September 10, 2003

Glut of Composers Responsible for New Music Glass Ceiling?

As I noted in a previous article I've been thinking about Kyle Gann's assertion that there are no longer any middle-tier composers, only wannabes and the top dogs. With 60,000 active composers in the world, 25-40 thousand in the US alone, its no wonder that composers are feeling as if it is just impossible these days to have a viable career in new music.

Although it is apparent, with the drastically reduced state and federal funding in the US that less money for commissions is being handed down, what is also obvious is the increased featuring of non-US composers. In NYC, we see regular promotion of Asian, Eastern European and Eastern Russian composers almost to the point of wondering if US composers are being considered as unworthy of performance.

There is of course the common platitude that 'you must leave your home country to make it in the arts' but where could a US composer go? There is nowhere to go for a career where, even with keeping a 9-6 job, ones music could be regularly performed and discussed.

I believe it's not just a problem of promotion or the general alienation of audeinces, but an essential tenet of the new art world. Beyond croneyism, beyond careerism, we now have a few islands of success which are incapable of harboring new citizenry. What is the solution? Competing for scraps by thousands of composers is hopeless and debilitating. Creation of your own scene, is costly, both timewise and financially.

Micro-communities of new music listeners on the intenet? Possibly, but it is unproven and is itself problematic regarding issues of promotion and the maintenance of authorship identification.

Posted by jeff at September 10, 2003 09:06 AM

You have a point ... but thankfully there is no glass ceiling on the web!

Posted by: Glass Ceiling at October 2, 2003 07:45 AM

How about Europe? Plenty of German composers make a living (albeit not a great one) and there are plenty of American composers living in East Berlin.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 5, 2003 06:10 PM