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Is the free dissemination of music on the Web ultimately helpful or harmful to the economics of new music? Amy Scurria, Composer

Amy Scurria
Amy Scurria
Photo by Phyllis Berger

mp3 – A Young Composer’s Perspective

Every young professional must at some point give more than they gain in return. Whether it be a beginning salary or a starting position, and all young professionals step out into the work force with the promise of growth and increased success. As a composer, I view mp3 as just another tool to be used for marketing and exposure. For the first time in history, we have the capability to provide sound bytes for listeners around the world. To me, it’s absolutely and undeniably exciting!!

I’ve had some fellow composers question my choice to upload my music to mp3 with the fears that somehow I am giving my music away for free. But, to some degree, you have to do some of that when you are first beginning. Would I be better off with my pieces sitting in my apartment with me gathering dust? Of course, I wouldn’t! Music is meant to be LISTENED TO and that is the very reason that I write. I believe that I have something worth saying and hope that somehow the sounds that I produce will be a gift. With a wonderful publisher (Theodore Presser), an active composing life, and an increased opportunity to be heard, there is certainly a hope for future return. If I were on a major label at this point, I would probably not see any more money from the CD sales as I do from mp3.com. What I would see would be increased exposure and opportunity, which is exactly what mp3.com provides for me. A composer makes money primarily from performances and commissions. So far, having my music on the web has lead to an increase in both of those areas. The music that I have on mp3.com is NOT the last music that the world will hear from me. In fact, it is only my beginning. Will I be on mp3.com forever? I hope not. I quite honestly prefer hearing my works in the concert hall. But for now, it’s a great tool to gain further exposure.

My passion, my love, my world, my everything has been to write music. Since my earliest memory at three years old, I have loved and lived for music. I have prayed and prayed and prayed my whole life for the chance to have people listen to what I create and what I will create in the future. Suddenly they are, and are able to listen! Why in heaven would I hinder that? Surviving in the world of music is difficult, yes, but it is an exciting journey!! I will always compose with my pen, paper, and piano: nothing new. But to ignore the possibilities that today’s technology can provide, I simply cannot!

What is the best possible way for someone to be introduced to your music?

Miguel Del Aguila
“The best way to introduce my music to listeners is ideally in a concert hall, well rehearsed, well performed and to a discriminating audience..”
Benjamin Lees
“…I suppose the best way of becoming acquainted is to have a score at hand while following the recorded piece…”
Augusta Read Thomas
“The best possible way for someone to be introduced to any music is to follow a work from start to finish…”
George Walker
“…The concert hall experience is one that I heartily support because of its unique ambience…”

Sensing Music: Hearing, Listening, and Not-So-Deep Listening

Frank J. Oteri
Frank J. Oteri
Photo by Melissa Richard

Despite the fact that we have five distinct senses, human society relies mostly on visual stimuli. So much so that the only art form to develop from one of the other senses is music, and even the development of music in industrialized and later technologically-developed societies has been the result of sight-based phenomena: music notation, conductors, etc. Even our language betrays a visual bias when we talk about music, e.g. “I saw a great concert last night.” For that matter, everything else: “I’ll see you next week” also implies “I’ll hear you next week.”

Part of the reason for the dominance of sight is that until the 20th century, it was only possible to archive and preserve the visual aspects of objects. We have paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts dating back centuries but we really don’t have any contemporaneous music, just some visual directions explaining what that music should be. For this reason, we will never really know the exact performance practice of music before the 20th century despite the tireless efforts of musicologists. The ability to record and store sound, developed at the dawn of the 20th century, has forever tipped the scales a little bit toward aural expression. And the recent development of the digital transmission of aural files over the Internet at the dawn of the 21st century will probably tip the scales a little bit more…

But listening is still a woefully underdeveloped sense compared to sight. (Taste, smell and touch, of course, lag even further behind among human beings but that’s another whole discussion.) And the extent to which someone’s listening abilities are developed has a great impact on the music he or she chooses and enjoys. Someone with more developed listening skills might favor music of longer durations or music with a more complicated structural design, perhaps music with a wider melodic and/or harmonic palette. Someone with less developed listening skills might never be fully listening to music. This is not a value judgment, because everyone (except, sadly, people who are hearing impaired) has a great capacity to listen.

For the December 2000 issue of NewMusicBox, we have chosen to examine listening from a variety of perspectives. I spoke with Pauline Oliveros, who has spent her entire career integrating the realms of composing, performing and listening. She explained the differences between hearing and listening, and described her theory of Deep Listening, which allows for background sonic stimuli to become part of a more inclusive foreground. It has been six years since the publication of Joseph Lanza’s book, Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak™, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, a volume which forever changed the way I think about music. To counterbalance Deep Listening, I asked Lanza to write about not-so-deep listening. Lanza decries the disappearance of Muzak™ from supermarkets and questions the distinctions of background and foreground listening. Since nowadays there are so many different avenues by which listeners might first encounter new music, we asked Miguel del Aguila, Benjamin Lees, Augusta Read Thomas, and George Walker to suggest the ideal way for audiences to listen to their music. We ask you to comment on your own listening habits. Do you listen to live music or recorded music more frequently? How much music do you listen to on a regular basis? What other activities are you engaged in while you’re listening?

Whatever Happened To Supermarket Music?



Joseph Lanza

Whatever happened to supermarket music? There was a time – not very long ago – when one could stroll through the aisles of an A&P or a Safeway while violins, pianos, guitars, harps and trumpets played soft instrumental versions of old standards and current hits. These ceiling serenades offered the musical equivalent to a parallel world, a temporary reprieve from the ordinary fare that people tend to enjoy at home or in their cars.

Unfortunately, most supermarkets and other venues have replaced the ghostly orchestras with an original artists goulash — usually apportioned at a higher volume, in a haphazard sequence, and with little to no regard for the logic of the landscape. Shopping at an A&P in Hoboken, New Jersey, I was amazed to hear Bobby Vinton‘s unabashedly sentimental “Take Good Care Of My Baby” immediately followed by the gritty hard rock of “Dirty Water” by The Standells. A restaurant like Denny’s, which caters to a very heterogeneous clientele ranging from ages 8 to 80, is now likely to emit oldies by Stevie Wonder and The Eagles, a regimen that threatens to alienate both seniors and youngsters not hep to baby-boomer nostalgia.

This “foreground music” trend could very well be more about economics than changing musical aesthetics. Since the mid-1980s, Muzak™, once the giant of background tunes, has increasingly distanced itself from its elevator music history. The company once hired full orchestras to reinterpret favorite songs, but with mounting musicians’ union levies, the process has proven too expensive. As a result, Muzak and other background music providers have opted for private record label agreements, enticing clients with foreground choices that supposedly reinforce a chosen business image and consequently have a more aggressive environmental impact.

This a la carte approach, which Muzak publicists like to refer to as “audio architecture,” may not be quite what Erik Satie had in mind when he set the groundwork for Muzak in 1920 with his intentionally nondescript “Furniture Music.” He threw a notorious fit when he played it for gallery patrons who responded with undivided attention. He jumped into the throng and pleaded with them to continue carousing and NOT listen! Echoing Satie’s concerns, the Muzak Corporation once summarized the effect its product was supposed to have on its target public by touting the slogan: “Music to be heard but not listened to.” This was probably a terrible miscalculation since it validated the assumption that such background music is somehow inferior. It also fed into the misguided notion that there are “tasteful” alternatives to the standard supermarket brand.

Anti-Muzak naysayers used to complain about background music being too “manipulative,” but with foreground music, the manipulation seems much more insidious. Walking into a Rite Aid and pelted by variations on hip-hop, I feel subjected not only to the whims of the store manager but also to a clutching fashion apparatus that never lets go. Whereas the older “elevator music” functioned as sonic air-conditioning, the newfangled alternative can be likened to designer scents pushed through a ventilation system. Unlike Starbucks, which sells CDs of the same “smooth jazz” it pumps through overhead speakers, supermarkets never showcased the anonymous Muzak ensembles that orchestrated the journey from the corridors of consumption to the cashier. The tunes were there just to aid a buying mood and not sell themselves.

This effort to add “prestige” and “personality” to the shopping routine proves that elevator music’s detractors do not object to the idea of manipulating people through music – just so long as it is their kind of music and not what they might uncharitably designate as “schmaltz“. Brian Eno, among the more prominent of these “alternative” soundscapers, has been quick to claim that his “ambient” approach is a vast improvement over the old Muzak. Still, there is that hilarious anecdote from the early eighties about patrons at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport who got so creeped-out over Eno’s Music For Airports that the regular background music had to be restored.

While doing research for my book Elevator Music, I was inspired by the wise words of a (now former) Muzak programmer. According to him: “When musicians are left to themselves to make art for the sake of art, not considering public taste, demographics or psychology, they will put together something that won’t please everyone… My task is to amalgamate tastes. Imagine trying to please 80 or 90 million different viewpoints of the way things should be.”

There is something civically – even aesthetically – right about generic music complementing generic environments. This is among few examples when a one-size-fits-all policy makes sense. When entering a public sphere like a supermarket or a mall, shoppers are entitled to an aural escape, a sound mark to delineate the safe shopping environment from the more cacophonous and unwieldy world outside. If air-conditioning is therapeutic air for soot-infested cities, then supermarket music is therapeutic music for a world of conflicting musical attitudes and noises.

By complementing an original version of a song, the supermarket version provides an audio depth of field, an appropriately vague contour for the transient surroundings. The originals are too specific, carry too much baggage, and make for a much more flattened audio perspective. One could argue that the current use of original artist songs in supermarkets has the same distracting and demystifying effect that the compilation soundtrack has on many of the newer movies. What better way to ruin a story than to slobber a bunch of pop tracks over a film’s narrative and closing credits! And all to justify a CD release that can be called a “soundtrack” in only the loosest sense.

Oddly enough, the only respite from this chronic waking life is in the recent spate of retro commercials that resurrect supermarket music as a popular mythology. There is the mild cha-cha that plays w
hile shoppers browse for “Pork: The Other White Meat,” or the sweet elevator strains soon drowned out when two slackers engage in a Doritos crunching contest. And all those naysayers who once complained about supermarkets full of “syrupy” strings can only declare a Pyrrhic victory. They must now contend with a soundscape that is much louder and much more cloying. When the elevator music gets turned off, the hype really begins.

The Gift of Songs? (Napster)

A few years ago, my friend Ari Vahan asked me to compose two songs on poems she had written in her native Gwich’in (Northern Athabascan) dialect. Ari used these songs at a summer camp to teach young Athabascan children a little of the language of their ancestors.

The following winter Ari traveled out to Bethel, in Yup’ik (Bering Sea Inuit) country. While she was there, she sang one of the songs. A woman who heard her asked Ari for permission to translate the text into Yup’ik and to sing the song at the Naming Ceremony for her daughter. Not long after this, Ari was in Anaktuvuk Pass where someone asked for permission to sing the song in the local dialect of the Nunamiut, the Inuit people of the Brooks Range.

Since then, this little song has been shared with people in other villages throughout Alaska. This has been profoundly gratifying to me. One of a composer’s greatest aspirations is that someone else will make the music their own, that the song will have a life of its own.

In the Native cultures of Alaska, no individual owns land. The land belongs to everyone, and to no one. Songs, however, are somewhat different. Songs are made to be shared. They are gifts.

But the gift of a song can only be given by the person who made it, or by someone to whom the composer has explicitly “given” the song. No one from a traditional Native culture would dream of using a song without asking for and receiving permission. This is a practice of fundamental courtesy and respect, in recognition of the mutual rights and responsibilities of the composer and the community.

The world in which most Western composers live and work today is driven more by commerce than community.

In our mass-market capitalist society, what responsibilities do “consumers” have to the people who create the music that they use? In the new economy of the Internet, what rights should composers have to receive compensation for our work?

Is music a commodity? Is it a gift? Can it somehow be both?

How do we honor both the life of the song and the labor of the person who created it?

NewMusicBox to Begin Concert Streaming in Late November


Photo by Melissa Richard

Beginning on November 22, 2000, the New York State Council on the Arts, in partnership with the American Music Center, will begin Webcasting concerts on NewMusicBox. The concerts will be broadcast from a variety of locations throughout New York. Each concert will be featured on NewMusicBox for one month, and will subsequently be archived on the site.

The first concert will be a Copland Centennial celebration, performed on November 15 at the Copland House in Peekskill by its resident ensemble, Music from the Copland House. The Webcast will likely include, in addition to the concert itself, a tour of the house. Program notes for the concert and biographies of the performers will be provided online, as well as links to relevant websites.

The next broadcast will be a taped performance of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in December. On January 26, 2001, NewMusicBox will feature the first “live-as-it-happens” broadcast, from Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, of a concert by Composers Concordance featuring works of Ornette Coleman and Sebastian Currier. In March, NewMusicBox will broadcast a concert of SCI composers at Syracuse Unversity and a concert by the Musica Nova ensemble at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Another broadcast from Eastman will take place in May. Rounding out the season will be Webcasts from the Copland House of the three Composer’s Hour lecture-performances scheduled for the spring.

James Jordan, NYSCA’s Music Program Director, is equally pleased to be collaborating with the AMC on the Webcasts. “This project will expose groups from throughout the state to a larger audience, allowing their music to be heard, providing them with more job opportunities. That kind of exposure is invaluable to the groups that we support.” Jordan is pleased with the cutting-edge nature of the project. “New technology is here to stay, it’s the wave of the future and we want to give it the kind of impetus the State Council could offer. It is important to us to be able to support this kind of initiative.”

Richard Kessler, Executive Director of the American Music Center, is excited to be partnering once again with the New York State Council on the Arts, this time “to Webcast concerts of new American music all across the Internet.” Kessler believes that “making concerts available on the Web, to a larger audience than ever before possible, will help to support and promote the work of composers and performers of new American music in new and important ways.”

ASCAP Launches "Junior ASCAP Members (J.A.M.)" Program

ASCAP J.A.M.
Photo by Melinda Wilson

The American Society of Composer, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has introduced the Junior ASCAP Members or J.A.M. Created to support and nurture the talents of high school music students, ASCAP J.A.M. hopes to educate them, as well, on the value of music and the importance of intellectual property rights.

Phil Crosland, ASCAP’s Vice President of Marketing, explained the motivation for the creation of J.A.M. “We are watching a generation grow up with a total disregard for the ownership of music, a growing disregard for copyright and for intellectual property, [and instead sporting an attitude] that everything on the Internet should be free.” Crosland feels that the debate over Napster and similar tools tend focus only on the artists, leaving “the creators of music, those who put pen or pencil to paper…totally left out of [the] conversation.” ASCAP wants to use jam to “create a platform to share the [idea] that the value of music is only going to be perpetuated if there is fair compensation for those who create it.”

ASCAP has partnered with MENC to launch the program, initially opening it up to MENC’s Tri-M Music Honor Society members. The Tri-M Music Honor Society is an international music honor society for secondary school students (middle/junior high and high school) that motivates and recognizes musical achievement. Tri-M has about 15,000 members nationwide.

“[The program] supports both organizations and both missions,” stated Michael Blakeslee, the Executive Director for Programs at MENC. “Both ASCAP and MENC are concerned with uses of copyright, [and] the legal and moral issues [surrounding] intellectual property.” Blakeslee is pleased that MENC will be able to reach kids with the ASCAP’s information on intellectual property.

As a component of the partnership, ASCAP and MENC will be creating several new programs to bring composers and music students together, such as student composer competitions, commissioning programs, master classes and more. Such projects may take the form of master classes at the MENC National Convention, and efforts by MENC to make the ASCAP Foundation/Morton Gould Young Composer Award more accessible to students not yet in college. Blakeslee hopes to use such projects to “make kids feel like they are part of the professional community,” with the hope that they will assume the responsibilities that being part of that community entails. MENC is also working with ASCAP to design specific activities for Tri-M chapters. Currently, each Tri-M chapter creates its own curriculum, generally a mixture of music- and non-music related community service projects.

Hollywood composer James Newton Howard has agreed to be the J.A.M. Program’s Honorary Chairman. Howard recently received ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Award for lifetime achievement and has over 65 films to his credit including The Sixth Sense, Dinosaur, Runaway Bride, and Snow Falling on Cedars. Howard officially launched the program by presenting students in a Tri-M chapter in Los Angeles with their J.A.M. Member Cards. Howard and the students performed for each other and he led a question-and-answer session with them about what it is like to be a professional composer.

Through a new website, www.ascap.com/jam, J.A.M. members may read articles on music and music business topics such as songwriting, publishing, and copyrights. The J.A.M. site also features interviews with successful songwriters and composers. “We want to make the site entertaining [and provide] insider information in a way that is relevant to teenagers,” Crosland commented. The ASCAP J.A.M. site will soon feature with Alf Clausen, who writes music for The Simpsons.

J.A.M. members also get discounts on membership and merchandise at TSR Wireless, the Museum of Television and Radio in New York, 360merch, Inc., J&R Music World/Computer World, Movie Club, and Blockbuster Videos.

Crosland wants to reach kids because he sees them as the “music influentials” who will “grow up to be ASCAP members or users of ASCAP.” For the coming year, the program will be limited to Tri-M members. Blakeslee hopes that if students want to become ASCAP J.A.M. members attend a school where there is no Tri-M chapter, their teachers will use this as a motivation to start one. However, he stressed that they “don’t want to limit anything,” and that after this initial year “there are no particular restrictions [in place].”

FastTrack elects officers and establishes Paris headquarters

In July, 2000, the Chief Executive Officers of five leading copyright organizations agreed to a new partnership called FastTrack. Together, these five organizations represent approximately 38 percent of the global collections for musical works, or more than $1.6 billion USD annually.

In September, the FastTrack Board of Directors, meeting in Santiago prior to the opening of the CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) 2000 World Congress, elected SIAE (Italy) Special Commissioner Professor Mauro Masi as its first Chairman, and approved the creation of a headquarters office in Paris. The Board also approved the organizations’ statutes, budget and development timetable, and set January 1, 2001 as the date on which the new entity would formally be established.

The Board also elected BMI (US) President & CEO Frances W. Preston as Vice Chairman. Board members are the chief executives of the five founding societies. In addition to Masi and Preston they are: GEMA (Germany) President and General Manager Prof. Dr. Reinhold Kreile, SACEM (France) President Jean Loup Tournier, and SGAE (Spain) Chief Executive Officer Eduardo Bautista.

The Board has hired experienced music copyright executive Chris van Houten to direct the new headquarters. Van Houten brings to FastTrack a widely regarded expertise in business process redesign. Most recently, he was acting COO of BUMA/STEMRA, the Dutch mechanical and performing rights organization. He served for six years as Managing Director of EMI Music Publishing‘s Benelux operation, and prior to that, as an executive with the Dutch record company Dureco. Both at EMI and Dureco, he designed and introduced new copyright and royalty systems.

Robbin Ahrold, Vice President of Corporate Relations at BMI, feels that classical and jazz composers stand to benefit greatly from FastTrack’s initiatives, partly because so much of their music is performed in Europe. “Classical and jazz composers are perhaps the best example of creators whose works are used in a globalized music business,” Ahrold commented in an interview. “FastTrack is developing tools that will specifically add a higher level of service, greater accuracy at lower cost for works that are used in the international music market.”

The FastTrack development timetable calls for the deployment of three “core projects” within the next two years. These initiatives will address international documentation and distribution, online services for members and customers, and the development of a globally integrated Electronic Copyright Management System. The timeline for the completion of all three projects is sometime between April 2002 and October 2003.

FastTrack’s plan for an improved documentation and distribution should be implemented in the next 6 to 9 months. The hope is that by connecting the databases of the five member societies, efficiency and accuracy will improve, translating into more time and money for composers in all five countries. “BMI will be able to bring the cost of their operations down by trapping the tremendous efficiencies of the Internet,” Ahrold remarked. He explained that the improved documentation and distribution system will allow BMI to cut down on the time previously spent “exchanging paper, with all the key-punching and error-checking that goes into paper documents.”

Take the case of John Williams, for instance. John Williams of Star Wars fame is one of BMI’s most active composers. “John, however, has a name that is not the most unique in the world,” Ahrold laughed. There is any number of composers named “John Williams” whose music gets played in Europe. The new system will be able to differentiate automatically between the “real” John Williams and the others, eliminating the manual checking that is currently necessary.

The second “core project,” online services for members and customers, has already been addressed by BMI. In April 2000, they introduced a service whereby members can register their works directly online. The FastTrack initiative will mean that when composers enter their information into the BMI system, it will automatically be entered into the systems of the four other member organizations. “You can see the obvious advantages in accuracy,” Ahrold commented. “No one knows the information about the piece better than the composer himself.” He also noted the other immediate advantage of such a system was speed. “[The composer registers a piece] on Tuesday afternoon, and it’s in the databases on Wednesday.”

The third project, the development of a global Electronic Copyright Management System, is “largely aimed at the identification of works performed in the electronic media,” according to Ahrold. This includes music played on the internet, cable, digital, and satellite TV and radio. The five societies are looking for a common method to “watermark” or “fingerprint” musical works. Ahrold hopes that this system, once established, will become a “de facto standard” for the industry.

“Taking the internet as an example, what you see is a tremendous expansion in the number of works that can be performed,” Ahrold explained. “There are hundreds of radio stations streaming out their signals [over the internet], hundreds more delivering by satellite radio.” With the increase in the number of performances, the old system of reporting can no longer keep up. Up to now, according to Ahrold, BMI has relied on written correspondence with listeners and programmers to keep track of many performances. Now, the FastTrack organizations are creating a program that, through the detection of these digital “watermarks,” will automatically detect the performances of registered works.

Each of the projects, the partners emphasize, relies on the Internet to connect existing computing resources among the five societies. Likewise, task forces for the development and implementation of the projects will be drawn from the societies’ existing staff.

FastTrack is committed to integrating the tools developed as part of the Common Information System (CIS) project managed by CISAC. Ahrold characterizes BMI as one of the “consistent leaders” in the project since its inception in 1994. Executives of the five FastTrack organizations first started working together in 1999 to develop a “ProtoNet” tool for CISAC that would allow member societies to “look into each other’s databases without exchanging paper, emails, or calling.” Ahrold claims that “in the process of developing ProtoNet, we got into the kind of technical discoveries about each other’s systems” that led to the realization that they were capable of achieving much more far-reaching objectives. Once the ProtoNet project was finished at the end of 1999, staff members from all five organizations were formed into task forces that have been working on all three “core projects” ever since.

Ahrold explained: “the nature of CISAC is that it must embrace all of its societies, and the tools that it develops must be usable by the majority of its societies.” The name ‘FastTrack’ alludes to the capabilities of these five societies, with their “state of the art computer systems,” to take some of the goals of CIS and move more quickly than is possible for CISAC as a whole. According to Ahrold, once the five FastTrack societies have a “core set of digital tools up and running,” they will welcome others into the group.

Philadelphia Audience Picks Centennial Competition Winner

Kevin Beavers
Kevin Beavers
Photo by Lorin Burgess

At the intermission of the October 5th Philadelphia Orchestra concert, after hearing three recent compositions by young American men, audience members completed ballots to help choose the winning work in the Orchestra’s Centennial Composition Competition. The winning piece, Sinfonia by Kevin Beavers, was performed again in Philadelphia on October 6 and 7 and was given its New York debut on October 10, as part of the Orchestra’s first appearance at Carnegie Hall during the 2000-01 season.

The three pieces performed on October 5th under Music Director Wolfgang Sawallisch‘s direction were: Totem by Keith Fitch (written in 1993), Three Pieces for Orchestra by Huang Ruo (two sections were written 1998, with the final section added early this year), and Sinfonia (1997) by Kevin Beavers.

Philip Blackburn, Program Director of the American Composer’s Forum, attended the October 5th concert. “It was a remarkable occasion,” he commented in an interview. “The Academy of Music [made for] a wonderful setting for the three young composers who had come so far.” Blackburn reviewed the three hundred tapes that were submitted to the Forum for pre-selection by a panel that included Aaron Jay Kernis and Libby Larsen. “I really appreciated what it took to get to this place,” he added. Blackburn described the atmosphere in the dress rehearsal as “supportive,” noting that Sawallisch was “extremely well-prepared.”

According to Blackburn, approximately eighty people turned up for the pre-concert discussion with the composers. “People were eager to ask questions,” Blackburn explained. “[The composers] came across as very personable.”

The October 5th concert was the first Orchestra subscription concert, and judging by the number of ballots received, there were around sixteen hundred people in the audience. Blackburn noted that the audience gave the new works “rapt attention.” He feels that this was partly because, in addition to checking a box for their favorite piece, they were also asked to give comments. “[Asking the audience to] actually give constructive feedback [got them] thoroughly engaged,” Blackburn remarked. He witnessed audience members discussing the pieces at intermission, which he sees as further evidence of their involvement, and by extension, the competition’s success.

Eligible voters included all attending audience members and the Orchestra musicians onstage. The results of the competition were “amazingly close,” Blackburn reports, with only 180 votes difference between the first- and third-place winners. He claims that when Simon Woods entered the ballot-counting room near the end of the second half, he was amazed to see that the stacks of ballots for each candidate were the same size.

Competition winner Kevin Beavers described the reaction to both Philadelphia concerts as “overwhelmingly positive.” Beavers observed with pleasure that Sawallisch was highlighting different aspects of the score than he had at the previous performances, and that he had developed a closer rapport with the players. On the question of whether the 76-year old German actually managed to “swing” in the last movement, he responded with an overwhelmingly positive “he was doing it, man!”

In addition to the performances in Philadelphia and New York, Mr. Beavers received a $10,000 cash prize for writing the winning work. The other two finalists received $2,500 each. All three were recognized by Philadelphia Orchestra Chairman Peter A. Benoliel during a brief presentation onstage at the conclusion of the October 5th concert.

Blackburn feels that the Competition was successful in “making living composers more visible” and in bringing some new music out of the “new music ghetto,” both of which are goals of the American Composer’s Forum. The collaboration between the Orchestra and the Forum was the brainchild of Artistic Administrator Simon Woods, who attended Cambridge with Blackburn and now serves on the Forum Board. Blackburn headed the administration of the competition, and also worked with Woods on refining the Orchestra’s selection criteria.

There are plans for the Orchestra to collaborate on a similar competition in 2003, this time including a live Web cast and online voting. Blackburn is pleased with the partnership, and hopes that other ensembles will consider using their organization to administer similar events in the future.