
Big Arthur Blythe, the big man, with the big sound. That’s the way I will always remember him: big sound / big heart / big laughs / big personality.
Thirty early-career musicians have been chosen to receive fellowships to the Blackbird Creative Lab, a newly launched two-week summer training program taking place Ojai, California, this June.
If one were looking for an official “monument” among musical responses to 9/11, one might expect to find it in John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls.
Due to the rate of growth and development of A.I. technology, #resistanceisfutile. Which is to say that computer-composed music is here, and the conversation needs to change.
Angel’s Bone by Du Yun has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music.
The time at a residency feels sacred, and for that brief period, your life is centered around the pursuit of creativity.
The challenges of producing, organizing, maintaining, and funding the Cutting Edge Concerts are great. However, the rewards are equally great: bringing new music to new audiences; providing a platform for composers to hear their music performed by outstanding musicians, and providing musicians interested in new music the opportunity to work with composers.
While the “memory mania” seen in public art may not have overtaken music, it is clear that musicians have been similarly fascinated with memory and commemoration over the last twenty years or so. What might these works say about how we articulate and understand the difficult emotions associated with traumatic loss?
Ashley Jackson’s research and writing have focused on how 20th-century African-American artists and composers navigated a sharply segregated society through their cultural practice. “It is to their artistic bravery that I look,” she says, “when thinking about how to use music and words as my own voice in today’s wave of social and political activism.”
We don’t need to imagine that one big performance or one big award will be responsible for making our entire career. Instead, we can ask ourselves what we’ll try to achieve over the course of a creative lifetime.
In any given week, Martha Mooke could be performing a solo concert on her electric five-string viola, playing in a symphony or Broadway pit orchestra, touring either with a famous rock musician or one of her own improvisational groups, and/or giving educational clinics to young string players on how to find their musical voice.