The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) Blog

Daring Divas: All for One and One for All!!!

Posted in Julie_Cross by iawmblog on March 12, 2010

A few weeks ago I ran into a male composer from out of state who, after grilling me on my choice of research on women composers, puffed out his chest and said with pride that he could not wait to start his own American Male Composers concert series.  He was gleeful at the thought that it would garner much press, considering the controversial nature of said series.  He then proceeded to generously inform me that singers were a unique breed…”not very bright” but interesting nonetheless.  I gave him two opportunities to redeem himself by gently and jovially saying “hey now”, but he did not jump at the opportunity to remove me from the “not very bright” category.  I bit my tongue and did not seek further dialogue with said composer.  Still, this is a well-known person who teaches at the university level and influences young minds.

I counter that attitude with an exceptionally well-written article by one of my dear mentors, George Shirley. http://operagasm.com/2010/02/opera-and-the-black-singer/ In this article, Shirley discusses the subordination of the voice in the larger-than-life art form of opera “to the shallow realm of visual looks.”  While he is addressing the black singer in particular, his article mentions the universality of his concerns.  When African-American singers are not allowed to express themselves fully on the opera stage (particularly tenors as love interests), this is unfair.  At the heart of this inequality is racism, ageism, sizeism, sexism, etc.  If the black tenor cannot be the love interest, and the fat lady must be too large for anyone to consider her attractive, then the old woman could not possibly be the sassy maid, the large-bellied bass is destined for comedy only, and the Japanese woman must always play Madame Butterfly.  Instead of art defining life, life becomes compartmentalized and standardized and defines the unrealistic realm of opera.  The virtuoso requirements of operatic vocal writing then must submit to typecasting, to the detriment of all involved.

I return to the introductory questions of this blog series: What does it mean to be a woman who performs music by women?  What does it mean to be a woman performer in general?   The aforementioned composer was closed to all possibilities that felt threatening to his success within the status quo, to anything outside the “box”.  George Shirley, on the other hand, is able to look beyond his own individual concerns and see the universality of need for equality.  Those who view the fight for equality as threat against their turf are unable to see the larger picture…that we are all interconnected in a desire for high caliber artistry, plain and simple.  Are we true to our art form as musicians — whether composers, performers, or teachers — when we do not seek to challenge ourselves to our very limits, to the ultimate integrity of our artistry?

When we work to bring equality to one group through the medium of music, it assists other groups as well.  This is an interconnected process.  When we seek out the music of women composers, this is not to the detriment of male composers.  This is not an “us vs. them” world, unless we make it such through exclusionist attitudes.  No matter how many valuable artists and musicians are out there, the world always needs more.  By assuring that underrepresented groups get full attention in the arts community, we are setting the stage for future performing artists to move forward boldly.  If this were an artistically finite world, I could see the aforementioned composer’s concern.  Since nothing is threatening our individual artistry, his comments are without validity.   George Shirley says: “Barriers of one sort or another will always be players…given this verity, one must determine to destroy, go around, go over, or go through them in order to realize one’s potential and live the life one is given.”  In addition, as each barrier is knocked down, the way is paved for others to follow suit.  We work together for a world of equality, one step at a time.  We are truly interconnected.

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Julie Cross, Treasurer of the IAWM, is a mezzo teaching voice, diction, and vocal literature at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. She blogs about how performers choose repertoire.

Homemade Instruments and Affordable Music

Posted in Jen_Baker by iawmblog on March 10, 2010

As it turns out, kids have a natural fascination for re-using objects for new purposes.  I think about how so many of us found it natural as youngsters to make an orchestra out of kitchen pots, pans and utensils.  It is, or was (for many of us) so natural to spontaneously create sound with whatever tools we have available.  What happened to that curiosity?

When I first started introducing homemade instruments into my classroom curriculum, I emphasized the economy and re-use of the materials we would use, and was pleasantly surprised to see how many of the kids expressed how good it was that we were being environmentally conscious.  This is one of the more profound lessons I’ve learned from teaching.  So as I proceeded with homemade instruments made from found objects, the kids helped create the sounds each instrument would be best suited to make.  As a result of students experimenting, a large water bottle became a Guiro, a box with rubber bands became a banjo, a paper towel tube became a rainstick, and on and on.  Students helped one another and shared resources, and in the end created a strong sense of community at the culmination of our project.

So what did we do with our creations?

Some examples include “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” buzzed on Buzzoos made of a small 3 inch PVC tube with beeswax for a mouthpiece, “Frere Jacques” in rounds on the Air Whistles made of straws cut for a C major scale, class compositions for unusual combinations, ie, didgeridoo and recorder, and sound poetry with all manner of swishy, scratchy, plucky, chimy and crunchy found objects.

It is partly because of one school’s tight budget that I have invested so much time in creating “used” instruments.  In this climate of money problems and environmental concerns, I think this method is very attractive–in fact, I have recently done short workshops at a summer camp and at an after school,  and both programs needed me to find free or very cheap ways to acquire materials.  A friend of mine teaches “Junk Percussion” where he teaches all of the fundamentals of percussion while playing on five gallon buckets.

If music is becoming expendable to so many school programs, then why not find a cheaper way to teach it so it can survive?  Why not teach composition, instrument making, improvisation, and music literacy with junk?  Not that I support financial cuts to the music program, but if we have to eliminate band, can’t we have something else in its place?  In the early 20th century, Stravinsky and many other composers downsized their pieces from the full orchestra to octets, quartets, and trios, and it was largely due to the economic necessity.  Well, here we are, having another economic crisis that has been affecting K-12 music for over a decade.  I’m not so sure that the high school band is going to come back in full force for many of these schools, particularly inner city schools.  So should we just give up and let the music program see its demise, or find an alternative path to keep it alive?

Music will always find a way to live.  Let’s be a part of it!!

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Jen Baker is a trombonist who specializes in new music and freelances in New York City.  She also teaches composition, improvisation, and homemade instrument making to children, and she blogs about experiences in the classroom.

Welcome to International Women’s Day: March 8th

Posted in Susan_Borwick by iawmblog on March 9, 2010

As we celebrate women, I’m thinking about how to organize a course that teaches about women and music—a course for musicians and non-musicians—a course that perhaps fulfills a humanities or a fine-arts core requirement—a course that in some ways is expected to be all things to all people, simply because it will probably be the one-and-only course these students take on the topics of women and music.

After a day or two spent getting the course off the ground, I try to introduce a topic that nobody in the class is expert in.  A useful topic comes to mind:

Introduce kinds of feminism, which gives the students an academic vocabulary for talking about women and music.  I like to use some of the terms in the old standard theoretical text by Alison Jaggar and Paula Rothenberg, Feminist Frameworks: Alternative Theoretical Accounts of the Relations between Women and Men, 3rd ed. (McGraw-Hill, 1993, ISBN-10: 0070322538, ISBN-13: 978-0070322530).  These terms describe some of the lenses we wear when we deal with women and gender: conservative, liberal, socialist, Marxist, women of color, global, radical.  The class learns to apply each of these kinds of feminisms—not necessarily to agree with them, but to apply them.  For example, let’s analyze this conversation:

A: “Did you know that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister composed music?”

B: “Really?  I’ve never heard of her before.”

A: “Well, women don’t really compose good music.  They create babies.  Probably if her music had been good we would have heard of it.”

[conservative-feminist lens: The difference between men and women is first of all biological]

*     *     *

A: “Did you know that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister composed music?”

B: “Really?  I’ve never heard of her before.”

A: “Well, she came from a very musical family and got unusually good musical training compared to most women of her time and place.  She was an exceptional woman, a woman composer.”

[liberal-feminist lens: The difference between men and women is first of all individual opportunity.]

*     *     *

A: “Did you know that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister composed music?”

B: “Really?  I’ve never heard of her before.”

A: “Well, she was successful—unlike her Indian servant who also composed good music.” [fictional statement]

[women-of-color-feminist lens: Differences are first of all ethnic.]

*     *     *

A: “Did you know that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister composed music?”

B: “Really?  I’ve never heard of her before.”

A: “Well, composers in the Mendelssohn family were successful—you know, they were from a well-to-do family that could afford to spend time learning to create music.”

[Marxist- or socialist-feminist lens: The differences are first of all economic (Marxist) or social class (socialist).]

*     *     *

A: “Did you know that Felix Mendelssohn’s sister composed music?”

B: “Really?  I’ve never heard of her before.”

A: “Well, European women have been able to compose and do other ‘manly’ things that Asian women never have been able to.”

[global-feminist lens: Differences are first of all global/colonialist.]

*     *     *

Students can then look for the lenses used by critics, composers, even us.  They have a tool.  They can now begin to ask questions such as “Does this music sound this way because a woman composed it?” or “What makes this music tick, in the context of the life of this composer, male or female?”  They can even role play.

This women-and-music course is becoming juicy!

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Susan Borwick

Susan is a musicologist, theorist, and composer teaching at Wake Forest, and she’s also the Secretary of IAWM. Her areas of specialization include women’s and gender studies, and spirituality and the arts. She blogs about teaching “women and music” in a liberal arts setting.

The Composer’s Daughter

Posted in Sabrina_Pena_Young by iawmblog on February 28, 2010

Strangers say she has the slender fingers of a pianist. She grimaces at minor seconds and is lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the pounding drums. She cries as cluster chords play electronic strains and is fascinated by the simple strumming of the mandolin. She smiles as her mother sings a half-forgotten lullaby and shuts her eyes at the clash of cymbals. She is the composer’s daughter.

As I hold her tiny, pink, pillowy body closely to my gently beating heart, I wonder if the nearly ten months she spent in my womb has left any permanent musical impressions on her. I remember the kicks she gave me from within when I stubbornly insisted on playing drum set seven months into the pregnancy, my bulging belly only a centimeter’s distance from the piercing snare drum. I think of the hours I performed on the congas, each tap and slap creating a rhythmic lullaby for my sleeping unborn, unseen, child, and I think of her tiny ears hearing sorrowful ballades when hormones and stress and nausea brought me to tears.

I remember giving composition lessons in the music studio and her abrupt kicks when a student’s dissonant electroacoustic piece roused her from deep slumber. Experts say that Mozart increases a child’s intelligence, but the study is still out on Stockhausen, Reich, Oliveros, and Varese.

What symphony did she hear in the peaceful chamber within me? Synthesized external sound waves, the gentle beating of her mother’s heart, the churning and gurgling of the stomach, the quick rhythms of her own tiny heart, the subtle sucking of a microscopic thumb, and the gentle rush of amniotic fluid – not even Mozart could create music so divine.

Yesterday, at three months of age, my daughter had her first piano lesson. Holding her high above an electronic keyboard, I laughed as she pounded out her first improvisation with her chubby feet. Perhaps she would have enjoyed the exercise more if her big toe could reach the major third instead of just a second. For her first drum lesson, she seemed more interested in throwing the makeshift instrument than playing it. My hope for this child, born out of love and music – that she enjoys each musical moment of her existence, that she learns to love and be loved in perfect harmony, and that she experiences to the fullest this symphony we call life.

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Sabrina Peña Young is an Intermedia Composer teaching at Murray State University and an experienced blogger. Her specialties are composition, technology, world music, percussion, and film & video.

The role of virtual musical instruments in our music

Posted in Eliška_Cílková by iawmblog on February 19, 2010

Everyone of us has surely encountered computer music. Whether are we singers, composers, instrumental players or theoreticians, we listen to artificially-created sounds every day. We only need switch on the TV to hear the stream of signature tunes and music from advertisements. But the question is: what role do these sounds play in our life?

I’m a composer; computer technology is very important for me. Everyday I work with software to notate my music and I listen the notes played by virtual instruments–but just for a reference. I really think it is important to be aware of the influence of virtual instruments and to keep hearing your own natural sound ideas.

Even thought most people would expect that every live performance will sound better than a virtual one, it isn’t always true.

Once I composed a work for woodwinds. The virtual flute sounded perfect with perfect technique and I got used to this. How I was later surprised! I got used to perfect technique and I expected that my musician would not only technically play as well as the computer but also have a better sound, of course. I found out that the technical aspects I had written were too difficult for the musician and therefore the piece didn’t work as well as the computer rendition had.

Nevertheless virtual musical instruments can be very helpful. Especially if we use professional high–quality musical instruments which work in software like Cubase, Nuendo or Logic. I know composers who write music for advertisements and documentary films by using only computer samples. It works quite well, and if you are not a professional musician you won’t recognize it. Composers can also afford to use special musical instruments (temple block, wind chimes, celesta, cymbalom etc.) without any problems–no calling to orchestral players, no matters about money.

Even thought I belong to the group of composers who compose music at a table or with piano and holding a pen in the hand, I sometimes use virtual musical instruments. For me it’s very helpful to send a MIDI recording to my musicians. It’s so easy to extract a .mid file from notation software and replace the sounds with high-quality virtual instruments. But sometimes, I just use my dictaphone and record a live piano version to send to the musicians.

So I’d just like to say at the end: virtual musical instruments can be very helpful for us but they will never be as rich and nuanced as music played by live musicians.

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Eliška Cílková recently moved to Bratislava, Slovakia where she is in her first year studying composition at Academy of Music.

Experiences in the Classroom: Equality

Posted in Jen_Baker by iawmblog on February 7, 2010

One student I taught from Kindergarten through 4th grade had always been tight-lipped and grimacing in just about every class I had with him. He never offered his opinion and only participated willingly if his friend was in his group. After four years of this I had grown accustomed to his behavior but always hopeful that one day he might come out of his darkness. One day he did. It seemed sudden on the surface–he looked me in the eyes and asked questions, offered suggestions and his opinion on activities, and engaged fully in class projects. Even though there were very likely other life issues at play of which I wasn’t aware, I had a sense of accomplishment from his achievement because I kept the door open for him to participate at all times. There were no guarantees that this would happen, but I didn’t ever want to take that opportunity away from him.

I firmly believe that giving kids ownership in the classroom leads to self-discovery, which in turn leads to greater respect for others and social awareness. As a couple of commenters alluded to in my previous post (Introduction), some kids are even thrown off at first by the possibility that they a have a say in what has happened in class (or private lessons). I may get paid to be a music teacher, but the potential for teaching human lessons is limitless. Since my approach is based in holistic teaching, I take full advantage of my role to offer as many opportunities for my students’ self-growth as possible. This is of course exhausting –and worthwhile.

As exhausting as it can be to create curriculum, plan a day’s lesson, or get my materials together, the really valuable work happens when I am face-to-face with the kids, helping them navigate through their own individual processes of self-awareness. It can be tricky to deal with an entire classroom and yet treat each kid as an individual who is equal. In order to do this fairly, I pay close attention to their mannerisms–both in my class and at play times–and keep in mind their character traits (i.e., oversensitive, bold, detailed, leader, hard-worker, etc). I wouldn’t treat a leader the same way I would treat a sensitive kid, or a detailed kid the same way as a bold kid. I find that bolder kids need firm structure and repetition, and sensitive kids would appreciate it very much if you would just talk to them individually about something they had done.

Treating kids as individuals reaps its benefits. They learn to trust their learning environment, and they learn to listen to others’ opinions, for they may be different from their own. They learn that when they offer suggestions, they will be heard. When kids are heard, they are at their happiest, and can grow much faster.

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Jen Baker
Jen is a trombonist who specializes in new music and freelances in New York City.  She also teaches composition, improvisation, and homemade instrument making to children, and she’ll be blogging about experiences in the classroom.

Decomposing Composers

Posted in Sabrina_Pena_Young by iawmblog on January 30, 2010

“So, what do you do?”

With reverential mystery I answer, “I compose.”

Invariably eyebrows raise. I used to think that being a composer surprised people because I generally defy the stereotypical idea of a composer – a white-haired European corpse.  Being a young  Latina composer with an obsession for science fiction, drums, zombie makeup, and computers, I am already used to sticking out in a crowd.  Just add on experimental composition to my list of costly addictions. But it is not my gender, ethnicity, or passion for Star Wars that makes my being a composer surprising. It is that I am a living composer. Period.

The average Joe or Nicole has difficulty naming three classical composers outside of the Big Three – Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. Work in any economically ravaged arts-deprived school today, and you will find that many students believe that all classical composers died centuries ago, with the exception of John Williams. Even our university music schools have encouraged this notion about decomposing composers by ending college music courses at the year 1930. (Thank goodness our medical schools don’t follow the same model. I would hate to have an operation using the techniques of eighty years ago!) Hollywood movies further romanticize long gone musical geniuses with schlock like Immortal Beloved or Amadeus, entirely ignoring the amazing triumphs of contemporary composers.

“Yes, I am a composer. And no, I am not dead. PS. I do not wear a powdered wig.”

Many non-musicians regard composers with a reverent awe akin to how I might regard a nuclear physicist or epidemiologist (I will let you Google that one). By some bizarre “magic,” composers create symphonies and operas in our heads. Hiding in our virtual music labs, we sketch little dots on paper which give birth to musical masterpieces. We experiment constantly with sounds, notes, timbre, color, instruments, melody, and harmony. Many, if not most, of us succumb to eccentricities and think on planes of thought that make little sense to someone who has not heard an entire chorus play constantly in their mind’s ear for weeks on end. Our loved ones know better than to interrupt when inspiration strikes, and often we are accused of being mentally absent when our inner workings begin exploring a new musical avenue. Some composers are so content to create masterworks in an intellectually exclusive vacuum that they further promulgate this notion of the composer as the mad scientist of classical music.

Are composers a dying breed? Or is it simply the antiquated definition of the “composer” that has been buried by the last century of the diversified technological globalization of music?

While I do enjoy proselytizing the wonders of avant-garde music and contemporary composition, sometimes I wonder if I myself have put up an imaginary wall. The Information Age has morphed the very definition of composition. Maybe the problem is not that there are too few living composers but that  there are millions and millions of living composers creating music on laptops, the internet, iPhones, electronic instruments, and desktop computers. Maybe by limiting the scope of composition to traditional classical music I have in fact self-imposed this exclusive view of music making, leaving me prey to all of its misconceptions and false assumptions. If I define myself as an “electronic musician,” I soon find kindred spirits that may never have taken Theory III or Orchestration, but create innovative music all the same. Perhaps I need to forget about writing “electroacoustic,” “experimental,” “classical,” “avant-garde,” or “intermedia” compositions, and just concentrate on writing, well, just plain old music. Then I might find myself no longer confined to patriarchal stereotypes and instead part of a larger collective of music lovers that includes every culture, generation, and gender.

So what do I really do?

I make music.

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Sabrina Peña Young is an Intermedia Composer teaching at Murray State University and an experienced blogger. Her specialties are composition, technology, world music, percussion, and film & video.

Difference and Music

Posted in Sally_Macarthur by iawmblog on January 26, 2010

Sabrina Pena Young’s blog (Jan 23, 2010), defending electroacoustic music, opens up important questions to do with difference. She explains that electroacoustic music is as valid an art-form as acoustic music composition and should be recognised accordingly. She highlights the fact that electroacoustic composers are undervalued and/or sidelined for the wrong reasons. The underlying point she makes is that difference is used to discriminate against the category of electroacoustic music. Young implies that electroacoustic music has been judged unfairly against an implied normative music.

The kind of difference frequently invoked for discussions to do with discrimination—such as that against electroacoustic or women’s music—is ‘categorical difference’ or as Deleuze, a philosopher in whose work I have recently become interested, puts it, ‘discrete difference’. ‘Discrete difference’ divides categories into rigid, separate, static, grid-like entities such that they become stratified. In this conception of difference, music is imagined to have hard boundaries around it. And it is the kind of difference that makes distinctions about identity in terms of various demarcations such as sex, gender, colour, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age, ability, and so on. The list is endless. While these categories may be useful, they are limiting in the way they reduce the body (or music) to particular modes of being and interacting, and they are ultimately hierarchical. Categorical (or discrete) difference reduces music and identities to positive and negative images, and it is ultimately divisive and polarising.

Deleuze’s conception of ‘continuous difference’, which I think is a more useful way to think about difference, is based on the idea that difference is on a continuum and it is never static. Deleuze conceives of difference as a multiplicity under continuous construction. This conception of difference is based on the idea that it is internal rather than relational or external. To paraphrase Hickey Moody and Malins (in Deleuzian Encounters, 2007), the body is produced through an internal differenciation, as when cells multiply and, over time, differ from each other. The idea here is that difference keeps differing. In this conception, as I hope to elaborate over time as I deal with other Deleuzian concepts, difference is presented as positive and productive, rather than as negative and subtractive.

A Deleuzian conception of difference allows us to think about new possibilities, rather than being concerned with how one kind of music is viewed against another kind, or against some imagined standard or norm. Jenny Fowler’s recent email to the IAWM Listserv (26 Jan, 2010) encapsulates this idea. She suggests that drawing from the total pool of talent would be much more enriching to the music world than restricting the pool to particular categories or groups of composers. Of course, the total pool of talent, as I think she implies, is constantly changing and differing as new talents, and new works, including those by women (or from any other category of identity), are added to it. Thinking about the total pool of talent in a Deleuzian sense allows us to imagine endless possibilities for music, all of which would be positive. Such an idea exemplifies the concept of difference differing.

As Bronwyn Davies has written, this concept of difference, which is produced through an ongoing process of differenciation, disrupts the idea ‘of a self which is constituted through its difference to an “other”, and allows us to think of relationships between bodies as productive of (rather than reliant upon) difference.’ The value of thinking about difference in this manner, as an ongoing, productive process, allows us to shift the focus from the fixed end-product, such as the individual or the music, and from the idea that one kind of music is better than another. In Davies words, it allows us to think of difference as a constantly emerging process of becoming other-than-itself and as the ongoing production of life itself. Such an idea puts a positive spin on difference, wherever and whenever it appears.

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Sally Macarthur is senior lecturer in musicology at the University of Western Sydney. She utilises feminist and poststructural theories in her work on contemporary art music and women’s new music. Her books include Feminist Aesthetics in Music (Greenwood Press, 2002) and Towards a Twenty-First Century Feminist Politics of Music (Ashgate, forthcoming).

Studying at the Jaroslav Ježek Jazz Conservatory in Prague: An Introduction

Posted in Eliška_Cílková by iawmblog on January 25, 2010

As my first report to the IAWM blog, I would like to say few words about The Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic. I have been studying there since 2006. The Conservatory / Higher Specialized School is one of only a few schools of its kind, one which is focused on the field of jazz and other forms of nontraditional art. So if you study there you don’t learn only classical music, but also jazz. Actually you must study both – for example you should attend the music history course, but also jazz history course. You learn classical harmony and jazz harmony. You take private lessons in both classical piano and jazz piano as well.

I have been studying composition there. In addition to composing classical music, I have composed a lot of jazz. My teacher has taught me a lot about jazz music and that has been very interesting for me. I have learned big band instrumentation, arranging for a jazz combo, jazz improvisation and more. I really like it.

The school doesn’t have its own symphonic orchestra, but it has an excellent big band. This big band is directed by Milan Svoboda and it is very successful. In 2007, the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory Big Band took part in the Next Generation Festival in Monterey, California. It was the only big band from Europe to reach the finals and it placed as one of the six best big bands.

The school also offers a lot of interesting international courses with foreign guest lecturers. I clearly remember the visits of Maria Schneider and Skip Wilkins. They were fantastic.

Even thought I am in Bratislava more than in Prague now, I really appreciate the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory. I had many important experiences and learned many skills there.

If you are interested in the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, you can visit its website: http://www.kjj.cz

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Eliška Cílková recently moved to Bratislava, Slovakia where she is in her first year studying composition at Academy of Music.

In Defense of Music Technology: Adapt or Die

Posted in Sabrina_Pena_Young by iawmblog on January 23, 2010

Last year after an electronic music concert, I found myself defending electroacoustic music to a fellow composer who did not understand why composers in my field insisted on using multimedia in their works. Her companion agreed, and as both verbally snubbed composers who use electronics, I realized that music technology divides even the most knowledgeable of musicians. In my mind, there are not composers in “my” field of electroacoustic music and “their” field of strictly acoustic (and presumably better) music. Electroacoustic composers simply compose for electronics like they compose for a choir or orchestra, and many can just as easily create a symphony as a computer music piece.

Critics have always shunned innovation, whether it be the pianoforte, the record player, radio, the internet, virtual reality, or electroacoustic music. Whatever their motives – fear, ignorance, embarrassment – these critics wish to maintain the status quo, until their stalwart stance dooms them to obscurity. Unless a composer hides in a cave armed only with a pencil and manuscript, he or she will succumb to the digital revolution. The contemporary composer knows that posting one’s latest clarinet trio on YouTube is as important as learning how to write a string quartet, that a collaboration can mean anything from working with an alternative band down the street to jamming with a Kenyan drumming ensemble over i-Chat, and that publishing a score globally takes only a few clicks and broadband.

The musician who chooses to ignore technology may find that his or her music quickly becomes obsolete, though not for lack of quality. Competition committees pass over works with sloppy handwritten scores and noisy analog recordings, instead accepting polished computer scores with MIDI realizations. Music enthusiasts swipe audio files off an artist’s website instead of attending a live recital. Traditional mediums like physical recordings, music magazines, and terrestrial radio fail as Amazon.com, vlogs and blogs, and Pandora become the music distributors of choice. Composers who insist that they do not embrace technology still need to record their performances digitally, depend on Finale to publish their scores, and use e-mail to communicate with other musicians. Even the artist who reads this blog has chosen to accept new technology.

Today successful composers exploit electronic innovation by self-promoting their music through blogs and internet radio, hosting concert premieres through virtual worlds like Second Life, collaborating internationally through video chat, and composing new hybrid works with live performers and Max/MSP. Revolutionary composers not only utilize existing contemporary technology, but push the artistic envelope by inventing new digital marvels that further transform music. Cutting edge musicians turn to independent companies hosted by a single CPU in a music fan’s basement, and performers reach new audiences as advanced communications shrink the market. A digital tsunami has struck the world and only the technologically evolved will survive.

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Sabrina Peña Young is an Intermedia Composer teaching at Murray State University and an experienced blogger. Her specialties are composition, technology, world music, percussion, and film & video.