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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Golden Bruce

The Golden Bruce Awards


Outraged? How dare we? Read below.

Golden Bruce VII (2004): Miso Music Portugal, et al (awarded collectively)

Miso Music Portugal is one of the seemingly endless proponents of discrimination. Why Miso Music? Because their announcement pushed us over the top. But just so they don't feel singled out, here are some others we have surveyed: The Witold Lutoslawski Society Composers Competition, San Francisco Song Festival, New York Treble Singers, Gaudeamus Foundation, Earplay, Bach Festival of Philadelphia, International Society for Contemporary Music, Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity, European American Musical Alliance, University of Minnesota Craig and Janet Swan Composer Prize, Boston University ALEA III International Composition Prize, Turner Classic Movies Film Composers Competition, Volti Ensemble, Guild of Temple Musicians, BMI Foundation Pete Carpenter Film Composers Fellowship, Queen Elisabeth International Competition for Composers. What do they all have in common? You can read the 2004 Golden Bruce Award essay in detail, but in sum, they reveal the seamy underbelly of ambition, prejudice, and humiliation with their competitions, tawdry little affairs next to which American Idol appears as high culture. Byzantine rules and gender, ethnic, and religious requirements are all present, but worst of all are the entry fees that place the burden on composer, and the age discrimination so blatantly put forth that, disguised as opportunity, takes advantage of younger composers' hunger for recognition, while obtaining performance material at low cost and currying hipness for the ensembles. After reviewing a year's worth of competitions, and with continued smoldering anger, we award our seventh Golden Bruce to Miso Music Portugal and others collectively as the representative of all music competitions that practice discrimination based on age and class.

Golden Bruce VI (2003): MakeMusic! Finale Software

MakeMusic!, the creators of Finale notation software, have fallen into the pit of copy protection. To some who make money from software, the ethical compromise in not quite really selling a product is invisible, part of the free-market theocracy's dogma of no accountability and user-crushing EULAs (end-user license agreements). But to us, it's the ugly, festering stinkhole of intellectual property. At Kalvos & Damian, we have made our livings writing software and writing about software (Kalvos was legendary in, as they say, 'his day' for writing pioneering software) and have been active purchasers of software -- commercial and shareware. Kalvos has purchased 10 years of Finale upgrades alone. So when MakeMusic! turned on challenge/response copy protection, he grew livid. (Challenge/response protection locks software to a specific computer; only by contacting its authors will software unlock itself to the legal purchaser after hardware changes.) MakeMusic! (formerly Coda) once were the good guys. But the thought-management yahoos won a smokin' argument in Eden Prarie. Kalvos won't be upgrading, and he expects many others to vote with their wallets. This isn't an objection about convenience; it's deeper than that, and for a full rundown of why copy protection hurts everyone, including future historians, and a solution that works for everyone, see Kalvos's essay, "Everybody's Gotta Trust." Copy protection is a sham that helps no one, deludes software companies into complacency, encourages a thought-management agenda, and destroys documents that will be invaluable in the future. And so, with sadness, we award our sixth Golden Bruce to MakeMusic!, archetype of software makers in the arts, for its decline and fall into the slimy pit of self-delusional copy protection.

Golden Bruce V (2002): The Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP)

The Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel could not be more misguided. Or rather, too guided -- by corporate interests. Throughout the years, the copyright laws have maintained a delicate if difficult balance between the interests of creators and the interests of the public. And that's as it should be, because creators derive ideas from the time and place of the society, and bring them to fruition by labor and genius. The bargain is framed in the U.S. Constitution in Article I, Section 8: "The Congress shall have power ... To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." That limited time is now 70 years past the life of the creator or, more likely, the corporation that bought the rights. CARP has been shuffling money from the public into private pockets since Congress made it legal during the DAT wars, and with the massive cybercasting royalty rates approved by CARP, the industry circles the wagons -- everybody pays the industry, and the government does its legwork. It's a disaster for independent and niche artists and their supports, like K&D, to the point that the the death of Internet radio is predicted. With a terrible taste in our mouths, we award the fifth Golden Bruce to The Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel for faithfully doing the industry's bidding. Postscript: On May 21, 2002, the Copyright Office rejected the CARP recommendations. Final determinations were made on June 20, 2002, but these have been appealed. Ongoing negotiations have lowered rates for nonprofits, but only through a private deal for the benefit of a small cadre of webcasters. As of September 2003, the issues are still unsettled.

Golden Bruce IV (2001): Karlheinz Stockhausen and the Basel Police (awarded jointly)

Karlheinz Stockhausen could only see the events of September 11, 2001, through the filter of his music. On September 16, Stockhausen pronounced in Hamburg that the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City constituted "the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos." Stockhausen is aging, he looks at life through his art, it was part of an interview, and his apologists attempted to explain it away within days. But his long-standing self-focus has rendered him inarticulate in seeing tremendous events from outside his own creations. It is an embarrasment to music, but not much more than an event a few months later. On December 4, the Basel Police dragged composer Pierre Boulez from his bed and confiscated his passport because many years ago he proclaimed that opera houses should be blown up. That made him a security threat. Imagine if he had been unknown and without influence. To us, it's astonishing that two incidents of speech, one current and one years ago, can reveal the ignominious state of composers within their society -- both lacking in respect and understanding, and lacking respect and understanding. And so, the fourth Golden Bruce is awarded jointly to Karlheinz Stockhausen and the Basel Police for decay of human intellect. Postscript: On December 29, 2001, composer Daniel Wolf wrote: The Basel police did not awaken Pierre Boulez on the basis of his rhetorical call to blow up opera houses from the 1960's but rather due to an unrelated incident. Following a negative review of a Boulez concert a few years ago, a newspaper critic received a death threat. The case has remained open and unsolved, and the police had apparently not previously been able to get an interview with Boulez.

Golden Bruce III (2000): The Vermont Arts Council

The Vermont Arts Council is a parochial choice for a Golden Bruce, but we award it to them as archetypes of arts council incompetence everywhere. After a year of being mercifully shuttered, the VAC came back to hijack a National Symphony Orchestra commission project and brazenly do the preliminary screening. Aside from guaranteeing conservative results (Vermonty cows & maple syrup images), the VAC sent private submission materials back to the wrong people, even though self-addressed, stamped envelopes were provided. Materials were hardly touched, which makes the invasion of privacy even more absurd. Some say that the VAC and its kind provide a service by consolidating arts opportunities in one place. We say they should stop doing damage and shut their doors again as soon as possible. Thus, the third Golden Bruce is awarded to the Vermont Arts Council for cataclysmic incompetence. Postscript: Despite the protest of several composers, the commissioning process was not reopened, and on May 20, 2002, the NSO commission recipient was announced -- more than a year behind schedule.

Golden Bruce II (2000): National Public Radio

National Public Radio is run by a group of aging baby-boomers with a predilection for what they heard in the Sixties. They assure their consistency of listenership with "Klassical Klearinghouse" and "Jazz Lite" style programming. But when they and their narrow shard of listeners decided the 100 best American compositions of the 20th Century, they stepped over the line of observer to participant. The choices were absurd, often shallow, and reflecting the general artistic ignorance of their generation. Some say that NPR plays music others won't. We don't buy it. They play only what they know, and want to know nothing. Thus, the second Golden Bruce is awarded to National Public Radio for hubris in the arts.

Golden Bruce I (1998): Vienna Modern Masters

Vienna Modern Masters is the primary label responsible for recording composers for a price. VMM uses cheap orchestra labor from Eastern Europe and a body of third-string conductors to play and record the music of composers who can afford the per-minute rates and travel expenses. Loosely grouped into a series, the VMM recordings reveal that the new patronage is quality-free and represents the self-indulgent composer who's willing to pony up the money. Some say that VMM and its kin provide a service by employing the Eastern European musicians after the fall of Communism, and by recording repertoire that would elsewise go unheard. We don't agree. Thus, the first Golden Bruce is awarded to Vienna Modern Masters as a representative of all the entrepreneurs making a buck on the hopes and dreams of composers and musicians on both sides of the old Iron Curtain. Postscript: To understand the Golden Bruce and why entrepreneurship was its first award, read how the Golden Bruce came about on the fifth anniversary of the death of Frank Zappa.

Dear Visitors: The Golden Bruce has probably generated as much controversy as any single piece of music written in the past generation. That is a terribly sad reflection on the power of music and the fear of confronting the state into which the arts, and especially the contemporary nonpop genres, have fallen.

If we have offended you, we don't apologize. Perhaps we've touched a nerve, and will get you exercised enough about the art of music to address its economic state (I), the ignorance about it (II), its mismanagement (III), its place in society (IV), or the power of cash to influence it (V). Every year there's enough forehead-slapping, night-weeping musical disaster to award a daily Golden Bruce. If you've ever bemoaned a travesty in new music, then moan out loud. Tell us. Write, call, and just yell it so everyone can hear. But do something more than to complain to us because we made it public.

Here's a story: During Show #340 (when we presented Golden Bruce IV), we received an outraged phone call that we should instead be playing the Beatles. Here was yet another person living in the past (who thought we were in our early 20s, thank you) who cannot face new music. Whether that's his fault, or whether new nonpop just has nothing to say, we can't figure.

But the Golden Bruce does not ask for a retreat; it asks for a strong application of thinking and artistic action. If we've insulted your favorite record label or network or bureaucracy or composer, ask why we might do that. Are we merely arrogant nitwits? Or, in our collective 60 years of writing music and media relations, have we discovered that there's some serious flaw, no, worse, some deep rot?

Write us if you like. We don't make ourselves difficult to find. We'll even publish your eloquent essay on K&D. But remember that we only invented the Golden Bruce, we didn't invent the issues that are manifested in its award.