Christina Loewen, Executive Director of Opera.ca, has a front row seat to the changes in the performing arts industry. As a member of Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance, she is a part of a conversation at a national level and across disciplinary boundaries about the realities of dwindling audience numbers, and the sustainability of the performing arts sector.
“What is a composer, today?”, an article by Curtis Perry recently published on Musical Toronto, gave rise to some lively debate on an issue that deserves some further thought. In the article, Perry acknowledges, “the apparent collapse of the publicly funded industry of commissioning and academia,” and asks that when composing, “is it inherently wrong to write music in order to please the crowd?” He also suggests that “the failure of the average composer of our time to be recognized by the average listener,” is a result of obedience to convention, and a desire for academic approval.
We’ve all read them. Social media posts expressing mundane annoyances of everyday public life. But as the American opera Bass Mr. Ruminski has just learned, publicly mocking a man with decorated nails on the bus during gay pride month in Ottawa doesn’t rate well on the scale of public annoyances. But bullying sure does. If fact, according to a poll on the 100 most annoying things, bullying ranks number 16 on the list.
I believe the question of what a composer is today rests on what basis a composer – a practitioner of sound-art – is capable of accurately reflecting our contemporary rituals and life experiences. With this in mind, I will share three examples of who I think is renewing the idea of the composer for the public, and leading a way forward for this particular kind of artistic profession to find better appreciation.
I try to listen to
the still, small voice within
but I can’t hear it
above the din
- from Little Audrey’s Story by Eliza Ward
But I can’t help but to wonder how he would have felt about music with words? More specifically opera and musical theatre? Surely he would have found this hybrid drama-music a salve to his musical neurosis?
Music sometimes yields a wide field of influence, and its discourse extends beyond the listening experience into film, literature, dance, personality, self-identification, and on-and-on. In fact, it’s hard to think of any idea that doesn’t have a parallel in musical discourse somewhere.
The Telegraph’s Rupert Christiansen writes, “she is dumpy of stature…” The Financial Times depicts her as “a chubby bundle of puppy-fat…” Richard Morrison in the Times quips “Unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing.” Michael Church at the Independent snorts “a dumpy girl.” The Guardian’s Andrew Clements designates Erraught as “stocky.”