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  are you a modern composer?  Hugh Boyle at 01:10 on 29 March 2008

The forums have really died off recently (to my disappointment), so in an effort to get them going again I ask;

Can a composer in today’s climate really achieve a sense of modernism in his/her music given that many commentators would agree that modern music reached its height in the twentieth-century?
With that in mind; if our music would be deemed to be less modern/experimental than the music of Stockhausen (for example) can we still view ourselves as being modern composers?

Comments please :)

  Re: are you a modern composer?  Jim Tribble at 16:40 on 30 March 2008

It could be that those composers were concerned with trying to create a new musical language, which did not take completely, but which gave us access to new solutions and influences. ie the cult of other musical cultures, new ways of getting around the key systems or the ability to juxtapose random chords and effects.

Which seems analogous to the rise of electronic music and the infinite posibilities of it. I think that the cult of the individual is next, similar to the pop industry or authors who seem free to write in any style they like. By exploring your own corner of composing you hope to connect with another portion of the population? but in doing so are not so constrained by the "right" way of writing music.

  Re: are you a modern composer?  Jim Tribble at 18:48 on 06 April 2008

This is my point. The cult of the individual, the it crowd in music.

There seems in every walk of public life an it crowd. In the pop business this has been known from the word go. The bands persona being managed.

In other forms of music, there are also the cult of names (and talents) such as Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck etc. The name of the artist catching the public imagination. Look at James Blunt, and Mika. Both have rocketed to public fame but both still producing (although with their own slant) conventional and existing pop styles.

This is what I mean about the cult of the individual as the future of "classical" musicians. It has happened in a small extent already, Elgar wrote music in a romantic style like Vaughan Williams but got away with not being in the front of modern classical music because he became a public celebrity hitting the right nerve.

In more recent times Barrington Fulong (I'm sorry if I have spelt the name wrong) came to represent Morse and became an "Individual" from that series.
But even he has difficulty in promoting his other music such as the operas that he has written.

I don't know how to exploit this situation for my own benefit (without professional money behind me) especially as the normal routes for money are disappearing fast ie record companies, concerts, commissions from businesses. The only place with the money and will for modern music, tends towards the conservative and safe, film makers (on average), advertisers, etc.

So how with no funding and stimulation from commissions does the modern composer function and survive? I think that you have to follow your own path and explore as best you can.

My route is to set up a website with my music on it to try to stimulate interest in me or to see whether the interest in my style is out there. Mika did it through the internet so this is my experiment (I am not very hopeful).

In the end it does not really matter to me I will still write, although the kick/stimulation you get out of a performance, along with the nerves, is amazing.

Jim Tribble

  Re: are you a modern composer?  Account Closed at 19:25 on 08 April 2008

Well, I live in modern times, and I am a composer, but in what sense do we mean 'modern composer'?

I don't write avant-garde music; not because I don't like it, but because I am not involved in anything which might require it or perform it. My pieces are what might be called 'utility' in the sense that they are useful, but don't break new ground. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this. I want to write music that people will use, enjoy and play. Being mainly involved in educational and church settings, I am concious to write for the resources and capabilities available.

Has anyone seen the pieces in the OUP New Horizons series? Lovely pieces, but way beyond the standard of any groups I'm involved in. If I was the composer of some of those pieces, I would be thrilled at having written such lovely music, but bitterly dissapointed that no one was able to perform it.

Of course another problem these days, is that there is very little money in composing. What really annoys me is that you show them to people and they are enthusiastic about them and tell you how useful they'll be (some even ask you to let them know when they are published!), but when the publisher's statement come's through, zero copies have been sold.


  Re: are you a modern composer?  Jim Tribble at 00:11 on 09 April 2008

Perhaps what we should be aiming at is performance? At any price. Maybe we should set up a swap shop, I'll do one of your's if you do one of mine.

Surely this is what this kind of contact is good for. Not just the swapping of ideas but pieces.

Jim Tribble

  Re: are you a modern composer?  Account Closed at 16:16 on 09 April 2008

One of the biggest problems I have found is that whilst publishers are happy to publish and sell pieces, they are often not very good at marketing and promoting them. In all, I've had a far more positive experience of this with US publishers than with UK one's. For example, one company publishing a choral piece in the US arranged to have a sample recording made so this could be advertised on their website, and they also take a stall to various conventions etc.

Generally, I think people mostly tend to buy music which they've heard. OK, some do go out looking for something different or new, but then as some publishers don't even provide samples of the music on their websites, its all a bit pot luck. Certainly, I think that swapping pieces is a good idea. Perhaps it would be good to have a database on this site of what everyone plays and to what standard, so that if we need a part or piece looking at, we can find someone prepared and able to do that (of course only for those wanting to take part in that way!)


  Re: are you a modern composer?  Jim Tribble at 00:10 on 10 April 2008

I like that idea, we could start it off as a forum "are you willing to play?"
I'll start the ball rolling.

As far as publishers are concerned how did you break through. They must get hundreds of new pieces every week. Was it from sending off samples?

One of the things that I was interested in (though this has stopped in recent times) was the thought of what would someone else's interpretations of my music would sound like and I deliberately did not put samples onto my website.

I have seen the error of my ways, though a lot of people seem to have downloaded my pieces from my website, I have had no responses so far (probably an indication of my composition?). I am now trying to get samples organised and onto the site for the future.

Jim Tribble