Alex Ambrose is the senior producer for Q2 Music, WQXR’s online station and website devoted to discovery, curiosity and vibrant 21st-century music.
100 Composers Under 40
A Crowdsourced Project to Determine the Range of the 21st-century Composer
Sunday, April 17, 2011
A few weeks ago, Q2 and NPR Music launched a crowdsourced project to determine who were your favorite composers under the age of 40, and by extension those pieces which were shaping our contemporary musical scene and defining what it actually means to be a composer in the 21st century. On Facebook, Twitter and the aggregating pages on Q2 and NPR Music, an international array of comments poured in, reaching almost 800 suggestions in total. With much debate and awareness of such a list's limitations, we've narrowed the field down to 100 composers, each represented by one song, and are proud to present it here in a randomized stream.
If there is any lesson in what a user-generated project such as this can offer, it's that the narrow notion of what it meant to be a composer - writing in the shadow of the three B's (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms) - is well on its way to obsolescence. Forget dusty ideals of court or church appointments, or those Romantic notions of plumbing the depths of the soul for salvation. The 21st century composer makes his home wherever he sees fit, uses a battery of electric guitars and drums in the same breath as a section of violins and violas, performs for a rabid, dancing audience on one night and at a concert hall subscription series the next.
How do you know when you're hearing a composer? All we can really say, to paraphrase the late Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Potter Stewart, is: "I know it when I hear it." We're thrilled that this project has brought together singer-songwriters and bandleaders, experimental musicians and technophiles, jazz artists and composition students, composer collectives and one-man shows, and couldn't be more excited to reclaim the terms "composer" and even "classical music" for a contemporary, evolving vocabulary. Read below for a complete list of those 100 composers featured and most importantly, let us know your thoughts on what it means to compose in the 21st century.
Look for your favorites to begin coloring Q2 playlists.