Posts Tagged ‘racism’

As a composer of orchestral music, which follows many years of composing and producing popular music (hip-hop, soul, rock, country, funk, jazz, house, reggae, etc…), several concert programmers assume that my orchestral and chamber works are mere re-generations of the pop music I once made, or am still creating. This, I believe, is a contributing factor to me not being received or welcomed at the table, alongside today’s recognized and/or commissioned composers.

As I compose my fourth symphony, symphonies 1-3, along with several other large works remain unperformed/unprogrammed. I’ve been encouraged to compose several chamber works, which I have done, and continue to do. Yet, those too have not been performed. Reaching out to performers, ensembles, and conductors is a necessary and easy task, but the boomerang effect most often returns with no response. No matter how many solicitations are made, nothing changes. These various groups haven’t even heard the music, nor have they read through any of my scores; yet there are no responses. I can totally understand if one hears the music and she or he doesn’t like it. That’s NOT the issue here. It’s like I’m being downsized in a sophisticated way. Why is it like this? I’ve considered various scenarios that may be contributing factors. Here are a few.

  1. I have not won any awards for music composition. I began composing concert works beyond the age of 30; thus considered too old to apply to several opportunities restricted by age. Basically, I’ve been deemed too old from the time I began.
  2.  I may be type-cast as a composer of popular music. A background in pop music doesn’t sit well in the classical world; though it shouldn’t hinder anything. But, maybe it does.
  3.  Perhaps my ethnicity is a contributing factor, since orchestras generally do not perform or program the music of black composers outside the months of January or February (the times for Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and/or Black History Month). Furthermore, black composers are often stereo-typed as being composers of jazz, gospel, and the blues, and nothing more.
  4. No one is a champion of my music. No conductor, no musician, not a college professor; no one. How does a composer get their works noticed when NO ONE responds to their solicitation?

I realize that it’s difficult for ALL composers! Yes, I do, but where’s one’s chance? Do you have to pay for it? Is it hidden in one of those call for scores opportunities that comes with a hefty entrance fee and an age limitation? Is it based on some dark, inside relationship that one must commit to? This is something to think about. What are the deciding factors?

I also have a beef with conductors who hand me their business card, and say, “email me”, or “phone me”. Yeah, I’ve followed up each time, reaching out to several conductors who seemed inviting with well intentions. However, my efforts after the follow-ups seemed like a teaser; like a woman leading a man on, only to lead him in the wrong direction. It’s a joke….it’s all one big joke! Several of these people, but certainly not all, are pretentious. And, do you wanna know something? Just for kicks, I contact numerous conductors, just to test the waters that there might be a scent of interest for one of my original orchestral works to receive a programmed performance. But,…..ha haaaaa……it’s like knocking on a 4-foot, thick door. No one’s listening.

I feel like this…..if music is your practice, then you ought to be a harmonious being; accepting people and music from all corners. You should also practice common courtesy.

It’s like an old, well-built, sturdy machine telling the people, “Hey, come play with me. I’ll be your friend. Bring me your music, and I’ll program it for you.” So, you engage this machine, but the machine doesn’t really want you. It’s programmed to act like it does want you…..that’s how it keeps afloat……….by keeping you interested and enticing you to engage it. It’s like that woman I mentioned earlier.

Someone mentioned to me that conductors are extremely busy people. Oh? Really? Well, I’m busy too. Composers are busy people, most often busy dealing with a lot of b.s. at promoting themselves and their work. I too study scores, and I spend numerous hours  composing music. I record, produce, teach, eat, sleep, and handle other personal responsibilities, just like a conductor. So, what’s so different? What is it? I often think about this, and perhaps, many conductors just do not have the freedom to program works by living composers, simply because those who are funding the orchestra prefer to hear the usual Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Beethoven, and……you get where I’m coming from. I would like to believe this to be the main reason, instead of it being a sort of holy territory, where only deceased composers or friends of conductors thrive.

It’s a lot to consider. I’m also talking about the wind band world as well. I once was told that the wind band arena would be more inviting than the orchestral realm, but both are equally biased. Friends conduct the music of friends. It’s all a game. You’re either someone’s friend, or you’re kissing someone’s ass to get ahead. It’s the truth, and that’s madness to me.

One hopeful outlook is that there’s an increasing number of young conductors coming on the scene, who possess a progressive interest in musical diversity. Unlike those I’ve previously encountered, I hope these emerging conductors are more engaging. Perhaps these will be the ones to dismantle the old machine. Things cannot remain the same if we are to move forward.

K

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