by Joshua Roman
Thank you for joining me here as we embark on an exploration of musicians’ lives in today’s changing landscape. Over the last few years, I have been taking on projects and roles that I never dreamt would be a part of my professional life as a musician, and I see many of my colleagues redefining their musical career as well.
For many of us, this is uncertain territory. Leaving our practice rooms behind, entering the worlds of interdisciplinary collaborations, social experiments, entrepreneurial endeavors, and in general, a broader sense of creativity, we are making things up as we go. Luckily, there are fantastic examples of success, from the composer-performer, like the JACK Quartet, who write and arrange music as well as performing new works by others, to the modern day impresario, like Derek Bermel, who not only composes and plays clarinet, but has curated chamber music series’ in the past and is now Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra.
In a world where geographical borders are often easy to cross, and technology blurs the lines of genre and categories in other realms, the question of whether we should define ourselves within old and possibly rigid boundaries is an important one. Am I a cellist? Am I a musician? Am I a classical musician that enjoys other kinds of music, or some broader kind of musician that specializes in classical music? Perhaps a sound artist? Personally, I’ve begun to feel a strong and central pull that brings me towards a core, something I could only describe as “my voice”. In this fast pace world of 30 second sound bites, it is challenging to define this new type of musical individuality, and the meeting the need to articulate a concise statement of who one is, or what one does, can be especially difficult as one embarks upon new paths and begins to explore new avenues of artistic expression.
All of this sounds very new, but one of the most encouraging realizations that keeps coming back to me is the fact that this is all a very old idea. Name a composer from before 1900 and chances are strong that they were also a performer. Many of them were skilled (or at least effective) organizers as well. Assembling musical forces was not always easy to do, if you weren’t in the employ of royalty. Even then, many contracts included more than just writing and showing up to play. I draw much inspiration from famous musicians of old such as Mozart, Bach, Brahms, and others from their time who developed a unique voice, while sharing through their performances and repertoire decisions as well. Today, many of my friends are doing this at incredibly high levels, and their creativity and passion manifest in ways that surprise and invigorate me.
Hopefully, along with keeping you up to date on the things I’m doing, sharing about the music and people I get to know along the way, and musing about ideas and provocations that pop up, this space will afford the opportunity to help discover new and better ways to communicate the essence of what the hell it is we are doing here with this amazing art form. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!
For now, I will leave you with two lists, and gratitude for sharing the journey with me.
Some Current Projects
Finish writing my first Cello Concerto
Bring back the Haydn C Major
Flesh out a few programs for 1516 and 1617 seasons
Music On Rotation
P.S. Thank you to Second Inversion for inviting me to share via their platform. I encourage you to check out their 24/7 webstream, where you’ll be hearing from me occasionally as well.