So why am I picking on Dan Visconti? Let me start by saying that I don’t know Dan Visconti. I’ve never met him, or had any kind of correspondence with him. However, something I’ve been doing on Soundcloud prompted that exact question, which gave way to a larger question. I’ll explain:
Every since I got in to this music thing, I’ve tried to raise awareness of classical music to the world outside. I’ve tried to do this with my own music as well as with the music of others. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, I had a contemporary music show on the campus radio station. When I was a masters student at Indiana University, I created a page on the original MP3.com to showcase the music of other composition students and faculty. Since graduating, I have founded two music podcasts, one of which focuses on classical music, and is aimed at the greater community, and turning people on to this genre of music I love so much.
For my own music, I’ve always striven to get it “out there”, and I think I’ve been pretty successful so far. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting the best recordings that I can, and putting them out for anyone to hear. I do this because it’s important to me, even though having hundreds of thousands of plays from MP3.com, or Soundcloud does little for me monetarily or professionally, it is still very important to me. I feel it’s important for composers of contemporary classical music to make this effort. To not be satisfied with hiding within the small circles of the contemporary classical world, even if they are very professionally and financially successful.
That brings me to the reason I’m using Dan Visconti’s name. Some months back, I noticed I was getting lots of followers on Soundcloud (the number is at 321,000 at the time of this writing). Soundcloud has a great feature – one that allows me to do what I love – share great music with lots of people. In short, I can re-post any track from any artist, and that track will go into the feeds of anyone who is following me. So, if I shared a track right now, it would go into the feeds of 321,000 people. I realized, suddenly that I had a lot of power on my hands, and I could really use it to spread music that I loved to a very wide audience.
Dan Visconti was the first composer whose track I shared to this list. At the time, the list was just over 100,000. However, Dan had a wonderful track that I loved, and it had something like 37 plays. I didn’t think this was right, so I re-posted it to see what would happen. Since this first experiment, I have re-posted many tracks from many different composers. I have not notified them about what I’m doing – I don’t care if they know or not – I just care that more people are listening to their music.
So why the question, “Does Dan Visconti care if you listen?” Let me reiterate once again – I don’t know Dan, and I have little to no knowledge of his real life (which could be wildly different than my uninformed imaginings). But from a distance, Dan seems to be the picture of a successful contemporary composer. Constant, important commissions, artistic director of a great contemporary music ensemble, high profile writer on music, residencies, etc etc. People in the contemporary classical world know his name. He’s getting played in that world. My question is, if you’re successful in that small world, do you care if thousands of people outside of that world are listening?
I’ve actually been asking myself this question for years. The first time I asked it was back in 2002, when I won the ASCAP/Morton Gould Young Composers Award. At the awards ceremony, which was held in Lincoln Center, they would call the name of the award recipient, followed by a reading of their bio to the audience. There were probably around ten winners that year, in addition to their being several winners of the under 18 Junior competition. At the time, my bio wasn’t all that impressive. I had very few commissions and other accolades. The one thing I did have was, I had at that time accrued more than 150,000 plays on the original mp3.com. As Dennis Bathory-Kitsz pointed out when I was a guest on the old Kalvos and Damian radio program, more people had heard my music in 2002 than had heard Mozart during Mozart’s entire lifetime. This statement kind of floored me. At the time, it was my proudest achievement. As I was listening to all of the extremely impressive bios being read, I thought to myself, “At least I have this.”
When my name was called, they started reading my bio to the audience – where I went to school – who my teachers were, etc. I was waiting for my impressive moment – when they announced how many plays I had received – that moment never came. For whatever reason, they decided this wasn’t important, and omitted it from the bio.
It was like being told, “So, you’ve had hundreds of thousands hear your music. So what? Who’s commissioning you and what awards have you won?”
I often wonder if I’ve put my efforts into the wrong area. I often wonder if this is the message being sent from the contemporary classical world – “We don’t care if people listen – we care if the right people listen.”
P.S. – My apologies to Dan Visconti. I hope you didn’t mind me using you as an example, and I hope it didn’t come across in a negative light. I love your music, and will share it again.