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Duplicity

July 13, 2011

A while back, I linked to this article. The major crux reads:

  1. Artists need to embrace the fact that they control the product and supply side of the contemporary performance economy.
  2. They have been doing themselves no favors by giving their labor and products away for free without any strategy or long-term plan beyond making “this show”.
I am admittedly uncomfortable talking about music strictly with a capitalist supply/demand mindset, but this does have valid points.  On the other hand, I also see validity in Warren Ellis’ commentary on access, streaming, and licensing vs. owning. We’ve reached a point where there is so much stuff that it is effectively impossible to control supply.
To find the common ground, live contemporary music is a specialized market that in some ways resists that critical mass (it’s hard to have a too much of things that don’t yet exist), but it is impossible to really control the flow of recorded music.
Unfortunately, I’m trying to rectify this with an issue I recently stumbled on. I really can’t understand why the Kronos Quartet recorded US Highball. It’s not a terrible performance by any stretch, but there is no way it could ever touch the Gate 5 performance, led by Partch and performed on the proper instruments. In a case such as this, I do think oversupply is an issue. I understand Kronos’ need to sell records to make a living, but at the same time there is plenty of other works they could have recorded and sold in similar quantities. This would help other composers’ careers in addition to not overshadowing the excellent Harry Partch Collection.
I am by no means suggesting Kronos not perform their adaptation of the work. It’s pretty cool in its own right, and I would say a significant work by a significant American composer that deserves more performances. That also shouldn’t stop them from selling the Gate 5 recording at their performances, alongside something else they worked on. Modern music doesn’t need more duplicity with so much not getting attention.
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