Has the death of the record company meant the birth of new possibilities for composers and performers?
— SXSW Festival, press release for “They Used to Call It Classical” (panel discussion) of 16 March 2012, Austin, TX

Four pieces, two composers

Composer A: accordionist, songwriter, little-known composer (no Wikipedia article exists)

Composer B: two-time Grammy Award-winning composer, performed by the likes of Dawn Upshaw, Emanuel Ax, the Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, and, in April, the Berlin Philharmonic that picked up a piece he failed to deliver in time to L.A. Phil, the work’s commissioner. This is in fact already the second commission from L.A. Phil that Composer B has afforded himself to blow off, along with commissions from other notable performers, allegedly due to the composer being so swamped with commissioned work.

Enough with the CVs, let’s listen to their music. The following four pieces are arranged in chronological order by date of composition.

Piece 1, titled Barbeich (2008), by Composer A, performed by the composer himself: 

Piece 2, titled Patagonia (2009), by Composer A, as arranged by Composer B. The recording is from a reading session:

Piece 3, titled Radio (2009), by Composer B, was commissioned by WNYC Radio (“made possible, in part, by the generous support of the Cheswatyr Foundation”) for the opening of the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in New York City on 28 April 2009. The recording is from the radio broadcast premiere:

Piece 4, titled Sidereus (2010), by Composer B, commissioned by 35 (thirty-five!) orchestras across the United States with a commission fee of estimated $140,000, was premiered 16 October 2010. The recording is from the third of scheduled 70 performances (62 of which are already in the past):

Listen here (opens in a new window/tab)

The whole affair came into public knowledge only after last Friday, when two people who had worked on a recording of Piece 1, happened to attend the 62nd (!) performance of Piece 4. Nice summary on news and blog posts on the matter, followed by an original analysis, can be read here.

Read More