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Embracing What's New

Updated: Jun 20

Embracing What’s New


In one week, I’ll have the pleasure of performing with the Oregon chapter of NACUSA again. NACUSA stands for National Association of Composers USA, and as the name implies, it’s a national network of composers creating new music. The upcoming program is dedicated to the memory of Barry Ulrich, a beloved member who passed away in March of this year. Barry's music has a special place in my heart because he was a flutist, and he wrote beautifully for the instrument. We'll be performing his Trio for flute, clarinet, and piano, among many other works by other composers

.I know the term “new music” has the potential to send some people into a state of dread. I know this, because I used to be one of them. I would cringe at some of the pieces I’d have to learn as a young flutist; pieces that made no sense to my limited understanding; pieces that sounded like noise to my traditionalist frame of reference; pieces that stretched my technique far beyond my comfort zone. And yet, I always participated in these daring ventures, partly because I believed the challenge would be good for me (it was), and more to the point, because in those early days, I was not about to turn down a paid gig.

What I discovered along the way was that some of this hot-off-the-press music was enjoyable, moving, and dare I admit it, even beautiful. By throwing myself into the process of learning something outside the traditional canon in which I had been raised and which I so dearly loved, I gradually developed an appreciation for this modern language of reimagined notes and rhythms.

There’s a daily segment on Jefferson Public Radio that I always enjoy called Composer’s Datebook. It’s an award-winning program about that particular day in classical music history hosted by Minnesota Public Radio announcer John Birge. The tag line is Reminding you that all music was once new™.

How many pieces now considered masterworks raised more than a few eyebrows when they were new? What if they had slipped into oblivion right then and there? Imagine if Bizet’s Carmen, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, or Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had not survived the initial storm of bad press?

Which all brings me realize to how fortunate we are to have a group of composers writing new music here in our beautiful Rogue Valley. This upcoming concert will feature works that are enjoyable, moving, and yes, even beautiful. Perhaps one of them will end up on a program of masterworks in years to come.

If you join us, you can say you were there at the very beginning.

Trademark ® Minnesota Public Radio

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