What Will Change: Tanya Kalmanovitch on Music and Social Change

It is a commonplace to say that music is the ‘soundtrack’ to social change, but music does not merely accompany social movement. Rather, it is an invisible engine of change. Music transacts between the internal realm of human experience (memory, emotion, culture) and the physical. By making interior experience audible and actionable, it facilitates the conversation between private thought and collective action.

Music lives both in the private heart of cultural and personal identity, and at the social, economic and political margins of public life. So it’s not surprising that music did not appear as a campaign issue in 2016. But music is not apolitical: it is tangled up with our sense of identity and agency, our economies, power dynamics and social structures. To pay attention to music, then, is to pay attention to things whose value cannot be adequately described in the terms of the market — and whose future, therefore, cannot be left to the market alone.

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Tanya KalmanovitchComment
Mat Maneri's program notes for our concert at Mannes, February 6

It can be difficult to write about what we do as improvisers. Perhaps it’s easier to explain it through a series of questions we’ve been asking, ourselves:

What is composition?

What is chamber music? Is it repertoire, or rather an approach to creative collaboration?

What is musical time? Is it linear? Cyclical?

What is jazz when you remove its canonized instrumentation and approach?

What are the essentials in the musical language we like to present?

What are the styles and ideas that motivate us? Abstract art? Schumann lieder? Eliot Carter?
How do we evoke these ideas without mimicry?

What do you call this music? Is it chamber music; is it jazz? Is it Mahler? Is it free improvisation?

It’s everything we love. 

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Does Music Matter? A 60-second lecture at the New School

Does Music Matter?

Around age 14, I decided wanted to be a professional musician. My mother warned me it wasn’t a stable path. To some extent, Mom, you were right. (There. I said it.) Since I graduated from Juilliard in 1992, the music profession has suffered debilitating changes.

These days, we blame two familiar culprits – technology, and the economy – but to me, it’s really the same old story: telling us that music belongs at the margins. That music doesn’t really matter, at least not as much as the stock market does.

 I teach entrepreneurship classes at Mannes, and in these classes we challenge this story. I argue that we need new language to talk about what music is and what music does in the world.

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Kalinka: Tanya Kalmanovitch and Ted Reichman, April 26 2010

In the introduction to Gulag: A History, historian Anne Appelbaum observes a brisk tourist trade in Soviet paraphernalia springing up on Prague's Charles River Bridge in the immediate wake of the collapse of the Soviet monolith. Western tourists who would be sickened by the thought of wearing a swastika snapped up pins, hats and T-shirt emblazoned with the hammer and sickle. "It was a minor observation", she writes, "but sometimes it is through just such minor observations that a cultural mood is best observed. For here, the lesson could not have been clearer: while the symbol of one mass murder fills us with horror, the symbol of another mass murder makes us laugh."

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Letter to my students: Kevin Spacey says "There is no prize out there" and other thoughts on finding work and finding your path.

Hi All,

Apropos of class discussions at Mannes and NEC this past week, here's a clip of actor Kevin Spacey giving advice to a younger actor on Inside the Actors Studio in 2000:

"There is no prize out there. The only prize is this one [points to self], and what you feel, and what you want to accomplish... I mean, to want and to be ambitious, and to want to be successful is not enough. That's just desire. To know what you want; to understand why you're doing it; to dedicate every breath in your body, to achieve... If you feel you have something to give, if you feel your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for, then there's nothing you can't achieve. You're going to grow up with your colleagues. You're going to watch them have success and watch them have failure, and you're going to watch how they deal with it. And they can be as much a teacher for you as anyone here, or anyone who's privileged enough to come here and speak to you."

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