Why should I go to a contemporary music concert?

by: Kathy Reilly

Kathy Reilly (L) and Anne Decker (R)

Kathy Reilly (L) and Anne Decker (R)

I have played some pretty crazy music as a violist.  Music that looked more like a scientific analysis on the page than notes.  Music that used my bow as a percussive instrument rather than a string instrument.  Music that asked me to make sounds I’m pretty sure my instrument will never do again.  As a performer it was fun, challenging, exhilarating!  But if I were asked to sit in the audience – would I have sat in that audience?  What was the goal? Why would I want to go to a contemporary music concert as a parent of a string instrument student – and should I take my child?

 I got the chance to answer these questions when I sat down with Anne Decker, the music guru behind Turn Music

What is New Music today?

I remember studying Schoenberg in music history, which included a rather intense listening session.  We had never approached anything like that during my time in the VYOA.  For me, it was an interesting math question, but not something I was not going to go back to.  For a lot of families with limited time and resources, I think it would be the end of their classical music adventure.

So I ask Anne, has the definition of contemporary music changed and how does TURNmusic fit into this?  

Anne Decker - “New music is an expansion of what sound is and the color of sound. In terms of sound (New Music) is all over the map. It is trending towards blending genres including Indie music, grooves, and it demands a high level of musicianship

One of my ambitions(with TURNmusic) is to support local artists, I see these amazing classical musicians, and I want them in front of more people.  A non-classical group seeking out great musicianship. Players who can play in many different styles that is what new music is today, playing in a bunch of different genres.

Going forward –I want to keep supporting composers.  I think the people who create music are remarkable.  The best I can do is support them and play their music. And again, supporting these high-level players in our little place, supporting them and exposing them in our area. I’m not just looking for classical music collaboration,  I’m looking for collaboration across the board.”

A TurnMusic Performance

A TurnMusic Performance

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Why do I want to go to a contemporary Music Concert?

AD- “New music is a way to learn about our world right now.  These composers are really forward thinking – they are talking about inequalities, social justice.  I want the audience to hear what the composers have to say.”

  Anne is a mother, teaches music at U32, and is the founder, music director and often conductor of TURNmusic.  Sitting down to read the New York Times is often not possible, and emotionally gut wrenching for her and others.  Music is another way to experience and interpret what is going on around us. 

As we talk, Anne and I diverge into a conversation about the challenges with diversity and tolerance in our society today, and our music.

AD - “I’ve been hearing about the ME2 movement, and other social topics. I have not been a political activist, but now I am able to be that moving forward, in terms of how I am programming I am being more intentional about who I am programming and how I am programming.  Part of that was Matthew Evan Taylor and the New Century | New Voices Project at Middlebury.  I think new music, composers, and if I’m intentional as a programmer then I can help bring equality to how we define music, how we define who a composer is… I want people to be curious and open minded – .”  

What do you say to people who are afraid of contemporary music, are even worried they will be physically uncomfortable?

There is the famous story of the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris.  The audience was so uncomfortable with the dissonance, they literally broke into physical fights in the performance hall.  Anne has a different goal. 

AD -There is a certain amount of trust, with the name TURNmusic, because every program is new.  You go to certain classical music concerts, and you know what you are going to hear. I want people to be curious, let’s be curious and open minded and know that the level of musicianship that these players have is very high.  They are making music out of every piece of music that is put in front of them.  These are the best players in the state…  To some degree the days of atonal music is over.  That is why the term Turn, we’ve turned, its continuing to evolve.  The composers we are programming are our contemporaries.  They grew up listening to the same music we are listening to, they have the same influences in their writing.  They are contemporaries, we have something in common with, they have young families.  The audience comes once and they have broken down the wall, they come once and that is all it takes.”

What concerts would you bring your children to and what are the rules?

AD - I bring them to everything. I don’t think there are any rules, I’m breaking the rules, I mean, we have these stereotypes about what classical music concerts are, lets get past that (to bringing your children to a concert).  In a way, some folks could use that as an excuse.  Just do it.  Having kids hear composers voices, hearing artists voices are important.” 

How do you feel when composers are there?

AD -It’s even better, I want audiences to literally hear their voice, It’s time to put composers on a pedestal”  I do have two young children, and part of what one of my goals, of working my butt off, is to create thus opportunity for kids – I want them to know the door is wide open, anything is possible.”

Who are three contemporary composers you think parents should listen to with their students?

Gabriela Lena Frank

                Is the current composer in residence in the New Century | New Voices project, She is included in the Washington Post’s list of the 35 most important women composers in history.  Hear her music at the FlynnSpace on May 11 and in Middlebury on May 12.  Here are some short clips to get your feet wet:

Listen Here

Sara Kirkland Snider

“Sarah Kirkland Snider is an American composer of critically acclaimed chamber, orchestral, and choral music, as well as art songs that have been said to straddle the border "between richly orchestrated indie rock and straight chamber music." (Wikipedia)  OK, I’m hooked!

Listen Here

Daniel Bernard Roumain

                An African American composer and innovator in residency next year with the Flynn.   Take a quick listen to his solo performance in “Cathedral” as he explores the sonic range of the violin.

Listen Here



Gabriela Lena Frank, composer

Gabriela Lena Frank, composer