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How much of "new choral music" is REALLY new?

I recently read somewhere that about 2,500 pieces of "new" choral music are published, I think just in the U.S., every year.  Within the set of music that is appropriate for your choir(s), based on your own experiences in receiving and perusing this "new" music from both traditional publishing houses and self-publishers, what percentage of the music is truly new?  Let's define new as being music that is NOT a different arrangement of an existing song already arranged for choirs, NOT a re-setting of a well-known text or poem, and NOT a pale imitation of somebody else's work (Whitacre comes to mind as someone who is currently frequently imitated).
 
A related question:  What percentage of "new" choral music in your field do you find actually "fresh" and "interesting" and "compelling" (your definitions)--even if not entirely appropriate or useful for your own group(s)?  And would you be willing to share these definitions, as well? 
 
Thanks!
on September 3, 2011 10:20am
Julia,
 
I love programming.  I love looking at new music--both actual "new" music and new-music-to-me.  I consider programming as much an art as actually performing.
 
I conduct a chamber choir. Most of my singers have degrees in music--of my 14 singers, 4 don't have degrees in music--and many of those with degrees make their living teaching, conducting or performing.  We are considered "semi-professional" since my singers are not paid for participating in my group.  About half have told me, one of the reasons they auditioned for the MMS to begin with was the music I program.
 
I have a few qualifications when it comes to music I choose for my current group--it must be musically interesting to begin with.  It must make the most of my beautiful voices and their abilities.  The text must be worthy and yes, that might mean Shakespeare or Keats or Shelley or ee cummings in addition to sacred texts. I decided I would almost never do "arrangements" if I could help it.  My singers have opinions and favorites and are not shy about sharing them with me.
 
We have two concerts a calender year--spring, secular and fall, sacred.  This fall our concert's theme is "Music of Thanksgiving and Praise" and we are singing composers as diverse as William Billings and Moses Hogan to J.S. Bach.  Next spring is "From Venice to Vienna: Music from the Salon"--the first half will be Italian Madrigals and the second half will be Romantic and early Romantic German part songs with and without piano--my singers are in love with Schubert vocal quartets!
 
We have done 20th century motets--Poulenc, Copland, Hohvaness and Daniel Pinkham and others--and I am contemplating a concert of 21st century motets (not until fall of 2013, I have programmed up until then).  As far as "new" and "fresh" are concerned--I want something that doesn't insult my intelligence or my music ability or my singers', not gimmicks.  I don't want a "clone" of something else.  I want something that promotes a "community of singers" not something so difficult we are crabby in rehearsal.  And, quite frankly, I am very literate, so a new setting of Emily Dickinson or even James Joyce would interest me.  I haven't been impressed of late, with many new large choral works, however, I was very touched by the "Titanic Requiem" and might even consider programming it if I can make it "fit" in my constraints.
 
Most of my collegues, I would think--though I don't presume to speak for them--look for music to fit their groups, large or small, young or old, school-age or adult and the concerts they give. It must fit musical abilities, performance venues and personnel and the aesthetic of the ensembles and their traditions. But it must be pleasing to them or it will not be performed.
 
I don't know if this will help you, Julia, but it is my opinion.
 
Marie Grass Amenta, founder and music director
the Midwest Motet Society
on September 4, 2011 6:39am
Julia -
 
If a living composer wrote a setting of a well-known text or poem, why isn't that considered new music?  For example, there are plenty of settings of many Biblical texts.  If a new setting of some of those texts were composed this year, I would consider those compositions as new.  As a church musician, I frequently select settings of Biblical texts or arrangements of hymns.
 
I can't give you an exact percentage of new music that I find truly compelling.  My guess is that it is relatively small.  For example, I have attended certain publisher reading sessions in the past where I don't find anything I can use because I did not think those compositions would interest my singers.  On the other hand, I can think of composers that consistently write good music for certain types of ensembles. 
 
I actually think of "interesting" and "compelling" as two different categories.  Music I think of "interesting" might have an unfamiliar harmonic context or musical device to myself or my singers.  Music I think of "compelling" can be sung emotionally pretty easily (not to say that the music would be easy).  However, I don't think "interesting" or "compelling" are mutually exclusive.
 
Austen
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