I had been conceiving of Paper Music for more than a year before I put finger to keyboard. The question of integrating the ethics of liberation and equity into composition had been a constant one, especially considering classical music’s history of racism, classism, and homophobia. Even with the post-modern ideals of a valuation system based on polystylistic merit, the new music composers and musicians with the most access to resources and institutional support through social (and cultural) capital continue to be overwhelmingly white and cis-gendered. Acknowledging that the ideas of social and musical progress in the 60’s & 70’s were overwhelmingly abstract and inaccessible because of the background understanding and experience needed to engage, I was still impressed with the principle of breaking down the barrier between performer and audience.
The way to bring in new listeners is to offer a unique experience. More popular forms of music have mastered the concert experience, from joy-filled dancing in the crowd to EDM, to moshing to Hardcore, to softly swaying and hanging on each word of great folk punk. Applauding the solos in jazz standards is immeasurably more fun than sitting in silence between movements. Considering each genre facilitates some kind of unique level of engagement, why does new music continue to hold on to the paradigm of a sit-down, contemplative concert? I think folks often classify classical music by a defined power structure, and resulting safety, between composer, performer, and audience when they would ideally be working together towards an fun and intellectually engaging experience. By giving agency to performers and audience members, everyone in a chosen space can contribute and the concert barrier can be shifted towards an empowering and transformative experience. Paper Music facilitates such.
Paper Music tackles the concept of creating accessible and interactive music for all levels of musician, while keeping the notated and instructional quality of the classical canon. The piece uses the sounds created from utensil on medium, be it pencil on paper, chalk on board, crayon on cardboard, etc. and different shapes to create a texture of various rhythms, timbres, and pulses. Especially accessible to children and untrained adults, Paper Music illustrates basic concepts of rhythm, organized sound, and participation in music making. By centering the importance of communal growth and interaction in the compositional process of new and experimental musics, all the people in a chosen space benefit. Such pieces and exercises promote growth and expansion of auditory understanding and active listening, a natural stepping stone for the more abstract expressions of new music and an equalizing of education and appreciation.
Link to PDF version here