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Meetings of the New Music Communities

Summary Report: Meetings of the New Music Communities in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver December, 2000

On November 23, December 1 and December 8 meetings were held in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver respectively. Members of the New Music Community in each of these 3 cities met to discuss the issues facing new music artists in Canada. The notes from these discussions will form part of the background documentation used in a review process of the Canada Council Music Section of the Contemporary/New Music Program.

At each meeting participants were invited to articulate their perception of the assets and challenges facing their community. This report summarizes the issues that arose through this discussion of assets and challenges that are common in all three cities. Essentially, these issues can be defined as those of national scope. Additional issues emerged in each community which are articulated in the individual community reports.


· Each city felt a strong sense of "community". Their colleagues are their biggest assets and an atmosphere of co-operation prevails.

· The wealth and breadth of new music being practiced in Canada is a major asset and the diversity of practice is a key factor for the growth of new music in Canada.

· There is a sense of "uniqueness" in the kinds of work happening within each of communities as well as in Canada; what is happening locally and nationally is not happening in the same way anywhere else in the world.

· There is an extremely high level of artistic accomplishment in new music; the depth of talent among performers and composers is incredible.

· Today's communications technology makes it possible to connect with the new music communities around the world. Also, for those working in electro-accoustic and new practices, they are well placed to use technology as a mechanism for dissemination.


· While the diversity of the practice is one of the community's greatest assets, it is also one of its largest challenges. Such diversity can lead to fragmentation within the community and hampers the ability to work more closely together.

· Although a spirit of cooperation prevails, some people felt there wasn't enough collaborative activity. One reason why there is not more collaboration is because all the energy is going into producing and presenting their individual shows, leaving no time for the work that would be involved in collaborating on projects.

· For Toronto and Vancouver, it often feels easier to connect with new music communities in other parts of the world than it does to connect with those across the country.

· The new music community lacks infrastructure and this lack prevents them from achieving a more professional standard in presenting, producing and marketing. There is no money to support audience development, no funds to properly market the work, no qualified production and management staff and nobody to generally manage the administration side of an artist's work.

· Creators can not simply be creators anymore. They are forced to make choices every day that are not just about creation. Because of a lack of resources, both human and financial, artists are forced to "do" for themselves. This means that new music artists are not capable of fully concentrating on their artistic creation.

· It is a larger challenge today than before to earn a living as a new music artist in Canada. With limited funding and strict rules on the number of performances that must be produced to meet granting requirements, there is often very little money left for artistic salaries and artist fees.

· "In order for the industry to grow and thrive, we must always be encouraging and looking for young and upcoming composers." Each community saw challenges in attracting young artists to new music. They also expressed concern for how young, emerging artists could find performance opportunities that would enable them to grow as artists and to make a living.

· Even if funds were available to hire administrative practitioners, those kinds of qualified people with knowledge of new music do not exist. There are almost no qualified marketers, publicists audience development specialists, publicists, production, administrative and finance people.

· The public profile of new music in Canada is one of inaccessibility. It is viewed as "unpopular" music and difficult for audiences to understand. This perception creates enormous challenges when trying to attract audiences to performances. Audiences, in general, are not growing.

· The lack of arts programs in the schools is a huge concern. The new music community must work with the various Ministries of Education to make arts programs a priority again and to find the funds to put artists in the school systems.

· New music feels "invisible" within the context of other arts practices. This is partly the result of not having recognized venues in the communities that serve as a centre, a visible and public "home", for new music activity. This is also partly the result of not having the resources or collective voice to promote the art forms of new music beyond the promotion of individual concerts.

· The university academic community does not seem to support the growth and development of the new practices beyond traditional composition. Some felt the legitimate work of new music practitioners whose training has not stemmed from the university environment, or who may not have formal training at all, is often not respected by those who have trained in a more traditional approach.

· In both Toronto and Vancouver there is a general lack of performance and rehearsal venues. Those that do exist often have poor acoustics and do not have basics like a performance quality piano.

· Some artists expressed discomfort with the concept of audience development. With their resources invested in creating, producing and presenting individual performances, there was concern about having a responsibility for such a time consuming and labour intensive activity as audience development.

· There never seems to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done. The artists end up doing everything themselves and everything suffers. Artists never have enough time to simply create anymore and they can't be expected to produce the show, and find the audience as well as try to develop it. Burn out is high and good people dry out.

· The arts are under-represented in the media - particularly in the west.
There is a lack of strong music journalism in this country; a lack of people that are willing and interested in writing profound and sound interviews articles, reviews etc. The reviewers and interviews are often not really well versed in new music, so the discussion of the music ends up being very superficial. It would do a lot to help build audiences if there was a much more vibrant discussion happening on a journalistic level. Airplay on CBC is also an issue.

Report prepared by Judy Harquail & Lendre Kearns.
December, 2000

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