Joshua Kosman: “Music By Living Composers Is Faring Well”

Joshua Kosman is optimistic about new music. Writing for SFGate:

Now, you could turn around, as some commentators did, and use that track record as a stick with which to beat bigger and more established organizations. The San Francisco Symphony—to take just one example not remotely at random—is planning a particularly drab season for 2015–16, focused to a surprising extent on traditional repertoire by the same old familiar dead guys. And there are a handful of other notable American orchestras that don’t seem to recognize the extent to which their artistic reputations are tied up with their interest in the culture of our own time.

But if you take a panoptic look around the American orchestral landscape—as I did the other day, digging up the coming seasons for 25 of the nation’s most prominent orchestras and scanning them for the work of living composers—it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the state of contemporary orchestral music is now far better off than it was 20 or even 10 years ago.

I’d love to see some real numbers to support this, but instinctively I’m inclined to agree. When I was in college, most contemporary music was performed by specialist contemporary groups, while more established ensembles played works from the old repertoire. If music by living composers starts to become better incorporated in the repertoire of performing musicians, that’s a win for composers and for the diversity of the repertoire generally.