A publication from New Music USA
Updated: 2 hours 18 min ago
If a composer has no intent of writing within the “classical” genre label, then attempting to understand the piece through a classical lens is irrelevant. But what about the listener? There is no doubt that all listeners have pre-existing connotations surrounding certain types of sounds.
Steely Dan proved that pop music could be harmonically complex and quirky in the early to mid-'70s, when the then-new FM format allowed for longer cuts, and more expansive playlists, genre-wise. But the source of their signature sound was their incorporation of the jazz aesthetic in every aspect of their already broad musical conception.
Hannah Schiller’s research into polystylism in today's new music led her to question the utility of a genre-based framework entirely. But when those terms are absent, how do we create cohesive language that can be realistically used to discuss and promote music?
According to Tommy McCutchon, "'Fourth World Music' has become a dominant sub-genre designation for any music that combines avant-garde electronic processing with a mélange of world music aesthetics." But Halim El-Dabh (1921-2017) was a citizen of the Fourth World throughout a three-quarter century career as a composer, teacher, and musical thinker.
John Abercrombie set the template for me as far as how to play music with an open mind. The special thing that stands out about John is his natural democratic manner as a player and writer. He could not help it—it's just the way he was.
The perpetuation of Orientalism is alive and well in U.S. classical music circles, and it needs to stop. The more conscious we are of our words and actions, the more likely we are to replace them with more humanizing gestures, in hopes of a kinder, more tolerant world.
If there’s any quality that distinguishes all of the music of George Walker, who at the age of 95 is still actively composing, it’s its conciseness and preciseness. Walker often creates visceral music, but his compositions are also filled with moments of tenderness and beauty even though, for Walker, beauty might be a by-product but it is never an explicit goal.
My first exposure to David Maslanka’s music was a monumental, life changing experience for me as a young college wind band conductor. His music speaks, regardless of the technical proficiency of the individuals or the collective ensemble, and it communicates at a deeply intense and personal level. I grew very close to his music and this quiet, generous man became my dear friend.
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.
You can throw most of the harmony lessons you’ve ever had right out the window when composing xenharmonic music. Dissonance is just as important as consonance. Any tuning can just as easily sound ugly or exotic or beautiful. In musician speak, if it’s close enough for rock’n’roll, it will sound in tune!
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.
Even if you are an acoustic musician, I suggest expanding your xenharmonic universe into the digital world because there will be more choices of tunings and sounds. And vice versa.
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.
As a composer, what drew me to use scales that have more, or less, notes per octave than our standard twelve-tone tuning–or xenharmonic music–was the boredom that crept up on me over the years of using the same twelve notes over and over, plus a curiosity about other possible tunings and what emotional chords they might strike.
As I got older and began to compose, I began to understand why all of my local music teachers talked so much about Charles Ives. It wasn’t what I suspected growing up, that he was a middling-famous composer who happened to have been born in our town. No, they kept talking about Ives because he really is that important.
Using a different number of notes per octave, it is possible to write new music with new harmonic relationships that humankind has never heard before.
Despite his fascination with extremely dense structures, California-based composer Chris Brown is surprisingly tolerant about loosely interpreting them. Chalk it up to a musical career that has been equally devoted to composing and improvising.
As a young and very green teacher of both classroom and private students, I have no illusions about making mistakes in my teaching. Teachers face challenges in managing many different personalities in a classroom, particularly in equating vocality with interest or aptitude.
We must build greater gender and racial diversity into curriculums and concert programs so that students may see themselves in history.
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.