Lots of new music will usher in a new American administration on January 20, 2021. Newly commissioned works by Kimberly Archer and Peter Boyer, classics by Aaron Copland, Julie Giroux, and Joan Tower, and a 46-song Spotify playlist spanning music from The Staple Sisters to Bruce Springsteen to Kendrick Lamar.
Despite the fact that the majority of our students do not listen to Western art music regularly, nearly all of the core curriculum is based on it. Let’s open their ears, eyes, and minds to voices and people that have been marginalized, to the stories that surround and support the notes, to the unheard music.
Mystery School posits an alternative touch—something that does not directly fall within the mainstream’s easily digestible paradigm of being able to play the instrument, even though the practitioners of the Mystery School are obviously highly skilled virtuosos whose touch, language, and articulation are extremely hard to copy.
Julie Giroux, who creates music primarily for wind band, takes musicians and audiences on a journey that is a real sonic adventure and, at the same time, is always fun.
There is no doubt that we are in unprecedented times. Living through a global pandemic has tested and revealed so much about who we are as a people and what we possess as a culture. But art will push on regardless of the circumstances, and I find it to be a transcendent privilege as well as a dire responsibility to stay focused on ways to continue innovating the arts without hesitation or compromise.
M³ (Mutual Mentorship for Musicians) is a revolutionary new program which its founders Jen Shyu and Sara Serpa describe as “a think tank for new ways to connect, collaborate, support, create, and empower womxn musicians worldwide including BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and musicians of all abilities across generations.” To celebrate the first two concerts born from this initiative on Dec 6 and 12, we asked the 12 participating musicians to share their thoughts about how M³ has impacted their creative process.
Valerie Coleman is committed to storytelling through her music, no matter the idiom. “I recognize that there are stories that are yet untold that if they were told, they would transform all those who would hear them. So it’s my job to create music that allows that transformative power to happen.”
Our record announcement fell on the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Two months later, the record was released just days before George Floyd’s murder. Every week of 2020 has shown us something far more important, far more worthy of attention than a record of new music by two white men.
George Friedrich Haas’s composition I Can’t Breathe, written just after the birth of the Black Lives Matter organization and well before the concept came to international prominence, raises a number of important questions about the response of the international new music community to the increasingly multicultural and multiracial, i.e., creolized, societies in which its performances, curatorial directions, and critical and philosophical inquiries are being presented.
This is not a composition; it’s a protest. This is not a performance; it’s a demonstration. This is a political work of art. I wrote it to express the hypocrisy of a nation that continues to deny its history, a history that has and will continue to define our future.
Spring rolls around, the world shelters-in-place, and life as we know it is over. How can Fluxus address this?
My goal was to bring new life to an instrument that fell into the cracks of history. When the pandemic hit, we wanted to have this instrument become a communal element for artists stuck in their studios all over the world to find creative stimulation.
A year after writing “It’s Time to Let Classical Music Die,” Nebal Maysaud says, “I still believe … that classical music as a field does still have a lot of conservative and neoliberal values. But what I’ve seen also indicates that, while our structures and power structures reinforce these racial hierarchies of white supremacy, there are a lot of individuals who are aware of that and want to make a change in that power structure; and are not content with how we abusing people of color in the field of classical music.”
I’ve been clinically depressed for roughly as long as I’ve been writing music. It has naturally been a constant question as to how it would manifest itself in my music; over time, a set of approaches has emerged, ways to address the illness to varying degrees.
What is the role of submitting to calls for scores and competitions in the grand scheme of building a career? Are there wholesome and compassionate ways that calls for scores and/or composition competitions can support artists even if they don’t win the “big prize”? How do we develop from this seemingly “teenage” part of our career and move on to becoming fully-fledged professionals?
I ordered about 80 scores by BIPOC composers, sight unseen, so that I could be surrounded by unfamiliar things to explore. I’ve been lucky to have conversations with some of the composers as a part of that discovery phase, too. I’m still early in the process of reading through the scores I’ve amassed, but that work is probably my favorite part of the job.
I challenge my colleagues across the country to examine their required repertoire lists for both auditions and graduation recitals. Ask yourselves—who do these lists exclude? Who does this list benefit or advantage? How can I make these requirements a better reflection of our current time? How can these lists further institutional and/or industry goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion?
I’ve called for an end to the practice of blind auditions for years. To make a contentious change requires the buy-in of many different kinds of people. One person’s call for “representation” is another’s outrage at “quotas.” I believe we can—and should—elevate this conversation past that endless, tiresome tug-of-war. Rather than going in circles, I ask: what would have to be true for all of us to agree on the potential benefits of revising the process?
How can you get your music in front of the right musicians in a format that makes it easy for them to purchase, download, and start practicing your pieces right away?
In March of 2020 Synchromy was busy planning their Urban Birds concert when safer-at-home ordinances shut down all public events in Los Angeles. Urban Birds faced either cancellation or becoming one of the hundreds of livestream concerts flooding the internet.
What music should high schoolers sing? What should even younger children sing? Following the line of logic where they can’t sing truly “good” music, it seems they should and can only sing “bad” music. However, this mentality poses an interesting question for composers tasked with writing music for children. If we are trained to write “good” music, how should we write for children?
When everyone saw the disgusting, undeniable murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police, that was when we both immediately took to action and joined the protests out in the streets. We came to work together to organize an online benefit concert for Black Lives Matter this Friday, July 31 at 7-10pm EDT.
While the entire music sector has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the choral community has been hit especially hard. There might not be a safe way for choirs to safely rehearse for an entire year or more in the future, which has affected some 40 million people in the United States who rely on choirs for the social community, mental health, and emotional well-being.
My plans to attend the Brevard Music Center’s Summer Institute had been canceled due to COVID-19, so we were planning out the logistics for me to host my own summer camp—The Composers Collaborative Project (CCP). It is my attempt to leverage the quarantine to create a unique opportunity for composers seeking a path to continue developing their skills.