Category: Articles

Help! New Music Service Organizations Answer the Call

Karissa Krenz
photo by Melissa Richard

Music abounds more than ever these days. On any given night you can hear any type of music in the concert hall, on the web, on the radio (and of course, on your stereo). One might think that in these technologically-advanced days, it is easy for a composer to get his or her music out there. But the music world is such a confusing place–who’s out there to help composers? There are so many composers, so many legalities they need to know, and so little money to go around. How are artists supposed to learn what they need to know, promote their music, and continue composing?

Luckily, there are a number of service organizations out there set up to help composers wade through the muck of the music industry.

On top of the list are the performing rights organizations, ASCAP and BMI. Both protect composers’ rights and ensure that composers receive payment for performances. In addition, the organizations assist in the commissioning process, work with other organizations to encourage commissioning, help composers network, advise artists on how to support themselves through their music, and serve as advocates for new music and composers.

ASCAP and BMI have realized how important supporting new music is. According to Frances Richard, Vice President of ASCAP’s Symphonic and Concert department, unlike the pop field, the concert music field is in a place “where standard repertory predominates. The kinds of principal influences on people who will become music professionals involves their teaching a repertory that they had been taught themselves, and perpetuating it — which we heartily believe in because we never feel any composer is dead as long as we keep playing their music. But to continue a living and lasting art form, every generation has to add its own contribution.”

That’s where all of these service organizations step in.

Alongside the performance rights organizations are groups dedicated fully to the creation and promotion of new music. The main organizations for the promotion of new American music are the American Music Center (AMC), American Composers Forum (ACF), and Meet The Composer (MTC). AMC exists as the official U.S. Information Center for New Music and is also a service organization which administers a variety of grants programs, conducts national workshops, and publishes NewMusicBox, the Web magazine you are currently reading. ACF works more directly with composers, having branch chapters throughout the U.S. that encourages the commissioning of new music and support of the composers themselves. Meet The Composer (MTC) offers a number of grant programs to bring artists to the general public through residencies, educational programs, and other commissioning programs.

Other service organizations, such as the National Association of Composers, USA (NACUSA) and the International Association of Jazz Educators also maintain branch chapters throughout the country which exist as local support vehicles, while there are also regional organizations serving composers in specific areas of the country as well as the recently-launched Center for the Promotion of Contemporary Composers, which exists exclusively on the Internet. Older organizations, such as American Composers Alliance (ACA), College Music Society (CMS), and the Society of Composers, Inc., have maintained specific national initiatives for many decades.

Some organizations help promote specific types of music, such as the Society for Electro-Acoustical Music in the United States. There are also organizations which promote music by specific segments of the population, e.g. the Latin American Music Center (LAMC), the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), and the International Association for Women in Music (IAWM).

In addition to all of the new music oriented service organizations, many other arts service organizations, representing various aspects of the greater music field at large (e.g. American Symphony Orchestra League, Chamber Music America, Opera America, etc.), support a variety of specifically-targeted new music initiatives.

An exploration of these organizations reveals an elaborate network working behind the scenes to make new music happen in this country. While critical kudos and audience approval goes out to the composers and performers in concerts and recordings, these service organizations also play a crucial role in the nurturing and developing of new American music.

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center Samuel Adler, Composer; Professor Emeritus, Eastman School of Music; Professor of Composition, The Juilliard School

Samuel Adler
photo by Katherine Cumming
Courtesy of Samuel Adler

In a 1926 speech, Aaron Copland said of Howard Hanson:

“Hanson and Sowerby’s sympathies and natural proclivities make them heirs of older men such as Hadley and Shepherd. Their facility in writing and their eclectic style produce a kind of palatable music that cannot be expected to arouse the enthusiasm of the ‘elite’, but does serve to fill the role of ‘American music’ for broad masses of people.”

In the same context, he praised Hanson for his important American Music Festival in Rochester, but thought that it was quite insular in its outlook, promoting mostly the ‘safe’ or conservative composers rather than the more exciting avant-garde of the time. The latter remark was rather unfortunate and not really true to fact, since Hanson, especially in the early years of the Festival, did perform works by all kinds of composers whether he liked the music or not.

The remark and the general tone of the sentiment angered Hanson and he wrote a letter to the forum at which Copland had spoken and attacked these remarks by saying: “No matter what one does, one can never satisfy the “elite New York establishment.” This ‘dig’ was interpreted quite harshly, and might have even been perceived as an anti–Semitic slur. However one may interpret it, the relations between Copland and Hanson, never very warm, cooled considerably, and though they collaborated on several projects during the years, they remained friendly adversaries from that incident on.

In 1975 I was chair of the composition department at the Eastman School, and suggested to our then director Robert Freeman that we give an honorary degree to Aaron Copland on the occasion of his 75th birthday. He immediately agreed with that suggestion, and Copland accepted our invitation. The date was set, and I felt it would be important that Howard Hanson, for so many years the ‘spirit’ as well as the director of the School, invest Copland himself. This would certainly add great meaning to the event and also possibly ‘break the ice.’ I wrote a letter to Hanson asking him to officiate, and he immediately called me and enthusiastically accepted the task.

Three weeks later, I received a lengthy letter from Hanson with all kinds of documentation stating that he cannot make it on that particular date because he was being given an honorary doctorate on the same day. However in the letter he enclosed a sealed envelope which he asked me to present to Copland before the actual ceremony on that Sunday afternoon. In his note to me, Hanson said how truly sorry he was about this and that he hoped I would understand. I did understand of course and the honor bestowed on Hanson on the same date was an important one.

Well the actual day arrived, and in the robing room, I handed Hanson’s letter to Copland who opened it immediately. His face brightened, and yet there were tears in his eyes as he read the letter. He was so moved by the content, which by the way he never shared with me, that he asked that we delay the start of the convocation so that he could sit down and write a letter answering Hanson. Of course we delayed the ceremony a few minutes and Copland handed me a letter which I later transmitted to Hanson.

The ceremony was a beautiful affair, and the highlight was when Copland accepted the degree which read that he was the Dean of American composers. His speech began:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I may be the Dean of American composers in other places, but not here at Eastman, where my friend and colleague Howard Hanson has established this most important school which has served American music perhaps better than any other institution of its kind. I gladly take second place to him.”

From what I learned later, this convocation and the letter exchange smoothed the way to bring the two great composers together again for the few years that both were alive, and I was happy to have aided in helping to repair the breech.

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center John Duffy, Composer; Founder and Former Executive Director of Meet The Composer

John Duffy
photo by Jay K. Hoffman
courtesy of John Duffy

The AMC was a rich haven for me during my student days. How glad I was to be there as it was the only place to see and study scores by living American composers. It was there that I first encountered Aaron Copland, which led to my studying with him at Tanglewood. My sense of public, political, and professional stewardship was encouraged through contact with Copland. Like him, I wanted to bring music to a large public, to earn a living composing, and to help my fellow musician/composers. It required developing a new mindset – learning about: contracts, ownership of one’s music, residuals, composing for theatre, documentary films, and other forms of collaborative work. All of this I brought to Meet The Composer, and because, like Copland, I loved music, and composers, and had faith, it worked. I also learned that countless people were there to help in every way possible. From Copland I grew to see with greater clarity, that music was a social art, honed by composing steadily for public use. These insights were etched deeply into MTC’s credo, and contributed, in large measure to the good of music, composers, and our society. His torch, his beaming beacon was kept aflame. MTC became a safe, caring, helpful haven for all composers. And our programs of commissions, residencies, collaborations, publications, composer – public encounters, music for students, film, theatre dance, and a dedication to unity and fairness kept his vision alive.

From day one of my work at MTC, Otto Luening was a constant source of encouragement, good cheer, and a wellspring of history. The phone would ring:

“Hello John, this is Otto. I want to say what a fabulous job, an invaluable service you, and your staff are doing for composers and music. Wherever I go I see MTC. Keep it up. And I like the fact that music of all kinds is represented. We’ve not had that before. And the new programs were unheard of in my day.”

Often I’d met Otto on Riverside Drive, and his kindness and authentic spirit were unique. His sense of fairness, fellowship, and love of music were constant and selfless. He seemed always ready to hold the banner high for the principles imbedded in Meet The Composer, to offer his time and his counsel, and to give his last breath to what would make our world better. He was a genuine champ.

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center Sylvia Goldstein, Former Senior Vice-President, Boosey & Hawkes

Sylvia Goldstein
photo by NewMusicBox

Sylvia Goldstein

own music in the repertoire, Aaron Copland always had time for others. One incident involving the program for a concert he was to conduct at Carnegie Hall comes to mind. The composer of a listed symphony was unknown to me or others in the office. When asked about the work, Aaron replied that the composer had been writing music for forty years and never had had an opportunity to hear his work played by a good orchestra. Aaron added “I think we owe him that.”

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center Patrick Hardish, Composer; Co-Director, Composers Concordance

Patrick Hardish
photo by Barry Cohen
Courtesy of Patrick Hardish

Otto Luening was a great mentor and influence as well as being a close personal friend. He was important to my development as a composer and on the progress of our organization, the Composers Concordance. I got to know Otto in July 1980 at Bennington College where I was taking a composition seminar. He was a visiting professor there that summer but was no stranger to the Bennington campus having headed that college’s music department from 1934-44. We ran into each other often after that in New York City at various events such as new music concerts, the American Music Center annual parties and his own birthday parties. A highlight was a wonderful gala at the Century Club for his 95th birthday. We also saw each other in and around the Columbia University area where Otto had an apartment on Riverside Drive. (I was a graduate music student and staff member of the Columbia University Music Library at the time.) Otto also taught for several years at Columbia and served as music chairman of Columbia’s School of the Arts until his retirement in 1970 when he was named Professor Emeritus.

Otto was much involved from the very beginning of the Composers Concordance in 1983 and became our Chief Advisor. It began with regular meetings (or “pow-wows” as he liked called them) at his apartment. The meetings took place between Otto, Joseph Pehrson (my co-director) and myself and usually set out with a broad look at the contemporary music scene along with asides on Otto’s historical odyssey as a composer both here and abroad. He always kept up on the current developments of music and was very catholic in his tastes. He hardly ever discussed musical aesthetics as he thought that this was the personal business of each composer but often discussed the practical matters of being a composer and our job as concert directors. He always made Joseph and I feel very at ease during the meetings and always came across as “one of the guys.” Sometimes these meetings would last for five hours, but they would go by so quickly as we were all having such a good time. He had so much to say to us, so much advice to give, so many wonderful stories. These meeting were a very important and wonderful time in my life and I will always remember them.

Otto was very political in a positive sense, that is, he knew how to get along with his colleagues and help the cause of contemporary American concert music. Of course he always had a keen sense of who had talent and who did not having been a professor of composition for many years but rarely spoke ill of another composer. Otto had so many wonderful qualities but the one that stands out in my mind was his quality as a human being in addition to his obvious abilities as a composer, professor of composition, and organizer. I know no one as interested in advancing others as he was. I feel very lucky to have known him and miss him dearly.

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center Vivian Perlis, Director, Oral History of American Music, Yale University

Vivian Perlis
photo by NewMusicBox

While working with Aaron Copland’s papers that were filed in the basement of his house in Peekskill, New York, I came upon six assignment books for Rubin Goldmark, the celebrated composition teacher in Manhattan. Copland was astonished to see things he had not looked at for over sixty years. “Holy Moses! ” he exclaimed, “I kept everything!” (He actually used expressions like this, as well as “gee whiz” and “golly.”) As we turned the pages of one workbook labeled “Juvenilia,” Copland gleefully read the instructions from Goldmark: “No parallel fifths! No fourths! No octaves!” In response to my comment about how far he had strayed from these exercises, Aaron said: “I had to learn it somewhere, and this was as good as it got in those days.” No anger, no criticism, no impatience-only amusement at being labeled “the young modernist” among Goldmark’s students. Copland’s wit and good humor were constant and delightful, making it a great pleasure indeed to know or work with him.

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center

Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center
Samuel Adler Samuel Adler
Composer; Professor Emeritus, Eastman School of Music; Professor of Composition, The Juilliard School
“…I handed Hanson’s letter to Copland who opened it immediately. His face brightened, and yet there were tears in his eyes as he read the letter…”
John Duffy John Duffy
Composer; Founder and Former Executive Director of Meet The Composer
“The AMC was a rich haven for me during my student days. How glad I was to be there…”
Sylvia Goldstein Sylvia Goldstein
Former Senior Vice-President, Boosey & Hawkes
“While working to find a place for his own music in the repertoire, Aaron Copland always had time for others…”
Patrick Hardish Patrick Hardish
Composer; Co-Director, Composers Concordance
“Otto Luening was a great mentor and influence as well as being a close personal friend…”
Vivian Perlis Vivian Perlis
Director, Oral History of American Music, Yale University
“As we turned the pages of one workbook labeled “Juvenilia,” Copland gleefully read the instructions from Goldmark: ‘No parallel fifths! No fourths! No octaves!’…”

The 60th Anniversary of the American Music Center

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

November is an important month here at the American Music Center. Sixty years ago this month, the dreams of Aaron Copland, Howard Hanson, Otto Luening, Quincy Porter, Marion Bauer and Harrison Kerr became a reality and the American Music Center was born.

To celebrate the occasion, we have brought on a new webmaster, Eugene Takahashi, who is in the process of completely redesigning the site. We have veered from our usual interview format for In The First Person and instead have conducted a “virtual séance” with the founders of the Center. Old interviews, articles, lectures, and personal correspondence housed in archives around the country form the basis of this experimental undertaking – a seeming conversation between our six founders, all quoted from their own words, explaining the reasons why the Center was formed and offering unique perspectives about the state of music in this country which remain amazingly timely in November 1999.

To complement our focus on the founding of the American Music Center, we have asked John Duffy, Samuel Adler, Patrick Hardish, Sylvia Goldstein and Vivian Perlis to share personal anecdotes about their encounters with the Center’s founders, and we ask you to share your views about the role that the Center should have in the future. We’ve also invited Karissa Krenz to describe what other American organizations are doing for new music in a hyper-history of music service organizations.

Our News this month also seems to have an historical bent with important rediscoveries of Morton Feldman, Ben Weber, and Serge Rachmaninoff, whom we often forget was an American composer! In the month of our 60th anniversary, there are recordings of music by more than 60 American composers featured in our SoundTracks each including a RealAudio sample, and more than 60 new concerts have been added to our concert listings in Hear&Now.

Our rich musical heritage offers many insights into the paths we should follow for the future – as composers, performers, presenters, administrators, music critics, and audience members. I arrived at the American Music Center one year ago this month and am honored to be part of its ongoing tradition.

What role, if any, do you think technology will play in the composition and performance of your music in the next 25 years?

Morton Subotnick Morton Subotnick
“More and more I am ONLY using a computer…”
William Duckworth William Duckworth
“…some of us are already beginning to develop new virtual instruments and to conceive of ways to facilitate live performances on line…”
Pamela Z Pamela Z
“Each time I have introduced a new tool into my arsenal, it has resulted in new ideas and added new colors to my palate…”
Paul Lansky Paul Lansky
“Very little I’ve done would have been possible without the radically different perspectives and working methods offered by computing technology…”

Technology and the Future of Music

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

Anyone pursuing music, either as a composer, a performer or a listener, cannot escape technology. Virtually all of today’s popular music uses electronic instruments. Almost every singing voice is enhanced by a microphone, if not more elaborate devices. Many concert halls have begun to employ electrical sonic enhancements of some sort. Most of the music we’re exposed to nowadays reaches us through radio or recordings, both products of 20th century technology. And, of course, anybody reading NewMusicBox is interfacing with music in ways that would have not been possible without the technological advances of the past few years.

So how will the most recent cutting-edge technologies effect the way we experience music tomorrow? Will listening be the same experience in another 20 years?

We’ve asked Tod Machover to serve as the Guest Editor of this issue which explores the impact of technology on the future of music. Tod juggles an international career as a composer of music employing forward-looking technologies with running the Hyperinstruments/Opera-of-the-Future group at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge MA. Joe Paradiso, his colleague at MIT, has provided us with a complex web of information in his hyperhistory of electronic music interfaces. We’ve asked some of today’s leading exponents of electronic music — Morton Subotnick, William Duckworth, Pamela Z, and Paul Lansky -– to predict how technology will affect the composition and performance of their music in the next 25 years. And Tod and I like to find out what you think about some of the strange new instruments that are being developed at MIT, which include a fabric ball and a musical denim jacket!

On other fronts, this month’s SoundTracks allows you to “technologically” discover 24 new CDs of American music, only 2 of which feature electronic music, per se. And Hear&Now is chocked full of good old-fashioned concert listings. Most of this month’s news items are not technology-related, although we’re happy to report that BMI has announced a licensing agreement with one of the leading sellers of downloadable music on the Internet.


Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri


Into a New Century with Music and Technology

Tod Machover
Tod Machover

It would be hard to overestimate the impact that new technologies – first mechanical, then electric, finally computational – have had on music over the past hundred years. From player pianos to victrolas to radios to theremins to tape recorders to oscillators and filters to synthesizers to computers to samplers to MIDI to MAX to MP3 — there has been an incredibly rapid succession of revolutions in instrumentation, performance, and musical thought. Many of these new technologies have been embraced and absorbed quickly and effortlessly by musicians, but others have been ignored or even spurned by the classical and new music establishments, and this trend seems to be growing. These days, it is somewhat more likely to find music technology innovations coming from the entertainment industry, rather than from the conservatories or concert halls, a situation which has changed drastically since, say, the 1950’s, when visionaries like Cage, Babbitt, Stockhausen, and Xenakis set the international musical agenda with their radical electrified soundscapes.

In fact, the technologies themselves have never grown faster, and it is more important than ever to make sure that expression stays ahead of technical constraint or imperative. And the potential of emerging technologies is enormous. Some of this potential is in enhanced sonic resources or hyper-performance capabilities for professional musicians. Some is in the active engagement of the general public — young and old — in musical experiences. Some is through new models of music distribution. Some is in the creation of new forms of media opera that will approach Wagner’s ideal of a Gesamtkunstwerk. Some is through designing “interactive musical accompaniments” to everyday life, realizing Glenn Gould’s 1967 vision of an invigorated “elevator music” that would literally elevate music — through subliminal ear training – to replace words as our currency of emotional exchange.

In this issue of NewMusicBox, we have tried to examine some of the most exciting applications and implications of music technology, exploring both precedents and possibilities. Now is an ideal time for the most imaginative musical minds – and most innovative performing, presenting and training institutions – to creatively engage in using and shaping new media technologies. If we don’t, we risk having a major chapter of music’s future shaped for us.