The guys (and the occasional gal) over at Sequenza 21 had their liveliest conversation ever this week, racking up 143 comments before spilling into another thread that went to 71. It was mostly young guys, balanced by house curmudgeon Jeff Harrington and official instigator Jerry Bowles, enthusing about the return of complexity to music – gnarliosity became the operative word – and morphing into a discussion (the same one my friends and I had all through the 1980s, to little effect) about how to market the music to get it out there. Finally Lawrence Dillon, social conscience of Sequenza 21, brought the thread to a dead, unanswerable halt with a simple-seeming question:
What will listeners gain that they don’t currently have?
It was a sharper form of a line of questioning he had begun a few posts earlier:
1. What is the goal of marketing new music? Is it personal, i.e. I want more people to love me, I want enough money to live comfortably so I can create, etc. Or is it cultural, i.e., the world would be a better place if more people listened to the music of living composers, the world would be a better place if all living composers could just write music instead of having to hold down other jobs, etc. Or is there some other reason?…
2. What do you imagine people will replace in their lives to make more room for new music? Should they watch less television? Read less? Listen to less pop music? Blog less frequently? Spend less time lying around doing nothing? You can’t expect to add something more to anyone’s plate without acknowledging what they are giving up.
What are we giving people in our music? What’s in it for the audience? How can we write our music to make the world a better place, perhaps even fulfilling needs that people didn’t realize they had until hearing it? Excellent questions. The central holidays of a season of giving seem like the perfect time to stop and think about them. I’m grateful for the reminder to do so.