New Music and Online Tools | Aaron Gervais, composer

New Music and Online Tools

For a genre that claims to be part of the cutting edge, the avant-garde/new classical music has been relatively slow to adopt online tools. I wonder about some of the ways we might improve the situation. As I’ve written about before, the major issue of art today is organization, not content, so if we assume there is something in what we do that others might be interested in, we need to find ways to reach them.

Other disciplines have done a better job. For instance, I love to cook and am able to find a myriad of great recipes online. I recently found this blog when searching for a recipe for lamb chops with pomegranate sauce. From what I can tell, “Kevin from Toronto” is just a guy who likes to cook and is good with a camera, but he’s got nearly 1700 followers on Google Friend Connect at the time of writing. I’m not even sure how many composers know what that is…

Some musicians are fairly web savvy but the majority aren’t. The vast majority of composers’ websites consist of biographical information and audio/video examples of their music. Ensembles do slightly better by giving concert listings as well. But rare is the music website where interactivity and interconnectedness is really the norm. Music is equally well suited to sharing via a blog format, as evidenced by YouTube or Last.fm or similar sites, so why is it that cooking is light years ahead?

Copyright law is certainly part of the issue, but this doesn’t stop electronic musicians from interconnecting. For example, there is the sc140 project, in which enthusiasts of the open source audio synthesis language, SuperCollider, have banded together to release a collection of pieces that could be sent in a single text message (140 characters or less). It’s a great idea and it even produces interesting music! This is something as worthwhile to share as anything else—and it’s even licensed using a creative commons license, which makes this possible. Yet when I click on some of the composers’ websites at random, I get the same collection of static pages of text and samples of music.

So what I’m proposing is simply increased sharing and greater communication between members of the new music community. Below are some of my thoughts:

  • Enable comments for your website: People should be able to write about your piece, or your concert, or whatever else afterward. There should be a forum for feedback between composers/ensembles and their audiences. You should also enable pingbacks so that your blogs can talk to each other.
  • Comment on other composers’ or ensembles’ websites: links between blogs are the best way to build authority and increase the likelihood of being found. We should support the other artists we respect by commenting on their websites and/or linking to their sites on our own site posts. Serving as each others’ critics also has the benefit of helping to create paths for new listeners into the music.
  • Write about your creative process: Some kind of dialogue in terms of our daily process of creating is interesting, and it creates a greater body of web material that people may find. It’s easier to stumble across text than it is soundfiles, so use the text to draw people to the sound.
  • Share music: To the extent possible, participate in communities like CCmixter where musicians are already collaborating digitally. Perhaps some composers already are… When I went to CCmixter’s site to get the link for this post, I saw that their current featured artist, DoKashiteru, claims to blend contemporary electronic music with minimalism à la Philip Glass et al. So, what are other composers waiting for?

Eventually, I would love if there was a sort of Technorati of new music, where you could search the community of composers working today and see their thoughts, listen to their music, and see how they are connected. But it’s not necessary to start that big. I think we could do a lot to bring good work in new classical/avant-garde music to interested listeners simply by taking advantage of the technologies that are out there already. And you can start by commenting here or writing something on your blog for me to comment about!