Posted on May 12, 2014 by Molly Sheridan - Articles
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If 2004 had a genre-busting vibe, by 2005 we were embracing friends old and new as barriers cleared. And we worked on our relationships: with our colleagues, with our kids. The problem was that the harder we hugged, the more ridiculous settling on a meaningful genre name became.
Not that it was all peace and love just yet. Judgments were made about music and meaning and history, and we questioned those doing the judging. And then we questioned those who questioned those doing the judging. It was a somewhat confusing time, but rather than take our concerns to a psychologist, we tried visiting a psychic.
We also questioned our elders with adolescent conviction. We wrestled with Cage like we wrestled with our dad. We questioned taking tuition from so many would-be composers if there would never be enough jobs for them. We looked at the music we studied in the academy and found that the frame needed some adjustment.
Not to be left out, Frank J. Oteri and I interrogated each other. Once we launched a redesigned version of the site on our 6th anniversary, we had a little fun publicly debating our previously in-house-only arguments. Like any family, we continue to have these perennial disagreements—over everything from the value of negative criticism to the necessity of the Oxford comma. But ultimately, we are a team—which has translated into countless moments of shared high comedy and nail-biting anxiety (often simultaneously). For instance, when Frank got stuck in some epic traffic that year while trying to get back from a sneak premiere of Joan Tower’s Made in America, I headed uptown to cover his interview with Brian Ferneyhough with zero preparation aside from the list of questions Frank had relayed over the phone. Mr. Ferneyhough was incredibly gracious and understanding of the situation, and I remain grateful for his patience and generosity that day. Despite my trepidation, we ended up having a really great conversation! An education about music from the creators themselves—there’s really not a more illuminating path to take.
For all I learned that day, there were actually quite a few bits of advice and guidance on offer that year. In a time before Kickstarter, you used to have to do all the heavy lifting on individual fundraising campaigns yourself. And if you didn’t have your own lawyer on retainer, sometimes you had to tighten your tie, lint-roll your jacket, and play that role as well.
But it wasn’t all about administration, of course. That was just to keep fuel in the artistic engine and the lights on in the studio where experiments with extended techniques and microtonality could happen. There was advice on how to work well with a record producer and a look inside how our ears were working with our brains. Honestly, though, I might have gotten the most caught up contemplating the accordion’s various reed ranks and tone colors—fascinating stuff and I do not even play the accordion…yet.
And though it might seem as if all that technological excitement of 2004 fell off the radar, the questions at the intersection of music and digital delivery were actually getting much more complex as the novelty of what we could do careened into what music was worth and how we were going to pay for it.
On a personal note, The Friday Informer, a column I wrote highlighting the best of the new music internet, kicked off on September 30 that year. I would regularly spend my Thursday evenings with 60-some browser tabs open until May 2008, by which point social media made my delayed weekly endcap obsolete.
Posted on May 9, 2014 by Molly Sheridan - Articles
With all the serious reflection that’s been going on around here of late, it seemed like it was time to pop some popcorn and re-watch a few of the mini artist documentaries NewMusicBox has produced. Since we started uploading to Vimeo in 2011, these have been some of your favorites.
Want to keep watching? Browse the full collection here.
Behind these videos are hours and hours of interview footage which was transcribed and published on the pages of NewMusicBox. Nowhere else on the internet will you find this level of in-depth journalism covering the field of new American music. Help us continue this work by making a gift to celebrate 15 years of NewMusicBox today!
Posted on May 9, 2014 by Molly Sheridan - Articles
Sure, Mark Zuckerberg and pals launched Facebook in 2004, but NewMusicBox was already cruising into its 5th anniversary by that point. For the traditionalists in the house, the appropriate gift is wood, which we needed because the year was rife with arguments over fences. That’s right—I’m talking about of the blurring of genre lines.
The launch of New Amsterdam Records was still four years off, but the chatter surrounding this muddying of artistic indicators had already turned our heads. Of course this wasn’t exactly an original concept way back in 2004 either, but technology and easily accessible programs such as GarageBand were changing the landscape. With the broader availability of basic tools, gates were opening and an increasing number of music makers were walking through. Could the cost of and aptitude for lengthy training (which limited participation in certain kinds of music making) be circumvented, or at least mitigated, by software? This seemed to get everyone thinking.
NewMusicBox in 2004, back when we still posted “issues.” This one covered the ethics of borrowed materials.
We here at NewMusicBox were certainly thinking about the opportunities that rapidly developing tech and web interconnectivity offered. When the site launched in 1999, it was meant to serve as a national gathering place and resource for an industry often siloed in discrete geographic pockets. It might be difficult to rewind to a time when personal music blogs were still considered “experimental” now that we’re ankle deep into a discussion of their decline, but there was an energy and excitement to these new and strengthening virtual relationships. Though this was also the year that the performing arts pooled their knowledge under a single convention center roof in Pittsburgh for some real-world problem solving, music makers and fans were sharing their sounds and ideas with one another regardless of zip code in ever-growing numbers—fueled by passion and linked by an internet connection.
2004 Pulizer Prize-winner Paul Moravec greets ASCAP’s Vice President & Director of Concert Music Fran Richard at the American Music Center’s annual meeting. The joy captured in this picture sticks with me even a decade later.
The field may have drawn some strength from this increasingly connected community of colleagues, but there were still lines in the sand—even if the winds of change were making them harder to see. There was an appreciation by an impressive list of thinkers for music that was personally important to them even though it remained professionally “other.” There were those ready to pull down the barriers between pop and classical, but there were still those defending the disappearing divider. For those so up-close-and-personal with the music that it was difficult to label anything accurately, there were guidelines for that. Still, whether we liked it or not, the music seemed to be telling us that the new common practice was no common practice at all. Even the Pulitzer Prize board admitted that it was time to make some adjustments. There were rules, and they were being torn up and rearranged in the quest for new music. But if we were expecting pop music to enter the new music arena and save our industry from obsolescence, we were strongly advised not to hold our breath.
Posted on May 1, 2014 by Molly Sheridan - Articles
With life hurtling us forward at what often feels like an ever-increasing speed, it can take all available energy just to keep pace. The fear of missing out runs in cruel parallel to a world of information and experience that is expanding exponentially before our eyes, one that we cannot hope to consume even a decent fraction of.
And in the midst of so much that is new and shiny, there is rarely the opportunity to stop, let alone turn around and examine the path that has brought us to where we are currently standing.
But when we fail to engage in this reflection, we’re actually missing out on something else—the chance to measure our progress and to better comprehend the lessons the journey has taught us along the way. Such study can bring new meaning to what we have encountered and re-align where we want to head next.
For NewMusicBox, May 1 marks our publication’s 15th anniversary. Since 1999, we have been sharing the stories and sounds of new music in America with the world through the internet—initially a wild new frontier and still a slippery (if more sophisticated) one. To mark the occasion, we decided to stop looking forward toward new music for a moment and instead consider the lessons of what we’ve heard so far. Year by year, we sifted through our digital (hard yet corruptible) archives and our organic (malleable yet fallible) memories and contemplated what we might best take away from the past before we take any further steps toward the future.
Admittedly, we uncovered broken links and some dated graphics, but much larger messages transcended those cosmetic wrinkles—lessons from the artists we’ve spoken with about success and frustration, cash and creativity, living to make music and making music to make a living. Now, for the next few weeks, we’ll advance the clock a year at a time and call out the mile markers that still shine for us. (And we’ll index each of those posts below on this page.)
But this is an exercise made richer and more complete through collective action. How has American music influenced your life over the last decade and a half—in whatever roles you have played? What were the high points? What were the pitfalls? We hope you’ll reach back into your memory and share your takeaways with us as we travel back to…
As you join in the conversation to mark the 15th anniversary of NewMusicBox, please consider celebrating this milestone by making a gift to New Music USA, the non-profit organization that publishes NewMusicBox. Whether you are a loyal reader or are new to these pages, chances are you care about the dissemination of new American music and the vibrancy of the communities that create it. Our editors work hard to help you share your music, stories, and ideas with the world. Whether you donate $1 per month or $100, your gift is an endorsement of our work, one that enables us to more powerfully advocate for the needs of this community. Our cause is advanced far more when we are united.