Sunday, June 19, 2011

On composer bios

You know, Kyle Gann is right: too many composer bios read like a resume.  Recently, I was at a concert in Hartford, and, amongst other pieces, saw a piece by an unknown composer.   Without getting into specifics, the composer's bio was simply a list of his accomplishments.  Mind you, some of these accomplishments were things of which anyone would be proud.  But, three paragraphs of this was just overkill.  And, some of the listings were a bit dubious.
But, that's besides the point.  I had hoped to learn something about the composer. Does he play an instrument?  Where was he born? Did he study with a well-known composer? These kind of things can be clues to a composer's temperament.  Saying that he (or she) is a percussionist, for instance, who studied with James Woods (not the actor!), would certainly say a great deal about the composer.  Looking at that, I might expect a composer who explores unconventional rhythms and textures.  Hearing that the composer is from NY might set up a different set of expectations than if she is from LA or Tokyo.  Of course, any artist my defy those expectations, but this kind of information would put them in some sort of context.

More to the point, these kind of bios don't give us an idea of what the composer's interests are.  Is he interested in jazz?  Does she incorporate her love of the majestic organ?  This is the first paragraph of my bio:

Composer Anthony Cornicello (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1964) writes music that blurs distinctions between performers and electronics, timbre and harmony, composition and improvisation, and explores the boundaries of what may be considered post-classical concert music.  His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication, and his forays into live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound.  Cornicello’s background as a jazz pianist is evident not only in the rhythmic activity of his music, but also in his constant investigation of the rich sonorities available from a variety of instruments.

Admittedly, I'm a little biased. But, I'd hope that this bio would give the reader a sense of my music, and pique their curiosity enough to actually listen to the music! After all, I'm trying to 'sell' my music, not my bio.

And, in case the reader is interested, the 'resume' stuff comes later in the bio statement.