Comments by Mr. CutTime to online articles with their links.
Hi Greg, I really enjoyed reading about this event from your review and Anne’s. I’ve been keeping some track of this NSO Neighborhoods program since meeting briefly with NSO staff 3 years ago to suggest just such events. The answers for WHAT to do once we have the brief attention of a truly NEW audience is one I’ve been developing for some time in schools as well as bars. The answers depend on our goals as you and Anne also eloquently state. Let’s call Goal 1, Join the Wider Community, and Goal 2, Draw New Ticket-buyers.
I think there is another goal in between these two which neither of you mentioned: it’s the bridge between the two, so I’ll call it Goal 1.5: Clue the New Audience in to What the Big Deal Is. We can shorten this perhaps to, Truly Inspire with Real Symphonic Music, or New Audience Education, although I seriously would not use the last one externally because is sounds like eating vegetables (not that I don’t love my vegetables).
I know Greg that you also believe in Goal 1.5, and perhaps this is the musical question you’re preparing to elaborate on. For me it is as “simple” as making sure the event is overwhelmingly musical, with a visceral sense of phrasing and direction, exaggerated contrast, volume and texture, playful tricks of timing, and with music that draws from the current “folk music of our time”, familiar urban pop styles that can develop of form the climax of an adventurous, well-shaped composition, the hallmark of the venerated canon. The most successful compositions of the past did no less with the folk elements of their time, and even reached outside of their PLACE to add exotic elements for flavor. (I could go on….)
The 2nd part of Goal 1.5, I strongly believe, is to reset the context for symphonic music. That context needs to be personal, over-broad and most importantly SPOKEN. This will inherently be quite controversial, which is why orchestras are so reluctant to take it on. You and I do not share the same context for “classical music”; but that really doesn’t matter to the curious newcomer, who might welcome ANY non-academic reason, or RE-definition (let’s call it opinion) explaining this music. By speaking publicly and frequently and enthusiastically about WHY and HOW I choose this music (with love if not knowledge of other genres), I’ve left my comfort zone to learn effective phrases, analogies, interviews and even games to get new people to listen more like the musicians who are performing. What are the burning questions for the audience?
I want to model, inspire and challenge my orchestra colleagues to do the same. Their experiences are perhaps MORE valuable now OFF the pedestal than on. Let’s plant the seeds for continued exploration, without expecting more than to ORIENT the audience in front of us, which is difficult enough. However, offering a convenient and inclusive webspace for newbies might be a good start.
I agree with your point and am glad we can articulate these burning issues. Because Millennials don’t view art as a CAUSE, I think that’s one reason why Classical Revolution chapters around the world, Open Classical DFW and other New Classical musicians, groups and series are having such a profound if local impact. We are NOT glamorous, rather proudly loose and anti-elitist. We are obsessed with connecting people to each other (community-building) thru classical, other music and arts. Our paradigm is audience-centric rather than art-preservation-centric. I’m going to post a soft blog on this tomorrow: Classicism vs. Classism. Maybe it is not cause ENOUGH, but it is what we have the power to do: it is our FIGHT.
To the extent that large performing institutions might someday seed their own GENUINE community-building efforts thru music… trusting committees of “minorities” and Millennials to regularly drive the bus… they will start to enjoy a REAL relationship with the people who currently walk past the hall. Several orchestras of musicians, thru neighborhood concert initiatives, service exchange programs and volunteerism, are experiencing the surprising joys of truly connecting with people in their communities. A few others connect thru union-supported protests. “World-class” has favored class over the rest of The World. We The World will someday strike a sustainable balance.
September 26, 2013 Response to Sandow comment regarding why use labels at all when blurring genres in clubs
To label or not to label… that IS the question.
Whether to think it better to blur the lines, tear down the walls and do away with labels altogether… or to consider those times when we PREFER music that defines a style. When I want a blues or rock or gospel, I’m not necessarily satisfied with blues-rock or R&B. (Remember 80s fusion?) Hybrids are certainly novel, but only in contrast to authentic style (“hardcore”). And authenticity seems to be one of the holy grails young music lovers say they want, even if it’s not always what they mean. The “authentic” they sometimes mean is the sense of “genuine”. They want to feel us to MEAN what we play, by virtue of being (or seeming) demonstrative, spontaneous or even RAW (raw energy being the opposite of perfectionism perhaps).
While some classical music did borrow from folk traditions (my own included), it still tends to come off as distinctly classical when we stick to the original score. Once we add a rhythm section, an occasional blues-3rds or even tap our feet, the lines become blurred and we call it a hybrid (mash up) of some kind. The work of CutTime in clubs has been to VALIDATE classical music, by adapting symphonic music, giving an overbroad historical overview and explaining the SPORT to the curious. To reset the context for classical, we EMBRACE the label.
If classical is characterized by restraint, formality and refinement, we have already re-characterized it by our actions, taking it OFF the pedestal of the concert hall. In fact our mission (inc. you, Sarah [Robinson], CR, etc.) is to dissociate classical from the pedestal it’s been stuck on. With the new smoking laws, this is the time for it. Without that original label however, it just doesn’t work… hence Klingon Opera (Kling-On Opera?). In fact, beyond realizing that we’re in the inspiration business thru music… I’m starting to see that inspiration is guided by personal association. Thus we’re ultimately trying to RE-associate classical with high value (HELL YEAH) good times! Dancing Klingons do that for me every time!
Aug. 13, 2013 Response to NPR The American Symphonic Legacy: Not Just For White Guys
I really enjoyed this piece Celeste [Headlee, grand-daughter of William Grant Still], and loved recording two of your grandfather’s distinctly American symphonies [with DSO]!
The orchestra industry is making a long transition, supporting more American composers, conductors, soloists, quartets, etc. But the cognitive dissonance running throughout the industry is the question of relative authenticity. White male composers, conductors, etc. will invariably be perceived as more authentic than non. Particularly when funding is tight and there are more talented artists composing, behind the scenes lobbying is more fervent for “people we know”. This competition is so intense that I decided it was much more practical to be fully entrepreneurial. I compose for my own small ensembles and play “underground” for the people who avoid classical altogether. This has been an artistically rewarding experience AND it’s what the industry sorely needs… musicians and composers who can translate the SPORT of musiking to curious music lovers. I’m close to finding some funding for this mission.
The sport is always… to make the music matter. And it’s WIN-WIN. Often what makes it matter is when the audience finds just enough that is familiar or novel that makes them listen in and CARE about what happens next. I go the familiar route, blending urban folk, like pseudo- blues, rock, Latin, R&B, even gospel, bluegrass, country and hip-hop grooves and cadential figures with counterpoint and light development. I believe this makes for American music which INCLUDES Latinos and blacks, just like your grandfather did. I’m also blending the past with the present.
But the fact that symphonic music remains such a powerful source of inspiration in this day, age and period of hard adjustment… is frankly lost on 95% of Americans…. unless we FACE the wider community that we’d like to see attend concerts… and de-mystify the traditions, words, and habit of listening quietly in the spirit of meditation. Black and Latino composers can refresh and warm up this genre in ways that “authenticity” is reluctant… by being relaxed and REAL.
July 28, 2013 Response to Greg Sandow’s guest blogger Nicole Canham: Opening Up What We Do
I’ve come to believe the trick is simply to see BOTH sides of this coin of understanding. We know why we come to concerts and are comfortable. To some extent we also already know why those who don’t come aren’t comfortable… we’ve heard it in passing, we’ve heard it from kids and popular culture constantly… we just haven’t chosen to BELIEVE them. (Classical is long, boring, soft, antiquated, white, stiff, formal, restrained, cold, dressy, pricey, etc.) And if we DON’T know, we can prompt valuable answers from the same demographics WHEN we’re willing to hear them.
Actually, we only need to spend some time in the presence of the audience we’d like to reach as they take in what they consider art (ie. entertainment). Contrast pop and art music styles and make a list of what is in common and what is different. Ask what is MISSING for them from our tradition. Consider it a given that we won’t LIKE these answers and consider a compromise met with platonic love and honest humility. The central question will then be about re-balancing art with entertainment. You don’t have one without the other anyway. The E-hand washes the A-hand as we COMPLEMENT the traditional experience with introductory and participatory experiences.