from Sunday, September11th of the year2011.

I’m really excited to see that my previous post has generated some interesting conversation in the comments threads. Scroll down or click here to read the original post and check out the comments, some of which I have replied to. The one point I wanted to re-iterate here is that I don’t think composers should put music on their website without getting permission. My primary concern here is for educational purposes. The other stuff – putting it online, promotions, etc., — all of that is a totally different issue.

And now, I want to talk about that issue just for a hot second. Real talk: the internet has made contemporary classical music in live performance exciting. People get excited for a new Adès or Reich piece; the orchestras are all up on twitter and facebook bigging it up, sometimes the composers are there too. This is, I think, a good thing. However, what it has done is call into question the amount of time between a premiere and when a recording is available. I’m thinking, specifically, about Adès’s Tevot and Reich’s Double Sextet. Carnegie was all excited about all these things, we all went to them live, and it would have been nice, I would argue, to have been able to get a recording of those pieces at that time.

Real talk: it’s bootleg recordings of these pieces. Real talk: I still bought the commercial recording. However, I was more excited about the bootleg DubSex because I was still buzzing from the performance I heard. That’s the thing: all the social media is great for orchestras to get people in the hall; I think we’re seeing that working very well. If the recording biz could get involved earlier, we’d be in really good shape.

I am also pleased that my post from a few days ago has, in fact, caused the Sequenza21 spam to stop. It’s really for their own good: if your twitter feed is caught in a feedback loop, you lose followers and people find it harder to separate content from noise.


  • I think you might be describing a model more akin to the pop world, where Band X:

    1. Tries out their new songs live (and bootleg recordings are not just permitted, but encouraged),

    2. Records an Album with new songs on them, some of which were tried out live in Step 1, and some of which are new-new, tailor-made for the Album,

    3. Tours in support of that new Album, at which time they then (maybe) try out some new songs at their live shows, and the process begins anew.

    The classical model is, it seems to me, MUCH less fit to survive in the world we live in:

    1. Orchestra/Ensemble commissions Composer to write a Piece. The Composer writes the Piece.

    2. The Orch./Ens. mounts a PR campaign to generate excitement for the World Première of the Composer’s new Piece.

    3. The Orch./Ens. performs the Piece once, maybe twice or three times if it’s a subscription series. Everyone and their Lawyers do a really good job of making sure there are no bootleg recordings available.

    4. A whole shit-ton of time goes by wherein nothing happens. The only people who have heard the piece are (a) the Composer, (b) the Orch./Ens., (c) the Audience at the première, and (d) the Composer’s Students, if they’re really lucky and beg the Composer, promising they won’t show it to anyone.

    5. The Orch./Ens. mounts a second PR campaign to generate a second round of excitement (because, by this point, all the original excitement has long since fizzled, as excitement is wont to do) for the Commercial Recording.

    6. The Commercial Recording drops, there is a bunch of press about it, maybe a couple thousand people buy it if you’re really lucky. After a few weeks it fades from the Public Consciousness and is usually never heard of again. The Orch./Ens. may throw a release party (much, much less likely if it’s an Orchestra) where they play the music on the CD, but other than that, there is no touring done in support of the Record.

    7. The Orch./Ens. commissions a different Composer to write a new Piece…

    Forget commercial considerations for a second–which business model seems more MUSICALLY healthy?

  • (Of course, the whole screed I just posted assumes that the Composer is even given an Archival Recording, which, as we’ve seen in the post preceding this one, is far from guaranteed.)

  • I’m interested to know how you handled the Orchestral Sasstalk out of the bass clarinetist? I haven’t written anything for orchestra yet; my own output has been limited to chamber music entirely up to this point. But it seems logical that I should know what to do in a situation such as that: do you just ignore it and move on with the limited time you have? Does a bitchout of Toscanini proportions occur? It seems like a lose-lose situation for everyone involved, really: embarrassing for the orchestra, agitating for the composer.

  • Nico,

    So glad you decided to follow up on the last post about recordings. We discussed your last post on today’s SoundNotion podcast (

    It’s this second issue that interests me at least as much as the personal development issue. As you say, the recording is being made already, and if it isn’t, making it is trivial. The cost of selling that recording digitally is trivial, and what better way to generate buzz? Imagine dozens of people walking out of a concert tweeting “I just saw this incredible performance. Check out the recording here: [LINK]”

    It’s a new direct revenue stream (which orchestras desperately need) AND an indirect one. Audiences would pay the orchestra to advertise on the orchestra’s behalf. Win. Win. Win. Right?

  • When are we getting that Two Boys bootleg out on the nets then, eh? 😀 But yeah, live recording to satisfy my need for immediate gratification does not mean that I won’t buy the studio disc. And that double sextet @ Oberlin was crazy good (but not as good as being there w/ the energy of the room) – it was a special concert (the Rzewski was great too!)

  • I had the pleasure of attending both performances of ‘Luminous Body’ at The Ordway on 9.9 and 9.10.11. On opening night, I was so intent on “hearing” the piece that I temporarily short-circuited and didn’t “feel” the piece as I normally would have.
    On Saturday I was 100% immersed, and it was utterly glorious! This was not sound, this was a comet trailing joy…
    The two women who were my balcony-mates looked at me with shocked expressions after your piece was performed. Very quietly, one of them commented, “I see what you meant. I so wish that this was being performed again, tomorrow night. I would love to hear it again.”

    It can be nearly a desperate thing, to have had such a feast set before us… and to know that the memory of it shall have to suffice, to ease the hunger pangs, until it’s eventual (proper) release.

    I am neither a musician nor a composer; I am but a simple patron of the arts. My (perhaps quite flawed) thought is that composers should always have the right to obtain a high-quality copy of a performance of their work (for a nominal sum, and/or with waivers such as those offered by the SPCO?).
    In my perfect world, a composer would be able to post at least a sound clip of their work (for example, on their personal website). By mutual agreement(s) between parties involved, the public could be allowed to purchase an “advance copy” of the piece, and monies received would still arrive at their final destinations.

    This opportunity exists, however, only in my perfect world 🙁

  • I’m in love Elsbeth Koktavi! Would that all audiences were like this!

  • stop dropping little bits and pieces of ebonics and ‘teenspeak’ in your blog posts. you make classical music but you write your blog like taio cruz

  • I am reminded of the old joke about the private teacher who charges a million dollars per lesson. “I don’t have any students,” the teacher says, “but I just need that one.”

    This is the prevailing attitude amongst professional orchestral musicians. “If you want to record us, then pay us what we’re worth!” they say.

    When has personal worth been directly congruent to a pay scale? Personal worth is a separate—not contradictory, just separate—issue, unrelated to pay.

  • I find the ebonics and teenspeak charming.

  • @Andrew.
    To the bass clarinettist the comment should have been “Jeez I love the sound of the bass clarinet there in that funky solo. I can’t get enough of that. You can let it rip there!”

    Flattery all the way 🙂

  • I only ever listen to the bootleg DubSex. I really think the commercial recording is horrible to listen to. In that way, yay for leaked recordings!