A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Will van de Crommert for my TRILLOQUY podcast. He's a composer of commercial music (music for film, TV, advertisements, etc.), and he has a really interesting perspective on classical music that I encourage you to check out in the latest opus of TRILLOQUY. One of the topics he brought up was the idea of the canon, and how people can impact it both positively and negatively. Here's a clip from the episode, where he touches on this topic:
I'll be honest with you - I actually hadn't spent too much time thinking about the "canon" directly, but this conversation has DEFINITELY been one of the foundations of my work.
First and foremost, I think I should define "canon". Here's what Dictionary.com says:
Maybe you can already see where I'm going with this. When we accept the idea of a musical "canon", we're doing a few things that I draw issue with. Accepting the existence of a "canon" in something as broad, wide-ranging, and complex as classical music is accepting the practices that manufactured it. The maintenance of that "canon" is led by people who don't have a problem with the problematic practices that created it. For the sake of speaking more specifically, I'll offer an example:
When people talk about classical music by Black composers these days, William Grant Still is the first name to pop up most times, right? I heard his name in passing for the first time as a senior in college. I didn't actually get to perform an of his symphonic music until about 3 or 4 years ago. Why is this? Because his music isn't as good? Because it's not important to the "canon"? Or is it because the people who wrote the Music History textbooks that I learned from didn't care about black people and black music? The same could be said for Florence Price, Nathaniel Dett, Francis Johnson, Margaret Bonds, and countless others. This issue also outlines the fact that only western-music is considered to be a part of the "canon" - something that another TRILLOQUY guest addressed with me as well. Why should music like this be othered?
Focusing on the "canon" is something that's come up at my job. As our Music Director continues to work and strive for programming excellence through the exploration of music by diverse composers, classical music LISTENERS (and most orchestras) continue to rely on what is familiar, or again, what's in the "canon". How can I justifiably stand behind practices that reinforce a musical focus that wasn't codified with someone like me in mind? How could I possibly accept the "canon"?
I'm happy to say that my organization is interested in this topic, and members of management have thoughtfully engaged this conversation with me in every way they can. It's not an overnight fix, though. The "canon" has been reinforced across generations, and it'll take at least half that long to disrupt it. I don't have anywhere else to be, so I'm down for the long, drawn-out battle.
In what ways are you disrupting the "canon" in your professional life?
Obviously, the latter part of 2019 was pretty hectic on my end, otherwise I would have written something here last month. What a year! Now that it's officially 2020, lots of people are doing their year-end wrap ups. Scott and I did one for TRILLOQUY that you can check out here.
TRILLOQUY was without a doubt my biggest accomplishment of 2019. Having a platform is one thing, but having a platform that you created is another thing. I got to interview so many interesting guests, and I feel like I learn something new every week we produce the podcast. One of my goals this year is to have a really big name guest on. Joe Budden inspired me to start a podcast in the first place, so getting to interview him would be BEYOND an honor. I guess we'll have to see! TRILLOQUY even managed to get a nice copyright last year...
When I think back to 2019, some of my other stand-out moments include getting to be on the Need to Know Podcast, becoming a board member for the American Composers Forum, and being nominated for the Twin Cities' 40 Under 40! The jury is still out on that one, so cross your fingers and hope that I make it through! On the non-professional side of things, a stand out moment was getting to go back to my hometown of Memphis for the first time in many years. It was also a joy to meet my nephew, Jayren, for the first time.
Last year definitely had its challenges. I'm comfortable to admit that I had some suicidal thoughts in 2019, because working overnight can be a real BITCH (excuse the language). Thanks to continued therapy and taking my time off more seriously, I can honestly say I'm in a much better place. I probably wouldn't have made it to 2020 without my boyfriend, Dell, and my brother from another mother, Scott. Looking ahead, I hope that my relationships with my two closest confidants can grow even stronger in 2020. I have big plans for this new year, and I won't be able to do it without my support system. How about you make that one of your goals, too? Make your personal support system, no matter how big or small, the most important aspect of your day to day. Here's to (hopefully) visiting and typing into this blog more.
To freedom! (And also, to friendship).