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Meet the Composer

WQXR’s Meet the Composer podcast: the first six months

WQXR-FM’s Meet the Composer podcast is now around half a year old, and it has already become a wonderful resource. I just finished listening to the latest episode, focusing on the Brazilian composer Marcos Balter. “As a composer, [Balter] writes an almost unthinkable amount of music, and not all of it works,” observes MTC host and violist Nadia Sirota. “He gives himself the right to fail.”

“I’m always writing something,” Balter notes in an interview. “There’s not a moment when I don’t have a double bar in my life. . . . I allow myself a lot of room for failure, and I think that failure is a great thing. Failure sometimes teaches much much more than something that just works from the beginning.”

This humble truism should not obscure the fact that MTC succeeds—specifically in alerting me to the existence of exciting new classical music and the musicians who produce it. For example, I did not know that Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy was writing an opera on the Irish famine titled The Great Famine. The podcast has excerpts from the work-in-progress, and it is quite beautiful. Other composer profiles: Caroline Shaw, Andrew Norman, and John Luther Adams. I particularly recommend the “Frank Zappa as Gateway Drug,” episode.

Here is to MTC’s next six months—and well beyond. It is worth noting that SoundCloud has a lot of new music too, if you know where to look or who to look for. For example, Dennehy has a nice excerpt from another of his pieces over there, As An Nós. And Shaw has her own SoundCloud page too. The streaming service recently cut a deal with Warner to license music, which will presumably keep the lawyers from the door, at least for a little while longer.

On Friday, SoundCloud posted a blog entry pretty much comparing its existence to the removal of the Berlin Wall—the event’s 25th anniversary celebrated on Sunday. “SoundCloud celebrates the tearing down of walls anywhere, and audio everywhere,” the company titled its post. So are the big labels, like, the Stasi? Just asking.

Meanwhile the rest of the civilized world is debating Taylor Swift’s decision to withdraw her catalogue from Spotify, she complaining of declining album sales. Last week Adele’s manager Jonathan Dickens told her and everyone else to get real, streaming is the future, “whether people like it or not.” Swift’s stuff is still all over YouTube, Dickens noted, where artists often make even less.

Speaking of YouTube, some of its more eccentric Griots are posting commentaries on the Swift v. Spotify case. I particularly recommend Adam Rants’ rant on the subject, followed by this Zennie62 meditation, and Joe Garland, who produced his vlog on the subject while driving. For a more informed discussion, I suggest sticking around for this TheLipTV conversation.

It is unclear what impact Swift’s cry of pain from on high will actually have. Most musicians don’t enjoy the luxury of packing up their marbles and leaving. Down go old walls; up go new ones.

Our Monday InternetDJ post covers all subjects related to online radio, however you want to understand them (or however we understand them, for that matter).


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