22 May 2010

A lesson in futility

Aforehand, I must mention that the Internet has, and often, proved a powerful networking medium for me and my work. So the following is not any comment on the tool, but merely an enlightening instance of how the usefulness of the tool depends crucially upon the environment, and one’s fellow users.

For ten years or so, I have served in a variety of churches in and near Boston as a paid chorister. It was even given to me briefly to serve the Episcopal Cathedral as Interim Choir Director.

All this time, one of my on-line musical activities has been, to subscribe to a network dedicated to choral music. From time to time (without, I trust, making myself a nuisance) I would participate more actively in the group by announcing a coming performance. From time to time, I would announce a new choral work I had just completed. Occasionally, when a message to the group was a call for a specific type of piece, with perhaps a specific type of accompaniment, I would think, I have just the thing in my catalogue, and I would reply to that effect.

The rate of replies to any activity of mine in that group, for a (probable) ten-year period has been less than one percent. In all, only one actual performance of my music has ever resulted from my participation in that group.

That in itself, I should not have taken great offense at. A composer gets used to hardly hearing back as he makes various attempts to generate public awareness of his work.

In the case of this group, the response rate is witheringly slight even compared to the average.

But here is the utter kicker.

These past two weeks there has been a discussion thread in the group headed, Your 10 favorite living composers. It was a vigorous discussion, too, generating withal at least 40 responses.

(Incidentally: the very first response to the original message was posted by a woman, whose list of 10 consisted exclusively of women composers. I wonder what remark she would make of anyone who posted a list exclusively of men. Possibly she would have an opinion on that, and possibly the opinion would be sharp. Possibly she would think that it is only bigotry when her preferred demographic is slighted.)

In 40 responses (which in theory might have yielded 400 names, though of course one expects composers of some fame and publication to be statistically favored), my name came up exactly zero times.

In brief, my modest efforts to raise any awareness at all of my own music, of myself as a composer, in at least eight years of participation in this group, have resulted in absolute zero.

That is a great gift, really. For three years or more, I have rather wondered if the dearth of any reaction to my own participation in the group, did not indicate that even the little time I dedicate to the group would not be better spent elsewhere. And here I have been given a crystal clear answer.

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