Genre Fishing

These shows originally aired the week of March 22, 2010

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Discussions of genre tend to cause bristling, bad moods and miscommunications. Genre identifiers are such ludicrously loaded terms that I tend to be shy even bringing them up (and I’m not, as they say, too terribly shy)! Yet here we are: a week devoted to composer/band leaders and those who tend to be not so category-specific.

I wish there was some way to talk about the increasingly small (?!) gulf between songwriters and composers without bringing up the dreaded g-word, but I am not on my game enough to come up with it. In lieu of pithiness, I’ll quote composer, friend and collaborator Nico Muhly:

“If you think about [genre] more like food, actually, that's a more productive way. Have you ever read those interviews with Italian chefs who come here and say things like, 'Obviously, I'm not going to use mushrooms from Italy, I'm going to use local things because I'm here. I'm located here.' And Italian food is not about those specific ingredients and those specific things; it's an approach. It's a system of organization, and it's about doing garlic to this thing in this way, but it doesn't matter what the thing is, if it's from this little village outside of Turin or from upstate New York. Do you know what I mean?” (Full article here.)

All week we’ll be sampling music that I believe benefits from being approached by the listener as concert music, wherever it may come from.

What makes someone a composer versus a songwriter, if song form is stripped away? If a songwriter is working on a film score or a theater piece, are they still songwriters?

Hosted by:

Nadia Sirota

Comments [1]

Don from Syracuse, NY

I think the essential characteristic of a song is that it has words, which have meanings in and of themselves. And that is a constraint. The listener need not understand the words per se, but the "songwriter" does. Similarly, film and theater (especially ballet) have visual meanings (and words -- or story), which bring some semantical structure, with which the score is to live. In contrast, a "composer" need not have prior semantic objectives; and a "wordless" piece has a larger universe of possible meanings. Perhaps, poetry is then the "composition" of words.

Jan. 20 2011 02:20 PM

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