June 13, 2004

Anthony Tommasini and the Plight of the 21st Century US Composer

Something struck me recently on reading Tommasini's review of a recent Lee Hyla CD, in particular, this paragraph:

THE composer Lee Hyla has a rigorous conservatory training and a formidable musical intellect. Yet he has been as excited by the gritty power and raw surface energy of avant-garde jazz, rock and punk as by the brainy modern music of Elliott Carter and Stefan Wolpe. This merging of styles has tagged him as a kind of downtown renegade in some establishment quarters. Though Mr. Hyla, 51, has been commissioned by prestigious chamber ensembles, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, he has evidently scared away the major orchestras.

First of all, there is an assumption, that composers today, known and well known are being considered for orchestra performances because they are good composers and compose well and if a composer does not receive orchestral performances this may imply some type of 'popular aesthetic intimidation' or 'stylistic impropriety.'

One would think, with the dearth of activity in the US orchestral arena, the demise of the American Composer's Orchestra (it's coming very soon) and the constancy of the composers receiving commissions, that critics would be more open to the idea that perhaps, the system is cracked. Perhaps Mr. Hyla does not receive orchestral performances because nobody can receive orchestral performances, except for the same 5 names. Uh... namely... John Adams, John Adams, John Adams and uh... another gentleman.... John Adams!

Jokes aside, recent performances in NYC gave 3 composers the majority of performances, and almost all are dead. Ives, Copland and Adams. Over and over and over... Ives, Copland and Adams. Frankly, I'm sick of the lot. There has to be something better out there!

Posted by jeff at June 13, 2004 02:53 PM