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This 92 message thread spans 7 pages:  < <   1   2   3   4  [5]  6   7  > >  
  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  composer1981 at 22:22 on 23 June 2008

I don't believe that writing accessible music is not a demeaning thing. There is an audience for every type of music everywhere. I think that composers should make important distinctions between easy, hard, accessible and whatever the antonym of accessible is in English. It seems to me that at this forum the terminology is quite confused. Easy doesn't mean accessible, it means just that: easy. Accessible also means just that: accessible. Are later Reich's piece easy to perform? Certainly not. As a church organist I know that even the most out-of-tune church choir can be made to sing very difficult music - if taught well people bgin to like it, become inspired, and in turn inspire themseles to do better. It's a cycle of attitude. However, I've seen some HORRIBLE conductors who have lost all their love for music and whose disdain shows... no choir will ever work for them.

Speaking as a composer who at 19 had to convince amateurs who don't read music to perform a very, VERY difficult Requiem mass by learning it by heart and rehearse for endless hours with no remumeration and then ended up thanking me profusely for asing them to do it, I can say that in my opinion every composer can make their music enticing, interesting, convincing, and untimately, a public success to the audience if they only try. Unfortunately, most of my colleagues in every country I've lived in believe it is beneath them to actually convince by words, actions or behaviour that their music is worth playing or listening to. there is no enthousiasm, only defensive attitude. At that moment they are branded "elitist", which has already lost its original meaning and had become a near synonym of "snob". What most so-called "contemporary art music", etc. lacks is good management and image making. (This, I believe, can be achieved without sexually-enhanced advertisement strategies, but this is a completely different topic altogether)

I have lived in Canada as well among other countries. The Canadian Music Center is indeed such a wonderful idea... but of course nobody would purchase the "composer's CDs" as a writer here described them. They are only distributed to composers to begin with. No marketing, no ads, no interviewes in the daily newspapers, nothing. I only got my hands on some of them because I heard about them and actually went to the local CMC center to get one. They are actually not available to buy. Most so-called accessible music, however (badly written or well-written that's another questions altogether) is more widely advertised and more accessible for purchase... and naturally it will be purchased!

I think I might have made a turn from the original topic... I think my original idea might have been something like "Live and let live".
Respectfully Yours;

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Ben Mueller-Heaslip at 23:40 on 23 June 2008

I agree with you - except for the sexually-enhanced promotional bit. That's really been a boon to me, a lot. The high standard of performance has also been positive.

But if you're going for the "good image and management bit" I think a sexy image encourages healthy living for your performers which encourages an improvement in their over-all quality of life and attitude. Composers, however, must be alcoholic, surly, and self-important, like poets. That's sexy.

The medium is the massage.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  sbaird at 02:16 on 24 June 2008

Composers, however, must be alcoholic, surly, and self-important, like poets. That's sexy.


Thanks for that -- brought me back to the table.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Ben Mueller-Heaslip at 04:26 on 24 June 2008

You're going to cause trouble, you know that don't you? I think you do.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  composer1981 at 05:13 on 24 June 2008

I apologize, but I don't quite understand. Is this what you are refering to?

(This, I believe, can be achieved without sexually-enhanced advertisement strategies, but this is a completely different topic altogether)

So, you agree with me except for this part... does this mean you believe there MUST be sexually-enhanced advertisement strategies? I am also not sure what "boon" means, sorry/

Oh, and yes, of course, composers should be self-important. Who will take us seriously otherwise? After all if someone sees us and thinks "wow, s/he is sooooooooo full of herself - she must be good, RIGHT?" they will at least have a healthy dose of respect, and otherwise they will simply think "ah, yes, the crazy one is here again!"

I would appreciate a reply.
Respectfully Yours

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  James McFadyen at 08:26 on 24 June 2008

Ben, did you listen to my arrangements? I know you might think "oh no yet another damn arrangement of Gymnopedie"...

But I don't think you can accuse my of cashing-in. These arrangements of mine do challenge audiences to think that a these simple tunes, can, in fact be dramatic concert works exploring the depths of musical form and harmony (alhough not too much so as too alienate my audience and force people to cover their ears!)

Please listen to all three arrangements in full with an open mind and see what I am trying to do with music. I guarantee you won't have heard these Gymnopedies before in my compositional voice. I might not create too much "noise" but my harmony certainly likes to bend and twist.

Anyway, decide for yourself once you've listened to them in full. Hey, you never know, we may be on the same page musically and we just have opposing issues stylistically.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Misuc at 09:09 on 24 June 2008

I think there is some confusion here. For example: composers should be trying to make an important contribution to the development of their art and craft and human liberation generally. They should not only be aware of this role, they should strive for it. They have every right and duty to take their work seriously and to persuade others of its importance: to gain money, fame and respect from it. This is not 'self-importance' in the usual sense of the word,it is an awareness of having something important to say.

To oversimplify: this is what composers of the classical/romantic period were doing once the social situation was of individual composer confronting an audience/clientele they did not know personally (a new phenomenon at that time). The distinction between composer and entrepreneur was much, much slighter then than now (think of Clementi, Czerny, Pleyel etc. - composer/publisher/piano manufacturers...). Entrepreneurs in those days did things. They did their own design, engineering, building etc. And composers could to some extent do their own marketing or plan it in cooperation with a few close colleagues (not without quarrels, cheating and recriminations of course).

But now we are in the age of global corporate capitalism. The people who run the music 'industry' are not interested in music (or only coincidentally - it is not part of their function). They are, for example, Dutch Pension Funds, whose obligations are, theoretically, to the millions of teachers and government workers in Holland, and in practice to their own top management personnel alone. By the elementary rules of contract and property law they are actually forbidden from allowing ideas about artistic merit to take precedence over guaranteeing a profit for people who have no interest in the product they are investing in - nor even necessarily any knowledge of what they investing in. They employ people to pick suitable investment outlets (in the form, say, of 'emergent composer programmes' etc.) chosen for their marketability potential. They then employ different people, trained in the art of lying, exaggeration, or expert in stunts and gimmicks and the cult of 'personality', professional sound-byte cheats and PR people in order to push not the work, not even the person but the brand-image of their chosen investment objects (composers) at millions of customers whom market-research has proved show a similar lack of understanding of or interest in genuine innovation. Obviously 'sexy' sells better to such a market than 'decrepid' [but, on the other hand, at least until recently, one could say that, if you can make it to 100 years old and still retain the inventiveness, courage, commitment and capacity for genuine innovation of an Elliott Carter, then business is business: there might still be room for you at B & H - after all it doesn't cost them much - and if it fails they can move on to sausages, or sub-prime loans - or if that fails food-futures or whatever. By the way, these firms are no more interested in the accessibility of their musical products than in the accessibility of their food. Still less can they have an interest in genuine innovation. Company law itself dictates that they will be interested in profit realisation alone come what may: let soul and body starve: our role in their plan for global conquest is to BUY BUY BUY at whatever cost]

Whether the Carter option continues depends on the ability and willingness of musicbiz reps to challenge the very terms of their employment, to recognise and speak up as real people for real talent among real composers. This, I fear, is not going to happen, since, by their nature and the very terms of their existence, the multinationals are prevented from encouraging independent thought and action.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  James McFadyen at 11:07 on 24 June 2008

Try not to tar everyone with the same cynical brush. At my company, we strive for artistic excellence and while the business of music is important, the repertoire is equally important.

Don't be fooled into believing that a good composer is a "noisy" composer. Modern soundscape music is just 1 of many styles but it is not the definitive style; it is merely a marketing trick brought on by the academia by teaching that to write anything but atonal music is not music at all.


Sometimes a bad workman blames his tools. The tonal and modal systems are mighty tools in the right hands; try if you dare and see if you really can show inventiveness and innovation through these traditional systems.

Never underestimate the power of the last chord of Stravinsky's "Symphony in C". Breathtaking and powerful stuff.

Mind you, so is Ligeti's "Requiem" but I dare not listen to that late at night.... it's worse than eating cheese before bedtime!

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Misuc at 13:30 on 24 June 2008

I share James' enthusiasm for the Stravinsky Symphony in C. Some of my other favourite 2oth C composers are Prokofiev, Janacek and the Schoenberg of the consciously 'accessible' 2nd Chamber symphony and Variatons for Military Band.

Accessibility does not necessarily equal marketability. Of course it possible to be both 'accessible' and 'innovative' at the same time - within limits: the limits imposed by the method of running things that makes music a marketable commodity to a passive customer-base. Nono, for one, through e.g. his factory concerts had a different idea of accessibility and innovation (though the people who set the boundaries of our cultural and industrial life have closed down most of the major factories in the West).

Satie - founding member and modest participant in a revolutionary commune in a Paris 'banlieue', the Arcueil Soviet - also had a somewhat different idea. The market was different in those days too. There was a market among people with an active interest in music for pieces intended for private performance with friends and family. Satie's works were mostly published with this in mind (they do not fit in readily with concert-life) in the form of albums (cf 'Sports et Divertissements') - with gently 'subversive' texts and sometimes illustrations.

I will not comment about James' versions of the 'Gymnopedies' I personally found them vacuous and actually disgusting, but perhaps James feels the same about my poor showcase postings. A 'discussion' exchanging rude words would not get us far.

But more important than innovation and accessibility is truth. At times when their own imaginations were exhausted, composers far higher up the commercial pecking order than any of us have committed far greater outrages against Satie's. (The greatest was surely the 'Vexations' deception perpetrated by professional confidence trickster John Cage)

Truth does not come by itself. It has to be struggled for. In those pieces which 'work', Satie eventually made himself one of the great miniaturists, who was able to create the intense concentrated manifold essence of the harmonic and melodic language of his time much as Liadov and Webern did of theirs.

The gymnopedies are early essays in this direction. The truth about them is their grace and charm: their transparent but not obvious formal equilibrium and understanding of novel uses of 7th chords and the implications of the subtle semimodal tonality of Chabrier/Debussy - all at a rather unsophisticated level at this stage in Satie's career: their truth is their purity and generosity of spirit: their incorruptibility.

This is not something that can be feigned easily. But, James, you have not even tried!

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Ben Mueller-Heaslip at 01:33 on 26 June 2008

Composer1981: Sorry for the late reply, I've been away. I admit that I was being extremely flippant and degrading the level of this conversation a bit. I shouldn't do that as much as I do, it's just a bad habit. "Ah, the crazy one's here again..." well, maybe.

A "boon" means a "boost" or a "beneficial force". It might be a North American word.

I'll balance my bad habit by the 'composer-as-non-entity' mentality which, I think, is something of an issue. Tying this back to the original topic: the composers mentioned at the beginning to this thread are the opposite of non-entities: not only are they making music offensive to the aesthetic tastes of traditionalists - they've also presented much of their work "unconventionally", by which I mean that, in opposition to a standard write-send-read-play relationship with their performers, they seem to have personalized the way their music happens, explored different avenues for presentation, and worked to cultivate a different audience.

Good for them - I'm glad these people are being recognized in this small way. It's about time. I'd agree with Misuc's post criticizing their work... it's due, and fair, and a valuable criticism. But I'm glad that composers engaged in building a new cultural place for composition are being encouraged. What people like them are doing is necessary: James, you do realize that the 'academics' you're attacking do hate these people?

James: I listened to no.1 before my previous and I'm listening to it again right now. I don't think Misuc's being fair to you: I think he's being generous. No, we're not on the same page, or in the same book even. One big difference: I'm aware of what I'm doing when I take advantage of pre-existing material. E.g.:

Brian Eno

I both pay the composers a royalty and, more importantly, I'm perfectly convinced that these two "compositions" are: 1) a manipulation of other people's work. In fact they're a complete rip-off entirely designed to feed off the cultural cache of the original material. I hope this is 2) balanced by what the result contributes to building up the environment for creative music here in Toronto, where I live. I take, and I give, and I think there's a moral argument for my positive balance both by the exclusive investment I've made in their performance and the context of their performance: in this case, club and bar performances of reasonably sophisticated new music. This is the direct opposite, I think, of what you're up to. The level of risk and vulnerability to direct criticism or, in fact, physical assault sets them apart, and more-or-less negates the "live and let live" mentality Composer1981's encouraging. What I do affects other people: what you do does as well.

There are many different means by which a composer can contribute and I respect all of them: but an honest understanding of the reality of one's motivations and the nature of one's artistic concessions (should one happen to have the personality, as I happen to, to consciously make them) is the foundation for any real contribution.

Misuc: Satie, Webern, and Liadov? Liadov - really,why not Frank Mills? Even you can't defend Liadov. But you're so right about the 'incorruptible' aspect of those pieces. Have you heard his 'Pièces froides'? I think those are beautiful: yes, half-baked. But I wouldn't mind being as half-baked as that.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  composer1981 at 09:50 on 26 June 2008

Don't be fooled into believing that a good composer is a "noisy" composer. Modern soundscape music is just 1 of many styles but it is not the definitive style; it is merely a marketing trick brought on by the academia by teaching that to write anything but atonal music is not music at all.


I am not sure I understand, but what you call "soundscape" music is only a small, very small part fo what is taught in universities. I have studied at five universities in three countries, I hold five degrees in four disciplines, a sixth one on the way. I have visited at least 5 music departments in other countries and have examined their syllabus' in detail in order to create my own course outlines. I am under 30 years old - Never have I seen in any university any teacher dismissing tonal or modal systems.

I think you are basing your opinion on a very, VERY outdated information, which goes back may be 30-40 years. Or may be the single institution or teacher you are thinking of is living behind the moon in another century, may be in the middle of the 20th, and may be his name is "a student of Hindemith"?

I know when modernism was "in", it was the only "legal" music... just as in Eastern europe during the Soviet occupation, folkloristic-sounding pieces were the only ones allowed to be written. Composers somehow still managed to create convincing music. Some didn't, of course

Sometimes a bad workman blames his tools. The tonal and modal systems are mighty tools in the right hands; try if you dare and see if you really can show inventiveness and innovation through these traditional systems.

I am not sure whether this refers directly to me, as I can't yet figure out how the forum postings work. However, if we are ever to meet, I am certain that I can prove a very high level of inventiveness in the tonal medium. I am an organist trained by really good teachers and I can improvise in any style. And it is real music and not a cheap imitation with bad counterpoint. And I will dare you to match my improvisation and tonal composition skills.

Never underestimate the power of the last chord of Stravinsky's "Symphony in C". Breathtaking and powerful stuff.

I don't remember ever negating this??


What I am trying to express is that the good teachnique will determine the quality of a work, and not its style. The style is a matter of choice, of cultural conditioning, of taste. Craftmanship, on the other hand, is very objective. Thus, as Aristotles says, an example is not a proof. There will always be examples of excellent "contemporary classical" music, excellent pop music, excellent rock music, etc., etc. And, of course, the majority of creators will be quite mediocre. We can simply compare Zelenka to J. S. Bach to immediately perceive the difference.

I am looking forward to your reply.
Respectfully Yours;

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  MJL at 11:51 on 26 June 2008

David, I completely emapthise. Unfortunately I am, I believe, one of the composers you mention! I have just finished my 3rd year in composiiton for a BMus(hons) and I find constantly that none of the schemes or competitions made available to us would ever consider one of my pieces to be winning material because, forbid, they are tonal and playable!

If you would like, maybe I could write for you. It would be good practice! Or I could find someone who would be willing to write (though they would probably want money- but it could still cost less than ordering from abroad). My teacher is actually a very good vocal writer.

Regards, Mel


PS. Sorry if that seems like a total plug, I just read through the whole thread and realised I may get attacked for this! I just joined and this is my first post and I am seriously just trying to help.

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Misuc at 12:28 on 26 June 2008

Recognising that Ben is right: not even I can find the words to prove a composer's worth- not even Liadov.

The problem is his deepest pieces tend not to be played or recorded at all.: the harmonic movement tends to be unpredictable but absolutely consequential - no waste - not at all obvious and not well understood by the few who occasionally perform them.

But try and ignore the limp damp wind-blown weed playing of these relatively unambitious short pieces - and imagine more tight, concentrated and intense performances....

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  composer1981 at 12:48 on 26 June 2008

...none of the schemes or competitions made available to us would ever consider one of my pieces to be winning material because, forbid, they are tonal and playable!

Dear Mel, I understand the post is not for me, but may be I can direct your attention to some competition. If you are interested in writing for competitions you can very much increase your chances by selecting the ones where your music will be more likely to be selected: calls for scores for amateur choirs, children's ensembles and the like. In competitions winners are selected based on what the purpose of the competition is - rarely the winners are selected merely on the music they submit. You can try typing in google a various combination of the words "tonal", "music" "competition" and "composition" and you will find a number of opportunities!

Writing tonal music is incredibly hard, because it will inevitably be compared to the best tonal music ever written, Beethoven's and Mahler's masterpieces among others. and if your tonal music can't compare to the intricate tonal, formal and structural complexity and depth of these composers, well, it won't be appreciated, played and liked for this very reason, and not because it is tonal. Durufle, Dupre and Reger all wrote 20th c. tonal music the quality of which is never questioned - but to outdo these masters is surely not easy.
Respectfully Yours

  Re: Boosey`s Emerging Composer Program  Misuc at 13:09 on 26 June 2008

Nobody is going to attack you for displaying your music. On the contrary, it is not helpful to the discussion if you hide it. I can't find any downloadable example of your music to attack or defend.

I am not sure if I accept composer1981's implied distinction between imagination and technique.....

(I do agree Zelenka is terrible and Bach is wonderful - but then neither of them could achieve what e.g. Gluck could do. Technique is not a measurable quality in music. Sometimes even Bach knew that he could achieve more by using less 'technique' in the conventional sense. The technique of wood-joining, for example is to make joints that fit neatly and are not obtrusive. That thought may have been in the head of one of my least observant and imaginative tutors when he ruled that Beethoven's modulations weren't as good as Schubert's. But how do you build a 20-minute movement by blending everything in? What are the techniques you are using for? That is the question.)

.....but I do think she is right that there is something measurable in the achievements of a composer: something that can be used and developed by others.

When people learn science at school they are confronted at a very early stage with counterintuitive phenomena: things you can't just guess the answer to. You have to repeat the experiments and recreate the discoveries that it took great men and women a lifetime to arrive at. In this way, the imagination is trained. Rarely, if at all, is there talk of training the aspiring composer's imagination in the same way. But it is just as necessary. Of course there is a difference. Newton is studied generally for the results of his work: not how he got there. With music we are experiencing again the process by which the composer arrives at a discovery (without any particular need to classify or enumerate the results).

This, incidentally, is where 'minimalist' set gets it wrong. Instead of regarding the elements and qualities of music as unknowns - they accept the existing and long-worn tunings, cliches,rhythmic and harmonic units, motifs and figurations and other features of the hard-won discoveries of real music, process them and tin them for display, contentless, on music-biz' infinite neon-lighted supermarket shelves. {In this respect they are not the reverse - but the logical extension of the conservative academicism/scholasticism they sometimes claim to be reacting against.

PS I have just seen composer1981's response, and I have to say that I can prove that the quality of Durufle's, Reger's and Dupre's work is most definitely questioned in the strongest terms - certainly by me!

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