Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Here's a perfect example of why institutions make me nervous:

... This morning, some members of both staffs [of the American Composers Forum and the American Music Center] got together over a conference call to discuss some important preliminaries.

We spent quite a bit of time trying to answer what might seem to be pretty basic questions: "What is a composer?" and "What is new music?"...
While I'm sure that the folks in New York have nothing but good intentions -- they really do want a catholic definition of these terms and they really do want to be able to create the best services for their members and for new music in general, however defined -- I really don't want someone else -- be it an individual, a committee, or a consortium -- defining these terms for me, and especially an institution with even the most modest influence over performances, commissions, positions, residencies, publicity, etc.. By nature, these are the sorts of terms that are always redefined by the next work, not the works we already know. And it's that very process of perpetual discovery and redefinition that keeps the new music new. The questions of "What is a composer?" and What is new music?" are precisely the questions that every good composer ask herself or himself every waking minute of every day, and often in every dream as well. That's simply our work, and we try to answer it through our musics. The alternative of an institutionally defined and administered definition will just land us in Khrennikov-land, or worse, a Khrennikov-land run with American efficiency and ingenuity.

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