Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting Out From Under Cover

To this day, the covers of some records in my father's lp collection remain almost as vivid to me as the music pressed onto the disc. (That Monteux record of the Rite of Spring with the Henri Rousseau "Snake Charmer" on the cover, or that Cal Tjader Latin Jazz concert (pressed onto a deep red disc!) with the cartoon of the band playing in a bullfight arena with a balloon coming out from the crowd shouting "Nixon Go Home!".) Record covers, of course, first got shrunk (into cd covers) and are now becoming nothing more than digital images. For those composers, musicians and listeners who take seriously those ancient commandments against imagery — the iconoclasts —, the emergence of recorded music transmitted without tangible packaging offers an opportunity to deal in music as a commodity without having to cover it with a piece of visual artwork. But the moment appears to be one in which the cover image is having its dues for at least one more round. First, we learn that the major innovator in record cover design, Alex Steinweiss, has just passed away. And second, we learn that the cover image still has potential to create controversy: follow Pliable's links, here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Quietists, Keeping Quiet

James Primrosch Primosch has a review of the 3rd edition of Paul Griffith's Modern Music and After, in whch he complains that a whole laundry list of American composers [Harbison, Corigliano, Martino, Shapey, Davidovsky, Zwilich, Tower, Reynolds, Johnston, Kernis, Rouse, Lieberson, Melinda Wagner, Powell, Schwantner, del Tredici, Currier, Mackey, Hartke, Wernick] are not included as well as details some additional slights, among them to Wuorinen and Crumb. (I don't know the 3rd edition, but I have the 1st edition with the slightly different title right at hand, and it not only includes Wuorinen as a composer, but includes a bit of score sample.)

On principle, I don't think that laundry lists of the un-included are a particularly useful way to critique monographic musical histories; the historian is responsible for fashioning a narrative and the more productive question is whether the composers included support and enhance that narrative or the composers excluded detract from or would serve as critical counter-examples to that narrative. My own narrative for the same post-war period might well include Poulenc, for example, excluded by Griffiths, but it's perfectly clear why Poulenc's conservativism does not fit into Griffith's post-war narrative, which concentrates on more innovative repertoire. (I believe that Poulenc is treated within Griffith's A concise history of avant-garde music: from Debussy to Boulez, a book with an obviously longer timeline.)

In this case, however, I'm prepared to support Griffiths with regard to Primrosch's list, excepting the names of Reynolds and Johnston, two figures who have been pushing some real boundaries of music-making, because his list is otherwise one of establishment East Coast composers — many of them abundantly talented — who simply do not challenge the extent and limits of the musical as given to us by tradition and institutions. Yes, these are composers who do well within contemporary musical-institutional life, their works may even be short-lived local repertoire pieces, but their works do not make, or even bother to make, musical history. And yes, I do believe that their "not bothering" is not only the usual symptom of a conservative musical mentality but a tactical move, not to dirty the nests of the schools and foundations and orchestras and opera houses within which they operate and apparently thrive. To borrow a term from Poe and Ron Silliman, these are musical quietists.

I am certain that there are partisans of these composers who disagree with me fundamentally, but they are simply not making the case. In part, they don't because their institution position is comfortable enough that they have no urgency to make the case* but also, I believe, they don't make the case because it is difficult if not impossible to do so on musical-historical terms. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong! I really prefer to have multiple narratives, because music is rich enough to sustain that diversity. Where is the quietist who disagrees with Griffith's narrative (or mine) AND is willing to make the public case for their own?


* That comfort level has been endangered a few times, for example when Paul Fromm realized how little of the music he had supported financially actually found a place in a living repertoire.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Lagan

A message recently crossed my screen complaining about experimentalists (English experimentalists in particular, but I cheerfully join their company on this matter) being attached to "third-rate justly neglected composers from the past." This sentiment struck me as both misplaced and uninformed. Misplaced, because (a) we don't know the music we don't know, (b) we should always be vigilant about ratings and those-who-would -rate as opportunities and opportunists for or prone to abusing musical-canonic politics (which is something altogether different from music itself), and (c) we certainly know enough about music history to recognize that useful, indeed wonderful, music can be left neglected and revisiting abandoned repertoire — all the same whether it ultimately rates good, bad or gloriously indifferent — can be useful on its own terms as well as contribute productively to the synthesis of new music.

This message struck me as uniformed because it appeared not to take the relationship of experimental music to musical materials at all seriously. On the one hand, experimental music deals, from first principles, with the acoustical flotsam nature and physics have left us. Radioastronomic signals, whale song, and sine waves are all fair game. But on the other hand we don't have to discriminate against sounds because they fall into the great gray area of the insufficiently "natural" or "artificial", because they have already found particular musical uses, or have been found wanting in previous musical contexts and thus been abandoned, with or without ceremony. Music history is full of cul-de-sacs, wonderful dark and craggy paths (a) tested — like toes in waters of uncertain temperature — but not really taken to their consequences, (b) abandoned (with or without the equivalent of an orphaned babe's basket), or (c) left tied to the buoys associated with the sidekicks and curiosities of musical history in favor of that one-way Autobahn of musical progress through grand hegemonic processes of dialectic and evolution. But much that gets left to wayside has potential musical value. Yes, English (and other) experimentalist may have interests in the Alkans and Saties and Lord Berners, and yes, the Standard & Poors or Moody's of the Official Musical-Institutional Timocracy (OMIT) have rated these as sub-investment grade, but the musical evidence contradicts the judgment of the ratings agencies. These musicians simply do different things with their music, and those things — taking their own good time, for example, rather than pushing it around — they sometimes do very well indeed.

I happen to find much of value in Berlioz or Sibelius, composers to whom both OMIT and the Officious Avantgarde Factions (OAF) have not always been kind or — a recent discovery — Stenhammar (playing through string quartets at the piano from a set of parts (no score) is my latest parlor trick). I find that works of these composers can present heterodox practices in voice leading and alternative approaches to form that are for me, indicators of unexplored potential for new music. If material appears to have new musical potential, then I have no qualms at all about grabbing it from flotsam, jetsam, or lagan.


Not quite a footnote, but definitely lagan-related enough to append here: Since we've recently been treated to the first major Havergal Brian revival in the Age of the Internet, with the Proms performance of the Symphony No. 1 in D minor, "The Gothic", there's been lots of Gothic-related chatter. (Start with Kenneth Woods for the serious low-down.) May I add the rather obvious observation that the scale at which Brian was trying to work is highly problematic for composer, player, and lister alike? It comes down to economics, the distribution and consumption of materials over time. Scale is a serious concern among experimental musicians. La Monte Young, Robert Ashley and Morton Feldman have really thought and worked hard on issues of scale, with interesting — if interestingly uneven — results (i.e. as wonderful as Feldman's lengthy Crippled Symmetry and For Philip Guston are, I honestly don't think that his For Christian Wolff gets the economics of the material-to-time-scale right.) Both Young and Feldman, methinks, were onto something important in recognizing that there was a paradoxical decrease in the optimal ratio of materials to time, but the rich variety in the character of musical materials can add so many variables that I suspect it is not something that lends itself to rational calculation. In this particular case, Brian's Gothic, the all-too regular eventfulness, the succession from one stretch of music to another very different stretch of music is such that I'm never sure if it is fragmentary by design or just incoherent. The immediate succession from one section to another almost always makes some plausible sense, but whether the individual sections succeed in making broader time-scale connections or not, let alone whether those connections create any meaningful musical charge, is uncertain to me. My musical memory is pretty good and I suspected that things that happened early on got picked up again and shook around a bit very much later, but I remain only suspicious. (Another suspicion is that the Gothic, the first of 32 symphonies by Brian, is not the one we ought to be paying much attention to, but that's for another discussion.) Another British composer on the margins of official music-making, Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, presents a very different style but a similar problem of scale, coming from the opposite end of material eventfulness, in that his harmonic saturation and imitative counterpoint are so dense that it sounds less horizontally eventful than it ought. (For a very useful, if unorthodox, introduction to Sorabji's music, I recommend this web site, with some painstakingly synthesized versions of Sorabji scores.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

English 101 and the Musical-Industrial Complex*

Why can't composers' prose be more imaginative, more lively? Why do articles, program notes, blog items, and websites tend to read like grant and job applications or Rotary club laudatios? Time was, when composers — Ives, Cage, Jerry Hunt, Robert Ashley come straight to mind; hell even Babbitt at his most thorny — could shine in words as well as sounds, experimenting in form, syntax, style and vocabulary, unafraid to push the conventional limits of making sense, making language more like music. Is our present moment so conservative, so institutionalized that composers who can throw caution to the wind with their music rush to cover of safe but dull sentences in well-formed paragraphs in well-formed essays, formed, well, to the model set forth by your 7th grade English teacher? We can do better and if we value our music we should do better by showing through our words that our sounds are indeed special, out-of-the-ordinary.


*The title for this item plays on the famous section of Richard Ohmann's English in America, in which, among other things, the uniform style, rhetoric and form of bureaucratic documents (like the The Pentagon Papers) are sourced to their origins in mass collegiate English composition instruction.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Publication today.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson has a couple (here and here) of good items on the state of new music publishing with some lively comment threads.

Traditionally, music publishers had effective monopolies over music engraving and printing as well as distribution to local music shops. They had more-or-less efficient systems for dealing with rental catalogs and they had promotional capacity, both through schmoozing with prospective musicians and managers and through direct advertising for sheet music. Having made investments in their sheet music that could only amortize over long periods, they kept close control over their catalogs and inventory and they were often staffed with musically knowledgeable employees who could watch for errata and make sure that the materials sent out were the ones required to make a piece work. Moreover, getting published by a name house carried a professional caché, with which the road to tenure, for example, could be paved, and without which, one could be considered professionally deprecated.

None of this is true any more. Engraving and printing, although getting them done right remains an art, are no longer tightly-held secrets of the "industry". Every composer can, in principle, engrave and print her or his own work to a high level of quality. The local music shop with a large inventory of sheet music has basically gone the way of the dodo and was never that good, anyways, in ordering anything even slightly obscure. Publishers, always reluctant and sometimes even loathe to dealing directly with the end consumer of sheet music, have, for the most part, not warmed or gotten more efficient at the job and, again with a few exceptions, though they tend to be staffed with highly educated and truly music-loving musicians, they have downsized to the point where they only rarely can deal with errata or that second violin part with the impossible page turns. Advertising budgets do remain for a few houses, but it tends to be reinforcing the dwindling existing markets (i.e. to the handful of specialist journals and in festival programs) rather than reaching any significant mass (i.e. in the days when a Schirmer ad could be found in the Christian Science Monitor, right next to Nicolas Slonimsky's column on the kid's page.) Finally, the prestige of big name sheet music publication has diminished even in the most ivy-covered of tenure cases.

Instead, composers can pretty much go it alone (the great models here are Tom Johnson and Karlheinz Stockhausen) or in cooperation with colleagues (like Frog Peak or Material Press or Wandelweiser), with their own web sites serving as catalogs and ordering platforms for score delivery by post or email. The most immediate advantages for the composer are that he or she gets to keep all the license fees (instead of ceding the usual 50% to the publisher), has control over the quality of the materials produced, and has oversight over score sales and to some extent performances, recordings, and broadcasts. Scores in your own catalog will not get neglected or orphaned as they might in a publishing house that loses interest or get merged with or acquired by larger concerns. On the other hand, investment in score production and part extraction is all your own, you are on your own for promotion and you have to be available to answer inquiries and to send your materials out at any time (and yes, many score orders will come your way Sunday morning at 4:00 am, with a request that it be sent ASAP and preferably earlier than that.) The disadvantages also include not being able to use sales and license fees from the back catalog to subsidize new catalog items as well as having to organize promotional contacts and networks from scratch.

Clearly, each composer has to work out the balance of advantages and disadvantages between going with a traditional publisher and going it alone for herself or himself. Personally, the greater advantage for me is not to got to a traditional publisher, but if my catalog had more choral and school band or orchestra music, the distribution logistics for handling the volume might throw the balance in the other direction. (That said, it appears that a number of composers are now able to use direct sales of school ensemble music to earn a fair income, so if you can deal with a large volume, go for it.) In any case, if you do decide to go with a traditional publisher, it seems wise to insist on these terms as a minimum: (1) the composer should not have to pay in any cash up front for publication, especially when print-ready scores or parts are delivered by the composer, (b) the amount and form of promotion to be made by the publisher should be defined in detail in the contract and may be reflected in the publisher's share of license fees or sheet music sales/rentals, and (c) should promotion not be carried out by the terms of the contract or should the materials be orphaned by the publisher, all publication rights should revert to the composer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Filling the Big Empty

New music, all-too-often at the bottom of the musical resource food chain, doesn't often get made with much choice about the environment (room, hall, studio, gallery, theatre, church, club, pub, arena, field, etc.) in which it gets presented. And — all-too-often, again — this can have serious effects on the music itself. If a main attraction of the music is a certain level of detail or subtlety, for example, all that attraction can be effectively wiped out in a room with too much ambient noise or with too much resonance. On the other hand, a music with a considerable amount of blank space — "silence" — may not work out in concert halls otherwise considered to have fantastic acoustical properties for music making, but conventional music-making with the conventional continuity of concertante composition. Earlier on, I made a lot of music that was more rests than notes, but concerts and recordings were too frequently frustrated by the space in which they were made. Paradoxically perhaps, I discovered that out-of-doors spaces — with a prevailing constant and predictable ambient sound level were much more forgiving for music with Sierpinski-like ratios of silence to sound, in that expectations of noises external to the music event proper can lead to a useful amount of unhearing, while the contrary expectation, in a church or concert hall or morgue etc. can lead, in the event of a sudden crackle in a fresnel lamp or a settling bit of architecture or furniture or some embarrassing body noise can distract, with some finality, from the continuity of the work. (As Heinz-Klaus Metzger put it: "Webern was the last composer before the advent of air conditioning.) For all my apostacy in other matters minima musicalia, the one part of the original minimal faith I've always tried to keep is the stricture that minimalism is the elimination of distractions. For this reason, among others, I made something of a serious turn in my own music away from big empty spaces in the direction of filling-up the available time. I hear this mostly a pragmatic way of dealing with the real potential of unanticipated sounds in real concert spaces to distract, and am generally more lenient with pieces intended for performance outside or in unconventional spaces. I have considerable reservations about accepting this move as a general, let alone permanent, aesthetic principle, but since there is actually quite a large body of silence-dominated music around these days (much of Wandelweiser repertoire, for example) my retreat shouldn't be much of a loss.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Exploding Program Notes!

One of the legends of my college years was of a composition student before me* who had printed the programs for his senior recital on conjuror's flash paper so that when the programs were first opened, each would literally go up in a flash of smoke. For another recital, given by the composer Steed Cowart, the host was kind enough to fill the program with interesting reading material, including (IIRC) a nice passage from Ulysses, some fascinating information about arthropods, and a tasty Moroccan recipe. Steed provided this material as a complement to the musical program, not an explanation, just good stuff to read.

Musicians and audiences go round and round about program notes. Are they informative or explanatory? Is informative or explanatory necessary? Are they a distraction (from the music, for better or worse)? Is there a minimum or maximum of information a program ought to have, i.e. minimum: personnel and titles of pieces, maximum probably somewhat less than a dissertation. (German program books often approach scholarly quality, but then German opera houses and radio stations usually have musicologists on staff (in the opera as dramaturgs) or on call who are hired to thoroughly research and write their articles.)

Lou Harrison insisted on attaching music stands to his homemade gamelan instruments, in contrast to traditional practice in which notation, if used, was discretely hidden from audience view, quipping that he didn't want to watch a gamelan onstage with all of the players continuously "staring at their crotches." At the opera recently, I noticed a few audience members reading their lap-stationed programs with help of the light from the their mobile phone screens. (To the best of my knowledge, the live-twittered concert or opera has not yet come into practice here**.) This was distracting and not pretty. I guess, if I had my drothers and a bit of stage magical skill, I'd have programs that went up in flames immediately before the performance began and miraculously reconstituted themselves when the lights came up again.

As to the content of program notes, if or how technical they should be, or whether they should be more intellectual and abstract or more personal and concrete (or the other way around), all I can say is go with your own strengths as a writer and don't bother us with dropping names (whether of persons met, institutions occupied or prizes bestowed). If your strength is in depth and expansion, then have courage to write more, if your strength is in concision, then make it less. If your words aspire to poetry, then a dose (keep it modest) of poetry may do us good, while words more technical or theoretical should be rationed in measures appropriate for the audience at hand. And yes, if you cannot or will not summon words to accompany your music, that's okay, too, your job description does not include the provision of anything more than the score and your score may well not want for the company of words.

* One of the facts of being a Santa Cruz student in the late 70s and early 80s was that one was ever among the belated, and not among the originals, the legendary, wild ones of the late 60s and early 70s. Of course, that was only legend, and we did have the one advantage of belatedness, which was the gift of retrospect, under the graces of which we were invited, no, required, to be innovative, even more wild, and indeed, when we succeeded, we could ourselves provide ample stuff for the legends of those of the real belated years, which I reckon run from the late 80s until now.
** A good thing ithinks, because although the live commentary does offer the possibility of interesting enhancements and counterpoints to the musical event (which I've blogged about here before), it seems a natural development that once this comes into play, with live cell phones in hand, many audience members will inevitably take up channel hopping, away from the concert feeds, and eventually be doing anything but paying attention to the concert. As something of a free speech absolutist, I don't see any reasonable argument around this, but recognizing the real potential for disturbing the shared concert, see no alternative to polite and civil encouragement for shutting the things off, or even, gently reminding of that special hell set aside for those who talk in theatres.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Keeping a Commonplace

The composer Jeff Harrington recently pointed to a page transcribing the contents of H.P. Lovecraft's Commonplace Book, here. Lovecraft left enough interesting ideas as unused material for several careers worth of weird fiction, heck even a few weird operas. (I have to admit to never having read Lovecraft; maybe I should remedy this.)

To some extent, blogs are performing, in public, the function of the Commonplace Book, the place to keep record of one's own education, jotting down gathered notes and quotes, observations, ideas. This page actually began as a more-or-less smooth transitition from the marginalia I habitually scribbled on the edges of sketches and scores. But being public has altered the scope of this project. It tends to be more political and, though something of a record of my current musical obsessions, it's not as iniitmately connected to my compositional projects as my marginalia was, indeed, I find myself rather shy about writing directly about my own compositional concerns. At the same time, my entire cogitating-sketching-composing-editing procedure has changed quite a bit. Whereas I used to be fairly rigorous in the march from sketch to score, leaving a substantial paper trail, I now do more work directly in notation software now and try to keep my sketches to bits of paper (usually A6 size) that I scatter around my desk while working — some bits of notation, formal schemes, reminders of work to be done etc. — and then brush them aside into the waste basket when no longer needed. (I think having a crowded house with kids and dog underfoot has made me much less patient about maintaining an archive of sketches (on the other hand, in my role as publisher, I'm fairly obsessive in maintain any bit of paper from the other composers in my catalog.) On the other hand, I have several hundred uncatalogued pieces in various stages of development in the form of computer files for notation programs; I have no idea how or if I'll maintain these. )

But the idea of keeping an idea book like Lovecraft's, for my music, especially for all the plans and fantasies for work-to-come, is very attractive. I do have a short list with titles and short descriptors of pieces I'd like to write (titles are very important to me), but it's just another piece of paper hanging on the wall before my desk, not a real book. An idea book is something like a diary, but more like a dream diary than a record of daily and mundane accomplishments. Like diaries, however, I think that the very "bookishness" of such a document gives it a degree of seriousness and commitment that is useful for a composer. La Monte Young, for example, has long kept an Idea Book (and some of his ideas, from the peek I've had, are really quite wonderful and surprising, in particular a pair of operas.) Do you keep an idea book?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Lou Harrison on Arnold Schoenberg

He was a lovely and delicate man, very nervous when airplanes flew over U.C.L.A.; who once hushed us, too, in order to hear a bird outside.

(...) When I was about to leave for New York, he asked me why I was going there and I replied that I did not really know. "I know why you are going," he said. "You are going for fame and fortune. Good luck! And, do not study anymore — only Mozart!"

(from the preface to Harrison's fine Suite for Piano, C.F. Peters.)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Double Bill, Durable Goods

We went this evening to a double bill at the Frankfurt Opera: Dido and Aeneas followed by Count Bluebeard's Castle. The production and music in the Purcell was transcendent (particularly Paul Murrihy's Dido), the Bartók was well-sung and well-played but shockingly dull on stage. It was also a nice reminder of (a) how flexible an opera house like Frankfurt's, a substantial institution, can actually be, here using two entirely different but stylistically appropriate orchestras and stage arrangements in one evening, the baroque half with a scaled down orchestra and historically-informed instruments, pitch-level and playing style (albeit with a few creative alterations: the Sorceress and witches were sung by countertenors, making menancing barbate but full-skirted villains) an expanded continuo group, and added recorder, baroque oboe and bassoon, with some discrete percussion to brighten the orchestral texture, apparently all string in the original) played before the proscenium and breaking into the auditorium with the pit somewhat raised, and (b) how curious it is that particular pieces come to be repertoire items, in this case quality of composition overcoming some substantial disadvantages, like language (English and Hungarian (wonderful to hear some Hungarian again, being deprived of it since my Budapest years)) and being short of a full-evening in length.

Dido, especially with a lively continuo, just flows, and Purcell's text setting is continuously startling, uncanny. It has two ground bass laments to die for (literally) and the balance between the chromatic and diatonic is absolutely right. It has taken time, but it has become a core piece of the repertoire, and possibly the single English language item that ought to be until, well (and here I jump on a limb), the original version of Weber's Oberon. It will ever, however, be on the look out for an appropriate and complementary partner to fill out the evening, because the Bartók just doesn't fit as either a complement or an extension. In recent years, Bluebeard has taken — correctly I think — its own place in the repertoire. It is compact, dramatic, tonal enough for anyone who's ever been in a cinema, and has a pair of vocal lines that sit very well and are supported rather than overridden by the orchestration. The clear, tight structure of the piece is right there with Wozzeck or Turn of the Screw and this is a good illustration of how strong musical structural elements can help a work attract and function securely in productions of radically different character. If there is a weakness in the piece it is that the tonal language — thank the movies — has become familiar, less exotic, and that the rhythmic invention and pacing are somewhat disappointing. (But Purcell, with all of the nuances of ornamentation and pacing that period style makes available to musicians, clearly has some advantage here, so perhaps the partnering was unfair.)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Rescuing Orphans

A must-read article by Severo Ornstein, son and devoted editor of the composer Leo Ornstein, has some particularly clear illustrations of the how disfunctional traditional music publishing can get. In Ornstein's case, former-global-media-behemoth-now-fragile-subsidiary-of-Citigroup EMI apparently earns license fees for works it has never actually published, and EMI's refusal to communicate and the understood threat of unmatchable legal power keep them from even entering into a dialogue to do what is most reasonable for the music itself. And of course, Ornstein's rights organization, BMI, lacks the human resources to support the Ornstein family in sorting their side of this out. Any reasonable person will recognize that Ornstein's catalog is never going to earn meaning royalties for EMI, but the huge size of their catalog and their massively downsized staff probably make it impossible for EMI to afford the labor required to look into the matter. What is required for cases like this is some legislation freeing up works effectively orphaned by negligent publishers, either returning full rights to the works in cases where there are heirs willing to assert their rights and promote the work as Severo Ornstein has so admirably done in his father's behalf, or automatically releasing orphaned and unclaimed works irrevocably into the public domain. But I suspect that any hopes for such a reasonable treatment of creative work are hopelessly optimistic.

[Let me also note that my small publishing project, Material Press, has recently begun, with pieces by Jerry Hunt and Barney Childs, to publish orphaned landmarks of the avant garde. Any other suggestions for this project are more than welcome.]

Pay Attention to the Netherlands and the UK

Pay attention to the developments in cultural support in the Netherlands and the UK. In both cases, right-wing governing coalitions are making massive cuts (and massive increases in fees, for higher education in the UK in particular.) But in neither case is the motivation primarily economic. In the UK, it is practically class warfare, but this time it's a revolution from above, dishonestly made by a pair of parties who ran in the last election ostensibly to the friendly left of Labour on many issues, while in the Netherlands it seems that the cuts are being made unashamedly not because they have to be made (i.e. for budgetary reasons) but that the coalition partners, no longer even pretending to represent a broad consensus of the population, can and want to make the cuts from cultural grounds, among them the xenophobic (with xenos, in this case, being both strange (foreign) and strange (novel)).

When I returned to Germany in 2005, after half a decade in Hungary, a constellation of three major funding sources for new musical activity — the German Music Council, the public radio stations, and GEMA — had each, for different reasons and in different circumstances, but tragically in near-simultaneity, made massive reductions in their support. (The Music Council went through a period of serious mismanagement and was "reformed" with music less emphasis on new concert music, the radio stations, while having net increases in fee revenues, found themselves in competition with the privates for soccer broadcast rights, encouraging massive waves of reductions in and attempts to monetize other areas of their operations, most painfully those which exist with no attention, let alone competition from the privates (Neue Musik: bingo!), and GEMA, once governed with some parity between "serious" and "entertainment" composers, left the parity model altogether in a grab by E-producers faced with massive reductions in their income in the post-CD era. ) All this happened rather quickly and quietly and with practically no complaint from musicians, who were in any case largely shut out of the policy discussions. My impression is that most musicians still haven't registered what has happened.

If there is any bright light in the events in the UK and Netherlands, it is the fact that musicians and other artists are not passive. They are taking the developments seriously and are engaged with hard questions about the role of artistic production in society and are, in many cases, speaking loudly and unusually articulately about the actions of their governments in a strong contrast to Germany (or the US, for that matter) where measures of similar gravity just happened with a whimper. In parliamentary democracies, a majority-is-a-majority, so I don't think we can expect much change in these plans anytime soon, but I do think that the governments may have seriously underestimated the charge that their reductions have given to the creative community, intellectually and politically, and the conversations now taking place in that community and with the public at larger may have a greater defining role for the future for both the material support of the arts and its content and mode of production than any of the immediate (and, let us hope, temporary) policies of the present (and let us hope, temporary) governments.