By Ted AYALA
Is the era of good music behind us? Many classical music critics and listeners would have you think so. Certainly you may be compelled to feel that way given the look of your average symphony orchestra program nowadays. The symphony orchestra has become a kind of aural museum where the only good composer, it seems, is a dead one.
Beyond the symphony orchestra, however, there breathes and thrives numerous communities devoted to the living music of today. Chamber ensembles of various size and composition are devoted to disseminating the works of composers who have yet to touch foot into the great beyond.
In the Los Angeles area there exists one of the most vibrant new music communities in the entire country, yet apathy from audiences and musicians is a constant challenge for these composers – especially younger composers. Fighting against these numerous challenges is a daunting task for a single composer, which is where Synchromy comes in.
On a warm afternoon last week, I met with composers Daniel Gall and Jenni Brandon on the campus of Occidental College. Gall and Brandon are members of a Los Angeles area composers’ group called Synchromy. Banding their forces together, the composers of Synchromy are attempting to knock down the barriers of apathy and apprehension that often stands in the way of audiences wary of new music.
“When we started, it wasn’t the close-knit group it is now,” said composer Gall. “It was a matter of ‘Let’s put on a new music concert.’ But then later we later realized that we’re all serious composers who want their music heard. So that‘s when the idea of a composers’ collective was born. As composers, we need to be organizers and collaborate with other musicians and artists. Today, there is more to being a composer than just writing music.”
One of the more surprising trends of late 20th century serious music was the great wave that lashed out against the high modernist style of the mid 20th century.
Milton Babbitt’s notion, “Who cares if you listen?” would be anathema to most new composers of today, especially to those of Synchromy.
“For our group, it’s a kind of culmination of what music is and what music is becoming. We want to embrace audiences and we want to use everything in our musical tool-box to do that,” explained Brandon. “I think that’s what our generation is about: wanting to reach out to audiences.”
Gall went further. “There is a desire from a lot of composers today for freedom. For the longest time, a composer had to adhere to a particular style, but that’s all breaking down now. I think that is all a product of the end of modernism. We no longer have to be serialists; we no longer have to write in an aleatoric style. There are no more limits for us like that.”
On Saturday, Feb. 12, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Occidental College’s Bird Studio, the composers of Synchromy will hold a concert of some of their new works. Composers featured will be Eric Guinivan, Jason Barabba, Yalil Guerra, and Vera Ivanova, as well as the works of Gall and Brandon.
“We’re going to have a whole variety of music,” Brandon said about the forthcoming concert. “This concert is going to be a kind of collection. We hope our audience comes away refreshed, having enjoyed our music, and realizes that good music is still being written.”
“We hope that we’re able to engage the audience and that they are inspired to explore the new music community in Los Angeles and maybe come to be a part of it,” Gall added.
For more information on Synchromy, visit www.synchromymusic.org or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/synchromy.