This week, I will be offering my observations from the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute 2007. My name is Andrew Nogal, and I've recently moved to the Twin Cities from my hometown, Chicago. I currently work as an intern for Performance Today at Minnesota Public Radio | American Public Media. I also serve as the program assistant for the American Composers Forum.
I am an oboist with a special interest in contemporary music; I perform regularly with Dal Niente, a Chicago-based new music ensemble. My collaborations with composers have introduced me to the particular challenges of their art: consistently producing works that demonstrate imagination and integrity while simultaneously making themselves marketable.
Seven young composers from across the United States have been brought to the Institute to have their works analyzed, rehearsed, and performed by the Minnesota Orchestra. The formal seminars of the Composer Institute began on Sunday afternoon at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, where my colleagues John Nuechterlein and Craig Carnahan introduced the participants to the financial and collaborative opportunities that the American Composers Forum can make available to them. Today's composers are keenly aware that they must not simply find audiences for their music -- they must in fact create audiences, sometimes in pockets of the community that the standard, traditional cultural institutions may not reach.
The participants are curious to explore the possibilities of cross-diciplinary performance, which can integrate music, dance, film, and other visual art in richly enveloping, three-dimensional interactions. An individual sitting in the audience, after all, might walk into a concert hall having just completed a bus ride across the city (a complex visual experience) during which he read a book, chatted on a cell phone, and watched videos or listened to music on an iPod. If today's listeners are bombarded with sensory information, they nonetheless cultivate refined and also eclectic tastes.
The participants in the Composer Institute seemed to understand that their music must compete for the attention of the people meant to hear it; they want to engage kids in challenging music from an early age, to educate them in the act of close listening. They are also aware that their music can -- perhaps "must" -- address, respond to, and integrate the influences of other cultures, other arts, other technologies. As John Nuechterlein aptly stated in his presentation, "there's a lot going on in New York, in the club scene, in jazz. We have to be able to evaluate what's going on across genres and different methods of composing."
I look forward to a week of presentations that will examine the role of the contemporary composer within a broader context of culture and art production. That the Composer Institute started with such an exhaustive, insightful consideration of these concepts gives me great hope for where this week (and the future, generally) will take us. I hope you will join me!