An Individual's Guide to Commissioning Music

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 15, No 2 (Summer 2004)

Johanna Keller Reviewed by Gayle Morgan, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust

2003, 38 pages. Meet the Composer, 75 Ninth Avenue, Floor 3R Suite C, New York, NY 10011, (212) 645-6949; Ken Gallo, Communications Manager, kgallo@meetthecomposer.org

In 1992 Meet the Composer, a national organization founded to support composers and promote interest in contemporary music, published a valuable brochure for composers and those who wish to commission new music. Commissioning Music, A Basic Guide provided comprehensive guidelines regarding fees, commissioning agreements, and rights, among other pertinent information.

Now Meet the Composer has taken another step to encourage music lovers to become involved with new music. Based on interviews conducted by Johanna Keller in 2002 and 2003, An Individual's Guide to Commissioning Music is a collection of entertaining anecdotes describing people's experiences commissioning music. Ranging from a University of Iowa professor of dentistry and his wife whose exposure to the Kronos Quartet opened up a new world of music, to a commissioning club of five couples in Minnesota, to the "Los Angeles Legend" Betty Freeman who has supported commissions for more than seventy composers over the past fifty years, the commissioners relate how they became interested in new music as well as how they went about the commissioning process.

Some of the people highlighted in An Individual's Guide... commissioned music as a way of celebrating a special occasion or anniversary. Others wanted to maximize the experience in specific ways. The San Francisco venture capitalist Kathryn Gould's Magnum Opus project, for instance, involves nine composers and three orchestras that agreed to perform all nine new works. In some cases, the individuals pursued their projects through existing relationships with musicians and composers. In at least one instance Meet the Composer facilitated the choice of composer and performer, as well as the mechanics of commissioning.

In a coda following the eight chapters of human interest stories, Meet the Composer addresses typical questions that a person contemplating a commissioning project might ask, and provides general guidelines about the cost of commissioning various forms of music.

This slim volume is attractively presented and is a pleasure to read. By directing it to the public at large, Meet the Composer not only brings attention to its own programs and services. More importantly, it makes a convincing case that involvement with new music is not an esoteric experience reserved for enlightened institutions, but an enjoyable adventure for musically curious individuals.

An Individual's Guide to Commissioning Music can be obtained free of charge by contacting Meet the Composer. It is also posted on Meet the Composer's Web site, www.meetthecomposer.org.