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Your definition of "fresh" new music, please

A particularly thoughtful response to our "black hole" thread in the composer's community included the emphatic "And, above all, does it seem FRESH?" criterion for any new piece of music by a living composer that is being reviewed by a conductor/director.
I know that the concept may be an elusive one, and probably falls into the "I know it when I see it/hear it" category of music appreciation, but could some of you try, please, to define what "FRESH" means to you when considering a new composition for your choir(s)?  It would be very helpful to learn what that descriptor does and also does not mean in your minds.
on May 29, 2011 2:37pm
Fresh new music:
Does the music have a melodic or rhythmic kernal that is expressive and memorable? Does the idea undergo development in the composition? Does repitition add to the the piece or not.
Does the composer excercise craft in the working out of the idea? Are ranges and tessituras favorable to the dynamic reequested, are intervals condusive to the lines. Morton Feldman said, "The right note, in the right octave at the right dynamic-" IOWs, fully thought out selection of pitches, rhythms, dynamics and phrase length.
Does the value of the music add to the meaning of the text?  don't get swayed by a text that you love- make the music add to the experience.
Does the writing add to the melody or subtract?
Is there contrast within the piece that adds depth to the meaning?
Are there chord movements or resolutions or delayed cadences that fit but were unexpected?
Is it imaginitive, expressive and well-written? Do you long to teach and perform it?
Can you express what you like about well-loved  pieces- or dislike about those you do not like? This will lead to your own standards and sharpen the evaluation of the new music you run across.
on May 29, 2011 3:23pm
"Fresh" to me means that the piece tries to avoid cliches of structure & harmony plus it contains vocal lines that are individually exciting. It is an elusive thing to define. A structure cliche might be: lets do unison on the melody, then duet, then trio, etc.. Harmony cliches might include too much vertical harmony to the point that it makes the song "plod" along. Awkward vocal lines are really not a "fresh" concept, now that I think of it, but they still matter. I also look at the text: is it singable, does it tell a story, and if so, does it provide a new insight for that story.
I am not satisfied with my response here, but I'm not sure I can make it better -- it really is something that I know when I see it & hear it.
Bill Paisner
Director, Southwest Women's Chorus
on June 1, 2011 5:53am
Thank you all--very interesting and helpful!
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