Contemporary Composer

Day 200 Week 29 Q3 Thursday, July 20, 2023

Composers have been around for a very long time, and as in all creative disciplines, the job changes with the times. Even if you are not a composer and you have nothing to do with music, there are lessons here that should be of value to all creative outliers, a group composer certainly belong to.

Hundreds of years ago, all a composer needed was a pencil and paper, which held until the last hundred years but has changed greatly in the last twenty. Now you need to understand not only where the page turns occur on the score pages or each player but also how to use a digital workstation, notation software, have a website and oh so much more.

One would think the computer makes everyone’s lives easier, but in some ways, it has multiple the number of skills we must have a passing acquaintance with. We were told by marketing people that the computer would make all of our lives much simpler. We would no longer need assistance creating documents, managing spreadsheets, keeping track of files, and more, but instead, we found ourselves doing several hours of IT every week. This is also true for everyone from architects to CEOs, not to mention artists, actors and writers.

At one point in time, some musicians were also instrument makers. Now they are also recording engineers, sound reinforcement experts and booking agents. This can be exciting if you are a super multitasker who thrives on running in twenty directions at once. It can also be overwhelming if you are not.

And then, there are the business models associated with the arts, which are changing daily. World-class orchestras need to use their venues to book pop stars to pay the bills and make up the deficits between what it costs to put on a concert and how much you can charge for tickets. What percentage of the population can afford to spend $500 for dinner and concert tickets? The percentage of musicians who can charge enough for their music work to live on shrinks every year. 

But parallel paths are springing up. Reputations can be made or broken online.

It is not just presidential candidates who need to be telegenic to get covered. Concerts are now expected to have a visual component. Making it on the radio is no longer an option. Performing at dance halls or in restaurants no longer pays the bills and often is not an option for most kinds of music.

And like many other things, the new sound quality is sound convenience.   

Alternatively, composers do not have to constrain their creativity in composing music. Now they can compose platforms, brands, images, venues, and new groups of fans. And to be a contemporary composer, remember, if you want to hear your music, you had better be able to play it.