Saturday, July 14, 2012

LIfe vs Career

Missy Mazzoli is a young American composer who has pursued an unconventional path outside of academia. For a long time, generations, the only place to survive as a composer was either within a traditional music department, who were very supportive of certain avant-garde styles, such as serialism, or as a commercial composer writing film scores or, lower down, commercial jingles: "You Deserve a Break Today!"

Ms. Mazzoli instead, as we learn in this article, became an "indie" contemporary composer.
“For our first tour outside New York, we played a tremendous variety of places” that mostly welcomed indie rock bands, not classical music ensembles, including “a kind of punk gallery outside Detroit,” Mazzoli recalls. “The audience was standing around drinking beer, and they couldn’t have been more appreciative. It was so inspiring.”
Here is an interesting clip in which she talks about her kind of career in music:

The thing that most strikes me in this interview is her comment about the distinction between "a life in music" and "a career in music". I was struck by it, because it is not something I have quite clarified in my own mind, but once I heard those words I knew exactly what she was talking about. My mother, for example, a traditional Canadian fiddler, had no career whatsoever in music. But she had a life in music! She played for dances her whole life, but probably half the time, never got paid. I'm sure that Ms. Mazzoli, has her revenue a bit better organized. She never quite explains the difference between life and career in music, but perhaps I could speculate a bit.

Living in music comes from your nature. Most of the time I have some sort of music running around my brain, it's just who I am. I compose because something comes to me. A career is a different thing: it is a calculation based on your estimates of what is needed to reach out to other people, how to maximize your exposure and visibility, how to project the right kind of public image and so on. I'm not criticizing this, because if Ms. Mazzoli hadn't figured out some of this we would never hear of her nor her music. So, the building of a career is important. I suspect that what she is implying is that a career in music needs to be built on a life in music, otherwise it is a bit of a fraud. At least, that is what I think is true.

Here is a complete composition by Ms. Mazzoli:

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