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Thursday, August 14, 2014

My adventures in business lead me to confront Maslow

One of the things that has surprised me during my Summer adventures as an entrepreneur is some of the vocabulary that gets used in the business community. In several of the lectures I've heard, and several of the books Jenn and I have read, Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" is regularly referenced.

At first I thought it was just another piece of the overly patriarchal culture that is the start-up community. I mean, we are all happy that Maslow started talking about the fact that people have other needs than just physical ones, but why is this old washed up theory still bouncing around the business community when it is a relic of the 1950s in the academy.

I well remember laughing about it as an undergrad. How wonderfully systematic Maslow is without really telling you much. I mean, for Maslow, you aren't allowed to start working on your relationships until you've filled in the bottom of the chart. He never really does tell us how much food you have to eat before you are allowed to fall in love, but no matter, the point is to work through the steps until you get to self-actualization. Of course, when you get there, it gets complicated too. All Maslow does is give a list of characteristics of people that are self-actualized, and then he says, "Well, just because you have the characteristics that are on the list, it doesn't guarantee that you are really self-actualized." I suppose ultimately, you would have to ask him if you were cool enough to be in the club.

Now the interesting thing is that the business folks are using it by saying something like, "People aren't just motivated by money, they need to have a sense of belonging and ultimately a sense of calling." I pushed the issue the other day in a discussion for a moment and later decompressed with Jenn.  Finally, I realized what is happening and why I keep seeing the Maslow chart so much.

The business people who keep referring to the chart have never actually read Maslow. They are using it as a reference point to give weight (and presumably some sort of academic cred) to their point that people are motivated by more than just money. Of course there is no empirical research to back up Maslow's theory, and when I was trying to explain something, someone said, "But, you don't have to wait to work on the meaningful parts of the triangle until you have finished working on the physical parts of the triangle." I said, "I agree, but that's not Maslow."

It's an interesting world. I spend my academic life in discussions where people are referencing thinkers and traditions in order to summarize large fields of thought quickly. When someone says Maslow, they mean Maslow. It is the great strength and weakness of the business world that the overarching pragmatism can mean creating a short hand without ever consulting the original source material.

Again, for all the textbooks that use the hierarchy of needs chart, I think they are well meaning but have picked the wrong theorist for their point. It's all good though. As for me, I'm going to keep eating so that I don't slip down the chart, fall out of love, and have to start all over again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Christopher Marks premieres Romance and Tarantella at the OHS convention

Chris Marks is one of the most thoughtful and expressive organists I have heard. He was also my very excellent organ teacher. I was super excited when he decided to commission a new work for his performance at the Organ Historical Society's convention in Syracuse, NY this week.

Romance and Tarantella is a fairly unified work in that both movements are based on the same little nugget of an idea. I think the Romance is a little bit Finzi and maybe a little 80s pop (though I can't exactly say where or why.)

The Toccata definitely was inspired by Nancarrow at the end. There is some Ginastera and some French spices thrown into the stew. Also, it's not really a Tarentella.

Chris plays them beautifully, and I'm so grateful to have such a gifted performer taking my work around for others to hear. Thanks, Chris.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Composer series | Andrea Ramsey

One of my favorite things that I keep experiencing as part of the new MusicSpoke project is meeting - even if it is only electronically - musicians that I didn't know before. I have written about this before, but we live in an astounding time when there are many people writing good music.

When I was searching for composers to include on the site, I wandered over to the Walton site because I have pieces with that company. I started browsing around and found a piece I really liked by Andrea Ramsey. I think we have a great responsibility to promote music written by women. More than at any time in history, we have music written by really fine, female composers. That's a voice that has for too long been absent from the historical conversation.

We always include them in "the survey", but it's as a sort of exception. That is, we say, "Here is the story, and, oh yeah, also, Hildegaard, and Fanny Mendelssohn, and Amy Beach." I'm certainly as guilty of this as anyone. The good news is that we don't have to tell the story of the 21st century in the same way. We have Andrea Ramsey, Dale Trumbore, and Christina Whitten Thomas already on our site. They aren't exceptions anymore. They are shaping our musical culture and language in the same way that our foremothers like Libby Larsen, Joan Tower, and Ellen Taaffe Zwillich helped to shape my musical thoughts.

So, go to Andrea's website. Listen to her music. Buy it. Commission her to write something for you. She is a wonderfully sensitive composer with a tender care for text and a commitment to a well crafted and expressive line. I'm in a religious mood, so I'll give you this example, but there is much more for you to explore. Keep the beautiful music coming, Andrea!

Friday, July 25, 2014

My super duper new bio for when you are discouraged

I've been meaning to do this for a while. I'm going to keep it and update it as new events occur. I'm encouraging everyone to follow suit.

Kurt Knecht’s music has been called “derivative” and “more academic than spiritual” by the Tampa Bay Times, and the Dallas Morning News wrote a major story on him for having the dirtiest car in the city. When applying for graduate schools, he was rejected by the University of Florida, the Peabody Conservatory, and Indiana University.  A long time educator, students have described his teaching style as “useless philosophical discussions” and “having few strengths”. One student also said that on multiple occasions throughout the semester that Dr. Knecht is in the habit of saying , “Look at me, I’m a genius” to his students.  As a performer, he has been yelled at by music and artistic directors from Broadway legend Anne Reinking to Smokey Robinson’s music director. As a conductor, he once led a community orchestra and university chorus in a performance of Holz’s Christmas Day in which the orchestra got so lost that he had to scream out a rehearsal number in the concert. He has also been rejected for employment by numerous organizations. He has been fired three times from music director positions at churches, and on more than one occasion he has heard the phrase, "Kurt Knecht, as long as I am on this earth, I will never enter a church again because of you." As a young musician, he was the first pianist to fail to win the Florida Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition for three years in a row.  At his undergraduate junior recital, each movement of his Bach Partita was described as “improvised” and “as if you were making up parts of each movement on the spot.” Often disheveled, he once received a bag of groceries from a church because they mistook him for a homeless man. He lives with his wife and their two dogs in Lincoln, NE.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My one post that explains all the problems in the whole world

If there is war in the world, it is because there is conflict in me.

If there is racism in the world, it is because there is hatred in me.

If there is political conflict in the world, it is because there are places in me that desire power over empathy.

If there is poverty in the world, it is because I am eating other people's food.

If there is a problem on the earth, it is because of a lack of love in Kurt Knecht.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Beethoven and his publishers

" as a music publisher more humane and educated as all other publishers should have the intention not to pay the artist a scanty remuneration but enable him to fully administrate the duties expected of him -". 

I've been reading up on the history of music publishing. In particular, I'm interested in the rise of the modern music publisher. So, I'm not talking about Petrucci's three impression method or the common practice of subscription based publication of the 18th century. Certainly a work like the Claivier-Übung was published and even internationally circulated in the Bach circle after his death, but that was not quite the same thing.

The first time I can find an example of a publisher selling music internationally - presumably at least partially to a rising middle class - is Artari's publication of Haydn String Quartets. That was the first international best seller in my reading thus far. Mozart tries and fails to become an independent composer, and not too many years later, Beethoven manages to succeed to some degree. Here is the amazing part. As his deafness increased, he made his money primarily from publishing companies.

At that point in history the composer regularly received more than a 50% cut for the original edition.(Compare the 8-10% composers receive today!) The company apparently made most of its money on subsequent editions. They had the added expense of hiring a specialist to engrave plates - real plates of copper (and later pewter) for printing.

One thing has remained consistent since music publishing became an international business. From the beginning, composers complain that the publishers aren't paying enough, and publishers complain that they aren't making enough. Here is a nice example taken from the Beethoven Haus in Bonn's website.

A few months later, Beethoven asked for 250 ducats for another grand collection of compositions (op. 74 to 86). When the publisher tried to talk him down to 200 ducats, Beethoven reacted with these words: "It is not my intention, as you believe, to become a profiteer in art, one who only composes to augment his riches, heaven forbid, but I enjoy an independent life and cannot be without a small fortune and so the composer's remuneration must honour the artist and all he undertakes. I shall not mention it to anyone that Breitkopf & Härtl gave me 200 ducats for these compositions, you as a music publisher more humane and educated as all other publishers should have the intention not to pay the artist a scanty remuneration but enable him to fully administrate the duties expected of him -". 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kile Smith and American Lyricism

As part of the MusicSpoke project, I've been continuing to trek down untrodden paths to find composers. One of the things that continues to astound me is how many people who are writing such wonderful music have never come to my attention before.

Kile is the perfect example. (Check out his website here.) He's done a million billion commissions, been reviewed all over the place, and just landed a sweet gig as composer in residence for the Helena Symphony. We had a chance to chat on the phone, and I instantly felt a lot of comeraderie.

What I suggest is going to his webpage and finding the sample player on the bottom right side of the page. You can hear samples of all the stuff. From the beginning, you will notice the wonderful lyricism that is always concerned with being expressive and beautiful. It is never pedantic or saccharine. He has the appropriate structural framework in place to support the emotional content. It's just beautiful, well-constructed, expressive music that is sonically interesting. With so many people writing music that is sonically interesting but somehow lacking in expressive content, finding Kile's music is an oasis.

He has some other tricks up his sleeve too. Check out the Vespers samples, and you will discover that he knows his music history as well.  Here is a nice little video about the Vespers. Go commission him so that he will keep writing more music for us all.