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August 2014
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“Relevant Tones” Thinks Global, Acts Local

"Relevant Tones" host Seth Boustead

"Relevant Tones" host Seth Boustead

Sunday at 5:00 pm


Chicago composer Seth Boustead thought he was well-networked and well-positioned to create a local new music show for WFMT with producer Jesse McQuarters – that was then. He’s had to adjust his thinking a bit.

In the last year, Relevant Tones went national and is now heard on radio stations across the United States. As for the source material, it’s been like tugging the yarn of a gigantic sweater. Boustead is finding there are composers everywhere, busily writing for performers who are hungry for something new.

This week, Relevant Tones continues its series “In the Field,” in which Seth and Jesse spend time getting to know composers and pieces in other regions. So far they’ve touched upon Mexico and Finland; this week, they focus on Ireland where the government has put national resources behind its composers.

Listen to podcasts of Relevant Tones.

Recently Seth Boustead discussed some of the places he’s gone to find composers.

You’ve recently attended some new music festivals. Tell us about them.

Mizzou and the New York Phil Biennial. As a composer I never really applied to these things and it’s only been recently that Relevant Tones has had the wherewithal to get invited and to travel to them so this is all very new and very exciting!

Do you know the line from “New York, New York,” “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.” Is there a festival like that for composers?

There’s no one festival like the Van Cliburn Competition for pianists in which your reputation is secure if you win it.  In fact the festivals for composers don’t have competitions or awards so it’s a very different format.  The idea is to network, meet other composers, and hear your music performed by high level ensembles in a supportive environment.  They’re mostly for younger composers too, more established composers don’t generally go unless they’re there as mentor figures.

Do you perceive national or regional trends or identities or are we all too well connected for that?

Because festivals like Cabrillo and Gaudeamus are curated by the same person every year they definitely have an identity or an aesthetic they’re drawn to.  Something like Darmstadt has a very clear aesthetic that has lasted for decades.  But no real trends emerge from them I think, they’re more gathering places for like minded individuals.  Music festivals, as far as I can tell are not places for innovation in composition but places where composers try to get their name on the map and meet other high profile performers who might play their music.

There are certainly times when a composer’s name starts to appear on a lot of festivals at once, so there is a trend in that regard but not in terms of the music.  Just that a person can get hot and start trending.

Do the scenes differ much?

Mainly in terms of how academic or non academic they are in feel.  Are there workshops and panel presentations and papers read? or is it just about performing and composing music?  Will you see musicians from outside the classical realm there or is it mainly just university trained musicians?

 

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