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Norm at CNMN Forum 2014 #2

Immediately upon arriving and the beautiful Rozsa Centre, at the University of Calgary, I was ushered up to a table with a line of microphones, where I was to be a panel member for “Orchestral Programming – New Music and The Big Machine”.

What a title! But in the new music world, orchestras are the fat cats. The ones with seemingly limitless budgets who can truly make things happen!

I sat with composers in residence from the Edmonton Symphony (Robert Rival), Hard Rubber Orchestra (John Korsrud from Vancouver) and Orchestre Metropolitan de Montreal (Eric Champagne). Unfortunately the representative from the Calgary Philharmonic was ill, it would have been interesting to hear an orchestra manager speak on the subject.

The talk was aimed mostly at composers: How to attract the attention of Music Directors and Orchestra Managers; how much (or how little) new music was being played by orchestras; how to overcome a lack of rehearsal time etc. I was happy to report that SNS often programs substantial pieces of new music, and that Bernhard Gueller usually devotes extra rehearsal time to those pieces! And that for the number of concerts we play each season, our programming of new music is actually quite extensive.

We also talked about what attracts audience member’s attention, what makes them come out to hear an unfamiliar piece: Perhaps a soloist, or something newsworthy, original or truly different happening.  The subject of New Music Festival vs. new music placed in general programming came up as well, and the consensus was that new pieces placed in general programming was preferable to “ghettoizing” new repertoire in a festival. We just want it all to be MUSIC, not “new music and good music”, or “music to be endured and music to be enjoyed”!

What it comes down to in my mind is this: We have a culture of the concert hall being a place of comfort and familiarity. We know how to act; we know how the music goes; we recognize the sounds. There's nothing wrong with that. It actually sounds pretty good! But, I would encourage music lovers to take a few minutes in a concert to submit to new sounds, open your ears to the unfamiliar and embrace the sonic adventure!

Personally, I often prefer a concert where I’m unfamiliar with the music. It gives me a fresh chance to approach the music, decide whether it speaks to me or not; all the while knowing that it is an attempt to address our time: THIS crazy time. It may be good, and it may be terrible, but life is like that sometimes.

I was proud to represent our orchestra. There’s always room for advancement, but we’re not doing badly, and composers love to have Symphony Nova Scotia play their music!

Jan 24, 2014 at 21:49

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