Happy Holidays, NewMusicBox Readers! I’m supposed to talk to you fine people about the New Music Gathering, write the last piece in this four-part series. My problem is, I think it’s all pretty much been covered by my lovely co-organizers! Danny and Matt and Mary told you how the idea came about. They shared with you why we do what we do to organize this fabulous monster of an event. They described for you what a gift we’ve been given in the institutions and presenters and performers and participants who have given their time, their resources, their brain and heart power toward the success of this event. They told you everything. You get it.
So what is there left to say?
I will take this space to issue unto you a personal request, Lainie’s wish for this New Music Gathering 2016, and for all the New Music Gatherings to come. It’s a request I make to all those coming to the Gathering, in body or in spirit:
I want everyone to get vulnerable.
I think many folks involved in new music (as in so many other fields of endeavor) can feel they need to project an air of mastery and success to carve out a career for themselves. That pressure is natural in a world where scarce resources, little money, and loose association with academia are ever-present. To get the commission, win the grant, get on the label, be programmed on the festival, get the teaching job–it’s natural to want to present the strength to win these opportunities. I’m hoping though, in however large or small a way it plays out for each participant, that Gathering 2016, with the amazing David Smooke as our tireless co-conspirator, and with the remarkable community and facilities Peabody has shared with us for this event, can be a space where we can all shed the need to project individual strength and can take the time out of our shells to ask the questions and voice the concerns we might usually refrain from sharing.
What does this vulnerability look like?
Last year, I was so moved by the moments of vulnerability I witnessed! One parent voiced her fear that having a baby forced her to opt out of so many residencies and tours that she feared the impact on her career would be lasting. Immediately, two others chimed in with the same host of concerns. All of a sudden, a conversation began about how best to maintain a rich musical career within the changing parameters of parenthood, and how the various systems and mechanisms of music making might better evolve to let musician-parents have thriving careers. YES. In another room the day before, I heard one young performer admit (very quietly) that he had submitted over a dozen grant proposals in the last year and had been turned down for every single one. Rather than it becoming uncomfortable because people dismissed him as somehow unworthy, the room, filled mainly with older folks, became a hotbed of questions and suggestions for how he might better his chances or seek funding from different mechanisms. YES. Before one very technically involved performance, a composer confessed to a small gaggle of folks “I’m in a state of panic every time this piece gets performed.” We all had similar pieces and stories to share, and in the end we all told him we’d be there to applaud if the whole piece crashed and burned. YES.
This is just a handful of moments I relished from last year. To get more joy and agency in our music-making lives, having a big crazy multi-day performance/conference/meet-up/whirlwind where we can help each other get over the rough spots and enjoy the sweet spots is just what I wish for the world this holiday season.