Monday, April 13, 2009

Life in a Totally Unjust Musical World

Here is a really sad example of how unjust the musical world can be. And Nathan Kind Currier is not only an excellent composer, but he is one of the more successful composers working today. Perhaps the exposure given to him and his music through this lawsuit by way of the internet and the musical blogosphere will help recover the $70,000 he gave to the Brooklyn Philharmonic to perform his piece in New York.

I think it is criminal for a composer to have to pay to have his or her work performed, but it is even more criminal for a composer to have to pay and to have the piece stopped in mid performance because of fear of having to pay overtime.

There is something brutally wrong with this picture.

15 comments:

Lisa Hirsch said...

Another report on the situation says Currier was PAID $72,000 for the commission, not that he had to pay to get the piece performed.

Elaine Fine said...

Thanks Lisa. The Courthouse News Service report is upsetting in a totally different way.

Alex Roshuk said...

I am representing Mr. Currier in this litigation. The Courthouse News Service report is incorrect, it is Mr. Currier that agreed to pay the orchestra for performing his work; the Orchestra also agreed to assist in fundraising. The contract that he signed is attached to the complaint and can be read at the Kings County Supreme Court Clerk's office as a matter of public record (please contact me for more information). You can find out more information about the premiere at http://www.gaianvariations.com

Alex T. Roshuk, Attorney at law

T. said...

This is just awful. Awful, awful.

radiomovies said...

What a terrible story. One of the reasons I left the orchestral (playing) world well behind was the horrible mixture of the bad bits of capitalism and unionism in one of the groups I worked with.
I hope he makes the money back (sounds like he gave it to the wrong group...)
best

Philip

Lisa Hirsch said...

I emailed Mr. Roshuk asking for a copy of the complaint and contract, and I expect that after I've received it I might have a blog posting. But after looking at Allan Kozinn's review in the Times, I seriously wondered if calling further attention to the piece is the right way to go. I have not either seen it or heard the score, nor do I have a strong sense of Mr. Kozinn's taste in new music; I could calibrate the review better if it were by Anthony Tommasini or Steve Smith.

Elaine Fine said...

I don't believe reviewers who don't give information about the pieces they are reviewing. What made the music dreadful?

I feel an obligation as a reviewer to state exactly why I do not like a piece of music, especially when it is a piece of new music. An intelligent review of a premiere should give the people reading the sense of what the piece sounded like, how it was organized, what the instrumentation was like, what the orchestration was like, what the musical material was like, and how the performers played and sang.

What were the variations variations on? How did the text relate to the musical material? What "techniques" were used? Did it use minimalist techniques? Was it tonal? Was it atonal? What could have been possible musical influences.

I would not dismiss this piece because of a few sentences that an overworked and probably underpaid critic put in a piece of journalistic writing about a large number of concerts he attended during what seems to have been a busy week.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Kozinn is a full-time staff member of the Times and for that reason, he is probably one of the better-paid music critics in the country.

I take your points about what ought to be in a review; at the same time, his reportage implies that people the concert left in droves, to the point that very few remained at the end of the concert.

I am also not dismissing the piece. What I said is: I do not know this piece, but if I were the composer, I would hesitate to do anything that called attention to such a negative review. That is completely independent of the accuracy of the review.

Elaine Fine said...

Where did Kozinn imply that the audience left in droves? He began the review with a sentence about how small the audience was to begin with.

Perhaps the orchestra did not do what it should have done to promote the concert in the first place.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Uh....take another look at the review. The statement about a small audience is about a completely different concert, one that took place at Carnegie Hall ("It was disappointing to see so many empty seats at Carnegie Hall for an adventurous orchestra that deserves the support of the musically curious. But it's easy for the musically curious to be burned. A week earlier I spent a small eternity in Avery Fisher Hall...").

On the second page of the review, he says of the Gaian Variations concert "Mr. Rosenbaum turned, took a bow and led the soloists offstage, leaving the orchestra and the roughly 100 remaining listeners puzzled." Okay, he didn't say they left in droves, but he certainly implies a diminishing audience.

Lisa Hirsch said...

P. S. Orchestral promotion: the Brooklyn Philharmonic was not the sponsoring organization for the concert. See the Gaian Variations web site.

Maria Ljungdahl said...

Interesting story... There is a clip from the Gaia piece (played by another orchestra) on the composer's home page, so it's possible to get an idea about the style and quality of the composition.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That's here; click Samples and scroll down.

Lisa Hirsch said...

P. S. The clip is about three and a half minutes of the 125 minute piece.

Elaine Fine said...

Thanks for the mention of the clip Lisa and Maria! I find it quite beautiful, and would certainly be interested in hearing more of the piece.