In Support of New Music

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing case studies that illuminate networks of support for new American music, as presented by a panel of musicologists at the third annual New Music Gathering this past May. The full series is indexed here.

Written By

Ryan Ebright

How is new music supported?

At the third annual New Music Gathering this past May, a panel of musicologists suggested a variety of answers to this question. In ideal scenarios, new music is sustained at multiple levels: financial, social, aesthetic, and emotional. Over the next few months, we’ll share case studies that illuminate networks of support for new American operas, as well as the interpersonal relationships and ethics that nourish new music communities from Chicago to Stockholm. We’ll also look at where support falls short, and explore what lessons these failures offer.

Thank you to NewMusicBox for hosting this series, to New Music Gathering for creating a space for productive dialogue, and to our families, friends, and institutions for supporting our scholarship.


What Do You Think? By John Pippen
How do we critique each other’s work? What is at stake in such a conversation? For every successful endeavor, there are more failures. As I became aware of this contingency, “What do you think?” became an increasingly high-stakes question.

How OPERA America Has Supported New Works By Sasha Metcalf
In the 1980s, OPERA America members became concerned with the dearth of new American operas and the stagnation of standard European repertoire. In response to this perceived crisis, they decided to take action. But the need for financial support was only part of the problem.

How to Produce Opera Outside the Opera House By Ryan Ebright
How do you get an opera company to produce an opera that’s not really an opera? You don’t—you do it yourself. But it takes a network of support. Ryan Ebright explores the personal connections and professional collaborators that allowed Steve Reich and Beryl Korot to self-produce their first video opera The Cave.

Amateur Hour: Karin Rehnqvist, The City’s Choir, and the Gift that Kept Giving By Per Broman
Karin Rehnqvist was never afraid of being labeled a composer for amateurs (nor was she afraid of being labeled a feminist), and after numerous commissions from professional ensembles and international performances, she didn’t have to prove herself. The amateur path she started on actually showed itself to be an ideal schooling in outreach and entrepreneurship.

New Horizons, Old Barriers By Will Robin
Funded by the organization Meet The Composer, the New York Philharmonic’s Horizons festivals represented a major shift in how new music was supported in the 1980s, as composers newly embraced the orchestra, turned away from academia, and entered the classical music marketplace. But declining to properly represent the diversity of the American musical landscape was one of its failures.