Explosive discussion did result

I’m on the Society of Composers, Inc. listserv, and there has been a debate raging about the role of modern composers and how to compose. Some people say that audiences should be coddled, some say that composers should write what they feel, some composers are just angry-angry. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, making general philosophical entries in the conversation, but the general vibe insinuates that ‘composition is an art, and even if it means nobody will like or it understand it, it’s still art (so there)!’

I also get the vibe that the most outspoken people would not recognize a cappella arranging as a legitimate art. I feel like they, as well as other people, may see arranging as a skill but not an art, and would scoff at an a cappella arranger considering himself to be equal to a composer. What do you think: is a cappella arranging a low-brow form of theivery, or is it an art of interpretation?


Okay, Dan, I’ll bite. I think there are at least two dimensions along which a cappella arrangers risk contempt from high-brow composery types: the serious/popular axis and the creative/re-creative axis. And while these are clearly valid distinctions to make to describe different facets of musical culture, it’s not at all clear to me that either equates necessarily to art/not-art. I mean, you do get dull and derivative examples of modernist composition, but nobody claims they invalidate the work of Boulez or Berio – they’re just labeled as not-very-good. But if people do consider one’s genre to be trivial, my hunch is that the best revenge is to ignore them and just continue getting better at it.
Does that answer your question? ;-)

Written By liz garnett on April 5th, 2009 @ 11:34 am

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