Tag: [email protected]

2014: Remembering The Year That Isn’t Over Yet

And finally, what can we say about 2014? We’re not even halfway through the year yet. But since we’re constantly talking about 21st-century music on this site and we’re not even a sixth of the way through the 21st century, 2014 should be fair game.

Though it was posted a mere four months ago, Molly Sheridan’s talk with Lisa Bielawa is one of the most incentivizing things I’ve ever read about the creation of music. Lisa’s unbridled enthusiasm is quite a contrast to the reflections of Juan Orrego-Salas, who several years ago stopped composing but still had lots of stories to tell me about the days when he was actively writing music. (At 95, he is the oldest composer we’ve yet spoken to on NewMusicBox; Elliott Carter was a mere 91 when we spoke with him back in February 2000.)

At less than 5/12ths of the way through the year it seems like many of the concerns of the past 15 years are still not completely resolved, such as ongoing gender inequities, the ethics of appropriation, guaranteeing that composers can make a living from their music, how to teach musical composition, the validity of musical genre distinctions, attempting to define quality, or even what the role of creative artists and their work could and should be. Much as I’m usually reluctant to make predictions, I’ll venture a guess that none of these issues will be resolved this year or anytime soon.

But enough of all these reflective thoughts… at least for now! It has been wonderful to be reminded of so much of what has transpired over the course of the last 15 years here. We all hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as we did. Now we return to listening forward—stay tuned.

The year isn’t over yet, and neither is our campaign. We still need to raise more to meet our goal by June 30th. Why not donate now? You can help get us ready for the next 15 years!

Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

The Class of 2013

We are nearly finished with the NewMusicBox @ 15 Anniversary Celebration! This is a look back at some of the most interesting content of 2013 in a “yearbook award” format. Befitting this season of graduations, no?
Most Likely To Succeed:
Caroline Shaw Wins 2013 Pulitzer Prize
Class Clown:
On Lying To My Students
Most Independent:
Matana Roberts: Creative Defiance

Most Popular * :
The Power List: Why Women Aren’t Equals In New Music Leadership and Innovation
Saddest Moment:
A tie, between Aaron Kernis Resigns From Minnesota Orchestra and Lou Reed Got Married And He Didn’t Invite Me
Best Title:
Morton Subotnick: The Mad Scientist in the Laboratory of The Ecstatic Moment
How We Learn Now: Education Week
Education Week
Most Likely To Redefine Perceptions:
I’m a Trans Composer. What the Hell Does That Mean?
Most Political:
It Isn’t Over Because The Fat Lady Wasn’t Singing
Most Likely To Become A Cruise Director:
Guided By Sound: Crissy Broadcast Debuts in San Francisco

Lowell High School Orchestra, led by San Francisco Contemporary Music Players violinist Roy Malan

Lowell High School Orchestra, led by San Francisco Contemporary Music Players violinist Roy Malan

Best Historical Reenactment:
Sounds Heard: The Art of David Tudor (1963-1992)
Most Well-Traveled:
From Darmstadt To The Shopping Mall

* This post actually received so much traffic that it broke the Box for a short time. We couldn’t be prouder!

Most Likely to click the Donate Button: Everyone who reads NewMusicBox!

Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

2012: A Baker’s Dozen

1. Get creative with JLA, Ken Ueno, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Sxip Shirey. Go on!
2. You could even just ring a bell….
3. Because you never know who might be listening.
4. No time for that? Consider talking to Kristin Kuster about it before you make up your mind.
5. In any case, it might not be a bad idea to try ditching notation software as an exercise for the future.
6. Not every musician uses it, after all. Zoe Keating doesn’t!

7. Paul Mathews takes us on a spin through The Cycle of Get.
8. While Dan Visconti plays games.

9. Turns out Isaac Schankler is really good at bending the truth.
10. RIP the woman composer. Wait, what? There are so many of them!
11. Actual RIP Elliott Carter and William Duckworth.
12. Did you know that you can still download our first NewMusicBox Mix?
13. It might actually change your life.

If this were a true baker’s dozen you would only get one piece of this amazing content for free. Instead, we offer all of our in-depth content free of charge, every single day of the year. The only way this works is if members of this community believe in our work and support us financially. Help us celebrate 15 years of publishing by making your gift today.

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Twelve Tidbits from 2011

When you donate to New Music USA you are directly supporting the strength and vitality of the new music community. Celebrate the 15th anniversary of NewMusicBox by making your gift today.

1. This charming video was created by our January 2011 cover profile composer Mikel Rouse. He made it completely on his iPhone!

2. Speaking of video, NewMusicBox began streaming HD video via Vimeo.

3. We featured violinists:

4. And violists:

5. And electric guitarists:

6. Oh, and we featured some composers, too.

7. Also in the technological advances department, Schott launched a new digital publishing platform.
8. In memoriam: We continue to treasure the memory and music of Milton Babbitt, as well as that of the much-loved Peter Lieberson.
9. 2011 seemed to be the year, at least in this space, that some of our bloggers really dove into discussions of self-promotion. I mean, very, very into it!
10. My personal favorite concert experience of 2011 was hearing Mantra perform Michael Gordon’s Timber.

11. And let’s talk about choice post-concert negative comments!
12. Last, but most definitely not least–the big merger between the American Music Center and Meet The Composer, creating New Music USA became official!
New Music USA logo
Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

2010: Favorite Things And Inspirations

A favorite album from 2010:

A favorite article from that year: Can’t Get You Out Of My Head: Melody and the Brain.


2010 was significant for me personally since I officially began working at The Box that year. Although I had written for NewMusicBox a couple of times in the recent past (Molly is the most excellent and highly persuasive of editors), it was great to be amongst friends, and to have the opportunity to edit articles, wander around behind the scenes of Counterstream Radio, and write on a regular basis about a variety of topics—both serious and not so much—of my own choosing. It’s a pretty darn excellent gig.
At that time, Molly, Frank, and I would go out to tape interviews as a team (now that we have streamlined our equipment a bit, we either travel solo or in pairs in the name of efficiency), and the first one I got to tag along on was a talk with the inspiring Bunita Marcus, who also happens to have the most lovely composing space I’ve seen. There was another really great one with Henry Threadgill in one of New York City’s oldest cafes, as well as a memorable one which involved a field trip to Yale to talk with Chris Theofanidis.
2010 saw some exciting high-profile acceptance for jazz creators, talk of digital piracy, and an incredibly open and honest account of soldiering through an awkward moment.
I love it when composers are honored in huge ways and are willing to talk to us about it themselves; it happens more often than you might expect. Sometimes an artist decides to mix things up, make major life changes and get super real about it, too. When all is said and done though, there’s nothing quite like a composer with a really great sense of humor.
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The 5 Stages of Donating:
1. Denial – That big purple donate button doesn’t really exist.
2. Anger – Why are there so many non-profits out there asking for my money?!
3. Bargaining – They don’t really need my money anyway. All the programs will exist whether I donate or not. Right? RIGHT?!
4. Depression – There’s so little support for artists in this country.
5. Acceptance – New Music USA is one of the few organizations that works to increase opportunities for artists and grow the audience for new American music. If I can, I need to support them financially so that they can keep doing what they do for the field.

You Don’t Say! Quotable Quotes from NewMusicBox

Quotable quote
In its 15-year history, composers, musicians, and industry professionals have shared countless pearls of wisdom with NewMusicBox, but these are some that have become particularly quotable quotes around the office, starting with one I used to keep on a sticky note posted above my desk.

Tania Leon on composer camps:
Despite of our talking about Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, whatever town you’re talking about, the point is that there are some people who are completely out of town, even when they are in town.


Ornette Coleman on love, war, and music:
The sound is made from the instrument. The ideas are made from your brain. The ideas and the sound actually meet. They don’t necessarily meet to make love. Sometimes they’re meeting to make war.


Brian Ferneyhough on label avoidance:
No, I don’t put a label on it because when you put a label on something, you’ve canned it. I know that the present-day world of commerce cans things and I’m sure it’s very good that they can things for us. They radiate them and do various things to normalize them and make square tomatoes that fit more adequately in the boxes available to them. That’s not my concern. Art is about questioning how things fit together, it’s not about making them fit together better.


Nico Muhly on being a “classical” composer:
The best way to make there not be that much of a distinction, even if you feel there might be a teeny one, is to put your fingers in your ears and say, “La-la-la-la-lah.” I’m so uninterested. It’s essentially like being from somewhere. I feel like I’m very proudly from the classical tradition. It’s like being from Nebraska. Like you are from there if you’re from there. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a productive life somewhere else. The notion of your genre being something that you have to actively perform, I think is pretty vile.


Milton Babbitt on encounters with new genres:
I don’t even know what hip-hop is, to be honest with you. Do you understand hip-hop? What is all this scratching of records?


Elliott Carter on minimalism:
I have a feeling about it that is very strong and it’s probably not correct. And that is that we are surrounded by a world of minimalism. All that junk mail I get every single day repeats; when I look at television I see the same advertisement. I try to follow the movie that’s being shown, but I’m being told about cat food every five minutes. That is minimalism. I don’t want it and I don’t like it. And it’s a way of making an impression that doesn’t impress me. In fact, I do everything to avoid it. I turn off the television until it’s over. I refuse to be advertised to.


Philip Glass on success:
The main thing is to love the work that you do because you may get no other reward. And if you don’t need any other reward except the satisfaction of the music, then you’re always winning. And that was true for me when I was 30. I was out playing music and I thought I was successful when I was 30! I had an audience. I had an ensemble. I was going from city to city playing music. I couldn’t make a living, but that was not the issue for me. People always say, “Well, when were you successful?” and I say, “Well, I always thought I was!” They said, “No, no, when did you make money?” “Oh! Much later.”


Mario Davidovsky on popularity:
I think there is a certain danger when we say, “Did you write a book? How many books you sold? Two. Well, then the book stinks. How many books? Two million; yes, that’s a great book.” This is a completely zombie consumerism way of judging, which we are going to pay for.


John Luther Adams on career and creativity:
No one ever told me that I could have a career as a composer. No one ever told me I couldn’t. I just didn’t think in those terms, and I made all the wrong choices every step of the way. I made all the wrong career choices and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I think the music knew where it wanted me to go. By a series of happy accidents, and a few conscious choices and maybe the peculiarities of my own psyche, I kept making all the wrong choices, and that’s turned out to be the best possible thing that could have happened for the music and for the composer.


Charles Wuorinen on descriptive opinion:
There’s no embarrassment about using the most primitive forms of description and in committing every form of that basic fallacy which says, “My reaction to a composition, or any artwork, is a property of that work. So, if I think a piece is ugly—if my response to a piece is ‘It is ugly,’ then it is, objectively.” That’s an impossibility, it just is! I thought we had been through that many, many decades, not to say centuries, ago, but now it’s all back. And so, “If I think a piece is sad, then it has the property of sadness.” That’s asinine!


Glenn Branca on improvisation:
Would you want to read an improvised, collaborated novel? I mean, I don’t know if you read. I read a lot. And I can tell you right now, I would not want to read something that was written by five people improvising.


Willie Colón on where life meets the music:
[W]e get into a big bar fight. We’re out on the sidewalk. … By the end, me and Hector [LaVoe] are fighting in the middle of a circle. Long story short, everybody gets beat up pretty bad and I get thrown in the alley in the garbage. The union delegate is making his rounds and he says, “Hey, that’s Willie Colón there.” And they say, “I don’t give a hell if he’s Willie Shit.” Anyway, he cleans me up and takes me back to the hotel. The place where that happened was on Calle Luna. So that’s where “Calle Luna Calle Sol” came from. It was after a real good bucket of whoop ass we got. It made me think chromatically.


Sxip Shirey on effective experimentalism in music:
If you take a child from the city and show it a horse, that’s an experimental moment, but the child doesn’t go, “Hmm, let me think about the entire history of evolution and how horses came to…”—No. What they do is say, “Oh my God, that’s so huge and frightening and I want to get closer to it.” So I want to create music and art that is totally huge and frightening, but also so delicious and wonderful that it makes you want to be part of it.


Wendy Carlos on the fundamental role of music:
An essential part of music is to connect with our shared inner feelings, to recognize the connections and know that you’re not alone. We’re born alone; we die alone. In between we have music, and a great gift it is, too. It’s in there with our social structures: families and friends and loved ones, a shared humanity. I like to think of it as the old metaphor of two ships at sea. We flash our signal lights as we pass one another. It makes life less lonely. It’s wired into us. If music were taken away from us, I do believe we would invent it again. In a few generations, we would develop it all over again.

2009: Just Add A Dollop Of Salsa

As you may have noticed, our artist interviews are a hugely important part of “The Box.” Years before I started working here, I loved reading the interview transcripts and watching the videos, and I appreciate the variety of musicians and genres represented—from those on the cusp of notoriety to those working solidly within the fray

…to seasoned veterans such as Willie Colón, whose interview is probably one of Frank’s proudest moments. In my opinion as a former percussionist, a little salsa makes everything better!

(Note: We often joke about how inevitably we end up taping interviews on the coldest and the hottest days of the year, and I’ve heard numerous retellings of the interview with Ikue Mori, which is apparently burned—so to speak—into memory for its heat stroke factor.)
NewMusicBox @ 15 logo
In addition to assorted Middle East political woes, 2009 was a complicated year in the world financial landscape, and while the pop music world was rocked by the unexpected death of Michael Jackson, the arts world also lost two immensely influential figures: Betty Freeman and Merce Cunningham. I imagine those three meeting at the pearly gates and bemoaning the music industry’s increasingly frequent use of autotune.

Do you remember the sad and strange vanishing composer story? This was also the year without a musical genius. Fortunately there is comfort to be found in the company of our feline friends.
On the bright side, 2009 also marked the 10th birthday of NewMusicBox (can you tell we like to party?)…

…along with some interesting music world newness like officially sanctioned online score perusal, a surprisingly excellent composer residency situation in Chicago, one of the smartest hires ever for a major concert presenting organization, and an honor for a life of listening deeply.

Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

FRANK J. OTERI: And you commission it, but it’s not really yours. You get to hear it but then it belongs to the world.

BETTY FREEMAN: That’s the way I like it.

Like the music we write about, NewMusicBox belongs to everyone. New Music USA is a public trust. Your support, quite literally, enables us to move this organization forward, to strengthen the community, and to hold up new American music for the world to hear. Please contribute in honor of [email protected]!

2008: NewMusicBox Snapshots—Nine Images for Nine Years

Radical Connections: Elliott Carter and Phil Lesh

Elliott Carter and Phil Lesh

Phil Lesh and Elliott Carter
Photo by Jeffrey Herman

Though you might not ordinarily connect these two composers, there are some surprising musical links between them, supported by a friendship of many years. This conversation between them originally aired on Counterstream Radio in 2008, but you can listen again now.
In The Cut: A Composer’s Guide To The Turntables

Erik Spangler and Du Yun

Erik Spangler and Du Yun
Photo by Molly Sheridan

The DJ may be the custodian of today’s aural history, according to DJ Spooky, but the turntables hadn’t been given much attention in the academy in 2008. Erik Spangler set out to correct that oversight.
A Subtle Analysis of Composer-Performer Resentment
In which Jeremy Denk, on the advice of his therapist, airs his serious grievances and irrational peeves with new music.
Dispatches From the End of the Jazz Wars
White flag behind barbed wire in smoke
Darcy James Argue suggests that perhaps the fissure between neoclassicists and progressives doesn’t seem as pressing when jazz itself is on the ropes—unity in the face of adversity.
Lend Me a Pick Ax: The Slow Dismantling of the Compositional Gender Divide
Women have made tremendous strides toward parity with their male colleagues in the field of composition, but we’re not all the way home just yet. In 2008, Lisa Hirsch took the field’s pulse on this issue.
Crash Course: American Serialism
12 for serialism
Matthew Guerrieri delved into American serialism, exploring the work of a host of composers—Babbitt, Wuorinen, Powell, and more—who set out, by the numbers, to make music modern.
Making an Asset Out of Your eSelf
The references to MySpace and Classical Lounge may now be obsolete, the power of social networks continues to grow and the concepts herein as outlined by composer Alex Shapiro remain relevant and useful.
Picturing Music: The Return of Graphic Notation

Section from Will Redman's Book

Section from Will Redman’s Book

An exploration of unconventional notation as presented in the anthology Notations 21, released in 2008.
Acoustic Ecology and the Experimental Music Tradition

path into the sunset

Photo by Molly Sheridan

Today’s acoustic ecology encompasses a much more expansive domain of intellectual activity than would have ever been claimed by its original practitioners. David Dunn tried to pin down some definitions.
Nine images for nine years, and a video to grow on, as we remember a remarkable colleague we interviewed in 2008 and lost this year.

Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

2007: Big Ideas In a 140-Character World

What big ideas will you bring to “The Box” over the next 15 years? NewMusicBox thrives because of your support. When you donate, you join many individuals who are committed to the future of composition, improvisation, and conversation about new American music and its creators. Join them and be heard.

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In 2007, Apple released the iPhone. Though not the first smartphone in the marketplace, it amplified the radical shift in how many Americans—at least those in certain economic brackets and data service areas—were communicating with one another. Our connection to one another was now so portable, it was effectively a 24/7 lifestyle accessory (or a punishing ankle monitor, depending on your perspective). Yet for all that potential interactivity perhaps no relationship was as strong as the one we each had with the phone itself, and with our own image glimpsed in its finger-smudged glass. Though #selfie was still on its rise to buzzword status, it was a reflective time.

Alongside this product development, there were new and shiny ways to share our inner monologue. Twitter had launched in 2006, but the popularity of sending out 140-character missives really began to build in 2007. So many thoughts, so little time to process them. In honor the information acceleration that marked the year, let’s take a deeper look at just a few mile markers.

NewMusicBox in 2007

NewMusicBox homepage in 2007

1. Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century pushed contemporary classical music into mainstream consciousness, picking up a 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book of the Year nod, and a spot on Time magazine’s Top Ten Nonfiction Book of 2007 in the process. Ross stopped by our office to chat about the book and let us in on some of the tidbits that ended up on the cutting room floor.

2. Our own Counterstream Radio launched on March 16 with an inaugural program featuring an illuminating conversation between Meredith Monk and Björk, two artists who had long admired each other’s music but had never previously met. The station has been broadcasting a deep catalog of music to an ever-growing audience of music fans ever since.

3. As the water rose on a global financial crisis and the wreckage of a burst housing bubble began floating our way, the economic challenges facing new music were, as per usual, ongoing. We focused in on some big issues: What is the industry cost of a free concert? Will the cost disease of live performance eventually kill it off? With budgets tightening, why rent new music when you can play the old stuff much more cheaply? This might sound like a fairly depressing read, and indeed the discussion does place some hard questions on the table, but the takeaway wasn’t so dark. As Matthew Guerrieri pointed out, “The fact that live performance persists in the face of market pressures speaks to a basic human need that even Adam Smith’s invisible hand can’t slap away.”

4. Our interviews often take “in-depth” to new levels, and in 2007 we dove into the catalogs and personal histories of a number of remarkable people. Wendy Carlos let us into her world for a lengthy and extremely moving conversation about her work, and it remains one of our most popular talks. We did our best to keep pace with the rapid-fire ideas of a then-25-year-old Nico Muhly (and the coffee and conversation kept flowing right through the photo shoot). A few months later, we sat down with Charles Wuorinen and were impressed by the passion and conviction that backed his arguments. Muhly was as well and posted about it. (Things got very meta.) Jennifer Higdon impressed us with her egoless, laid-back practicality, and Ornette Coleman kinda blew our minds with his poetic ideas (not to mention conversation style) as he discussed life, death, and music.

5. The 2007 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music focused on a group of American composers born in 1938 (more or less). In a three-part series (1, 2, 3), Judith Tick walked us through the ties that bind this unique cohort of artists together
Whew, talk about deep thoughts! In between these expansive intellectual excursions, however, we encouraged everyone to remember take care of themselves. Music making is challenging enough without it becoming physically painful. Doping allegations were a dark shadow looming over the athletic world, after all, and it would be a terrible thing if the headlines turned our way next.

2006: Walk Right In, Sit Right Down

NewMusicBox @ 15 logo
A chair is a terrible thing to waste, and in 2006 any and all vacancies were weighing heavily on our minds.

It’s not that we didn’t already know we had an audience problem, but we couldn’t fundamentally agree on what the root cause actually was. Could it be the Monty Python-worthy stagehand sketches being enacted in our concert halls? Would it be best to run away to a more relaxed outdoor venue?
Perhaps an outright ambush was in order.

Venue was a central variable in the new equations, that’s for sure, and long-term solutions meant more than just locating a cooler landlord with a liquor license. Yet setting aside the trappings left even more essential questions on the table. Perhaps we had gotten a little too friendly with our genre neighbors and were diluting the whiskey rather than expanding the guest list. Or maybe we were looking at the wrong urban role models and, with our eyes glued to the shoreline, were missing the inspiration to be found in the Heartland. It was time to play hardball. There were some tough truths to be spoken, but were we ready to hear them?
NewMusicBox homepage 2006
Or maybe this boat had already hit the iceberg and we should just make sure the monks had copies of our scores for safe keeping before our culture went up in flames. And for all those getting judge-y about Pops programs? “Thanks for sending us your fleeing concert hall patrons!” they shouted back. “Your close-mindedness will complete your downfall.”
Admittedly, all this handwringing over ticket sales was a convenient distraction from our more personal career frustrations in an industry where it’s too easy to be almost successful.

Sorry, sorry, I’m getting bleak—and we’re not even close to the economic challenges of 2008 yet! In many ways things were still the same as in years gone by. We were still exploring technology and getting giddy over the advancing opportunities for creative music making. We were still arguing over the continued existence of the Uptown/Downtown divide. We were still struggling to come up with the perfect title.

And on the up side, we were singing our own songs and singing them proudly! (But only once we had legally cleared permission to set the text, of course.) Big bands and small electronics were turning ears and inspiring composers. Keeping things fresh and optimistic, the whippersnappers were reporting in on their first experiences with major orchestras. Colin Holter began graduate school and took us along for the ride. He would write a weekly column for the next six years (right up to his doctoral dissertation defense) and poke sticks into a number of beehives during his tenure, but he would never miss a deadline.
Not. Once.