One of my favorite things about music is simply trying to keep up. Trends in art, literature, and music (and pretty much everything else) move so fast these days that it can be tough to stay aware of what's going on out there. And after all, knowing what's up can be directly related to one's own relevance.
As any classical music student, performer, or enthusiast can attest it's hard enough to get thoroughly familiar with all the essential composers from centuries past and that list is pretty finite. What I mean is that they wrote music, they died, and now we study them; it's not like more are popping up every year and writing new jams we have to learn to play. However, in the case of new music, things are much more fluid.
Keeping abreast of what composers are doing right now is more like following bands. It's daunting since there's like, a million of them out there but aggregate music sites like Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan as well as reviews from festivals like Austin's South by Southwest can help one learn who exists, who's blowing up, and even just who has the most awesome band name. However, generating buzz and generating quality music are two very distinct things. In a perfect world they would go hand in hand but remember, there's a lot of noise out there...
[Editor's note: check out The Onion's hilarious annual compendium of band names, both excellent and bogus]
Which brings me to my Power Focus Topic© for the day and a real live example of quality work nabbing attention and critical acclaim: the Sleeping Giant Collective. This group of 5 New York based composers has been writing really great music and people have been taking note (you would do well to acquaint yourself with Ted Hearne's Katrina Ballads, just saying).
Next week they are putting on two concerts, one at the Yale School of Music and one at the evercool le poisson rouge. I played drums on the premiere of Robert Honstein's Why are you not answering? this summer while we were both fellows at the Bang on a Can festival. Robert and I go back to the University of Texas where we became masters by degree and played in a band together, so it was great to make music together again. Next week marks the 2nd and 3rd performances of his piece and this time I'll be joining some Yale students as well as bassist Lisa Dowling (aka Lil Miss Dolemite).
Here's more information on the shows from Facebook, and LPR.
And since you read all those words here's a video from Katrina Ballads in which Ted has set some of Barbara Bush's dubious and now infamous post-hurricane utterances to music. Really good music.
Ted Hearne - Katrina Ballads (Barbara Bush 9.5.05) from Satan's Pearl Horses on Vimeo.