During the Spring semester 2017, we will consider the place of contemporary music in New York City by attending a number of live musical events and sharing our reactions to the music in blog format. We will all write (and this includes me) three times in the semester on concerts of “new” music that we attended, reviews of new recordings, or research pieces on issues related to contemporary music in the city. We will also respond to each others work by engaging with issues in the comments section of the blog.
The definition of “new” music is, of course, slippery. For our purposes, we’ll consider any art music composed after 1945 to be “new”, though I know some would argue with this point. And just what makes something “art” music is entirely a point of debate that we can and should take up in this blog.
Writing in blog format presents some challenges. First, content must be kept up to date. When you attend a concert, you’ll need to write about it here as soon as possible–while the event is still fresh in your mind and while it is still topical. Aim to get your post online within two weeks of attending the concert. If you are responding to something in the news, again, be timely.
Secondly, unlike term papers and essays, there are no “rules” about what blog posts should look like. Should there be references and links? (yes!) What about voice and tone? The better blogs out there are informative, engaging, solidly written, and offer well-considered personal reflection. How long should they be? While there is no minimum or maximum length, we might aim for roughly 500 words per post. Some concerts or issues will warrant more as they provide stimulus for further thought or deep critique. Aim for a level of professionalism–plan and proof-read your work carefully. We want to avoid rambling by writing in coherent sentences and paragraphs. Present a polished public face to the world.
Good blog posts inspire reflection and response in their readers. Keep up to date with your blog posts and respond to reader’s questions and reactions with respectful comments. Likewise, read your colleague’s posts and add comments and questions to inspire thoughtful dialogue. We don’t need trolls or a flame war here!
Please include media (pictures, audio) or anything else in your post that enlivens your discussion of the event or the issues.
- In a nutshell: Write 3 posts (one/month). At least one must be about a live musical event you attend. The others are your choice: more concerts, a recording review, a timely research or argumentative essay related to new music and / or the arts scene in New York, an interview with a composer and “feature” about his or her work. Let your voice be heard! Respond at least once/month to one of your classmates. Stay engaged; read what others have written, make connections with what you heard, and jump in.
- Write your entry ahead of time and then cut-and-paste it into the blog tool. This way you won’t lose work if something happens while you are on the site and you can edit your work before it sees the light of day.
- Look now for concerts that fit your schedule. Some venues have their full calendar online so you can plan ahead. Many are inexpensive or free.
- Set aside the hour immediately after the concert for writing your first draft.
How will you be graded?
- Level of Musical Detail:evoke the music in enough detail that the readers wish they had been there (in the case of concerts) or inspire them to listen to the music you’re writing about; provide enough information to know what they missed.
- Critical and Creative Insights:the posts should have a critical or creative perspective on the event, recording or issue, not just a raw description of what happened. Have a point. Either make connections with other music / composers, or raise issues and questions that the performance sparked. Show that you were thinking about the entire event or recording, the music, and its place in the larger culture and history of music-making.
- Prose: as always, writing should be coherent and free of all grammatical errors. Try to avoid too much colloquial jargon that might turn off readers or introduce too much potential for misunderstanding (phrases like “in the game” to refer to someone’s engagement with the music scene, for example, might be questionable). Aim for clear and direct prose.
- Research: use the information at our fingertips to fill in any gaps, provide links to YouTube videos or Oxford Music articles, provide background or contextual information. Show you are informed.
- Engagement with Others: respond to posts by classmates in a polite and timely manner–this refers both to classmates’ reviews and comments left in response to your own blog posts. There is no minimum here–show that you are actively engaged by checking periodically for updates and responding to ideas (set up an RSS feed if you need reminders).
If you write 2 reviews and a few comments in the last couple of weeks of class, expect a grade that reflects limited engagement (D).
New York virtually breathes New Music. Below are links to some of the better-known places to encounter music. In many cases, student tickets are available at a very reduced rate. Take advantage of these offers!
The Big Halls and Organizations
Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Music Center which hosts several new music events for “Ecstatic Music Festival” which began January 9.
Miller Theatre @ Columbia University: new FREE Pop-Up Concerts announced (new music in an intimate setting)
Barge Music: music on a barge under the Brooklyn bridge!
Le Poisson Rouge: an art-music cabaret in the West Village
The Stone: a not-for-profit performance space dedicated to experimental and avant garde music
The Kitchen: a not-for-profit performance space for video, music, dance, performance art, literature
Spectrum: 121 Ludlow Street new music every 3rd Tuesday of the month @ 7pm
Issue Project Room: Brooklyn’s home for experimental music; some events are Free or very cheap ($5 shows)
National Sawdust: A new performance space in Brooklyn dedicated to new music
FREE concert by NOW Ensemble Sunday April 30 5pm (Our Saviour’s Atonement Church178 Bennett Avenue @ 189th Street)
April 11, 2017 8pm Resonating Apparitions @ Wild Project 195 E. 3rd Street, New York
A new immersive work experimenting with time and perception for percussion and harmonic resonators.
Composer’s Now Festival: All of February, all over town!
Ecstatic Music Festival January 9- April 16
New Music can happen anywhere. check out listings to see what’s up and where:
The Composer’s Alliance at the CUNY Graduate Center hosts events regularly
It’s not over when the semester ends! Look for these events Summer 2017:
Make Music Day New York: dozens of free events all day long
Missed a Show? You might be able to catch it on the internet
There are a number of live broadcasts of events now and I encourage us all to consider including them in our reviews. Here’s one place to start looking for live broadcasts as well as archived events: Q2 music (from WQXR)