Manifesto

5th Draft Manifesto
submitted for approval
re-written by Scott Comanzo under the influence of and/or reaction to Erin Camp and Mallory Kokus
October 2011

 

“It is not easy for a musician of today to confess that he once found Wagner’s music formless, melodyless, and abominably discordant; but that many musicians, now living, did so is beyond all question…”

– George Bernard Shaw, 1910

The Generous Ensemble wishes to present events worthy of our audiences’ attention with a sense of responsibility to entertain, provoke, educate and provide transformative experiences through music. We aspire to single-handedly increase interest in a live new concert-music experience through our youth, energy, earnest efforts and artistic integrity. We challenge our composers to provide us the canvas for this with their work.

We demand rigor from composers and so the same we demand of ourselves. The Generous Ensemble will be a blue collar, hard working new music group. Every performance should end with copious amounts of sweat and/or exhaustion (mental and physical). Every concert should be closed with generous members sweeping the floor and closing the house. Our demeanor and work ethic must be beyond the pale, reflect the idea that our ideal audience is doing the same in their everyday life.

The Generous Ensemble will be a manifestation of a promise to trust an audience, by not dumbing down, nor preaching.* We shall restore this trust by taking a cue from the culinary arts and providing the tasty and the healthy all at once; music can be (art can be) erudite, violent, beautiful, sensitive, ridiculous, sublime, serious, gooey, prickly, intellectual and “catchy” at the same time. There needs be no gulf between accessible and progressive so long as the goal is the latter rather than the former. Accessibility is a slow function of an individual’s brain translated into the collective, not a goal for an artist.

*Excuse me if the language in this document will likewise, not be dumbed down, in the spirit of trust, the tone will not be mitigated to fit into someone else’s ideal punctilio. This is to serve as a direct reflection of the way a generous ensemble would look at music. Appearances by polite musicians and composers are happening all over the United States and the music they present is just as polite. The quota for all that is filled. A generous ensemble will not be dragged into this disgusting predicament we find ourselves in. A generous ensemble will dig it’s way out, kicking and screaming if necessary.

—————–And here’s what I mean by disgusting and how we might dig out——————

Definition of Terms

Derriere Garde – the opposite of avante garde or vanguard.  The belief and the practice of the belief that the concept of artistic innovation is outdated or has been rendered impossible.

Conservative Eclecticism – the effects of jaded post modernism. A contemporary  American movement of composers without a focused point of view, borrowing the most “accessible” and associable traits of the past and cooking it down into a polite slurry of boredom.

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There is a vicious cycle of demands by most musical organizations (both old and new) for a perfection of accessibility, posing as being in the interest of building an audience, fueled by cadres of often unaware derriere garde performers and willfully continued by a faceless mass of conservative eclectic composers, taking no risks and writing as safe as possible as there is no money for actual rehearsal. The most natural, plentiful effects of this are boring new music and therefore smaller audiences.

This old model has crushed innovation. A new music ensemble that wishes to lead the way towards progress should be wary of committee-leadership from the membership or a board, because working performers are often unaware of the predicament they otherwise tend to help create and it is impossible for a large collective to drive toward a singular point of view. The result would be more of the same. A generous ensemble will be better than that.

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The experimentalism and progressiveness of music from the mid 20th century is as important a tradition as any other major foundation in western music. Nevertheless it is often marginalized, ignored or even (still to this day) vilified as lazy or non-musical.

One argument of the derriere garde is: “It’s all been done” and the implication is therefore; don’t try. The resulting attitude is one that disregards experimentalism as being from the 50’s, yet acts as a proponent of music that sounds (for all intents and purposes) pre-1913.

In the jazz world, a respected group would not play “New York, New York” in a club, true to it’s original form. If they would play it at all, it would be to “screw with it” in some fashion. In the same way, it is a waste in 21st century American concert music to include “the classics”, unless you’ve screwed with it in some way.

The Generous Ensemble is designed to carry on the too neglected tradition of radical music and experimentalism and battle the perception that it’s all been done by – at best:doing it, and at worst:trying something.

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It is the aim of The Generous Ensemble to be involved in the creative process of commissioned pieces and to work with composers as closely as possible given whatever the situation.

The Generous Ensemble expects and vehemently encourages the following from composers:

  • rigor, not dogma
  • Radical music – whatever your definition (if you automatically scoff at the word “radical” then we’re not for you)
  • Aggressive music
  • works that push the limit of the composer’s technique and the technical requirements of individual instruments (our members).
  • work that embraces Ridiculousness – in either/or both senses of the word. (silliness or awe-inspiring)
  • the appropriation/integration of the performers’ creativity beyond the “usual,” “traditional,” or even “reasonable” ways/means.
  • conceptualism – (not necessarily as a genre, but as part of the composerly workflow)
  • the honest influence of blues-based music
  • work that to the best of one’s abilities reflects the personalities of the individuals in The Generous Ensemble.
  • a marriage of opposites

The Generous Ensemble violently discourages composers only from the following:

– work that is unnecessarily boring.
(that’s right, there’s a necessary boring – in fact, it could be a marriage of opposites)
– polite music
– Straight Lines
– creating work in which one would describe the melodies and harmonies in flowery, effusive language

 The Generous Ensemble is based upon an impossible ideal. This need not be thought of as a liability but as a great asset and one of the things that will set us apart.

 “If you will it, it is no dream.” – Theodor Herzl