13 March 2006
Currently, I have involvements (Ireland Promoting New Music, RTE Living Music Festival) in 'specialist' programmes for all-modern events and I'm also programming mixed programmes for upcoming concerts that juxtapose modern and older.
I think in the long run both modes are essential. On the one hand, it was very heartening to see the response to this year's RTE Living Music Festival (featuring Steve Reich) which certainly had a real buzz about it. On the other, continued gentle effort should be made to avoid the ghettoisation of either modern or older music from each other. Indeed, the specialist events should hopefully feed into the general ones over time, through inclusion of their repertoire -- the specialist events in a sense can be used as 'inspiration' for the wider picture.
Hugh Tinney, pianist
2 March 2006
While there is clearly an area of crossover between audiences for all types of music, getting people to come to new music concerts is not simply a matter of re-educating the mozart crowd. New music is different within itself and in comparison with other musics, to the same extent that it would look silly if a piece of Appalachian Folk music was inserted into an all baroque programme without care,just because new music uses the same instruments as western classical music is not a good enough reason to put the two side-by-side in a programme.
In more general terms, I don't see how programming new music is any more difficult than programming old music: a concert programme should have a unity in itself and the pieces should support each other to make the concert a 'whole' experience. If a piece of new music makes sense in a concert of more familiar pieces then the programmer should have the courage of their convictions and if necessary explain to the audience how the connection works: perhaps why composers as programmers often works well. Regardless of styles/genres, any programme will be unsatisfying if not carefully thought out.
As for new music audiences, it seems that many promoters maintain the blinkered view that if they could only convert the mainstream concert audience 'small as it is' then everything would be fine. To this end we get bizarre programmes which satisfy no-one by placing totally incompatible music in the same time-space. The trads hate the new stuff, the new music people get to hear only one piece and resent it being sandwiched between music that has no relation to it: it's like putting a work of sculpture on stage in between a Beethoven overture and Tchaikovsky's 6th', they're just not the same! Worse still is the championing of crossover composers whose music is simply too bland to be offensive to anyone, but that's another story. In my opinion, promoters should be targeting the people who do want to hear something new, the electronica people, the free-improvisation people, the sound-art people; people who enjoy taking a risk on an event.
At the end of it all is the simple fact that the new music audience will never be big, possibly never even commercially viable. Promoters ask why they should take a loss on concerts and I can't give them an answer, new music sometimes makes money but generally it's lucky to cover costs with subsidisation being the name of the game. New music may not pay its way in cold hard cash but, perhaps naively, I like to think that it's still worth doing despite this. There is bold and successful programming out there being done by people who love the music and therein lies its success, by targeting the right audiences and tailoring programmes intelligently you maximise the experience for the audience and send them home happy and willing to come again: however, programmes that attempt to offer something for everyone are doomed to failure, the politics of compromise has no place in Art and this sort of thing should be confined to the area of entertainment ' a difference that many promoters gleefully erode.
In response to Luisa Mac Conville's post, it is equally true that there are people who will not come to a concert if you do not programme a contemporary piece: you can't please everyone so choose your audience and work to please them each time without compromise, then they'll come back.
Scott Mc Laughlin, composer
2 March 2006
Programming contemporary music is very difficult. There are people who simply will not come to a concert if we programme a modern piece. It is an uphill struggle!
Luisa Mac Conville, Administrator, Con Brio - Sligo Music Association
28 February 2006
I wonder how to get the general populace into contemporary music, and to dissolve the pre-conception that contemporary music is something cacophonic and poorly fathomed. How to re-popularise this music to the concert going public? Thus propogating its proliferation?
David McCarthy, musician