What Writing Has Taught Me about Composition

May 27, 2013

By Kyle Gann

Daniel Felsenfeld asks, as someone does occasionally, what is wrong with being an academic composer. I'm tempted to say, if you have to ask, then you won't understand the answer; but let me try a new tack.

My wife is a professional arts administrator; she started out at the St. Nicholas Theatre in Chicago, founded by David Mamet. She's back in professional theater again now, but in-between she spent quite a few years presenting theater, dance, and music in academia. Her academic colleagues didn't always appreciate why she was such a stickler for centralizing box office functions, training ushers, restricting stage access before a performance, getting the stage lights just right for a concert, and things like that. She seemed to be too much of a perfectionist in details that didn't matter much from the presenter's point of view. The reason was always that she wasn't only looking from the presenter's point of view: she knew how the theater experience looked and felt from the audience member's seat, and what backstage rigor it took to give the subscriber a smooth, pleasant experience with no irritations to distract from the stage art. Watching her career and its occasional frustrations, I learned that academics knew how to put on a show, but they weren't terribly concerned with what kind of overall experience the audience had. As long as everything went right onstage, the audience was just supposed to show up, find their parking spot and seat as best they could, and marvel at what was placed before them.

Likewise, I am a professional writer; but I am an academic lecturer. My lectures may sometimes be remarkable for their content, but rarely for their form or presentation. I am not a stirring orator, I do not hold an audience spellbound. I often have to correct myself, and add in information that I should have presented earlier. I mumble, struggle for words, and say, "ummm...." It's acceptable because it is my students' responsibility to show up, pay attention, ask questions when they don't understand, and glean what information they need from my rather slipshod recitation. Oh, I'm humorous and energetic, and I've developed some tricks; I can tell when my students' attention is flagging, and I drop in jokes and distractions to push the refresh button. But no one not vitally interested in my area of research would come hear me lecture just for a thrill. I wish I were an awesome lecturer, because I end up doing it occasionally, and I'm sure I could have become one had I gotten some training, had a professional lecturer give me tips and feedback and criticism. It never happened, because I've never had to depend on public lecturing for a living.

But writing was my sole living for many years, and my paycheck depended on my cascades of words being irresistible. The great schooling of my life was my first seven years at the Village Voice: editor Doug Simmons spent 90 minutes a week with me going over every sentence of my 950- or 1700-word column, sharpening the expression, clearing ambiguities, unblocking metaphors, changing the order of paragraphs to anticipate questions that whatever I said might raise in the reader's mind. My medium, the process made clear to me, was not only words, but the psychology of the reader's attention, which was fairly predictable, and which I had to learn how to navigate. It was my job to grab people's attention with the first paragraph, and to keep them reading to the end.

For instance, look at my previous blog entry, on the Ives symphonies. Every paragraph after the first begins with a transitional phrase, usually one that picks up the topic from the previous paragraph and recasts it in a new light:

"What seems most indicative of a superficial view of Ives, though..."
"And so on and so forth for many pages,..."
"More importantly, the Ives First has held up very well..."
"That this has been so little acknowledged is a symptom..."
"The truth is that both of these stories are true."
"Ives himself contributed to the problem."
"But we, who ought to know better, are forced to choose..."
"It is not so rare."

I can write for pages and pages like this, never once beginning a paragraph without a link from its predecessor to keep the reader reading. I do this consciously, or more accurately semi-consciously, because I am trained to do it. In my 4'33" book, which was intended for a more general audience than most of my writings, I even adopted the time-honored technique of using the final sentence of a chapter to pique interest in the subsequent chapter:

"Cage had summed up his life's work to date: the percussion music, the rhythmic structures, the prepared piano... and it was time to move on to something new."

"Cage - and who would be surprised by this? - wrote 4'33" very quickly. And then headed to Woodstock and braced for the response."

Many people have told me that they read the 4'33" book in one sitting, which confirms for me that I knew what I was doing. I knew how to keep them reading. It's a smooth read. One technique I use, when the venue is important enough, is to read my text to myself out loud, because my ear will pick up infelicities that my eye and brain miss. On a reread, I replace colorless words like "flow" and "smooth" with "cascade," "irresistible," and so on. I vary my sentence length. My general tendency is toward long sentences, but every now and then I throw in a short declarative sentence, or a series of them, and it's amazing how much that energizes the text. It just works. (See?)

And I emphasize: I was not born writing this way, nor did I learn it by trial and error. I sometimes get credit for being profound, when it's really that I'm simply well-trained to make my points clearly and colorfully.

Note that my professional tricks do not limit what I want to say. Quite the contrary. I write a lot of things that are counterintuitive or against the conventional wisdom, and I can make them seem inevitable by concealing my motivation until I've led the reader down a thought-path that can lead nowhere else. I am not a lesser or more superficial writer because I know how to keep the reader engaged, although academics often assume I must be. I do not have to tell the reader only what he wants or expects to hear to achieve my goal of getting them to read the entire article or book, and digest information that might never have occurred to them before. After setting down in draft the information I want to convey, I apply a lot of technique just drawing the reader through the article, and you know what? It doesn't cheapen what I'm saying. In fact, as the prose grows more lapidary, my own thought grows clearer to me as well. The urge toward readability leads to clarity and truth.

In a moment I'm going to draw a metaphor between writing and composing, and I'll let you start imagining it.

From these observations one could draw a definitional distinction between the academic and the professional. The academic is concerned only with content, not with presentation. The academic is not concerned with the reader's or listener's or viewer's experience. The academic does not think about the audience's psychology, and consoles himself with the specious platitude that everyone is psychologically different, and that he couldn't predict it anyway. The academic thinks only of his own genius, or his data, and leaves the reader or auditor to puzzle out his meaning in painstaking and often repetitive reading or audition. The professional, however, puts himself in the reader's place, and observes how the order of the information, his transitions, his emphases, the pacing and preparation of his surprises, leads the reader or listener into fairly predictable reactions. The professional shows the audience member where to focus, and does so with a backgrounded technique which seems effortless. The reader, reading a pro, is not aware of how the pro pricks and sustains his attention; he's just curious to keep reading.

I don't think I've yet said anything that should be controversial, but when we extend this analogy into the writing of music, hackles will rise. By our argument, the professional composer would be one who knows how to keep the listener engaged in the piece. Haydn or Mozart, both pros whose livelihood hinged on their musical entertainingness, will conceal a motive from the main theme in a slow introduction or subsidiary line, and when it emerges in the main theme, that theme will seem exactly right without our knowing why. Motive leads to motive, phrase to phrase, in a deceptively effortless way (Mozart's "artless art") that draws our attention along. In highly logical music we want to hear what happens next; in sensuously gratifying music, we are content if the nuances sustain the pleasure without interrupting it. Professional music grabs the listener's attention and knows how to hold on to it.

What happens in academic music I need hardly spell out, we all know the trope so well: the composer bases a second idea on the same pitch set as the first, and though we can't make the connection by ear, we're just supposed to assume that the composer is a genius and knew what he was doing. The composer crafts a structure (Elliott Carter's 175-against-216 structural polyrhythm in the Night Fantasies comes to mind, though any concrete example will rouse academic defenders) that looks elegant on paper, though the effect on the listening experience is nil. Or, more often these days, the composer builds a long and plausible tension-and-release form, but doesn't put in the music any catchy images for the listener to care about, or foreground for the listener the musical ideas underlying the seemingly unmotivated angst.

This may seem like a straw-man argument, but there is plenty of evidence that this straw man walks and procreates. One need only read the indignant posts on composer web pages whenever such an idea is broached: "Well, you have to listen to the piece more than once." "I can't water down my music for people who aren't versed in modern music!" "Of course if you can't follow Schoenberg's music, you'll never follow what I'm doing." "It's self-indulgent to write attractive music just because audiences like it." "I can only write for myself." And so on and so on. I remember the late James Tenney, whom I admired in so many ways, saying, "I can't think about the listener, because there is no such thing as the listener. Everyone listens differently." (It reminds me of Margaret Thatcher's "There is no such thing as society, there are only individuals," equally intended to let the speaker's conscience off the hook.) That a composer can't think about the listener, or even shouldn't because it leads him away from his lofty purity, is one of the field's most widely aped platitudes.

One advantage of the definition I've spelled out here, I think, is that it makes very clear what the relation is between writing academic music and working in academia. Strictly speaking, there need be no link at all. It should be as possible for a professional composer to teach in a university as it is for me to continue being a professional writer while in a music department, which I do. But, as my wife's experience has demonstrated, academics are unlikely to thank you for being professional. There is little incentive in the structure of academia to make work with the audience in mind, since the audience is mostly captive, the economics non-profit. The professors are the insiders, the privileged, the credentialed, and the audience is on its own. In fact, when my professional writing is "peer-reviewed" by academics, they slap me on the wrist for being too "breezy," "journalistic," and "colloquial" - they try to bring my professional standards down to their academic ones. This year I was secretary for the faculty senate, and my colleagues always had to tone down my minutes from each meeting to make them less distinctive. Academia fears communication that is too vivid and direct; clarity invites argument. And I guess that's fine in the social sciences and other "real" academic disciplines: they're writing for each other, and have a professional incentive to painstakingly navigate each others' coagulated prose. (Still, look at Paul Krugman, whose trenchant writing style has clarified modern economics to an entire generation of lay readers.) But the artist, however academically trained, is not writing for fellow professionals, but for the wider world - there's the difference.

In other words, working in academia will not make you academic, but to remain professional within academia you have to go against the flow and brace yourself to not be appreciated. The rewards given in academia do not require professionalism, and in some cases even discourage it.

Now, I am obviously not a professional composer in the sense that I make a living off my music and it has to be really good for me to get paid. Almost no one is. What we usually mean these days by a "professional composer," and the meaning I have elsewhere used in this blog, is someone who can play the prize circuit, network well, and get commissions. The process has almost nothing to do with audience reaction; with occasional exceptions like Glass and Reich, most "big-name composers" are associated with an idiom that attracts a tiny audience at best. But in this professional-versus-academic sense I still try to keep - with my well-trained writer's ear as a model - a professional attitude when I write music. I repeat catchy and identifiable riffs. I sometimes, even microtonally, play off of a harmonic background with predictable resolutions. I embed common melodic archetypes to guide the ear through my wild polyrhythmic schemes. I listen to each new passage dozens of times to make sure everything seems internally motivated, and I revise heavily. I constantly tell my composition students that their medium is not merely notes or sounds, but the listener's psychology. I'm continually pointing out what their music leads the listener to expect, and tell them that they either have to gratify that expectation, or clearly deny it in favor of something even better that works on a larger level - but they can't simply ignore expectations that they've created. They resist, and the academic music that surrounds them is full of enticing poor models.

And note that my professional tricks do not limit what I want to say in my music. I write a lot of things that are counterintuitive or against any conventional idiom, and I think I make them make sense. I hold that I am not a lesser or more superficial composer because I know how to keep the listener engaged, although academics often assume I must be. I do not have to give the listener only what he wants or expects to hear to achieve my goal of getting them to listen to an entire, often rather bizarre piece. I apply a lot of technique just drawing the listener through the piece, and it doesn't cheapen the music, though my academic colleagues sometimes claim it does. My anecdotal confirmation is that complete strangers have come up to me at intermission to say how much they enjoyed the music, and I've seen audience members cry during my more intense choral pieces. Our 84-year-old department secretary, long inured to contemporary music that just seemed weird to her, was thrilled that my piano concerto was so much fun to listen to; and that delighted me more than an official prize would have. The academic composing community does not reward me, but I've sometimes gotten my reward from watching the audience. (And often from reviews: as someone wrote of Nude Rolling Down an Escalator, "Though all the pieces are fiendishly and impossibly complex, they are also easy to listen to....")

Remember what Feldman said about the academic composers of his generation: "They have brought the musical culture of an entire nation down to an undergraduate level." In the arts, the professional is a higher and more difficult standard to meet than the academic. An academic education is preliminary to professional experience - but it is not the final step.


Rodney Lister: 1) Don't fear you at all.
2) Babbitt's high standard, of the lack of them, was not the point. Surely you got that. My point was that I'm not sure how one can make decisions about what's good-beautiful-effective-whatever any way other than how it strikes you and tickles your fancy or doesn't. I think that when you're writing your music, your going for just that-how much it tickles you-makes you feel, in the words of the O'Hara poem "here I am-the center of all beauty-imagine!" rather than some version of what a student of mine who was ten or eleven at the time saikd "I don't think they people who come to hear the Wellesley Symphony will like that". In any case, I know which of those two paths I'd rather follow. A composer can and should certainly make assumptions about how someone will hear his music, but all his calculations inevitably, I think, will be base on how he or she hears music. Maybe if you're writing jingles you could get into a situation where it's o.k. to say to yourself "well I don't like this much, but THEY will" or the other way around. I suppose it's superfluous to point that Babbitt's writings about music and his music are two different things, and although a lot of people manage to confuse them and be confused about the difference, I wouldn't think you'd be one of them. I can't, incidentally, remember any place in Babbitt's writings that are self congratulatory-but I suppose that's the sort of thing that's in the eye of the beholder.
3) I'm not sure that Carter didn't think his large scale poly-rhythms had aural impact-but I suppose once again the ear of the listener. I just feel that anybody should be given the benefit of the doubt about his honest intentions.

Doug Skinner: In reply to Ian Stewart.
Actually, it's often done! A haiku is a verbal composition based on prime numbers: 5-7-5.
As Oulipo members often pointed out, literary formal restraints are as old as literature.
I'll add that I also found writing for an audience a good influence on my music. Also, performing in commercial theater, and learning the stagecraft of timing, pointing dialogue, evoking applause with a button, etc. Not all of these are applicable (or desirable) to composition, but stage time is quite instructive.
KG gives it the old college try:
I could be the first
to do musicology
always in haikus.

Ian Stewart: In reply to Mark N. Grant.
"but I think if I started trying to impose prime-numbered rhythmic structures on my prose"
That is possible of course as the Oulipo group demonstrated, although as far as I know they didn't use that particular technique. This article about the group in wikipedia seems accurate:
Their techniques seem analogous to the techniques used by some composers.

Mark N. Grant: Kyle, I think your analysis is superb on both issues- first, academic vs. professional music; second, how journalistic writing helped "improve" (I use the word in quotes so as not to suggest there was something with) your composing. I relate to your tale from my own personal experience, having been divided all my life between the two muses of writing and composing.
I was a journalist in my 20s and 30s at the same time I was intensively studying music and beginning my composition efforts in earnest. For several years I contributed articles on a regular freelance basis to the Los Angeles Times's "Calendar" section (equivalent to the NY Times Sunday Arts and Leisure section), including an interview with Joe DiMaggio that was nationally syndicated. I published many articles in other newspaper Sunday supplements and some national magazines on a wide variety of topics that had nothing to do with music, although I occasionally wrote musical criticism as well. These professional experiences helped me hone narrative and continuity skills that helped me in the kindred narrative and continuity skills that are part of the process of composing music. (Yes, I know there are non-narrative and non-continuous processes of composing, but for the sake of the present argument....)
May I note that, as I moved more commitedly into music composition as I got a little older and more experienced musically, I found a reciprocal effect evolving as well: my composition modus operandi began to affect, and change, how I wrote prose. I tend to work slowly and carefully composing music; I like expressive density, do not like to create on the level of facility. And gradually, my approach to writing prose has changed accordingly: it has become more freighted with thought and meaning, more excogitated. When I was very young I could write glibly and facilely. I can still do so, but don't like to now, particularly when I write libretti for my own dramatic and vocal works. When I write my own texts for musical settings I feel as if I'm composing music, not writing.
KG replies: Very interesting, Mark. I must say, if pressed to say how my composing has affected my prose, I'm not sure I could come up with anything. I'll have to think about it more - but I think if I started trying to impose prime-numbered rhythmic structures on my prose, it would create a mess. I've never felt capable of writing lyrics or libretti. But I did once, in my early years, write an article on women body builders (for a benefit given for a Chicago women artists' gallery). Thank goodness I don't have to do *that* these days.

Dave Seidel: Kyle, thanks for the great article. Another validation of my decision, upon receiving my undergraduate degree in theory and composition, to go to the city and play guitar rather than pursue my previously assumed trajectory through academe. I'm quite happy to have ended up as an amateur composer and player with a fairly direct engagement with my (few but valued) listeners. It can be very tempting to follow head over heart (and even over ears), but that's not where music comes from. Not that I have anything against academia as such, but perhaps it's better for artists to establish themselves in their art before becoming part of that environment.

Dennis Bathory-Kitsz: In reply to Lyle Sanford.
Kyle, your response is exciting and insightful. It should have been a trivial connection from my reaction to someone's music to another listener's reaction to mine, but I never made it. Of course I want to 'own' it! That was the reaction on hearing on hearing my first piece of classical music at age 13: "I want to make that music! I want to do that!" A whole audience of "interestings" doesn't match a single "how did you do that?" (= "how can I do that?").

Lyle Sanford: ". . . their medium is not merely notes or sounds, but the listener's psychology". What a great formulation! Y
ou talk in this post more about the "audience" than I can ever remember, which gives me the opening to ask something I've wondered about for a long time. The Tibetan lamas say that our motivation for any action (karma) is what makes it positive, negative, or neutral. (One way to look at the issues you address in this post is just to see that why one writes music or words will greatly color the product.)
Why do you compose music? Does your concern for "the listener's psychology" extend beyond keeping them engaged? Since I'm a music therapist, what's happening with the audience is paramount, so I have no interest in what I guess the academics might call "pure music" that only they can parse.
Could you put in words what effect you hope your music has on an audience?
(If you ever stop blogging, I will be happy to pay a subscription fee to have posts like this one show up in my inbox in whatever astrological frequency suits you.)
KG replies: Hi Lyle. Normally I think I wouldn't be able to answer that question, but I've had a thought recently. When I was a kid and really, really enjoyed something, I had a tremendous urge to do it myself, to *own* it, so that it was me doing it and not just receiving it. (Geez, sorry it comes off so sexual.) And so I think I have to do to other people through music what music I love does for me. I can't tell whether that distinguishes me from any other composer in the world (I guess clearly it must). But it would certainly explain why I would never consider the audience reaction irrelevant.

rfink1913 (Robert Fink, UCLA): I'm not a composer, but I am an academic who studies new music, and so I've been eavesdropping on this fascinating conversation. I was moved to contribute something to the discussion of professionalism in academia by this honest moment in Kyle's original post:
"I wish I were an awesome lecturer, because I end up doing it occasionally, and I'm sure I could have become one had I gotten some training, had a professional lecturer give me tips and feedback and criticism. It never happened, because I've never had to depend on public lecturing for a living."
Well, I have that job. They call me a "professor," which I decided early in my career I couldn't help but take literally: I became a person who professes things -- who lectures -- for a living. I certainly didn't get my first academic job because those who hired me agreed with my crazy ideas or liked my writing that much. I was told later by my colleagues that it was the students in front of whom I lectured on Schoenberg and Webern who said, "please hire that guy" -- that and the fact that when asked about my performance later that day by the search committee, I immediately launched into a worried recitation of all the things that hadn't quite worked, and how I would change them if I could do it again. (I did get a chance to do it again about 15 times in my six years there. By the end I was really getting in the groove.)
Where did I learn how to do this? Well, I was a teaching assistant and watched some wily old professionals (Joseph Kerman) and some brash newcomers (Richard Taruskin). I myself taught sight-singing to tone-deaf undergraduates and Pascal to poets. (You gotta eat...)
I've done reams of research in my life, largely (I confess) to make my lectures rock. I backed my way into being a pop music scholar around 1998 because I thought I could teach a killer class at UCLA on electronic dance music. (It was killer - for me. Thank God the Tower Records in Hollywood was open until 11pm every night.) As soon as I get interested in a new subject, I start scheming about how I could structure and deliver a new set of lectures on it. Nowadays most articles I write can be traced back to an undergraduate lecture or (whole different post, not for today) a graduate discussion.
The live academic lecture is a situation of maximum and instantaneous feedback. If one gave a concert of new music in which the audience felt free to come in whenever they felt like (late seating for everyone!), to whisper or fire up their mobile devices when the content or style failed to hold their attention for even a moment, and to leave at will no matter what might be happening "onstage," that would not probably be seen as an "academic" situation, would it? In my early days, many of my classes were required, so technically it "didn't matter" if the students appreciated my lectures or respected me as a person; but for a sensitive soul, the congealed contempt and disinterest of a roomful of musical undergraduates was simple an unendurable burden. By now, most of my undergraduate classes are "General Education" electives, at a school where students have literally hundreds of other choices if my class is weak or lame. Trust me, I live in a real world of very clear consequences if I fail to communicate clearly and compellingly about subjects that matter to my students.
I've always gone to great lengths to communicate, and take almost nothing for granted. I no longer need to write out the entire lecture -- but I used to do it. (I would never read out what I wrote; the work was for me, for my professional pride.) I still worry about things like which font to use on my PowerPoint slide for the word "disco" so that it will be memorable; whether the music example should start 3:34.5 or 3:34.6 into the song to get the right effect; should I deliver the next paragraph from the other side of the stage, to help students intuitively perceive a break in my argumentation; are they getting it now? And now? And...now? And -- after 110 minutes -- even now? If I let my arm drop before the music reaches the key cadence in my key example, which I've planned to hit one minute before the end of class, will someone start packing up their computer? Can't let *that* happen...
Oh, yes, the administration and my colleagues also want to know, once every five years, how much writing I've done. And whether it's any good. It's possible that Kyle and I are the perfect dialectical pair: given that he's admitted being an amateur lecturer, I'll confess to having a certain amateurishness about writing. Not the actual prose -- I take great pains with that -- but I'll never match the fluency and productivity of a truly professional writer. And yet I believe that, as an academic, I have been a hard-nosed professional when it mattered most (to me): in the classroom.
Nowadays, I sometimes speak in front of parents and alumni of UCLA. I give them a trimmed down version of what I have always done for students, complete with visuals, audio, talking, singing, playing, and even some dancing, if the situation requires it. Some of them seem very impressed, and they try to pay me a compliment by saying that I should "do something" with my lectures. I assume they mean to compliment my professionalism as a speaker, and I always thank them sincerely. But I also point out that I already *am* doing something: I'm professing their children, and training the next generation of professors.

Ian Stewart: Excellent post Kyle, I agree entirely.
However regarding the Thatcher quote it is invariably taken out of context. I think it is difficult for people in the United States to understand the 'culture of entitlement' we have in the U.K., where everything is inclined to be someone else's fault or responsibility. I think the context is that people in the U.K. will say things like "let the government pay for it"; however the government only has money they collect from individual tax payers.
Here is the quote in context:
"I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant.' 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.' They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation."
KG replies: Hmm. Interesting, thanks, I'll keep that in mind from now on. Still don't like her, though.

Susan Scheid: Kyle: It's this, particularly, in your post, that led me to think about listener engagement and how best to achieve that. "The professional, however, puts himself in the reader's place, and observes how the order of the information, his transitions, his emphases, the pacing and preparation of his surprises, leads the reader or listener into fairly predictable reactions. The professional shows the audience member where to focus, and does so with a backgrounded technique which seems effortless. The reader, reading a pro, is not aware of how the pro pricks and sustains his attention; he's just curious to keep reading."
It's gratifying to me as a listener to read a point of view that includes the listening experience in the compositional continuum-and it's clear to me that you're not in the least advocating to try and write to what the listener wants, but rather to have composers be thoughtful about what they're trying to communicate toward the end of creating a work that achieves that communication. (Of course, embedded in this is the assumption-which I hold to-that music is a communicative art.) As perhaps an addendum to this, and as a listener who had not the slightest experience in listening to contemporary classical music until about 2 years ago, I've come to recognize that even the most brilliantly realized work may not communicate to me without some help in understanding its "language." For example, I didn't "get" In C at all until I learned a bit of its importance historically (that helped me to appreciate it, at least), then heard it performed live by joined forces of Contemporaneous and the students and faculty of Poughkeepsie Day School, and, as icing on the cake, had the good luck to have Dylan Mattingly write about it on my blog in his compelling way. Lucy Dhegrae, in her profile on my blog, also wrote something really useful in responding to a comment I wrote to her about my nemesis, Lachenmann: "I think with some pieces you need the trifecta experience: listen to it, hear it live, and listen to it with a score. It wasn't until I sat with my husband Shawn and we listened together with a score that I really LOVED Grido. At first I appreciated it. Then when I heard it live I was moved and intrigued. Then when I sat with the score I realized that so much more was going on, and I was totally in love."
I don't know that I'll ever share Lucy's love for Lachenmann, but her joyfulness and passion, like Dylan's and David Bloom's and every single musician and composer I've met associated with Contemporaneous has made me into a joyful and eager listener of contemporary music and thirsty to learn more. I really do think I'm not the only one out there. The question is how to demystify the listening experience, how best to invite listeners to participate in this thrilling community. So, not to burden your great post, you, or this conversation further, that's what made me think of the ModPo-style MOOC. I think it could be an engine to build an engaged and excited audience for all kinds of current classical music. (About it being scary, BTW, I can sure understand that. I'll only weigh in one last time to recommend that Bard sit down with Filreis-it will save a whole lot of trial and error. He knows how to do this really, really well, and in the humanities, which is a whole different ball game than in, say, the sciences, as you know all too well.)
(Here's Dylan on In C: http://prufrocksdilemma.blogspot.com/2012/06/guest-post-in-c-gospel-accordingly-to.html, and here's Lucy's profile: http://prufrocksdilemma.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/this-life-in-music-soprano-lucy-dhegrae/)

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