You Can Get There From Here

You Can Get There From Here

Last night I trekked out to Astoria, which is at the northwest edge of Queens, to hear the Lost Dog New Music Ensemble perform works by composers associated with the Sequenza 21 website. From the office of the American Music Center it’s not that difficult a journey, but getting back from there to my home in Inwood—which is at the northern- most tip of Manhattan—was like going from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Philadelphia. That said, it was totally worth it. It was great to hear eight extremely different pieces that I had never heard before, to get to know an ensemble I’d never before encountered, and to visit a new venue—Waltz Astoria—which had a great beer selection, great desserts, satisfying acoustics, and a cozy, welcoming vibe. In short, it was an ideal chamber music experience, and more enjoyable that most of the formal chamber music concerts I attended this year.

But what ultimately made the concert so extraordinary was that a website brought it into being. The only thing these composers had in common was that they all post comments to Sequenza21 from time to time, and many of them only know each other from their non-corporeal conversations there.

The fact that a concert can emerge when people get to know each other online is a real victory both for new music and for the internet. It’s a triumph of the so-called virtual marketplace. Not that anyone got rich off of this. It was even a free concert. But it’s a new paradigm and exploring further might reveal ways in which such concerts could be economically viable in the long term. (For the sake of full disclosure to readers who might not already know this, I also post to Sequenza 21 upon occasion and a piece of mine was programmed on the first Sequenza21 concert a couple of years back.)

Perhaps what I find most intriguing about all this is how it turns the cliches about internet music distribution upside down. We’ve heard forever and a day that the internet has the potential to turn more people onto music than other medium has thus far due to the ease at which it can disseminate disembodied digital transmissions of it, but the internet can also be a catalyst for an intimate in-person musical experience. With tools like Sequenza21, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., concerts like this should be happening all over the place, not just in New York City. One of the composers on the program, Samuel Vreisen, is from the Netherlands and flew in to be at the concert. Now that’s commitment. It also makes my whining about getting from Astoria to Inwood seem really trivial.

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4 thoughts on “You Can Get There From Here

  1. gregrobincomposer

    You do not just need the internet to do it and these things do happen elsewhere. The Birmingham Art Music Alliance has been championing new music by Alabama composers since 1995. It really seems to me the AMC needs some writers who do know that music does happen quite frequently in little coves like Alabama. Here is a link to Birmingham Art Music Alliance.

  2. Chris Becker

    I just read Steve Smith’s review of the concert – sounds like it was a great, great show.

    So why can’t the AMC and NewMusicBox pull of a concert like this? A similar event co-sponsored by Counterstream Radio featured only a roster of musicians from the New Amsterdam label. Whereas the Sequenza 21 event managed to pull together composers from across the U.S. (and one out of the country) for what was probably a diverse collection of audience listeners. 40 people? That is a great turn out in NYC on a Monday night!

    So what’s up, Frank? If Sequenza 21 can do it – what about the AMC?

  3. colin holter

    We’ve heard forever and a day that the internet has the potential to turn more people onto music than other medium has thus far due to the ease at which it can disseminate disembodied digital transmissions of it, but the internet can also be a catalyst for an intimate in-person musical experience.

    I find the idea of the Sequenza 21 showcase really exciting for this very reason. Bringing people together in real life via the internet isn’t just for online dating anymore!

  4. Frank J. Oteri

    Greg, thanks so much for posting, but I must point out that what I was trying to convey in my post about the Sequenza 21 concert is that it DID happen because of the internet. This was not a concert of local composes in the geographical sense—they came from all over the map. It rather was the new virtual local—they were related to each other only because they each posted to this website. That, I think, is very different from composers in a specific geographic community getting together and putting on a concert, which is also great. But this new paradigm allows composers to get their music heard in places other than where they live, which is extremely important.

    In the late 1990s I spent some time in the Auburn-Opelika and Dothan-Ozark areas of Alabama, but unfortunately never connected to a new music scene in either place and never had a chance to visit Birmingham or Montgomery. I know very well that the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Justin Brown, was one of the few American orchestras brave enough to perform a recent Carter composition on a subscription concert this year—Carter’s centennial—which I wrote about extensively in an article that appears in the current issue of the League of American Orchestra’s Symphony magazine. (They’re currently podcasting the performance!) I’m also well aware of the work of husband and wife Alabama composers Charles Norman Mason and Dorothy Hindman—I wrote about them in NewMusicBox when Charles was awarded a residency at the American Academy in Rome a few years back. Plus I’m really intrigued by what I heard by the iconoclastic Alabama microtonalist Monroe Golden, a disc of whose music was released on innova last year. But I would be very interested to hear more about what is going on there and I’d be thrilled if you would like to provide us with regular updates.


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