Hmmm…

I was fortunate to have one of my pieces on a program recently that drew a
fairly large audience.  Afterwards, friends and students came up to congratulate
me, and I was feeling satisfied with the evening as I left the theater.  Then, I
heard it, that phrase no one in the arts is happy to hear:  “I didn’t like it,
did you?”…(I get that a lot)…

It was an older couple walking in front of me.  Tamping down my
knee-jerk reaction of “well, then you don’t understand new music,” I thought
instead about the phrase at the end of that sentence:  “did you?”  The person
I’d overheard was inviting conversation.  He was saying that the piece hadn’t
appealed to him, but he was open to another take on it.  Isn’t that really a
positive outcome?  When people talk about your work, it continues to live beyond
the performance.

I confess I didn’t wait to hear his companion’s
response.  Sometimes you have to take the positives and get to the parking
lot.

All new music, etc.

All new music is not created equal.  There are the pieces that are recognizable, pieces that are easy for audiences to digest, pieces that come with their own legends.  I was thinking about the variability the other day as I spoke to a class about John Cage’s 4’33”.  Everyone knows it…or thinks they do.   So, how do we talk about new music when what looms large in the public’s collective consciousness is a piece that, to all conventional appearances, is a piece that contained none at all?