A hundred years ago classical music was going through growing pains. It had been in a 'Romantic' style of music since Beethoven premiered his 3rd symphony in 1805. Composers of the early 20th century were looking for something new, to make a change from the previous hundred years. Society was also going through changes from the industrial age to the age of steel. New inventions for the home and for the battle field were flooding Patent Offices - a new world was dawning. Some of these changes lead to two world wars and the invention of nuclear weapons which many still consider the ultimate deterrent. Now, in the 21st century, we are discovering a new kind of warfare - terrorism.
While the 20th century saw drastic changes in the way we wage war, it also brought changes to the music industry. Early on the invention of the phonograph brought music into the homes of people who couldn't play an instrument - music became readily accessible. After World War I, composers sought to change the way we think - the universal brotherhood or lush romantic emotions were believed to be causes for the Great War. It was time for a change.
In the late 20th century society moved from having information fed to you through radio, television and newspapers to the advent to the internet where people get to pick and choose what they want to read. Music is much the same way. Listeners have hundreds of download sites, thousands of Indy bands to choose from and millions of new songs to choose from. We are becoming a society of choice. Unfortunately, some people are choose acts of terror and destruction. Innocent lives are lost in senseless acts of violence.
Art is one way we have of reaching out - to think of new ways to deal with issue. I believe it is important for musicians to set the trend of coming together, crossing cultures and becoming one humanity, rather than separate cultures struggling over what should be common goals - to live in peace.
You've heard me speak a lot about TwtrSymphony, the music we're creating and the innovations in how music is made. But something I haven't talked about and really should, is how TwtrSymphony is bring musicians and cultures together.
I follow a feed of the various musicians in TwtrSymphony and am thrilled at how supportive the musicians are of each other. Musicians who have never met in person are becoming friends, sharing stories of their lives beyond their music - they are truly a community even though there are thousands of miles separating us.
THIS is the future I want to work toward. This is what music can do, what music should do. This is what TwtrSymphony is trying to do with our Kickstarter project. It's about bringing new music to new people - but it's also about bring people from all around the world together. Please be part of that. We need your donations to help our project succeed.
Believe in new music, believe in the power of music, step up and make a change in what the world will be in the future. Become part of TwtrSymphony.
I remember seeing Marin Alsop conduct the Colorado Symphony way back when she was still the Music Director. I remember the headlines when she moves from Colorado to Baltimore to become the first female conductor of a major US orchestra. I started following her career watching what she did with the Cabrillo New Music Festival in California, and reading about her exploits in Europe and Asia. She was quickly becoming the woman to watch on the podium.
Several years later I was treated to a brief conversation with her about new music and her advocacy for composers and the performance of new music. As a composer, her support was trilling. She continues to thrill audiences around the world proving it isn't the sex of the person on the podium, but their passion for the music that makes the difference. Over the past 15 years, I have been blessed to see many of the greatest conductors alive today and rank Marin easily in the top ten. She is just that good!
In 2008 Marin Alsop was chosen as Musical America’s Conductor,. She was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 2010 and the only classical musician to be included in The Guardian’s “Top 100 women." In 2012 Alsop was presented with Honorary Membership (HonRAM) of the Royal Academy of Music, London. Her credits are many, and she's still on the rise.
She is breaking another barrier, conducting the finale of the 2013 BBC Proms, becoming the first female to do so.
from Reuters: US conductor becomes first woman to lead UK's Proms finale
On another note: Eimear Noone, another female conductor, is conducting the Pacific Symphony tonight, premiering the "Leah" theme from the award winning music from the video game Diablo III which Eimear conducted with the Pacific Symphony. I watched her in rehearsal today. Where Marin is paving the way, there appears to be another conductor interested in catching up.
Women are not treated on equal footing in either the corporate or music world and much of this is outlined in the article above. Social stigmas go a long way to treating women unfavorably for exhibiting the same behavior as men - while men get favorable treatment for the same behavior (see #1 from the Sandberg research). Many of the other elements discussed in the research can be put up to cultural stereo types and environmental learning we foist on our young men and women as they grow up, putting women at a further disadvantage. One key to getting out of this hole we have dug for ourselves, at least in the music industry, is finding a way to give musicians a chance at success without regard to anything but their performance.
TwtrSymphony holds auditions for musicians. There is no discussion as to sex, race, religion or other aspects of the musician. All we require are two things:
1) Ability to create a quality recording for the music they are given
2) A willingness to be active on social media to promote themselves and the orchestra
and this last one is a bit nebulous as to what we really mean by active.
We also held a Call for Scores from December to March in which we had over 130 submissions. Again, the only consideration was their music.
The point is, we don't discriminate. Two of our musicians are blind. I only know this because they require some additional tweaking of their parts. Otherwise, they do fine work getting their recordings in. I know many of the musicians personally (although we've never met) because we chat on Twitter and occasionally exchange emails. When I was reading the above article, I wondered how many women we have playing with TwtrSymphony, and honestly, I couldn't answer that question. I would have to go through our list person by person to determine who fits into which category. I just don't care. For what we do, this is irrelevant information. If we have more male musicians or more male composers it's because that's the result of the music created.
We are trying to do things differently—to think of making music in ways that have never been done before. I am happy to say one side benefit is we are also proving to be shed of any stereo-types getting in the way of making good music.
Please support us and our Kickstarter - to raise funds for a new music CD. Thanks for your support.
Times are changing and with it the way new music finds an audience. Change in inevitable. The real question: who will follow the trend and catch the wave of this new way of thinking?
Over 1800 years ago a man wrote down his thoughts about his relationship with God. St Augustine is considered the first person to write about having a personal relationship with God. His writings eventually became the seeds for the reformation (almost a thousand years later). There were lots of reasons for the strife surrounding the Reformation, but a key element was the quest for people to have a direct communion with God, rather than have to seek it through an intermediary (or priest). People began seeing their relationship with God as personal, something they could determine what works for them as an individual.
The printing press also had a great deal to do with the explosion of ideas about the bible, as the wealthy could now read it for themselves. It's still the most popular book of all time. This innovative idea of printing also created a world where pamphlets and broadsheets became popular. Not only were more people able to read as the cost of books dropped dramatically, other's saw the vision of mass influence via propaganda in this new, cheap form of mass communication. People began thinking for themselves, or at least, making their minds up based on new information. In England, the struggle between the crown and the commonwealth was largely fueled (and won) by massive propaganda. It is the blending of an individuals quest for a personal identity and the ability for mass communication that set the stage for hundreds of years of war ravaging Europe.
These ideas didn't always reek havoc. The printing of music became a prime source of income for composers of Renaissance England. William Byrd saw the future and quickly grasped the crowns exclusive right to print music adding more to his coffers than any other of his other pursuits. Beethoven made a good portion of his living selling music, rather than performing it (or having a patron). Composers were finding freedom to compose what they wanted (as long as what they wrote was what people wanted to buy).
Closer to our own time, the advent of the radio drastically affected the behavior of people. Their access to news, music and entertainment of all sorts was broadened dramatically. Rather than printed music, record companies erupted with sales of records far surpassing their revenue from sheet music. Now composers weren't just selling music to musicians, but musicians were selling their music to everyone.
Even with the introduction of music videos, it was still the media companies driving the style of music they wanted people to listen to, to buy. The creation of numerous "studio" groups, brought together not for their musical qualities, but for the marketability (their looks), is a prime example as to how media companies drove the market in the directions they wanted to do.
With the internet, YouTube, massive numbers of download sites (legitimate or otherwise), the course of music is changing. People are no longer forced to just wait and hear what the media companies feed them. If they don't like what they hear, people can quickly find something else. Indy bands are more popular than ever as it is possible to become extremely popular over the internet without having major backing by a major label. What this really means for the consumer is a broader choice to find exactly what they want.
What this means for classical music is it is possible to find fans without having to rely on normal avenues of exposure. Rather than just playing at a concert hall, more and more orchestras are reaching out doing flash mobs, performing in unique spaces, striving to find a way to connect with their audience in new ways. Orchestras like TwtrSymphony are driving music onto the internet, rather than through live performances, so tens of thousands of people can enjoy the music, rather than just a few hundred.
Film and Game music are quickly becoming regular additions to concert seasons, filling concert halls with new fans. New music needed be limited to just film and game music. It's time for an indy orchestra - It's time for TwtrSymphony!
There is a hold over in the classical music world. The concert hall is still a place of reverence, a place where many feel you need to dress appropriately, know when to clap and how to behave. This arcane way of behaving is unlike any other performance medium out there. If the audience likes a solo at a jazz club, they applaud. If the music is moving at a rock concert, they get up and dance, even at opera performances the audience applauds when the soloist does something spectacular. It's only in the concert hall where people feel stifled, forced to conform. In an age of freedom of choice, why are orchestras still demanding this attitude? Don't they realize, the modern audience can pick and choose what they want. If we make it uncomfortable for new comers, they don't come back. Why should they. They can find thousands of other forms of musical entertainment without having to come to the concert hall.
There is still no replacement for live music. If you've ever been to a live performance, you understand the power transcends anything you can experience in recorded media. But, in a world filled with easy access to choices, it doesn't serve to drive away potential new fans. They will too quickly find somewhere else to go.
The St. Louis Symphony will once again return Powell Hall to its movie hall roots on Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6, when it performs the live score to The Matrix, while the unforgettable futuristic film plays on a big screen above the stage. Bother performances start at 7pm.
Don Davis, who composed the original score for the movie, will conduct both St. Louis Symphony performances, which promise to be fast-paced fusions between movie and music. Members of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, directed by Amy Kaiser, will also perform on the program.
Prior to each concert there will be a costume contest, so don’t forget to bring your shades and futuristic gear. Tickets are still available and may be purchased on-line at stlsymphony.org or by calling 314-534-1700.
The other night I was at a hockey game. It was amazing how much a part of the whole experience of the game was the music that played during the breaks. The music was what got the crowd roaring and excited for the event, the music was what peaked emotions during the game and the music was what encouraged the chanting for the victory. Sometimes the music was hard pounding rock, sometimes it was elements of film scores with the sweeping strings driving people to a frenzy. The audience was experiencing music and responding to the music physically. Classical music has this power and (IMHO) more ability to achieve this than any other music form due to its rich complexities and possibilities.
Disneyland has a show, "The World of Color" which features a light and water fountain show set to music from Disney movies. The most enthusiastic moment in the show is when the music of "Pirates of the Caribbean" plays. Like with the hockey game, it's sweeping orchestra music that really digs deep into our emotional centers and stirs us to respond. It's not the film; it's the music that makes people respond. Yes, there are other elements in the performance - but without the music the performance would be pale, lame and uneventful. Disney understands the power of music.
Our Kickstarter is all about bringing classical music back into the forefront of our music world. We want to not only produce a CD of new music, we want to share our music via social media driving it into new arena, introducing new people to the power of exciting, visceral music. Become part of the new way of classical music. Support our quest!
Believe in the power of music
I'm going to make a lot of enemies with this post. I'll probably get told I'm unreasonable and it may even affect my future in terms of orchestra administration, but sometimes it's important to take a stand.
THESE OPINIONS ARE MINE AND MINE ALONE
Composing music is my real passion. So, I'm not sure I really fit with either the administrative camp or the musician camp. When I get paid by an orchestra (not including my day job) it's for a piece of music. It's a one time payment whether it's for a commission or performance rights to an existing work.
However, the musicians are the core to the orchestra. As Music Director for TwtrSymphony, I am certain I spend more time worried about the details of orchestra operation than any of the musicians. I might even go so far as to say I worry about it more than all the musicians put together. But that doesn't change the fact, the music comes out of the musicians. They are who and what you hear. In terms of payroll, they come first.
We just launched a Kickstarter today in hopes to raise money for a CD project - new music for a new audience in a new way. The bulk of the money we raise will go to the musicians. It won't come even close to being the kind of pay the musicians of San Francisco Symphony or Minnesota Symphony Orchestra would expect to receive. Still, the point is, the majority of our budget is for making the music.
Let's move into the future four or five years. Should TwtrSymphony get to the point we have enough interest (read: enough money) to pay musicians full time employment, I am determined the Music Director position of TwtrSymphony will never exceed that of any of the core musicians.
I don't want to get into quibbles over whether musicians in one city are worth as much or more than those in another city. I do think administration (and the boards that oversee them) need to look at who is getting paid what. If you have management that is making more than the musicians, why? Is their role really more important than the people on stage making the music.
TwtrSymphony believes the musicians come first.
If you had $100 and wanted to invest it, you could put it in a savings account and earn 0.5% interest. You would have access to your money, but it wouldn't earn much interest. If you put your $100 into a certificate of deposit account you might earn 2 to 2.5% but you'd have to leave it there for the long haul. While you might make more money, you have no access to it. You might find a scheme somewhere that would pay 5-6% interest on your money, but there is a much greater risk that you'll lose it all. At the riskiest schemes it would take you twelve years to make $100 on your initial investment. But this isn't an blog post about money.
If you wanted to earn $100 - in California minimum wage is $8/hr -- so it would take you 12.5 hours to make $100. Actually, it would take you a bit longer than that as you'd have taxes taken out. Let's say 15 hours. That's a lot quicker than twelve years! If you working as a lawyer, it might only take 15 minutes to make that kind of money, but you will have invested years of study to go through law school, then studying for the bar. You might have overhead costs of an office and staff. By the time it took you to make the $100 in 15 minutes, you would have already invested thousands of dollars and numerous years of your life.
What is a good investment for a musician to make in their career?
Outliers: The Story of Success by by Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill -- playing the violin, computer programming, or skateboarding. He calls this the 10,000 hour rule. If you calculate that out it turns into roughly 3 hours a day (everyday) for 10 years. Most world class musicians will tell you they practice 5-8 hours a day, everyday without fail. Now, they are already world class, so chances are they reached the 10,000 hour mark a while ago. But to stay on top they continue to devote time and effort to maintain their skills.
Let's put this relationship to time (and effort) into musical terms. What is the difference between the original "Clair de lune" by Debussy and one of the many 'student' versions available? The first (obvious) answer is the number of notes. A student version of this wonderful piece has far fewer notes than the original, yet, even when a young student plays their version, the essence of the music is there. We can hear the melody and follow the structure of the piece. However, if Debussy had written the original as simple as these student versions would we likely thrill to it like we do when we hear the original, fully fleshed out with all the right notes in place? Are we as moved when we hear a student play the piece with the occasional wrong notes and halting rhythm as we do when we hear a professional pianist add nuances of expression? The answer to both of these questions is no. The beauty of "Clair de lune" is both in its simplicity and in its complexity. It is beautiful because the core elements are extremely simple, and yet, when all the nuances of the music are in place, the music soars.
Being a musician, a composer and a music director are like Debussy's music. It is important to maintain an awareness of the simplicity of playing music. when playing the trombone, hitting high notes with a solid tone without wavering has more to do with breath control than a world class instrument. Mastery of the simple art of breathing is core to being a good brass player, just a the simple mechanics of finger placement is critical to being a good violinist. Of course, that isn't all it takes to be a world class player, but it is important to remember the simple elements of making music. As a composer, regardless of what technique used to build a piece of music, a solid understanding in the instruments can do is critical. A violin can't play below the G below middle C without changing the tuning of the G string. While it is possible to write double stops (playing two notes at the same time), a violinist can't play both G and B (below middle C) as both of those notes are are the G string. A composer has to understand what he/she is trying to achieve and the role the musician/instrument plays in bringing their music to life.
As Music Director for TwtrSymphony, I often meet people who are amazed at how much time and effort it goes into recording a single track of music. They somehow think I wave a magic wand (or baton) and the music just appears. There are hours of work just getting the music to the musicians. Then, there is the time they spend learning the music to get a good recording. Each recording they do needs to be evaluated, added to the rest of the recording and put together to make a unified final product. There is a reason it takes roughly three months to create one track of music. Over the past year I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear we'd spent 3-4,000 hours doing what we've done. If we go back to the 10,000 hour rule, you might think we only need to continue this pace for another couple of years to achieve success.
Well, yes and no. Success for TwtrSymphony isn't as simple as the 10,000 hour rule. Yes, we need to put in the time and effort, but we also need to make sure what we're doing retains some basic principles: We are making new music for people who don't typically go to the concert hall - a new audience.
What is a good investment when it comes to making new music?
Talk to me in ten years. If we have changed the say musicians collaboration over the internet, if we have brought to the forefront a dozen or so new composers who otherwise wouldn't have been heard, if more people all over the world are listening to new classical music, well then, yes, it will all be worth it.
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