New Music On and Off Campus
I started playing the bassoon at age 14 and simultaneously I buried myself under a pile of books about the History of Music. It took me about a year to get an overall sense of what happened up to the early 1900s including many of the legends, controversies, and aspects of performance practice and controversies about that also, and so on. And then suddenly, as I got into the 20th Century, everything became so real and so personal in a very different way than everything else up to that point. The first time I actually met a composer whose music I played I thought, this is so cool. The excitement of deciphering meaning behind the notes was still there, however, there was a whole new level of personal involvement made possible by actually being able to connect with the person behind the notes.
I think it is crucial that artists stay in touch with the contemporary world of their respective fields primarily and it doesn't hurt at all to venture out to other art forms as well. Just to talk for music: pieces written today are about today. [Contemporary] Composers are influenced by the big masters, like Beethoven was by Bach, but the world we actually live in also has its impact on their work, just like the world around him did on Beethoven’s. We as performers have an obligation to carry on the legacy of our art at the highest possible artistic level and a big part of that is playing the music of today so it can continue evolving and the audiences become more familiar with it.
There are plenty of opportunities at school to get involved with new music and many fantastic people to learn from about every aspect of the contemporary music scene. Make sure you volunteer to join AXIOM and the New Juilliard Ensemble and perform in their concerts. Get to know composers in the Music Division - they are fantastic people - and ask them to write for you, or play the pieces they have written previously. Check out ChoreoComp (more about that next week) and the Beyond the Machine series. I can promise you that your experience will be worthwhile and meanwhile your perspective as a musician will expand a great deal and your technique advance to a whole new level almost seamlessly.
New Music on campus is just the beginning! One of the four advice points Juilliard’s Dean and Provost Ara Guzelimian gave us in the beginning of orientation week was to “leave the building”. The new music scene in New York City is vibrant and exciting, composers and performers from all around the world gather around the city to share their work and by getting involved you can easily become a coveted performer and a vital part of music history being written today. Just last week Contemporaneous - an ensemble of highly trained young musicians - opened its fifth full season with a fantastic concert at Roulette in Brooklyn. The group’s mission is to perform the most exciting music of now, and every performance assures me that the mission is fulfilled. While fitting the almost 30 hours of rehearsals into my schedule wasn't easy, the energy from playing exceptionally well-written music with like-minded and fully dedicated artists was refreshing and rewarding both for us and the audience.
My advice to you for the week is that whenever you get a chance, get involved with new music, or better yet seek out a composer, ask for a piece and create your own opportunity to get involved and write the history of music yourself!
- d a n