A solution from Melissa Dunphy, which is cited on our “Solutions” page, but deserves to be read in full. Melissa sent it as a comment (thanks, Melissa):
Not to toot my own horn (OK, I am tooting my own horn; we composers sometimes have to do whatever we can to get attention), but I wrote a political cantata that was performed in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival last year, received a fair bit of national press, including features in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
[Greg says: tooting horns is allowed. Welcomed, in fact, if the horn is playing something we all need to hear.]
It’s being given a second performance in April at the Bard Conservatory by a conductor who is also wrestling with the questions you discuss.See his blog.
And I hope very much that you don’t consider this too spammy, but I have to include a link to the fundraising website for the project.
[Not spammy at all. Good for you, going out and using Kickstarter to raise money for your project. Let’s not pretend that the work we do doesn’t need money. And in the current climate of entrepreneurship, who’s going to raise the money if we don’t do it ourselves?]
[When I followed this and the last link, I saw that I know the conductor involved with this, Noah Weber. He’s full of ambitious ideas, especially an audacious one, about arts organizations reconstituting themselves as profitmaking entities.]
I’m proud to say that many, if not most, of the audience at the Fringe Performances were not “typical” classical music concertgoers. I had crossover from the theater scene, hipsters who heard about it in the alternative press, and of course, politically interested people (and at least one high-profile political blogger). One audience member approached me in tears after the show, radiant that I had “made something beautiful out of eight years of horror.” I received thank-you notes from all over the country, including from real-life figures involved in the events upon which the cantata was based.
The classical music world has walled itself in. There’s nothing wrong with a composer wanting to play only to the people within the tower (or to even smaller walled gardens on the tower grounds), but in order to extend your reach outside, you and your art have to be involved in something outside. The reality is that we’re no longer going to reach a new audience with “Symphony No. 2″ or “Marimba and Cello Duet.” But tie your music to our broader culture, and you’ll appeal to people who live in that culture. Maybe you’ll even be able to lure them into our tower afterward.
I don’t meet many people outside of the classical music world who say they love Ligeti. Ask them if they enjoyed the soundtrack of 2001 or Eyes Wide Shut, though, and you’ll get a different answer.
On Melissa’s last point, compare Adam Matthes’s experience, playing Xenakis for an audience of architects.