I want to start the discussion about this, because it is not possible to keep silence anymore... Here is the composer's manifesto written by Gerard Pape, composer and artistic director of CLSI:
CIRCLE FOR THE LIBERATION OF SOUND AND IMAGE (C.L.S.I.)
Contemporary music composers of the world unite ! You have nothing to lose but your government subventions !! For the longest time, you have been treated like rats, that is, fighting for the little crumbs that the government has thrown you. This competition amongst composers for direct government, and/or government sponsored festivals, funding for commissions or performances, always sought in a spirit of cut throat competition, has created a hierarchy among the rat composers: some higher, some lower, but, nonetheless, all in the same boat, that is, when push comes to shove, it's every rat for himself, and if the funding boat is sinking, the rats will all abandon the sinking government/festival ship, trying to find another to replace it.
Having been one such rat myself in the past, reasonably well fed for some 16 years as director of Les Ateliers UPIC/ CCMIX (1991-2007), I would say that, in the best case scenario, while the government support lasts, the composer(s), myself included, are a bit like pigs all eating at the public pig trough. In the end, you pay for this pig money with a loss of freedom. If you don't play the political game correctly, or if you have enemies that are stronger than you, then you are out. You become, once again, another isolated starving rat, for there is no one who is going to offer you any more crumbs, and certainly, never again, will you eat at the public funding trough of pig composers!
For some years now, in France, but elsewhere as well (Germany, Italy, U.K. etc.), the government has been threatening to take away all public funding for the arts. Contemporary music funding, even if its support is miniscule, is similarly threatened. No one can deny this trend. For the largest institutions, as well as the very smallest, the writing is on the wall. There will come a time, most likely in the next 20 years, when there will be little or no government funding left, and ,very likely, only the very largest, most venerable institutions will be funded at all. The trend towards a limited, very centralized type of government funding is clear and already taking place.
What is the solution ? Is there anyway for composers of contemporary music to survive at all given this devastating trend ?
Since 2008, I have founded a group called the C.L.S.I. These intials stand for CIRCLE FOR THE LIBERATION OF SOUND AND IMAGE. Why did I choose this name ? For two reasons: 1) It was Varèse who called for the liberation of sound itself as the new material for contemporary music composition. He was the one that called for an end to the predominance of equal tempered music and asked for new instruments to be built: the very ones that have become the basic tools of live electronic and computer generated musics of our time. 2) Varèse also said something else that had more political overtones: that the composers of his generation refused to die, that they would continue to fight for their right to have their music performed and heard.
The C.L.S.I. is a collective of composers each working with the others in symbiosis. Their is no "head composer", even if I am, nominally, the artistic director. Each composer proposes a work for laptop ensemble alone, or some combination of voices, instruments and live electronics, which is to be played by the whole or some part of the ensemble, including the composer, him or herself. Each composer writes in their own individual style, in their own individual notation. Each is free to propose his/her music to the group, but each also takes their responsability to play in the works of the other composers. There is no monetary remuneration for playing in the group as such. The majority of our concerts since 2008 have been played without the members of the group being paid with only a few exceptions.
This way of doing things has worked to some degree, though, it has its limitations. Since we are not paid, all of us have other "jobs", other ways to "earn our living" (It was Marcel Duchamp who pointed out the idiotic nature of an artist "having to earn his living" !). So, what is the alternative to this sad state of affairs which permits us to only rehearse when we use our very limited vacation days, "days off" earned by "working" at our "day jobs" ?
In the last few years, the concept of "crowd funding" has developed. Sites such as "KickStarter" in the U.S.A. and "ULULE" in Europe have been successful in raising money for music, arts, theater, cinema, etc. Contemporary music funding is still quite new. There has been announced on ULULE, for example, a fund raising drive for my 60th birthday concert in Rome on March 1st, 2015. This concert is being produced by an Italian association called "ORPHEE". Like many others in Italy, they have no government support and can only produce very limited projects, such as my concert, which is why they attempt to raise the small sum of 2000 euros, none of which, by the way, is going to me, only to pay small musician fees, transportation and hotel.
I am writing to all of you who love contemporary music to not only support this project for my 60th birthday, but a whole host of projects that C.L.S.I. will be producing in 2015 and beyond: a concert in April 2015 in collaboration with the composer/pianist Thollem McDonas and the composer/saxophonist Yochk'o Seffer; a summer festival that will include the world premier of an opera by Olga Krashenko; a concert of music for vocal ensemble and electronics with works by Rodolphe Bourotte and Lissa Meridan; a concert plus CD recording of C.L.S.I.'s unique "computer" versions of Stockhausen's PROZESSION and KURZWELLEN; a concert with the theme of Action Painting uniting sound and image proposed by Martin Phelps; a concert of works for 8 laptop computers by Jean-Baptiste Favory and Michael Kinney...
The future of contemporary music is with composer collectives such as the C.L.S.I. Indeed, the C.L.S.I.
want to liberate sound and image, but we also want to liberate composers from the humiliating position of either being starving rats or well fed pigs.
Composers need to be free to compose their best music. Government funding, as long as it has lasted, has always come with strings attached. Writing commercial music for film, television or advertisement has always hopelessly divided the composer between his "music to earn a living" and his "real" music. Having a "day job" leaves the composer with little time or energy to compose. The sad example of Charles Ives teaches us that the composer who takes this route risks to have to choose impossibly between his music or his life.
In brief, we at C.L.S.I. will be asking you the fans of contemporary music, not so few when the whole world is counted, to join us in our series of fund raising drives that will help our composers to realize their right to not only survive, but also to have their music heard under dignified conditions.
Fans of contemporary music unite in funding the music you love ! You have all to gain in helping this music you adore survive and even flourish as, even a modest amount given by each of you, with rewards given to you for each contribution that you make, will add up to the "modest" sums necessary for the C.L.S.I. composers to accomplish their musical and political missions, that is, to not only create their musics, but to give a good ethical example to other composers and artists. Sharing and helping one another for the sake of a cause greater than oneself (in this case Music) is always the best way to obtain a "real" and lasting success !!!
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