Current practices effectively limit the number of times new works get played. Granting a performer exclusive rights to play a work, with a sole emphasis on promoting premieres of new works, and a territorial commissioning practice which creates ‘regional locks’ unwittingly robs the work of the multiple performances and diverse artistic interpretations needed to establish a fully dimensional presence (‘life’) in the public sphere.
This treatment further handicaps a genre in which new works are already perceived by listeners as complex and hard to grasp and by performers as a challenge to master, perceptions which are mitigated by repeated exposure, familiarity, understanding and a long term engagement with the work. Many of these contemporary pieces languish after one performance.
This counterproductive system is unique to contemporary music; audiences are not offered crucial repeated access to a new work in a season, something that they have come to expect in theatre, dance, and visual arts. In addition, there is a considerable lag time between the work’s creation and reception by audiences, a lag which makes our contemporary works rather un-contemporary, and not representative of the evolving vocabulary and current practices of our composers.We urgently need to establish new patronage and distribution models to create an environment in which new works can both prosper and endure, for the sake of our contemporary repertoire.