5 Questions to Daniel Felsenfeld (The New Music Gathering)

Composers Mary Kouyoumdjian, Daniel Felsenfeld, Matt Marks, and Lainie Fefferman are the organizing forces behind The New Music Gathering, a first-of-its-kind event for practitioners and lovers of contemporary music to be held at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, January 15-17, 2015. Danny Felsenfeld took time out from the flurry of final event preparations to give us the lowdown on this exciting new happening. 


There’s a growing buzz about The New Music Gathering coming up in San Francisco next month. What’s it all about?

The New Music Gathering is a new kind of hybrid event. At its heart it is best described as a conference, in the sense that it will be a place where people who write, produce, perform, and promote “contemporary concert music” (for lack of a better term) can meet and discuss those matters in like-minded company. There will be presentations and lectures, as well as concerts and demonstrations. We’ll also have some innovative sessions—composer-performer “speed dating” and something we are calling the “therapy room,” wherein people can consult industry experts about specific challenges they are facing. And there will definitely be some after-hours surprises.

One of the most important things about The New Music Gathering is that there is no dominant style or aesthetic that we are seeking to promote.  All are welcome, whatever kind of music you write or play or enjoy, however old (or young) you are, whatever your role in the music world at-large may be.

How did this idea for The New Music Gathering get started?

The origin of The New Music Gathering germinated in a conversation Matt Marks and I were having on Facebook, where so many of us connect these days, even if we don’t live far apart. We were bemoaning the lack of any broad-based event to bring the contemporary music community together and we asked ourselves “why don’t we organize a conference?”  We started it out of that need, because we felt it had to exist, that it had been absent from the scene for too long. We thought “someone has to do this…why not us?”

Claire Chase (photo: Larry Dunn)

Claire Chase (photo: Larry Dunn)

What can people expect to experience this January?

We have a really stellar lineup of people and groups who will make presentations and perform. When we put out our call for proposals, we gave people carte blanche to use their creativity to craft whatever they want to present. We were shocked with the volume  and variety of proposals we received and are doing our best to accommodate as many as we can. We do have some really exciting headliners each day—ICE founder, Co-Artistic Director and flutist Claire Chase on Day 1, pianist and San Francisco Conservatory faculty member Sarah Cahill on Day 2, and the Kronos Quartet with Wu Man and The Living Earth Show on Day 3. But these headliners are only the tips of the icebergs of amazingness presented each day.

Aside from the content presented, as fabulous as it may be, there will be ample opportunity to simply spend a lot of time in the company of artistically consanguineous people. Even today, when so many of us have multi-path network connections to each other, there is still a special magic in face-to-face meetings. So much good art continues to be hatched that way. It is vitally important to us to simply put people in the same room and get them talking.

Sarah Cahill (photo by Marianne LaRochelle)

Sarah Cahill (photo: Marianne LaRochelle)

How did you choose San Francisco as the site for the inaugural event?

Well, we four are all based in New York, but we don’t want The New Music Gathering to be a New York centric thing. Our ambitions are much bigger and broader than that. We thought, “let’s do it all the way across the country this first year.” Then some colleagues at the San Francisco Conservatory offered their campus as a site, largely through the tireless efforts of Maryclare Brzytwa, to whom we owe so much. That seemed like the perfect place to launch the inaugural event, considering all the deeply exciting new music initiatives already in place in the Bay Area, many of which have stemmed from the conservatory itself. We couldn’t be more honored to do our part in supporting this vibrant community, even to become a part of it.

What are you hoping for the future of The New Music Gathering?

We plan for this to become an annual event that grows into something larger and more organized, but without losing it’s D.I.Y. spirit. We are not an organization per se, and we are operating on our own steam. We hope not to lose the initial spark and the sense of burning necessity to make this happen. But we also want to expand and give more people voices.

The New Music Gathering: 
January 15-17, 2015 at San Francisco Conservatory of Music
To Attend: Reserve a 3-Day or 1-Day Pass
Housing: Inquire about New Music Couchsharing