Some friends of mine were having an interesting Facebook discussion around Ellen Cushing’s recent article in the East Bay Express, about crowdfunding, philanthropy, and what the young and well-to-do of Silicon Valley mean for the future of the arts. The issue was whether or not crowdfunding was replacing traditional arts philanthropy and what this means for the long-term viability of arts organizations. Kickstarter campaigns are great for early-stage artists, but they couldn’t reasonably sustain something like the San Francisco Symphony, or even smaller chamber organizations like SFCMP or SFSound. So if young people with a lot of money are eschewing the traditional philanthropic route in favor of crowdfunding, what does that mean for arts organizations?
Nothing. Crowdfunding is a new category of fundraising, and it draws a different set of people for reasons unrelated to traditional philanthropy—each addresses a separate “need” for the donor that the other doesn’t. The reduction in philanthropic support for the arts right now is not tied to crowdfunding, but rather to larger shifts in cultural priorities. Read more ›
, public good
, robert moses
, silicon valley
Ta-Nehisi Coates had an interesting article recently in the Atlantic about being asked, as an emerging journalist, to write for free. He got his leg up in the industry that way, and he makes the argument that there’s no ethical problem with asking people to write without paying them (as in, for the exposure). Obviously, there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, and I found myself pondering the question anew in relationship to composing, though really it holds true for any artistic endeavor.
The more I think about it, it seems you can make an ethical argument on either side of the debate depending on if you see yourself primarily as an entrepreneur or a professional. That’s because the arts are neither businesses nor professions in the true sense of either word, and neither model fits that well—whatever path you choose, it’s going to be a compromise. In my own case, I always try to get paid and I usually succeed, but if it’s a project I really care about, I don’t let a failed grant application stop me. Read more ›
This is the second in my installment of mini-composition lessons based on non-classical music, this time on the topic of how to write for voice. Today, I’m going to take a look at “Police Story” by the Dirty Projectors, which I think is a fantastic example of how to use timbre and word-music placement to great effect. “Police Story” is practically an instructional guide on how to fully and effectively use voice in composition. It’s also great in a lot of other ways, but we’ll focus on the vocal elements. Read more ›
I saw a meme on Facebook a while ago, the one with the fake greeting card and custom text: “‘Yay! It’s the weekend,’ said no composer, ever.” Funny yes, but completely wrong. Bravado aside, if you consistently work “weekends” (meaning, you don’t take planned days off on a weekly basis), your art will suffer.
Composers think they’re being tough by never taking structured breaks and working at any time of day or night. Sometimes they use the excuse that composition doesn’t pay very well to justify this type of constant working attitude. More often, they do it as a part of the mystique of being an artist: you are so driven and inspired that you have no desire to take weekends off, you’d rather be constantly immersed in the creative process.
Unfortunately, every profession makes the same kinds of bullshit excuses, from CEOs to stockpickers. Read more ›
David Pay of Vancouver’s Music on Main asked me to write a composer’s profile of Ana Sokolovic. The article, Ana Sokolovic: Made in Canada (Sort of) is now available. In it, I talk about the national character of Canadian music and how Sokolovic’s approach to composition finds a very Canadian way of dealing with her Serbian musical roots.
I’m currently reading the very interesting 48 Laws of Power, which is sort of an updated version of Machiavelli’s controversial work but with a modern perspective. I started thinking, becoming a world-renowned composer is a process not unlike overthrowing a medieval princedom, so what would Machiavelli’s advice be to young 21st-century composers?
So moral judgment cast aside, a blatantly careerist approach to becoming a composer. And naturally, none of this has anything to do with music. Read more ›
I’m going to write a few posts that are mini-composition lessons based on non-classical music. Composers study 18th-century counterpoint, serialism, and lots of other classical forms—but what can we learn from the music that the vast majority of people living today actually listen to?
So to start things off, Daft Punk’s “Technologic,” which is very tightly composed and epitomizes a few key principles. Read more ›
I’ve always been interested in what draws people to a specific vocation or another. Usually it’s some inherent personality trait, and composers share a lot them. But there are also some interesting differences. Here’s a tongue-and-cheek, Facebook-style quiz on random differences that I’ve noticed. Because even iconoclastic, avant-garde composers need to know which type of nonconformist they are.
Read more ›
Paul Steenhuisen has been putting together a very interesting series of podcast interviews with composers, including Elliott Carter, Vinko Globokar, Jonathan Harvey, Kee Yong Chong, and the composers in AMP. His interview with me is now available, direct from his website or iTunes.
In it, we talk about the difference between the US and Canadian new music scenes, some of the characteristics of my music, reappropriation and collage, how the chamber music scene is changing, and influences and processes in my composing. Throughout, the podcast is peppered with excerpts of my music and that of other people who came up in conversation.