NewMusicBox

Your home for the diverse and timely stories, news, opinions, and voices of new music creators and practitioners across the United States.

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Interviews
Frank J. Oteri

Molly Joyce: Strength in Vulnerabilty

Composer/performer Molly Joyce explains why perpetuating the notion that only a small select few are physically worthy enough excludes most people from the experience of making and ultimately enjoying art.

Standing ovation for Joan Tower
Articles
Frank J. Oteri

2020 Chamber Music Conference Continues Focus on Equity and Inclusivity

In recent years, the annual Chamber Music America conference has placed a specific emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion in the music sector and has aimed to be a catalyst for positive change within our community. This year’s conference moved the dial still further with a heady mix of provocative talks and diverse approaches to music-making.

Articles
Multiple Authors

Promoting Equity: Developing an Antiracist Music Theory Classroom

We present strategies on how to begin disrupting the normalization of whiteness in the music theory classroom, starting with making it visible. We should think of this disruption as a process rather than a product—antiracist describes actions, not states of being.

Articles
Robert Lopez-Hanshaw

Getting Your Hands Dirty (Performing Microtonal Choral Music, Part 2)

For amateur choirs, there is no guarantee that the singers will have the whole-score awareness that is a hallmark of elite ensembles; and for many, there is basically a guarantee that they won’t! So why on earth would anyone try to bring microtonal music into this ecosystem? Well, for one thing, it will help hone everyone’s intonational awareness—which can be sorely needed. But, on its own terms: there are new worlds of emotion to be explored that are unavailable with 12 equal tones alone!

Articles
Robert Lopez-Hanshaw

The Journey In (Performing Microtonal Choral Music, Part 1)

Why would anyone expect a choir to be able to sing microtones? All the literature seems to be on their limitations. Everyone knows that choirs are devastatingly conservative, anyway. They, and their audiences, would surely revolt at the slightest hint of strangeness. But—of course—there are cracks in this theory. I’ve recently had some successes with microtonal pedagogy for choirs.

Articles
Craig Shepard

Together We Can

In 2010, I had more or less stopped making music. To anyone who would listen, I complained about other musicians, arts funding, and how much better the European cultural infrastructure was. Then I began looking for opportunities in walking distance from my home. I didn’t anticipate how far this decision would lead me in realizing Music for Contemplation concerts, Creating Music Together workshops and retreats, On Foot walking projects, and Broken Silence concerts.

Interviews
Alexandra Gardner

Bonnie Jones: The Sounds of Not Belonging

Bonnie Jones’s music, which fuses electronic noise and text, emerges in large part from the sounds of her childhood, growing up on a dairy farm. Those sounds made an impression, but Jones’s first artistic interest was in creative writing.

Omar Thomas
Articles
Frank J. Oteri

Omar Thomas Wins 2019 Revelli Award

Omar Thomas has been named the recipient of the 2019 William D. Revelli Award for his 2018 composition Come Sunday.

Ruth Anderson
Articles
Annea Lockwood

Hearing a Person—Remembering Ruth Anderson (1928-2019)

The last music Ruth Anderson heard before she died was Judith Blegen singing Kein Musik ist ja nicht auf erden …, with which Mahler’s Fourth Symphony ends, a song which had been a touchstone for us for many years and which I had been unable to find for weeks among our record collection despite just… Read more »

Glasses
Articles
Dave Molk

Teaching Inequality: Consequences of Traditional Music Theory Pedagogy

Western art music is not a universal language. It does some things well, other things not as well, and many things not at all. What biases do we create in our students when we declare Western art music to be mandatory knowledge for anyone pursuing formal music studies?

Ju-Ping Song at a toy piano with chopsticks
Articles
Ju-Ping Song

The Artful Toy: Toy Piano Influencers and The Making of an Album

I did not come to the toy piano deliberately. Instead, while doing research on John Cage, I went down a rather strange rabbit hole, where I stumbled across a wonderful instrument. The toy piano is an avant-garde musician’s dream. It has no musical baggage, no weighty historical performance practice, no standard repertoire. It has nothing to hold you back, to tell you you’re doing it wrong; it exists only in the present and looks to the future.

Articles
Frank J. Oteri

Lei Liang Wins 2020 Grawemeyer Award for Climate Change-Inspired Piece

Chinese-American composer Lei Liang has won the 2020 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for a Boston Modern Orchestra Project commissioned orchestral work titled A Thousand Mountains, a Million Streams, a piece that evokes the threat posed by climate change and the opportunity it offers for redemption.

Bryce Dessner
Interviews
Frank J. Oteri

Bryce Dessner: I’m the Same Musician Wherever I Go

Bryce Dessner has learned different lessons from his immersion into very different kinds of music-making and these lessons have made him a stronger musician, whether he is writing songs and playing lead guitar in the indie rock band The National, co-scoring the soundtrack for the motion picture The Revenant, or composing a double piano concerto for the Labeque sisters.

Articles
Diane Moser

How Working with Birdsong Brought Me to New Communities Beyond Music

One never knows where the music will take you, especially if you are willing to explore new pathways. After the release of my recording Birdsongs, the conversations about the music included conversations on listening, walking in the woods, memories of experiences in nature, dreaming, climate change, and so much more. These are very different conversations than I usually have about my music.

A group of bicycles chained to a rack one of which is just one tire, presumably because the rest of the bike was stolen.
Articles
Brent Michael Davids

Cultural Appropriation in Classical Music?

Though it seems ironic, acultural neutrality is a narrative the West has culturally taught itself. Minute cultural awarenesses break through sometimes, but often the positive changes we are desperate for are obstructed—innocently or intentionally—by the numerous gatekeepers of Western classical music.

A car approaching one of the cabins at the MacDowell Colony in Pererborough, New Hampshire
Articles
Diane Moser

My Journey With Bird Songs

Every day for five weeks, I improvised with songbirds and any other creatures that made their voices heard, and recorded each session. My goal was to become a member of their band, so to speak. I listened deeply to their singing, and carefully infiltrated their ensemble. They, in turn, sang to me and with me and seemed to be okay that I was not only privy to their conversations, but would take part in them as well.

A Japanese face mask on a shelf with other objects that are out of focus.
Articles
Jennifer Jolley

The Curious Case of Keiko Yamada

The evening of August 31 began like most Saturday nights at the start of the fall semester. I was reviewing course plans and readings for the upcoming week, while I casually scrolled through my email. It was late, and I had long since lost whatever drive had propelled me earlier when I received an email… Read more »

Articles
Multiple Authors

Truly a Wenren—Remembering Chou Wen-chung (1923-2019)

Chou Wen-chung is a music giant who mentored us in our creative lives for decades. He has made a huge contribution to the music of our time, yet he is a father-like figure to us. He will be missed by all of us tremendously, and his legacy will live with us forever.

Myra Melford in front of the New Music USA mural.
Interviews
Frank J. Oteri

Myra Melford: Freedom and Form

Myra Melford is equally comfortable performing a blues tune, jamming in a completely free-improvisatory setting with other musicians, or exploring more predetermined structures in the compositions she writes for her own ensembles. “I understand that a lot of what I do works in the jazz context … Jazz is an inclusive music.”

Two people photographed from the back walking on the left and right rails of traintracks in the country.
Articles
Jessica Rudman

Sealing the Deal: Signing the Contract and Completing the Collaboration

Assuming you are setting a completed text in a transactional partnership, you’re now ready to write up your contract, get it signed, and start composing.

Replica of a human brain.
Articles
Elliott Sharp

Pursuing the Ir Rational

As my understanding of the Inner Ear grows, I ask if it can be separated from the Mind itself. It’s no longer a radical notion that our individual memories have been externalized in something very like a cloud. And if memories can be external to the person, then could Identity itself, the individual consciousness, also be externalized? How would the perceptual systems function in a disembodied Mind? What would music be to such an entity?

Four old fashioned metal keys.
Articles
Jessica Rudman

What You Get and What You Give: Permission and Compensation for Setting a Text

Who owns what rights will depend on the nature of your collaboration and what you negotiate. For transactional partnerships involving pre-existing text, the author/publisher keeps the copyright of the words, but allows the composer to use them in their piece. The composer then owns the copyright for the resulting musical work, but not the copyright for the words. If the author is creating new text for the composer to set, the same generally will be true.

Articles
Jessica Rudman

Transactional and Collaborative Approaches to Working with Authors

Informed consent is essential for successfully collaborating with writers. However, what each person must be informed about and consent to depends in part on whether the partnership will be transactional or more collaborative.

Pile of poetry books
Articles
Jessica Rudman

A Primer on Collaborating with Authors

Introduction I could wax poetic about why composers should set texts by living authors. Some big reasons include texts that stand out amid the sea of well-worn Public Domain poems, topics and style relevant to today’s audiences, more diverse voices and viewpoints, the ability to interact with the author, the possibility of tailor-made texts, and… Read more »