Searching for tomorrow’s classical music still requires trial and error. That’s the fun of it.

Insightful article on the importance of performing new music, like it or not! Searching for tomorrow's classical music.

Where new works are concerned, musicians are beta testers. But they still need listener feedback to know whether a piece speaks to anyone else.

“Most of the music we play,” a musician who specializes in contemporary music told me recently, “is not great. Some of it is very good, but it lacks something. It falls short. But we need to play it — not only because something great may turn up and if we don’t play it we won’t know it, but also because this is the music being composed now, and it ought to be heard.”

More importantly, musicians need listener feedback to know whether a piece speaks to anyone else.

That response may come in the form of post-concert comments and published criticism, but most immediately a musician will have a more visceral sense during the performance of how an audience feels about the work at hand. And the audience, by creating a buzz about the music or the composer and buying tickets to hear the piece the next time it is performed, becomes part of the mechanism that either sends a score into oblivion or finds it a berth in the repertory.

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1 comment for “Searching for tomorrow’s classical music still requires trial and error. That’s the fun of it.

  1. January 21, 2011 at

    Unfortunately performing musicians, like most people who listen to music, evaluate the music that they play partially by the reputation of the composer. We are all so fragile in our ability to evaluate, and we tend to trust the evaluation of others above our own instincts.

    Composers who really know how to “sell” their music and sell the persona that goes along with their music tend to have their music performed more often and by more “important” people. (Note that I didn’t say “better players.”) Clout is musical currency. It always has been, and it always will be. It makes life a bit tough for composers who love to write music, but find that it isn’t always worth the energy if there isn’t someone who is prepared to perform it.

    Sometimes being a composer is kind of like being a great cook, and cooking only for yourself, because there’s nobody around to share it.

    Getting a piece into the hands (or mouths, in the case of singers, wind players, and brass players) of musicians who can see value beyond “brand” is one hurdle, but the chance that those people will program and perform music by an unknown composer is a greater hurdle. I suppose that the mark of a successful composer is getting to the “beta testing” stage.

    Publishers used to do a lot to help the composers they published. Now they do next to nothing, unless there is considerable money to be made.

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