Meet the Maker: Elizabeth Baker, of The New Music Conflagration

Elizabeth BakerElizabeth Baker, a concert pianist and composer,  was at our very first Maker festival in 2012, performing as Suitcases of Sound.

The New Music Conflagration, Inc. is a non-profit corporation she founded to help further public awareness and perception of contemporary concert music through a variety of activities including: Music Education Workshops, a Chamber Music Series, Outreach Concerts, Online Publications as well as Physical and Digital Compilation Albums. Through the organization’s promotion of new music, they also work to help New Music Conflagrationdevelop their immediate community culturally through Instrumental Petting Zoos, Scholarships, and other interactive activities like their upcoming visit to Gulf Coast MakerCon.

In her guest piece below, Ms. Baker provides a thought provoking look at music in the culture of making, and the more enduring qualities of being a “maker” of anything. The maker movement is great for encouraging and inspiring people to try different things, to experiment with ideas, and to test and develop new skills. But in our haste to experiment and explore, she suggests, we sometimes overlook the focus and dedication it takes to become a master maker, and the joy and value that comes of developing that next level of expertise.

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Instrument petting zoo

Children exploring the New Music Conflagration Instrument Petting Zoo

In our current DIY culture, which is obsessed with the terms: maker, product, small-batch, and creative; where there is a YouTube video to teach one how to do just about anything… it is very easy to lose sight of the necessary immersion and research that it takes to truly become at one with an art form.

With preprogrammed loop-based music creation software it is easier than ever to make music without little thought to the textures, sounds, keys, or the organic flow of a work. The greener somebody is the more susceptible they become to getting carried away with the thrill of musical creation, especially when everything is so fresh and new.

A great example can be found in a recent improvisation gig I had with a young player in a large ensemble. As this was a free improvisation gig and he was having a great time, he was compelled to play constantly until someone motioned for him to stop. Other players would whisper in vain to the young musician that another player was soloing in an attempt to cease the persistent deluge of creativity; meanwhile one easily spotted the seasoned players who were well-versed in large group improvisation frequently sat back allowing subtle ebb and flow between a large wall of sound and tender moments capitalizing on the space between notes.

The parable of the young musician in the large ensemble is paralleled in young musicians and hobbyist creators of music today. As the simplicity of music creation technology increases alongside the push of DIY culture so increases the rarity of occurrences in which a “maker of music” takes the time or cultivates the patience to “sit back” and consider the notes dancing by.

10419386_630681013729339_8384037941428231032_nIn a past lecture, I coined the observation that “music is everywhere and nobody is listening…” and this still holds true. At the least, very few people are listening down through the mix to the noise floor, to the true essence of music. Even those who call themselves avid listeners, who have the ability to sing back all the lyrics and hum all the lines, should seek to delve deeper and push themselves to analyze the character of the tones.

As a coffee connoisseur can taste and identify all the notes in a blend, so should we all strive to “taste all the timbres and textures” of a mix. A coffee taster may become so keen that he can isolate a country or region where the coffee is grown but he may not necessarily be a grower or roaster. The listener of music doesn’t have to be a musicologist or practitioner but given enough taste tests he/she can begin to suss out floral, herbal, and earthy notes; so shall he/she, having perfectly adequate ears begin to distinguish between harsh, nasal, bright, sweet, and dark tones.

How does one acquire such knowledge of the sonic world? How does the “music maker” take their interest further to become a music artist? Just as the novice wine drinker becomes educated on wine through a series of guided tastings and perhaps, they may indulge their DIY compulsion and after adequate education attempt to make their own wine at home. But where can we get musical tastings in our local community?

Look no further than The New Music Conflagration, Inc.! The NMC presents a series of petting zoolecture concerts, instrumental petting zoos, blogs, and other interactive activities, which seek to bring that wine/coffee tasting education to the public. The NMC seeks to make all of the seemingly complicated blends of new music accessible and available to all demographics in our community, which is why we do not have a physical performance space, instead opting to present our programs in local libraries, churches, schools, and any other location where we can spread awareness about contemporary concert music.

We are thrilled and excited to share our expertise and love of music with Gulf Coast MakerCon this year!

See you soon!

-Elizabeth Baker

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You can check out a small sample of The New Music Conflagration Instrument Petting Zoo and hear and learn more about their great work at Gulf Coast MakerCon on April 18th at the Florida Fairgrounds!

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