Tool #20: Collaboration in Composition and as a Tool for Saving Classical Music

Collaboration is a great compositional tool, and can also be used to save new music scenes.  This post is inspired by this article I found through  In the article the author describes the Jasper String Quartet’s experience collaborating with composer Aaron Jay Kernis, and how a collaborative approach can help save (at least part of) classical music in today’s society.

Compositionally speaking, I must express my views on the value of collaboration.  In my opinion, the main reasons why collaboration is such a rewarding process are:

  • It creates a better piece: having revisions and input from multiple constructively critical sources makes a piece more refined, and pushes the composer.
  • It creates a better performance: not only do performers take more ownership of the piece, they also have time to work out the technical details with the composer and edit them to make the piece more playable.
  • It creates an open discussion: with today’s constant debates about musical style and the industry, having a frank but constructive dialogue with the performers of the piece creates a better sense of community and sense of progress in all of the current debates that might apply to the piece.
  • It’s good for networking: getting to know a performer, truly caring about their musical (and personal) needs, and working together to create something new are all great opportunities to build lifelong professional connections.
  • It expands the composer’s and performers’ worldview: too often we get separated into either a “creator” or “performer” category, and having the chance to walk in the other role’s footsteps is a broadening experience for one’s worldview.

In terms of the future of classical music, I agree with the article that classical music won’t vanish from culture, but simply will get smaller in the size of its scene.  A part of the solution to keep its size from getting too small is to collaborate.  When composers and performers unite, not only do they create a new scene for themselves, they have an increased opportunity to bring new music to audiences.  This is because they are now a complete body of music–a union of creator  and sharer to the outside world.  If performers and composers have the gusto to get together to make music and bring it to audiences together, then maybe we won’t have to worry as much about the future of classical music.  It’s an old business model that was left by the wayside for far too long, in favor of large organizations.  If we start small as collaborators, we can help forge the music scene of tomorrow.

Let’s unite!  What do you think?


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