Thursday, 20 August 2015

Streaming royalties

Michael Price is a composer of television and film music and the chair of the New Media Executive Committee of the British Academy of Songwriters.  He is unhappy about the changes made by media companies in the way that composers are being paid for their music.

(The Independent)
Price said he was a supporter of licensed streaming services, but called for a new era of “transparency” in which tech giants and record companies disclose explicit details of the deals which set the rates on how much artists and songwriters receive. His comments follow the recent launches of the Amazon Prime Music and Apple Music streaming services, and come in the wake of claims by US musician David Byrne that record companies are siphoning off revenues from streaming and not paying royalties to artists and writers.
Price claimed that many of their employees didn’t recognise the value of music. “People working in these tech companies are often of a generation that has never paid for music in a conventional sense. They cannot understand that the value of their service is only because people want to listen to the music on it.”
Price pointed out that, unlike successful pop and rock artists, composers were usually not able to supplement their music royalties by selling tickets for live performances. “There was a concept that free exposure for artists was good for our career – that ship sailed quite a long time ago.”
He is chair of the media executive committee of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, which is campaigning for a 50-50 split of streaming royalties between the creator of a piece of music and the record companies. Songwriters currently receive only 10.5 per cent.
Price is looking forward to the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in London next weekend, featuring the score he wrote with fellow composer David Arnold, alongside other music connected to the detective.
But he fears quality music from less high-profile shows is being denied the chance to be recorded as an album because of low streaming rates

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Female composers and New Complexity.


This is a controversial one.  

I am reposting a discussion that Tim Rutherford-Johnson had with some of twitter followers about the lack of Female New Complexity composers. As far as I am concerned, there are two major issues here:

One is the lack of published female composers.

The other is the terminology "New Complexity" - what does it refer to and what does it mean?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Helmut Lachenmann

Helmut Lachenmann is relatively unknown outside of Germany.  Nevertheless, he is a figure who is growing in significance in modern music circles.  Despite his wide experience, his lack of broad appeal is, in my opinion, largely due to the individuality of his music.  He is not easy to categorise in an era which is dominated by trends and cliches.

A simple way of describing his music is... *"musique concrète instrumentale". The notion is the creation of a subtlety of transformation of timbre, a manipulation of a continuum from sound to noise, from pitched notes to pitchless textural exploration, and all that in the sphere of (mostly) purely instrumental music. That means that in Lachenmann's music, there's a world of sound that rivals and even surpasses what electronic and electro-acoustic composers can achieve.  -Guardian.

Essentially,  he is a acoustic composer writing electronic sounding music.  He is somewhere in-between the timbralist composers like Iannis Xenakis/James Dillon and the spectralist like Gerard Grisey/Trsitan Murail. But his compositional 'reason d'etre' is often hidden.  He is an individual, creating new sounds that amaze audiences.  Also, his scores are untouched by the 'new complexity' which means that his scores can be relatively simple.

His desire to separate himself from any categorisation is both a blessing and a stumbling block.  Although he is completely unique, he hasn't had the same recognition that the figures who are more relatable have acquired. His understanding of instrumentation is incredible. It is something that, for the uninitiated, is thoroughly recommended. 

*The phrase, "musique concrète", comes from Pierre Schaeffer, one of the pioneers of electro-acoustic music in the 1940s.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

What is Stockhausen's legacy?

Karlheinz Stockhausen is one of the most important composers of the post war era. He is partially responsible for the creation of the post war modernist music.   But what is his true legacy? Was he the leading composer in his field?

Did he invent the 'timbralist' idea of generating music from a single sound? Well, he did accomplish that concept with "Stimmung'' (Voice) which is completely designed around the single chord of a B flat ninth. But he wasn't the first.  Giacinto Scelsi wrote "Quatro pezzi per orchestre" which is based a single note per movement and that work was written in 1959.

Quatro pezzi per orchestre - Scelsi

I seriously doubt whether Stockhausen knew about Scelsi's achievement when he wrote Stimmung in 1977.

Perhaps one of his greatest works  is "Gruppen'' (Groups) composed for three orchestras. Did it change the way we use the orchestra?  He was a pioneer, especially in the early stages of his profession career as a composer; writing for larger orchestras that used unusual combinations. But unfortunately, as vast financial investments received diminishing returns, the use of the orchestra dwindled. Most of modern music is written for much smaller forces.

Did his electronic compositions change the way we think about music?  Stockhausen mixed music with real sounds. His 1956 "Gesang der Jünglinge'' (Song of the Youths) combined electronics with voices. "Kontakte'' (Contacts) of 1960 was one of the first compositions to mix live instruments with prerecorded material.  He was an electronic pioneer, using synthesizers long before other people were interested in them. Of course, the concept of electronic music did not begin with him.  Pierre Henri Marie Schaeffer must have had an enormous influence on Stockhausen's electronic output.

Pierre Henri Marie Schaeffer

Did the "Licht" series of operas 'out do' Wagner? Did they determine the future of opera?  I don't think so.  They are highly unique art-works and they are unlikely to be a platform of inspiration because of their individuality.  Some composers have tried to write longer works but I do not believe it will become the trend.

So what is Stockhausen's legacy?  Well, he is not always the first composer to initiate a new direction in modern music but he is the main figure in establishing most of the key trends.  What he achieved with modern music, Beethoven accomplished with the symphony -  set the highest standards for future composers.

Modern Orchestral Music

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