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explain the complex associations such art evokes. Like the man said, writing about music is like singing about architecture. But there were tears in my eyes because of the sheer beauty of the playing. Blues is sad, of course, but there's no slobbering in it, no self-pity. Cosmic solitude certainly, but with a flair. The blues lyrics are tough. There's self-knowledge in them, and wit. They are merciless in their discernment of the human condition and its follies. They make socialist realism look like bourgeois sentimentalism—which it is. I admire the laid-back quality of such art, the sly understatements, the intense concentration. There is much here for an American poet to learn from. We wanted Hodes to play all night. The few of us remaining, that is. We applauded; we cheered. He acknowledged our enthusiasm with a grin, and said, "I'm an old man and ought to be in bed." Then he played a couple more numbers. THE SITUATION OF THE AMERICAN COMPOSER / Dana Gioia THE SERIOUS COMPOSER in the "classical" tradition is the only contemporary American artist in an appreciably worse situation than the poet. He usually has no audience outside a tiny circle of professional colleagues. Some of his work will never receive a public performance. The rest will probably be heard only once—at its "world premiere." While some performers appreciate the prestige and publicity of premiering new work, few find any glory in ever playing these compositions again. Only a minuscule amount of new music ever receives a second performance. Even fewer new works are eventually published in printed scores. With little prospect of royalties, the composer usually earns his living from teaching, frequently by performing other people's music, and occasionally through small grants and commissions. The obscurity of the contemporary composer is especially ironic because never before has America shown so much interest in serious music. There are more orchestras and chamber groups than ever, more professional musical ensembles and performers of all kinds, more concert series, publications, broadcasts, and recordings. Unfortunately , most of this activity focuses exclusively on the music of the past, and, when adventurous conductors or performers explore 278 · THE MISSOURI REVIEW beyond the standard repertory, they will more likely present unfamiliar pieces from the medieval or baroque periods than anything by a living composer. Large musical institutions make token gestures to new music—perhaps one or two "world premieres" each season— but few offer any ongoing support. Smaller ensembles often perform no new music at all. New music is mostly performed by small groups specifically devoted to it. Outside of New York and Los Angeles these groups will usually be university- or conservatory-based, and their audiences will be small, dreary, and academic. By contrast the poet's lot looks almost cozy. Compared to musical performance, publishing poetry comes easily. The poet finds hundreds of magazines and presses which will publish new work. Indeed these editors publish almost nothing but new writing. Performance is also a more viable option for the poet: unlike the composer, she needs no expensive performers, stagehands, or rehearsals; she only needs a voice and an invitation. There are now thousands of colleges, libraries, theaters, cafes, and bookstores in the U.S. which regularly sponsor public poetry readings—not to mention dozens of major writers' conferences and literary festivals. This poetry audience is considerably larger than that for new music, much larger than the sales of poetry books indicate (just as classical-record sales do not indicate the full size of the concert, opera, and ballet public). There are also thousands of teaching jobs for poets, ranging from endowed university chairs to programs in elementary schools. This multiplicity of opportunities guarantees that the rewards are not limited to a few well-known authors. Even a modestly accomplished writer of some resourcefulness can make a living from poetry—not from publication but from related activities such as readings, teaching, and lectures, all of which have a relatively (compared to the composer) broad audience . Because the music audience satisfies its voracious appetite almost exclusively on work from the past, there is a fundamental difference between the audiences for music and poetry...


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