Let’s Have a Fair

Let’s Have a Fair

Haber about to simply walk away at the Rome art fair.

Last weekend, Rome had its first contemporary art fair—beautiful palazzi filled with thousands of artists crammed into booths waiting for a buyer. Given the fact that I have a hard enough time sharing concert programs with another living composer, I shudder at the thought of being treated like an item at the supermarket, buyers milling about searching for something that will go with their wallpaper.

On the other hand, people go to art fairs, and with their checkbooks in hand. Such fairs are nothing new in the history of commoditizing art. But the festive atmosphere certainly has a way of subverting the lofty air of “respectability” associated with the noble occupation, stringently reinforced inside the walls of museums and galleries. However, the problem—if it is a problem—may rest solely on the shoulders of artists. Do buyers see anything wrong with walking up and down aisles shopping for something they like?

Why isn’t this happening in the new music world? Is our club still too exclusive? Why not have a composer fair? Some of us would have to suck it up a bit, actually talk to regular folk, not just conductors and concert organizers but doctors, teachers, taxi drivers—who may not know much about new music, simply that they would like a piano duet or trio written for their 12-year-old daughter.

When I go to art fairs I get inspired. So much bad, some good, a little great; all in one space, all new, fresh, exciting. And if I hate a piece, I can simply walk away. I wholeheartedly believe that the time is ripe for us—art music is on the upswing, it’s becoming cool again (or rather, for the first time). Let’s sell some music!

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Have a Fair

  1. curioman

    Where’s the booth signup URL? And how many mp3s can I upload for the listening stations?

  2. Lisa X

    We have lots of fairs! All you gotta do is get your act together and go. I’m going to this one in a few days: http://sxsw.com/ I know I know it’s a whole different scene and all the other excuses. But I’m convinced the barriers are one sided and agoraphobic.

  3. philmusic

    We got a lot o’ festivals up North in the Twin Cities. Including a couple of “arts crawls” that include New Music and all kinds of stuff. Various fringe festivals feature many works that include some of us. Anyway—Come with! Be bold–get into the cold!


    Phil Fried

  4. philmusic

    Mr. Coll, since you were just at the Spark Festival here in MN I wondering if you might enlighten us as to the difference between Spark and what Mr. Haber is suggesting? It seems that you disapprove of his idea.

    Phil Fried

  5. davidcoll

    sadly i wasn’t able to attend even the majority of spark events, being rather busy w/my technical setup. In addition, spark was my first us festival experience..

    the point that i was alluding to w/my earlier comment is just pointing out the obvious- that art can be a decoration while the music we composers usually value can’t. I don’t think art should be treated as such- well maybe some. If there emerges a “market” where commissions for chamber music become popular, i’d personally shy away from things that pop music or ambient music, “musak” etc do for public spaces such as malls, doctors offices, etc. Functional things, you know? I shy away from that, concentrating on quiet places.

    this does put me at odds with some of the spark events, since breaking away from the concert hall is crucial to the spark festival experience. I found myself barraged by music on all ends- even between the pieces during some concerts. Personally I wanted more silence, between and within many of the pieces in the concerts…

    am i being clear enough? hope this helps. oh, and call me dave- Phil, were you at the spark festival? What do you think?

  6. philmusic

    Thank you David, you are very clear and I think your post explains your point of view. Since one can disagree to anything in a single word sometimes when trying to be succinct our point is lost.

    For myself, I have been part of several Cage-ian “music circuses” and enjoyed performing in them.

    Questions of exclusivity/inclusiveness in music festivals bring us into the realms of art and musical politics and that is too large a question to be answered here.

    I can sympathize with your set up problems since I sometimes work with analog equipment in my performances—I know a 30 minuet set up for a 10-minuet performance- Yikkes. I was not at spark this year but I heard some of your music samples on line and was much impressed with your sound.

    Phil Fried


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