Matt Marks, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Lainie Fefferman, and David Smooke standing outside Peabody.
Get Vulnerable

Get Vulnerable

The official logo for the New Music Gathering

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.

Matt Marks, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Lainie Fefferman, and David Smooke standing outside Peabody.

Matt Marks, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Lainie Fefferman, and David Smooke standing outside Peabody.

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.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

7 thoughts on “Get Vulnerable

  1. Jinah Czudiski

    Get vulnerable? The entire venture seems mostly “How Predictable.” Smooke and the Gang are pretty much synonymous with Peabody. Institutionally approved music through and through. The only vulnerable ones around are the ones your music monopoly keep suppressing. We don’t have a voice because you keep silencing it with more institutional favorites.

  2. BD

    Jinah Czudiski,

    I’m surprised you’re comment made it through the censors here. I’ve commented a few times in ways that were not Pro-Establishmentarian on this site and my email lingers in “waiting moderation” forever.

    I still have a comment awaiting moderation from December 24th – it seems one can’t even suggest simple alternatives to their Staff Pick list without being suffocated. I also got blocked from calling one of our lofty tenure-position mediocre composers for the B.S. he spreading through their coverage.

    I wonder if this comment will even make it through, it would be a first – NMB seems to have a suppression agenda as well.


    Ed. Note: NMBx does not have “a suppression agenda” but we do not believe it is constructive to post ad hominem attacks (which are usually, unsurprisingly, unattributed) or off the cuff incomplete sentences that do nothing to further the discussions here. – FJO

  3. Liza Figueroa Kravinsky

    Jinah Czudiski,

    I attended this gathering, and as a composer of “non-institutional” music who was asked to speak at a panel, I would say that these organizers are open to “non-institutional” music. They even had a panel/conversation about safe spaces and becoming more inclusive – and that included musical diversity. I believe they would have seriously considered programming my music if I had offered, but my ensemble is way too technically complicated for the given setup time they were limited to. So I just offered to speak. If you feel they are not inclusive enough, I believe they would be open to new ideas. All you have to do is talk to them. They’re really cool down to earth people. I look forward to future gatherings and the variety of music they will present.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.