Judging by the unscientific evidence I’ve gathered in the field, it seems as if composers don’t make a huge effort to really listen to and study their peers’ music in depth. This seems kind of strange. I mean, of course they hear it, on "composers’ concerts" and "New Music New Haven" and other such Composers-Only events. But there’s only so much you can gauge on first hearing (and especially from the first playing).
I was wondering because I’ve been listening to my "Colleagues" iTunes playlist recently, which is where I put my generation’s music. I’ve got some newly-acquired Greenstein and Gorbos, two of my favorites, and I realized that I liked their music better than almost any other "contemporary" music. It’s worlds away from most of the pap that gets big commissions. And while it’s really cool that I can link to free MP3′s on their websites, I’d really like to be able to buy, say, an all-Gorbos CD in a store. (Naxos? You listening?) This guy has the right idea, but I still can’t stop in at Cutler’s and and walk out with Speaks Volumes.
What I guess I’m trying to say is that I hear something in the music of my peers that I don’t in that of their teachers. Composers have been espousing the idea of "eclecticism" for a couple of decades, but I think it’s taken until now for that to really sink into the music in a meaningful and coherent way. Even when Big John tries to do it, things like this come out (though, respeck). But a curious mind like Alex Temple somehow assimilates and synthesizes his influences, instead of just dumping them in a misbegotten salad. I mean, you don’t necessarily hear Pere Ubu in Grass Stem Behaviors, but ask Alex, it’s probably in their somewhere. Same thing with Steve’s Alleluia (hey hey hey) in which you can probably name about 30 different elements, all various and distinct, and they come together in this incredibly profound soup.
I’ve gleaned as much from listening to my friend’s pieces as I have from years of attending composers’ symposiums, and it’s one thing I’m hoping to continue to do whilst Graduate Schooling.
Speaking of which, someone tell Mark to update his website.