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  • dtoub 11:59 pm on Monday, March 19, 2012, 11:59 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , rant   

    getting it out in the open 

    While I haven’t been blogging very much for awhile (Facebook and Twitter have gotten the brunt of my thoughts, and I’ve been very busy with work travel, family, etc.), there has been a lot of back and forth in my own life lately about Israel. Most recently, Peter Beinart has been stirring things up with his comments about the Occupation and Zionism, in anticipation of his forthcoming book. I got to know Peter about two years ago through a really nice essay he wrote on the fact that younger US Jews are losing any connection to, and interest in, Israel. It really shook up the organized Jewish community here in the states, and I was glad to see that. So I reached out to Peter and he will be giving a set of lectures at my reconstructionist synagogue in PA.

    But in reality, Peter Beinart and I are not entirely aligned on Israel. For all the talk out there of how he is a “traitor” to the Jewish people, a “self-hating Jew,” etc., the reality is that he is pretty moderate. He is an Orthodox Jew. He supports a two-state solution. He supports Israel, just not the settlements. He feels that any right of return for the Palestinians would be suicidal for Israel. And  he is very much against the BDS movement (boycott, divest, sanction) aimed at Israel.

    In contrast, I am secular and atheist, support a one-state solution in principle, have no great interest in supporting Israel any more than any other well-off country (I feel much better when my family supports Sudan or other underprivileged nations), support the right of return for Palestinians to their homes in what is now Israel, and do support BDS. Since this stuff keeps coming up, and I’ve probably lost a few friends as a result of not keeping my views to myself (although I know I’ve gained far more friends as a result), here is a quick synopsis of my views on Israel, so as to avoid any confusion.

    • I believe that in the context of the times, when Jews were indeed being slaughtered throughout Europe and Russia, it was understandable for Jews to have wanted a place where they could be safe. The early Zionists were secular, and were not initially focused on Israel. Basically, any place where they could settle and be safe, including Madagascar and Uganda, was perfectly fine with them. Besides, for hundreds of years, most Jews declined to settle in Palestine, since it was not a religious compulsion (just the opposite; most rabbis felt that Israel could only be resettled upon the return of the messiah).
    • I reject any biblical justification for Jewish settlement in Israel. There is little or no historical evidence that most of the Bible ever happened, and it’s even been argued by folks like Shlomo Sand that there was never a true exile of the Jews from Israel at the hands of the Romans.
    • Israel is a fact on the ground. It was established by the UN, and isn’t going anywhere. So criticisms, and boycotts, of Israel can no more “delegitimize” Israel than a breath can collapse an 8,000-meter mountain. Only Israel can hurt itself. And boy, does it.
    • Israel is a beautiful country. I’ve been there. But it is also a very conflicted country, and one that does not provide equal freedoms or support to Israelis of Arab origin, women, Mizrahi Jews, non-Orthodox Jews, immigrants from Asia and sub-Saharan africa, Ethiopian Jews and Bedouin. It is not apartheid in the fullest sense of the word, but it comes pretty damned close to being that way.
    • Israel has also become more fascist in its approaches to its Arab population and anyone who isn’t among the majority Jewish population. Avigdor Lieberman is a fascist (there, I’ve said it). It’s no surprise that the current Israeli government is viewed favorably by racists and anti-Muslim gentiles like Geert Wilders and Marine La Pen. Then again, the Etzel (Stern Gang) were also fascists and looked to Nazi Germany for support (these extremist Jews were ignored, incidentally).
    • A two-state solution sounds great. But it has never ever worked for Israel or for Palestine. And it’s hard to see how current plans would permit a true Palestinian state to exist, given that it would be split into many parts by territory claimed by Israel. A one-state solution has its issues as well, but if both sides were willing to trust and respect the other, and offer equal rights, then it would be possible. Gandhi never wanted to partition India. It was partitioned, and millions died in the process, there have been several wars between India and Pakistan, and Bangladesh was not exactly an easy ride, either. In the end, Jews and Palestinians are interconnected in ways that are not really severable. The borders need to reflect that; Palestinian Jews , Muslims and Christians coexisted relatively (though not 100%) well for centuries. The fundamental conflict is not about religious differences, but about land.
    • I don’t care if Israel is a “Jewish state” if that means that it is a near-theocracy, a state dominated by one religion in which religious laws are invoked in many civil matters (such as marriage). To me,  a Jewish state is a Jewish homeland, a place where Jews can live without internal persecution. That does not require a Jewish majority, nor Jewish control. But it does require democracy and equal rights. Jews can live however they want to individually live under a Jewish, or Muslim, or Christian leadership. I’ve yet to see anything but a Christian leadership in the US, and Jews and Muslims have done well (although there remains a lot of persecution of Muslims in the US, and there once was a lot of antisemitism).
    • While there have been Jewish populations in other countries that understandably sought, and required, refuge in Israel, I also feel it is a shame that so many Arab or Muslim countries where there once were Jews are now largely or entirely devoid of them. Again, some of this certainly was due to antisemitism, as in Iraq and Egypt. But in other cases, such as Morocco (generally lacking in antisemitism), it was in part due to Israeli actions, and sometimes (as has been claimed for Iraq), even due to incitement by Israel. When Israel was a much more secular, even socialist, country, the ideal was for Jews to speak the same language, with the same accent/pronunciation, and for Jews to all make aliyah to “eretz yisroel.” Problem was, Jews lived (and still do, fortunately) all over, had different skin tones, different accents, languages, cultures, etc. So while Ben Gurion wanted Jews to emigrate to Israel, it wasn’t easy if you were a Jew from the Maghreb, the Kurdish areas, etc. You were a second-class citizen at best, and were made to feel unwelcome. The power was concentrated in the Ashkenazim. And if you think about it, having all the Jews migrate to Israel, so that they’re all in one place, makes it much easier for another Hitler to wipe them out, no? I think of that every time some Israeli leader exhorts French Jews or US Jews to make aliyah.
    • Iran is a huge violator of human rights, and a lousy theocratic government that oppresses homosexuals, Ba’hai, and many other groups. But it is not an antisemitic country (there are 25,000 Jews who, while they live somewhat separate lives from their Shia neighbors, are respected as members of another Abrahamic religion). Iran, despite its leader’s rhetoric, has not placed its Jews in concentration camps. So while I’m not going to defend a regime of which I’ve always been critical, let’s not beat the drums for another unnecessary war, either.
    • Which brings me to the lobby. No, Jews do not control the media, world financial markets or the press. We’re really not that powerful, and the notion of a “Jewish lobby” is at its core, antisemitic. But I think anyone who feels the Israeli lobby does not have a major influence on Congress and Mideast policy is deluded.
    • Let me also be clear that any comparisons between Israel and Nazis are wrong, stupid and even antisemitic. Israel, for all its faults, is not committing a holocaust against the Palestinians, nor is it anything close to a Nazi party. I do think one could make a good case, however, that the Israeli government has adopted some policies that many of us do feel are very close to fascist, if not fascist indeed. But fascist policies alone do not Nazis make.
    • The Holocaust pervades Israeli society. The significance of the Holocaust in terms of Israeli mindset and behavior cannot be overemphasized. But at the same time, the Naqba also needs to be acknowledged by the Israeli government, and Israel needs to come to grips with the fact that 1/5 of its population generally believes that Israeli Independence Day is a day of mourning, no less than some American Indians hate Columbus Day and perhaps even resent July 4th. And understandably so. At the same time, more Palestinians need to acknowledge, not deny, the Holocaust (and indeed, many of them have made major efforts in this regard).
    • Palestinians deserve their right of return. This won’t destroy Israel, but strengthen it. It makes no sense, nor is it compassionate, that I could decide tomorrow to emigrate to Israel and I would have citizenship rights on the spot, yet a Palestinian whose family left Haifa in 1948 could not do that, or even travel via Ben Gurion Airport (as a friend’s Palestinian husband, a distinguished economist, can’t do, for example).
    • Palestine is not a dirty word. Nor are Palestinians an “invented people.”
    • Birthright Israel and other “rah rah Israel” efforts to indoctrinate US Jewish youth, are misguided, one-sided and propaganda. I will never support stuff like that.
    • I support BDS for the same reason that I supported the boycott of apartheid S. Africa. This doesn’t mean that all Israelis are of one mind; many are against the Occupation just as there were S. Africans who were against apartheid and worked with the ANC and other groups against it. But boycotting is a nonviolent way to foment social change. It is not “delegitimizing” to support BDS. Israel’s own actions do itself an injustice far more than any boycott could. That said, I don’t support boycotts that involve academia or the arts; I like to think that the arts and academics are beyond politics. Indeed, both foster understandings of “the other,” so I just can’t support those boycotts. But outside of that, I’m fine with BDS.
    • I also do not support the Jewish National Fund (it expelled Palestinians and that was its raison d’etre), Hillel, the ADL (I used to, but it is now a right-wing and diseased organization), or AIPAC, and have my misgivings about J Street (they’re too wishy-washy and bought into the right-wing canards about BDS).
    • I wish Obama had threatened to defund Israel over the continued support and expansion of the settlements
    • All Palestinians are not terrorists. All Israelis are not oppressors.
    • Politicians in the US cannot criticize Israel and survive politically. Israeli politicians, however, can criticize Israel with impunity. Why can’t politicians in any country criticize Israel and have their opinion respected? Israel is more progressive than much of the Western world, in this regard.
    • Yes, Israel is not Syria. It does not torture and murder thousands of its citizens. But I’d like to think Israel lives up to a higher standard than “it’s not Syria.”
    • I’m not a self-hating Jew. No one, except for some people with major depression, hate themselves in the true sense of the term. Labelling people as Nazis, traitors and self-hating Jews merely shows that the organized US Jewish community is threatened by those who speak out against bad Israeli policies.
    • There is nothing of which I am aware in Jewish law that says one has to support Israel. Last time I checked, I was a US citizen. I don’t vote in any Israeli elections. I don’t receive support from Israel, nor do I pay taxes to Jerusalem. So I have nothing to do with Israeli policy, and resent the idea that if someone is Jewish, ergo they must support Israel. In the proudest Jewish tradition, many of us feel perfectly free to criticize what we don’t like about Israeli actions/policies. Unfortunately, many organized Jewish institutions do not understand Jewish tradition.
    • Is there a double standard regarding Israel? Yes, there is. But the fact that human rights abuses by Turkey, Iran, China and many other countries don’t command as much attention as the Israeli occupation still doesn’t make the occupation right. The argument that “well, they do it too” really is a weak one; we don’t accept it from children, right?

    I could go on, but at least this is a start. I was trying to be as honest as possible and not leave any major issues off the table.

    Please feel free to comment. And be forthright; I can take the criticism. But please, don’t start with the “self-hating Jew” remarks. It’s getting old.

  • dtoub 3:15 am on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, 3:15 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: rant   

    they’re just not into your music… 

    As with every other new music composer out there, I’d really love for more of my music to be performed and heard, apart from the computer-generated files on my music site. Sure, MIDI is a wonderful thing, sampling technology has gotten better, and within reason the audio files I or others have created serve their purpose. But as much as many of us have gotten acclimated to producing our own recordings through modern technologies, I think it’s a strange person who wouldn’t want live musicians to perform his or her music (apart from works that are expressly created for electronics, player pianos, and other technologies).

    That’s one of the fundamental problems with music in general; unlike poetry or art, composers are very much dependent on performers to get their music heard. We’ve managed to use technology to bypass performers; sure. But ideally, all of our music would be performed at least once, and preferably recorded, by living, breathing musicians.

    It’s partly a function of supply and demand-too many composers, too few musicians. Actually, that’s an oversimplification; there are plenty of performers out there. But many don’t have much interest in new music, and even when they do, the logistics and economics of moving forward and getting new works performed is often too daunting a task. When new music is performed, in most cases we’re talking about short works, and ones that are hopefully not too difficult or challenging to play.

    Now, I’ve been very fortunate to have had a few pieces performed and/or recorded by musicians who have taken a real interest in my music. But these are the exceptions. In most cases, I get either polite silence from performers, or else I get any of a number of responses, all of which indicate that a performance is out of the question. Usually, the reasons I get for not performing my music include one or more of the following:

    • It’s too long
    • It’s not long enough
    • It’s too difficult
    • It’s not notated as simply as it could be
    • I’m sorry, I really am, but I don’t have the stamina to play it
    • You can’t do repetitive notes on this instrument.
    • We can’t perform it now, but will certainly consider it for the future (translation: “You’ll never hear from us again.”)
    • It’s too “out there” for my taste
    • This is music? Really?

    Here’s the dilemma; no matter how much music I write, someone wants a piece for a scoring that won’t work with the piece in question. Now, I’ve written music for piano. Music for violin. Music for violin and piano. String quartets. Mixed chamber ensembles. Open instrumentation (so in theory, pretty much anything goes in terms of the instrumentation). Electronic organ. Brass. Winds. Percussion. Chorus. Pretty much everything. I mean, I’ve even written a work for electronic organ and bongo drums–you never know when someone’s going to ask for that combination.

    Or they want something short. Really short. Now, there’s nothing wrong with music that is under ten minutes, and truth be told, I’ve written a few pieces that fall into that range. But Webern aside, it’s really hard to say much that is meaningful in a very short timeframe. Most modern music is around 20 minutes; part of that involves the fact that for years, that was more or less the capacity of one side of an LP (in some cases, this was stretched to 30 minutes or longer using modern technology, but 20 minutes or so was usually the limit). But interestingly, 20 minutes is approximately the average length of the adult attention span. That’s why most educational programs are created in chunks of 20 minutes, and I suspect that also has some relevance to why so many works are in the range of 20 minutes.

    My first postminimalist work, written in 1981, was just over two hours in duration. I didn’t know that for sure until two years ago when I developed a MIDI-based recording of it and could hear the entire thing in one sitting (I had never had the time to play it through from beginning to end on the piano). No one has ever performed it, and probably no one ever will for some time. Another work, brass piece for arielle victoria, I think is a pretty damned good piece of music. The last section was arranged for string quartet and recorded as mf. But I have no expectation that the piece will be performed by any brass ensemble. It’s long. And very difficult, in that one really has to be capable of circular breathing not to simply asphyxiate while holding some of the long tones. I knew all of that when I wrote it; contrary to what some wind and brass players think, I really am aware of pulmonary function and the need to breathe. Believe me, it would be really self-serving of me to write music that was unquestionably familiar and relatively simple for wind and brass players to perform. To this day, I have a phobia about writing for those instruments, having been scolded by flautists for having written a piece like for roger copland. Honestly, I really wasn’t trying to piss anybody off, but every time I show that work to a flute player, I get a reaction akin to “You must be friggin crazy to think any flautist will or could play this crap.”

    But here’s the reality: even when I’ve written music that, to me, seems pretty straightforward and even easy to play, in most cases it doesn’t get performed. I’m not a performer. I played violin for many years, but no longer can really play it, and apart from one formal piano lesson, I had to figure out how to get around on the piano. So if one of my works is easy enough for me to play it, surely a decent, professionally trained musician can play it. But they don’t. And won’t. What could be easier than a relatively moderate stream of eighth notes without any rhythmic complexity or counterpoint? Yet several such works remain unperformed. In the case of this piece intentionally left blank, which is for open instrumentation (but written on two staves, which contains chords that would have to be divided among various instruments), the composer/performer Paul Bailey took it upon himself to block out parts and perform this work publicly. Most people would not have gone to that trouble, but Paul liked the piece for some reason and felt compelled to take the time to make it work for a group of instrumentalists. However, a subsequent arrangement of the work for a small, conventional ensemble remains unperformed a few years after it was scored. I wrote a piece for an old friend, composing it for an instrument that is certainly in need of additional modern works. That also hasn’t been performed.

    At the same time, it’s not all dismal. Not at all, in fact. I have at least one, and possible two, commercial recordings in the works, and there is a strong possibility that one of the three dedicatees of last year’s quartet for piano will be premiering it perhaps as early as this year. And Todd Reynolds has assured me that he will hopefully get to record four strings for todd reynolds in the future. In many cases, it isn’t that a performer doesn’t care to play my music, but the logistics and economics are just too daunting. So I don’t mean to sound bitter and angry. I am grateful for anytime that someone listens to my crap, let alone performs it. I went more than 20 years between having one piece performed publicly and the next instance, so the fact that since late 2006, seven of my works have either been performed publicly or recorded, is really amazing to me. But I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit to getting frustrated at times by how tough it is to get any sort of traction with one’s music. Hell, I can’t even get accepted as a mere link on the postminimalism page on Wikipedia because, as with the composer Galen H. Brown, neither of us was considered “prominent or famous” enough for the Wikipedia editors, even though anyone with any familiarity with the new music scene knows our music has been termed “postminimalist” whether we like that term or not.

    Writing music is hard work. I actually think it’s harder than many surgical procedures, because at least with surgery you have some basic principles to guide you, even in a difficult situation. With composition, there are no rules or processes to bail me out. Either the notes are there or they aren’t. And I have no a priori sense of whether something I write is “good” or not. All I can say is whether or not I like it, and sometimes I have to grow into a piece, since the initial stuff I write down often makes me question if I have any music left to write. True confession: the reason I kept on writing for many years when it was clear that no one was going to play my music was because after writing one piece, I worried that I had no more ideas for any further pieces. So with each new work, it was as if I was meeting a challenge. Just one more piece to convince me that I still had some ideas left. I still worry that I’ve run out of ideas, however.

    • Allan J. Cronin 5:57 am on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, 5:57 am Permalink

      Musical preference/taste is truly a mystery to me. My own wide ranging tastes (which include many of your pieces) are represented on my iPod which is my companion at work. I have described my selection and tastes as, “something to satisfy any taste or clear any room”. I usually explain that I never consciously use music to offend people or empty rooms but that I am aware that some of my tastes are shared by a limited audience. I try to keep my listening selection audible as much as possible in my own workspace but the dynamics of much of it makes this difficult. As a result I have developed a reputation as ” the guy that likes weird music”. Its not an unfriendly thing. Its just that people don’t understand how one comes to the appreciation of such musics.
      As a some time composer with far less exposure than your own music (I am not a great marketer) I am grateful that I have a “day job” much as yourself.
      Your post reminds me of quotes from the likes of Anton Bruckner who, when discussing the less than friendly reception of his music, referred to it as being for “another time”. At least you are grappling with a more realistic analysis.
      I continue to hope for the possibility of a wider, more receptive audience willing to work a little at listening with the hope that an appreciation of a new style might be forthcoming. But the neglect of music in the common education curriculums combined with the homogenization of broadcast music which has accelerated since the Reagan administration dims such hopes.
      Meanwhile there is some reason why people like you and me pursue such specialized tastes. I don ‘t know exactly what it is. But I take comfort in sharing these tastes in similarly limited communities such as this one.
      Keep on writing, listening and sharing. I know I will.

    • dtoub 10:38 am on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, 10:38 am Permalink

      Thanks Allan. Keep on writing music; I’ll do the same.

    • Paul Muller 1:11 pm on Thursday, January 6, 2011, 1:11 pm Permalink

      Interesting subject and I’m straddling about three different fences on this issue. I’ve been very lucky – just about everything I have written for performance has been… performed. I should point out that this music was written for church services and was performed by my friends. At one point I had available two violins, a viola, cello, recorders, horn, trumpet, trombone, flute and organ or piano, plus solo soprano and bass voices as well as the choir. This was program music – and I wrote it to the level of the players – but it worked. I will probably have several pieces for our church choir performed this year.

      My experience performing and hearing my pieces performed has convinced me that musicians do bring something very valuable to the piece – they become full partners in its realization. But having said that, the performance of new music is so rare and so difficult to organize – and anyway people these days download their music from the Internet and listen with earbuds – that it would seem history will favor the evolution of new music as realized outside the concert hall. So the real musical issue of the 21st century may well be the extent to which new music separates itself from performance and succeeds in the more compatible on-line environment.

      If this is the case, then music realized electronically need not mimic the sounds of acoustic instruments. The sequencing tools are improving all the time, but ultimately only a human can bring that irreplaceable something to a performed piece. But music that is evolving away from performance will develop an aesthetic that depends more on new sounds and forms and far less on sounding like a collection of traditional instruments. I think the music of people like Richard Lainhart and James Ross point the way here.

      To succeed artistically in creating new music we may, ultimately, have to scrap the performance paradigm entirely.

  • dtoub 10:59 am on Monday, March 15, 2010, 10:59 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: rant   

    why I don’t charge for my compositions 

    Two recent postings on the Internet got me thinking once again about why I don’t charge for my music:

    I don’t want to rehash all my arguments I made in response to composer Jonathan Newman’s original post, but let’s just say I don’t have any intention of charging folks to download and print my scores or listen to my audio files. The essence of my argument is this:

    • Just because others charge for their music doesn’t mean I have to charge for mine
    • The assertion that my giving away my music somehow undermines the ability of other composers to make a living is so ridiculous that when I first read it I nearly burst out laughing
    • Whether someone feels he or she deserves to be paid for composing new music has nothing to do with whether or not I deserve payment myself. That’s an individual choice. I mean, I think my music is halfway decent and all that, but composing is not how I ever chose to earn a living for me and my family.
    • Using a Creative Commons license is an approach that works well for me. It might not be for everyone, and that’s fine. But it’s what I prefer, given that I think that copyright protection has done more to hurt innovation and collaboration than to help.

    Many years ago, probably around the mid-90’s, I occasionally would go on Usenet and post something on “alt-rec-classical” to the effect that I’m a new music composer looking for performers and what’s more, my music has no royalties attached. That sort of approach produced zero takers. No one cared to play my music just because it was free. The reality is that performers will play what they want to play. For the most part, all of my music performances happened because of a personal connection. So the idea that those of us who don’t charge for the “privilege” of looking at our scores and listening to our audio files are somehow undermining the entire economic underpinnings of contemporary music is completely divorced from reality.

    So here’s a quick list of just a few of the many composers who, like me, give away their music, at least to a good degree:

    So right-all of us are causing anarchy and rips in the time-space continuum by allowing people to download our music.

    None of this hurts composers. None of it hurts anyone. But I’ll tell you, what does hurt is when academic composers cast aspersions at us nonacademics. We’re always viewed as outsiders, as inferiors, as the barbarians at the gates. Perhaps we’re all of that except inferior. What I think is going on is that the people invested in the status quo are having a tougher and tougher time maintaining that status quo. It depends so much on a traditional model that says that if you’re a composer, you do it full-time for a salary and/or commissions, no one can listen to your music without paying up front, no one can download your scores unless they pay up front, etc. That model is dying, if not already dead. The composer Jonathan Newman allows downloading of his scores but they can’t be printed, so that in his view, the composer (him) is still in control. Well, hate to break it to you, Jonathan, but no one really needs to print anything these days when one can peruse a score on a computer. I can even look at scores on my iPhone. Sure, Mr. Newman would argue that performers would generally want to print out the scores to practice and perform them. Tell that to my friend the pianist Hugh Sung, who has a company (Air Turn) that promotes the use of tablets and other technologies to enable musicians to perform without printed music. So folks like Mr. Newman will be in the position of having to either cripple their downloads even more, or embrace the new paradigm.

    I’m not saying that someone shouldn’t or can’t charge for his or her work. That’s a personal choice, and I made my choice long ago. But to disparage those of us who don’t charge as if we’re ruining it for everyone else is wrong.

    So why don’t I charge? A large part of it is that composing is something I do because I want to, and because I really am passionate about it. Call it a “hobby” or whatever, but it’s what I enjoy doing, and once you start monetizing that, I think it becomes more of a job than something you do as an escape. Don’t get me wrong-I like my day job, I like being a physician, etc. But you can like your job and still get paid for it. For me (and I stress, this is just what works for me), charging for my music is not something I’m interested in. I’d feel like a prostitute. We don’t parent for money, right? I also don’t compose for money. QED.

    • Rob Teehan 1:59 pm on Monday, March 15, 2010, 1:59 pm Permalink

      I don’t believe that your free music poses a threat to people like me who self-publish our scores, and of course it’s your right to distribute your music as you see fit. If, however, you started writing wind ensemble or choral music (for example) that started getting performed widely, then you would be giving away a product for free that those ensembles are accustomed to paying for. If enough composers did that, then eventually those ensembles would simply expect sheet music to be free from everyone, putting pressure on the publishers. This at the very least would drive prices down.

      This is happening already in the world of commercial scoring – so many amateurs and hobbyists out there, using pirated sample libraries and sequencing software, offer to score films for free hoping for “exposure” i.e. fame, thereby undercutting the legitimate professionals who have invested the years in musical training, and don’t steal their tools. Their product is artistically better but the moneymen can’t always tell the difference, and now demand lower fees since they can go anywhere else and get a score “for free”. By the way, if one of your scores was suddenly a “hit” and started getting thousands of performances, would you change your free-for-all policy?

      Anyway I guess the point I was trying to make before that digression is that you and Newman are different fish in different ponds. It may make more sense for composers such as yourself, whose performances come mostly via personal connections, to simply make your music available for free. On the other hand, composers like Newman operate in wind ensemble scene, which is a real market with real money at stake; there are thousands of high school and college bands out there that have money to pay for sheet music. A composer who writes music that satisfies this market can make a good living doing so. Of course, if you believe it’s morally reprehensible to earn money by creating artistic products, period (as you implied by your statement “we don’t parent, for money, right?”) then there’s not much we will agree on.

      Anyway, though, I don’t agree with your insinuation that printed music is dead, and that composers such as Newman are somehow following an old paradigm by controlling the distribution of their music rather than unleashing it on the world. Composers of wind ensemble music can and do make a living by publishing their music, and charging people to download scores is simply the application of e-commerce and e-publishing to this flourishing market. Maybe some day the wind ensembles or choirs will use iPads instead of printed sheet music; if that day comes then the music publishing business may start to look like Amazon’s nascent e-Book business; by the way, you don’t see many authors giving their books away for free, do you?

    • dtoub 2:11 pm on Monday, March 15, 2010, 2:11 pm Permalink

      Hey, thanks for commenting. I don’t feel it’s morally reprehensible for someone to charge for their art. i just choose not to do so. Maybe it’s my own hangup, but I like having the freedom to write whatever I want for whatever I want. I’ve never criticized those who do charge, and have many friends who certainly do charge for their work. But just as I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to criticize them, I don’t think it was appropriate for Jonathan Newman to criticize those of us who don’t charge. I don’t write commercial works, so pose no “competition” to Mr. Newman as you correctly state. And I am being quite honest when I say that that if my music were to miraculously become commercially popular (which is impossible; let’s be real), I would still have zero interest in charging for it.

      But I do stand by my comment that printed music is dead or dying. It’s just too easy to circulate PDFs and bypass the ridiculous costs. And some authors actually do provide their books for either free or $0.99 on Amazon-I’ve read a few of those on my iPhone’s Kindle reader, for example, and it’s a way for those authors to get some attention. At some point, our schools, which are not well off, will start having to do without expenditures on music scores, parts, etc. That will accelerate the paradigm disruption. And I’m not sure that would be a bad thing. Like the music labels, the publishing houses need to reign in their large charges. I have a copy of the score of Berg’s Lyrische Suite I bought many years ago for a pretty low sum. I doubt you could get that score for less than $20 now. Stuff I used to be able to buy as a kid would be out of my reach based on today’s prices. And I can guarantee you I would probably have not been as interested in music had records and scores not been as inexpensive as they were back then (even considering inflation, it was way cheaper then).

    • Rob Teehan 4:26 pm on Monday, March 15, 2010, 4:26 pm Permalink

      Shows what I know. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that some authors are giving away their books on Amazon. But at some point artists need to get paid or they can’t be full-time artists anymore. The challenge for all of us will be finding a way to embrace new technologies without starving ourselves to death.

      Incidentally, Newman and myself use self-publishing as a way to cut out the publishing houses altogether. Musicians do it with their music too. I think that’s the way forward. I personally don’t sell printed music – I sell PDF files with a license to copy, and the end user prints his scores and parts themselves (for now, they still need a printed copy on their stands, regardless of where it comes from). The self-publishing method is cheaper and easier than the large publisher’s process. But still, it’s a way for me to get paid.

      But if schools or other performing groups run out of money completely, and can no longer afford to buy new music, what will happen? Surely there will still be music out there from composers that are willing to give it away. But the best and brightest of the field will move on to another area of the market where there is still money to be made. I know some jazz musicians who score commercials and TV shows on the side. Quite a lot, actually. The financially-lucrative parts of our industry tend to subsidize the less lucrative.

      Anyway, looks like the party is in the original thread, so I’m going to head over there.

    • dtoub 6:34 pm on Monday, March 15, 2010, 6:34 pm Permalink

      Oh c’mon-the party is just as nice here 😎

    • Paul Muller 11:41 am on Thursday, March 18, 2010, 11:41 am Permalink

      Been following this discussion and find it very interesting. As you point out, the old model is on life support and giving away scores for free hardly seems a serious threat to a terminally ill paradigm. Alex S and Kyle G seem to have found the optimal balance between charging and giving away scores for free – at least for new music.

      What I find interesting is a question that has been mostly absent from the discussion: should art be a commodity whose value is set by what people are willing to pay for it? Nobody seems to want to question this – its all a matter of how to maximize the composer’s share. Seems to me that once you let other people decide what your art is worth, you have already given up control of it.

    • Antonio Celaya 1:18 pm on Thursday, March 18, 2010, 1:18 pm Permalink

      The issue seemed to raise the specter of words that we fear in the New Music World. It created images of realities we fear. It’s painful to admit that even someone like John Adams, who gets performances beyond the wildest fantasies of the rest of us, is, as far as American culture is concerned, a marginal character – or perhaps more politely, a caterer to a niche audience. We who compose dedicate a large portion of our time and energies to our music. Our consumer culture likes to categorize us as “amateurs,” and thereby marginalize us as dilettantes. The cold fact is that we don’t and are unlikely ever to eke out a living from our music. Even those few composers who do make a living off their compositions, do so because of subsidization organizations receive via grants. We are not going to win in the marketplace. So what? Doesn’t the creation and existence of our music declare loud and clear the political heresy that the marketplace is not everything and does not necessarily create anything that has a value beyond any overpriced vulgar trinket?

      If one can get some nominal fee for a score, that’s wonderful. However, pieces of music are not fungible .

    • Antonio Celaya 1:27 pm on Thursday, March 18, 2010, 1:27 pm Permalink

      Most of the “economic” arguments presented against giving away one’s scores were rather weak. Our music is not fungible, but as Robin Cox pointed out in a comment on (Kyle Gann’s?) blog, it is possible to price one’s self out of the market by charging large fees for rentals. Musical compositions are not fungible.

      Publishers who would never publish a composer’s score are in no position to object to that composer using the free score as “loss leader” to get a performance. It ignores the reality that sometimes to get our music out there and thereby, hopefully, move to anew level, composers pay performers to play a piece or pay coast for production of a concert. We rarely get our money back. American culture may say that means our music has no “value.” American culture can keep Madonna and Lady Gaga and David Hasselhoff. I’ll keep composing my music “of no value.” If giving away a score is what ti takes to get a performance, then I’ll face reality and pay the postage too.

    • dtoub 2:35 pm on Thursday, March 18, 2010, 2:35 pm Permalink

      I completely agree. I think it’s critical for new music to simply just get out there. Publishing scores is not necessary when one can self-publish and self-distribute. That can certainly be monetized if one so desires. I just have no interest in monetizing it, and even if I did, any revenue obtained would be minuscule or even nonexistent. As an experiment, I put some of my music up on Amie Street a few years ago. It started off selling for free and after a certain number of “sales,” the price would go up incrementally. I think one of my scores is now up to $0.13. And not that I’m seeing any of that “wealth.” Until it passes a certain amount it all goes to Amie Street, which is appropriate. My point is that it’s hard enough to create and maintain interest in one’s music. Putting impediments out there, like money, don’t help.

  • dtoub 11:57 am on Friday, May 8, 2009, 11:57 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: rant   

    wish list 

    • Prosecutions for US-sanctioned torture. I don’t care where it leads. A war crime is a war crime, period.
    • Repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.“ We’re supposed to have equal rights for all in this country. I’m not sure we can say that when we ask so much of people who are willing to sacrifice everything for this country, then essentially fire them for a biological reality, namely being gay or lesbian.
    • A Twitter client that does everything I need in a simple way, and no more
    • Time. I really need a 27-hour day.
    • A Democratic primary victory by Joe Shestak over Arlen Specter, and a general election victory for Shestak. He gets it. Arlen doesn’t.
    • Tolerance. We’re such a divided nation, and in a very personal, ugly way. I’m speaking about you, Rush, Sean, Glenn and all the other right-wing talking heads who just spew hatred against progressives and pull ”facts“ out of their asses. Guess I’m intolerant of intolerance.
    • A moratorium on rain in the Northeast
    • Real separation of church and state in this country. Get rid of the National Day of Prayer. We’re a pluralistic country, and just as clergy have no business telling people how to vote, the government shouldn’t be telling folks how to pray. Or whether to pray.
    • No more funding of “abstinence-only education.” It doesn’t work. Or do facts not matter any more?
    • Passage of the Freedom of Choice Act. Like the Equal Rights Amendment, it’s long overdue.
    • A reduction in bigotry, including racism masked in “anti-immigration” hysteria. No one was pushing to close our borders with Canada during the SARS outbreak, were they?
    • Paul H. Muller 12:08 pm on Friday, May 8, 2009, 12:08 pm Permalink

      Well if you’re making a list…

      Dismantling of the unlimited wiretapping apparatus
      Internet service to be government run – treated same way as highway infrastructure
      Single payer healthcare – like every other industiralized country
      No bank so large that it is “too big to fail”.

    • dtoub 3:29 pm on Friday, May 8, 2009, 3:29 pm Permalink

      Well I couldn’t list everything…

      Great list, Paul. Not sure if govt-run Internet could be any worse than what exists now. My one concern would be privacy. Right now, the NSA has to go through the ISPs to get more specific information about users, not that the ISPs have been that much of an impediment to violating our privacy rights, but it’s better than nothing I suppose.

    • kraig Grady 10:38 pm on Saturday, May 9, 2009, 10:38 pm Permalink

      i believe La Monte young lives on a 28 hour day, but alas he ends up with a 6 day week!

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