New Music for Newbies
Composers and performers of contemporary classical music offer suggestions for the first-time listener.
Encountering contemporary classical music for the first time can be enlightening, confusing and downright daunting.
Last week, I led a discussion in which composers and performers of contemporary classical music thought back on their own first experiences with that genre, and they shared their recommendations for a first foray.
I present to you: suggestions for the first-time listener.
- Composer/bassoonist Brin Solomon (@nonstandardrep):
Honestly, feel like I can’t make generalized recommendations given the diversity of people’s tastes. But to prove that post-19th-Century music can be “pretty,” I always go with the 1st movement to Hindemith Mathis der Mahler symphony. To hit up a weirder angle, I often present Rzewski’s Coming Together (the 8th Blackbird recording). But other times Higdon or Monk or Messiaen will seem more appropriate. It really varies!
- Soprano Hillary LaBonte (@surrendertofun):
Nixon in China! Esp. if they’re American, and aren’t familiar with new opera. Also this! Only explanation: it is awesome. And this gives great explanation of art music without being reductive or condescending, + adorbs.
- Composer Garrett Schumann (@garrt):
I like the second movement of Poul Ruders’ 2nd piano concerto for new music, of course there is no link. I like winter fragments, too. For metal, @Slayer’s Raining Blood, obviously.
- Composer J. M. Gerraughty (@jmgerraughty):
1) Gorecki, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.
2) Berio, Sinfonia, movement 3.
3) Reich, Music for 18 Musicians.
4) Morton Feldman, Rothko Chapel. Berio, Sequenza III.
- Strategist/bassist Gahlord Dewald (@patternroot):
Depends on the person. But I often use Kronos’ Pieces of Africa or Night Prayers disks.
- Oboist/podcaster Jonathan Thompson(@Mr_JRT):
That’s hard to say, because everyone is different! But sometimes you need a pop icon to get people interested in new music.
- Composer/writer Sam Reising (@samreising):
Phil Kline’s Zippo Songs is pretty accessible, awesome, and genre-blurring. Plus you get to listen to @Theo_Bleckmann.
- Composer/bassist Pierce Gradone (@piercegradone):
Ligeti’s Nonsense Madrigals is great because of a funny, familiar text and some great humor. It’s not all serious!
- Composer/guitarist/punner Jay Derderian (@J_Derderian):
John Adams’ Shaker Loops.
- Pianist/artistic director Sugar Vendil (@SugarVendil):
Probably Glass (EoB), anything by (@tgureckis) @discountsofa @sksnider.
- Composition professor Daniel A. Walzer (@daniel_walzer):
Probably a Steve Martland piece. Horses of Instruction comes to mind. For my percussion students, probably Footpath for Marimba by Dave Samuels.
- Arts administrator Andrew Goldstein (@MusicBizThought):
- Mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen (@mezzoihnen):
- Opera composer Griffin Candey (@griffincandey):
For chamber music, Reich’s NY Counterpoint. For vocal music, literally anything by @roomfulofteeth, for example: https://youtu.be/HC6vss-WnNM.
- Music theorist/composer Wes Flinn (@WesFlinn):
Nixon is usually a good entrée, but it is nearly 30. I like @Eminchew ‘s Open Pieces for introductions.
- Soprano/arts administrator Sara Noble (@SaraNobleArts):
Tom Cipullo’s song “Touch Me” from Late Summer. It goes straight to the heart.
- Vocalist/composer/creative director Ross Crean (@RossCrean):
My newest favorite. No explanation. Doesn’t need one. Great new storytelling!
- Soprano Ann Moss (@AnnMossSoprano):
David Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion (this, too) — it’s even seasonally appropriate ;) I prefer the quartet version but both are beautiful.
- Composer/teacher Judah Adashi (@jadashi):
I would single out Sarah Snider’s Penelope and Caroline Shaw’s By and By. I might also add Donnacha Dennehy, That The Night Come. (All vocal music with pop or musical theatre elements that may offer a natural point of entry.)
What would you recommend? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @pickleshy.