Tag: reflection

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.

Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

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.
Additional NewMusicBox @ 15 Posts

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.

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]!

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.

2005: The Friends and Family Plan

Welcome to day eight of our celebration of [email protected] If everyone who regularly reads NewMusicBox donated just $1 per month we could end this campaign today. Help support the future of in-depth new music journalism by donating today!

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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.
NMBx redesign 2.0
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.

2004: Keys to the Kingdom

NewMusicBox @ 15 logo
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

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.

Paul Moravec and Fran Richard

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.

NewMusicBox @ 15: Reflections on Change, Challenge, and Music in the 21st Century

NewMusicBox's 15th Anniversary
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.

Buddhist music-making: how meditation could transform the way you work

Tian Tan Buddha

Tian Tan Buddha
Photo by Molly Sheridan

The last concert I heard before I went on a silent meditation retreat was the DePaul University Chamber Orchestra’s all-contemporary program. The first-ever performance of its type at DePaul, the concert generated considerable excitement among the Chicago listening community. The evening was an ambitious tour of 20th-century orchestral monoliths, designed by conductor Michael Lewanski to make a strong statement of advocacy and artistry. The young ensemble opened with Xenakis’ Tracees, closed with Berio’s Sinfonia, and played Ligeti’s Lontano and the US premiere of Gerard Pesson’s Aggravations et Final in between.

As I sat during the Xenakis, utterly annihilated by the sound of the tam-tam, I wondered what it would be like for a musician, in particular, to pass seven days in silence.

We musicians know that silence is as precious as sound itself; we try to care as well for the rests as we do for the music in between. But we also, like most human beings, fear the idea of a long silence. Is it safe—is it even possible—to pause our perpetual inner soundtrack and be truly alone with our chaotic thoughts, our chaotic selves?

As it turns out, a week spent in silent meditation is difficult, but quite survivable—even wonderful. I was very fortunate that two of the foremost Western teachers of Buddhism, Christina Feldman (whose phrasing I use below in quotes) and Narayan Liebenson, led the retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts. Both teachers spoke about how ancient teachings on mindfulness and compassion can illuminate our modern lives. Now that I’m speaking, reading, writing, and playing the violin again, I’m reflecting on how these teachings could transform our work as composers and performers. While meditation is not a self-improvement or life-fixing project, the principles and guiding intentions behind the practice have the capacity to gently and completely transform the way we live.

Learning to live within our bodies. One of the primary trainings of a meditation practice is to notice how often we are lost in thought, and to redirect our awareness inside the physical body. The first foundation of mindfulness is to “know the body as the body.” For the performer in particular, this is a powerful tool. As we sit onstage, surrounded by a swirl of sound, activity, anxiety, and many other human beings, we can anchor ourselves in awareness of our breath, physical contact with our instrument, or where our body makes contact with the floor or the chair. We can recognize that we are here, and fully inhabit our bodies as they perform their complex tasks.

Learning that each moment disappears and is followed by another moment. This teaching—that all things are impermanent—might be one of the tidbits you learned about Buddhism during your middle-school survey of world religions. Or it might resonate as a kind of New Age cliché: this moment is all we have! Yet performers and composers already inhabit this reality, because impermanence is inherent to our art form. A beautiful chord, a nicely blended timbre, a favorite melody, or a facepalm-inducing mistake onstage: whether pleasant or unpleasant, they’re here and then they’re gone. Getting in better touch with the ever-changing nature of our experience might increase our sensitivity, relaxation, and appreciation of what we’re doing—and help us let go of what wasn’t perfect.

Learning to “cultivate non-distractedness.” What’s the point of sitting still on a cushion for several hours a day, doing absolutely nothing, paying attention to what we are experiencing internally? Perhaps we could consider it a kind of practice session for being present during everyday life. I still remember being a teenager and hearing a professional musician say that he sometimes thought about what color to repaint his kitchen during orchestra concerts. Distraction and boredom are utterly human, but they unfortunately can keep us from being present during the very moments in our lives and careers that we want to treasure most.
Learning to balance between “agency and receptivity.” In meditation and in life, this means striking a balance between doing something and letting things be. For chamber musicians in particular, this is such a huge part of our work. When do we lead? When do we follow? When do we seize control of the tempo to avoid it sagging, and when do we allow the music to simply unfold, trusting that it will do what it needs to do? A silent meditation practice is a kind of training ground for precisely this.

Learning not to be at war with ourselves or others. For about an hour each day on my silent retreat, we did a practice called metta, or loving-kindness, in which we set an intention for the happiness of all beings. During metta, you gradually widen the circle of good intentions: beginning with ourselves, then those we’re close to, then those we don’t know, and finally, those we struggle with. This insight meditation practice acknowledges that we spend much of our lives dwelling in the emotional equivalent of toxic waste, and that we need an active practice to create a more safe and nurturing emotional environment for ourselves and our awareness. In case you haven’t noticed, life in music can be difficult at times. The challenges often lead us into mind-states of competition, criticism, and anxiety. I’m hopeful that my own metta practice will help me make a shift in perspective from separateness to togetherness, and from scarcity to sufficiency.