Classical trudges on. But why? Why has general society lost vital, passionate interest in something she used to love so much? The answer is simple. We all crave to be in the glorious middle of creation, and classical runs on yesterday’s fire. How can we allow this to go on! New York! So we’re rebuilding classical on LIVING composers – the ones who want more than anything in the world to connect with YOU and your friends.
There seems to be no place carved out for new mainstream composition – only for old mainstream composition (Mozart, Schubert, etc), and new fringe composition (people whose names most people don’t know). I’ve been obsessed with fixing this ever since I went to music school as a young composer and was told:
The composers who do love to write new mainstream music – they lack momentum as a community for some reason (or possibly a few). We want to help them. The Ear is all about reconnecting composers with the general public. Here’s how it works. Think ‘The Voice’ for classical composers. (If you know what poetry slams are, that’s even closer.) It’s so simple. Every show, we play ten short, new, classical pieces, and the audience votes by answering one question: do I want to hear it again? This question cuts through all the noise. Classical will reboot if enough composers write enough short pieces that the general public wants to hear again.
In May 2015, we put out a simple announcement of our project in composerland, hoping to attract kindred spirits. We didn’t know what the response would be. At the close the day, a few dozen had signed up. At the close of the next day, a hundred more joined in. One week later, 750 composers had signed up! We were blown away.
We presented our first concert a few months later on October 8, 2015. We faced our next cardiac stress – would anyone come? Yup. Our room held 140, and it was standing room only. Steinway gave us a free Model D for the evening. (As it was our maiden voyage, we considered smashing a bottle of champagne against it.) We presented nine short pieces, interspersed with comedy, interviews, tasty vignette lectures, and free refills of beer and wine. Our next fingers-crossed moment (understatement!) – would people want to hear ANY of our pieces again?! Out of nine, they encored…seven.
Best of all, in the chat time between pieces, people would lean over and share with each other the comments they wrote on the voting card. Well, that was expected. But what we didn’t expect, was that people WHO DIDN’T KNOW EACH OTHER would lean into these little groups that formed organically to share their thoughts. I thought, “Wow, strangers laughing and talking about art together. We might be onto something here.”
Our third concert (a few days before a certain election) marked the end of Phase One – Prove The Concept.
We are now in Phase Two – Scale Up. In the fall of 2018, we presented two big concerts at the DiMenna Center in New York City. We partnered with a brilliant string orchestra called Shattered Glass to present 18 more composers. Always experimenting, we opened our September show with a warm-up comedian that had most people laughing (and the others cringing), and introduced our panel of hilarious commentators. All this is designed to make everyone feel at ease, in a spirit of fun – a curious mix of high and low. Our philosophy goes something like this: our mission is so lofty (getting composition back on track), that we have to protect the atmosphere with shared laughter and humility.
Be sure to sign up for updates on what’s next! (…Crush Bach.)