I found this interesting infographic detailing how much some famous composers made for their work with the figures adjusted only slightly for, you know, hundreds of years of inflation. It’s fascinating not only because many of the numbers are through the roof, but also because the vast majority of composers and ensembles can’t fathom this sort of society.
21st-century composers regularly acknowledge the effects of a “post” society–post-modern, post-apprenticeship, post-patron–on their work and livelihood. From an ensemble perspective, the “post” labels are there but different, including post-classicist, sometimes post-racial, and often post-popular. These trends make it difficult for composers to make a living and ensembles to find relevance. But the choral field is attempting to forge a new path.
Over the past quarter century, professional choirs have sprung up across the United States and Europe. Invigorating choral exchanges now happen often at nearly every artistic level, and directors of all kinds are championing forgotten choral music from all periods while continually embracing new works that are often interdisciplinary and genre bending. There are still some ways we can continue to move forward.
This series of blog posts is designed to break down the barriers that keep us from celebrating art in a selfless way. We’ll focus on the long game of programming, music-making, and artistry. We’ll break down recent trends based on historical trends and how we can create new trends for the future. We’ll focus on what it means to invest in our composers, artists, and audiences. Most importantly, we'll cover why it all matters.
For now, I'll pose some multiple-choice questions:
- How far out do you think when you program?
a. The next concert
b. The entire season
c. The next season
d. Generations after you
- What's your target audience?
a. Your current audience
b. Your ensemble
c. The composers of your works
d. All of the above
e. None of the above
f. Those people who'll never experience your programming
- Why do you do what you do?
a. The paycheck
b. The music
e. Those who will be affected by the others who are affected by what you do
I completely understand how existential the above exercise can seem, but there's a point (and no, the right answers weren't necessarily the last ones). If we think less about the immediate future and more about the ripple affect of what we teach and how we make music, we'll see the value in a broader landscape of ideas. These ideas can transform not just a concert, or a season, but entire generations of musicians who are left in our wake when we're gone.
That's where things get interesting.
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