Monday, October 15, 2012

Music is Everywhere; How Can Composers Benefit?

I am struck by the significant role music plays in important events.

During the CBC coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (which I was watching when I began this blog entry over a year ago… and then abandoned it 'till just now), there were musical performances by a children's choir, bagpipes and drums, cello and flute, solo cello, and others. For a while, the CBC had two sound sources playing simultaneously in a split screen, creating a strange cacophony between a live performance by the NAC orchestra in Ottawa and the background music that accompanied the reading of victims' names in New York. This cacophony was taken to an even greater level of sonic chaos when a CBC studio anchor started talking over the reading of names while the two competing musical soundtracks played. It was all very Charles Ivesian, except that I'm not sure Ives would have endorsed the notion that the public needs a gabby news anchor interpreting what we see and hear as we see and hear it.

But I digress. The pervasiveness of music at public events, be they solemn (memorials, funerals, religious ceremonies) or celebratory (weddings, coronations, inaugurations, olympic opening/closing ceremonies, or milestones of any kind), suggests that there is a widespread view in our society that music has an important role to play in such events.

All of this music had to be created by somebody, and that's where composers come in. There is a plethora of music commissioned for religious functions that has made it into the Western canon by a multitude of composers, such as Machaut, Lassus, Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and many others. Palestrina is one of my all-time favourite composers, but if you were to remove church music from Palestrina's list of works, you would have very little left over; the church was his patron for his entire career.

Handel was a prolific and highly-successful composer during his life time, writing numerous operas, oratorios, hymns, concerti, concerti grossi, solo and trio sonatas, suites, works for orchestra, and more, but had he not written The Messiah, by far his most popular work, his place in history would likely have been greatly diminished (he wrote other good compositions that are often played, such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, the Largo from Xerxes (3 minutes of absolutely exquisite beauty), and the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, from Solomon (3.5 minutes, very stirring!), but none come close to matching the reverence with which The Messiah is regarded, or its popularity).

Music has traditionally had a significant role in weddings, be they royal or commoner; in Great Britain, Prince William and Catherine Middleton's wedding service (2011) involved two choirs, one orchestra, organ, and a fanfare ensemble, which may have actually been modest in comparison to some royal weddings of the past. All of this music had to be written by composers, and in many cases (including William and Kate's wedding), some of the music was commissioned expressly for the occasion.

Governments, both democratic and totalitarian, and political movements have long believed that music could be used as a tool to sway the masses in some way.  According to Lenin:
Every artist, everyone who considers himself an artist, has the right to create freely according to his ideal, independently of everything. However, we are Communists and we must not stand with folded hands and let chaos develop as it pleases. We must systemically guide this process and form its result. (Lenin, O Kulture i Iskusstve (About Culture and Art), Moscow, 1957, pp 519-520)
In the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin enacted numerous restrictions for music which limited content and innovation. Classicism was favoured, and experimentation was discouraged (Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle, edited by Neil Edmunds, Routledge, 2009, p 264).

For example, Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was denounced in Pravda as "formalism" and soon banned from theatres for years. This, and the fact that people close to him were disappearing, never to be seen again, understandably terrorized the composer and made him fear for his own life. To learn more, I highly recommend reading, Testimony: The Memoirs of Dimitri Shostakovich; it is a disturbing but controversial (due to a dispute over the degree to which the words and sentiments were Shostakovich's own, or those of the Solomon Volkov, the book's editor) account of the composer's life.

 Here are some interesting articles on this topic:
And, as we all, know, the role of music is not limited to public events; we hear music in commercials, television shows, MP3 players, radio (including talk radio, where it is used to fill time between segments of shows), video games, while on hold on the telephone, movies, airports, street corners, theme parks, parades, parks, stores, elevators, other people's cars, at the gym, etc. For most of us, I suspect, it can be a challenge to go an entire day without hearing any music!

Music is powerful, and it is everywhere! How can composers benefit from this?
  • If we realize that there seems to be a never-ending demand for music of all kinds for different purposes, we can aim to become skilled at writing music in a variety of styles and for a variety of functions.

  • If we can figure out where music is needed, and write high-quality music quickly that fits the bill for different needs, we might be able to make a successful career of composing, although, like any competitive career, there are many other people trying to do the same thing, so perseverance, flexibility, discernment, smarts, chutzpah, luck, and, oh yeah, high-level skills, are all necessary.

  • Another important factor is "who you know;" a lot of opportunities — perhaps the great majority — come to composers based at least in part on who we know. This is a topic into which I may delve at greater length in a future blog, but we need to be to be aware of it. In my view, the first priority in your development should be to become really good at composing, but it is also important to get to know people who are in a position to programme/use your music.

  • More generally, and from a purely practical viewpoint, it is useful for aspiring or established composers to consider the many roles that music has in society, and the many kinds of music needed for different purposes. What kinds of music would you like to write? Are there types of music you would be unwilling to write?


Tony Taylor said...

Great post, Dr. Clark. It's particularly relevant to me, since my job (The R Nfld Regiment Band) revolves around many of these such events you have listed here. We are very often called upon to provide music for memorials, celebrations, parades, dinners, our own concerts and more. While a lot of what we play is music that has already been written by a classical or popular composer, there are many cases when new music is written for the band to play at certain events, especially Newfoundland folk song arrangements, since the repertoire for band is relatively small in that respect.

It is within this setting, the military band, that I foresee myself writing most of my music. Marches, concert tunes, patriotic tunes, arrangements and more are all within the realm of possibility of things I may be asked to write. These things come in a variety of styles, so it is as you say that it's to the benefit of the composer to know a wide variety of styles.

Vanessa Carroll said...

Tony, it's like you foresaw our next assignment when your wrote this almost a month ago! (sidenote, crazy how fast time has gone!)
Your "march cliche" piece (I feel like) stems directly from your experiences within a military band setting. Personally, I think in order for me to write a piece like that, I would have to start from scratch because I have next to no experience within a military band setting.
I think it's situations like this that really show just how music can reflect who people are because of their experiences.

Jenny Griffioen said...

I agree - this is good to think about! Being able to write music in various styles for various purposes, both "functional music" (by that I mean music for specific events/ceremonies/purposes) and "concert music". There is so much music out there already, but of course, there is still always demand for new repertoire. Often we hear music in malls or at public events without considering where it came from - who commissioned it, who composed it, who's performing it even - all that goes on behind the scenes before we hear the final product. I suppose we'll all have to find our niche in this music world - beginning now by developing the variety of skills we will need to succeed as best we can.

Brad said...

You make a great point in this post! People always say that there are certain professions for which there will always be a need: Doctors, Teachers, etc. Well, we can add composers to that list. Without music, life is without color. It's incredible how music is able to lift us into heightened states of emotion.

I mean, imagine any movie ever with a dramatic reveal, an impassioned scene, a high-stakes high-speed chase--now imagine that without the music to go along with it. Imagine how anticlimactic the big reveal in the Land Before Time of the great valley would be without the music. Think about how little adrenaline would be rushing through your veins as the sharks were creeping closer and closer in the water in Jaws without that famous theme we all know so well haunting us. One of my favorite things about the Lion King (my favorite movie of all time) is the music. It's incredible how music just elevates everything.

It is definitely all powerful and the ability to compose music is a powerful tool. And the composer holds all of that power. It's pretty cool actually. I'd love to write something that makes someone feel the way they do when they're in the heights of passion, love, fear, delight, etc. It's just so cool.

Aislinn Dicks said...

I think you make some great points in this post. I would say many people take for granted the role music plays in our lives. Whether we're consciously listening to music, or whether it's simply in the background, I think it has a large impact on our emotions. It can be used in such a way to even manipulate ones emotions.

As Brad pointed out in his comment, music heightens experiences that we would otherwise react very differently to, for example scenes from a film. Let's take the film The Shining for example. The two little girls that appear in the film are accompanied by haunting music. If they were accompanied by music that was sweet and playful, chances are we wouldn't view them as scary or menacing characters.

I think that one key skill necessary for the success of a composer is the ability to reflect and evoke emotions in others with their music. With this ability, it becomes possible to write music that reflects the emotions that should be felt during the event they're intended to accompany.

Timothy Brennan said...

I really enjoyed reading this post Dr. Ross! Your comments on how music can be found in almost every aspect of our lives made me think of the movie August Rush, where the main character Evan, an undiscovered and orphaned musical prodigy, hears music in everything (car horns, telephone wires, traffic etc.) and eventually uses music to find acceptance in the world and reunite with his estranged parents (musicians themselves). He even incorporates these sounds of everyday life into an orchestral piece he writes From watching this movie, I have learned, as a musician, to appreciate and take notice of the music which surrounds me each day, from background music at the mall to cell phone ring tones to the rhythm of my footsteps as I'm walking.

I also think that these musical sounds of our daily lives can proove to be effective compositional tools. They can serve as a great starting point for almost all basic aspects of a composition: melody (ring tones,or birds chirping for example), rhythm (footsteps, knocking, the tapping patterns of pencils and mouse clicks in class etc.) and harmony (songs and music from tv commercials and film scores often have some really neat chord progressions and harmonies). As a student composer, I can incorporate what I hear throughout the day into my compositions and sometimes produce fantastic results, like Evan in August Rush.

The last line of the movie for me perfectly and simply defines music in this world: "The music is everywhere; All you have to do is listen." If we just stop and take a few moments to listen, we can uncover the music which surrounds us everyday.

Jennifer Hatcher said...

It is important for composers to realize that once their music is written and made public, people will begin to link their compositions with certain aspects of their life. Personally, there are many pieces that when I hear them I immediately have a flashback to where I was when I first heard the piece. More often than not I relate music to where I was when I first heard it, what I was doing when I first heard it, or a time in my life where I could potentially relate to the piece. Although pieces can be used for an unlimited number of reasons, in many different ways, I have found that most people (myself included) usually link it to their first experience with the music.
It is unbelievable how often we hear music on a daily basis when we sit and think about it. It is hard to think of a time during my day where I hear silence. Brad made several good points in his comment about how music "elevates everything" - without music in movies, things would be lame, for the lack of a better word. It would be hard to create atmospheres and moods within movies without the music adding dramatic effects. The Hunger Games just wouldn't be the same without the epic soundtrack that accompanies the movie, right?

Evan Smith said...

You mentioned how important it is for composers to be aware of this music all around us, and that it is the composer's job to make sure this continues. This is so true, but what struck me the most is that you mentioned the composer must be able to write in all styles and in a timely fashion to maintain a thriving career.

Never paying much attention to composition as a career, I'd never thought of this. I often thought "GOd, I wish this assignment didn't have a time limit, real composers don't have to be limited by time when writing". I now realize how untrue this is. I suppose when a composer is writing for hhimself this is the case, but the majority of work comes from commissions , etc where the composer IS on a time limit, AND is required to write in a certain style (a march, something mournful, etc...).

I think the various assignments in this course are a great introductory step into this realm of the professional composers, introducing the students to a variety of styles, but with a time limit.

Chris Morrison said...

There are many opportunities for musical creation and for new styles to develop and existing ones to be expanded. Much experimentation and combinations of instruments can be pursued. It opens almost endless opportunities for experimentation. There will always be markets for music and competition between musicians, but that is part of the fun. With globalization almost everyone has a chance. Music is easily accessible and there are more and more opportunities to listen to it. Musicians can take advantages of this expansion. There are always venues at which to perform and people looking to hear new works. There will even be more opportunities which have not yet become apparent. Producing music is becoming much more accessible to the average person working out of their basement. All that is required today is a good computer in contrast to the expensive and restrictive equipment of the past. More people who might not otherwise have had the opportunity can now do so. Music is now truly for everybody.

It was particularly interesting when Dr. Ross pointed out the approach of the Russian Communists Lenin and Stalin’s approach to music. Even though Lenin felt that artists have “the right to create freely according to his ideal,” he also cynically stated that “we must systemically guide this process and form its result.” This demonstrates the power of music to influence behavior and the notion that the state can control people by also controlling music to which it has access. This also applies in the Unites States in the sixties when protest songs were being written about the Vietnam War. Music was often seen as subversive and encouraging people towards revolution. In short, music has significant power over people both in terms of expression and its power to evoke feeling.

Robert Godin said...

This is definitely gonna be a site note. With regards to the it's "Who you know" portion of this blog I think it's important to touch on the fact that things have changed a lot in the past 20 years or so. Some of are biggest 'celebrities'/musicians have gotten their fame almost exclusively from YouTube and other social networking tools. It's great that sharing music and videos is fast and easy but I feel a lot of composers just aren't utilizing this tool to its fullest. It's disappointing to search videos of Gary Kulesha, David Mott, Eleanor Daley, or John Burge and find maybe one or two videos. Obviously getting your music performed is great but maybe we're moving in a direction where that won't yield the same results as before.

Luke said...

In day to day life, as "music students" we are bombarded with new music. Every day at school, we're bound to hear something that's either familiar or otherwise, but it still remains an amazing opportunity to be exposed to so much good (and bad) music. Recently I came across the term Incidental music, which was used historically to accompany plays, or movie music today. Some contemporary composers today are responsible for writing music to fit a particular scene, and depending on the scene, a knowledge of many genres of music is required. Every day most of us are bombarded with music in the same way music students are, but simply don't pay the same level of attention. Music really is everywhere in today's world, and the sound world is so expansive that it becomes a challenge to hear a bit of everything. I think that it's important, if not completely necessary for young composers to devour music. What's playing in the background of the TV show you're watching? What music is being played at the mall? If we take in all this music, some of it is bound to influence what we write. And with all this external influence, we must take some internal inspiration and imitate something from the global sound world, as it isn't easy to create something "brand spankin' new" everyday. That being said, I think that we should all strive to create new things and think of the sound world, and the rest of the world, in a new and exciting way - from the outlook of a budding composer.

Michelle said...

The beginning of this entry reminded me a lot of something Mike Lee posted on Facebook last year, which if you haven't seen it (although I'm sure it has made the rounds) is an poignant and touching read:

I love a good Ives reference, and I have to agree with yours entirely; Ives would likely have lamented the news anchor's interruption of a moment that had the potential to urge listeners into a state of reflection and contemplation through music.

The big question I am left with after reading this entry has to do with the place of "art" music in the world today. Of course for certain occasions art music is the norm, but does it play as great a role as pop music in peoples' day to day lives? In the media, in public places, at the gym, everywhere, we are bombarded by popular music. I love popular music and would never judge one style as greater than the other, but sometimes I have to wonder if we haven't shot ourselves in the metaphorical foot by labelling our music "art." I have often questioned my own use of the 'A' word but always return to it, if for no other reason than it is a convenient umbrella term. Is there still a need for the distinction? What is the place of a composer of art music in today's world?

Siobhan said...

When you mentioned politics playing a role in composers' output, I immediately thought of Shostakovich as well (Thank-you, Dr. Rice), but music is also used in modern-day politics - especially as form of endorsement. A series of negative social media posts ensued after Nickelback played at a Conservative rally before the last federal election. Capitalizing on the large amount of dislike there is for Nickelback through social media (though record sales surprisingly do not mirror this notion), attack ads stated that 'A vote for Stephen Harper is a vote for Nickelback.' I found it amusing that something as simple as a pop band playing at a political rally could create such a media buzz.

You're right - music seems to play a widespread role in people's lives as it provides the soundscape for many important events in life.

I enjoy reading how people describe themselves. People will generally comment on what type of music they like/dislike and many (even non-musicians) will comment on how important music is to their lives.

While music seems to play such a large part in our everyday life, why is it that there are less and less jobs for musicians in today's society? Perhaps 'less' jobs is not definitively the case, but it is surely less traditional forms of employment for musicians, especially in art music.

Shawn Bennett said...

Excellent point Dr. Ross! It is all too frequent that the common Science student looks down on the Musician with a sneer, and asks how what we're doing is even a real degree. But as you've pointed out, music is perhaps the most significant form of human artistic expression.

They need music for every major event nowadays it would seem! As you said, the memorial of 9/11, William and Kate's Wedding, and thousands more every year. The common individual today puts music to the back of their mind (as shown by the famous experiment done by Josh Bell in the subway), and perhaps we forget just how frequent, and worthwhile our art is. Though it may seem like a little too much fun when looking at it from the outside in, perhaps from the inside looking out we need to remind each other a little bit more just how worthwhile what we're doing really is.

André McEvenue said...

As Michelle pointed out, I also wonder what place a composer of western art music has in this world today. I suppose it means that we attempt to write work of sophistication and artistic merit, but does this also mean that it can be functional music?

I am always impressed by artists that take the pop conventions and create compelling art. For example, I feel that the artist, Beck, has been very successful at this for decades. He is able to write functional music that is intended for commercial radio, and can satisfy the needs of a listener that is passively digesting it. Despite this, his music still maintains a high level of subtle nuance, inventiveness and can also be very moving.

If music is to be functional, then does it need to cater to the needs of the widest demographic of people?

Yes and no.

As these needs change, I believe our role as composers is to be sensitive to this change, but at the same time, not to fulfill these needs as others dictate. Our job is to make conscious (or unconscious) decisions ourselves on how music will best express the feelings of a collective group in the best possible way, and to be sensitive to these feelings in the first place. When we cease to make these observations and decisions ourselves, we cease to be composers, and become instruments of those who are not always interested in expressing the needs of a public.

We are then attempting to express through music a sentiment or idea that someone else has interpreted as being the best way to communicate with the public, and not the composer. And if we are detached from this idea, we are not composing effectively. This is how I interpret successful functional music. There must not be a disconnect from the original intent, and the final product.

Katie Predham said...

I really enjoyed this post! Sounds all around us in our day-to-day lives can be truly inspiring and this can be used in compositions. Just walking down the street, there are so many sounds being created, these sounds can translate into music, we just have to listen from a different perspective.

Andrew Gale said...

There are so many opportunities to compose for society. It can be eye-opening when one takes the time to think about all of the opportunities a composer is open to, such as writing for theme parks, parades, video games, commercials, etc. This offers a vast range of possibilities for the composing musician.

However, as you mentioned in the blog - the world is competitive. Meeting the demands of when the music is needed for can be a challenging task. It is entirely relevant to setting deadlines for composition assignments in class because the reality of a career in composing is demanding as well.

Sarah-Beth Cormier said...

One of the difficulties of composing for something or someone is the restraints that are inevitably imposed upon the music. It always amazes me how composers of the past were able to write brilliant, beautiful, and original music under the sometimes intense constraints placed upon them by patrons, be they constraints of time, style, instrumentation, etc. Since I seek to compose for the stage and screen, I will be under creative constraints as well, and I hope to be able to flourish within them as composers have for centuries. I actually sometimes find that working within requirements helps stimulate my creativity. The massive need for music for various scenarios is exciting for me, as I do my best work when writing for something in particular rather than simply writing on my own. Furthermore, it means employment, or the potential for it! If only the patronage system existed today! It might help composers to stay employed rather than struggling in freelance.

Becca Spurrell said...

It's overwhelming to think of all the uses of music in our everyday lives, sometimes without us even knowing it. When we are on the phone with a large company and put on hold, there is music in the background. When we ride the elevator, walk into a store at a mall, go to a fair or amusement park. Many people play music while they shower, drive to work, etc. This is all on top of the events you listed like weddings, funerals, or normal church services. I personally listen to music almost constantly, even while I'm writing this blog entry. It's hard to find me without my big headphones on! Music has just become such an enormous part of our everyday lives, it amazes me.

Because of this, musicians and composers can take advantage of the growing need for music and compose for specific things, just like you said. My uncle writes music and makes playlists for stores to play over their intercoms and gets a fair amount of money for them! There are just so many opportunities if we sit and think of all the ways music is a part of our lives!

Samantha Evans said...

Music touches our every day lives, and as technology advanced, music became more easily accessible and attainable. It is difficult to go through a whole day without any music. There’s the radio in the car, people have iPods and cell phones. Most stores and restaurants play music, even the airports and elevators play music. There is always a constant variety of different styles of music being played, and for that to continue, there is a need for composers. There is always a need for music to be composed for different events and situations. As mentioned above, there are weddings, funerals and church services, but there are also movie soundtracks, elevator music, popular music, jazz music, calming music etc.
People are always listening to music, be it on their phones or their iPods, even just listening to it in the car. With all the advances that technology has made and the advances that technology will make, music is ever prominent in our lives, and this is creating many different opportunities for composers!

Kassandra-Anne Demers said...

Being a versatile composer is definitely a great skill to have. Who knows what kind of commissions you may get. Having the capability to adapt your compositional voice to certain genres or for the purpose to mark a particular event can be helpful in the world of employment and more opportunities.

I find it interesting that you mention Shostakovich and his circumstances. I often wonder if his compositional voice would have been much different if he didn’t have these political boundaries.

Robert Humber said...

I totally love the idea that everything around us is music. I specifically remember a time that I realized this all at once and honestly, it was a pretty moving experience. It was a beautiful breezy day last summer and I was walking my dog on this nice woodsy trail at the end of my road. I began to notice the rhythms of the birds chirping, the natural crescendos of the breeze building into the leaves of the huge trees all around my house. There were occasionally far-off hums of transport trucks on the highway and somewhere, a block or two away, someone was nailing something with a hammer. I remember thinking that this was the most amazing, organic soundtrack there is, and I had waited until then to ever truly appreciate it.
I think that a lot of great pieces use some sort of musical element to create to recreate an organic sound that we hear in our day-to-day life, because, like I said, there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of chirping birds, a calm breeze or waves on a beach.

I think it's important to note that there are endless examples of pieces that very vividly represent a concept without actually imitating the sound (think Beethoven's 6th symphony, which is inspired by pastoral scenes). I Love this idea as well, but I'm not referring to it in this case.

Rachmaninoff's tone poem "The Isle of the Dead" was meant to represent an eerie painting of a man in a canoe floating toward a creepy island. The piece is in 5/4 to simulate the constant, gentle waves beneath the canoe. It works very well.

Countless composers have taken a liking to birdsong, notably Messiaen who orchestrated birdsong in often very rhythmically jarring and creepy ways. One of my favorite examples of imitation birdsong is found in the suite for Ravel's incredible ballet, Daphnis et Chloe. First of all, the opening depicts a sunrise perfectly, with the orchestral color hinting at yellows and oranges until it gradually crescendos into a blinding orange light, signifying the arrival of day. Throughout this sunrise, flutes (aka birds) begin to awaken and sing calls above the background. It helps to give the piece a full atmosphere, really set the scene of the beginning of a new day, as we've all woken up early to the sound of chirping birds in the rising sun.

I think overall it is very effective to listen to what's around you, whether it's nature or not. Just a few assignments ago, I had serious writer's block but my buddy Alex was doing rhythmic dictation right next to me and I noticed the monotonous single-pitch rhythms that he kept re-playing over and over and over. I decided to use that in my piece to represent discomfort and tension and it worked pretty well. I wouldn't have thought of that idea if I didn't take a step back and listen to what was going on around me, which just happened to be annoying rhythmic dictation.

I really enjoyed this blog entry and definitely think that listening more to everything can make you appreciate the beauty of simple sounds around you.

Pallas A said...

It is eerie to think about how our lives are almost over-saturated with music, especially "second-hand" music - music that we do not have a choice in listening to. As stated in the post, composers need to find their niche in this grand scheme and decide what music they would like to write, as well as what kind of music would they refuse to write. I think that any composer eventually needs to find a balance between their individual style or vision and the music that is in demand at the time, since the two might not be correlated. Music can be a tool and a weapon, and as creators, composers should be aware of how much power and influence they actually possess over their active audiences and their second-hand listeners. Also, I would like to add that though it should not be surprising that the government would want to use music to their advantage, I was shocked by one of the musical examples from The Government Sponsored Music Playlist. In my humble opinion, Elmo should not be used as a means to spread government propaganda in any form. "Elmo's got the Moves" was a catchy song when it came out a few years ago and it had a positive message for kids. But knowing now that the very repetitive and overly-autotuned song was funded by American tax payers leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Is it too much to ask that there be a separation between Muppets and state?

Erika Penney said...

Music is everywhere, and it is true that without composers this would not continue to happen. It is important for young composers to be around music so much because they need to absorb as much as they possibly can. Everyday sounds can inspire music, such as nature, the sound of the city, and much more! Composers are so beneficial because they create so much of the everyday music we listen to, and without music the world would be pretty depressing.

Peter Cho said...

The statement "music is everywhere" begs the counterstatement, "but are we actually listening?" I am very good at blocking out music, or perhaps a better way to put it is that I am very good at letting music become background noise. For instance, when I am working on an assignment on my computer I often listen to music. However, I don't really get much out of the music. In fact, afterwards I often find it hard to remember anything about the music other than that it helped me get the work done in what feels like a faster pace (whether or not it actually increases my productivity I cannot say for certain). So much music these days is essentially used in this fashion. Movie music in particular is a good example of this where there are cookie cutter sounds that relate to the emotions onscreen. I personally would find it very dissatisfying, maybe even shameful, to create a soundtrack that followed a "Hollywood formula." Where is the artistry in this kind of composition. Just because you are writing "background noise" doesn't mean it has to lack integrity. Perhaps this is a result of music being everywhere.

Duncan Stenhouse said...

Hey Dr. Ross,

I really enjoyed this post for a few different reasons. I think a lot of people who want to get into composition for a career have a stage where they think they can only write for a very specific sort of niche purpose (ei. movies or video games) not because thats ALL they want to do but because they may not know what other possibilities there could be for them out there. I think this post shows just how pervasive and extensive the compositional world really is and allows the reader to fully understand how saturated our world is with music. Music surrounds us every day in almost every part of life and every single song or piece we hear every day has a composer. By limiting ourselves by either wanting to compose for one medium or by not opening ourselves up to other mediums composers could easily miss fantastic opportunities for their careers. This post not only encourages people to think outside of their own little world and extend their creativity to other mediums but also teaches them what other opportunities are out there for them.

Joe Donaghey said...

Anytime someone asks me why I chose a degree in music and point out that ill never make any money I always ask them if they can think of a place where music doesn't exist. Anywhere you go there is music. Any film/video game has music. There are countless jobs involved with music you just need to go and find out how to get into that career.

In response to church music, i have always been curious what would have happened if the churches did not foster composition and performance of music for their services. Our catalog of classical music that we know now would probably be greatly diminished without that support. Without the ability to compose works I am sure there would not be a strong trail of influence that modern composers now have from previous composers.

I am sure someone out there has written on this matter but I cannot find any answers or even speculation into what classical music, or even popular music, would be now if it wasn't given a big a precedent a few hundred years ago within the churches.

Hannah Wadman-Scanlan said...

You’re so right– music is a huge part of our every day life in many aspects, and often we almost don’t even notice it. When you started to list all the places where one may unawarely experience music, I had a moment of self reflection and I realized that there are many parts of my daily routine where music is present, but where I almost take it for granted or don’t really acknowledge that it is there. For example, the example of music that is played over the phone while we are on hold, or even as we wait in an elevator– somebody had to write that! I believe music has become so integrated into everything we do, that we often forget that someone spent a great amount of effort creating it, and if it wasn’t there, we would surely notice its absence. Even though we may consider such a thing “background music”, and almost insignificant, music in that context also has a role to play, and we would without a doubt miss it if it was not present. I think it’s important to realize all these different contexts in which music is used that you have mentioned, because it opens up many more opportunities for music-making. Music is required for much of what we do throughout our everyday life, which means composers are needed to create a wide range of music.

Naomi Pinno said...

I love Pallas’ comment “it is eerie to think about how our lives are almost over-saturated with music”. This is so true, we are surrounded by music often the struggle is not to find inspiration, but to filter out everything else and focus on one style, genre, or piece. The good thing about such an abundance of music is there is somewhere for everyone’s music to fit in or relate to.
Many different kinds of music are important, wedding music, as you mentioned, radio music, soundtracks, etc., but music that elicits a reaction in its audience is special in its own way. The reaction can be positive or negative but music that is powerful enough to be banned by a nation (like Shostakovich’s opera you mentioned), or covered 1,000 times by amateur musicians effects the world in a way few other things can. Often this type of music is representing a feeling or thought that can not be expressed any other way, but clearly many people relate to this feeling or thought.